This sermon was delivered to the congregation at Trinity United Methodist Church in Youngstown, Ohio on April 9, 2000.
Let’s go back to the beginning, Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
That’s what it says! God created the heavens and the earth. It doesn’t say God made the heavens and the earth…It doesn’t say he xeroxed the heavens and the earth…Or built or developed…Or mass-produced…No…The word is simple…God created the heavens and the earth.
Creating is something far different than constructing. When you construct something, it usually means engaging your hands. Creating something engages the heart and the soul!
Think about something you’ve created…A painting perhaps…Or a song…Or lines of poetry…That you have never shown to anyone. Maybe a dog house or a bird house.
How did you feel toward that creation…Good?…I hope so!…Proud? Certainly when you create something you’re putting yourself in it…And, it’s far greater than an ordinary assignment or a task…It’s an expression of you.
Of all the things we don’t know about creation, there is one thing that we do know…God did it with humor and a smile!!
I believe God had a blast painting the stripes on the zebra! Hanging the stars in the sky! Putting gold in the sunset! What creativity!
Stretching the neck of the giraffe … What creativity! Putting “Flutter” into the finches wings…Planting the giggle in the hyena.
What a time God had…Like a whistling carpenter in his workshop, I think God loved every minute of it.
So intent was God’s creative effort that he took a day off at the end of the week…Just to rest! And, that sets a perfect example for all of us.
And then, as a finale to a brilliant performance, God made man! With his typical creative flair, he began with a useless mound of dirt and ended with an invaluable species called a human being. A human who had the unique honor to bear the stamp “Made in the image of God.”
At this point in the story, one would be tempted to jump and clap and shout bravo! Encore! Unmatchable! Beautiful!” but the applause would be premature because the divine creator had yet to unveil his greatest creation. You know what that was.
As the story unfolds, Satan in his form of a snake, pressures the woman to eat of the forbidden fruit. This one act of rebellion against God set in motion the dramatic and constant tension between God and man. But God, still the compassionate creator…Woos his creation and the creation, alternately reaches out in repentance and runs in rebellion.
It is within this simple script that God’s creativity flourishes. If you thought he was imaginative with the sea, the stars, and the animals, read in the bible what he does to his creation!
- A ninety year old woman gets pregnant.
- Another woman is turned to salt.
- A flood blankets the earth.
- A bush leaps into flames, but doesn’t burn up.
- The red sea splits in two.
- The walls of Jericho fall.
- Fire rains from the sky
You talk about “Special effects!”…But these acts…Be they ever ingenious…Still couldn’t compare with what was to come.
During the climax of the story, God, motivated by love and directed by divinity, surprised everyone…God became a human being – Emanuel! God with us!
In an untouchable mystery, he disguised himself and lived in a dusty Judean village called Nazareth.
Determined to prove his love for his creation, he walked incognito through his own world…His calloused hands healed wounds and diseases. His compassionate speech touched hearts with the good news of the gospel. He became one of us.
Like a master painter, God reserved his masterpiece until the end. And, the earlier acts of love had been leading to this one. The angels hushed, the heavens paused to witness the finale. God unveiled the canvass, and the ultimate act of creative compassion was revealed.
The creator being sacrificed for his own creation! God convincing us – once for all – that forgiveness still follows failure.
I often wonder, while on the cross, if the creator allowed his thoughts to wander back to the beginning. Did all those faces and facts parade in his memory? Do you suppose God thought about his creation? The sky? The sea? Do you suppose he might have relived the conversation he had with Abraham and Moses ? Did he remember the plagues and the promises, the wilderness and his wanderings?
The truth is, we don’t know, but we do know what he said…“It is finished!”
His mission was finished…All that the creator needed to do was done, and it was done in splendor! “It is finished,” he cried … And the great creator went home.
What we must remember is that Jesus did not quit. Don’t think for one minute that he wasn’t tempted. I imagine her winced as he watched the apostles backbite and quarrel among themselves. He wept as ho stood at Lazarus’ tomb. How agonizing it must have been as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane.
Did he ever want to quit? Yeah! You bet! .And, I guess that’s why for us his words are so meaningful.
“It is finished.” imagine the cry from the cross ? . . . The sky is dark . . .The other two victims are moaning . . . The jeering mouths are silent . . .There is wind and lightning and thunder . . .There is weeping . . .There is silence.
Jesus draws in a very deep breath . . .And cries . . .“It is finished!”
The long plan of redeeming humankind was finished . . .The message of God to human beings – “It is finished.” the works done by Jesus as a man on earth are finished. The task of selecting and training gospel-spreading ambassadors is finished.
His song had been sun . . . His blood had been shed . . . His sacrifice had been made . . . The sting of death had been removed!
“It is finished.” A cry of defeat? Not hardly! Had his hands not been fastened down, I believe that a triumphant fist would have punched the dark sky.
“It is finished.” is not a cry of despair . . . It is a cry of victorious completion . . . A cry of fulfillment.
My friends, as you look into your life right now, are you close to quitting? Please – please – don’t do it!!!
Are you discouraged about your lot in life? Hang in there!
Are you weary working in the church? Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and do a little more!
Are you pessimistic about your job? Roll up your sleeves and keep going!
No communication in your marriage? Give it one more genuine shot!Make the effort to begin to open the lines of communication between you and your spouse.
You can’t resist temptation? Accept God’s forgiveness and go one more round!
Is your day framed with sorrow and disappointment? Are your tomorrows turning into nothings? Is the word “Hope”, the feeling of “Hope”, the action of “Hope” in your life something that used to be?
Remember, a finisher is not the one with no wounds or weariness . . . Quite to the contrary, my friends!
Mother Theresa is credited as saying, “God didn’t call us to be successful – just faithful!” the land of promise is for those who simply remain faithful to the end.
I often think of the words of ii Timothy 4:7,9, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who longed for his appearing.”
Thank you lord Jesus for teaching us to remain . . . To endure . . .To finish!
Jesus won the victory and we now have the promise that we too can win the victory!
These words from the cross open new vistas of life for all of us who accept what has been done for us.
We must accept Christ’s victory and make it our victory that’s the only way we can live the victorious and complete life.
We must live in Christ, or our lives will be filled with unfinished business and unending regrets.
The victory of Christ is for all of us, as long as there remains one person . . . One person . . . Who is struggling with life’s problems and temptations, the work of Jesus is not finished.
We all have mental pictures of Christ on the cross. But, there is a particular portrayal that is becoming popular today. Christ is on the cross but he is clothed in royal robes and he bears a royal crown on his head . . .His face has the look of triumph upon it. There is a lot to be said for this representation. Our lord is no longer crying in agony. The king assumes his throne.
Jesus has won the victory!
He has finished his work and opened the way for victory for each of us. Our lord speaks from the cross and says, “It is finished!”
His work is finished, but ours continues! With God our creator in control, let us go forth together to do his will . . . Now and forever!
A closing prayer…
Father, let us ever remember that Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins. Let us shout or whisper thankful prayers for this glorious compassionate act of redemption for us.