Monday, June 12, 2017

Sermon: The Work of Your Hands

The Work of Your Hands
Psalm 8; Matthew 28: 16-20
by Rev. Carson Overstreet
Van Wyck Presbyterian Church
Trinity Sunday
June 11, 2017

O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honour.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
- Psalm 8

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
- Matthew 28: 16-20

One of the great gifts of ministry is simply being present with others. The gift of presence is certainly one of the core values of our church family here at Van Wyck. This is something I am very grateful for.

Last week I had the opportunity to serve Communion to one of our homebound members. It is sacred space to sit with one of the saints of the church; to reflect with them on this slower season of life and where they notice God within it.

On this particular day the front door was open. The trees were glorious and green. The sun was shining brightly in that big blue sky. And if you listened closely, you could hear the street whispering sweet affirmations of such a caring community. Knowing that this view greeted our beloved member daily I said, “You sure do have a little piece of heaven right here!”

And she replied, “Yes I do. I love seeing God’s handiwork from my front door.”

The Psalmist could not help but take time to be present with God too. His words convey his awe and wonder for the majesty of creation from where he sat. Just imagine all the places you have been where the landscape facing you literally takes your breath away. So it was for the Psalmist and he was moved to praise the work of God’s hands.

At the core of God’s being is the faithfulness of being present. Our Creator is so intimately connected to us. The Psalmist says, ‘Even the work of your fingers has fashioned every star and every living thing’ (Psalm 8:3-4).

The work of God’s hands can make us seem so small in the world as we stand against the ocean and mountains, look for shapes in the clouds, or gaze at the countless stars at night. It is humbling to consider the blessings God brings forth.

And yet the biblical texts tell us that the work of God’s hands reveal a great truth and an important response. The great truth is the affirmation of God’s eternal presence. The important response is to discover the role that the work of our hands has in the world.

Our Creator has given us dominion over the works of God’s hands, calling us to be stewards of God’s grace. In doing so, grace and gratitude guide the work of our hands to care for creation and one another.

This week the Spirit has been opening my eyes to see the wonders of your hands. I have seen many hands here caring for creation: keeping honey bees so that sweet honey may flow; working the farm with a deep respect for the land; tending to cows, horses, sheep and chickens with a love for these creatures; and nurturing gardens with green thumbs so that the earth abounds with produce for friends and neighbors.

I have also seen many hands that care for one another: a child’s hands learning to hold a baby as a mother’s helper; fingers that tell the stories of our lives through quilting and writing books; artistic hands that create precious moments and bring joy; hands of character that serve others without seeking attention.

The gift of faith allows us to look at the work of God’s hands in order to find deeper meaning and greater purpose in ours.

Constance Koch says, “When we cooperate in carrying out God’s plans for the world, empowering people to share in divine life, then we are truly God’s coworkers.”[1]

The body of Christ here at Van Wyck is certainly strengthening our faith muscles to be coworkers with God. We have an active body with hands that give generously and feet that follow in the footsteps of Christ.

The Spirit is at work among us to bring the work of all our hands together. Each time we put our faith into practice we praise God. Christ sends us out into the community and the world to encourage others to grow as disciples – followers of Christ. Disciples are not grown by great sermons. Disciples are shaped by seeing the work of God’s hands in you and in me.

We have seen God’s handiwork among us in meaningful ways.

God has moved us to share our resources to stock Hope’s food pantry to sustain our neighbors in need.
God has moved us to give away children’s books to foster a love of learning because education is power for young minds.
God is moving us to provide clothes for men transitioning from incarceration to the freedom of God’s forgiveness.
Together our hands are clothing these men in Christ to empower their hands to find work that brings dignity and integrity.

For the past year I have also been praying for an opportunity for our hands to work with churches across denominational lines to bring transforming unity in our community. And God’s faithfulness amazes me.

Three months ago I was invited to have lunch with a local clergy colleague. She told me that a group of local ministers are focusing on the high poverty rate among our Lancaster county students (k-12). These clergy are envisioning a way to give hundreds of children tools for a successful school year beginning in August.

The vision is called Lancaster Back to School Bash. Churches are working together to provide every child (k-12) with a new backpack, school supplies, and free haircuts. A major partner to this event is Samaritan’s Feet, who will allow every child to select a new pair of shoes and socks of their choice. As they look at the shoe selection, each child will be invited to have their feet washed and a prayer said over them.

When I shared the vision of Lancaster Back to School Bash with our Mission team and Session, they were beyond excited to be active in this ministry opportunity.

Our church will be an official sponsor. We will hold a school supply drive in July. And the best part is that we will have a team present at the event to wash the feet of children and youth and pray over them.

Collectively we will be coworkers with God to create love that brings unity in the community to empower our children. It will all happen on Saturday morning August 12. There is certainly a way for each of us to participate in this amazing ministry opportunity.

The work of our hands does not call us to be successful. The work of our hands calls us to be faithful. Everything we do is to be done for the glory of God. And our hands have an incredible example to follow. We are to keep our eyes on the work of God’s hands.

The hands of our Creator fashioned the heavens and earth, all creatures and humanity to live in relationship together. The hands of our Savior took the nails on the cross to bring us the humbling gift of salvation. The hands of the Spirit guide us to be changed every day by living into God’s promises of newly resurrected life. Great is God’s faithfulness.

Each time we put this gift of faith into practice, may we look up and praise God, saying “Thank you Lord, for the work of your hands!”

In the name of God our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.

Sources Referenced:
[1] David Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, “Feasting on the Word, Year A Volume 3” (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), Homiletics Perspective by Constance M. Koch, p. 35.

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