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Sermons

Creation

August 14, 2011

Bible Reading

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep!
The dullard cannot know, the stupid cannot understand this:
though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever,
but you, O Lord, are on high forever.

(Psalm 92)

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”

Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

(Luke 24:13-35)

Sermon

“O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.” – Psalm 92:5

To the truth so expressed our hearts can respond at once. No fact of existence is more impressive than the wonderful nature and variety of God’s creation and the evidence of his far-seeing wisdom. Though men have been living on this planet for thousands of years, they have scarcely begun to learn the secrets of the physical universe. New marvels are constantly coming into view. Almost every day some fresh discovery is made, either of a natural force previously unknown, or of new ways in which a known force can be applied. No one knows what undiscovered blessings still lie hidden in nature’s storehouse.

The longer we reflect on such things, the more our wonder grows. When we consider that the earth on which we live is but one among an almost infinite number, the endless possibilities are too much for any human mind to comprehend. What is just as wonderful, we are taught that the grand purpose of creation is the building up of a heaven from the human race. There is no man or woman anywhere who is not surrounded by conditions which, if they are used properly, lead surely heavenward. Toward the accomplishment of that result divine providence is ever giving all possible aid consistent with man’s freedom.

No two men, even identical twins, are completely alike, nor do any two require the same circumstances for salvation. The Lord deals with each according to his need. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, he was making provisions, not only for you and me, but for all others now living or yet to be born. Not one was overlooked or forgotten in the slightest particular. Truly may we say with the Psalmist, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand.”

Whenever the Lord’s thoughts are mentioned, the mind of a Christian turns at once to his divine Word, as well as to his works, and this with good reason. For the Bible, which is the great charter of Christianity and the one source of its light, is full of divine wisdom. The Lord is infinite, and so must be his thoughts. There is no escape from the conclusion that creation and revelation do not present two standards of different value by which to judge him. Both are equally divine and perfect. It would be wrong to assume that one displays a more profound and far-seeing wisdom than the other. On the contrary, the Lord’s thoughts, however or wherever they find expression, are very deep.

Oddly enough, this fact is by no means generally accepted. Though most people believe that nature has many undiscovered secrets, not many acknowledge any such distinction for the Word of God. It is known that all of nature’s treasures do not lie on the face of the earth, but it is not widely admitted that divine revelation also holds treasures which have not yet come to light. People take for granted that all that the Scriptures teach is fully known and understood by them. On the basis of this judgment many declare that large parts of the Bible are obsolete and useless. Some reject the entire Bible as a source of authority.

Directly opposed to these ideas are the teachings of the New Jerusalem Church. We believe that the Scriptures express God’s thoughts, and are therefore divine truth itself. As such, they are infinite and inexhaustible. Their full meaning does not lie on the surface or come all at once to man’s comprehension. Within the sense of the letter are higher senses with which it makes one by correspondence. Those senses are to the letter what man’s soul is to his body; namely, the seat of life and power. From the same fountain the Scriptures derive their peculiar holiness.

They are the source of wisdom to angels as well as men. But angels read them in their higher meanings, while men on earth abide mainly in the sense of the letter. If ever we ascend to heaven and become angels ourselves, we shall read the Word of God as they do. Our minds will be illumined by the light of higher truth, as theirs are. Unlike other books, the Word of God is wondrously adapted to all degrees of intelligence and spirituality.

It speaks equally to the elderly and to children; to the wise in their wisdom, and to the childlike in their untarnished simplicity. And after their earthly life is ended it still speaks to them according to the state in which they are. Is not this what we should expect of the Divine Author? Could we, indeed, expect anything else of him? The truth to which he gives utterance must, by its very nature, be suited to all ages and conditions and to men of all times. Remember the words of Jesus, “The words that I speak unto you are spirit and are life.”

Jesus instructed his disciples “in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” They saw that the kingdom he came to establish was not of this world, but a heavenly and eternal kingdom. Thus they were led to see that his thoughts as expressed in the Word were not only “very deep” but far deeper than they had thought possible. And now a still further opening of the Scriptures has been granted to mankind, and deeper yet his thoughts are seen to be.

The spiritual and celestial senses within the letter reveal depths beyond depths, without end or limit. The time has come when those who seek to follow the Lord can bear the truth which Jesus promised. The Bible which generations of Christians have loved has not only been preserved as the guide to life but has been greatly increased in power and holiness. Nature and revelation are in a more complete unity, and join in singing, “O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.”

Prayer

O Lord, we pray thee, sow the seed of thy Word in our hearts, and send down upon us the showers of thy grace, that we may bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, and at the day of harvest may be gathered into thy heavenly garner, through thy mercy, O Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty.

Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,
For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.
- Revelation 15:3-4, 11

Rev. Wilfred G. Rice