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The Greatest Gifts

Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10

While we we dead in sin, an enemy of God, under the rule or influence of the adversary God gave us the greatest gift, life.

Have you ever really thought about this? Today I was driving home from work and the pear trees were in full bloom. This drives my allergies crazy, but I love to see the beauty of the coming spring. God caused that tree in some way to bring me pleasure. I did nothing for this to happen, and to be honest I have probably done more to prevent it from happening than encourging its growth, and yet the tree blooms. For no other reason than to bring pleasure to those that can enjoy it.

True there are scientific reasons for the blooming of nature. I know most of these since I have an agricultural degree, but if you boil it all down all the blooming and growing is to bring pleasure. Various creatures eat the fruit and from that eating the have pleasure. If the various fruits avoid consumption then they reproduce according to their kind and again they bring pleasure as a home for a rabbit or shade for our children as they play in our lawns.

Why does our world have a natural beauty that seems to take our breath away when we slow our lives down to enjoy it? It is God’s grace, it is His gift. All of the world is there for our pleasure and our needs. He gave it to us and often we do not even take the time to thank Him for this. To be honest we even fail to acknowledge that He even has a place in this universe.

This failure is our sinfulness, this is what causes death, mainly spiritual death. If we fail to see the beauty of the blooming trees, we die a little spiritually.  If this continues our lives slowly and consistantly drop into a shadowed gloom, which can lead into lifestyles that tend to promote death instead of life. Often religion deepens this gloom. When we get into a system that devotes itself to rules, our minds tend to get distracted from the abundant life around us, life that grows and blooms all around us. This is why Jesus came to live among humankind, to teach us how to live. To really live as a free human being. He would often teach using illistrations like sparrows or lillies, these are natural things that bring pleasure. Yet in those teachings we learn something amazing, that God will take care of us even though we do not deserve it, it also comes with a contrasting lesson that he will not stop us from making a mess of everything either. Jesus also came to redeem the world, so that through Him we could have a restored life with God, our families, our society, and even with our enviroment. He came to save the entire world from a deadness of spirit that was setting a course for distruction. He overcame this by dying and then raising from the grave so that those that turn toward him may have a fulfilling and hopeful life.

Most of you will read this on the 17th of March, which is a day to honor St. Patrick of Ireland. Though I am not fully Irish or Catholic I love this day. I love this day because Patrick loved life and loved life with God. He went to a culture that worshipped nature, and he realized that that was not totally wrong. He knew that if God created nature and used nature to illistrate His love and grace, that these “pagan” Celts could understand and love God the creator. Patrick used nature himself to speak to these people. He taught from a common shared passion, and through his approach the Celtic people embraced God through Christ. They embraced life and grace and spread that message across Europe in a time when the rest of the world was sinking into a shadowy gloom. They brought light and life. We too can bring light and life in Christ.

Today as you pray I encourage you to pray out of doors. Pray with God in world he created out of love and grace. While you pray remember that while we we in a state of spiritual deadness God took it upon Himself to redeem you and everything around you!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Out of Nothing (Sermon March 4, 2012)

Scripture: Romans 4:13-25

Out of nothing. This is an interesting concept. Ex nilo. to bring something about where formerly nothing existed. We have experienced this in our lives it is part of our created-ness. Our families seemingly come from nowhere. At one point in time we were single individuals then out of nowhere our mind suddenly shifts gears and we can no longer think of ourselves but a united couple. This United couple is shifted again and out of nowhere children emerge. Of course we know what happened and why but the spiritual implications are vast. Where there was once no children suddenly there is. The science doesn’t detract from the amazingness of ex nilo.

Out of nothing. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Out of the void He said let there be light and there was light. Out of nothing God made light. The theories of the big bang or other origin stories still don’t detract from this. At one point there was nothing and bang there was something, light. Out of nothing God causes something to emerge. Something out of nothing.

