“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
There’s a wonder permeates all creation. I remembered it again reading this article on the latest findings from the LHC, that seem to support the Standard Model against supersymmetry. It was this lovely paragraph:
However, physicists were first attracted to it because the theory is aesthetically pleasing. Unlike the Standard Model, SUSY doesn’t require any awkward fine-tuning to produce laws of physics that match our experience. This is not a very scientific argument, more a desire amongst physicists for theories to be elegant, but historically it has often been the case that the most beautiful theory turns out to be right one.
Physicists like elegant, aesthetically pleasing theories – and often they’re right. What could be so simple and beautiful even as the 1/r2 rule for the way radiation fades out in a spherical pattern as it travels? As for the comment in that article that the problem with the Standard Model is that it makes it look like physics has been fine-tuned in an “unnatural” way, well – they said it, I didn’t.
So I believe – and believed before I first believed, if you see what I mean – that it’s a beautiful world, PK Purvis – as Gussie Fink-Nottle once remarked, under the influence of too much orange juice or – more particularly – the gin that had been secreted therein.
The universe is beautiful, terrifying, awesome and awful. The volcano that destroys a community is part of the same cycle that brings the materials of life to the ocean floor. The stars come into being, sing, scream and boil off, explode or implode into black holes. And they do this all under those same simple, beautiful, brilliant laws of physics.
Paul didn’t know much science the way we do. I say “we” – most people don’t know much about science, indeed. We sneer at previous generations’ scientific ignorance, while we indeed often know less. We may have smartphones, but none of us could make one from scratch – are there a dozen people on this planet that could? But though Paul knew no more of science than the average user of an Internet forum or Twitter, he knew what kind of world it was – he lived in a world of great fear and beauty – of earthquakes, volcanoes, the Dead Sea. He could see the wonders of everything around us. And he said that behind that there was somebody.
And yes, God is behind that. Pretty well everybody knew that in Paul’s day. Except the Stoics – and they were fairly stoical about the whole thing. But as we look a little closer we find something remarkable. That God – the “Father” – doesn’t do all this on his own. That he does the whole thing through and with and in and for – his Son. And when we look a bit more closely at that, we find that that Son is kind of familiar. Because although there’s a load of metaphysics and theology and stuff we can’t understand – the One through and for whom and with whom the Father did all this stuff – and keeps doing it – looks rather like somebody who is also one of us.
It’s an audacious thing that Paul is saying. All that Greek philosophy tried to protect God from the earth – inventing intermediate after intermediate – each one just a little cleaner as you moved closer to God, just a little dirtier and smellier as you moved towards the earth, and the dirt, and the grubby, breathing, excreting, dying things that moved around on the earth.
And Paul says, yes – there is intermediation – intercession – between God and the Earth. But it’s not a near-infinite array of these little godlets, each one that little bit lower or higher than the slightly dodgier or slightly holier one next to it. Oh no. One intermediary – and that one intermediary didn’t care that he was holy as holy can be, high as the highest, before all things, above all things, beyond all things and beneath all things. Oh no, from heaven’s highest, to the failure and the dirt, the horror and the tedium and the futility and the grubbiness of this chicken dropping-bedecked earth. He plunged straight in there – over his head in the death and the chaos and the mayhem. Right down to the depths, to join in all the darkness – and yet all the brightness and joy and hope with which these doomed monkeys manage to hoick out of the place, while their fellow-creatures, equally doomed, sing and look brilliant and fly and soar and dive and cascade – and suffer, and perish, and decay.
“He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”
And then the rescue begins. I’ve no words to express what the rescue is from really – the concept of “sin” is all very well, but it’s the way we’ve tied it down to certain acts, certain things we decide are particularly grubby in this grubby world. But it’s something about the isolation that humans have from the earth, something about their isolation from each other, and maybe most of all about their isolation from God. And as the head of the church, as that amazing return to God begins, we find we’re catching onto the hem of his cloak – that seamless cloak – we grab on and he drags us up. He may be first on the way back, but Paul and all the apostles were close behind, and we’re on their coat tails – the whole flock of us, a whole church, each grabbing on as Jesus hauls us back home.
But then I can’t just leave it at that. Because this headlong rescue mission reconciles “all things” to God. Which means, unless I’m wrong, that the church, as it’s being hauled up to Heaven, is itself holding out its hand to the rest – to everyone else, to the whole world – to the whole creation – saying “come on then, take hold – there’s room for all if you want it”.
That peace between a beautiful but grubby world and a so-holy God was made when Jesus chose to become grubby himself – stained the world with his own blood, blood made from the same stuff as our own, yet able to clean a grubby church and grubby people and a grubby world and bring them both up so the beauty that they show, just in glimpses, today, will one day shine with the glory of the whole of eternity and reflect the wonders of the One who, from the heights of heaven, dived down to join in.