I am now back after a few days break and getting ready for our AGM tomorrow. Today I am posting the first of my recent radio broadcasts. The next will follow over the next couple of weeks. They are written to be spoken - if you see what I mean! I am trying to take up some of the themes from Romans and present them in a contemporary way although I didn't say that on air!
I will resume the series on Paul next week.
I hope your weekend is good!
The Bible is quite clear that we are not alone in this universe and nor are we at the centre of it. It used to be thought that the earth was the centre of the universe: now we know better. Despite this knowledge, however, we still act as if we are the centre. We know that we are not physically the centre of the universe, but we act as if spiritually we are. And so, we disregard the importance and significance of other beings, animal and human, and treat our planet with complete disdain. We know that pollution and global warming are a reality, but do little of consequence about it. The thought that we may have to make sacrifices, real sacrifices, to make a difference is not an option most of us are willing to entertain. Why shouldn’t I have the sort of lifestyle that makes me happy?
It’s not that we are not religious – we are! But we like to choose our gods. We want gods that suit us, and certainly not gods that make demands of us and tell us what to do. I was looking through one of the Sunday supplements recently, page after page was devoted to advertisements for handbags. Not handbags in general, of course, but designer handbags; hand bags costing thousands of dollars in some cases. Now I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with handbags as such. Jolly, useful for carrying things around! But these designer bags – as opposed to the useful variety that you can actually carry stuff in – symbolize our obsession with material things. And if it is not handbags, then it is expensive cars or any number of other consumer goods. These are our gods.
Religious people often get accused of being foolish, of worshipping something, someone, that they have invented for themselves. Well don’t accuse us of foolishness when what matters most to you is the latest offering from Gucci or Mercedes. What could be more foolish than that? St Paul writes of men and women:
‘For though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools …’ (Romans 1:21)
St Paul’s point is that we were created by God and given every chance by him to know him and worship him. We chose, however, not have anything to do with him. We did not become atheists in the process, however, that is, people who do not believe in any god, we simply replaced the real and true God with ones of our own imagination. In the past, these took the form of statues of animals or even other humans. Now, as we have grown more sophisticated, although not more intelligent, they take other forms. Whatever, we still worship the creature, not the Creator.
For the Christian, our understanding of the creation teaches us that we are not the centre of the universe, God is, and the creation is just that: something that he created. It doesn’t mean that it is not good, not important, or not to be enjoyed. Quite the contrary. Precisely because God created it, it is good, and, therefore, it is to be enjoyed and taken care of. We are not despise or reject it, and we are not to pollute or destroy it. Nor are we unimportant: we are the creations of God, made in his image and likeness. Our place in the world is not at the centre of it, but nor is it the bottom of it.
Roman Catholics used to learn something in the UK called the Penny Catechism, so-called because it cost a penny! It was designed to teach the Christian faith by a series of questions and answers. It begins:
Question: Who made you?
Answer: God made me.
Question: Why did God make you?
Answer: God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world and to be happy with him for ever in the next.
‘God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world and to be happy with him for ever in the next.’
Somehow, the idea of ‘knowing God, loving and serving him in this life’ and then ‘being happy with him for ever in the next’ seems infinitely better than pursuing the sort of goals that we are constantly encouraged to pursue and which many of us give our lives for. And knowing God certainly sounds more fulfilling than knowing what the latest fashions are.
Christians believe that we can know God and that finding him is not only possible, but also reasonably straightforward. Jesus said:
‘Ask, and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who seeks finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.’
Given what is on offer, surely it is worth a try!