God formed or instrumented the formation of everything that exists from the photons that allow us to see, to the plants and animals that we consume, to the creative and curious minds that invented the automobiles we used to come here today and the fuel we used to power them, even the politicians that keep the fuel prices in the news emerged out of nothing at some point. Out of nothing God created. We may not fully see or grasp the meaning of this but God is always around, still creating and inspiring creation.

Centuries ago out of the most unlikely place God called a man through which the fullness of time would be found. From this event the whole purpose and meaning of this world would emerge. Abraham was his name, he lived in the greatest empire of the time in probably the greatest city of the empire. But it wasn’t the greatness God wanted, he called just one man to a journey. Saying follow me and through you I will make nations. This man was just a man like us. He wasn’t a political person as far as we can tell. He was just a man willing to take an adventure and see where it might lead. It lead him to the area we know as Israel. And God told him that this land as far as you can see is yours.

This man was given a great gift vast tracts of land, yet at 90-years-old what good was it he had no one to pass it on to. Out of nowhere he received land, and a promise to be the father of many nations but he had yet to see it come into reality. Even so, he continued to walk with God. Eventually out of nothing, out if his 90-year-old wife God gave him a son, ten years after the promise. From this son came two, then twelve, then the twelve became tribes which grew to thousands. These tribes became a nation, then two, then the were dispersed throughout the known world. They were blessed and curse, misunderstood and embraced. Through this one group the light of the world came. He came out of nothing.

The nation Abraham rose and fell. God still held true to the promise he made to that one man. The promise was that his descendents would be greater than the stars in the sky or the grains of sand. That the nation that emerged from him would become the light to the nations. Out of nothing the nation emerged then out of nothing this group became the source of light that inspires the world.

Abraham was blessed not because the nation he fathered was give the Law of God, but because he was willing to listen to God, to trust God, and to walk with Him. Law does nothing but guide. The law encourages the followers into a lifestyle where they could be more open to the voice of God. The issue with law is law can be distracting. If one focuses only on the law they miss the point, the purpose. If the law is there as a guide it is not the goal. The law or scripture is like the signs on the road directing us. It is not God, but only a witness or a teacher. God isn’t found in Law, but through the witness and following of the law we can find God.

The journey is where Abraham found life with God, where he found a relationship and fellowship with God. Just like Adam the relationship was found by walking with God. The disciples of Christ also found a true relationship not from following the law but through walking with Him. This passage talks about faith. Faith is trusting in something that we don’t totally understand. Faith is taking what we know and walking, trusting that though the path is not fully known. The journey Abraham found God on was a journey of faith. He didn’t know where he was going but he knew that if he trusted things would work out. He knew that out of nothing God could bring about something big.

This brings us to our own day. We don’t know our future but we know something. We went to school not because we knew that we would get a job but because we had faith that if we finished highschool we would have a better opportunity. We began to walk down a path of the unknown, with the hopes that out of the void of our lives something more could happen. We don’t know where the pathways will take us, it’s a journey. what will happen in the future? We don’t fully know but we are spiritual descendents of Abraham if we believe and follow Christ. He is the light of the world, the word of God made flesh to walk among mankind. If we walk with Christ we know a few thing about our future, God will be with us. He walked with Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, he walked with David, with the prophets, and disciples. We know the history and this gives us hope in the future. God can build something great out of something that seems like nothing. One man became a father to nations, 12 men walked in faith and spread the news of the kingdom throughout the world, from those 12 over a billion people journey with God. Out of nothing. Out of the faith of one man who believed that a relationship with God could be more than just empty ritual, but could be known experimental a movement began which continues today. Out of nothing. What does that mean for our church, our lives. We may not be much but out of what we have God can make something great, if we out of faith begin a journey with God. if we turn our lives to follow a path under the guidance of those who left their witness we can find encouragement and inspiration. Out of nothing God can make us great.

As we enter into this time of holy expectancy, a time where we together join together to commune and seek the voice of God, let us remember our own journeys and pass those stories on to encourage other. And let us imagine where God can and is leading us.

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