Episcopal Church in Minnesota

Environmental Stewardship Commission
Lectionary Reflection
St. John  (December 27), General Reflection

General Reflection on the Feast of St. John:
by the Rev John Gibbs

Proverbs 8:22-30 is one of the famous texts in Judaism that exhibit a creation-theology. The figure "Lady Wisdom" is the emphasis of this text. As is stated elsewhere (Sirach 1:9-10; Wisdom of Solomon 7:22; etc.), Wisdom pre-existed the Creation and was somehow instrumental in Godís creative act.

This theme of Jewish thought was at hand for both the author of the Fourth Gospel (John 1:1-18) and the Apostle Paul to use. It is thus clear that the creation-theology of the early Church did not have to wait for its development until the Churchís mission had had time to reach Hellenistic territory beyond Palestine. (Hellenism had some influence on Palestine before Jesus was born.) Creation is not an afterthought for the early Church, once issues of redemption have been given prior attention. To the contrary, as soon as Jesus was addressed as "Lord" or "Sovereign" the cosmic Christ was implicitly present.

It is not a long road that leads from Paulís Damascus Road experience to the earliest confession of faith which Paul quotes in I Cor. 8:6: "Öfor us there is one God , the Father, from whom are all things, and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." Notice the prepositions: from, for, through. The origin of creation (through) and the destiny of the Church (for) are God the Father. The One "through" Whom both creation and redemption exist is "one Lord, Jesus Christ." Other NT texts describe the cosmic work of Christ, as Mediator of the work of creation, in ways that clearly depend on Wisdomís mediation in Godís creative act.

Back to Proverbs 8:22-30: Wisdom is pre-existent to the cosmic totality, for "The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago" (8:22). The following 8 verses play variations on that theme. Significant for creation-theology is the "delight" (8:30) that God through "Wisdom" takes in the whole creation. There was no huge gulf to be crossed, as in Gnosticism, between the Creator and the creature. Far from Judaism and Christianity being responsible for the ecological crisis of today, they both proclaim Godís "delight" in the creation, and they call humanity as well to "rejoicing" relations with the works of Godís hands.

Biblical literature as a whole does not subordinate its concern for creation to its concern for salvation and redemption. The sovereignty of God, and the cosmic work of Christ as Mediator of creation, interrelate creation and redemption to such an extent that caring for the earth is central, and not peripheral, to what it means to be either a Jew or a Christian.

John G. Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologian, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN.   He originally wrote this reflection in 1998.  He and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

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