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08.05.18 God’s Life and Ours 1 Cor. 3.10-15 Sermon Summary

by on August 6, 2018

In our “Hymns of Faith (Presbyterian Church)” series this week, we are invited to reflect upon the contribution our lives make to the work God has begun in Christ.

This is My Father’s World” was written by Maltbie Babcock (d 1901). He was a Presbyterian minister, noted musician, and avid hiker. His church assistant would regularly hear him say, “I’m going out to see my Father’s world.”

In the first verse, Babcock reminds us that though the world belongs to God, God is not a distant watchmaker but a benevolent parent. Verse two tells us that while this revelation available to all, it is only those who have “listening ears” who will perceive it.

Finally, the third verse tells us that all things will be reconciled, or brought together, because regardless of what we observe or experience, “God is the ruler yet.” So wrongs will be made right, political chaos and injustice will not last forever, discord will cease, and even “earth and heaven” will experience reconciliation.

Augustus Toplady (d 1778) was an Anglican priest with Presbyterian theology. His hymn “Rock of Ages” draws from images in the lives of Moses and Elijah who were positioned amidst rocky mountains during God’s self-revelation. This image appears in several places throughout the Psalms, for example Psalm 18:2, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Toplady comments that Jesus’ death provides the double cure for sin. First, it cleanses us, but then it purifies us. Daily and in every moment we may start over and continuously improve. Verse two reminds us that in God alone is our salvation: Not in clean living, or hard work, or even heartfelt remorse. (Here Toplady’s Calvinism shines through. For Calvin these are the results of salvation, not the precursors to it.)

The next verse rightly presents baptism as a ritual clinging to the Cross. It represents our own death and resurrection—not the resurrection after this life, but a rebirth to righteousness in this life. Then in the final verse, Rock of Ages references our physical death, during and after which we find our refuge in God.

These lessons from these two hymns are highlighted when we remember that both authors died young. Babcock died while on a trip to the Holy Land, a gift from his congregation, when he was only forty-two. Toplady died when he was just thirty-eight.

Such short lives, yet these hymns survive. The authors did as Paul urges. They “built on the foundation of Christ” and “according to grace given them.” Paul says some will build with “gold, silver, precious stones,” and we might say these hymns are examples. Others, he says, will build with “wood, hay, straw.” The point is to build. We’re all to build with what we have, with who we are, according to the grace given US.

The assurance Paul offers is that WE will survive “the Day” when “fire” reveals our lives. It is a reference to a judgment or assessment of our lives. We will survive the fire because the foundation of Christ has been laid by God. The question facing us is, What ELSE of our lives will survive? Where are we investing our lives? Paul, and these hymns, call us to participate in God’s creative and re-creative work in Christ, that our lives, like his, may be found in God.

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