Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lent 3

We are now up to the third study tonight in my Church's Lent Studies.  We are going to be looking at the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  This time there is no need to change the name of the parable.  For the first parable, you may remember, I suggested that the Parable of the Soils was a better title than the Parable of the Sower.  For the second, I suggested the Parable of the Two Sons instead of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  With this the third, the Good Samaritan seems to work fine!

Below is the third in my series of radio talks for March.

Creation Talk Three: The Revelation of God in Christ

If God really did create the heavens and the earth, why did he do it?  It is the Christian belief that before even time itself came into being, there was God existing beyond time in eternity.  Christians believe that science describes the process by which God brought you and I into being.  It is a fascinating thought that if the conditions immediately after the big bang had been even a fraction different from what they were, then you and I would not be here and I would not be giving this talk.  Indeed, the laws of nature look as if they have been written to enable you and me to emerge. The late scientist and astronomer, Fred Hoyle, was so struck by the coincidence that he described the Universe as a ‘put up job’.

St Paul writes in his famous letter to the Romans that all of us should be able to see that there is a God and appreciate what he is like simply by observing the world around us.  The majesty and complexity of the creation points us to the Creator.  There is much we can learn about God by studying his ways.  Scientists are engaged in a noble task for when they study the universe and the physical world they are studying the creation of the One who is beyond it, but responsible for it.    

Studying the creation tells us much, what it cannot tell us, however, is why the Creator went to so much trouble.  What was his purpose in bring all things into existence?  The answer to this question is one that we cannot work out for ourselves.  The Creator must answer for himself.  But before we can ask the Creator this question we must find him.  Where is he to be found?  Christians believe that the God who exists beyond space and time entered our world in physical form and is to be found in the person of Jesus Christ.  Christians believe that in the person of Christ God revealed himself to us.  Christians revere Christ as teacher and prophet, but they believe that he was much more than that.   

When he was on earth one of his disciples, Philip, said to him that if he showed them God, they would be satisfied.  He replied that anyone who had seen him had already seen God.  It was through him, he claimed, that people could come themselves to know God.  This is an amazing claim.  It is no wonder that C S Lewis, the author of the Narnia books, said that if Jesus was not God, then he must have been mad or bad.  If he was not who he said he was, then he must have been deluded or deliberately deluding others.   

The first Christians believed he was who he said he was.  It is a fantastic fact that the people who knew Jesus personally, who spent time with him; who ate, drank, laughed and lived with him, claimed after his death that while fully human he was also divine.  They didn’t have to do this.  They could have believed he had come back from the dead without believing he was also God.  They could have believed all his teaching.  They could have reverenced him as a prophet in the way other religions reverence their founders.  There was no need for them to resort to the belief in Christ as divine.   

Indeed there was every reason for them not to.  They were devout Jews who believed absolutely that there was one God and that the worship of anything or anyone else was idolatry and strictly forbidden.  Everything suggested that they should honour Christ as a great prophet, even the greatest prophet, but stop there.  But they didn’t.  They went on to describe the friend they knew intimately as God become flesh.   

It took the early Christians a great deal of time to work out want this meant and to express it in human language.  They knew that in trying to put it in words, they were trying to express the inexpressible, but they felt they had to do it for no other reason than it was true.  They believed that they had met God himself in the person of Christ and that the man who had walked the streets of Jerusalem was the One who had created the Universe and all that was in it.   

In a famous passage one early Christian said:  

‘… but we say that the Son of God , while visible to the eyes, and a babe in swaddling clothes, and still at the breast of his Virgin Mother, filled all creation as God …’   

This is an incredible thought.  Jesus reveals who God is and what he is like.  He shows us the love of God for us and what God wants from us.  God reveals himself to us not in the first place by giving us a book, but by coming as a person, as one of us.  What the book, the Bible does do is point us to the One who in himself reveals God to us.  In pointing us to Christ, it also gives us the answer to the question of why the Universe was created.

No comments: