The Corruption of the Womb of God

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Acts 17.16‑34

If we understand, metaphorically, that the entire creation dwells within the womb of God and that our very own lives are sustained within this womb through the indwelling presence of Christ, we might, we just might before it is absolutely too late, cease our suicidal destruction of    those life sustaining extensions of God’s grace that we know in the air, water and soil. We might, to speak, metaphorically, cease our suicidal corruption of the womb of God.

(DEDICATION  The first draft of this sermon was completed at Whitt’s End in Hancock, New York on July 6, 1989.  That day would have been my mother and father’s 43rd wedding anniversary, had he not died of cancer eight years previous.  Dad gifted us with this piece of God’s Earth and he loved the land in ways I am only beginning to learn.  With overwhelming feelings of gratitude, this sermon is dedicated to my father, Chester W. Whitt.)

How shall I tell them about Jesus the Christ?

How shall I talk about what God has done and is doing?

How shall I introduce God’s Christ so that the Athenians will hear, and hearing will believe, and believing will turn and be saved?

Those questions were like a perplexing puzzle as Paul wandered the streets of Athens.  Where would he find the missing pieces that make possible a connection between the new faith and the old ways?  Paul respected the rays of Divine light that already radiated from the philosophies and religions of that great city.  The obsessive hunger for debate of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers fueled Paul’s already roaring fire to preach faith in Jesus Christ.  What Paul must decide is how to focus the fire, how to move the minds but also sear the souls of his listeners with the new light from God that he held in his heart.  If you listen as you read the 17th chapter of Acts you can almost hear Paul crying out in urgent prayer, “God, where do I begin?”  And, as the prayer contained the seeds of the answer, Paul may have heard:  “Begin at the beginning.”

And so he preached:  

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth….God gives all humanity life and breath and everything else….God did this so that we would seek God and find God, though God is not far from each one of us.  For in God we live and move and have our being.  As some of your own poets have said, “We are God’s offspring.”  

As Paul continued preaching, he explained to the Athenians that as God’s off-spring they no longer needed Idols of gold and silver.  They could receive and believe a more complete image of God.  On that new day they could know the full light of God as revealed by the Resurrected One, God’s Christ.  They could know Christ. 

And make no mistake about it, these indeed were strange ideas to the Greeks.  The resurrection was an offense.  But, for the sake of their salvation, the Athenians must hear, and in hearing believe, and in believing turn and be saved.

Good friends, as regards our salvation, nothing has changed.  We still must know God’s Christ!  The Creator God was the God of salvation then and is the God of salvation now.  The Athenians heard the Good News of Jesus Christ at the beginning of the First Century.  We hear the Good News on the eve of the third millennium.  That time was and our time is an historical era of dramatic change and great spiritual energy.  God is today as busy as God has ever been to bring to the members of the human family a saving knowledge of God.  Without that knowledge the human family will perish.

Paul presented God to the Athenians in a way that would break through their intellectual and emotional and spiritual resistance.  Today, God must still break through intellectual and emotional and spiritual resistance so that 20th century men and women may hear anew the Good News of Jesus Christ, and in hearing believe, and in believing turn and be saved.  Nothing less than such a conversion will do.  

What did Paul want the Athenians to know about God that we also must know?  

First, that God is the creator and we are off-spring.  And that means we are absolutely dependent on God for, as Paul says it, life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17.25)   How does God provide these things?  In Colossians 1.15 Paul writes that God provides them through Christ:  

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and earth…, all things were created by him and for him.”  

In Christ, God created a world of soil, air, and water. These elements of the creation are an extension of God, they are an extension of God’s Being, God’s love.  Christ dwells in all of them.   

“Christ is all and is in all.” (Colossians 3.11c)  

But in addition to this extension of God in creation, the Athenians needed to know that God also extended God’s Being and God’s love in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Resurrected Christ whose life could not be ended by crucifixion.  They needed to hear God’s demand for personal righteousness.  And the Athenians needed to know that this righteousness was now possible through repentance and forgiveness of sins.    

But what about us?  Unlike the Athenians we know full well, or certainly should know by now, of God’s demand for personal righteousness.  We know that the salvation of our lives depends on repentance and that the forgiveness of sins is possible because of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  What we have forgotten, I believe, is the foundation for all that Paul preached in Athens.  Preoccupied with personal salvation, we have forgotten that God, through Christ, also intends the salvation of the Earth and the entire Creation.  We have forgotten, to our great peril, that Christ is also known in Creation and that the Grace of God is also extended to us through the elements of that Creation, the soil, air and water.  

