Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dick Kauffman's Sermon at Cadbury

Our concept of God May be too Small

In the beginning GOD  Gen 1:1

On this Trinity Sunday we are invited to focus on the nature of God and in so doing I think we discover much about ourselves as well…for each one of us has been created in His image although admittedly that image in us has been tarnished by sin..

 We therefore need constantly to guard against the predisposition of our sinful nature to try to make God in our image and instead concentrate on becoming to the best of our ability and God’s Grace on making ourselves over in His image.

 J.B Phillips once wrote a book entitled “Your God is too Small”.  That title flashes into my mind on many occasions.

1. It is there when I find myself making decisions about dealing with other people, especially with those with whom I disagree.

2. It is in my mind when I  often ponder how somehow our nation gets on the wrong side of human history too often, sometimes supporting dictators who enslave and abuse their people and we engage in seemingly endless wars that destroy the lives of millions of God’s creatures - if not His creation itself.

3. It is on my mind when I try to interpret the meaning of Scriptures and I realize that God is the creator of all human beings and He calls upon us his chosen people to reach out in love to all persons helping them to experience His love because He calls us  not to judge others, but to see them as He sees them, the sinners that both we and they are. who are objects of His love.. But we have been called to a Special Covenantal relationship with Him to love others as God loves us ….with compassion, forgiveness and to be conduits of his grace into the world that He has created in love and continues to seek to love through us..

There is a Hasidic tale from Judaism that a friend shared with me of a Conversation between a Rabbi and his students:

Rabbi:  “How can we determine the hour of the dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?”

 “When from a distance you can distinguish between a dog and a sheep” suggested one of the students.

“No” was the answer of the rabbi,

“Is it when on can distinguish between a fig tree and a grapevine?” asked a second student,


“Please tell us the answer then,” said the students.

Then said the wise teacher, “It is when you can look into the face of any human being and you have enough light to recognize in that person your brother, your sister.  Up until then it is night and darkness is still with us.”

                                                            Hasidic tale

We are reminded in our first lesson today that in the Creation Darkness covered the face of the earth, but then God choose light!

 Let there be light be light!. God choose Light….we so often choose darkness. God is a God of light …not darkness.

Our First lesson proclaims not science or history but God’s revelation of Himself and His intent for His creation that Light should overcome the darkness and He created human beings as caretakers of all he created…He crowned his creation with us. And indeed when He had finished He affirmed the Goodness of it all.

I suspect many remember what the earth looked like from space in those marvelous pictures taken on Christmas Eve  1968.  We saw planet earth as God must have seen it in the moment of creation…a place of beauty and the home of all his creatures.  So infinitesimal in the vast expansive universe, but the epitome of His handiwork, but only if we would choose to live in love and peace could his handiwork remain Good.

  On that Christmas Eve the Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Bill Anders and Jim Lovell celebrated humanity's first orbit around the moon by reading the words we have just read "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." and the nine verses that followed.  In that moment human beings saw the earth’s beauty, its mystery but also its fragility. We saw the home of us all and how life on earth required that we reaffirm our oneness We saw that we must either find a way to live together on this tiny spinning globe or perish together here. We are one or we are none.

But God is a God of LIGHT not darkness. He is also a God of LOVE, who created us all in His image with the capacity to love.!

However, when in the freedom he gave us that choice that true love requires, mankind choose to reject that loving relationship with Himself and with one another. But God never gave up on the Goodness of His creation or his Love for humankind.. 

In sundry ways God has sought throughout human history and continues to seek today to overcome the sin and death that resulted from mankind’s falling for the temptations of the devil, deciding he knew better how to go about life on earth than God, his Creator.

 We only need to see the evening news or perhaps look into our own hearts to see the results of what our theologians call original sin, separation, and alienation — from God, from ourselves, from each other, and even from the earth..  But God is not only a God of Light but a God of unfathomable love for all his human creatures. And he never ceases to reach out to make his creation whole again.

