Creation: Moving from Awe to Lament to Resistance

Being-at-one is not individualist self-realization but moves beyond that to change death-oriented reality. Being-at-one shares itself and realizes itself in the ways of resistance.             Dorothee Soelle

Lent is always a fruitful time for me, a time to reset my focus and reestablish practices that nourish my soul. Prayer is at the top of my priorities, not just during Lent but always. For me, it is the key to being able to face today’s painful realities without succumbing to anxiety, denial, avoidance, cultural accommodation, and despair.

This morning I awoke to another four inches of snow that had fallen on top of the previous layers. I spent time in prayer while looking out on the scene of birds and squirrels happily eating the seed and bread crumbs I had just scattered. My prayer turned from awe to lament to gratitude to intercession to “resting in the stillness and submerging myself in it” (Dom Helder Camara). But even as the beauty and presence of God in creation consoles me, I am aware of the groans of creation in our time.

The degradation of the natural world and the associated suffering of human beings, especially those who are most vulnerable, are painful topics. It might seem easier to avoid them. Facing the reality of our time is a mixed blessing, but denial takes away our ability to grow spiritually through this terrifying time.

The season of Lent an opportunity to accompany Jesus on his journey to the cross, to recall the story of his life and passion for the reign of God, to witness the religious and political authorities conspire against him, to “stay awake” with him as he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, and to stand with him in his suffering. Facing the suffering of Jesus enables us to face our own suffering, the suffering of our human family, and the suffering of creation.

The late German feminist theologian Dorothee Solle pointed out that so much damage has been done to the earth that our ability to celebrate God through creation with our “original amazement” is hindered: “Mystical spirituality of creation will very likely move deeper and deeper into the dark night of being delivered into the hands of the principalities and powers that dominate us. For it is not only the poor man from Nazareth who is tortured together with his brothers and sisters on the cross, it is also our mother earth herself.”[1]

Solle, one of my favorite theologians, then speaks of letting go of bondage to today’s “consumer culture and plundering” and links “letting go” to “resistance.” She explains that for her, resistance means compassion and justice, living in God, and changing the world. She says, “The concept of resistance that meets us in many places of mystical tradition is broad and diverse. It begins with not being at home in this world of business and violence.”[2]

Scripture presents this as a struggle:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power;  put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, for our struggle is not against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on the evil day and, having prevailed against everything, to stand firm. Stand, therefore, and belt your waist with truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness and lace up your sandals in preparation for the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication” (Eph 6: 10-18).

It may be easy to imagine “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” as demons or spirits just floating around in the air. But my concern is how these forces are embodied in actual institutions and systems that dominate the world, how they manifested in Jesus’s time, and how they manifest today. In contemporary language: the Powers that Be.

Engaging the institutional powers involves a struggle not simply against their harmful outward manifestations but also against our tendency to internalize their values and be swallowed up in their milieu. Our struggle against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” is not simply external, for all of us participate to some degree in the powers that are manifest in the outer world, and our inner landscape is a microcosm that encompasses the whole.

We are called to exercise our freedom in Christ as we relate to the powers, calling them back to their rightful role as servants, rather than as dominators, of life. In this way, by living in creative resistance to anything that engenders futility and oppression, grounded in God’s love, and renewed and motivated by the Spirit’s call, we participate in God’s triumph over the powers and principalities in our time.

This post includes an excerpt from Sharon’s book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation: Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World (Fortress Press, 2022).

This is the fourth post in a Lenten Series, “Creation, Cross, and The Powers.” The other posts in the series will be linked here as they are published.

  1. Creation, Cross, and The Powers
  2. Extraordinary TemptationsThe Spirituality of an Epoch
  3. The Spirituality of an Epoch
  4. Creation: Moving from Awe to Lament to Resistance
  5. Banking on Our Future as Demythologized Exorcism

For other blog posts by Sharon on the story of Jesus in the Wilderness, see Jesus,Temptation, and Worldly Power and Resisting Cultural Possession.

Follow Sharon’s blog post by signing up at the “Follow” link to the right. Share with the Social Media buttons below. See also a previous Lenten series: A Lenten Call to Resist. Check out Sharon’s books.  Contact Sharon to request a complimentary digital chapter of one of her books, to request a presentation, or to order discounted bulk copies of her books. 

[1] . Dorothee Soelle, The Silent Cry, page 92.

[2] . Soelle, 197.

The Climate and the Quadrilateral

May, 2022, A New Review by Wyatt Robinson .

The Climate and the Quadrilateral

“Looking for a book study for your church to talk about climate justice? Church and Society Theology Intern Wyatt Robinson explores a theological reflection on our climate crisis.”

While engaging in my work on issues of climate justice, I have been reflecting on different resources to help me better understand the theological foundations and implications of the work for justice that we do at Church and Society. One of those resources I have used to guide my theological reflection is a book called Love in a Time of Climate Change: Honoring Creation, Establishing Justice by Rev. Sharon Delgado. I had the privilege of hearing Rev. Delgado speak at our Climate & Community Webinar in December and was excited to dive deeper into theological reflection with her written work. What I found in her book was much more than an intellectual reflection on the theological implications of climate change, but a deep integration between Wesleyan theology and spiritual practice to meet the challenges of our climate crisis in practical, intersectional, just, and sustainable ways.

