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Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Third Day: Celebrating God's Creation

The Third Day: Celebrating God’s Creation

Sunday Morning Sermon, September 12, 2010

Already the memories are fading as I try to chronicle pieces of our vacation into a cohesive, inspirational scrapbook. But “time waits for no man,” a concept first attributed to St. Maher in the 13th century and picked up by Chaucer and the playwright who penned Everyman in the 14th and 15th centuries. So time aside, I need to present to you The Third Day.

It’s rather fitting that I’m sharing this message with you today because I’m starting to plan out the Badlands pages. That’s where the Lord dropped this concept into my spirit. The concept emerges in

Genesis 1:9-13: And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds. “And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the third day.

Prior to this action, the Lord our God created a water planet. He could have stopped there, but He didn’t, because He planned to populate His creation with those made in His image. Instead of starting over, He did something that is so artistic and creative that we marvel at the concept today.

I was with Dr. Sharon Yoder last week when she asked me a rather unique question: “Why is that we get so much joy out of making our own laundry detergent?” she asked. My friend and I got together and made a big batch, and you know what? It works!!! That brought me so much joy that I couldn’t believe it! Why is that?”

Could that be a whisper of the indescribable joy our Lord God felt when he opted to separate the waters and see His functional, foundational, future foliage-bearing creation emerge from the seas, much like an infant emerges from the waters of the womb? This phenomena we call land emerged as clean and as pure as a new-born babe, filled with the promise of a place where all that is good will thrive, where love is untainted by jealousy, envy, and hate, where prosperity that outshines wealth abides for those created in His image bear the judgment that “it was good.”

In this season, the concept of time was in its infancy. The kingdom of God, beyond earth’s creation, was at war. Perhaps our Lord God felt the need to have that one special, untouched place where peace could shine like a diamond in the midst of darkness. While the Lord removed his enemies from His residence, they still had access as we see in the book of Job. If we interpret Isaiah 14:12-15 correctly, we can see who the key players are in this other-worldly drama.

Isaiah 14:12-15 NIV:  How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!  You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.  I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High."  But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.

Just as God had plans for his beloved Eden, so did His arch rival, His enemy. It was Satan who corrupted God’s creation in the heavens, through deception, misplaced ambitions, and doubt. It obviously worked on dissuading a third of God’s angels? Why wouldn’t it work on God’s latest creation – man? Sadly, we know that it did.

Genesis 3:17-19: To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it.’Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Do you think that when God cursed the ground that it remained dormant and fruitful? Was it still the seed-bearing place He raised up on the Third Day? Or would the ground outside of Eden reacted to the spoken Word of God?

During our eight days of sightseeing in the western states, we worshipped, celebrated & communed, declared God’s glory (Ps 19), trusted, inherited (Ps 16), walked, and kept our eyes on Jesus. Despite God’s curse on the ground at the beginning of time, His glory abounds in oh, so many ways:

1. In the barrenness of the Badlands, there was beauty & life.

2. In Man’s resourcefulness at Mt. Rushmore, there was reverence.

3. In the bounty at Custer State Park, yet there was danger.

4. In the resourcefulness of the Cody legacy, yet there were trials.

5. In the volatility of Yellowstone, there was stability.

6. In the remoteness of Shonshone, there were dwelling places.

Despite the curse, we witnessed God’s glory and faithfulness in ALL His creation despite our best and worst efforts to usurp them on so many different levels. You can’t look at the vastness of the ever-changing Badlands and not be touched by God’s vision and disappointment. You can’t walk around the sulfur-pits of Yellowstone and not be concerned about the volatility created by sin.

Colossians 1:16-17, NIV: For by him all things are created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

In an April 9, 2006 comic strip by Johnny Hart, BC was reading Luke 19:40 when his friend, Rocky, rolled.

“Rocky!” BC said as he looked up from his stone slab.

“Hi! Whatcha readin’ about”” Rocky asked in his own language.

“Palm Sunday,” BC said.

“Read some more,” Rocky replied.

“His followers took palm branches and cried out “Hosanna” in a loud voice , and the Pharisees ye,lled, “Teacher – rebuke your disciples.” BC read aloud.

“What did he say?” Rocky asked.

“He said, ’I tell you that if they should keep silent, the stones would cry out.’”

in and asked him what he was doing. CM then read the scripture: “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

“What does Hosanna mean?” Rocky asked.