 I teach Applied Ethic and World Religions and I have researched versions of the Golden Rule, I was surprised to find that at least some basic form of this teaching of Jesus echoed from indigenous tribes throughout the globe, from the hieroglyphics in the Pyramids, the tombs of one of the most ancient of advanced human civilizations a few thousand years before Christ, from the Buddha and Confucius 500 years before Christ, and indeed from the teachings of all major religions of the world.  Was this mere quoincidence or was the God we worship in the Judeo Christian tradition reaching out to all humankind in love with a message of survival for the whole human race????

I personally believe that God not only reaches out to those of the Judeo Christian Faith, but indeed to all human beings in an effort to show his love for all of us who were created in His image, and that the very survival of man and of perhaps the earth itself is dependent on we and all our brothers and sisters heading his call to love as we are loved by Him.

This is not to say that, as we believe, God has not chosen us, the people of his covenant for special responsibility in this regard. I believe we are a very unique part of Gods plan for restoration. I believe he entered into a covenant with those of the Judeo Christian faith for special responsibility in this regard. Early in the tribal history of the Middle East I believe he called forth His special people through the Family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the tribes of Israel commissioning them to bring Shalom, peace, unbrokeness, wholeness to the world. I believe through Moses he sought to reveal the Ten Commandments as basic structure for relationship with Himself and the human race.  Again, this I believe he did  not do as a God of wrath and judgment but as a loving God, once again trying to assist his human creatures in knowing where true blessedness of light and love were to be found in a vital relationship with Himself and one another in the family of man.  Especially through the prophets we hear his call for us to reach out to the least among us in the family of man with compassion and love so that His peace and wholeness might prevail in all levels of the economic and social lives of His people.

Finally, of course I believe He so loved this world that he made the ultimate sacrifice of coming into it in human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ to show that he was not only a God of light and love but of grace and hope for all mankind. In the Covenant promised by Jeremiah he had revealed that his love was love that essentially said….I love you not because you deserve it, not because you earned it, but because you are made in my own image and you are called to eternal salvation. .I will remember your sins no more. Jeremiah 31:34 But no cheap grace here but a cross . In our baptism we have been marked with the sign of that crosss…We have been called by that cross to unity with Christ to bring to the world not only in words but in deeds… Shalom.

That Hebrew word is usually translated as “peace” in English but in other languages it has even deeper meaning of wholeness.. Lutheran Scholar Walter Bruggemann presents such meaning in his book “LIVING TOWARD A VISION” Bruggemann notes:

“The central vision of world history in the Bible is that all of creation is one, every creature in community with every other, living in harmony and security toward the joy and well-being of every other creature.”


         Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life in the pursuit of that vision.  He noted that…

“All life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny, Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.”


.  Thus in our Gospel lesson today we hear Jesus say to his disciples:

 All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

 19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:18 20.

Only where that light and love, compassion, forgiveness and peace of God prevails in the human family can there ultimately be peace and wholeness on earth and Goodwill among human beings that was proclaimed by the messengers from God long ago on that Holy Night and by whoever those messengers have been or will be.  This is God’s intention for His creation.

I think our astronauts had a special revelation of the earth and the oneness of the human race from their vantage point and this is why they choose to read those verses from the Creation story on that historic Christmas eve.  Less well known is a prayer subsequently offered by Astronaut Frank Borman to "people everywhere.” After completing their scientific work, he took a breath, and then prayed for God's good creation and every human being created in God’s image: “Give us, O God, the vision which can see thy love in the world, in spite of human failure. Give us the faith to trust the goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness. Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts, and show us what each one of us can do to set forth the coming of the day of universal peace. Amen."

May this be our earnest prayer for which we are willing to offer ourselves?  Only if it comes to fruition will the blessing of St. Paul to the people of Corinth from our Epistle lesson be truly ours. The international translation of that blessing is:

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Amen   2nd Corinthians: 13:11

Dick Kauffman

No comments: