“Everything and Always”
Genesis 1:1 – 2:4 Matthew 28:16-20
In the days before instant electronic communication the news of great happenings had to be passed on primarily by word of mouth. In nineteenth century England, the people were waiting anxiously for the news of the outcome of the important battle of Waterloo…fought 200 years ago in what is now Belgium. There, the British forces of the Duke of Wellington faced the mighty French forces of Napoleon. In London…a signalman was placed on top of Winchester Cathedral with instructions to keep an outlook on the sea. When he received a message he was to pass it on to another man on a hill. That man was to pass it on to another…and on and on. In that way…the news of the outcome of the battle was to be relayed to London and then all across Britain.
At long last a ship was sighted through the fog…which on that day lay thick on the channel. The signalman on board the ship sent the first word…”Wellington.” The next word sent was…”defeated.” Then the fog closed in and the ship could no longer be seen. The message received was “Wellington defeated!” That tragic message was sent across England. The country was in great gloom. After a few hours the fog lifted. The signal came again…”Wellington defeated the enemy”. Now the full message went racing across the countryside again…but this time the nation rejoiced.
I wonder if we don’t find ourselves in a similar fog today….a 24 hour news cycle that continually brings reports of tragedy…both natural and man-made…stories of leaders caught up in scandals and uttering words that seem to make them unable to lead….stories of financial and other hardships upon individuals…families… organizations…and nations…personal losses of many different kinds. That kind of fog fills so much of our lives today.
The fog is deepened when we add our own hurts…losses and disappointments. As we look back on our lives…as individuals…as members of a family…as brothers and sisters in Christ’s church…Jackson Grove United Methodist Church…we can find those hurts…losses and disappointments. Some of them seem to be quite severe.
Despite all of this…the message that should be coming through the fog is contained in just two words…”everything” and “always”. Those words are an important part of the message we heard in today’s scripture lessons.
The well-known Genesis story of the creation contains the word “everything”. It is the word used to describe what God created out of the chaos. Yes…out of the chaos of that time…out of the chaos…God created everything. Humans have had their impact…but God did not walk away from his Creation. You see…God is both the Creator and the Sustainer. God created in an orderly fashion. He sustains and continues to rule in an orderly fashion so that what we call science is possible.
Here’s the good news. God will continue to rule…despite what you…I…and others choose to do to God’s Creation. Here’s the even better news. God is not bound by what He has created. God is at full liberty to do things another way. In the short term that means…miracles have…do…and will occur. When the fog seems thick to you… remember that God not only did the creating…it is God who does the sustaining and ruling.
As we move forward…past our losses…hurts…and disappointments…let us turn to God to lead us through the process of planning the path forward and sustaining us as together we walk that path.
There are those…who for whatever reason…say God has walked away from His Creation…or even that God doesn’t exist. Suppose God didn’t exist….or did indeed turn his back after finishing the work of the Creation. Suppose God is in his own den or his own God-cave…in that soft… comfortable…lazy chair…with eyes half-open…watching the ball game. That one is not hard to figure out. Everything would cease to exist.
Without God there are no laws…no world…no us…. It doesn’t make any sense to argue about spiritual versus physical world. Not only do we rely on God as the Creator at the beginning…as the Source of order and purpose in the world…as the personal Father who gives meaning to love and depth to personal relationships…we rely on God constantly for our very existence. The gift of this day…this moment in time…is proof that He exists and is still in control. He has forgiven the wrongs done to us…whether at the hand of another…or as a result of our own action or inaction.
In case you are still having some trouble with the fog of the world that we live in today…listen to what Jesus told the eleven disciples meeting with him on the mountain that day…a message meant also for those who have chosen to follow those disciples…we who are here this morning.
Jesus assured the disciples of his power. Think about it. Surely nothing was outside the power of Him who had died and conquered death. On the mountain where Jesus had told them to go the disciples realized that they were the servants of a Master whose authority upon earth and in heaven was beyond all question…beyond all other powers ever to exist.
Jesus gave them a commission…a command…a job to do. Go make disciples of all those in the world.
And Jesus promised them His eternal presence. He would be with them always. It must have been a staggering thing for eleven lowly Galileans to be sent forth to conquer the entire world. Just as we are…they were sent out on the greatest task in history…sent out with the greatest presence and greatest power in the world with them always…with them always.
Did you notice this? Some of the disciples were in doubt on that day. They were in a fog…as you and I might have been…as you and I might be from time to time. Doubt is something with which we all struggle. No Christian grows in faith without some doubt…occasionally a little fog. As five year olds we might have taken in every Bible story that was told without question and with great joy and enthusiasm. As we became teens we wanted to know the how…what… why…where…and when of those stories we had never before questioned. And…as we grew…as we grow today…we ask for deeper…clearer answers.
From time to time fog surrounds our lives at Jackson Grove United Methodist Church. Some feel loss. Some feel guilt. Some feel anger. Some feel uncertainty. Some hurt physically. Some feel doubt.
When in doubt…don’t be discouraged. It’s not a sin. Nor…is it a failure. It’s a normal part of spiritual growth. Keep talking with thoughtful Christian friends and teachers…with each other. Keep studying and praying…alone and together. Read and study your Bible…alone with God and with each other. Keep serving the Lord and all in his creation. Keep asking questions and looking for answers. God…the one who created everything…gave you a mind to discover His truth. Don’t let anyone tell you that searching and questioning are wrong…for out of searching and questioning comes discovery of the Truth and the way forward.
That discovery…as the fog clears…is that God not only created everything. God sustains everything. His only son…Jesus not only gave us work to do. He is with us always to give us power…strength…and guidance as we do it.
His church…our church will go on…grow stronger…if each one of us sets aside the fog of loss…guilt…anger… uncertainty and doubt. Instead let’s each of us use the talents…time and treasure God has given us…the talents…time and treasure…we promised to use when we became members of this church…and remember that he is with us in everything…and always.
Do this and out of the fog where we see only the message “defeated…” we will see on that bright sunny day this message… ”defeated the obstacles in our way.”