August 2, 2016
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. — Colossians 3:1-4
I’m fairly frequently asked, “But am I truly worshipping God if I can’t say with one hundred percent confidence that the words I’m singing are true of my life in the moment?”
When Christians meet on a Sunday morning, we all come from different places, with different pasts, struggles, experiences, tendencies of heart, and frames of mind. Each of our lives is an obscure abstract of beauty and mess, and we all come into one room to approach an immaculately perfect God who really wants us to be there.
Most of us probably find it easier to sing songs with overarching, creedal statements about the basis of the faith, or songs of the unity that all believers share with one another in Christ … anything that doesn’t demand too much of an introspective eye, because that’s when it gets personal.
It’s the human condition to wrestle with our sin. In fact, it’s the grace of God that we’re even aware of it and have the spiritual ability to wrestle with it. David voices this struggle well: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Psalm 51) The thought, ‘How much more intimately does God know us?’ can feel both comforting and convicting.
If, when we look at ourselves, we continue to see the flawed, pride-infested persons that we are, our natural response will be to shy away from using certain words or phrases in worship that trip our personal sin detectors.
But if we are to worship the Father in spirit and in truth, we’ve got to shake the notion that it’s anything but the Spirit that’s been granted to us and the truth of God Himself that allows us to commune with Him in the first place. So how do we sing songs ‘truthfully’?
Consider Paul’s words to the Colossians.
This passage is an encouragement for when our hearts and minds grow weary and distracted and wander away from our pursuit of God and His kingdom, which will happen over and over again. It’s an exhortation that even when we try to characterize our lives more by our meager successes or massive failures, Jesus Christ is the single, defining factor in our status before God.
Paul is reminding us of what is, in fact, true – when God looks at us, He sees Christ.
Yes, we need to be honest before God, and that includes the words that come out of our mouths. But we do so understanding that even our best words are formed by human lips; the Spirit is the true intercessor.
Yes, we need to acknowledge our sin before God; that’s how we’re healed and strengthened. But we do so in light of the forgiveness we’ve been shown and of which we sing, not by shrinking into guilt-consciousness that mutes our praises.
We sing to say “thank You.” We sing out of hope – an active and expectant confidence that God hears us and that we can draw near to Him – that is not dependent upon our current emotions toward our sin but on the biblical truth that Jesus has renounced the verdict of our sin. We sing out of desire that the truths portrayed in the lyric will settle more deeply on our hearts and minds.
We sing because these truths make us want to.
We sing because God loves it when we do.
July 29, 2016
Mission trips are always the best. There’s work, camaraderie, and usually one or two trips to the hospital. At least that’s the case for me, as I always seem to get a new scar with every trip. One of the things I love about it the most, though, is the way that I see people come home from mission trips energized in a new way to serve God and our community. This energy has the power to transform everything and everyone around us.
We were never supposed to try to repay Jesus for our salvation. We would never be able to do that. But we can absolutely use what Jesus is doing in our lives to show the love of Christ to others. One of the ways we want to do that is through our summer initiative. Spark Tank is easily the coolest initiative I’ve seen at a church in my life. While the concept itself is amazing, what’s blown me away has been the response. We’ve had amazing projects of everything from refurbishing townhouses to taking a family to Six Flags. We’ve even seen some projects as simple as leaving a $50 gift card as a tip for a waiter at a restaurant. With the people we have at St. Andrew, remarkable things are going to happen when our church gets motivated like this. However, I know we can do even more, and I cannot wait to see how all of you continue to respond. You still have time to answer this challenge. Look around your community and think of a neat way to do some random act of kindness for someone you know, or maybe even offer some love to a complete stranger with a gift card or paying for their meal. We’re hoping that with even one small spark, we can ignite a fire for Jesus. For more information or to apply for your spark tank project, click here.
If you still don’t have any ideas, we might be able to help you get involved this summer. We’ve been in conversations with a United Methodist church in Oak Cliff about doing what we can to help renovate their existing facilities to more easily minister to the neighborhood youth. In the past 18 months, their student group has grown from 5 to 50, and we want to make sure that they can continue to provide the love of God to a community that is so clearly yearning for it. However, we need some more expertise to do that. We need some individuals with experience and knowledge in window installation, storage unit construction, fencing, patio construction, electrical work, and general contracting who would be willing to serve as project leaders for us. If you would like more information about this, please contact me.
