Sermon: These Lives are Precious

Scriptures: Luke 4: 16-21; Psalm 72: 1-7, 12-14, 17-19

Preached: June 13, 2021 at NPC by Rev. Merritt N. Schatz

 

          The Book of Psalms is an amazing compilation of the relationship between God and creation. The psalms reflect a wide spectrum of emotions: awe, wonder, despair, rejoicing, anger, sorrow, and hope! There are some really beautiful thoughts: “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked…their delight is the law of the Lord...they are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in due season.” (Ps. 1:1-3). There are some terrible thoughts: “O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!” (Ps. 137: 8-9) The Psalms include the history of God’s chosen people – their sins as well as their victories. God’s roles as creator, redeemer, forgiver, and chastiser are all in the Psalms. Through the Psalms God allows humanity to express our frustrations, anger, fears, as well as our hopes and dreams. This does not mean that God endorses, encourages, or condones all these thoughts. Yet God is great and loving enough for us to allow us to express them.

          Over the next eight weeks (minus the two weeks I will be on vacation) we will be looking at the Psalms to help us explore the seven R’s of moving forward that I quoted in the Pentecost sermon. These R’s are: Remembrance; Recognition; Repentance; Repairing; Reconciliation and Resurrection/Rejoicing. We start today with Remembrance: Remembering Whose we are, Who we are called to be; and When we have failed to live as Children of God.

          Whose are we? It might sound like a simple question, but it is not. In our individualistic culture, we tend to think that we are our own. We have the right to be whoever we want to be. We don’t want any government or society to tell us what we have to be or have to do. We want freedom. We demand freedom. Sometimes we even worship freedom as we define it.

As children of God, as followers of Jesus Christ, however, we are called to claim a different sort of freedom. We have been bought with a price which permits us freedom from domination by the devil. We are created for a freedom which allows us to grow in the image of God. We have freedom to listen to God, obey God, live in accordance with God’s will and design. This is freedom from a life inevitably broken by sin and freedom for living in God’s eternal kingdom. This God-given freedom creates a new community, the body of Christ, which not only ties us to one another in fellowship, but binds us in love to all humanity – even to all creation! This God-given freedom makes all creation precious to us, as all creation is precious to God.

          So, whose are we? We belong to God and to one another. If this is true, and we declare in our confessions that it is, then it is important to know who this God is to whom we belong!

          We belong to the God who created all that is, and declared creation to be good, very good! We belong to the God who created a world which provides for all who inhabit it – plants, animals and human beings. The grass grows, the rain falls, the little sparrow is among those whom God calls precious!

          We belong to the God who created us with free will even though God knew that we would misuse this will. By creating all that is God became vulnerable to the pain we cause God when we break God’s commandments. Yet God created anyway. God knew free will would allow injustices and inequalities among creation to develop. Yet in love and with willingness to accept the cost of this pain, God gave us free will anyway. Because without free will, there can be no love freely given. God has never abandoned God’s love for those who are injured by the abuse of free will. God has paid the price over and over again – suffering with the weak, the injured, those discriminated against, those who mourn and grieve, those who hunger and thirst. God also suffers when God sees people who greedy or cruel, because this amazing God loves all of us, not just when we are lovable! Our evidence for this is God’s gift of Jesus Christ who suffered for our sins that we might be freed from the power of sin, so that we might know the great love of God.

God inspires people throughout history to remember all our history, not just the parts when we win, or when we succeed, or when we do what is right. Why does this God to whom we belong want us to remember even our failures? God knows that we can learn from our failures as well as from our successes. Various recent people have been credited with the thought “those who forget history, never learned history, or ignore history, are doomed to repeat it (among them Edmund Burke, Winston Churchill, and George Santayana) but they all might all have learned this lesson from God. In the Scriptures, God through Moses warns the Israelites to remember their history, especially their rescue from slavery, but also their rebellions against God. Throughout the Psalms the children of God are called to remember their history, rejoicing in God’s deliverance, but also recalling God’s chastisements so that they do not repeat their mistakes. Over and over again they are to recall that they – and all creation – are precious to God.

