The Bible – A gift from God

Text: Matthew 5.17-20

It wasn’t often that we had rabbit served up onboard ship. But the one time it did happen was just when I was reading Watership Down. Proof if any was needed that the Good Lord has a sense of humour. For you cannot read that tale of rabbits with human feelings and not look at a warren in an entirely different light. In essence then, stories change us – they move us to look at the world differently – moreover – they force us look at ourselves more closely. And so it is with the greatest story ever told – that immense literary work – that wonderful gift from God – the holy Bible.

However, to try to justify the Bible as God’s gift to humanity in a thousand words or so, on the face of it, is facile.  Yet, if we cannot explain the main purposes of our sacred book in a few words – how can we expect to do so in many.

Therefore, here goes!

Well, at its most basic level, the Bible answers fundamental human needs. And by that I mean the almost primeval urge that we each have to survive by knowing ourselves to be safe and secure. And this almost biologically programmed need is really only met when we live in an ordered community. Yet a wholesome and trustworthy society only comes about when each member knows what is right and what is wrong and when we find a way to encourage others to live by the same moral standards. Therefore, at its most elementary, the Bible’s purpose is to declare there is an external source of morality and there is also a living source that is also the judge of how each of meet that benchmark. But, more important than these, the bible makes abundantly clear this ethical source has supernatural powers to reward human obedience with permanent effects. For, in a nutshell, the Bible is saying – obey God’s laws and you and the human race will be forever restored. Or, as Deuteronomy puts it:

The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the lord our God, so that we may prosper and kept alive. If we are careful to obey the law, that will be our righteousness. (Deut. 6.24 ff)

Nevertheless, the Bible is more than a code of best practice; more than a lifetime highway code; more than a manual for communal survivability. Since, it also meets the needs of the mind. And so, it is the foundation stone of our Christian beliefs. Just it was Christ’s Jewish beliefs. For this morning did we not hear him say:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.

The bible then, through its account of how God has spoken to a variety of people, allows him to speak to us now.  Therefore, just as scripture was Christ’s source-book and inspiration, it is also the basis of our own personal encouragement, devotion and admonishment in good times and bad. It helps us to answer why we should obey as well as what we should be obedient in. Indeed, it is ever the sword and shield for our minds as we try to influence the whole of our society towards values that will make it worth redeeming in the first place.

However, the most crucial role of the Bible is in the spiritual dimension of our being. Because it may teach us how to survive physically and it may tell us too how we battle our own fears and the failings of others, but it still has something more important to tell us. For, far exceeding its other purposes, the Bible offers the gospel of Christ to each and everyone of us. And that is the good news we can individually have new life, we can individually be forgiven for renewed life and we can individually be saved into eternal life. To put it as Paul did to the Romans;

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace that we now stand.

James Merritt, in his Collected Sermons, remarks that when a merchant ship of any size, enters a port, it takes on board what is called a pilot. In fact, we often see the pilot cutter rushing past Broughty on its way to some vessel entering the Tay Estuary. Well this pilot knows the waters of his or her port backwards, he knows the length of it and he knows the depth of it. He knows where the hazards are. He knows where the tides and currents are; what direction they flow in and how strong they are. When this master mariner comes on board then, he takes control of the ship, and he gives the orders for its safe navigation. Put simply, he is an outside expert who is brought in to make sure that ship docks with certainty.

Well, we to have a pilot in our lives. We have a gift of God in our lives. We too have a guide to safe harbour in our lives. And it is the Bible. For God can only be known to the extent he reveals himself. Certainly, we have no way of knowing otherwise. And the clearest way of him revealing himself is in the pages of the bible. Similarly, we can know nothing of Jesus without the Bible. And so again the Bible reveals his gospel and the way to Christian living. Finally, it is in the keeping of the Bible central to our community of the church that we ensure we have its moral compass and upright companionship.

Let then, every Christian prize this gift from God; let every Christian be obedient to its guidance. And let every Christian make it a basis for all that is said and done. Because it is only then that our Bible’ story will ring out again in our daily living.