Paul passionately desired to preach Christ crucified and resurrected to the Athenians, for the salvation of their lives.   God has placed an equal passion in my heart to preach Christ present in the Creation to you, and all who will listen, for the salvation of our lives and the salvation of the Earth and the salvation of the Cosmos.  

But to so preach Christ present in the Creation, we need a way of understanding how God, through Christ, provides life and breath and everything else to the human family.  You find one metaphor     for the Divine relationship to Creation in the book of Job:     

“In God’s hands are the souls of all that live, the spirits of all human kind.” (Job 12.10, NEB)

This is the same metaphor popularized by the folk song, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands”.  God has “you and me brother”,” you and me sister”, “the little bitty baby”, and “the wind and the rain” in His hands.  In this metaphor God holds the creation and can be found in the creation.  (Pan-en-theism), but God is much more than creation.  This is a good and a true metaphor.  But as good and true as this metaphor is, it is not the way Paul images God’s relationship through Christ to the Creation.  In Paul’s metaphor, God does not just hold, God surrounds, encompasses.  The Creation dwells within God:     

“For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17.26)  

We, and the creation in which we dwell, live and move and have our being within God.   You may remember the story of a young and desperate fish swimming about in the ocean looking for water.  He had heard that he needs water in order to live.  He does not want to die so he swims forthseeking water.  He looks everywhere.  He asks everyone.  No one knows anything.  Finally, he finds a great and wise and very old fish who says he knows about water.  “Water surrounds you”, the old fish begins.  “Water is everywhere.  You were born in water and every day of your life water will sustain you.  You do not need to search.  All you must do is see.”  This is just a tall fish story to our young fish, who swims on, in search of the mysterious elixir of life, called water.  

We have not had the fish’s experience of being enveloped by water.  How are we to feel the depth of Paul’s metaphor of living within God?  Is there any experience common to all human beings that might help us to understand what it means to say that God is the One within whom we live and move and have our being?  There is one human experience, and only one, common to all of us, of existing within another, totally dependent on another.  That is the nine months of miraculous growth within the womb of our mother prior to birth.  Paul says that we are totally dependent on God because we live and move and have our being within God.  I think we can a grow a life-saving understanding of our Relationship to God and God’s relationship to us, and the entire creation, if we are willing to contemplate the following metaphor:  

THE ENTIRE CREATION, INCLUDING HUMANITY, IS A CHILD GROWING WITHIN THE WOMB OF THE MOTHER.  GOD IS THE MOTHER, PROVIDING EVERYTHING NEEDED FOR THE NURTURING OF LIFE.

But like the frequently heard disclaimer on television, “This is a test, this is only a test”, I would add, “This is a metaphor, this is only a metaphor.”  It is not the whole truth about God but it may be a critically important part of the truth for us to hear today.  Our salvation may depend on it.  

Question: Why might this particular metaphor be so important today?  

Answer:  If we understand, metaphorically, that the entire creation dwells within the womb of God and that our very own lives are sustained within this womb through the indwelling presence of Christ, we might, we just might before it is absolutely too late, cease our suicidal destruction of those life sustaining extensions of God’s grace that we know in the air, water and soil.  We might, to speak, metaphorically, cease our suicidal corruption of the womb of God.  

Let me tell you what I mean by sharing the insights that have been given to me as I have contemplated this metaphor.    

I’ve known for quite a few years now just how awesome an event is the experience of childbirth.  It is mysterious and magnificent, frightening and perilous.  Awhile back I shared with a family a part of the peril I hope I never have to experience again.  Are you familiar with the word, “meconium?”  I experienced meconium—not at all a pleasant experience—when changing my daughter’s first diaper.  It was filled with an absolutely black substance I was later told was meconium. What I did not know was that sometimes, through some accident or trauma of birth, the meconium is released by the baby before birth, corrupting the sterile and safe environment of the womb.  This is a potentially tragic event for the baby.  The meconium can be breathed into the body, blocking air passages and causing brain damage, severe retardation or even death.  Or it can be ingested.  The bacteria can cause an infection that the baby’s immune system is not prepared to fight.  In either case, you have a crisis.  Action must be taken immediately. As soon as a doctor or midwife detects the problem, an anesthesiologist, who is an expert in clearing breathing passages, is called in.  Immediately after birth blood tests are taken and, if necessary, anti biotics are administered.  It is a perilous process.  The baby’s body, especially blood vessels needed for an IV, are so small.  The right steps must be taken, they must be taken skillfully, and they must be taken immediately. Any delay, any error, can be fatal.  

