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May 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 15, 2022



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning!       Welcome to the Reflexion Community.          May the Lord be with you!

I’ve been following the timeline of Jesus’ appearances between His Resurrection and His Ascension (I think you realize that He walked around and had conversations for 40 days), he spoke a few times to His disciples and even to 500 people at once.  One of those times is noted in Matthew chapter 28; we often call this conversation “The Great Commission.”  I’ll get back to that.

A few weeks ago, Chuck mentioned the term “our calling” in a way that it is normally used as “our vocation.”  I wanted to tell you about my experience the first time I was asked to consider my calling.  I was at a Christian University, and we were each asked to write about “our calling,” how we knew about it and were pursuing it.  Everybody else in the class was much younger than me and excited to fulfill their calling as Christian vocation:  pastor, worship leader, missionary . . . .  I was not sure if I knew. I knew about spiritual gifts and doing what I had experience it–but was that my calling? 

Well, eventually I wrote about how we are first called from a human perspective.  The first couple of things we are called to when we are little:  Learning to Walk, we hear “Come to Mama–or Daddy—Come to me”; then Come Home, (come home when the porchlights come on, come home by midnight).  And I thought my Christian journey had pretty much the same foundation, “Come to Me, Come Home,” then we’ll learn what else we’re supposed to do.

I mentioned “The Great Commission”, that conversation Jesus had with His Disciples near the end of His last 40 days on earth.   (Have you heard that term? How did it make you feel when you heard it?) I’m going to read it from The Message.  See if you might hear it in a fresh way.

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back– not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

My translation:  Come to Me, come as you are, remember who I am and who I have been to you, train others as I have taught you, come, let’s go on together!

Let’s pray:  Lord Jesus thank you for your Call to us.  Thank you that though we doubt, though we lag, You are undeterred.  We remember Your Power and Your Passion.  We remember Your Authority.  What we have received from You, we can impart to others.  Thank You for that Call.  And, mostly, thank you that You are going with us.  We’re traveling by Faith and Grace.  Let today be a day that we’re closer to the destination You have in mind.  Amen

Today’s Talk: chuck smith, jr.

And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other was Zillah. Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. Genesis 4:19-22

Intro: How did we wind up in Genesis this morning?

Many preachers have their sermons lined up for the whole year
– I’ve never been that organized or thought that far ahead
• it’s when I finish a series of talks that I think about what’s next
• usually that has a lot to do with what is pulling on my heart in that particular moment
– so we’re in Genesis, because it provides a seed for my talk
• I’m not sure what’s next – I’m thinking, the Book of Ruth
• that’s because it beautifully illustrates what I will try to explain

Genesis has been described as “the book of origins”

The origin of the universe, of life, humankind, sin and salvation, and so on
– in this snippet of a story we meet three brothers – inventors
Jabal is mentioned first – the father of shelters and livestock
◦ I imagine this as the transition from hunters and gatherers to ranchers and herders
◦ this makes sense in terms of survival value; that is, a dependable food source
Jubal comes next – the father of musicians
◦ the value of his role is not survival
◦ it has more to do with the soul than the body
• Tubal-cain was the forger of metal tools – technology
◦ his innovation served both farming and musical instruments
– we do not learn any more about them from Genesis,
• but my suspicion is that Jubal did not have a real job
• but moved from one brothers home to the other,
◦ sleeping on the couch and raiding the refrigerator
◦ that is, if he was the father of musicians

It is not difficult to imagine the invention of a harp or flute

Most any string that is stretched tight will vibrate with a specific tone
– the twang of a bow string or a thick thread of spun wool
• some materials provide better resonance than others
◦ I don’t want to know how it was discovered that cat gut strings worked well for guitars
• the biblical lyre (kinnor) would sound to us more like a sitar than harp
– perhaps Jubal heard wind moving through a hollow reed,
• and noticed it made a sound similar to human voice or a bird song
• experimenting with one reed or with several each a different size,
◦ he found that different notes could be produced – even a tune
◦ with musical instruments, he found another voice that spoke not with words, but music

