For The Love of God is Creative
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."
"For The Love of God is Creative"
(Psalm 8, 1 Corinthians 2:6-12)
In Bil Keane's FAMILY CIRCUS, little Billy is watching television. The speaker boldly says, "Remember this, my friends, great things never happen until some person in this world makes them happen."
Billy's mind gets to thinking about the snow, the reflection of the moon on the lake at night, the waves crashing at the beach, a butterfly breaking out of its cocoon, a gorgeous sunset and a beautiful waterfall and then he says, "Oh, yeah?" (1)
Billy had the youthful wisdom to give credit where credit is due, to God.
I. GOD THE CREATOR:
I find it very interesting that one of the foundational beliefs of the world's three greatest religions is that the world was created by a loving God. One of the basic tenets of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic beliefs is that God is the Creator and author of the universe and everything in it. All three faiths accept the creation story found in Genesis. That story acknowledges God as the Creator.
Maybe the big bang theory really does describe how the universe came to be. But maybe it isn't so much physics or a physical description of how it took place as it is an emotional description of what took place.
Do you remember those times in your life when you've felt that deep aching burst of love that you didn't think you would be able to contain. It was so big and felt so good that it almost hurt. And you knew if you didn't do something, you would bust wide open. It might have happened one day while you were looking across the room at your spouse. It might have been when you held your new born for the very first time. It might have been at your child's wedding or graduation. It really doesn't matter where or when.
The love you feel at that moment aches to the point of tears. It wells up and swells and wants to get out. You're filled with an all encompassing love for this other person or this child of your creation, this gift of God. You feel like singing, and shouting. You feel like dancing like Fred Astair and spiking the ball like Willie 'white shoes' Johnson used to do. You want to laugh and to cry and give out a Tarzan yell all at one time. But instead of doing any of those things you grin a grin that threatens split your face in two. And the sparkle in your eye is so bright it threatens to blind everybody else.
To my way of thinking, it was that kind of love multiplied by the infinity of God that burst across the endless void creating the universe and everything in it. God was so filled with love, love to be shared and love to be given, that God couldn't hold it in and didn't want to hold it in. So instead, God created the universe.
II. CREATED IN GOD'S IMAGE:
A. But God wasn't through. God's love was so all encompassing and so magnificent that it couldn't settle and wouldn't settle on loving just the universe. The story continues and it tells us that on the last working day of God's Creation Workshop, God created us, you and I, male and female, the human beings.
Some say that the creation of human beings was an accident caused by a careless chemical spill into the murky puddles on the floor of God's biology lab. Some say it was an after-thought on God's part, that God really wanted zoo keepers for the rest of creation. Others say we are simply a by-product of all the leftovers of creation. I could understand looking at the platypus and thinking that but not at human beings. And still others have said that we are just a virus, parasites spreading across the face of the earth, sucking the life out of nature and fooling ourselves into believing we have a higher purpose.
Scripture, though, tells us something completely different. Scripture tells us that we have a high calling and a higher purpose. It tells us that we are NOT an accident. Far from it. Scripture tells us that God looked at all of creation and pronounced it good, then God conferred with the Angels about what else was needed. They were stumped and couldn't think of anything, it all looked perfect to them.
But then God said, "Let us make humankind, in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."
So God created humankind in God's image, in the image of God he created them; male and female God created them. (Gen 1:26-27)
We weren't some accident or some coincidence. We were created on purpose and with a purpose. God created us for God, for creation and for each other. God looked at humanity with all of its potential; with its freedom to choose, to love, to think, to be creative and to give of itself. God looked at humanity endowed with abilities far beyond those of the animals; God looked at us with all of our frailties and God said, "It is very good!"
B. When was the last time you got a compliment like that? When was the last time someone looked at your work or your effort and simply said, "Great job!" "Good work!" or "Very Good!" Usually it sounds like this..."Great job, Frank....but this portion here could use some extra work. OR "This is delicious Ethel. I make one similar but I use walnuts instead. I think walnuts taste better." You know the second that there's a pause, there's going to be an addendum. But there was no addendum with God. God looked at man and woman, created in God's image and God said, "It is very good!"
We are created in the image of God. We aren't all punched out on some assembly line in Detroit. We aren't pressed out cookie cutter fashion. We're not mass produced and shrink wrapped. Instead, we are created individually. We are hand made pieces of art; culturally, regionally and even locally different. We are all different. There is no one else in the whole world just like us.