Remember that Spark Tank is not just an initiative for us to do something nice for someone else. We know that our actions are going to light a spark around us for God. Never underestimate how even the smallest act can change someone’s day, their week, or even their life.
I can’t wait to see all of you Sunday!
July 22, 2016
“God decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son.” — Romans 8:29 MSG
God’s fervent intent, his deepest desire, is to make us into Jesus’ image; for us to be like Jesus. The concept may seem daunting. Here are some thoughts that point the way.
Lauren F. Winner, Duke Divinity School Assistant Professor, reminds us, “Jesus specialized in asking people to steep themselves in the words of the scriptures and then to look around their ordinary Tuesdays to see what they could see about holiness and life with God.” In her book, Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God, Winner explores multiple Biblical metaphors that symbolically illustrate the nature of God. From such symbolism we gain insight to ways that we can be Christ-like. For instance, Colossians 3:12 NIV tells us, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Put on Jesus’ nature each morning just as you put on your day’s attire. Wrap yourself in his character as you engage in those ordinary days that are every day of the week. Be like Jesus, for his interaction with the people was not just on the Sabbath and did not happen behind the pulpit of a sanctuary. His conversations with seekers occurred across the tables of a meal, down the street around the local well, on lake shores in the midst of workday chores, on the road during travel, in homes and on hillsides, as well as in the congested thoroughfares of city streets. To be like Jesus, to love people as God loves us, we must wear our faith into every venue that we frequent.
To be like Jesus, Christians simply have to show up. Jesus showed up in the hard places of human life. He showed up when people were diseased and dying. He sought out the poor, the widow, the orphaned, the marginalized, and the felon. Jesus offered food when the crowd was hungry. He washed feet to express his love. As Shelly Miller describes, “... God often shows up in the messy, broken, ordinary, complicated of the mundane.” In the footsteps of Christ, with the love of Christ, we are given compassion and courage to show up, to be his ambassador of hope for people who are struggling.
“ He who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do.” — John 14:12 NKJV
In the course of our efforts we’ll encounter people with deep questions regarding faith. It’s helpful to remember that Jesus repeatedly engaged in conversations with people who doubted his divine nature. But his followers knew him to be approachable. Strangers knew him as a teacher; ever patient, prepared to illustrate again, within the context of daily life, a new metaphor, a new story, of how God lovingly pursues his children and how faith can be nurtured. We can follow his example in the varied circumstances of our contemporary lives by being authentic about our own moments of doubt and our own committed journey to a stronger faith. Christian writer Shannon Martin wrote, “... (Jesus) keeps showing up for us, often disguised as each other. He reveals himself, quite improbably, through humans who struggle ....”
Try it on, this garment of Christ. Perhaps a few alterations might be made, in keeping with the unique talents and spiritual gifts that God created in you, even though the composition of the cloth is his. Step into your ordinary days permeated with the variances of God’s people, wearing the heart and mind of Jesus.
Dear Lord Jesus,
You spent your life here on earth caring for others.
You reached out to the homeless and the hurting with compassion.
You forgave those who insulted you and tried to destroy you.
Seeking hearts found answers from you. Weary hearts found rest.
You lifted up those who were beaten down by life.
Your kind heart broke for the entire world.
May we follow your example and spend our lives reaching out to others.
When we are tempted to turn away from people,
let us show your love instead. Amen.
Lauren F. Winner, Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God
Shelly Miller Blog - http://redemptionsbeauty.com/2016/06/27/what-if-thespirit-descends-like-a-pigeon/
Shannon Martin - http://www.incourage.me/2016/07/the-purpose-ofchurch.html
Max Lucado, Live Loved: Experiencing God’s Presence in Everyday Life
July 8, 2016
I remember growing up, and my parents had a rule: If you see an elderly person in the parking lot, you stop everything and you go help them put their bags into their car. I really hated that rule. I just didn’t want to take the time to help anyone because I saw it as a chore. I remember once I even said, about an older woman in a motorized scooter, “Nah Mom, it looks like she’s got it. I would just be in the way.” I was never good at coming up with excuses.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my parents understood something about serving that I did not. We have the opportunity to serve. We don’t do it because it’s a chore. We do it because it’s the time to connect with our neighbor and with God. It’s a blessing to give back with our gifts and our time. We should rejoice in the ability to do so and take advantage of every chance we can.
I’ll admit that, when I first came to this church several years ago, I had no desire to serve. I wanted to sit in the back, listen to a sermon and leave. But deep down, I think I knew that this wasn’t enough. When I started volunteering here at St. Andrew, it all changed. ‘The church I go to’ became ‘my church.’ Serving here gave me new friendships and connections that I wouldn’t have otherwise. All of you changed from the congregation to my family, and you helped strengthen my relationship with God. That all happened because I was willing to take that next step and start serving. I didn’t realize it, but God was going to use serving here to continue to grow my faith in unexpected ways.
This week, we begin a new sermon series here at St. Andrew UMC called "Like Jesus." It’s going to be an incredible month-long series where we explore what it means for Jesus to not be viewed as just someone we like, but someone we choose to be like. This kind of growth challenges us to take action. We have all been blessed to find a home here at St. Andrew, and we have the opportunity to show others that this can be a home to them as well through our hospitality on Sunday mornings.
If you’ve never served before at St. Andrew, or any church for that matter, this summer is the perfect time to start. We have some amazing things happening here right now, and even more incredible things coming in the future. They are only possible, however, with a congregation as motivated and caring as you. If you’d like information on how you can volunteer here at the Contemporary Services as an usher, a greeter, or even if you just want to help make coffee, we’d love to help you get involved. If you’re interested in one of these volunteer opportunities, or if there’s another way you think you’d like to volunteer, contact Jessica Lowe.
See you Sunday!
March 25, 2016
Easter Weekend Worship Services
Saturday Night Traditional Service, 6:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary
Sunday Sunrise Service, 6:15 a.m. at the Meditation Garden
Sunday Traditional Services, 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 a.m. in the Sanctuary
Sunday Contemporary Services, 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. in Smith Worship Center
Come and join us!
The more I have become invested in this community, the more I have realized that things aren’t quite as they seem. We are located in the middle of a thriving community with seemingly endless resources. Because of that, it’s easy for us to think that need does not exist. We would be wrong.
Need exists in our community. Poverty exists in our community. Many in our community are desperate for a glimmer of hope.
Every Thursday and Saturday, our church building hosts more than 800 families a month through Seven Loaves Community. Each family has their own unique story to tell. For the last few weeks in worship, we have heard Trellis's and Karisa’s stories unfold. These women are in totally different stages of life, but with one thing is common — hope.
Trellis is a middle-aged African American woman with 4 adult children. Karisa is a young Caucasian woman just starting out in life. While their lives look very different, they both found the direction they were looking for through the services that Seven Loaves Community provides. They have been able to see glimpses of hope — of what is possible in this life. Through Project Hope, they received one-on-one coaching from a mentor, a financial advisor and a licensed professional counselor. Through the Food Pantry, they received groceries, including fresh produce and hygiene products. Through Joseph’s Coat, they received clothes at no cost to carry them through a season in which they needed it the most. Each of these services have propped them up; and, to quote Trellis, “Made me feel like I’m going to make it.”
These women’s stories have captivated me. They have reminded me of the privilege we have at St. Andrew to walk alongside people like them through Seven Loaves Community. They have given me a new way to think about Romans 5:3-5:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out
into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
This Easter, a special offering will be collected for Seven Loaves Community. You may give online (select “Easter Offering”) or through a cash/check donation during Easter worship services. A special envelope will be provided in the pew pocket or at the doors as you walk in. This Easter offering is the main source of financial support that Seven Loaves Community receives for the year. Please consider giving to a ministry that is giving so much to the residents of Collin County and is one way of sharing hope with our neighbors.
Let us remember that hope will not disappoint us as we celebrate the Risen Lord on Sunday morning!
January 22, 2016
I am thrilled today to have a guest author for my email/blog – my wife, Becky!
I am taking over Arthur’s email/blog today to share with you something that has become near to my heart – the IF:Local we are hosting at St. Andrew for women in just two weeks. (Sorry, guys, but this conference is only for women.)
About this time last year, I found myself southbound on I-35 with a group of friends headed towards Austin for the IF:Gathering. I had been prepping to go for months, but truthfully, I had no real idea what I was headed for. My friends just kept saying, “You’re going to love it; it’s going to be awesome!” Never one to shy away from “awesome” things, I was in!
The event sold out in a matter of minutes, so the mere fact that I got a ticket told me that God was up to something and wanted me there. A little pre-event googling told me that it was going to be a weekend of rich worship, gifted speakers and probably some yummy breakfast tacos. It was Austin, after all! What I experienced, however, was so powerful that it is still hard for me to fully articulate.
Jennie Allen, the founder of the IF:Gathering, formed this event out of this question: If God is real, what does that actually mean for my life? For my friends lives? For this generation of women? Jennie felt like God was telling her to “disciple a generation.” This task seemed too big to comprehend even for her; but with unbridled faith and lots of talented friends by her side, she proceeded. This became the IF:Gathering – a place for women to gather together, be quipped and unleashed into the world to fulfill God’s unique calling on their lives. The focus is not on “celebrity speakers” but rather on what God wants to do in each attendee’s life. When I attended last year, I wasn’t sure what God had for me; but a year later, I can tell you that I still go back to my journals to remember who he called me to be that weekend. When I returned home, I told Arthur I felt like I had a mountain-top experience while simultaneously being kicked off the mountain! I knew that my job was to bring this experience to the women at our church.
In a few weeks, we will have the chance to participate in the IF:Gathering at St. Andrew. The real heart behind IF is to gather women together in the context of their own communities and share in this experience together through the IF:Local. On February 5 and 6, over 1,300 women from all over the world will be tuning in. We will be one of the thousands of locations across the world from Albania, Uganda, the UK, Australia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nova Scotia to Plano. In each of these places, women will gather together with people they live life with, ready to hear what God has for them.
Will you join us? Will you invite your friends to join us? Locally, we have set a ticket price of $40 to cover meals and materials. If that is hindering you from coming, please let us know, and we will make a way for you to attend. You can register online.
I want to leave you today with one thought that is threaded throughout all that IF does: Simple and Pure. Everything at IF is filtered through this idea, believing that the gospel does not need to be overdone. The gospel, while extravagant and scandalous, is at the core, simple and pure. Christ was born to save us, Christ died to free us, Christ will come again to rescue us. We are the ones who complicate this. When I get overwhelmed with fear or the complexities of God or struggle with what God wants from me, I go back to this. He loves me and is calling me every day to be more like him. Simple and Pure.
I hope you can come. I can’t wait to experience God with you!
October 30, 2015
I hated missing church on Sunday. For those of you who weren’t able to make it on Sunday – neither did I. I got sick on Saturday and wasn’t capable of preaching that next morning. Scott and Robert did a fantastic job of starting us off on our new series Legacy. I was able to stream the services and that was an amazing gift. The reason I hated missing church is that it orients my week. Being your pastor (and particularly preaching on Sunday mornings) is one of the favorite parts of my life.
I love preaching the gospel – the message of Jesus and his resurrection means that we are offered salvation and hope in this life and the next. It is good news every single time I have the privilege to stand up to tell it. I look forward to every Sunday that I get to preach because this story changes lives for the rest of eternity.
This is the message that we are trying to get across in this series – the legacy we leave lasts an eternity. We can point people to God and move them towards heaven, or we can try to drag them down to hell with us. C.S. Lewis has a great essay about this in The Weight of Glory. Basically he says that when we have the full view of heaven and hell, we will realize that it was in our power to either be fully like Christ in heaven or like wretched self-consumed creatures in hell. And he ends his essay with this:
“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.”
For those of us who know God and are called to share the love of God, it means that in all times and in all places we are called to do whatever it takes for our neighbor. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:15, “ I will most gladly spend and be spent for you.” Or as the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, put it to the Methodists, “You have nothing to do but to save souls; therefore spend and be spent in this work.”
The truth, though, is that this is more than a message for preachers. This is more than a message for people who work in a church. This is a message for all of us at all times. Every moment is a chance to impact somebody. Every moment is a chance to leave God’s legacy on everyone you meet.
October 16, 2015
(This blog by Arthur and his father was featured in partnership with www.ministrymatters.com this week.)