The God to whom we belong desires us to live in accordance with truth – which requires us to look honestly at our behavior, and that of those whom we follow. The past has great influence on the present. We do not honor our ancestors by denying the truth of sin within history – theirs or ours.

The God to whom we belong is a God of mercy and grace. As redeemed, forgiven people, we find the strength and courage to face the past, and its continuing consequences with unflinching eyes. We approach the truth of our history, personal and communal, with all its glory and all its ugly failures, because we want to live in the fullness of God’s redemption. We can only provide hope for the future if we are willing to correct the injustices of our past and present.

As the Body of Christ, we are called to admit the ways in which we have failed to act as Christ, so that we can open ourselves to renewal and transformation by the Holy Spirit. In Psalm 72, and in Christ’s words in Luke, we see the God who cares of those whose needs are not being met by this world. We hear the command of God to care for the widows and orphans, for those who are hungry and thirst. We experience the tears of God for God’s children who suffer while others have more than enough. We are bound to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross who pronounced the fulfillment of God’s promise to address these needs, this suffering, through the existence of God-made-flesh, Jesus Christ. The One who came to redeem us, to make us one with God and one with one another, calls us to remember that this call does not just make us one with those who are like us, who agree with us, who act like we expect people to act. Christ, who gave up all his glory to be united with humanity, reflects the glory of God who accepts and loves us even in our brokenness. The God of love, grace, and compassion is the God to whom we belong, and whom we freely love and serve. This is the truth to which we are bound by grace, even if we sometimes forget this. Even in the grief of our brokenness we are given this grace.

I recently became acquainted with the writings of John Roedel. John Roedel writes on his Facebook page his thoughts and struggles as he wrestles with the life to which he is called by God. I have asked Jean to help me share one of Roedel’s dialogues with you.

 

Me: Hello God.

 

God: Hello...

 

Me: I’m falling apart. Can you put me back together?

 

God: I'd rather not.

 

Me: Why?

 

God: Because you're not a puzzle.

Me: What about all the pieces of my life that fall to the ground?

 

God: Leave them there for a while. They fell for a reason. Let them be there for a while and then decide if you need to take any of those pieces back.

 

Me: You don't understand! I'm breaking!

 

God: No, you don't understand. You're transcending, evolving.

What you feel are growing pains. You're getting rid of the things and people in your life that are holding you back. The pieces are not falling down. The pieces are being put in place. Relax. Take a deep breath and let those things you no longer need fall down. Stop clinging to pieces that are no longer for you. Let them fall. Let them go.

 

Me: Once I start doing that, what will I have left?

 

God: Only the best pieces of yourself.

 

Me: I'm afraid to change.

 

God: I keep telling you: YOU'RE NOT CHANGING! YOU'RE BECOMING!

 

Me: Becoming, Who?

 

God: Becoming who I created you to be! A person of light, love, charity, hope, courage, joy, mercy, grace and compassion. I made you for so much more than those shallow pieces you decided to adorn yourself with and that you cling to with so much greed and fear. Let those things fall off you. I love you! Don't change! Become! Don't change! Become! Become who I want you to be, who I created. I'm gonna keep telling you this until you remember.

 

Me: There goes another piece.

 

God: Yes. Let it be like this.

 

Me: So... I'm not broken?

 

God: No, but you're breaking the darkness, like dawn. It's a new day. Become!! Become who you really are!!"

 

(John Roedel)

 

To whom do you belong? Are you broken… or becoming? Remembering whose we are helps us to remember who we are called to become. Remembering whose we are allows us to become who we are meant to be – children of God, followers of our brother Jesus Christ, the Body of Christ who seeks out the lost and lonely, who lifts the downhearted, and brings hope to the hopeless, who mourns with those who mourn.

Let us remember whose we are, and who we are becoming! The lives of all creation are precious to God; even our lives; especially the lives of those whom the world disdains, even the trees of the fields and the tiny creatures of the woodlands. All are precious! Amen.

 

 

The dialogue at the end of the service was written by John Roedel whose work can be found at: 

https://www.facebook.com/Godandjohn or in his book, Hey God. Hey John.: What Happens When God Writes Back) found at Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Hey-God-John-Happens-Writes/dp/1720783071 Wink 

 

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