Tag Archives: Creation

Mission begins with creation

given on Sunday, February 14, 2016–first Sunday of Lent and Valentine’s Day

From Lent’s lectionary: Romans 10:8b-13

In fact, it says,

“The message is very close at hand;
it is on your lips and in your heart.”[a]

And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”[b] 12 Jew and Gentile[c] are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[d]

Scripture base for “Mission begins with creation”

  • Genesis 1:1-2:3 – creation of earth and inhabitants

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.[a] The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. . . .

Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” . . .

Then God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.” And that is what happened. . . .

14 Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. 15 Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. . . .

.20 Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” ,,,

24 Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And that is what happened. . . .

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings[b] in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth,[c] and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

27 So God created human beings[d] in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. . . .

31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!   . . .

2 So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested[e] from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.

Lent’s 1st Reflection: Mission begins with Creation

Not one day begins or ends without knowing the value of God’s creation. We are blessed to live in his world filled with all the glory of the sunrises, birds singing, breezes blowing, and even the sunsets while the moon and stars begin appearing. Each time we look around our world and take in the awesomeness of God’s creation we need to remember that our mission begins with His creation.

In our corner of the world, talking about the wonder of creation may seem out of sync with the seasons. The calendar places us in the midst of winter (here in the Northern Hemisphere, in the middle of North America, even the middle of the continental United States) when the snow typically is mounded up and turning black from weeks of ice, salts and cinders, melting and then refreezing. Winter when the sun shines but we shiver in the artic blasts just does not fill our thoughts with the awesomeness of Gods’ creation as recorded in Genesis.

Yet, creation begins everything; and whether it is in the dead of winter’s most intense artic blast or whether the sun heats up the parched land in the middle of a heat wave, God created this massive world that needs our care. God created us to be the caretakers; God assigned a mission when he created us and we need to make sure we fulfill that mission.

How does mission connect to Lent? Lent is a time for reflecting on faith and while many are giving up on religion and living lives centered on themselves, God continues providing us all that we need. Are we doing all that we need to do as God’s missionaries in his creation?

The Word is a record of God’s creation and includes all the instructions needed for us, his children. Do we know The Word well enough to do God’s work? Do we know history well enough not to repeat the same mistakes over and over?

A couple of weeks ago I presented a challenge: over Lent, fast by adding daily scripture reading, studying, journaling and/or discussing the Word with others. Our mission to be caretakers of the earth is assigned in the earliest chapters of the Bible:

15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— 17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

God created us with a clear mission to care for the earth—not just the land, the flora, and the fauna, but everything and that includes each other. Are we carrying out our mission or not? Lent is a time to reflect on the job we do as Christians fulfilling God’s mission, and that means knowing The Word.

According to a new format of the story, Max Lucado and Randy Frazee want to make sure that The Word is shared with everybody in a reader-friendly manner. [Share the Lucado/Frazee book The Word as a visual example] The first chapter begins with the very same words from the Bible included in our worship today:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

            And God said, “Let there be light,” . . .


The Story does not change. The mission does not change. The concern and the reason for a season of reflection is that we change. Adam and Eve represent all of humanity, and throughout history we humans have failed to fulfill the mission.

What began with creation, regardless of when or even how that happened, continues. The Story continues. In Lucado’s and Frazee’s welcome to the new format of the Bible, we are invited to reconnect with God:

This book (or any version of the Bible) tells the grandest, most compelling story of all time: the story of a true God who loves his children, who established for them a way of salvation and provided a route to eternity. Each story in these 31 chapters (an abridged format of the Bible) reveals the God of grace—the God who speaks; the God who acts; the God who listens; the God whose love for his people culminated in his sacrifice of Jesus, his only Son to atone for the sins of humanity.

What’s more: this same God is alive and active today—still listening, still acting, still pouring out his grace on us. His grace extends to our daily foibles; our ups, downs, and in-betweens; our moments of questions and fears; and most important, our response to his call on our lives (our mission). . . .


God created a world that was to meet all the needs humanity as long as we fulfilled our mission. Therefore:

  • Read The Word and determine the mission of God’s creation.
  • Read The Word to see how God struggled to teach us how to live.
  • Read The Word to learn from the mistakes of others.
  • Read The Word to find the secrets to a joy-filled life.
  • Read The Word to understand how God loved us so much that he “[sacrified] his only Son to atone for the sins of humanity.”
  • Read The Word to find the promise of eternal life.


Read The Word and reflect throughout the season of Lent. Make it a mission to know The Story and how your life reflects God’s love.

Closing prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, Creator of our world,

Thank you for all the beauty that surrounds us,

even the changes of the seasons.

Thank you for entrusting each one of us,

past, present and future, with your creation.

Help us to remain faithful to the mission

of caring for the world and its inhabitants.

Help us to live confidently knowing you love us

even when we fail the mission.

