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Beauty, Contemplation, and Radical Compassion, June 25, 2023

Ezekiel 31:3-7, For the next few weeks, we will be talking ABUNDANT BEAUTY!! Cultivating a Life of Contemplation and Compassion. We will become more aware of how beautiful the world is and everything and everyone in it! We will be on a “search for beauty”–seeing what we can find every week to help us notice more beauty and make more beauty.

This week the Bible tells us of a beautiful tree. It is taller than all the other trees and the Bible tells us why it grew to be so tall: GOD DID IT!!

Most of the folks in this area moved here because they wanted to be closer to GOD’S creation, in the woods, near water, in the middle of GOD’S beautiful creation. So hopefully this message series will be a vehicle for you to help others open up to the beauty of GOD’S creation.

The tree in the Bible is called a “Cedar of Lebanon.” Many faiths use a tree as a symbol of life. We hear how the cedar tree was well-watered by a spring that ran near it.

The Cedar of Lebanon always had what it needed to grow. So, it grew so tall and its branches so wide that birds were able to make their homes in its branches and under the tree many animals could make their homes and grow their families.

Because the tree was taken care of, it could take care of many other things. It could create and protect the beauty of the earth.

In the middle east where the people of the Bible lived, everyone knew the importance of water for everything. There were no stores to buy water. You had to know how to save water and you knew that nothing lived without water.

On Friday I was walking our dog, Ebenezer, on the trail near the Innsbrook log cabin. I changed our daily route and decided to head to the spill way waterfall trail. Last Summer in August, Eb, at 3 months old, and I started walking those trails. Even in August there was water in the spillway, making for a beautiful waterfall. Two days ago on Friday, it was bone dry! Not on drop of water.

When the rain comes there will be a lot more water, of course. This past spring the wild flowers were so very beautiful along the trails.

Most of the time in this life we are focused on what is on our “to-do” list. We focus on our hunger and begin thinking what we want to eat. We focus on our aches and pains. We watch the news to find out what’s going on in the world. We wonder when and if the rains will come.

Many of us are stuck in our heads, and some folks start thinking their “to do” list is more important than GOD.

Let’s go back for just a moment to Pew Bible page 719 to Ezekiel 31: verse 10 and following, “I [GOD] made the Cedar beautiful

in the mass of its branches,

and all the trees of Eden envied it,

that were in the garden of God.

10 “Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because it towered high and set its top among the clouds, and its heart was proud of its height, 11 I will give it into the hand of a mighty one of the nations. He shall surely deal with it as its wickedness deserves. I have cast it out. 12 Foreigners, the most ruthless of nations, have cut it down and left it. On the mountains and in all the valleys its branches have fallen, and its boughs have been broken in all the ravines of the land, and all the peoples of the earth have gone away from its shadow and left it. 13 On its fallen trunk dwell all the birds of the heavens, and on its branches are all the beasts of the field.”

This is the Word of the LORD!! THANKS BE TO GOD!!

The moral of the story is GOD provides our growth, and don’t forget it. GOD has hid prophet Ezekiel use the tree as an analogy for what was going to happen to Egypt!

But when we humbly and intentionally get out into GOD’S creation we can open our eyes, our ears and our hearts to the ABUNDANT BEAUTY of GOD’S creation.

Those were the exact words I would use when I worked at Little Creek Nature Area in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, to try to get all the folks to open themselves to experience GOD’S Creation; all the way from preschool, and Kdg, all the way up to adults our age: First, I’d get everyone in the group into a big circle in the shade of the giant pines out in front of the buildings.

Then I’d say, “Spread out your feet a little bit, get into the ready position. Now do what I do and say what I say,

Open your eyes, Open your ears, and Open your hearts.

When you really see something, then you can open your heart.

Beauty is what makes things real. If we don’t pay attention we are not present and we won’t see the beauty. Beauty can help us get out of our heads. Beauty can distract us from our “to do” list for a while and then we can intentionally connect to GOD and GOD’S creation.

Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “The world is GOD’S poem to us.” And my friends, some people never hear, or see, or feel, or touch, or smell this wonderful poem. Not really, because they are so focused on their “to do” list.

Folks, I am going to ask you to add something to your “to do” list: “STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES!”