Though the metaphor is not perfect, I must confess to being overwhelmed by the similarities between the corruption of the mother’s womb with the attendant tragic possibilities for the baby and the corruption of the Earth with the attendant tragic possibilities for the human family.  For example, the baby’s action is unconscious, but its effect is none the less suicidal.  The mother is not threatened by the defiling of the womb.  Only the life within the womb is in danger.  The mother will grieve the death of the child; but she will live to create again.  

The actions of human beings within the Earth environment, the womb, that sustains our lives, may be equally unconscious; or subject to rigid denial.  Like those who crucified the Christ, we may not know what we are doing. But what we are doing is committing suicide.  We are killing, not just ourselves, we are also aborting all future generations of human beings.  When we pollute the air and the water and the soil, when we eliminate ten thousand species of plants and animals each year, we are corrupting the habitat that sustains our lives, we are destroying the very graces of air, water and soil that God uses to provide for our needs.  God will grieve  can you even imagine how profoundly God will grieve if the human adventure is aborted  but the Creator will live to create again.  

There is a way out of this suicidal madness.  The solution lies within the potential of every human being to allow the unconscious to become conscious, to acknowledge the truth, to turn and besaved.  As painful as the reality is to see, as offensive as the metaphor may be, as difficult as the changes required will seem, the human family has got to become conscious of the metaphoricalfact that we are defecating in the Womb of God.  We must become conscious of the literal fact that we are choking on our own poisons and killing our own children.  We must become conscious of the literal fact that we cannot throw our garbage away.  There is no “away”, there is only the creation, the womb, the air, water and soil that sustain our lives.  We must hear, and in hearing believe, and in believing turn and be saved.  

But something is blocking our hearing and our turning towards consciousness.  It may be the pain that the truth would cause us.  Those of you who have felt the pain of the death of a child know what I mean.  The sorrow is excruciating.  But what we are talking about here is infinitely worse, the death of all the children, the abortion of the entire human adventure.  To become conscious that we are committing suicide, that we are killing all future generations of the unborn, that we are corrupting the womb of God, is more pain that we can stand.  So we choose to remain numb to the truth.  We blur the truth by denying that we are in a fetal like position of absolute dependence on God.  We delude ourselves into thinking we can control our own destinies.  We try to diminish the pain through various addictions, particularly the addiction of consumerism.  But by consuming so much unneeded junk and trashing so much poisonous garbage, we insure our self destruction.  We must hear the truth in a way that will compel us to repent.       

THE TRUTH IS, THE HUMAN FAMILY IS COMMITING SUICIDE BY CORRUPTING THE WOMB OF GOD.      

Our hope lies in two facts.  First and foremost is the capacity of our Creator God to also be our Healing God.  Second is the capacity of the human family for repentance and conversion/transformation.  That is why God is so busy these days.  That is why so many people are being pushed by God to heal their very own lives, they might then be a force for the healing of the planet.  You cannot help to halt the human family’s suicide if you are committing personal suicide by way of alcoholism, workaholism, consumerism or any other addiction.  Only repentant and recovering individuals, people who are working God’s love into every nook and cranny of their lives, can call the human family to repentance and recovery.  Only those who personally know God’s salvation can teach the world that that salvation is for everyone and everything.  

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1.19 20)

And humanity, you and I, have a critical role to play in this process:  

“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed….in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8.19 & 21)  

Without a doubt, you and I live in what may be the most fateful era of human history, maybe even of the entire history of the cosmos.  The creative adventure set in motion, and sustained to this day, by our Creator God depends, for its culmination, on the consciousness of human beings.  We must be willing to see the evil of our past actions  The Corruption of the Womb of God  and we must be willing to repent and allow God to show us our salvation.      

The womb of God must be cleansed.
        The time is now.
               The person is you.
             The way will be shown.   
All the creation is waiting.
      What will you do?  Who will you become?
           You can become the hope and the love that our world so desperately needs.

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