Aug 19, 2019
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2019-08-19-devotional-Time to take care of this place
Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
Carole, my wife, and I ate at a Mongolian Beef restaurant last night. You know the kind of place. You go through the line putting the meat and vegetables you want into a bowl, pick out the sauce for the stir fry, watch it go on a giant circular grill that’s hot enough to singe your eyebrows if you get too close, and then enjoy what you created. That is if you put a reasonable mix of ingredients together.
We enjoyed the place and the food, but I think something was wrong with the air conditioning. We should have noticed when the host met us at the door looking like he just finished his workout at the gym. But we took a seat, got our drinks, and headed to the food line to make our selections. It didn’t take long for us to figure out all the servers also looked like they just finished a workout.
Sure they were working hard getting food on the tables, clearing those where patrons had finished, doing all the things workers in restaurants do. But these young men and women were obviously steamed, not emotionally, but because of the temperature. We began to feel the effects, too. Maybe it was the huge grill that made it hard for the A/C to keep up. Maybe they forgot to pay their electric bill. Maybe it was just broken. Whatever the reason, it was hot.
By the time dinner ended, Carole and I looked like those servers. We looked like we just finished a workout. It was hot. Well, it’s summer in San Antonio, Texas. Not a great time of year to visit our city. It’s hot. The news channels give us heat warnings this time of year reminding us it’s dangerous to work outside too long or leave children or animals in cars whether or not windows are open. This time of year, the inside of a car can reach 130 degrees in about 10 minutes. Pretty dangerous.
Remembering how hot our dinner date ended up last night, I couldn’t help but use the lectionary passage from Luke as the focus for this week’s podcast. In chapter 12, Jesus says these words:
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
“I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!
“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens.
You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
Did you get those first words of the Savior? “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” That doesn’t sound much like salvation, does it? That doesn’t sound much like rescuing us from everything, does it? It sounds more like wrath and destruction. It sounds like cleansing and purging.
If you listen to Jesus’ words, that is exactly what it is. God wants to rescue his creation. He created this cosmos and declared it was good. But we corrupted it. We disobeyed and brought sin and chaos into the perfect order of his creation. God doesn’t want to leave his good creation in the chaotic mess we made. God wants to restore his good creation back to the perfect state he intended from the beginning. The question is how will he do that?
Jesus hints at that several times as he talks with his disciples and Paul tells us in his letters to the churches. Here’s the plan: all of creation awaits a renewal, a rebirth, a new heaven and new earth. Jesus tells us before the present age gives birth to a new heaven and new earth, it will go through birth pangs of earthquakes and floods and famine and wars.
I’ve been thinking a lot about those birth pangs Jesus describes over the last several years. Carole has given birth twice. I was fortunate enough to be present for both and watched her go through those birth pangs. I would have endured the pain for her, but glad I didn’t have to go through it. But I watched those labor pains get more intense with each repetition and I watched those repetitions get closer together until finally they almost fell on top of each other and her doctor gave the order to push. With that order each time, two brand new people sucked in their first gulp of fresh air and let out that wonderful sounding cry only a newborn can make.
Those two births were two of the most exciting events in my life. But as I watch the news and hear reports of earthquakes in unusual places, rains pouring into lands that haven’t flooded in 1,000 years, wildfires that seem to go unabated around the globe, famines that strike almost every country, I can’t help but think of the announcements Jesus made about the present age giving birth to a new age. An age that creates a new heaven and a new earth.
I’ve been studying lately what that new heaven and earth might be like. What I’ve discovered is that it might be very much like this earth, this cosmos, this place, but without the evil, without the pollution, without the ugliness we have caused in the beauty God gave this place in his creative act. I think God made it perfect and this globe we call earth is a poor image, but still an image of the good earth he created. I have a feeling God might not throw away the good creation he made, but rather, like the humans he says transforms, he will transform, renew, recreate this earth and make it new. I’m not sure he plans to rid us of this place as much as just taking away all the corruption we have caused and just fixing it.
You see, if God can resurrect his son and give him a physical body that is recognizable as his son, but with properties unlike those of our current body, and his son says we will one day be resurrected and have bodies like his, physical bodies with properties unlike those of our current bodies; then why can’t he transform this world and renew it, recreate it, and return us to the purpose for which he created men and women in the first place. Remember the task he gave Adam in the beginning? He said to take care of his creation.
I think when God purges the corruption of this earth with fire and recreates this place, transforms his children in resurrection by the power of his spirit, and renews his purpose for his whole creation, we will again be his stewards to tend to his good creation. We will have renewed physical bodies empowered with his spirit with purpose and talents to care for his world. He will come to be with us in this new world to commune with us as he did with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the beginning.
Is that poor theology? I don’t think so. We know Jesus is coming back. We know we will be transformed. We know we will be with him forever if we accept him as Lord of all. Why would we think we would not have work to do in the new world he creates for us. The bigger question is what should that do for us now as we think about our stewardship of this world if it will be transformed and not destroyed? Maybe we should think about how to care for it a little better in the meantime.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.