There is a moment in the film Oppenheimer when army officer Leslie Groves asks Robert Oppenheimer if there is at all a chance that his atomic bomb will start a chain reaction that will destroy the world, Oppenheimer assures him that the chances are near zero. Groves says, ‘Near zero?’ So Oppenheimer says, ‘What do you want from theory alone?’ To which Groves replies, ‘Zero would be nice!’ Which of course begs the question, could we blow up the world? Not so much do we have the capacity, I guess we do, but would we be allowed to do that? When, according to Psalm 24, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. And when Psalm 2 talks of the way the nations rage and the people waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle, the writer says, the rulers plot together… but the Lord laughs at their plans and rebukes them. In other words do we believe ourselves to be more powerful than we are?
It’s a prescient question in a time when the planet really does seem to be groaning under the burden of a climate gone wrong. A burden we continue to make larger. But that groaning, in Romans 8, is about the earth writhing as it waits for the rescuing hand of God. ‘All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.’ (verses 21-22)
So the planet is cornered by freewill gone wrong. By our meanderings and misdemeanours and mistakes. But it is still the Lord’s, and surely we can take some hope in the notion that though we may think ourselves lords of the earth… ‘Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds.’ (these words pass through Oppenheimer’s mind as he tests the first bomb), yet there is another Lord, one who has ultimate power and the ability to rescue a planet gone wrong. Again this begs all kinds of questions as we look at all that is so wrong with this place… famines, trafficking, poverty, floods, fires, crime… so much. But alongside these, so much good is done too in the name of the one who gave everything for the cosmos. The son who conquered the cross and wrestled death and split open a portal between eternity and the wondrous, difficult, painful now. How we need him.
Lord please fill us with your hope, compassion and courage today, we pray.