Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost 2006
Dr. Paul G. Humphrey
PS 104:1 Praise the LORD, O my soul.
O LORD my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
PS 104:2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
PS 104:3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
PS 104:4 He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.
PS 104:5 He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
PS 104:6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
PS 104:7 But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
PS 104:8 they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
PS 104:9 You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.
PS 104:10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
PS 104:11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
PS 104:12 The birds of the air nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
PS 104:13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
What do these verses say to us?
I. These verses are about God’s power.
God is in control in matters that are as vast as the universe.
We have had some clear cold nights this past week, and it amazes me to think that here we are in the vastness of cold dark space. There is something foreboding about looking into the distance of space. As far as science has been able to probe into the deep, they have found no life.
And yet, life abounds all around us here on this planet that is unlike all other planets that we know.
What a miracle it is that we even exist. As we look around us we see God’s signature on all things. The Bible tells us that the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork.
God’s signature is all around us.
And, as we look at the wonder of creation we also see that in the midst of all the beauty around us there is still imperfection. There is death, disease and thorns.
As we look around it is built into our hearts that this is not all that there is. And, what we see is only a glimpse of how it is supposed to be.
Back in Genesis we find a picture of perfection. There was no death, suffering, disease. And, then as sin entered into the world came the curse. It is hard for us to imagine Eden. Maybe it was a different realm of existence, maybe a different dimension. We can’t imagine a place in which we couldn’t even die? Could we? It is outside of our experience.
One day Adam and his boys were out for a walk and happened upon the Garden of Eden. One of the boys said, “Dad, what is that place?” Adam responded, “Guys, that’s where your mother ate us out of house and home.”
I remember hearing an old preacher once saying that had we been in Eden we would have eaten from the forbidden fruit as well. I think he was right, and we have eaten from it with every sin that we have ever committed.
Our removal from Eden came with a curse. This curse was not just upon humankind, but upon the entire creation, which still groans, as the New Testament tells us for an expected redemption.
Here and now we see thorns, and thistles. Ever notice how easily weeds grow?
You don’t have to plant crab-grass.
You will never hear of anyone being plagued by watermelons and corn and tomatoes sprouting up in their yard. The curse is evident.
Saturday we spent the day cutting Locust trees here at the church. If you are familiar with them, they have thorns on them. My leg is real familiar with them. Isn’t it funny how quickly something with thorns on it will grow. We just cut them down a couple of years ago and they are once again big trees.
Just as the curse is evident, it is also evident that this is not the way it is supposed to be forever. In our heart of hearts, we know that God has something better in store.
No civilization has ever been entirely able to delete rumors of land beyond. These rumors of a lost Eden come to us in stories, poetry, flashes of joy, aching desire which are, as CSL recognized: “the sent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard” (Weight of Glory)
Lewis speaks about this aching desire in Mere Christianity, when he writes:
“If I find in myself a desire for which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world… Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it. If that is so, then I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise or be unthankful for these earthy blessings, but on the other hand never to mistake them for something else of which they are only a copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive my desire from my true county which I shall never find until after death.” (Mere Christianity) [SermonCentral]
Our very soul tells us that there is something more. It is instinct. You know, instinct is usually right. It is like a cat that knows how to travel from the west coast to the east coast to get back home. It is like an elephant that knows where to find water, even though it has never been to the water source before. It is something that is built into us.
If you have ever heard of a person going to Tibet to climb a mountain and find the answer you are on track with what I am talking about. A man will go a great distance to find the answer, when in reality, he does not even know the question, he just knows that there is something more.
We call that prevenient grace. It is the call of the Spirit. We have a God who calls us, who loves us, and a God who has made a way for our salvation.
In the midst of a fallen world, we have a God who cares.
This same God takes time to water the simple beast of the field. The beast described in our Psalm was a donkey wasn’t it? Not just a donkey, but what kind of donkey? It was a wild donkey. How useful do you think that a wild donkey would have been to anyone? Not much huh? But God even cares for it. God is the foundation of all that exists, and God cares for us.
II. And, the foundation of our faith is trust in him.
There is an old song that we sing from time to time called “His eye is on the sparrow.
This song is based on Jesus’ words from Matthew where Jesus tells us that not even a sparrow falls without God. He cares for us. Can we put our trust in him?
Do you put your faith in this God who created and cares for all?
In his excellent history of the silent film, "The Parades’ Gone By," Kevin Brownlow tells the amazing tale of a lanky, good looking young man from Montana would do just about anything to get into the movies. In 1926, Paramount was filming one of the last of the big budget silent westerns, "The Winning of Barbara Worth," and this young man was hired as an extra for the picture.
In one scene, a character was to stagger out of a blizzard, rap on the door of a cabin. When the door opened he was to collapse from exhaustion. Ronald Colman, the star of the picture, was to catch hit before he hit the floor.
The actor, originally cast the part, refused to cooperate because director Henry King wanted him to fall forward, but not throw out his hands to break his fall in case Colman didn’t catch him. Now King was desperate. Suddenly he spotted the young man lurking in the shadows of the set. "Hey, cowboy," the director shouted. "Do you think you can do this scene?"
"Yup," the fellow replied tersely.
"Okay," King said. "Just remember, don’t throw out your arms. Trust Colman to catch you."
The camera was rolling. A knock sounded and Colman opened the door. The apparition in the doorway looked as if he had trudged three days in the blinding snow. Suddenly his eyes rolled back and he pitched forward. The slightly-built Colman just managed to stop his fall -- the young man’s nose was inches from the hard floor. But his arms were loose. He had placed every bit of his trust in Colman to catch his fall and prevent a serious injury.
Director King was so impressed with the performance that he gave the brave young fellow a larger part in the picture. Gary Cooper had finally won his screen career. And the rest is history.
As Christians, do we trust God enough to catch us if we should fall?
Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield. (Psalm 115:11) [SermonCentral]
I heard of a trapeze artist once interviewed who declared that the nets were not simply there to save their lives. Rather, that without the nets that they wouldn’t attempt nearly the acrobatics that they do in a normal day. The nets cause them to go beyond. It is the same with our faith. We have a net that we can depend upon and that should inspire our faith to walk, run, fly!
III. The foundation of our faith is also the finisher of our faith.
We talked earlier about a garden called Eden, where humankind rejected God’s will for our own. Jesus stood in the garden of Gethsemane, and said, not my will but thy will be done.
In America today, many people have come to realize that they need a sure foundation on which they can lean. And, you know as well as I do, that this foundation is God. But, where will they go to learn of this God? Who will tell them that his name is Jesus? Who will invite them into the Church, where they can share Christian fellowship? Who will invite them to have a personal relationship with God; and, who will tell them of the great gift of eternal life that is offered through Jesus’ work on the cross?
Each and every one of us meet these people in our daily life. One works with us. Another lives just down the road from us. You will run into an opportunity to invite a person to Church tomorrow. And, they probably think our Church is some sort of ‘closed community.’ They will likely never come unless we ask. Do we really care? Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” We are talking about the saving of a soul. And, if we can get people in the doors of this church, I can guarantee you that they will hear the Gospel message. Whatever you face in this world, you can trust God, and with a strong trust you can serve him.