In Love in a Time of Climate Change, Rev. Delgado issues a call to faithfulness, as God’s people called Methodists who have inherited the Wesleyan tradition, and points to signs of hope for churches who embody our Wesleyan commitment to love and justice in the face of our current climate crisis.

Rev. Delgado asserts that the teachings and traditions of John Wesley, that have at their core a love for God’s creation and an emphasis on social justice and holiness, can serve as a useful framework to approach and transform our world as it faces the many climate related threats of our time. She uses one of the central teachings of the Wesleyan tradition, Albert Outler’s Wesleyan Quadrilateral, as a constructive framework for honoring creation and establishing justice, “in a mature way that is consistent with our faith and values.” (p. 9)

Through this framework of the Quadrilateral, Rev. Delgado recognizes the way that true transformation and salvation from the threats of climate change requires both ideological and systematic transformation.

Throughout the book, she acknowledges the simultaneous need for more climate education, changes in individual actions, and collective action to challenge the systems that carry the majority of the responsibility for creating and perpetuating our climate crisis. Most significantly, Rev. Delgado centralizes the stories and needs of frontline communities who are currently facing loss and damage due to climate change, discerning her suggested responses by individuals and churches from the experience and wisdom of the marginalized communities who are most at risk.

Delgado properly recognizes that, “It is time for prophetic words and courageous actions that demonstrate the extremity of our situation and the need for deep and lasting cultural, political, economic, and spiritual transformation.” Love in a Time of Climate Change is an approachable resource for any person, study group, or church that wants to learn how to faithfully engage in the fight against climate change while bringing the full power and witness of their Methodist tradition to the table.

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Contact Sharon to request a free PDF chapter of her new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation, request a presentation, or to order bulk copies of her books.

Online Book Launch Event

This online Launch Day Event celebrating the release of my new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation, was hosted by Richenda Fairhurst on June 14 as part of the Multifaith Climate Cafe. This event focuses primarily on Chapter 4, “Creation Crucified: The Passion of the Earth.”  The host, Richenda Fairhurst, wrote an article and created video excerpts of our discussion, which begins as follows:

The Cross in the Midst of Creation is Rev. Delgado’s third book, following Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, now in a Second Edition, and Love in a Time of Climate Change: Honoring Creation, Establishing Justice. The books comprise a trilogy twenty years in the making. The first book rose from faith-based activism, the second expanded into an overview of climate change based on John Wesley’s (Methodism’s primary founder and theologian) teachings on Social Holiness. With this latest book, Rev. Delgado moves into the very core of Christianity, the theology of the cross.

The story of the cross is at the center this new book, and of Christian faith and belief. From the beginning, there were many Christianities, many claiming to be the ‘only’ true faith. These many traditions reflect a garden of thought, love, and faithful expression. But there are also times when interpretations gain hold in ways that are violent and destructive. Theologies of empire, starting with Emperor Constantine, have historically taken us on paths of destruction. And today, as we see life destroyed where it should be flourishing, Rev. Delgado wants to call us back to the cross to try again to understand the deep revelation rising for this moment.

Rev. Delgado spoke about her love for creation as an essential reason for writing this book. But she also writes with a sense of grief and urgency. “I think, the final thing that got me to write [The Cross in the Midst of Creation] was the way that [the theology of the cross] was being distorted—the way the story of the cross is being misused.” It is deeply troubling to Rev. Delgado that “it’s been used in that way to promote the very values that Jesus rejected, the values of status, wealth, and worldly power—the opposite values of Jesus.”

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Anthropocentrism and Deep Incarnation

“The Spirit in me greets the Spirit in you, Halleluiah. God’s in us and we’re in God, Halleluiah.” — Hymn by Jim and Jeanne Strathdee

This post is an excerpt from “Creation Crucified: The Passion of the Earth,” which is Chapter 4 of my new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation. This book makes the case that the crucifixion is ongoing as powers similar to the ones that crucified Jesus are at work today harming human lives and destroying creation, and that the resurrection is ongoing as people of every faith and philosophical conviction rise in courage in the struggle for a transformed world. The Multifaith Climate Cafe is hosting a Book Launch Event on Tuesday, June 14, at 11 a.m. Pacific Time, during which time I will speak about this chapter.

Western civilization, including Western Christianity, has been built upon an anthropocentric worldview that has enabled the plundering and despoiling of God’s world. An example for today comes from megachurch conservative pastor and bestselling author John McArthur. In a sermon refuting global warming and supporting the idea of stewardship for the purpose of extracting everything we can for use by human beings, he said, “God intended us to use this planet, to fill this planet for the benefit of man. Never was it intended to be a permanent planet. It is a disposable planet. Christians ought to know that.” 1

If we see the natural world as intended simply for human use and consumption, we lose sight of the interrelationships with the rest of creation that make us human and deny the spirit of God within us and within all. By discarding our privileged and outdated anthropocentric perspective, we may recognize creation’s intrinsic value and the presence of God in all parts of creation. One way of expressing this is through the concept of deep incarnation.

