Psalm 4; 1 John 3: 1-7; Luke 24: 36b-48
April 19, 2015
A little girl asked her mother how human beings came to be here on the earth. She told her, “Well, first God made Adam and Eve and then they had children and so on and so on....”
Later the daughter asked her father the same question. He told her, “Millions of years ago there were monkeys and the human race evolved from them.”
Confused, the little girl returned to her mother and said, “Mom how is it possible that you told me the human race was created by God and Dad said we were developed from monkeys?”
The mother answered, “It's very simple, I told you about my side of the family and your father told about his.” I kinda wanted to make this joke about Julie and me, but neither of us descended from monkeys.
This question of evolution and creation is one that divides some Christians...but I'm not preaching on evolution this morning. I want to address the fact that it was God who created; I want to expound on the wonders of creation, the vastness of God's wonderful universe, and then the amazing fact that, in this vastness, God chooses to love each one of us.
And then there is the enormity of the universe. For forty years two Voyager space crafts have been hurtling beyond the edge of our solar system at a rate of 100,000 miles per hour. They are now approximately 12 billion miles from earth. They were still responding to signals from engineers on earth at about 9 billion miles. To give an idea of this distance, it took the commands 13 hours to reach the spacecraft and the commands were traveling at the speed of light. This is all pretty tough for a mind like mine to comprehend. I am surprised by the vastness of God's creation when I sit at a stop light in St. Cloud wondering where all these people came from.
The point is that this magnificent universe didn't just happen by accident. British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle used this comparison: the likelihood of life appearing on earth by accident is equivalent to the possibility that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials found there. It is the old question—if there is a watch, mustn't there be a watch maker? If there is a universe that runs with such precision, mustn't there be a God? A Creator? Science can give us the facts that I shared but science cannot create life. God is the creator of this immense creation.
A father told of taking his family to the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. He said the sky seemed more brilliant than they had ever seen it, and the stars were so close you felt as if you could touch them. Their three boys decided they would put their sleeping bags out on the ground so they could go to sleep watching the stars. The man and his wife had just settled down for the night when their youngest boy came into the tent, dragging his sleeping bag with him.
“What's the matter?” his parents asked, “Is it getting too cold out there?”
“No,” the boy answered, “I just never knew I was so small.”
It is very possible to feel small in this world in which we live-the people, the bad news, the immenseness of creation. We are small. Charley Brown got it, “I am alone here on earth with millions of people...” Countless stars, a tiny globe sailing through space filled with millions of people...what are we that God is mindful of us? But listen to what John wrote, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” This Father God, creator of this vast universe loves us small, individual human beings! We are called children of this great creator God! We are the children of the creator of the whole, vast, ginormous universe! That could make us feel small, but understanding that God loves each one of us...it should make us feel wonderful, great, loved.
1300 years ago the venerable Bede wrote this about this verse, “The grace of our creator is so great that he has allowed us both to know him and to love him, and moreover, to love him as children love a wonderful father. It would be no small thing if we were able to love God in the way that a servant loves his master or a worker his employer. But loving God as father is much greater still.” He makes the point that this fact of God claiming us as children is no small thing; it is a great thing and so we are not a small part of God's big universe but an irreplaceable and loved part of God's family. This is a big truth and we do well to dwell on this relationship promise of God. We can both know and love God. It is a wonderful promise. God calls us to live with an understanding of what life looks like lived with the knowledge and love of God as the focus of our life.
Billy Graham asks about this focus in his question to the attendees at the Urbana Conference in 1984, “What will you be like as a Christian ten years from now? Many will be walking with Christ and serving him in various capacities around the world, but for others...ten years from now they will have lost their zeal and love for Christ...because they set their life by the world's agenda. Then Christ and his Great Commission gradually dims.”
My question for us all this morning reflect his question, “What are you like as a Christian, not ten years from now, but today? Are you walking with Jesus day by day; serving him as Lord? Is your faith about more than church on Sunday morning? Are you spending daily time with Jesus in prayer and study? Tough questions but in light of the wonderful invitation of the God of creation; the invitation to know and be known, to love and be loved...what does your response to God look like?
Graham spoke of “life's agenda”; those are things that draw us away from knowing and loving God. The most obvious is sin—sin draws us away from God and hurts our relationship. The author of Pilgrims Progress John Bunyan wrote about sin and the bible, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book." Sin keeping us away from the book will keep us away from God and time with God. Relationships need time to grow and develop; our relationship with God needs time. That time comes most obviously on Sunday morning. We attend worship, setting aside the first hours of the new week to God. The Israelites were commanded to offer their first fruits to God; we do that in a way by offering the first hours of our week to God. It is both an offering and an opportunity to grow closer to God. We sing the hymns; praising our God, singing doctrinal truths, and expressing joy in our faith. We hear the word read; three readings every Sunday allowing God's Spirit to speak to each of us through the word. We hear the sermon, challenging us to hear God's word in a practical way, an understandable way. We share the sacraments, the Lords' Supper celebrating Christ's victory and our fellowship with Jesus and with one another. Baptism, the sign and symbol or our inclusion in God's grace and the sign of our membership in the church and our unity with all the people of God. And for us at First, the sharing of Christ's peace and the time of fellowship in our coffee hour. Sharing our first fruits, our first hours with God and one another.
But true relationship calls for more than these couple of hours Sunday morning; more than involvement in church. It requires one on one time with our creator God. And God has promised that this relationship is possible. When Jesus walked the earth, he was limited by time and space. But in this Easter season, we are reminded that Jesus returned to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit so the presence of God can be with everyone who has a living relationship with God in Christ. The Holy Spirit lives within the children of God. And this presence is there to allow us to learn and grow in faith. But God doesn't force any of this upon us. We must choose to spend time with God; choose to read God's word; choose to attend bible studies; choose to spend time in serious prayer; choose to make God a priority in spite of the agenda life throws at us.
Relationship with God requires love; love of God and love of neighbor. As Michael read for us, “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” and, “since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.” John's epistle here echoes the commands of Jesus when asked what the greatest commandment was: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 30-31) Marshall shared this statement in Adult Sunday school last week, “By loving one another as Jesus loves, the faith community reveals God to the world...making it possible for the world to choose to enter into relationship with this God of limitless love.” As we love, we invite others into relationship.
I began with the wonders of the universe and the creator of life. I end with the reminder that in this wonderful, vast, awe-inspiring cosmos in which we find ourselves...we are loved. In this season of spring, the season where the dormant plants turn green and new life is all around us, remember that God loves you. As you consider all the worlds throughout this universe created by God's hand; as you study the stars at night or hear the roar of thunder displaying God's power; as you see mountain's grandeur or wander through the woods—know that God is great. Know that God is powerful. Know that God is creator and Lord. Know that this powerful, awesome God sent his son to bear our sin because we are loved with an everlasting love. We are his beloved. “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God” We are beloved...live in love. Amen.
467 How Great Thou Art