“It mean, praise the Lord.” BC said.

Suddenly, in a big, loud, purple-outlined voice, little Rocky proclaimed “Hosanna!”

I have no doubt that many rocks in the badlands were shouting before, during and after our visit.

“This is all well and good,” you might say. “But what does this have to do with me? How am I affected by what you saw?”

Just as the sin-generated curse affected the land, it affects us. Just as the glory of God shines through the most desolate places in this vast land, so does His glory shine through us despite our sin-laden lives. Whether you’re scanning the landscape of the Badlands, admiring its variegated colors, or climbing its ever-changing, ever-crumbling rock structures, you can’t help but be struck by the limitless panorama. In our humanity, we have limitless potential. Not because we’re great, but because God’s glory dwells within us. He made us in His image to create, to be fruitful, and to prosper in ways that transcend the economy of this world. Our job is to turn a deaf ear to the devil and let Him have His way with us.

Psalm 96:1-13 says:  The Lord reigns . . . Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the seas resound and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees in the forest will sing for joy, they will sing for He comes, He comes to judge the earth.

As our time together draws to a close, I pray that we’ll not only remember this time with fondness, but that we’ll also glory in the vastness of God’s kingdom, seeing His glory in it all. Let us pray:

Lord, thank you for the grace and mercy you’ve given us during our time together. Keep us ever mindful of how we can be good stewards of this land you’ve given us to dwell in. Let us be constantly aware of your glory, your presence, and your empowerment. Thank you, Lord, for the work of your heart and your hands. Thank you for keeping us humble while showing us that one person can make a difference. Help us be difference-makers, Lord, as we return to our daily tasks. Keep us safe in Your loving arms. We ask this in Your Holy, Precious Name. Amen.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Celebrating Christ Creatively

While filling out our Gospel Crusade Ministerial Fellowship renewal forms, the Lord gave me a glimpse of our larger vision and subsequent mission. He showed me that we are called to Celebrate Christ Creatively, using our combined gifts and talents to fulfill HIs will in our lives, and to affect our community throught the fivefold ministry. In many respects, it speaks to why we are here and how He intends to use us in the overall scope of things.

Our VISION, then, is to serve Christ as we bring arts (both visual, performance, and 'crafts') to the Christian community. Our MISSION is to provide a nurturing environment and safe haven for Christian artists to celebrate Christ creatively while engaging the fivefold ministry.

So what does this mean? As well meaning as the organized church is, there is often little room for the creative among the congregation. How do we encourage the visual artists who paint, sculpt, and engage their creativity through photography? Do we see home-grown work hanging in our church offices? Our lobbies?

Dramatists have an equally difficult time in dedicating their gifts to the Giver of Creativity -- God. I was privileged to present an hour-long storytelling piece titled "Experiencing Eve" at a church in Maryland. Afterwards, an elderly woman assured me that I would go crazy just like Amy Semple McPhearson for presenting that type of program in the church.

Fortunately, that was one of the few negative responses I've seen during my touring season, but in the days ahead, we will need more creativity, not less, among us.

Storytelling is another rarely tapped gift in the body of Christ these days. When David and I attended the Methodist Church (in the 1980s), we were especially drawn to Asbury UMC in Camden. A gifted storyteller by the name of Jim Cook would gather all the children to the front of the church and share a story with them every Sunday morning. Afterwards, they would follow their teachers to the various Sunday School classes were they would have children's church. What a gift!

We've implemented a similar practice in our home church, only our chlldren remain for the service. But our resident storyteller, Tina Riley, does a wonderful job conveying the Word through story. The children love it and are always clamoring for more.

As I prepare to post this note, snow is steadily falling outside as we brace ourselves for our second snowstorm in January and one that promises to be even bigger than our end of December adventure. Some news reports claim that we've not had snowfall such as this since 1922. Though we will not be meeting in our home sanctuary because because we anticipate being snowbound at the end of our 350-foot lane, we will still have "church". We will meet via teleconference so I can share more on this topic as we come to a deeper understanding of our creative call and how we can use it to glorify the Lord.

I have some ideas, some plans, and lots of prayers over the task the Lord is putting in front of me. I will present these plans in the near future. I anticipate victory at every level and will share them with you as soon as they solidify.

I'm excited. How about you?