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Have you taken a moment recently to ponder the wonder of being alive? What does it mean to be alive? I mean truly alive! Not just surviving from day to day but feeling truly alive! What does it mean for you to be alive…to live life deeply…to be all in? What are some things that give you pause to deeply appreciate the beauty and wonder of life?
I’m not sure about you but two things often cause me to pause and ponder about the wonder of life — the beauty of creation and the beauty of love. I was reflecting on why these two things move me so. I think the answer is simple. It’s because the Creator of all life is God and God is love. So these two elements — creation and love — roots me back to God. Are you often moved by the beauty of creation and the beauty of love too? Creation inspires a sense of awe and wonder towards what is…what exists — like how this place exists, you exist, I exist…we exist together in this moment of history. Perhaps in times when we forget, as we often do, the intricacies of creation remind us that something bigger than us exists. And love reminds us of the reason and purpose of our existence. We were created in love and for love.
For the choir director: A psalm of David.
The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.
God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.
It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.
The sun rises at one end of the heavens
and follows its course to the other end.
Nothing can hide from its heat.
The instructions of the Lord are perfect,
reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The commandments of the Lord are right,
bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear,
giving insight for living.
Reverence for the Lord is pure,
The laws of the Lord are true;
each one is fair.
They are more desirable than gold,
even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
even honey dripping from the comb.
(May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my (sheltering) rock and my redeemer.)
In the very first chapter of the book, We Make The Road By Walking, Mclaren says, “The purpose of our existence is to participate in the goodness, beauty and aliveness of creation. We join the Creator in good and delightful work..in delightful enjoyment, play and rest as well.” Just imagine! Consider the wonder that anything exists at all, and that we get to be part of all of this.
Scientists tell us that the nearest star is 4 ½ light-years away. Now that’s the nearest star. Most of them are much further away than that. Light travels at the speed of 299,792 kilometeres per second. At that speed, light can travel seven and a half times around the earth in one second. That means the light we see from the nearest star left that star four and a half years ago. Our galaxy – the Milky Way – contains a few hundred billion stars, and the Milky Way is just one of many galaxies. Our universe contains more than a hundred billion galaxies. Does that blow your mind? It certainly blows mine because I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around that. A hundred billion galaxies?
When Albert Einstein studied the wonders of the universe, he knew there must be a God. He didn’t subscribe to the idea of a personal God but he said: “I’m not an atheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We’re in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It doesn’t know how. It doesn’t understand the languages in which they are written.” He said with regards to God, he preferred “an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”
Well, it doesn’t take a scientist to appreciate the fact that the universe is mind- blowing and that God probably exists. I’m sure you have, at one time or another, been awed by some aspect of nature and that in turn, has directed your thoughts towards God? Maybe it was a brilliant sunset that caught you by surprise? Maybe it was an amazing array of stars on a clear night? Maybe the crashing waves on the seashore or the birth of a child?
As human beings, we are awe-struck by the sheer size and complexity of God’s creation. Psalm 19 says these things exhibit God’s presence and power. There’s no language barrier here. What creation is saying, it’s saying to all people everywhere. We miss it in our English translations, but in the original Hebrew, all the action words in this Psalm are participles, which means they express continuous action: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God; the skies are proclaiming the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1) The heavens are continually declaring the glory of God; the skies are continually proclaiming the work of his hands. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make God known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.
The question is: how often do we notice what they are saying? How often do we sense God speaking to us through creation?
God is constantly speaking to us through creation. Whether you’re enjoying a beautiful, calm, peaceful day or are in the midst of massive thunderstorm, there’s never a time when God’s creation isn’t speaking to you. God’s fingerprints are all over creation. We just need to take a moment to open our eyes, our hearts, to listen carefully and pause to marvel at the wonder of life. That’s when we start to live deeply.
I was reminded of this when I went cycling one morning during the national day weekend. It was a beautiful windy morning and the dark clouds were looming, threatening to pour. On my way back, the raindrops started falling. Thankfully, the rain stayed pretty light for my whole journey back and it felt like little sprinkles on my face…specks on my eyelashes. At that moment, I was thinking if it’s really true that God speaks to us through creation, these rain specks kinda felt like little kisses. And in that moment, that thought warmed my heart and I felt loved.
Have you ever felt loved by God through creation? The romance between the Creator and creation is far more wonderful and profound than anyone can ever capture in words. How can we not celebrate this great gift — to be alive? To be connected with God? To be alive is to look up at the stars on a dark night and to feel the indescribable awe of space in its vastness. To be alive is to gaze in delight at a single bird, tree, dragonfly, or friend, and to feel the whisper of a creator that we all share.
