Sunday, June 03, 2007

What's Love Got To Do With It?

Texts: Psalm 8, Romans 5:1-5

Last week John compared the birth of the church with the birth of a child, talking about all the preparation, the waiting, and then when the birth comes – what a wonderful, miraculous event.

What a scary event too. My friends who have recently had their first child have all said something similar – that it’s not so much the moment the child is put into your hands that it all sinks in, but the moment they discharge you and you realize, you don’t have a call button at home that will bring a nurse running to your room if you don’t know what to do. You don’t have a team of highly trained professionals to make sure you’re doing everything right.

You do have this wonderful, miraculous, gift, this child that has been entrusted into your care by God, and you, YOU are responsible. Not the nurses, not your friends, not your parents. You. You have to make sure this child eats, sleeps, poops, gets its requisite “tummy time,” and then, when it gets older, that your child does her homework, learns good values, comes to church, plays nice with others…

You’re responsible for all of this. You who don’t have a degree in child development or who have a tough time keeping plants alive, or who still forget to pay bills on time.

I’m not a parent myself but my own heart starts thumping extra hard just thinking about all this awesome responsibility. Because you don’t have to be a parent to know how both wonderful and frightening this power can be. Most of us have been entrusted at one point in time with some sort of responsibility – maybe your parents let you stay home by yourself while they’re out of town, trusting that you’ll take care of the pets and the house AND that you won’t through a wild shindig; maybe you’ve been made leader of a team at work, in charge of a huge project that could either save or sink the company. It’s exciting but also can be terrifying. What if I mess up? What if I don’t do the right thing? What if I don’t know what to do?

We all know what it is to be responsible, or at least to be called to be responsible – to be entrusted with something important. As individuals, we each have our own responsibilities, and as a community, as the church, as the body of Christ, we’ve been given even more. When the church was born, when God gave us the gift of the Spirit, it was a wonderful, miraculous event. It was also, is still also, pretty scary. Tongues of fire, power beyond anything we’ve known, and a call as God’s people we are called to do soooo much. To preach the word, to live the word, to love God and God’s people.

As we have been gifted with the Spirit, we have also been entrusted with life. Each and every one of us, even those of us who are not parents. For God has entrusted us with precious and fragile life, given us human beings dominion over this earth. The work of God’s own hands – we are responsible for it.

The psalmist speaks of our majestic Lord, our Lord who has created the universe with all its protons and neutrons that somehow make life, with its mystery and majesty, with its brilliance and beauty we can hardly begin to appreciate or understand, this Lord has created us, us human beings, to be just a little lower than God. The Lord whose glory is above the heavens has crowned us with that glory and honor.

How wonderful, how thrilling, and how terrifying. For the Lord who has created us just a little lower than Godself has given us both this honor and this responsibility. For as those so blessed by God we are also those so charged by God – we are those who have been given dominion over the works of God’s hands – beasts of the field, birds of the sky, creatures in the sea… all of them, all of this creation. God has created this amazing world and all that reside in it, and created it and gone and given it into our care.

The psalmist looks around at this world and is so in awe of what he sees that he is moved to ask “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” We might look around at God’s magnificent world and add a few of our own questions. “What are human beings that you entrust them with your creation? What are human beings that you given them such awesome responsibility and no call button to bring the creation nurses running in if we don’t know what to do?”

God has put us in charge of this beautiful creation. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we human beings… we’re not angels. We may be a little lower than God but that “a little lower” is pretty significant. We wage war, we abuse our power, we fear those who are not like us, we push away those who disagree with us, we take our toys and go home when we’re upset – and all of us, each and every one of us, even those we fear, we don’t like, all of us have been entrusted with God’s creation.

Talk about a challenging committee to work with… I doubt if we gather a random selection of 10 people in this sanctuary we’d find an agreement on how we can best take care of the creation God has entrusted to us. What’s the likelihood that we could agree on what to do with issues like toxic waste, water pollution, recycling, animal testing, loss of green space, genetic engineering, addiction to oil, and what about this climate change stuff? Can we even agree what the issues are?