Thank you, too, for the time and space to reflect

on how we live to fulfill the mission.

Thank you for The Word and the Christian family

surrounding us, supporting us, and working together

to fulfill the mission creation began. –Amen


[Lucado, Max & Frazee, Randy. The Story: the Bible as one continuing story of God and his people in NIV.   Zondervan; 2005. Available at CBD.com for $5.00.]

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Theology in action: Praise the Lord!

Sermon for Sunday, October 18, 2015

Scripture references: Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c

Psalm 65:9-13

Acts 14:8-19

Do you have Fall Fever? This is an entirely new malady, and unlike Spring Fever, this is much easier to treat.   First, the mild temperatures provide much relief from those sweltering, muggy summer days. Second, the shortening days make it easier to get needed rest. Thirdly, the sunshine provides a healthy dose of vitamin D, if you can get outside during or after lunch.   And finally, the dose of an apple a day is one of the most cost effective and tasty prescriptions any doctor can recommend for patients of all ages.

Another Christian malady is one John Wesley called poor holy tempers. Certainly the medical field has advanced significantly since Wesley’s lifetime, but this particular issue needs little modern intervention. Rather, the treatment directly affects one’s spiritual health.

In the Wesley Study Bible (NRSV), the core term holy tempers is defined within the book of Psalms. Holy tempers are more than feelings. According to the notes, feelings are “simply passing temptations”:

Our tempers are discerned in the shape and quality of our lives. Most clearly, our tempers are seen in our relationships with God, our neighbors, and ourselves. . . . a life of holy tempers is seen when our joy comes when freely giving service to the needy, when injustice kindles our indignation, when God’s forgiveness inspires a life-changing gratitude. (p. 679)

If you are suffering with a malady you thought was Fall Fever, maybe you really are struggling with your holy tempers.   Reading Psalms 65 and 104 certainly will improve your holy tempers and for those with Fall Fever to experience the delight of God’s creation we witness this week.

The beauty of our mid-American fall or autumn (which sounds more poetic) has included blue skies, warm sun, and delightful colors. We are witnessing the type of October that creates a ‘heaven on earth.’ Try googling autumn versus fall images and you will discover the power of a word’s connotative meanings.

Reading the two psalms create vivid pictures in our minds that relate God’s creative power. The psalmists wrote these hymns as praise. They put theology in action through the power of words. They followed Psalm 104’s closing instruction—“Praise the Lord.”

How does one praise the Lord in a world racing from point A to point B failing to see the glory of these autumn days? The pressures we have placed upon ourselves seem to squeeze out the healthy spiritual practices God expects from us. Wesley, over 300 years ago, knew that humans could be so focused on the basics of living that maintaining holy tempers would not be a priority.

Are we in the same crisis as the working people in Wesley’s England or the Americans struggling to survive in the young nation when he rode the circuit? Our lives are either too busy or too challenged by economic stress, health issues, or family obligations that maintaining healthy spirituality or holy tempers loses priority status. Holy tempers are in critical condition.

Consider the autumn beauty that you are witnessing this year. The colors are vivid, the temperatures are mild, and the sky is sparkling blue during the day and filled with twinkling jewels at night. There are moments that one’s breath is literally ripped away as the eyes fill with the beauty of this earth.

And what do we do in these moments? Do we connect the sense of delight we experience to God or do we ignore Him? These are the moments that Wesley would probably check on one’s spiritual health. He would probably prescribe some work to improve holy tempers.

The praise that we utter when we see the glory of these autumn days go to God. If our holy tempers are functioning well, then Fall Fever is not an illness it is an act of praise. Wesley would acknowledge that praising the Lord is proof that one is spiritually healthy. Just try driving along our Ozark roads that wrap around the lakes here in Missouri. The glory of God is breathtaking!

This breathtaking experience is how spiritual respiration feels. For Wesley, faithful Christians “. . . must breathe God in order to live spiritually.” Spiritual respiration is a core term also explained in the Wesley Study Bible:

. . . When God fills our lives the way that air fills our lungs, we are refreshed, alert and energized for God’s work. . . . If we stop breathing God, we lose the connection that is essential to our spiritual lives. . . .so we have to concentrate on it through prayer, Bible study, worship and other practices that help us cultivate our spiritual lives. (p.755)

The practices are the Wesleyan acts of piety. Fall Fever has hit, but if we are not spiritually healthy, we will not praise the Lord for all that he provides, for his grace, and for the promise of life eternal.

On delightful autumn days we have very little trouble praising God for all He has provided. But what if we were living in challenging crisis day after day? Would we be spiritually healthy enough to see God’s glory despite the challenges? Paul is an example of one who lived in crisis. His ministry established the universal church. His own life is a testimony of God’s grace and the transforming power of loving one another

In Acts 14, Luke the physician again shares Paul’s challenges in Christian ministry. The struggle to demonstrate God’s healing power ended in stoning. Yet in those verses 14-17, Luke reports how Paul and Barnabas respond to the Lystrians’ misplaced praise:

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, 15 “Friends,[a] why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. 16 In the past he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, 17 but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. (emphasis added) For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.”

