Genesis 1:26-31; Acts 14:15-17 – To Serve Human Beings
Chris Jordan is a photographer who had a project of photographing albatross birds on the Midway Islands which are a couple thousand miles from any continent. The pictures are not what you might think. They are pictures of dead baby albatross bird carcasses that reveal their stomachs loaded with plastic garbage: colorful lighters, bottle caps, broken plastic pieces. Apparently what happens is the mother albatross birds will pick these plastic pieces up and thinking they are food stuff them into the mouths of their babies until the baby’s stomach is so full of indigestible garbage that it can’t eat food and literally starves to death. In 2012 it was estimated that the United States spent 1.7 billion dollars in order to rescue animal species nearing extinction. At the same time, it’s estimated that around the world there are 51 million children under the age of five who are suffering acute malnutrition most from severe lack of food which leads to high mortality. And there are about 1 billion people all over the world who live on less than $1.25 a day.
How are we as Christians to properly think about nature, the environment? Is the earth more important than human life? Should we feed a starving animal before we feed a starving human? Should we run roughshod over the environment to serve us humans? God challenges each of us to rethink how we view nature. God makes it clear to us that life on earth is not to be “earth-centered” – that our foremost concern should be preserving the environment. Nor is life to be “human-centered” in that we use and abuse the environment for the sake of human conveniences. God tells us that life on earth is to be “theocentric” that is, God-centered.
In amazing love and grace God created the entire world with amazing variety and creativeness. In incredible grace God then made His special creatures, the crown of all His creation, created in His image: Human beings. Human beings are the kings and queens of His created world. But we fail to be the stewards of His creation God wants us to be. We fail to perfectly care about the environment or waste God’s gifts. At other times we care more about plants or animals than we do about our fellow human beings!
But it’s for us imperfect human beings that God did something amazing. It wasn’t for the birds, it wasn’t for the animals, it wasn’t for the bugs or plants, but for humans like you and me that God sent His Son Jesus who perfectly cared for the environment and perfectly cared for fellow beings and perfectly remained God’s steward of nature. And He did that for you and me. You’re forgiven!
And because of that, we can enjoy nature, not exploit it, we can rule it and subdue it, but not abuse it, we can use nature as a trust given us by God to give him glory. And yet, even more importantly, we can view our fellow human beings as immortal souls more important than animals or plants that first and foremost need to know about their Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:20 – To Testify About God
Have you ever said something without saying it? Someone just knows what you’re thinking by looking at your face or your expression or your reaction to something. People can read disappointment or surprise or sadness. Somewhere I came across a figure that communication is 7% content, 38% tone, and 55% non-verbal (what you look like when you’re saying it). And it makes sense. Ever since we were infants before we could understand words we were watching non-verbal cues from our parents or siblings.
There is a wordless communication that’s going on constantly all around us every day. The whole beautiful and orderly universe in which we live, which God created and still maintains gives a silent testimony to God’s power and His wisdom. There is around us every day a silent rebuke to every fool who says there is no God, there is no Creator. Anyone who denies that is totally left without excuse on Judgment Day because of the silent testimony that God has put into His created world and universe.
Think about the power of the sun. The content of the sun is 1.3 million earths! The circumference of the sun is 2,715,000 miles! And the sun gives warmth and light to the earth, but the sun is just a normal star! Think about how many stars and galaxies there are in the night sky! The heavens declare the glory of God! Everyone who has eyes should be able to read and perceive this testimony. Although it’s silent, it reaches every person. Even though you can’t hear the sun or hear the stars it gives a testimony to God to His power and His might and His strength and His wisdom throughout the whole world.
Yet, if all we knew about God was from nature, how should we feel about Him? He’s powerful- He has the sun in the palm of his hand- so-to-speak, He’s mighty – He created this vast universe, He’s strong- He holds the whole earth together. How should we feel about such a powerful mighty God? By nature it ought to frighten us to death! He’s powerful and I’m not. He’s perfect and I’m a terrible sinner who deserves nothing but His punishment! No wonder so many people turn to the myth of evolution to try to escape such a powerful and mighty God!
But the testimony about God in nature isn’t the only testimony we have. God’s testimony in nature serves the purpose of getting us curious about the true God who reveals Himself to us in the words of Scripture. You see, it’s in the Bible through the Gospel that we are assured of where we stand with such a powerful, mighty, magnificent Creator.
Some people say that they can be as close to God sitting in the woods as they can sitting in a church and use that as an excuse not to come. But that’s not true. No matter how long you listen to the birds chirp or leaves rustle, they will never tell you how you are forgiven, they’ll never tell you how you’re saved eternally, they’ll never inform you on salvation. That’s found in the gospel which tells you about Jesus, your Savior how he died on the cross to forgive all your sins and rose to prove it.
Knowing that means we can look at nature, look at the world and be comforted because since we are God’s children all that we see is a constant witness to God’s power to watch over us during all our lives, His strength to keep us in the faith, and his might to raise us to eternal life. Thank the Lord for the testimony He gives about Himself in nature!
Matthew 6:25-34 – To Illustrate God’s Truth
Illustrations have a way of making the abstract concrete or clarifying or instructing a certain truth or piece of information in a way that’s both clear and memorable. Jesus was, of course, the master at making apt illustrations of God’s truth. And on a number of occasions Jesus used things from nature to make a point. Here is one of those examples.
It’s part of Jesus’ sermon the mount. He’s just concluded showing that the human heart has room for only ONE master. Either your master is God or it’s something else. But if it’s something else the inevitable result is fear and worry and concern over things like food and clothing. However, when you serve God the Father because of God the Son, then there can be an entirely different take on things like food and clothing which are so part and parcel of human life.
One of the things we can so easily do is redefine wants and needs. We take luxuries and define them as mere wants, but then we take mere wants and define them as needs. But the reality is, if God would take the vast majority of all our earthly goods from us we’d still be able to praise him for richly providing all that we need for body and soul. Even if we were in extreme physical need, we can still trust God to provide because we are His dear children and are far more important to God than birds and lilies.
But it’s so easy for us to fall into worry. And there’s two ways you can deal with worry. You can deal with it directly: it’s sin, rebuke it, confess it, receive God’s forgiveness and his strength to turn from it and live without it. Or, you can do what Jesus did here. Everyone can picture birds. But now picture birds driving tractors, busily harvesting in a field, driving a truck to take the grain to the barn – it’s absurd! They don’t do that and yet…God feeds them. “Are you not much more valuable than they?” Well, Jesus, I guess, if you put it that way, of course we’re more valuable and if God feeds them He will certainly feed us too.”
Or picture lily flowers sitting at looms, actively spinning cloth to wear. It’s absurd! They don’t work hard and yet God clothes them with incredible beauty! “Will He not much more clothe you- you of little faith?” Well, Jesus, if you put it that way, of course we’re more valuable than them, God will clothe us.
In other words, nature provides for us a continual example of God’s continual providing care. And if God provides and sustains and maintains and preserves all those things in life, will he not continue to provide and care for the crown of his creation? The people whom He redeemed with the blood of His own Son on the cross?
Instead of worrying, seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, reorient your life away from the things of this life and to Jesus who has promised to provide all that you need for this life and for the next. Amen.