Wednesday 14 July 2021

God made it, God loves it, God preserves it

The burning bush, an image we might be so familiar with that we don’t find it so surprising, is an odd way for God to reveal himself to Moses. When God wants to give an image of himself, he uses something big, like the pillar of cloud or the pillar of fire that guided the Israelites through the wilderness. These images prevent us from thinking that God is small, that he is part of creation, that we could ever hope to define and limit him. A great cloud or a burning column of fire both inspire in us a sense of awe and mystery, which reflect in a small way that sense of awe and mystery we should have when we think about God.

The burning bush, on the other hand, seems small, dangerously close to an image or an idol that could be mistaken for God by someone who hasn’t quite understood him. God must choose to take this risk for a very particular reason then. There is something very particular to be taught to Moses and to us through this image.

As demonstrated by the various answers God gives to Moses when he asks his name, God reveals himself as the source of all being. The bush burns without being burnt up. It tells us something about God’s act of creation. He creates without being worn out. There is no limit to his energy and his activity. Creation is also not just a once-in-a-universe’s-lifetime event.

It’s so easy to think of creation like the flicking of a switch that starts the whole process off. We can sometimes reduce God’s part in creation to being the one who pressed the big button marked ‘Go’ that set off the Big Bang. But that would be to misunderstand what it means to create.

Creation is not just that initial bringing of things into existence. It is also continuing to hold them in existence. God continuously creates. That doesn’t mean there are lots of new things constantly popping into existence out of nothing, but simply that he continues to hold everything that currently is in existence.

Like the burning bush, God shares his being, without any loss of his own nature, without being burnt up himself.

This means God is intimately linked with every part of his creation at all times. The tiniest speck of dust would cease to exist unless he continued to hold it in being. Every moment of our existence is proof that God never forgets us.

At the same time that God is revealing all this about his being and creation, he is also showing his particular care for his chosen people within that creation. ‘The cry of the sons of Israel has come to me.’ Likewise, we can be confident that he hears us when we call on him.

Mother Julian of Norwich saw in a vision from God all of creation held in the palm of her hand, appearing insignificant and fragile:

He showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding, and I thought, ‘What could this be?’ And I was told, ‘It is all that has been made.’ I marvelled at how it could exist, for I thought it might suddenly fall into nothingness — it was so small. And I was given an answer in my thoughts: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And in the same way, all things begin to be because of the love of God.

In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God preserves it.

The whole of creation only continues in existence because God keeps it in being. It exists because God made it, God loves it, and God preserves it. And the same is even more true of each one of us.