In some folks you can see a family resemblance. My little brother and I look a lot alike. But we're different. I even have a doppelganger, a double, someplace. I met him in Coast Guard boot camp. His name is Bill Posey and he's from Oregon. In boot camp they gave you a buzz haircut and you didn't get to have any facial hair. Everybody looked alike. Except for me and Bill, we looked just alike. It was like looking in the mirror. We were the same weight and same height. We looked so much alike that we could fool everybody into thinking we were the other guy.
In the service you had to stencil your name inside all of your clothing. We fooled everybody so much that they started looking at our stencils to see who was who. So we started swapping clothes. Nobody could tell us apart until our hair started growing out. Bill's hair was darker and wavy. After that we couldn't fool them any more.
And that's the wonderful thing about being created in God's image. There may be those who resemble us but there is no one, anywhere, who is just like us. We are each one of a kind, unique, designer originals, created by the very hand of God, in God's own image. We are created in the image of God. And that gives us our self worth because God doesn't make junk.
C. Now we don't always agree with that. I know that sounds a little audacious and presumptuous but there are a lot of people who suffer from low self esteem. Their lives have no value in their eyes. Or they've been made to feel their lives have no value because of an abusive relationship. Maybe the person wasn't even physically abused. Maybe they were made to feel worthless because they were told that everything they did was wrong or wasn't good enough. Consequently, they lost any sense of self worth.
And you know the kind of comments I'm talking about, you've heard them. Hey, stupid, can't you do anything right? You better straighten up or you'll never amount to a hill of beans. What do you want to do that for? You'll just fail and quit like everything else you've tried." Do those sound familiar? Those kind of words kill the soul and spirit. The destroy self worth. But the Biblical witness is that we are worth something. We do have value. Why? Because God says we have value. We were created in God's image and God knows us personally. How can anything be more wonderful than that. That's what the Psalmist was writing about. He was amazed that the God of Creation, the God of the Universe, would take the time to know us personally. The Psalmist writes:
"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor." (Psalm 8:3-5)
When you stop and think about it, it is rather mind boggling isn't it. To think that out of all of creation God has chosen to be in relationship with us. And yet that's the love which God has for us. That's the creative love of God.
D. But even then, sometimes we still don't get it. We still fall back on an old excuse that just drives me up the wall. And I'll bet it just bugs the daylights out of God. How many times have you seen someone do something wrong or make a mistake or flub something up and then have them brush it off by saying, "Well, I'm only human." "I'M ONLY HUMAN?." We use that phrase as an excuse when in actuality it is the highest affirmation possible.
"I'm only human" means that we are created in God's image. It means that we are endowed with the spirit and presence of God in our lives. It means that we have the same abilities to create and feel and love which God has. That's what it means to be created in the image of God. We have the qualities of God. And we are called to be like God, we're called to be as loving, giving, caring and creative as God.
III. JESUS, THE FULL IMAGE:
A. The problem was and is, that we didn't want to be like God. Instead, we wanted to god-like. We wanted to control everything, especially our own destinies. We wanted to make all the rules and make them up as we go along And when we do that it goes against God's plan. And it corrupts the image of God within which we were created. It cracks it and distorts it. And when that happens, it's called sin.
If you take the word "SIN" and look at it, you notice that the middle letter is I. If you take the word "PRIDE", which the early church listed as the worst of the seven deadly sins, you will once again notice that the middle letter is I. Basically sin is "the big I." It is putting ourselves at the center of the universe instead of putting God there where God belongs. It's becoming god-like instead of becoming like God.
Sin breaks the relationship with God. And no amount of superglue; no amount of bondo-epoxy; no amount of tape or plaster and paint or anything else can fix that broken image caused by our sin. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we can't get out of the mess on our own.
There was a father who put his little girl in the bathtub. Just about the time he got her all settled in the doorbell rang. So with one ear listening to his daughter he answered the door. It turned out to be his neighbor and they got to talking. Since he didn't hear anything out of the ordinary out the bathroom he wasn't in any hurry, until, all of a sudden there came a blood curdling scream. The father took off with a thousand images of "the worst" thing possible running through his mind. His first thought was that she had turned on the hot water and scalded herself.
When he got into the bathroom there was a look of terror on his daughter's face. as she looked at her hands. She screamed again and held up her hands to the now confused father and said, "Look. I'm ruined."
That was when Dad, noticed his daughter's water wrinkled hands. He calmed her down and assured her that she wouldn't look like a Sunsweet pitted prune for the rest of her life, that after a short time the wrinkles would go away.
