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08.30.15 The Creation of Faith Matthew 6:25-34 Sermon Summary

by on August 31, 2015

Jesus’ most popular appeal is as a wisdom teacher, and this makes many Christians defensive. That’s too bad, because they miss out on two gifts that God wants to give them.

Summary Points

  • The two gifts we forego in our defensiveness
  • Jesus’ twist on thinking about God
  • Jesus’ essential message and how we can remember it
  • The most popular, and most ignored, teaching of the creation story
  • An overlooked but transformative teaching of the creation story
  • Eight suggestions for discovering God in creation

It bothers me that some Christians refuse to hear Jesus as a wisdom teacher. “Yeah, but he’s MORE!” they shout back. When we Christians refuse to acknowledge, with most of the rest of the world, that Jesus stands tall among other wisdom teachers like the Buddha or Lao Tzu, we don’t hear the wisdom he has to offer, and we miss an opportunity to talk to others about the “more” we have found. I think God would prefer it if we sat together and listened.

Wisdom is the result of observation or experience leading to reflection and action. It is universal, and we should be proud that Jesus is a wisdom teacher. We find his wisdom surfacing through his parables and through passages like the Sermon on the Mount.

In the development of Christian theology, especially among the Reformed theological community, we usually move from the universal to the particular. This follows the pattern of Psalm 19, which moves from, “The heavens are telling the glory of God,” to, “The law of the LORD is perfect,”—from creation to the Law, the universal to the particular.

It’s noteworthy that Jesus reverses this movement, or at least goes back and forth easily. In the Sermon, Jesus moves from, “You have heard that it was said . . .” to, “Look at the birds of the air . . .”—from the Law to creation, the particular to the universal. Jesus uses creation to illustrate his main point, which is for his followers to become people of increasing faith. This is the case even if we start out with “little faith.”

One of the reasons we sometimes have a hard time with Jesus’ wisdom sayings like this is that only a few of us worry about actual daily food and clothing—all of Jesus’ original audience did. But most of us do bear the marks of an over-active worry, and thus all of us can still wrestle with Jesus’ call to faith.

In essence, Jesus is calling us to remember our “heavenly Father.” In contrast to the Gentiles (non-Jews) who do not know God in the way Jesus does as “Father,” Jesus invites his followers to adopt his perspective. (OK, for my fellow theologically educated readers, I can’t pass this up. If for Tillich “faith” is “accepting one’s acceptance,” then perhaps for Jesus it is “adopting his adoption.” Sorry.)

In order to maintain this perspective, Jesus doesn’t appeal to the Scripture or Tradition, but to Creation: “Look at the birds of the air . . . Consider the lilies of the field.”

One of the most popular, and most ignored, teachings from the first creation story of Genesis 1 is that of the Sabbath, the seventh day of rest. Mystic Thomas Merton invites us to see God’s rest not as kicking back in a recliner, but more like play and dance. (See Richard Rohr’s meditation here). Think about when you’ve completed a hard and important task. Don’t you step back and enjoy it, delighting in your work and its completion?

Brian McLaren describes it this way: “[The Sabbath] day of restful enjoyment tells us that the purpose of existence isn’t money or power or fame or security or anything less than this: to participate in the goodness and beauty and aliveness of creation.” (We Make the Road by Walking, p. 6)

One of the most overlooked teachings of the first creation story relates to the sixth day. There God creates the human in the image of God, male and female God created them. Humanity isn’t separate from and over creation, but a part of it. We are stewards of creation.

But being created “in God’s image” teaches that the Creator also is not just separate and over creation (God is, of course), but God is also revealed in it. Christian theology has taught that through creation we know that God is a God of order, power, and grandeur. But God, as also part of and revealed in creation is there inviting us into a relationship with God. Merton puts it this way: “When your tongue is silent, you can rest in the silence of the forest. When your imagination is silent, the forest speaks to you. It tells you of its unreality and of the Reality of God. But when your mind is silent, then the forest suddenly becomes magnificently real and blazes transparently with the Reality of God.” (As quoted in 24/6, p. 194)

This is the creation of faith. Faith sees the Creator through creation. But creation also calls (or speaks) faith into existence. Here are some suggestions for discovering the Creator and the Creator’s voice in creation.

  • Practice Sabbath. Be obedient to the Fourth Commandment and “stop!” Sabbath isn’t vacation or time off; it’s “working” at rest and trust. Play and dance with the Creator in creation.
  • Get out in creation. Take a walk in the park. Sit on the patio. Plant something. Look at the birds. Consider the lilies.
  • Get “in” to creation. You are part of creation, so sit in silence and listen to your body, to your spirit, to Christ within you.
  • Ask yourself, “What makes me feel alive?” You’re a uniquely constructed phenomenon. Your personal history from birth order to culture to choices you’ve made all contribute to your personal preferences. God co-created these with you. What delights you is part of who God created you to be and where God will speak to you.
  • Read some Celtic Christianity. The Celts are among the best at recognizing the presence of the Creator within creation.
  • Get a massage. I cannot think of a more Christian creaturely devotion. Remember that in the second creation story God fashions the human out of earth and breathes life into us. Submitting to the hands of another’s fashioning always gets me in touch with this aspect of the creation story.
  • Indulge in a sensory beauty. You have five physical senses, and multiplied by the number of opportunities to indulge them, there are infinite possibilities. Surely God will use one of them to reveal himself!
  • Practice the sacraments. From the opening lines of the creation story, God’s Spirit has been hovering over the waters. In Jesus’ hands bread and wine become divine life. Go get wet; eat some bread; drink some wine. God is there!
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