Look at what happens with a child. You can one to four parents and step-parents involved in raising the child. Plus grandparents. Plus aunts and uncles. Plus well-meaning friends, pastors, neighbors, teachers, even strangers. All of these people offering their own opinion on how best to raise this one child.

Look at what happens with this creation. You have 6 billion plus people who have a say, an opinion, some certainly with louder voices than others… 6 billion of us, all who are affected by the health of this world, all who have a stake in the condition of this creation. 6 billion of us and still. does any one of us know completely what should be done? Would we even be able to hear that voice amid the clamoring of all the others?

Who are humans that the Lord is mindful of us, that the Lord has entrusted us with the work of God’s own hands? Who are we? We are part of God’s creation. And we are the body of Christ, the church, whose birth we celebrated last Sunday. But what does that mean? Our Romans text this morning has gives us a brief, but very helpful and hopeful, glimpse of what it is to be the body of Christ, God’s children and creation.

In a sentence only Yoda could truly appreciate, Paul tells us that we know “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.”

We are a people, who, even when we suffer, even when we suffer the folly of our own mistakes, or other’s mistakes, even when we suffer the pain of strife and division, even when we suffer the agony of indecision and uncertainty, we have hope… hope which does not disappoint us. Hope which comes from the Lord. Why do we have this hope? Because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Don’t let yourselves be deceived. God’s love isn’t just some sweet sentiment, isn’t just the bringer of the peace Paul talks about. God’s love is a powerful, transforming, persistent love. This love is power and possibility beyond our imagination. For this love is God, is at the heart of God, God who is majestic above all else.

Today on our church calendar is Trinity Sunday. If you went to churches throughout our area, you might hear a few sermons or more trying to explain the mystery that is the Trinity. Well, I’m not going to do that – as John Wesley said, Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the triune God!" Don’t know about you, but I haven’t found that worm yet. The Trinity is a beautiful mystery, a way in which we express the glory that is God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, the One Who Was, Who Is, Who Is to Come. Another such triune expression comes from Augustine, who calls the Trinity, Lover, Beloved, Love, saying that Love binds the Trinity together. What this particular metaphor is saying is that love is in God, love abounds within God, love is the essence in which our Triune God moves and works, love is binding, and it is a powerful force, stronger than any other force out there.

It is this love which gives us our hope. For within each one of us, God’s love has been poured through the Holy Spirit. God’s love. God’s powerful, self-giving, just, reconciling love – this is what we have been given. God’s love we know fully, incarnate, in the person of Jesus Christ. This love is in each and every one of our hearts and it is this love which will guide our actions, this love which will help us as we take on the responsibilities God has given us.

When it comes to taking care of our world, I can’t speak with any authority on the science of what should be done, the exact tactics, practices, what really is an environmental concern and what’s not… I leave that to those much more knowledgeable than me. What I do know is that God has given us dominion over the earth, birds and the beasts, the fishes and the flying things, over it all. We are caretakers of this world and as God has appointed us such, we must live out our role as God would have us. Live it out in love.

We can – and should – debate amongst ourselves what are the best things to do for this world, God’s world, this world put under our loving care, our just dominion. We should debate and raise questions, challenge even common assumptions. But as we are debating and questioning, we must have God’s love in our heart, this gift of the Spirit. Whatever we do, we must do through God’s love. For if this love is what binds our Triune God together, then perhaps, if we debate and question and challenge one another in this love, it will bind us together as well.

We have been made a little lower than God. God who is Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer… We, we humans cannot create as God creates, and we cannot redeem as Christ has redeemed us, but we can, thanks to the Spirit which pours God’s awesome love into our hearts, we can help with the work of the Spirit. We can help to sustain this beautiful creation so that for generations to come others will look at the work of God’s hands and be in awe. Amen.

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