Why Would God Create Us? – August 1
A sermon based on: John 6:1-21
given at Mount Vernon, Ohio, August 1, 2021
by Rev. Scott Elliott
It still feels so good to be back from sabbatical. I missed all of you and this beautiful sanctuary and our worship together so much! My main goal on sabbatical was to complete a script for A Christmas Carol and work on the production for Community Family Players, our theatre ministry that connects youth to the community, provides a wonderful Christmas event for Knox County, and raises funds for The Winter Sanctuary. I accomplished those production goals, far exceeding my initial expectations. Thank you for the privilege of a sabbatical to work on that wonderful project.
The August newsletter has a summary of that work and other things I was able to do on sabbatical. There was a lot more writing and lots of research and reading. I actually published a few worship drama scripts and worked on two books. I went to different on-line church services, attended a few days of Festival of Homiletics and watched a number of documentaries. Among other things I also spent a lot of time in contemplation and contemplative prayer.
Theology was– and always seems to be– a main theme I spend time on in research, reading and contemplation. One particular question I often come back to is simple in form, but baffling to consider. I’m not alone, it’s an age-old question, why did God create us? (Or in the parlance of philosophy, what is the meaning of life?) You’d think by now I’d be tired of that question, but, it often appears in my contemplative prayers and meditation; and in my ministry, it comes up a lot in classes and talks and Bible study.
I met with some clergy friends while I was away and we always spend time talking about God. One clergy friend and I spent a good deal of time going really rather deep in discussion on why God would create humans? What possible purpose could there be for God in creating beings that can choose between good and evil? Especially since they don’t always choose good!
Most of us probably grew up hearing Christianity’s go-to answer to the “why?” of human life. THAT answer is to find personal salvation by accepting Jesus into our hearts and believing in him. But for some of us it can be hard to fathom that a loving Creator creates lives that from the git-go need salvation, or that the salvation would depend on a very particular belief that some church men decided we need. Jesus, the decisive revelation of God for Christians does not teach that go-to answer. He names the ultimate goal of his followers is to love, love God and love others. I am convinced Jesus is right, that love is the answer to our purpose.
As I mentioned, I watched a lot of videos relating to church on sabbatical, including worshiping on-line with 13 churches. Every single sermon I heard– every one– was about love being our goal. But love as the answer to our purpose begs the question: But, why? Why would God make humans with a purpose to love? Why would God create our lives with a goal to love?
An answer can be gleaned from the Feeding of the Five Thousand story. Most of us are probably familiar with that story. It’s in all four Gospels, with variations. They all have a large crowd hanging around Jesus and the crowd needs nourishment. In the Gospel of John, as we heard, Jesus brings up the issue when he asked “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”
The disciples are blown away by the suggestion they can help nourish so many. Phillip points out that they don’t have the money to feed five thousand. Andrew looks beyond the money to see what they do have, and he finds a selfless youth with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. That’s an abundant meal for the lone youth– and it is probably even enough to feed Jesus and the disciples. Even so, those resources seem far too meager to feed five thousand. So, we can understand why the disciples want to send the crowd away to find their own nourishment, as it’s unreasonable to think that the available resources will suffice. And yet somehow they do suffice . . . abundantly, with leftovers aplenty.
Was this a supernatural event that literally happened? Each of us gets to decide that point. And in this church we allow that some may understand this story as literally true, and some may understand it as metaphorically true. That’s okay, the point of lifting up this story is not to debate the historicity, but to consider its meanings and how they might be of assistance.
I have a very irreverent book called Not the Bible. It parodies Scripture– and televangelism of the early 1980s. Written by two former National Lampoon employees, not theologians, the book still manages to stumble onto truths. For today’s lesson there’s an illustration of Jesus standing at a table taking loaves and fish out of a basket to hand to the crowd. Which sounds a lot like our lesson, except there’s a cutaway in the illustration depicting mounds of bread and fish beneath the table and a follower of Jesus can be seen hunkered down handing them up to Jesus through a hole in table and basket. While the authors meant to mock this miracle as a parlor trick, they actually catch the meaning of the story rather well. Jesus’ Followers gather up and provide necessities to those in need and distribute them THROUGH Christ. We gather what small amounts of necessities we can for matters that concern Jesus, and even if they seem inadequate, we give them over to Jesus to hand out. Right? We get the bread. We get the fish. We give it to the Body of Christ – the church– to nourish those in need.
The modest amounts that members of this church and other churches gather and give to Jesus, they all add up. The Hot Meals program we are part of is an obvious example. Every other Tuesday we prepare a version of loaves and fishes to give to the Body of Christ to feed those in need. Other days of the week other churches do the same thing and over the course of the year five thousand or more meals are provided by the Body of Christ to literally nourish those in need. Consequently, loaves and fish and love abound. Over the years a good number of people in this church have personally participated in the efforts to help hand food to Jesus to provide to those in need. All of us have helped with financial offerings too. During the pandemic first Beth Crawford, then Jane Griffith have headed up Hot Meals in these most difficult times with Pastor Mearle helping in many ways, and numerous others provide help too!
(If any of you are interested in helping provide or lead this provision of necessities through Christ, let Jane or Mearle or me know. We need volunteers. We need leaders)
And see participating in Hot Meals as well as our other missions and ministries that care for others is how we do that love part God made us for. But I still have not really answered the question “Why would God make humans with a purpose to love?” The answer is, to be God’s love in action in the world, we are a part of how God offers care.
In the book of Genesis, we are not just made in the image of God and with God’s breath, but we are said to be made as God’s care-takers. Genesis also indicates that we have knowledge of good and evil. With that knowledge comes a choice. Choosing good means caring enough to try to eliminate unwellness of being in creation. Choosing otherwise means creating or ignoring unwellness of being, that is choosing evil. God requires agents to do God’s work in the world, to seek justice and love kindness. We are made to be those agents. And we become God’s agents when we choose to do good to seek justice and love kindness.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it like this (in a quote I refer to often)
“Extraordinarily, God the omnipotent One depends on us, puny, fragile, vulnerable as we may be, to accomplish God’s purposes for good, for justice, for forgiveness and healing and wholeness. God has no one but us. St. Augustine of Hippo has said, ‘God without us will not as we without God cannot.’”
The purpose of life is choosing good. In so choosing we act for God. Acting for good and for God that’s our purpose. And God without us will not, as we without God cannot. AMEN
COPYRIGHT Scott Elliott © 2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED