Creation Time, Ocean Sunday
Theme: Ocean Sunday, by Keith Innes
Our human words and ideas can obscure and confuse God’s wisdom, hindering ourselves and others from receiving it (2). Job is challenged to declare how much he knows of the origins of things, and how far he understands their true nature. The creation of the earth is viewed under the metaphor of erecting a building, with foundations and pillars (4-6). The sea is pictured as a child bursting out of the womb: God acts as a midwife or a parent, clothing and disciplining the waters (8-11). Close to the surface here are Ancient Near Eastern ideas of the sea as an unruly, hostile power. Humankind now has vastly increased scientific, analytic knowledge of the composition and potential of creation. This knowledge has brought many benefits, but has also reaped a harvest of loss and destruction. The harnessing of technology to greed and selfishness points to a lack of wisdom. We urgently need to respect the limits that God’s wisdom sets to our activities.
Psalm 104:1-9, 24-26
God is revealed here to be intimately engaged with the creation. The light (2a) ‘reveals while it conceals Him’. God dwells beneath and above the sky (2b-3a). Clouds, winds and fire serve God (3b-4). The stability of the earth is given by God (5); God orders the limits of the waters (6-9). The abundance and fecundity of the earth and the sea are God’s gift (25-26). The creation thus displays the divine wisdom. Human greed and foolishness undermine the natural abundance created by God. Overfishing depletes fish stocks that are self-sustaining if wisely used. ‘Violent’ forms of industrial fishing destroy life in the sea and on the sea bed. They also threaten the livelihoods of indigenous fishers applying traditional wisdom.
Verses 3-9 are an outpouring of praise for the blessings that the Father gives through Christ to the Church – a people chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven. These blessings are readily and rightly seen by Christians as available to individual believers through faith in the Gospel and by receiving the Holy Spirit (13-14). Less easily recognised by many is the fact that they are part of a plan of cosmic redemption (10). All things are to be gathered up in Christ, as a column of figures is summed up in a total, or as all commandments are summed up in the law of love (Romans 13:9 where the same word is used). Christ is thus not only the agent of salvation for believers (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9), but the only Saviour of the cosmos. The good news, previously hidden, is now made known with wisdom and insight (8). With God-given knowledge and faith one can begin to understand how to conduct oneself within the world that God created and is creating.
In this gospel reading can be seen all the truths previously seen in the other readings: the difference between human and divine wisdom (4-6); the realisation of the power of God through God’s activity in nature and the divine wisdom of Jesus (8-10); the necessity of God’s wisdom if we are to experience the blessings God designs for us in creation. The natural world is a sacrament or parable of the spiritual: the plentiful catch of fish is a metaphor of the fruits of evangelism. People are gathered into the Kingdom of God ; fish are gathered into nets. From the cosmic perspective of this series of readings, both are aspects of the one great story of God’s creative and redemptive purposes.