How many of you have seen the movie Saving Private Ryan?
It’s a war film set during the invasion of Normandy in World War II. The film is about U.S. Army Ranger Captain John H. Miller (who was played by Tom Hanks) and his squad as they search for Private First Class John Francis Ryan (who was played by Matt Damon). Private Ryan was the last surviving brother of four servicemen. Captain Miller lost several of his men in their search to find him. After finding him, Captain Miller himself was mortally wounded. As he laid dying, he told Private Ryan, “Earn this.”
Years later Private Ryan stood in front of Captain Miller’s grave and said, “Every day I think about what you told me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.” He turned to his wife and said, “tell me I have led a good life.... tell me I’m a good man.”
Private Ryan asked the same question many of us ask ourselves: “Have I done enough with this one and only life God has given me?” On our own we can’t answer that question, but with Jesus’ help the answer is clear. He died for us so that we don’t have to do anything. By his grace we can live lives that are satisfied with good things, as the writer of Psalm 104 tells us. The question then becomes “Is the work of Jesus enough to make me satisfied and significant?”, and the answer is always a resounding “Yes!”
All of God’s creation is subject to his authority, including the biggest sea creatures. All of creation must praise him. In return, he takes pleasure in everything he has created. They depend on him, and in return he is generous to them. They can rely on him. We are part of God’s creation, so we can also depend on him.
God gives life. He makes the world new again and again. Creation is God’s and it exists for him. He cares and provides for creation, and in return everything he has created gathers in what God gives them and returns a portion to him. This is what the term “tithing” means-giving back to God a portion of what he has given us. God’s spirit has touched all of us in amazing ways, and we must share what we have been given with others.
It’s almost impossible for us to understand creation. Even our best scientists have to regularly revise their theories to try to explain creation-and God puts all of his wisdom at their service and ours. What God has created is awesome beyond our ability to understand it.
All of creation is supposed to show the majesty of God, including Jesus. He was the shekinah, or the visible sign of the invisible God. According to the Old Testament, the shekinah was a radiant cloud or a brilliant light within a cloud that showed the immediate presence of God. That same cloud led the Israelites by day in the desert. That same cloud also appeared at Jesus’ baptism and his transfiguration.
On the other hand, sinners and the unchurched are those who reject God’s rule and rebel against him. They are a blemish on the world, and God will remove that blemish in due time. The purpose of Psalm 104 is to foster hatred of sin. Its purpose is not to foster hatred against sinners. On the contrary, we are to love them. For example, Pope Francis’ recent statements to the Roman Catholic Church about how homosexuality and divorce are to be treated show compassion and love instead of hatred.
Our prayerful response to God’s love is to worship him and care for creation, but unfortunately our modern world has selfishly neglected to care for creation. The only way to prevent an ecological disaster is for humanity to treat God’s creation with respect. For example, I recently found out that one of our former rectors is currently in Malaysia working to save the elephant population.
Those who bless and praise God want to see the day when sinful men have been removed from the earth and the curse of sin removed. Throughout the Old Testament there are stories of how God used creation itself to destroy evil and rebuild the world. The prime example is the story of the Great Flood. There is a destructive power in nature. Just look at hurricanes and their destructive power, or the wildfire currently burning in northern Alberta. God’s world contains forces that are beyond our wildest dreams, so we would be wise to respect both the forces of nature and the forces of God. We can’t challenge God’s truth and justice, because they are both swift and just. God wields his power with love and compassion.
If we take time to develop the habit of seeing God in our lives, we will be able to withstand the most trying times in our lives. For example, many of you know the personal situation I’m currently dealing with, especially regarding the sale of my mother’s house. I have been developing the habit of seeing God in my life, and it helps me to persevere when the situation is tough. When the Holy Spirit breathes new life into us, we can expect that it will be consistent with the character of Christ even though we might not be able to anticipate everything it will mean.
Our Christian life with God is like a song that is ready to be written. He loves to hear our praise. He will put a song in our hearts that will be the sweetest melody that we can enjoy for the rest of our lives. Just like the angels sang “Glory to God” at Christ’s birth, we are to give God glory in every circumstance in our lives. We don’t have to be a great singer to sing praise to God as long as we praise him every day. We can praise him when we do our household chores or serve others behind the scenes. When we show that Jesus is in our lives and reflect his character to those around us, we will make God happy.