Amen

Advertisements

Creating with God


Bookmark and Share

Psalm 8

Galatians 3.23-4.7

We have all seen them. It the headline on the tabloids – Man plays God. And usually this purple prose accompanies some breakthrough in medicine or biology. Take the latest such utterance. It was when scientists recently copied some DNA from one cell and replaced into another. Personally, I am not sure that a Chinese copy of a Rembrandt makes it a Rembrandt. Yet the newspapers and news channels blared out their siren warning of Armageddon – Man plays God.

Now whilst we humans have neither right nor probably any realistic chance of playing God, can we in any way help God? Do we have a part to play in his creativity?  And the answer is – yes we can. For scripture, carefully read and with an open mind, does say that humans are called to help God in his creation. In fact, they called to be co-creators. And it is this opportunity and responsibility which form the gift of God we will look at today; the gift of being creative as part of divine creativeness.

Many years ago, I heard of a famous Scottish preacher who, on the day of his ordination, had his much cherished piano removed from his home. That was in case it became a distraction from his ministry. I always find that a bit sad. For surely, we easily glimpse the hand of God in a Mozart concerto or in a Michelangelo painting or just in a beautifully fiery sunset. Because in encountering true beauty just as much as with real goodness we should feel closer to God; we should feel inheritors of something of his creative gift; we should start to understand the wonderfully generous gift of being imaginative daughters and sons of God.

Let us then go about our daily routine more carefully looking for created beauty; let us more often allow our minds to be enlivened by anything made wonderfully; let us never forget to worship God when we find something created with God’s glory in mind . Moreover, let us never stop opening our hearts to the magnificence of divine creativity. For Moira Lipmann’s husband, the playwright Jack Leventhal, said just before his death when being wheeled through a park – look – it’s all so wonderful.

It’s amazing how often we forget the many traditions of our own homeland. Other times we just take them for granted. That is until someone from abroad reminds us of them. And so it was when I read the writings of an American recently. For, he was telling of how the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom allows us to track the Queen around her realm.  Because when the Queen is at Windsor Castle or Balmoral, the Royal standard flutters overhead. When she is in Buckingham Palace or Holyrood the Royal Standard flies brightly in the wind. But when she is not in residence, the Royal Standard is replaced by either the Union Jack or Royal Standard of Scotland.

The UK’s Royal Standard then is a sign of the monarch’s presence.  And so it is when we too are genuinely creative. For no matter what we attempt, if we make or do something in God’s honour, then he we will make it into a thing of real beauty. For, whether it is great or small, proud or humble, well or rudely made, it will point to God. It will also confirm our kinship with God and it will ‘signpost’ his valuing of us. May then all that we create, be done in his name and in heart-felt thanks for his creativity of ourselves, his world and his son who offers us eternal life.

<em> </em>

Oh we say – that’s all very fine – but I can’t make anything at all –I cannot sing or play an instrument or paint a picture. Where then can I show I am a co-creator for God?  Well, we can always create things that are intangible; things like peace and security and justice. We can always reconcile, comfort and advise. We can all make life better for our fellow heirs of creation and siblings in Christ. Since these are the greatest creations that honour God.

And the reason for their supreme loveliness is that they truly reflect what Paul wrote:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ. You are a son or daughter of the living God.

Because when we do create a genuinely handsome world for those who have not seen beauty but only hardship, then we do release the possibility of creativity in them as well. We do allow them to see God’s creativity in things beautifully made. Indeed, we show what it means to be co-creators of God’s creation which honours humans to the degree recorded by the psalmist when he asked:

What is man that you are mindful of him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

And crowned hum with glory and honour.

On Monday we took ourselves off to visit Kellie castle outside Pittenweem in Fife. Now until it was taken over by the National Trust for Scotland, it was the home of the ultra-artistic Lorimer family. In fact, he last occupant of this medieval pile was the sculptor Hew Lorimer. Indeed, his workshop or studio is still there with an exhibition of his work. However, a display board proclaims that, as a devout Roman Catholic he believed not that an artistic creation was an expression the individual but was a gift from God. Since he is then quoted as saying:

I came to see that human imagination is not paramount in the creative process; that what is paramount in the creation is he who created it. That which the artist is expressing is not himself but his response to the eternal process of creation.

May then is day and all the days to follow we be aware of the gift of creativity. May we be aware of the responsibilities of being a co-creator. And may we never fail to respond to God’s creation of ourselves. For then, the whole world is our canvas, the whole family of God is our score and the whole future is our play of delight.

Amen