Paul and Barnabas, in the midst of the hysteria, demonstrate their holy tempers. There efforts to share the good news may not have been easy, but even in this personal crisis, Paul praised God for all the goodness he provides.

Are your holy tempers so healthy that the Fall Fever is not an illness but is evidence of healthy spiritual respiration?

If you are unsure, consider Paul’s situation and whether or not you are able to share God’s good news even in the midst of a challenge/crisis. This fall the prescription for improving spiritual health surely includes a look around this world God created for us. One study note put it this way: “When in doubt about God, look around and you will see abundant evidence that he is at work in our world.” (Life Application Bible, p. 1983)

If your holy tempers are healthy, then you are praising the Lord with every breath. You are “breathing God.” You are experiencing “joy [that] comes when freely giving service to the needy, when injustice kindles our indignation, when God’s forgiveness inspires a life-changing gratitude.” And when you look at God’s creation and your breath is taken away, you praise the Lord!

Wesley understood how important praising the Lord is to maintaining one’s spiritual health. When we are beaten down, worn out, persecuted, or even suffering with debilitating illness, our spiritual health or holy tempers will keep our spiritual respiration strong. Paul’s stoning is just one example how important breathing God regularly, automatically, is.

Practice praising the Lord. Each week, attend worship service as a spiritual practice. Worship includes praises. Read the Bible regularly so you can hear God speaking to you and you can develop your holy tempers. Praise the Lord for all the glory he created, but also for all the grace, the love, and the strength to live healthy, spiritual lives so we can put our theology into action.

Closing prayer

Dear Glorious Father,

Thank you for the beauty of the earth

You have created for us this autumn day.

Thank you for lessons written into scripture

That guide us in keeping our spirituality healthy.

Thank you for all the leaders of our church:

Paul , Wesley, and even today’s theologians.

Help us improve our spiritual health

By improving the use of Wesley’s acts of piety.

We want to breathe in God each day.

We want to feel our lungs fill with the Holy Spirit.

We want to breathe out the love of one another.

We want to live our theology

In praise of you, Lord.   –Amen

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Year by Year, Earth Day by Earth Day: Are We Good Stewards?

given on Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day began with the story in Genesis 1:

1-2First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.
3-5 God spoke: “Light!”
And light appeared.
God saw that light was good
and separated light from dark.
God named the light Day,
he named the dark Night.
It was evening, it was morning—
Day One.

God created this earth, and it is our responsibility.  Sometimes we forget that.  But God left the instructions very clearly as he ended the sixth day of his creation as recorded in the last verses of Genesis 1:

He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

29-30 Then God said, “I’ve given you
every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth
And every kind of fruit-bearing tree,
given them to you for food.
To all animals and all birds,
everything that moves and breathes,
I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.”
And there it was.

31 God looked over everything he had made;
it was so good, so very good!
It was evening, it was morning—
Day Six.

Day Six and that leaves the seventh day, a day God said, “Rest.”

Growing up, Dad insisted that on Sunday we rest.  He rested, I thought way too much.  Of course, the Sunday routine was get up, eat breakfast, and get to church.

No time to waste in the morning.  If we did not have any special plans with one of the grandparents, Mom would start a roast in the electric skillet, always adding the potatoes and carrots so everything would be ready when we got back from church.

Sabbath, or Sunday in our culture, was busy until the dinner was cleared from the table and the Sunday paper was opened up.  Dad was soon asleep with the paper in his lap.  He rested.  Mom rested.  My brother and I were to do our homework first, then we could rest.

Very few families follow this Sunday routine today—or at least it does not seem to be the routine.  Many are doing those weekend chores of grocery shopping, cleaning house, mowing the lawn, or whatever other tasks need to be done before going back to work Monday morning.  But while I was growing up, Sunday was a day of rest.  We were farmers, but Sunday was always kept as a day of rest.

Farming has changed though.  Drive through any country road on a Sunday afternoon, it is not surprising to see tractors running in the fields.  Whether it is planting season, or time to cultivate, or harvest time, when is Sabbath?  When is it time for rest?

Preparing for an Earth Day Sunday, looking through the support materials available on line, I found the sermon start on the Global Board of Ministry, “A Time for Rest:  Sabbath and Energy.”  After reading through it, I think it was mis-titled because the topic was the land more than energy:

The Sabbath is a day of rest not only for people, but for the land as well. The Bible dictates that the land is to have a Sabbath every seven years. In ancient Israel, this was a very real agricultural practice.

