Sunday, August 29, 2010

Guest Blogging- Sunday Sermon

This week I've been invited to guest blog on's Homiletical Hot Tub.

If you're not a member of (and if you're a pastor, you should be- it's full of great resources), you can read what I wrote below.

This is the sermon I preached on the final Sunday of our Capital Campaign, "Bethlehem on the Rise". The title is "Sun Rising", and it is based on Genesis 1:3-5 and Matthew 5:14-16.

We just read from the first of two creation stories in the Book of Genesis. The one we just read from was probably composed in the form we have it about five centuries before the time of Jesus, and it is this beautiful liturgical song of praise about how God took the primal chaos and shaped it into the amazing created order that we see in the world today. This story has been around for at least twenty five hundred years, and it still takes our breath away.

Unfortunately, in our time, some of the beauty of this story has been clouded over because, for a couple centuries, Christians of different stripes have kept trying to turn the creation stories of Genesis into something they’re not, and we’ve done some damage to ourselves in the process. The generations of folks who passed down this story verbally from generation to generation, and eventually wrote it down had what we now call a “pre-scientific” understanding of the universe. For all they knew, the earth was flat and everything in the sky revolved around the earth. They weren’t dumb by any stretch of the imagination. They talked about who God is and how God works using of their best understanding of the shape of the universe and our place in it.

But over time that understanding began to evolve. In the sixteenth century we see a Polish priest named Nicholas Copernicus who also happens to dabble in mathematics and astronomy realizes that it isn’t the sun that revolved around the earth, the earth actually revolves around the Sun! About a generation later, an Italian guy named Galileo Galilei, who is also a faithful Catholic, says the same stuff and a lot of people start to think that there’s something to this.

Sadly, these brilliant men and their ideas didn’t exactly get a positive reception. They were called heretics and Galileo was actually dragged to Rome and tried by the Inquisition as a heretic. The church (and I’m talking about all churches: Catholic, Methodist, everyone) is and always has been a human institution, and in many of these critical moments we have succumbed to that most basic of human flaws: fear. Fear of change. Fear of new knowledge that might threaten the established order and our power in it. Fear of the unknown. Too often we reject new ideas and understandings because we are afraid and we only see the negative possibilities, and we miss out on the potential they bring.

Today’s theme in our worship is the “Sun Rising”, and the evolution in our understanding of what the Sun is, and in turn, what our place in the universe is, serves to remind us who we are and who God is. The very phrase, “watching the Sun rise” implies that we are standing still and that everything revolves around us. But if you’ve ever been on a beach or on top of a mountain and watched the Sun rise, you’ve probably been struck by how big this world is, and how small we are in comparison. As scientific discovery has shown us that the Earth revolves around the Sun, and that even the Sun revolves around the center of our galaxy that is just one of billions in the universe, we’ve seen that truth again. We are not the center of the universe! We’re actually quite small in the grand scheme of things! We are not ultimate: God is. And the God who is ultimate, the God who is the center of the universe, cares deeply about each and every one of us. Little ‘ol you, and little ‘ol me are of sacred worth because we are created in the image of our great big God.

Perhaps this lesson about humanity’s place in the universe is also a word to our community today. We’re raising money right now to build a new church home. We’re in the midst of doing something really important, and any time we’re doing something important we can easily get stressed and blow things out of proportion and succumb to fear. So when that stress hits, when that fear is right in our face threatening to swallow us whole, let us remember our place in the created order. That amazingly beautiful, sacred piece of property on Gholson Road is but a speck on this Earth, this planet that revolves around the Sun, which is one of billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, which is but one of billions, or more likely, trillions of galaxies in this universe.

We don’t have to worry, because the fate of the cosmos does not hang on what we do here! We are important, but we are not ultimate. God is the center of the universe. God is ultimate.

Jesus tells us we are the light of the world, and to let our light shine. Just as we are not at the center of the created order, neither are we the source of that light. We are not the light of the world because of some innate goodness on our part. We are the light of the world because we are created by God, the God who actually spoke light into existence! We are not the source, we merely reflect the source of this light. So all we have to do is be what we are. Jesus tells us to let our light shine before people so that they may see it and praise the God who is ultimate, the God who is the center of the universe, the God who is the source of the light we shine.

So let us build our new church home, and let us attract some attention as we do it. Not for the purpose of being satisfied with the works of our hands, but to direct attention to the source of that light that is within us, so that all may see and praise the God who said “let there be light”. Saints of Bethlehem, let it shine.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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