This Week's Sermon

Pastor Wagner

July 5, 2020
Goodness for All
Sermon based on Psalm 145

 Dear congregation, dear listeners, visitor and friends,

“The Lord is good to all,” that’s how the reading from this wonderful psalm began. On this summer day and National Holiday weekend, I would like to emphasize the goodness celebrated in this song as directed to everyone and everything, not just the people of our country, not just humanity but all of creation. “All your works praise you,” says verse 10. “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing,” verse 16 adds. As Christians we have not always registered the scale of this message. Only in recent years the Christian church and many parts of Western civilization are waking up from centuries of human self-centeredness. We start to pay more attention to all of creation as God’s work, not just as objects and material or as resources that we feel entitled to exploit. That awakening is a good thing and it gives me hope for the future. You may ask: how do God’s works praise him? Simple, just go outside on an early summer day and listen to the life that inhabits our neighborhoods. Now, I will freely admit to you that I’m not pleased about every squirrel that digs holes in my planters for fun. I’m not crazy about the myriads of tiny ants that find their way indoors and onto our kitchen counter. Or the lantern flies that feed on my grapevine. Or the number of deer in suburbia, who love rose bushes and other delicacies which I would rather enjoy in blooming splendor. Yes, I will admit: I like some of God’s creatures better than others. I have my favorites. But overall, this is how God’s works praise him – by being who they are, by living life, and the
wonder of it all.

The medieval Franciscan theologian Bonaventure once said, “God is one whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” Meaning, we can find God in a tree, but the tree is not God. We can find God, I hate to say it, in a squirrel, but the squirrel isn’t God. We can find God in a human being, but that person isn’t God. We are asked to treat every creature with respect because the
fingerprint of the creator is in that being. Albert Schweitzer called it ‘reverence for life” some 60 or 70 years ago. Of course, we still don’t practice reverence for life consistently and, let’s face it,
sometimes we don’t practice it at all. I’m afraid the meat industry and its slaughtering houses are a far cry from treating animals with respect. And, as you know, I am not a vegetarian. I consume some of the meat products which come from places that I’d rather not see. So, I am, as often, preaching to myself. I am, as often, part of the problem. Still, I want to say this: there is good reason that there are more vegetarians among us these days, especially among our younger people. And even if we don’t go to those extremes, it is worth considering to consume less of those products that come from places which insult “reverence for life.”

On a hopeful note: I feel very strongly that this is the century in which we will learn to be more respectful to Mother Nature because we realize it is in the interest of our survival or at least in the interest of the overall quality of life on earth. How thoughtful and tender are the words of Psalm 145 in comparison to our industrial age treatment of creation! Verse 16 says: “You open your hand and
satisfy the desires of every living thing.” For us here in the Unites States this is a weekend in which we celebrate our country. Yesterday was our Independence Day. Independence is an act of
liberation, people breaking free from their unwanted suppressors. It happened here in this country 244 years ago and has happened in many other countries across the world: people breaking free. I found that there are 178 countries on earth that celebrate an Independence Day. Today, July 5, is the Independence Day of Venezuela and Belarus. And while Independence is indeed a reason to celebrate and appreciate our freedoms, it can also be a double edged sword. Why? Because when we emphasize our independence too much, we tend to forget that we are connected and related to so many other countries and peoples. And whenever we forget those connections or what I call inter-dependencies, we may become arrogant and foolish. In the Old Testament, God often reminds the Israelites, “Remember you were once slaves in Egypt… Now treat people who come to you as you would want them to treat you!” It’s the Golden Rule hidden deep in the narrative of Israel. What I said earlier was in essence a case for recognizing the foolishness with which we have treated Mother Earth for so long by treating her as our possession, our resource, our material, our personal toy: moving this mountain,
destroying that biotope, building cities in a desert and extracting natural resources as if there was no tomorrow. Not all of it is bad, but all of it is not sustainable, and this psalm is clearly teaching us respect, respect for creation. “The Lord is good to all.” Including the squirrels in my yard. “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. All your works praise you, LORD; your faithful people extol you.” Let’s take these words to heart!