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Apr 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 1, 2012 – Present Your Bodies

As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
Luke 19:37-40

INTRO: Almost everyone says they feel closer to God in nature

So why don’t we go into country, desert, forest, or walk by the ocean more often?
– beside having schedules that are overbooked, we add to them unnecessary responsibilities

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, some Pharisees told him to restrain his disciples
– but as it was, the voice of the people was restraining the rocks — all nature was ready to breakout in praise

Religion is supposed to prepare us for life on this planet, but instead it sometimes declares war on nature
– for example, a practice of silence and solitude can be spiritually refreshing and make us better listeners, etc.
– but to never speak or interact with others goes against both nature and scripture
Ecc. 3:7, there’s “a time to be silent and a time to speak”

It is not only religion that alienates us from the natural world, so does our culture
– we live in a concrete world that, with the exception of a Marine Corps base, stretches a hundred miles north and south
– we depend on the earth for our existence, yet we live at a distance from it

Annie Dillard, who made a literary career out of listening to nature, said:
“It’s all a matter of keeping my eyes open. Nature is like one of those line drawings of a tree that are puzzles for children: Can you find hidden in the leaves a duck, a house, a boy, a bucket, a zebra and a boot? Specialists can find the most incredibly well-hidden things.”

Every Christian becomes a specialist, finding in nature the well-hidden things that God brings to our attention

A spirituality of body, as we have studied these last eight weeks, goes hand in hand with a spirituality of creation

First, think of creation as our parent

We talk about “Mother nature” – St. Francis referred to the planet as “Mother Earth”

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living [soul]. (Ge. 2:7)

The Hebrew word translated “man” is adam, which is a name, but also means human or humankind
– “ground” or soil is related to adamadahma
• the human is dust that’s been given a form and breathed into
– in English, human is related to humus – and humble
• we were not created apart from the earth, but as a part of it
• we belong to this planet we walk around on and  it belongs to us

By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.
(Ge. 3:19)

Creation provides the physical and chemical elements that constitute our bodies
– the earth provides us with a body at birth and reclaims it at death

Next: Creation as our teacher

In scripture, creation teaches us about God
1. It reveals and reflects God’s power and divine nature (Ro. 1:20)
2. It reveals his laws that shape and order the natural world (Ps. 19)
3. It is sustained by his Spirit and his word (Ps. 104:24-28)
4. Through it he speaks to us and controls the course of our lives

In Job, God reveals his interest and involvement in nature (38-39)
– from the birth of a fawn to the flight of an eagle and from the changing seasons to the crest of a wave

This theology of nature enabled Job to:

  • discern God’s influence in the ceaseless motion of the world
  • hear God’s voice in thunder & see lightening as spears and arrows
  • feel God’s Spirit in a gentle breeze or blustery wind

Job learned how creation reveals God’s power, majesty and nearness

In the Psalms, creation is a display of God’s activity and self-expression
– so he is painter, sculptor, poet, musician, and so on
– Ps. 148, everything in creation is called to praise God–sun, moon and stars, the land, the depths of sea, the elements, mountains., trees, animals, and humans
God does not enter our world from outside–we’re guests in his world

In the ministry of Jesus creation plays a significant role
– he taught and healed in synagogues, but he prayed in nature (Lk. 5:15, he frequently “slipped” away into wilderness to pray and for the same purpose, in Lk. 6:12, he climbed a mountain)

Jesus’ teaching is filled with images from nature — birds, trees, plants, grass, animals, rivers, etc.

Evelyn Underhill pointed out that Jesus showed us the kingdom of God in “the life of field and house, city and mountain, through shepherds and merchants, children and craftsmen.” So when we go into the world, it is up to us “to be alert, to look and listen and do our homework,” so that we too can begin to see in the world what he saw–the kingdom of God in a mustard seed

In Ps. 147, God counts and names stars, He freezes and thaws the ground
– but this same God also reveals his word to Israel
– there is no gap or conflict between his work in nature and in believers
• there’s nothing unspiritual about eco-systems and astrophysics
• the same hand that feeds ravens, dispenses grace and salvation

The universe stretches the soul – expanding and contracting our vision
– our souls had to invent telescopes and microscopes, because the universe tugs at us from both directions
– from minutia to the immense, the infinitesimal to the infinite

We stand between two infinite horizons
– the horizon of an infinity beyond us and the horizon of an infinity within us

Ecc. 3:11, “He has also set eternity in their hearts . . .” — eternity is infinite time

We are awakened to these infinite horizons by a finite universe
– “having eyes to see” is to look and listen to creation and through it to discover the infinite horizons

Ps 42:7, “Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls”

The infinite depth of creation echoes in the infinite depth of soul — deep calling to deep

Vincent van Gogh once wrote, “I prefer painting people’s eyes to cathedrals, for there is something in the eyes that is not in the cathedral, however solemn and imposing the latter may be–a human soul, be it that of a poor beggar or of a streetwalker, is more interesting to me.”

The inner horizon is infinitely greater than our ego
– but in the same way we can block the sun with our hand, our ego can block the infinite horizon of our soul
– this calls for one half of a process Paul described in Galatians 6:14; namely, our death to the world

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal. 6:14)

Paul did not mean the natural world or creation
– so we have to take a moment to consider . . .

Creation as opposed to the world

In the New Testament, “world” has several different meanings
– the earth, the human populations and cultures, a period of time (age or ages)
– also, a world spirit – this world spirit (or “present evil age,” Gal. 1:4) corresponds to the flesh — our sinful nature or false self
• the false self is drawn to a false world – a world of illusions

In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul says we once walked in sins, “according to the course of this world,” “the prince of the power of the air,” “in the lusts of our flesh
– he connects the world with the devil and with our flesh (sarchotic self is how I referred to it previously)
– parallel to resisting the flesh is resisting the world
• this is, then, the other half of the process described in Gal. 6:14, “the world has been crucified to me”
• my ego dies to the false world and false world dies to me

It was with this sort of mutual death to the world and the world’s death to the self that Etty Hillesum had in mind when she wrote,“I no longer feel I am missing out on life when I don’t experience everything the entertainment world has to offer.”

How are we supposed treat the world?
1 Co. 7:29-31, let “those who buy [be] as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as thought they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away”

With great wisdom, Abraham Heschel wrote, “Feelings, thoughts are our own, while possessions are alien and often treacherous to the self. To be is more essential than to have. Though we deal with things, we live in deeds.”

Jesus takes us out of the false world — but not so that we leave it forever

I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world . . . . They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world (Jn. 17:6,15-16)

Jesus takes us out and sets us free in order to send us back
• we die to the lost world so we can reenter it without being of it
• we release our grasp on the world so we can embrace it

To have a relationship with another person, you first have to see yourself separate from that person, and then you can form a connection with him or her
– in the same way, we have to first become separate from the world to form a proper relationship to it

CONC: Creation as partner

It is important at this point to read Romans 8:19-25

Our bodies share a longing, a hope and a destiny with creation

What we want to do is to:

  • Train ourselves to listen to creation
  • Recover a sense of the nearness of God in natural world
  • Then continue to advance in our awareness until we can also discern God in the city’s glaring lights, busy streets, sidewalks, corporate offices, and human faces

In this way, we will never be or feel far from our heavenly Father

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