Sunday, June 22, 2014

Messages From Creation...From God

The story from Genesis is one of many stories about the beginning of this world we live in…and on. Every culture has a similar story that explains how everything we can see came into being.
These verses from Genesis are the words our ancestors used to make some sense of where they were, how they got there, and what creation was telling them. Yes, they received messages from God’s creation and the Genesis story helped them make sense of all that creation was speaking to them.
In the creation story we discover that God didn’t, and still doesn’t, work alone. Since last Sunday was Trinity Sunday it’s good for us to remember that God was helped by the Holy Spirit who was brooding over the watery abyss like a mother hen. We don’t read about the second member of the Trinity until John wrote his gospel and said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
In the 26th verse we hear God say, “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and yes the Earth itself…(Genesis 1:26..The Message)” I don’t understand how God does it all but this verse lets me know that God is not just one-dimensional but multi-layered, multi-dimensional, with the ability to design, create, and care for all this.
Throughout the story of creation we see how important relationships are. God had a relationship with all that he was creating. It was God’s baby. That explains the brooding mother hen. Everything God made had a reason for being, fruits, vegetables, trees, cows, sheep, birds, fish, and human beings. The care and nurture for the earth and everything on it was given to the human race. The story is the first example of human beings being co-workers with the Creator.
Creation, earth, plants, animals, birds, fish, humans all living together, intertwined, linked together, caring for and supporting the other. When one suffers all sense that things aren’t as they should be.
This world, our world, and our governments are trying to make sense of the changes in the extremes of weather, storms, heat, cold, drought, ice caps melting, global warming, the deterioration of the ozone layer, etc.
In the last few years it’s been noticed that honey bees are dying. This worries folks because without bees many of our plants cannot be pollinated. The earth, creation needs bees. Without their work creation is out of balance.
God created this world, the universe, the things we can see and the things we can’t. Everything was created to be in harmony, to be in balance. Things today are getting out of sync and scientists are trying to explain to us what’s going on, how and why did it happen, and is there anything we can do about it.
Creation is speaking to us and, I wonder, is anyone listening? It was easier for me to hear when I lived on the farm. It was easy to listen when my ear was leaning into a cow’s flank getting the milk that nourished my family. I could hear creation speak to me as I rode the tractor cultivating corn and beans, mowing and raking and baling the alfalfa. I heard creation speak in the wind blowing through the branches of the Chinese elm trees in the windbreak.
But now I’m living in a small town and it’s more difficult to hear today. That may be why Linda and I have our vegetable and flower gardens. So we can say in touch with creation. That may be why I ride my bicycle in the country, riding in the wind and the sun and listening for creation’s voice.
How is creation speaking to you? How is God speaking to you? As I write I’m beginning to understand that in order to hear, to listen, we must make a conscious effort. If we’re having trouble catching all the words then we need to turn down the volume of the world and get some place where we can listen and hear and think. It has to be important for us to hear the words creation, and God, is speaking to us.
So, why is this important to you and me and what should we be doing? I believe the answers are in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and Jesus’ Great Commission to the disciples.
Paul’s words were to examine, to test, “…Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.” Jesus said he had the authority to commission the disciples to go into the world, to all nations, make disciples, and baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They were to teach them everything he commanded and that was to love God and love their neighbors. And they would find that the world would hate them for doing these things.
Thanks be to God they listened to the Son and the Spirit otherwise we wouldn’t be hearing the lessons and stories today.
So, my friends, God is not only speaking to us in the Word from the Bible but also through his creation. My prayer, my hope, is that you will take time daily to listen to what God is speaking to you and me through his creation.

Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.  

You Have Value

One quick question before I begin talking about today’s scripture, how many of you heard creation speak to you this last week? The Old Testament lesson from last Sunday was Genesis 1 about the beginning of this world that we take so much for granted.
I believe that God speaks to us in his creation. Think about how you encounter creation every day. Have you ever thought that only God could have made something as intricate and fragile as a butterfly wing? Have you ever just sat outside and listened to the birds singing in the morning or the wind blowing through the trees in the evening? Have you ever talked with God then and had his answer come to you in a leave or a stick or an ant or a garter snake?
Sometimes we’re too busy to realize or understand how we’re connected to this world that surrounds us, the birds, the corn fields, the bees, dogs, our vegetable and flower gardens, and that they’re all speaking to us.
Today’s lesson from the gospel of Matthew reminds us that God is speaking to us, telling us the message we’re to share with everyone we meet. Maybe we’re deaf to creation’s voice but God is still speaking to us. He may talk to us in our work; he may whisper to us in our sleep; he may have a message for us as we enjoy our leisure time.
However God communicates with us the message is the same as it was for the disciples, “Don’t be afraid.” You are my child and I’ll protect you.
That I get. The part that used to trouble me the most was the last part of the lesson for today. Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”
That just doesn’t sound like the Jesus who told us that God is love and told us to love our neighbors. That just doesn’t sound right.
My friends, what I believe Jesus is saying is we must be willing to put him over and above everything, even our families.
This may very well be the hardest thing Jesus asks his disciples to do. Love him more than our spouses, more than our children, more than our grandchildren, more than our retirement savings, more than anything. Jesus comes first.
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus says. When he says he’s come to turn us against our parents, our spouses, even our children that scares us. It makes us uncomfortable. It makes us squirm and wiggle in our pews.
Jesus wants us to lose our lives. That’s hard. In the Message it puts Jesus’ words this way, “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”
That’s hard. Kind of like getting married. Letting go of your wants and focusing on your spouse’s wants. Jesus is telling us he comes before anyone or anything else just as our spouses…and our families…come before our wants and needs.
Jesus is our Lord. He deserves our utmost attention. This is nothing new. God told the Israelites he was a jealous God. He told them to not worship anything else. He commanded them to give him their all, all their love, all their attention, and in return he would take care of them forever.
God reinforced that when he sent his Son, Jesus to teach us, to suffer and die for us, to defeat death for us. God’s love is eternal and all he ask is that we give him first place in our lives.
It’s hard and I fail every day. Every day I start all over by thanking God for giving me another day to try and get it right. And then I pray that in his mercy he will forgive me. And then I move on doing what I hear God telling me to do. And sometimes I don’t hear. Sometimes I don’t listen.
So, what do we do? We keep trying. We keep reading the Word. We keep praying. We open our ears so we can hear God speak. Sometimes our ears are our eyes. Sometimes God speaks to us in all our senses, touch, smell, taste. Friends, we never quit trying to get it right. We never quit asking God for forgiveness, for strength, for courage. We never give up on God because he will never give up on us.

At least that’s where I place my hope and trust. Thanks be to God. Amen.