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From Beauty to Compassion and Justice, July 30, 2023

Isaiah 52:7-10, Wendy Farley wrote, “The celebration of this beauty of beings, their communities and ecosystems, cannot exist without mourning assaults on them.” End Quote. We are seeing the effects of climate change and pollution in our world. Of course, scientists tell us we are large contributors to the problems.

Are you ready… to be an instrument of the Good?

Let us pray, Oh GOD, Great Creator, Jesus, our Redeemer, and Holy Spirit, our Inspiration, prepare our spirits to see and be awestruck by the beauty of life. GOD, please help us receive the beauty, and then help us share in beautiful ways with our neighbors. In Jesus’ Name we pray…Amen.

Our message series ends with a reaffirmation of our call to contemplative action in the world. The awareness of one another’s beauty is the “seedling for the birth of compassion and justice.”

GOD speaks through his Prophet Micah, chapter 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Folks, for several years of my life, that was my theme verse.

A contemplative life can empty us and ready us to become messengers of the Good.

My friends, let us be transformed by GOD. Let us affirm our plans to continue practicing “a way of beauty” that makes life “rich, courageous, generous, and joyful” as active agents of the Divine Beauty in the world.

For the beauty of the earth,

for the glory of the skies,

for the love which from our birth,

over and around us lies.

God of all to thee we raise

This our hymn of grateful praise!

Well, this has been fun searching for beauty for the last six weeks. Think for a moment about what was the most amazing, favorite thing you noticed since we’ve been looking closely and loving the beauty of creation. I hope you will talk about some things you remember and loved with someone this week.

Our scripture this week is from the book of GOD’S Prophet Isaiah. In Isaiah’s time the people were waiting for some good news; they had been living in exile. Sound familiar? We love it when we get good news, right? Well, they were really needing some and Isaiah gives them a beautiful vision.

The people see a messenger coming over the mountains and they begin to hear the message… peace has come! No more tears! What do you do when you get good news? Jump up and down with joy? Yep, that’s what the people do. They do a happy dance!! [dance for joy]!

So, the last things we are going to look for is something to help US be the messengers of good news. Wouldn’t that be fun to be the one who causes people to dancing a happy dance of joy?

Put your hands up to your mouth and say “good news is coming!” Let’s do it together… 1..2..3..“Good news is coming!” You know what would help us say it even louder? More force with your voice.

One more time real loud on the count of 3… let’s say “good news is coming, 1, 2, 3----Good news is coming!”

That was great. I’ll bet the deer could hear that. Actually, that’s the point. Good news can be as simple as saying “hello” to a neighbor or taking care of something someone needs. When we love the beauty of the earth, we want to help make everyone’s life more beautiful. This is the good news we share. Let’s pray a repeat-after-me prayer:

God of Goodness [repeat, etc]

Thank you for beauty…

thank you for good news…

Help me…

help you…

bring beauty to someone else…

and be a messenger of good news…

for the beauty of the earth…Amen!

We often hear today’s reading from Isaiah around the time of Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of the one called the “Prince of Peace.” The people to whom Isaiah writes are oppressed and exiled by their captors. They have known much suffering. When Isaiah writes “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one who brings good news,” it is not the feet, specifically, that are beautiful, it is the whole message of release from suffering that creates a beautiful peace. It is akin to the saying, “you are a sight for sore eyes!” The image of a messenger that brings good news is a welcome sight and cause for joy. To be part of the restoration of love and peace and hope is our call to unveil more beauty in the world.

Isaiah 52:7-10, from the Message Translation, “How beautiful on the mountains

are the feet of the messenger bringing good news,

Breaking the news that all’s well,

proclaiming good times, announcing salvation,

telling Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Voices! Listen! Your scouts are shouting, thunderclap shouts,

shouting in joyful unison.

They see with their own eyes

God coming back to Zion.

Break into song! Boom it out, ruins of Jerusalem:

“God has comforted his people!

He’s redeemed Jerusalem!”

God has rolled up his sleeves.

All the nations can see his holy, muscled arm.

Everyone, from one end of the earth to the other,

sees him at work, doing his salvation work.”

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to GOD!

I have been so very blessed in my life. GOD used Laurie Wolff to change my life. I had a good life: married to Hope, our children Jacob and Sarah. I knew I was doing what I was called to do: I was a school teacher. Then Laurie invited our family to travel with a Volunteers In Mission Team to Blue Gap Full Gospel United Methodist Church in July of 1994.

That experience with all of these intentional Christians on our mission team and the folks at Blue Gap changed my life. I saw how deep their faith was and how shallow mine was. When we got back home, Hope, Jacob, Sarah and I sat down for a family meeting.

I felt GOD call me to ministry when I was about 13 years old; but I kind of ran when I was about 16. I told my family that I felt called to be a pastor. The next year, 1995 I started to answer my call to full time Christian ministry.

I went on 1 or 2 short term missions every year for over 20 years.

I saw the beauty in the folks and the land in the area and GOD changed my life.

As we have done for most weeks of this series, you have been invited to let your gaze wander during the week and perhaps land on something that has literally “caught your eye” before. I hope that beyond this series, you will find yourself continuing those contemplative practices that “caught your attention”–that brought you a deeper love of life. And always remember that “looking around”–whether we do that with our eyes or other senses–is how we notice the beauty in the world and in the people we encounter, but also how we notice the suffering and are called to intercede in prayer and action for the healing of all.

Henri Nouwen wrote a devotion entitled, “In Service We Encounter God.” Nouwen wrote, “Radical servanthood does not make sense unless we introduce a new level of understanding and see it as the way to encounter God. To be humble and persecuted cannot be desired unless we can find God in humility and persecution. When we begin to see God, the source of all our comfort and consolation, in the center of servanthood, compassion becomes much more than doing good for unfortunate people. Radical servanthood, as the encounter with the compassionate God, takes us beyond the distinctions between wealth and poverty, success and failure, fortune and bad luck. Radical servanthood is not an enterprise in which we try to surround ourselves with as much misery as possible, but a joyful way of life in which our eyes are opened to the vision of the true God who chose to be revealed in servanthood. The poor are called blessed not because poverty is good, but because theirs is the kingdom of heaven; the mourners are called blessed not because mourning is good, but because they shall be comforted.”

“Here we are touching the profound spiritual truth that service is an expression of the search for God and not just of the desire to bring about individual or social change.”

Henri J. M. Nouwen

Jesus tells us in John 12:26, "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me."

Throughout our time contemplating the theology of beauty and Divine Goodness, we have been making the connections between the well-being of our souls to the well-being of the whole of earth and all beings.

My prayer is that you will continue to use the contemplative practices experienced in this time to cultivate your life of compassion. The note for this last week of our message series is a quote from Dr. Wendy Farley: “A contemplative life can empty us and ready us to become instruments of the Good.… for the beauty of the earth.”

I pray, my friends, it will continue to be so for all of us.

Please rise as you are able and let us sing,

“Go Ye Into The World” printed in your bulletins…

Benediction

The world is so varied and beautiful.

Seek wisdom wherever it is to be found.*

And may the goodness of the Creator,

the companionship of the Christ,

and the insight of the Spirit,

infuse your life now and always.

Amen.

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