A Covenant with the Cosmos



“He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” (Mark 1:13)

Unlike Israel’s forty years of temptation in the wilderness, Mark’s account of Jesus’ forty days is not colored by looming adversity, where his comfort and safety are obviously at risk. For this reason, we should be careful not to read into Mark’s spare account details we learn from Matthew and Luke. Mark doesn’t portray this time as resembling Adam and Eve’s life after Eden, or Israel’s challenges in the wilderness, where serpents and wild beasts were an active threat. Instead, Mark’s account of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness appears to echo Adam and Eve’s experience while they were still in Eden, and to fulfill Isaiah 11’s prediction of the peaceable kingdom.

Behold! In Mark’s wilderness story, we see a portent of the New Creation, where we will be at one with God’s Creation, and live in harmony with its beauty and ordered rhythms. Angels wait upon us, and we become aware of them. Why? Because as Jesus says in the first words of his mission: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near!” The age has been inaugurated when, as 1 Peter says, angels, authorities, and powers are all made subject to him.

As God’s Kingdom breaks into this world through the mission of Jesus, we should expect to see its presence and power. And we should be moved to live in harmony with its purposes. How do we know these purposes? We learn about them in God’s words to Noah and his family when they emerge from the ark. For forty days, they journeyed through the ‘wilderness’ of the flood, living side by side with all the animals in the ark, both wild and domestic. This poetic image of the ark with its inhabitants, journeying through the flood, provides a potent metaphor for the New Creation, for the Kingdom and for the Church.

Especially fitting are God’s words to Noah once he sets foot on land. God says, “I am establishing my covenant with you… and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you.” Genesis describes this as a covenant between God and the earth, an “everlasting covenant between God and every living creature.”

God still “so loves the world,” with all its wonder and fine beauty.


Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom (1834).  To see the homily from which the above text is excerpted, please click here. See Isaiah 11:1-9, as well as Genesis 9:8-17.

Creation as Revelation

1024px-NautilusCutawayLogarithmicSpiral-cc license


“Ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” Writing to the Romans, Paul suggests that all people have an opportunity to learn about God through our experience of the world. Visible beauty speaks of invisible mystery. Some call this common grace, and others refer to general revelation.

We learn about God in other ways that complement the ‘special’ revelation given to Israel and in Christ. This ‘general’ revelation from God through nature provides true knowledge even if it is not saving knowledge. Saving knowledge comes to us solely through special revelation. Therefore, to say that all can learn from God through his Creation does not imply that all will be saved. Only that all may experience delight and wonder from him.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork.” Psalm 19 celebrates how the beautiful ordering of the world reflects our Creator and speaks of his purposes. We find this ancient insight at the heart of a modern prayer:

“Almighty and everlasting God, you made the universe with all its marvelous order, its atoms, worlds, and galaxies, and the infinite complexity of living creatures: Grant that, as we probe the mysteries of your creation, we may come to know you more truly, and more surely fulfill our role in your eternal purpose…”

When Paul visited Athens and spoke to civic leaders at the Areopagus, he built his message on a similar assumption. Having found an altar dedicated “to an unknown God,” Paul revealed to his listeners the identity of the deity whose existence they had implicitly acknowledged. According to Paul, the Creator had fashioned the world in such a way that all people “would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him.” Though the Athenians did not yet know the God of Creation by name, they had already encountered him.

Regardless of their inclination or efforts to discern deity, Paul tells the Athenians that God “is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’.” Remarkably, within this statement, Paul quotes one of their poets to make a theological observation, and in the process identifies himself with his listeners.

The God in whom we all live reveals his divinity in the beauty and patterns of creation.


See Romans 1:19-20, Psalm 19, and Acts 17:16-34, which is the first reading appointed for the 6th Sunday of Easter, Year A. The Prayer is found in The Book of Common Prayer, page 827. (Note: Beginning the week of May 25, I may post less frequently during the summer.)

The nautilus photograph is from Wikimedia Commons. For more on the logarithmic spiral discerned in the nautilus shell, and reflection on how the spiral may be diagramed in relation to the golden ratio proportion, see the web page <; by Gary Meisner.