Preaching the Gospel to All of Creation

Preaching the Gospel to All of Creation

PReaching the Gospel to All of Creation

A Sermon for the Festival of St. Francis
St. Dunstan’s Anglican Church, Largo, FL
The Reverend J. Michael Strachan
Galatians 6:14-18

Let me begin this morning with the words to a hymn that we will sing a bit later in the service.

This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
he shines in all that’s fair;
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!

Amen? This is my Father’s world. This hymn is wonderfully appropriate for the Festival of St. Francis, and it’s words are beautiful and profoundly true. This is my Father’s world. The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad! Amen and amen.

However, if I am honest, it seems that this hymn is somewhat experientially false. To put it another way, it is much easier to sing “This is my Father’s world” when things are going well. However, when sickness, and disease, and heart attacks, and cancer, and death enter into our lives, that’s when the indicatives become interrogatives. This is my Father’s world, this place where my loved ones get sick and die? The Lord is King, and yet I continue to suffer like this? God reigns?

I assume that whoever asked “Why should my heart be sad?” must not have been receiving his church’s prayer chain emails or ever turned on the news. Because if he had, he would have known that there are many reasons for our hearts to be sad. There are many reasons for our hearts to break.

So what am I say to you? What am I to do? What words of comfort can I give to those of you who are suffering and hurting right now? Should I come to you and say, “Why should your heart be sad? It’s only a heart attack. It’s only a life-threatening disease. The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!”? Is that what I should say? No, I don’t think so.

So, then what? What am I to say to you? What am I do? These questions would be a lot easier to answer if instead of a place like Wheaton College I had gone to Hogwarts. Seriously, spells are great in these types of situations. You wave your magic wand, say a few magic words, and abracadabra, broken bones are healed, diseases cured, and wrongs made right.

However, I have no magic wand, and I have no magic words. I may have a collection of replica Harry Potter wands in my office at the house, but I don’t have any actual magic wand. I thought they might give me one at my ordination, but no, they gave me a Bible instead. So, I have no wand. I have no incantations. I have no spells. All I have, all us muggles have, is prayer to a Father who loves us and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, I am convinced on a day like today, on a day where we celebrate the paschal mystery and remember beloved St. Francis, who is known for having preached the Gospel to all of God’s creation, that when we recognize the distinction between how the world should be and how the world is, we are called to do what St. Francis did. That is we are called to pray and to preach the Gospel into all of creation.

There is a tendency in Christianity to internalize and individualize the Gospel, to say that Jesus came to save my soul. Except Jesus didn’t come to save merely your soul, but all that you are, and not just you, but everything that God created and called good. So, go out from this place and preach the Gospel to everything that God intends to redeem.

Preach the Gospel to the seagulls and to the slums. Preach the Gospel to the birds and to a broken marriage. Preach the Gospel to the sparrows and to the sick. Preach the Gospel to the hummingbirds and to the homeless. Preach the Gospel to your dogs and to the dying. Tell them that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. Tell them that all time and all creation are defined by his death, his resurrection, and his second coming. Tell them that all the things we want to define our lives by and all the things that we want to boast about in this world are nothing compared to the cross of Jesus Christ. Tell them that because of what Jesus has done, there is hope. Tell them that what’s lost can be found. Tell them that what’s broken can be restored. Tell them what has fallen can be lifted up. Tell them that even what has died can be raised from the dead.

This is our Father’s world. He made it. He called it good. When it broke down, he put a plan in place to restore it. And that’s why that little response in our liturgy is so important because it covers the past, the present, and the future. Christ has died. That’s the past. That the climax of the plan that God put in place to renew and restore his world. Christ is risen. That’s the present. That’s the place where the new creation begins, and the kingdom of God starts to make its way into creation. Christ will come again. That’s the future. That’s the answer to all of our questions. That’s the answer to all of hurt and all of our pain and all our suffering. Christ will come again. He will return. He will come back to make this place right. And when he does, what is lost will be found, what is broken will be restored, what is fallen will be lifted up, and what has died will be raised from the dead. That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so go out and preach that Gospel to all of creation, because there isn’t a single corner of creation that doesn’t need to hear it.

Amen.

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