Something odd happened this week: Playboy will no longer show images of fully nude women. This announcement seems as absurd as Coke no longer selling soft drinks or Nike no longer selling shoes. Playboy personifies the push for available pornography and casual sex. The most amazing thing about this decision is that the executives of Playboy acknowledge that their magazine is making this change precisely because they have succeeded in the push for available pornography. According to the New York Times, Scott Flanders, the company’s chief executive, said “You are now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”
You heard him right — Playboy is making this switch because they pushed for pornography and that push has made their magazine “passé.” Playboy defeated itself — it just took 63 years. It is our belief that our culture’s insistence that sex can be casual and pornography normal is going to always be self-defeating and, more importantly, it misses out on the real meaning of life and the hope of the gospel. It is also our belief that the church has failed to talk about this well. Why? Because our normal response is to condemn or ignore rather than engage real people with honest conversations about the hope of a full life in Jesus.
The Lies of Pornography
Let’s look more broadly at the issue of pornography. Playboy may no longer show photos of nude women, but that isn’t a victory for the church or Christian values but rather evidence of a total defeat. Arthur is currently 31 years old and remembers when his friends discovered in middle school that pornography was available on dial-up internet one line of pixels at a time (or from an older student’s stolen Playboy). Today, pornography is accessed at high speeds from any cell phone of any person (that doesn’t exclude the ones in the hands of our elementary school children). We have lost the cultural battle for the restraint on nude images. Pornography is easy to find. It is free. Nothing we can do will change those facts.
While we have lost the battle for access to pornographic images (as Playboy’s chief executive said, “That battle has been fought and won”), we must regain our mission of casting a vision for a wholistic sexual and family life that is rooted in God’s purpose for our lives. In this endeavor, we might even find some unusual allies. One of us (Arthur) is a regular user of the popular website called Reddit, often known as the front page of the internet. This is definitely not a generally religious or Christian community. On it, though, is a sub-community called r/nofap — a community in which “users abstain from pornography and masturbation for a period of time.” They describe the possible benefits of abstaining from pornography as “improved attitude,” “more time” because they are not wasting any of it on the internet looking at porn, “more hard drive space” because pornography takes up a lot of data on computers, “increased self-control” for those that are addicted to pornography, and the most interesting: “Numbed Pleasure Response Healing” because pornography influences the mind in such a way that each person requires more and more consumption of pornography in order to reach the same level of pleasure.
In other words, the most successful pitch of the secular community to abstain from pornography (and masturbation) is that it is, in the end, a more and more meaningless exercise. Or, in the words of the chief executive of Playboy, “Passé.” We Christians have always believed that sin is in the end unfulfilling. The fruit that Eve took from the tree did not nourish. The allure of beautiful women on a Playboy page or now on our computers and cell phones are 2-D images that diminish our ability to enjoy the real thing.
Is it any wonder that our world is filled with meaningless sex and broken marriages? We have told ourselves that sex isn’t important and what it has done is defeat the deep joy of what sex was meant to be. Pornography lies when it offers to satisfy us. We need to engage the world in honest conversations about the ways in which sin is unfulfilling and self-defeating. More than that, we Christians are here to point to the One who can satisfy. The challenge for Christian evangelism is how to offer a truly Christian approach to sex and family life in a world that is saturated with the wrong kind of sexuality. The damage done to women by the porn industry is incalculable as well, and our commitment to the equality and dignity of women requires a renewed message of creation in the image of God.
The Hope of the Gospel
As a pastor and bishop, we have met with people who have bought the lies of pornography and the world of casual sex. We know people who have derailed their lives because they had an image of what sex was meant to be that was divorced from the way that God intended it to be. Marriages are ruined. Children grow up in broken homes. And to top it off, no one that we know in that position has ever said that the sex or the pornography was worth the cost. As we wrote in our recent book Ask: Faith Questions in a Skeptical Age, “If our culture is trying to imagine a world with a robust sexual and family life in which Jesus and churches are irrelevant, such an attempt will fail.”
And yet, as a pastor and a bishop, we know that there is still hope. The self-defeating nature of sin (like porn and adultery) means that there will come a time when the act will become meaningless and will lose its power. When sin becomes passé, we are able to do what Jesus did over and over again and declare that our sins can be forgiven. We can be made whole. Repentance and healing isn’t a joke — it is reality. Jesus’ resurrection means that if we die to our sins his power can make us whole. If Hugh Hefner sat with us for coffee, we would tell him what we have told countless others: pornography and Playboy are ultimately unfulfilling ventures. It’s time to give Jesus a chance.
