Toorak Uniting Church

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The wheel of grace

Psalm 8     Romans 5: 1 5
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
6 June 2004

After praising God for his wonderful creation it is rather extraordinary what psalm 8 goes on to say about us, people: It says that God made us not unlike Himself and crowned us with glory and honour. That He’s given us dominion over the works of His hands and put all things under our feet. Next to the majestic sovereign Lord who created the heavens and the earth in all their splendour there is us: small and insignificant in comparison to all that, given the place of prominence, only slightly lower than the Maker of all.

In creation says scripture, there is a place for humankind, from the beginning, a very important place, a place of authority and responsibility, of near equality, of partnership.

That was God’s idea anyway: To create a world that was good and humans to be part of, and partners in his venture. A world created with love, out of love, to love. A handiwork God was proud of.

Last Monday as part of the exhibition in Kinross house I led a workshop, together with Christine Gibson called "sculpt a sermon" where we worked with the two texts for this Sunday and with clay, trying to express in another medium than just words what these texts meant to us.

One of the things that struck me while I was working with the clay and looking at the wonderful paintings and sculptures that are there on display at the moment was how one, when making something, creating something, gets involved with whatever it is one is creating.
How what our hands and minds give shape becomes part of us and how we are part of it.
I don’t know how many of you have experience with creative work, but I am sure that if you do, you will recognize the feeling.

Then I thought of God. And I wondered: "How difficult must it be for God to see the people he entrusted with the care of his creation and the care for each other make such a mess of things at times. How must it hurt God to see damage done, pain inflicted, what He created good, spoiled." I could feel anger rise up in me too and wondered: Would God feel that anger too?

When people wage war and don’t seem to be able to stop themselves hating each other. When people blow themselves and others up? When women are raped and men abused? When toxic waste is dumped illegally and without any regards for the life on this planet? When children go hungry because greedy adults don’t practice justice?
Nearly godlike He’s made us, and look at what we do with it!

And, reading the text from Paul next to the psalm my thoughts went to Jesus. That must have really hurt!

Actually offering a life dearly loved, a person living the life that God had envisaged for all people from the outset and being turned down on that offer must have been something that would have been hard to swallow for anybody.
If I had been God I think I would have cut my losses at that point and left people to their own devices!

But no. That is not what happened is it?

Instead God took both sides of the relationship upon himself, not only making sure that He kept his side of the bargain in loving and caring for people and for creation, but also put the other side right with himself showing us through the resurrection of Jesus and the birth of the Church that even death and murder would not keep him from loving us and giving us new life.
How we know that?

I think Paul argues that we not only know that because we know of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ but also because of how God, after the death on the cross of his most loved one turned around and created new life and new meaning out of nothing, the Spirit poured out anew on creation to once again change the world and its people around.

I think Paul argues that we, in our own lives, will become aware of the grace of God through our own experience.

Perhaps when we find ourselves, like the psalmist perhaps was, in a situation where the beauty of creation overwhelms us and where we are awed by the grandeur of the work of Gods hands. When we feel close to God in his creation and feel ourselves part of his plan, the environment he created for us, at one with the Spirit moving in and through that.

But not only that, not only when we experience the wonder and peace of the nature, but also when life is hard and we find the road difficult to travel is where we can come closer to God is what Paul says.

And that is an experience some of us may share with Paul too. The experience that not only when life is good and we find ourselves enjoying nature, looking at the stars, admiring the views from a mountain top, when we are surrounded by splendour and grandeur of whatever kind is when God can be experienced. But that this God is a God that stays with us through even the deepest trouble. That this God accepts us and comes to seek us out, ready to forgive, when we want to hide ourselves because we’ve not been good and would rather avoid his company. That this God loves us through difficult situations, supporting us and carrying us, filling us with hope that if we can get through this particular instance we can get through more and there could be light at the end of the tunnel.
That this is a God that pours out his Spirit in our hearts and fills them with peace wherever we are, whatever we do because he seeks us out as partners in his venture, seeks us out as creatures not unlike himself, seeks us and invites us to join the movement of love, light and inspiration he has started at the beginning of creation. A movement that was given new momentum with the coming of Jesus Christ and is spurred on by the Spirit up until the present day.

Since we are justified by faith, since we know God loves us beyond our wildest imaginations, we can be at peace. God is with us, even in our deepest troubles and supports us, even in our darkest hours and gives us hope. God will not let go!

God not only started creation long ago, creating a world of awesome wonder, but God has never stopped creating since. In Jesus Christ and through the Spirit He is creating a new world here and now, in us, through us, around us.
Opening his arms to us and loving us whoever and whatever we are into a life where that love takes shape and is communicated out into the world. Where we come to feel at peace with God and with ourselves, radiating that peace to others. Where we feel supported in our suffering and that support builds us up in such a way that what has been poured into us pours over into the world around us.
Becoming, being, partners of God, carrying his love, his peace, his Spirit inside us and being carried by it through the world, becoming part of the creating of a new world, a different way of being with each other because of that.

Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2004


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