Romans 3:23 tells us that, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." In essence, we're all "ruined" as the little girl put it. Only the broken image, the broken relationship with God isn't cured or healed simply by waiting. When all we do is wait for it to get better, all that usually happens is it gets worse.
B. And this is where God's creative love comes in again. You see, God knew how bad we could make things and God knew it was going to take something special to get us out of it. And it wasn't just something special, or anyone whom God sent. God sent SOMEONE special. God sent God's own Son. That's how much we are loved by God. That's how much we're worth to God.
There's an old story about a little boy who was working hard on a drawing and Daddy asked him what he was doing. The boy said, "I'm drawing a picture of God."
The father laughed and said, "How can you do that? Nobody knows what God looks like."
The little boy just continued to draw, looked at his picture with satisfaction and then said very matter-of-factly, "Well, they will in a few minutes."
In Christ we have the perfect picture of God. The perfect image of God. You and I are created in God's image. You can look into our eyes or just into our face and see the family resemblance. But you look at Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, and you see God. For Christ is the very image of God. Jesus told Philip and the other disciples, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father."
We don't have to guess what God is like. God has let us see God in the person Jesus. By sending Jesus as a flesh and blood man, God made a full revelation of God. 1 Timothy 3:16 reminds us that Jesus was God "manifested in the flesh". In Jesus Christ we see both the perfect Image of God and the highest and best that human beings can be. Jesus teaches us and models for us what it means to accept the full potential of living the affirmation that we are created in God's Image. Jesus reveals God's nature as well. And the God who is revealed in Christ Jesus is a God of love and compassion who reaches out to us and invites us back into this loving relationship.
In Christ we see a God who is somewhat like the father who told his son he would send him to sleep in the attic, with only bread and water for supper, if he were disobedient one more time. The boy disobeyed again and was sent to the attic. The father there staring at his plate full of food but he couldn't eat for thinking about his little boy up in the attic, all alone with only bread and water.
His wife tried to console him: "I know what you're thinking. But you mustn't bring the boy down from the attic. It would only cause him to lose respect for you and disobey again. You mustn't break your word."
The father replied, "You're right, I won't break my word, but he's so lonely up there." Then he kissed his wife good night and pushed away from the table..
Upstairs, the son had found an old sleeping bag and unrolled it and sat down in the middle of it. It would be dark soon. He was scared and lonely. He sat there and hugged himself while tears rolled down his cheeks. All of a sudden he heard the door to the attic open and footsteps on the stairs. He knew they were his father's and that frightened even more.
The boy wasn't sure what to expect. He had been horrible, doing everything wrong, and he knew it. He didn't know why he did it, he just did, even after his father had told him to stop. He hugged himself even tighter as he listened to his father slowly climbing the stairs to the attic one step at a time.
Then, before he knew it, the heavy steps stopped and his father was there standing at the head of the stairs. In the dim light the boy could see he had something in his hand. And when he looked closer he saw it was a plate and on it were four pieces of bread and two glasses of water. His father sat down next to his son and together they ate bread and water. They talked and the father assured the boy how much he loved him. They talked and laughed and hugged and when the boy went to sleep on that sleeping bag on the hard floor of the attic, he used his father's arm as his pillow.
I believe that our God is like that father. God entered into our misery and sin with forgiveness and grace. God saw the mess we had made of our lives and out of God's creative love and compassion for us, who were created in God's Image, God entered into our exile and experienced everything we experience; our loneliness, our fear, our hunger, our pain. As Jesus, God entered our lives and experienced everything we experience. Through Jesus, God walked where we walk. God knows what we go through first hand, and God loves us because of it and in spite of it.
Good old Mr. Wilson and his wife are standing at their front door. In the distance you see Dennis the Menace waving good-bye. Mrs. Wilson says: "Alice says he was such a good baby." Mr. Wilson replies, "Obviously he got over it."
While it is very true of Dennis the Menace, it is also very true of each of us. We are created in the image of God, but somewhere along the line we experience our own fall. We break that image, we crack it or shatter it. And we're never quite as good as God intended. But the Good News is that the creative love of God can change all that. God, who created heaven and earth and all the universe became flesh and blood and walked amongst us. God entered our life as Jesus, the Christ. Through Christ, God can empower us to be all that God created us to be. And all we have to do is accept the creative love and forgiveness of God as manifested in God's own son, Jesus, the Christ.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. The Family Circus , by Bil Keane, 8-12-90