July 23, 2023

The Creation Waits with Eager Longing

The Creation Waits with Eager Longing

Trinity 7

Isaiah 44. 6-8; Romans 8. 12-25; Matthew 13. 24-30, 36-43

Theme: The Creation Waits with Eager Longing


One of our fundamental beliefs about God as Christians is that God is the creator. ‘All things visible and invisible, or seen and unseen’, are created by God, as is stated in the creed. This is why Jesus calls God, “Father”, and it represents the ancient Jewish belief about who God is: God is the creator of heaven and earth. In other words, as our first reading from the prophet Isaiah puts it, “I am the first and the last; besides me there is no god”. In the ancient world, within which Judaism evolved, the neighbouring tribes and nations were often polytheistic. They believed in many gods and goddesses who had particular functions. In such a context there is a divine hierarchy in which heavenly gods compete for power over the earthly realm of the mortals. This is not the tradition out of which Christianity emerges. Christianity emerges out of the Jewish tradition which holds God to be One, and the creator of all, visible and invisible.

Such is the Jewish background to St Paul’s passage from the Letter to the Romans that we have in our second reading today, but Paul takes this Jewish understanding and reads it in a Christological manner. He reads the belief that God is the creator, through the lens of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is why we have that wonderfully enigmatic phrase from the passage, “the creation waits with eager longing”. What does this mean that “the creation waits with eager longing”?

There are several things that the Letter to the Romans indicates about the Christian belief in the creation which make it a distinctive interpretation from its surrounding pagan traditions. The first thing to notice is that St Paul uses the dyad, “flesh” and “Spirit” to indicate a duality in the creation. There is a law of decay baked into the creation which is of the “flesh” and there is a promise of liberation offered to the creation, which is given by the “Spirit”. Left to itself, the creation is lifeless, it goes the way of all flesh and decays. It is destined for decay, being subject to bondage by the very One who also offers it the hope that it will be set free through the Spirit.

It is interesting to note, in passing, that there are some significant overlaps with our contemporary scientific understanding of matter and energy here. The notion of ‘Entropy’, the tendency of closed systems to increase in disorder and so to become colder over time, states in a scientific language what St Paul says in a theological one with the concept of the “flesh”. There is an inbuilt tendency to decay in the universe and so left to itself this decay leads eventually to its death, its heat death, as contemporary science talks about it. However, the creation has not been left to itself by God, but rather it has been redeemed by Christ. The creation itself is ‘suspended’ in Christ, and this suspension is permeated by the Spirit of God who offers it the hope of liberation from decay, from its eventual death.

St Paul reads the creation story, and the story of the fall from grace with the advent of sin, as in the process of being redeemed by God through Christ. The coming of Christ and his death and resurrection is the action that God takes to liberate the creation from its bondage to sin. In taking on the flesh of the world, in joining with the creation, the incarnation of Jesus unites the cosmos with God’s Trinitarian being. The death of Jesus in the flesh is the overcoming of this characteristic of the creation to decay by its transformation into the new creation of the resurrection of Jesus. This transformation is complete in the body of the risen Christ. However, the rest of creation ‘awaits with eager longing’ for the final consummation of this resurrection to be spread out to the rest of the creation, in time and space.

In other words, we need to keep two things in mind when we reflect on God’s relation to the creation in the light of Paul’s theology of the death and resurrection of Christ: the event and the process nature of the effects of the resurrection of the Christ.

The ‘event’ of the death and resurrection of Jesus has completed God’s transformative work of renewing the creation in the resurrected body of Christ. Christ is “the first fruits” of this resurrection of the creation, as St Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15: 20. The resurrected body of Christ is the template, the image, for how the ‘new creation’ will look at its consummation. It is the destiny to which the whole creation is oriented in Christ. And, obviously, that includes you and me. We too hope that we shall be resurrected with those “who have fallen asleep”, who have died.

Yet, if this ‘event’ of the death and resurrection of Jesus has been completed in the resurrection of Christ, the reaching out of the effects of this to the rest of the creation “awaits with eager longing”. This is the second thing that we need to keep in mind when we are reflecting on God’s relation to the creation through the death and resurrection of Christ. There is also a process dimension to this relation between God and the creation. God has restored, renewed and revealed the ‘new creation’ in the resurrection of Christ, but the effects of this resurrection are still rippling out, as if like concentric circles from a pebble dropped into a river, to the rest of the creation.


Furthermore, God’s transformative work of the creation, God’s salvation of the creation, takes into account time, and in our case, as human beings, history. God redeems the time of the creation and human history through the processual work of the Spirit of the risen Christ acting in and through the creation. So, time matters. Human history matters. They matter because God has chosen to work with these processes to reveal the final glory of his creation which is to be ‘adopted’ as part of the family of the Holy Trinity, at its final consummation.


This is why in our Gospel for today, we hear Jesus speak of the world as “the field” in which God sows, God’s seed. This seed grows together with the weeds and it is only at the end of time, that the harvest and ultimate separation of the weeds and the wheat will occur. So, God works patiently in the processes of the resurrection of the creation and it is for us to do the same. We are called to be daughters and sons of this new creation; its ultimate destiny is to be adopted as daughters and sons of God. And, as St Paul reminds us, it is not only human beings who are destined for this, but all of the creation is awaiting this liberation and ultimate adoption into Christ.


So, let us pray that we may be agents of Christ’s resurrection for the whole of creation. Help us Lord to care for your creation with respect and integrity as we await ‘with eager longing’ for the freedom of the glory of the children of God.


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.