In 1970 Ray Stevens published a song, “Everything is Beautiful.” Part of that songs lyrics reads as follows,

“Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red and yellow, black and white

They are precious in his sight

Jesus loves the little children of the world

Everything is beautiful in its own way

Like a starry summer night

On a snow covered winter's day

And everybody's beautiful in their own way

Under God's heaven

The world's gonna find the way

There is none so blind

As he who will not see

We must not close up minds

We must let our thoughts be free

For every hour that passes by

You know the world gets a little bit older

It's time to realize that people lies

In the eyes of the beholder.”

I asked a friend the question, “What is beautiful?

And she said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

My friends, Are you “beholding” GOD’S gifts to us?

EVERYTHING that GOD creates is beautiful in it’s own way. We can learn to look with our spirit eyes, and not just the eyes in our head.

When a mother hears her baby cry. She jumps up and goes to see why her baby is crying. She doesn’t do a moral calculus to make a decision. She gets up and goes to the baby

because she loves the baby.

We can fall in love with GOD’S creation if we will work on being open to GOD’S creation. That’s the practice of Cultivating a Life of Contemplation. If we fall in love with GOD and GOD’S creation then we can’t be indifferent to creation’s destruction.

Rachel Carson explains to us this way, "Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have for destruction." End Quote.

If we will Cultivate a Life of Contemplationwe will wake up to GOD in us. And we will wake up to the beauty of this world; but we will also wake up to the suffering in this world. GOD created us in GOD’S image: generous, grace-filled, loving, and RADICALLY COMPASSIONATE!! GOD desperately cares about each and everyone of us and ALL OF CREATION!!

Each and everyone of us is TOTALLY LOVED BY GOD!! Each and everyone of us is unique and we can express GOD’S love in a different way to GOD’S Creation than anyone else!!

In our diversity is our strength! GOD created a diverse world!!

If we will Cultivate a Life of Contemplation then and only then can we begin to have compassion for all of GOD’S creation. When we see that everything is beautiful in its on way then we begin to care. But we need to be “care full F-U-L-L!!”

Henri Nouwen wrote about “Inviting Closeness with the Other.”

Father Nouwen wrote, “To care means first of all to empty our own cup and to allow the other to come close to us. It means to take away the many barriers that prevent us from entering into communion with the other.”

When we dare to care, then we discover that nothing human is foreign to us, but that all the hatred and love, cruelty and compassion, fear and joy can be found in our own hearts.

When we dare to care, we have to confess that when others kill, I could have killed, too. When others torture, I could have done the same. When others heal, I could have healed, too. And when others give life, I could have done the same. Then we experience that we can be present to the soldier who kills, to the guard who pesters, to the young man who plays as if life has no end, and to the old man who stopped playing out of fear for death.

By the honest recognition and confession of our human sameness we can participate in the care of God who came, not to the powerful but powerless, not to be different but the same, not to take our pain away but to share it. Through this participation we can open our hearts to each other and form a new community.”

Henri J. M. Nouwen "Above all, love each other deeply, because loves covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." 1 Peter 4:8-9 NIV

At Harmonie we Listen, we Learn, and we Love!!

Our Harmonie Church Family supports the following missions:

Wright City Community Food Pantry

Agape Ministry of Warren County

Operation Backpack for Warrenton RIII

& Wright City RII Schools

Turning Point Women’s Shelter

Warren County Senior Center

Missions to the World-Missionary Susan Newkirk

RBC Ministries - Our Daily Bread

We do a wonderful job of continuing to give to these important ministries. And so we need to continue but I want you to know, my life was changed by going somewhere and learning about our neighbors. Our Mission is to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!!

Our vision is to accomplish our mission is to LISTEN to GOD and our Neighbors. LEARN from GOD and our Neighbors. And Love GOD and our Neighbors.

It’s hard to LISTEN to folks that need help, sitting here in our church or sitting at home. It’s hard to LEARN from folks, sitting here in our church or sitting at home. And it’s hard to LOVE folks sitting here in our church and sitting at home.

On pew Bible page 835, Jesus’ last words on this earth as the Risen Christ were recorded in Matthew 28:19 & 20,

“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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So, Jesus is always with us, especially as we open ourselves to the ABUNDANT BEAUTY, all around us. When we Cultivate a Life of Contemplation we will begin to REALLY CARE ABOUT ALL OF GOD’S CREATION AND WE WILL DEVELOP RADICAL COMPASSION;

AS WE LISTEN, LEARN, AND LOVE!!

Please Rise as you are able and let us sing

“Bind Us Together” printed in your bulletin or you can turn to page #690

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