The Bible doesn’t record the development of music over time

Or any of the other arts – though there were periods of innovation
– what we find is that by the time Israel came out of Egypt,
• there had been significant progress in their artistic skills
◦ in fact, God recruited artists for his project; the sacred tent
I have called by name Bezalel . . . and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft (Ex. 31:1-5)
• artistic work put into God’s sanctuary included:
◦ architecture, design and fabrication of furniture,
◦ splendid clothing, perfumed oil and incense, and tapestries
– even when art is not mentioned, it runs all through the Bible
• it is filled with the art of storytelling and the art of poetry
• that is why I am thinking of going through the Book of Ruth
◦ it is one of the best put together stories in the entire Bible

Have you ever felt a longing in subterranean depths of soul

To create something beautiful? A painting, a poem, a melody?
– if someone told you that you’re not an artist, they lied
• we are all artists – everyone of us
• we do not have to make art to sell or show to others
◦ we can make art for ourselves, for God,
◦ or just for the experience and joy of doing it
– my eleven-year-old granddaughter, Adrianna,
• has always been creative – she dabble in all sorts of projects
◦ she’s always cutting, pasting, drawing, dancing, singing
◦ whenever I can’t find the scissors, I ask Adrianna where she left them
• Friday night, I warmed up dinner for her and her brother
◦ I noticed that she was swirling the last bite of chicken teriyaki sauce making interesting patterns on her plate
◦ it felt to me like Van Gogh had visited us

Sometimes, driving the grandkids to school, I make up a song
– they’re nonsensical rhyming songs
• frequently, when I run out of ideas, one of them will add a line of their own
• making art an innate skill, impulse, instinct
– our artistic drive can find many forms of expression:
• painting, poetry, and music are the obvious ones
◦ there’s also photography, sculpture (and sand sculptures), and needlepoint
◦ fine cuisine can be an art form, as well interior design, and clothing design
• storytelling is a universal art form
◦ one in which Jesus excelled

Last week I quoted from Ephesians

We are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ep. 2:10)
– what does Paul mean by “beforehand”?
• it’s been suggested that it goes as far back to the beginning of humankind
• we were created in our Creator’s image – to be creative
– perhaps you’ve heard that workmanship translates the Greek word poiema
• it’s true our English word “poem” is derived from poiema
◦ but poiema does not mean “poem” or “masterpiece”
◦ it can refer to anything that is made
• the Theological Dictionary states that poiema is “what is produced by artisans”
◦ each one of us is an “art project”
◦ and doing art is built into us

There is a special gift that art brings to us

You–are not an “exact science”
– we do have sciences for understanding the body and brain
• the materials of bone and tissue – and their various functions
◦ but, we are not machines
◦ no science can account for the soul or what goes on in our minds
– science cannot answer our most pressing questions:
• “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Is there a purpose to life?”
• when it comes to the human soul,
◦ we are more art than science

What art gives us is a freedom found nowhere else

Farming and ranching had to be discovered, we can’t exist without them
– technology is also a necessity
• science is constrained by boundaries, by material limitations
◦ but art is not constrained by anything
• art is unnecessary; it does not have to exist
◦ the landscape doesn’t have to be painted or photographed
◦ that any art does exist reveals an unparalleled freedom
– art does not have to obey any rules
• surreal impossibilities can be painted,
◦ fictional worlds can be created and populated
◦ superheroes can save our planet multiple times
• art is a way we can practice and express our freedom
◦ art gives us a different kind of language
◦ the language of creative imagination
• through art, we can ask, “But what if things were different?”
◦ and then experiment with what the answer would look like, sound like, dance like

When Jesus outlined his ministry, he spoke of freedom

to proclaim liberty to the captives . . . to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Lk. 4:18-21)
So if the Son sets you free, your will be free indeed (Jn. 8:36)
– Paul was also very concerned about our freedom
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1)
For you were called to freedom . . . Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
– a great feature of doing art: you can lose yourself in it
• you lose consciousness of hours ticking by
• you don’t notice that you missed lunch — and dinner
◦ freedom to lose yourself is a significant blessing
◦ it is the only way to find your true self

Conclusion: I would like to see us recover the art of being human

George Steiner, “In the immense majority of adult men and women, early impulses towards the making of art have withered away altogether.”
Don’t let that be true of you!
I hope God’s Spirit breathes new life into our artistic souls
For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 2:17)

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