God uses stuff.
God spoke and it was so. The expansive sky. The depths of the sea. The great birds of the air and the smallest insect that crawls unnoticed. They all came into existence with a word. A simple “Let there be” and there was.
But there was no “Let there be” when it came to humans. For the first time in God’s creative work, he spent time and he used “stuff.” The “dust of the ground” that he created now became the stuff that he used to form man. Then the rib from Adam became part of the stuff that he used to create the woman (cf. Genesis 2:4-25).
Did God have to use stuff? Of course not! But isn’t it interesting that God chose to use stuff for some of his creative work?
God uses means for our physical well-being
Have you ever stopped to think how God uses stuff to carry out his work? When we think of the Explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, this becomes abundantly clear. “I believe that God still preserves me by richly and daily providing clothing and shoes, food and drink . . . and all I need to keep my body and life.”
God does not say, “Let there be shoes in your closet.” God uses his creation and the process of nature to do his work of serving us, providing for us, defending us, and strengthening us. God works behind the scenes, and he sustains all of creation by his almighty power so we have all the blessings he intended for us and all others.
God uses means for our spiritual well-being
If God uses stuff to care for our physical well-being, is it any surprise that he uses stuff for our spiritual well-being? Think how this works with his power though the means of grace, the gospel in Word and sacrament. God uses a tangibly spoken word from a physical mouth or written words on a page for the actual gospel to be received by our physical ears or our physical eyes. That message has power. It creates faith in our hearts. We cannot by our own reason or strength create faith, but God does it through the sound or written letters of the gospel message.
But more than that, he also uses physical water connected with his gospel in Baptism to create faith and cleanse us of sins. It is a faith-creating word connected to tangible water. It is a marvel that God uses this stuff to create spiritual life.
And there’s more. He uses physical bread and physical wine and connects it to his body and blood, which we receive in a miraculous way in the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of our sins. There was no reason to connect his body and blood to bread and wine. Yet God chose to use them to give us the very body and blood that was given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.
What a remarkable thing it is. What an amazing God we have. He is perfectly capable of carrying out his work without us, without words, without water, without bread and wine. But his power still operates to achieve his purposes. We are brought to faith and sustained in faith by the power of the Lord flowing to us through ordinary stuff.
Author: Gregory C. Lyon
Volume 109, Number 12
Issue: December 2022