And what is God whispering to us? In Genesis, God surveyed all that was created and said it’s good. This is such an important truth that it gets repeated like the theme of a song. Animals are good. Clouds are good. Light is good. Seeds are good. Every river and mountain is good. Skin? Good. Bone? Good. God looked at Adam and Eve, and all that was created, and said it was very good!
It was very good! Do you realize that we are not just a part of creation; we are a special part — the crown of God’s creation? We are the only part of all creation that was made in God’s image.
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
God made you and said it’s very good! You are good. You are awesome. You are you. You are uniquely and awesomely made. With God, you are enough. You are loved. No one can change that. No amount of pain or difficulties can alter that. You are you. You are good and you are loved. That’s not a hope. That’s not something to believe in. That’s a fact…a fact worth learning even if it takes a lifetime.
And every now and again, God reminds us of this fact because the romance between Creator and creation is wonderful and profound. Something that will take us a lifetime to learn. Interestingly, I was reminded of that a few days ago when I went to watch the film, 7 Letters. 7 Letters is an anthology of 7 stories that capture each of the directors’ personal connection and memories of Singapore, and what makes this home for them.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not trying to “sell” this movie to you. J I share about this because watching the film made me pause and ponder about love – love between family, friends and lovers; love between unlikely neighbors; love across generations. I will try not to share any spoilers that may upset anyone who is planning to watch. But one of the stories is called Bunga Sayang. Bunga means “flower” in Malay and sayang means “my love” or “my heart”. There was a song playing in that short film and as I was listening to that song and watching the story unfold, the lyrics caught my attention. It says,
You are heaven’s own work of art
Gentle flower of the heart
Those lyrics caught my attention because I think they express the heart of this sermon topic for today. We are heaven’s own work of art. We are the flowers of God’s heart – God’s prized creation, God’s pride and joy. And we get to participate in the enjoyment and care of all creation. Isn’t that an amazing thought? Actually, the sermon today cannot be adequately expressed through words. How do I capture and convey the wonder of life and creation in words? How can I fully express the romance between Creator and creation? Ideally, if I could have it my way, we would go out and take in all that creation has to show us about God and about ourselves. But since you’re stuck in here with me, the next best thing I can do is to invite you to take a moment. Let us pause. Perhaps we can listen to this song as we ponder over our relationship with the one who created and loves us.
By Dick Lee
In every village by the sea
There stands a tall and ancient tree
That shelters from the sky above
A tree of hope, a tree of love
It shares our joy and feels our pain
It grows with us through sun and rain
It stays so green the whole year through
And flowers when a dream comes true
You are heaven’s own work of art
Gentle flower of the heart
“You are heaven’s own work of art…”
Now you can understand better why Jesus says not to worry about your life. You are not merely a part of creation. You are the flower of God’s heart — her prized creation, her pride and joy.
Matthew 6:25-34 (NRSV)
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
I think creation exists to constantly remind us of two things:
1) God is awesome and it is a wonder to be loved by God
2) Do not worry
According to Jesus and what he is saying in Matthew 6, the only thing we need to worry about…to be truly concerned about..is the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Let me ask you, what is the kingdom of God and his righteousness? This is a familiar verse to many of us but do we actually know what Jesus is refering to? What is Jesus asking us to strive towards first?
Kingdom of God = Commonwealth of God
Before we moved to this place at One Commonwealth, Rev Yap preached this prophetic sermon about bringing in the commonwealth of God. He said perhaps “kingdom” is best understood as a commonwealth where we are making a difference in our society and in the lives of people around us. Is that something we are concerned about in the foremost of our minds? Or is that something we just think about cursorily when someone mentions Dirty Hands or some other kind of ministry? How is your life making a difference in society and in the lives of people around you now?
= being made right with God
= making things right with people
The word “righteousness” in the Bible actually means the status of “being made right with”. It is about God making us right with him/her. What that means is yes, God has already made our relationship right with him/her. Status-wise, we are okay with God. But how is your day-to-day relationship with God? Is your relationship with God in a good place? Is that something that you are concerned about or is God at the back of your mind most days of the week? Does God only cross your mind on Sundays when you’re in church?
And since Jesus told us the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love our neighbour, I would like to think that Jesus also means we are to make things right with people. This may include repairing broken relationships, letting go of anger and resentment, going beyond the hurt to make things right with someone who hurt you. This may also include making things right for groups of people who may be marginalized or disadvantaged. Is making things right with people something important to you or do you just let opportunities to mend and help pass you by?
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
You are heaven’s own work of art
Gentle flower of God’s heart