Many Scriptures point to the reality of an inner dimension of nature in which all creatures participate. Psalm 19:1 proclaims, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” Job said, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?” (Job 12:7– 9). Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matt 10:29). These passages point to a God who is intimately present throughout creation, not solely to human beings, but to other-than-human beings as well.

Understanding God as immanent within creation is not the same as pantheism, for it also acknowledges the transcendent aspect of God. The spirit of God is deeply present throughout creation but is not confined within creation. In fact, it’s just the opposite, for “in [God] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). This way of understanding the relationship between God and the physical universe has been called panentheism, which is differentiated from pantheism as follows: “In panentheism, the universal spirit is present everywhere, which at the same time ‘transcends’ all things created. While pantheism asserts that ‘all is God,’ panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe.” The Strathdee hymn quoted above that proclaims “God’s in us and we’re in God, Halleluiah” applies not only to us but to all parts of creation. This is a view of God as all in all, as Ground of Being, Ultimate Reality, Unfathomable Love, not exclusive to any religion. John Wesley referred to this “omnipresent” God as “the Soul of the universe.”2

The astounding claim of Christianity is that this God, who both transcends and is immanent within creation, was made known to us in a unique way in Jesus. “God was in Christ,” living a Spirit- infused life, suffering and dying at the hands of the powers, raised to new life by God. The Gospel of John refers to the concept of incarnation when it announces, “The Word became flesh [sarx in Greek] and lived among us” (John 1:14). This emphasizes the coming of God to us in human form in a way that we humans can comprehend. The revelation of Jesus Christ created a paradigm shift in our understanding of divine- human relationships by revealing the all- encompassing love and eternal presence of Emmanuel, which means “God is with us” (Matt 1:23).

The concept of deep incarnation expands on this understanding to encompass all creation as the dwelling place of God. Elizabeth A. Johnson explains, “Deep incarnation understands John’s gospel to be saying that the sarx [flesh] that the Word of God became not only weds Jesus Christ to other human beings in the human species; it also reaches beyond us to join the incarnate one to the whole evolving biological world of living creatures and the cosmic dust of which they are composed.”3 This idea corrects the misunderstanding that human beings are isolated individuals and reconnects us to the network of interrelationships that make us human. Not even Jesus was separate from the web of relationships that constitute human and all other life on planet earth, the very web that is being undone today.

The Word became not only human flesh but all flesh and dwelt not only among human beings but among all parts of creation not just since the time of Jesus of Nazareth but eternally, throughout all time and space. This expanded view reveals the presence of the universal Spirit in the depths of matter, the love that exists at the heart of the universe, the divine presence in all creation, and the love of God that even death cannot conquer. This idea that God is made flesh in myriad forms affirms the intrinsic value of creation as a dwelling place for God.

  1. Paul Braterman, “God Intended It as a Disposable Planet: Meet the US Pastor Preaching Climate Change Denial,” The Conversation, October 12, 2020, https:// theconversation .com/ god -intended -it -as -a -disposable -planet -meet -the -us -pastor -preaching -climate -change -denial -147712.
  2. Wesley, Sermon 23, “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon,” 1:516– 17.
  3. Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross: The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2018), 186.

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So Much Beauty

 Earlier this Spring, a Robin built a nest on a mature grapevine right outside our front door. What a gift it was for Guari and I and our daughter Serena and her grown kids who live with us. As we watched the care with which she built the nest, we decided to block off the front deck and come in and out the back door so we would not disturb her.

At first the mother spent time away from the nest–even overnight. (Out with her boyfriend?) More recently, the mother bird has been so careful–sitting on the nest through unseasonably cold weather (we lost the early fruit on the grape vines and fruit trees) and keeping a watchful eye when we come to the window or near the front deck, which we have pretty much abandoned. Now, just a few weeks later, the first two eggs have hatched.  We are waiting for the last one.  


The devoted mother has been acting differently now, sometimes nesting with them, sometims standing over them and putting her head down, apparently feeding them. Meanwhile, the father is around more. He’s been vigilant, standing on  a nearby wire or, when the mother is away, on the edge of the nest. He even brought back a worm, but then he flew away with it. Evidently both parents are trying to figure out how this works and what to do.

Having this little bird family here and being able to observe them so closely reminds me of how much they are like us, or perhaps how much we are like them. We may get the idea that we humans are removed from the natural world, with our towns and cities and busy lives, but we are not. We are mortal, made from the same elements that make up the rest of creation here on earth. We are part of the interconnected and interdependent community of life. These birds, along with the skunks and foxes and deer and quail and other creatures around us, are our brothers and sisters. They care for their young, as we do.  Even in the midst of the many disasters taking place all around, there is still so much beauty left to be saved.


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