October 9, 2015
I love courtroom dramas, particularly reruns of Matlock. What I particularly loved was his way of asking questions. He would ask question after question that would seem to go nowhere until you discovered that he had a plan all along. At one crucial moment, he would ask one final question – the right question – that would reveal the truth.
Here at St. Andrew, we have been asking a lot of really good questions recently. What about faith and science? Can only one religion be true? Can we really trust the Old Testament? These are great questions that are crucial to our faith. I am so glad that St. Andrew is a church that encourages people to ask these questions. But none of these questions are the most important. If we were in Matlock, these would be the precursor questions that lead you to the final and ultimate one that would turn everything on its head.
The week we talked about science and faith, the argument was made that faith in God is not only possible but logical. The week on the Old Testament, we looked at the beauty of the scriptures and how to look at it through the eyes of Jesus so that we might not be hung up on its oddity. When the question of suffering and evil was addressed, we talked about how often this can stop us in believing that there could be a good God. We were led to ponder that maybe God is working through the challenges in the world.
No amount of believing in these answers, though, make you a Christian. They might help you work through objections to Christianity, but Christianity isn’t based upon any of these questions. Rather it is based on the one thing upon which the entire universe hangs – did Jesus rise from the grave?
- If Jesus died and remained dead, then we Christians are foolish.
- If Jesus died and his body was stolen, then Christianity is a fake.
- If Jesus died and he rose from the dead, then Christianity is simply true.
This week at St. Andrew is that week where we ask the question: Did Jesus really rise from the grave? We will look at the witnesses. We will look at the testimony. And I think you will find that the resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation for the actions of the disciples like Peter and Paul. If you don’t yet agree or you still have questions, that is what this week is for. Bring a friend, come with your questions, and you just might find truth and joy in the primary claim of Christianity:
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.
The universe hangs on this point.
September 25, 2015
My favorite quote, that I ran across while writing the book and sermon series ASK, came from a German physicist, Werner Heisenberg, (You might recognize the name from the Heisenberg uncertainty principle). He wrote, “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.” This quote explains to me why there are so many atheists that are scientists and yet why some of the wisest people (scientists included) believe in God.
I have spent this week on a mission trip with the Cabecars, the native tribes of southern Costa Rica, where our church operates a health clinic called Clinica Emmanuel (God is with us.) In our Bible study times, we noted that the pastor of the village begins and ends everything with the phrase “Gracias a Dios” – “Thanks to God.” To be honest, it felt quaint. This was a simple man giving a simple blessing.
In the United States, we have stopped giving thanks to God for everything. I think it is because we believe that we have a better sense of how the world works. We don’t marvel at God’s goodness when we see a Lexus – we marvel at the engineering. We don’t wonder at the glory of God when a great meal is prepared – we thank the chef. We think we understand so much that the idea of God daily making our lives happen is quaint, sweet, and somewhat unnecessary.
In the United States and the “educated world,” we have taken the first gulp from the glass of natural sciences and decided that God is simply not necessary. And yet, I read the scriptures, like Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and I think that the pastor of the Cabecar village might be wiser than the physicists in the West. Here is Paul’s recommendation in the fourth chapter of Philippians:
“Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.”
We can also come to the same conclusion when we look at the very logic behind the physics of the world, or as Werner Heisenberg said – when we come to the bottom of the glass. Scientists have come a long way to explain everything from the diversity of our world to the human immune systems to the alignment of the planets. And yet there comes a point, just a millisecond before the big bang, where no one can quite explain how the world was created out of nothing. And how, even in deep space where there seems to be nothing, particles are popping into and out of existence.
This is the place where the logic of the world agrees with the pastor from the Cabecar village, and we can learn from the wisdom of Psalm 14:1: “Fools say in their hearts, There is no God.” The logic of science, physics, religion, and my friend at the top of a mountain in Costa Rica all lend us to give thanks to that Being who made all of this happen out of nothing.
This Sunday we are talking about science, logic, and creation – I hope you can make it. I expect that we will look at the structure and logic of this world and get to the bottom of the glass of natural sciences, and there we will find wisdom in God.