St Barnabas & St Michael’s, July 25th 2010
Reading: Matthew 6:6-15
We are starting a new series this week looking at the Apostles’ Creed. Can you – without looking it up – remember the opening couple of lines?
That’s right – I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth
That’s a really big statement, isn’t it? You could spend a whole series of sermons unpacking what these lines mean, and you still wouldn’t get to the bottom of it. But the one simple truth that this creed sums up is this: that God the maker of heaven and earth wants a relationship with you. He wants you to call Him Father. He wants to meet you with His love. Isn’t that an incredible truth? I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I watch a wonderful sunset, or see a beautiful moonlit sky, I can seem so small, so insignificant. Yet the opening lines of the creed tells me that somehow the God of stars and solar systems and galaxies is interested in me. Is interested in you. Is concerned for you, cares for you, loves you.
Back in our reading in Genesis we heard how God spoke and the world came into being. First of all the light, then the sky, then the dry ground, and then the fish and the birds and the animals. And right at the end of the process man. But did you notice how the way man is created is different from anything else that happens in this account? Because when He makes man, He doesn’t just speak and it happens. He then speaks words to what He has made, He communicates to us, and He makes clear His will to us.
And what wonderful things God tells us!
First of all, He tells us that we are made in His image. Verse 27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Do you realise you have been made in the image of God? When you woke up this morning and stumbled bleary-eyed into the bathroom, did you realise you were the unique and precious handiwork of God? When you had a horrible day at work this week and everything seemed to go wrong?
It seems to me that many people for many kinds of reason struggle to realise they are made in the image of God. Maybe someone somewhere in the past has told them they were worthless, or they would never achieve very much. Maybe they have done something wrong and think they can never, ever be forgiven. Maybe they are scarred by some terrible accident and are hugely conscious of their deformity. The fact remains, no matter what other people have told you, or what you have done, or what has happened to you, you have been made in the image of God. Of course we live in a world of sin and suffering and pain, and we’ll look at the reasons why in the next few weeks, but never forget – you are precious to God. He made you and He knows you and His greatest longing is that you recognise how much He values you.
God tells us we are made in His image. But that doesn’t only mean we should feel good about ourselves, or thank God for the way He has made us. It also means we are called by God to share in His work of caring for this wonderful, beautiful, amazing world He has made. This is why, secondly, in verse 28, He tells us how we should look after our planet. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Now again I could spend a whole sermon on verse 28. But all I want to say for now is that filling the earth and subduing it does not mean stripping the earth of all its resources and then dumping rubbish all over it. Christians should be green, not because it’s trendy or because it’s politically correct, but because this is how we carry out God’s command to us. After all, the way God rules over us is to love us, to care for us, to protect us. And the way we should rule over the earth is to love it, to care for it, to protect it. Despite all the sci-fi movies that tell us otherwise there is only planet on which we can live, and we have a duty to make sure we look after it as best we can. Because that is what God wants us to do.
And thirdly, God tells us how He provides for us. Verse 29: Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. Now you can argue the toss whether we were originally meant to be vegetarian. If you want to do some homework, I suggest you look at Gen 9:1-6 later. But surely the wider point is that the provision of the food we eat day by day is supreme proof of God’s care and love for us. The vegetables we grow and harvest in our garden are a gift from God. The takeaway we get on a Friday night. The weekly supermarket shop, even the school lunch we face Monday to Friday – all are a gift from God.
Now I guess we all kind of know this in theory, but how far do we really live as if this is true? It seems to me we tend to like the idea of a relationship with God, but only on our terms. That we don’t give him any more than five minutes of our time each day. That we don’t actually we have to change the way we do anything. That we only come and worship Him when we actually feel like it. I think all too easily we lose sight of the fact that God is God, and that we are totally, utterly dependent on His love and care and provision.
And this is where Jesus’ teaching in Matthew chapter 6 comes in. Because if you really believe in God the Father, creator of Heaven and Earth, then you will have a whole new attitude to the life you lead each day. Your greatest desire will be for God’s kingdom to come. You will look to your Heavenly Father to supply your every need. You will rely on Him and Him alone to protect you from temptation. And as Jesus makes clear at the end of the passage, your whole life will be marked with a radical attitude of forgiveness towards those around you, as you yourself live in the love and grace of your Heavenly Father.
Because in the end believing isn’t just about the words that come out of our lips, or the thoughts of our minds. It’s really about the attitude of our heart. After all, young children may not know that much about their parents, or be able to describe exactly what they’re like. But you know they believe and trust in them because they rely on them for their every need, and trust that they will provide for them. And that’s how God wants us to believe in Him. We are His children made in His image. He has entrusted us with the task of caring for the beautiful world He has created. And He provides us day by day with everything we need.
So what is our response? Many years ago someone wrote a book with the title, “Your God is too small”. How small, I wonder, is your God? Is He a small God who is there only when you want Him, for high days and holidays? Or is He the God of the Bible, the God of heaven and earth, who is able to far more than you can ever ask or imagine? Let’s all of us this morning consider what it means to say that we believe in God the Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth, and let’s surrender ourselves totally into the hands of the one who loves and cares for us.
Rev TimThe Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.