Every seven years the farmers were not to plant and harvest the land.  I had never heard that practice before.  The practice I knew Dad had used was primarily crop rotation.  Three crops, or four if you included a pasture year, were routinely rotated every year.  One field, three and sometimes four years a field was planted, cultivated and harvested with different crops—soybeans, corn, wheat, and clover or fescue for hay.

From Dad’s experience and training, crop rotation was giving the soil a rest.  Each crop drained the soil of certain types of nutrients; other crops replenished it.  At least this is the way I remember it; and I am not an agronomist, my son is.

I do not ever remember any field ever being unattended any one year and certainly not routinely left to rest every seven years.  As I read through the article, I was reminded how important our soil is.  We cannot feed a world if our soil is destroyed.  The article recognizes this concern, but cautions us about what happens if we fail to follow God’s direction:  “But the Bible is equally clear on what happens if the land is not granted a Sabbath. The land will take it by force.

Today is another year, another Earth Day; and we desperately need to remember the value of rest.  Today’s conservation techniques can work if we use them.  Stewardship of our world is critical and how to manage the soil is just one tiny portion of this world.  Consider the air we breathe, the water we drink, and all the minerals and ores of the inner earth.

Rest may be a key step to preserving our earth and the article provides the reason that rest is a critical component of our Christian responsibility:

. . . learning to work with God’s Creation by allowing both the land, and ourselves, a chance for rest and renewal is an important and still relevant implication of the Sabbath.

Today is Sunday, a day of rest, and we need to use this Earth Day as a reminder of how Christians are to manage the care of themselves, but also the earth.  Our society has decided that following God’s laws and seeing the world through God’s eyes is not as important as squeezing out as much profit as possible from this earth.

The painful truth is included in the article, too:

Today, rather than allowing time for the soil to rest and rejuvenate as God intended, we are doing everything we can to get as much production out of the land as quickly as possible. It is not only our production of food that we have sped up; our demand for cheap and reliable electricity has also led to developing inexpensive but damaging ways to produce energy. We are trying to extract as many sources of energy as we can with little regard for safety and public health. But that is not what God intended. God created for six days and rested on the seventh.

The truth hurts.  The careless management of our earth is destroying our soil, but it also is destroying our air, our water, our fauna, even our inner earth riches.  The rest our human bodies needs should tell us that all other living elements of this earth need rest, too.

Dear Creator,

         Hearing the truth can be painful.

         Yet we know that if the earth is to sustain us,

              we need to work to protect it.

         As we rest, let the earth rest, too.

         As we make decisions on soil management,

              remind us of all the earth’s needs.

         When our minds rest and reflect on this earth,

               speak to us so we can find ways to speak out.

         When we hear the news of damaging practices,

               tell us what we should do as stewards of this earth.

         Let us see the world through your eyes;

              so we, too, can rest and echo your words:

              “it was so good, so very good!.”–Amen

Here is the article to which I refer in the sermon:

A Time for Rest:  The Sabbath and Energy

“Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power . . .” Deuteronomy 8:17-18

         The Sabbath is a day of rest not only for people, but for the land as well. The Bible dictates that the land is to have a Sabbath every seven years. In ancient Israel, this was a very real agricultural practice. It was and remains necessary in order to let the soil replenish its nutrients after growing crops and providing food for six years.

Today, rather than allowing time for the soil to rest and rejuvenate as God intended we are doing everything we can to get as much production out of the land as quickly as possible. It is not only our production of food that we have sped up; our demand for cheap and reliable electricity has also led to developing inexpensive but damaging ways to produce energy. We are trying to extract as many sources of energy as we can with little regard for safety and public health. But that is not what God intended. God created for six days and rested on the seventh.

Keeping the Sabbath is difficult because it requires trust in God’s providence. (Lev 25:20-21 “Should you ask, ‘what shall we eat in the seventh year if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ I will order my blessing for you in the sixth year, so that it will yield a crop for three years.”) In fact, the Israelites did not always keep the Sabbath year either. Trusting that there will be enough food is not easy. This is not just true of food but can also be true of energy production. The idea of a Sabbath year of rest, or even a slow- down, from energy production can also be frightening. But the Bible is equally clear on what happens if the land is not granted a Sabbath. The land will take it by force (Lev 26:34-35, 43-44, 2 Chronicles 36:20-21). Taking a year off of production would be impractical, and wouldn’t resolve the underlying issues of our energy economy, so it would be a mistake to take the Sabbath year as a prescription for our current situation. However, learning to work with God’s Creation by allowing both the land, and ourselves, a chance for rest and renewal is an important and still relevant implication of the Sabbath.

[Accessed on April 20, 2012 at http://www.umc-gbcs.org/site/apps/nlnet/content.aspx?c=frLJK2PKLqF&b=3079307&content_id={8CDCEEFF-21F0-417A-A0C0-B401852A08A9}&notoc=1]

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