"We Will Do Greater Things"

Pat Vine, Spiritual Director

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 – Psalm 19 – Philippians 4:4b-14 – Matthew 21:33-46

Homily for Morning Prayer, October 4, 2020 (Pat Vine)

          It’s been a while since I’ve opened my homily with a joke, so here goes:  Why did Mother Nature trip the last day of summer?  To make it fall.

          Here’s a wise saying I found:  Always respect Mother Nature.  Especially when she weighs 500 pounds and is guarding her baby. 

                    Today’s Psalm expounds the very beauty and glory of God’s creation with such poetic language…Let us use our imagination to picture this:

          “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork.” 

          “In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun; it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber; it rejoices like a champion to run its course.”

          It is interesting that creation has been given the feminine name of Mother Nature.  She certainly mothers us with providing for our every need…sunshine for Vitamin D…plants for us to eat and nourish us… water to keep us hydrated…trees and plants that give us fresh air to breathe.  And when we delve deeply into the science of nature, our minds are boggled by the intricacies of how all of Nature works together to give us sustenance on this planet earth on which we live and thrive.  We inhale the oxygen that trees and plants exude and we exhale the carbon dioxide that trees and plants need to survive!  We are co-dependent with Nature.

          The more I think about this, the more I realize that everything we have on this earth comes from Mother Nature.  The metals that make up our buildings, cars, machinery, boats and spaceships.  The wood that gives us furniture and shelter in the walls of our homes.  The plastics that come from oil in the ground.  The countertops that come from granite and marble in the mountains.  The paper that comes from trees.  The milk and the beef that come from cows who graze on the grass.  The plants that feed our bodies.  The more I think about this, we are surrounded every day by Mother Nature and every day I feel a connection to her.  And every day I feel a deeper connection with my creator God for having created her.

          It piques my interest when I see that the psalmist then switches the focus to the law of the Lord being perfect and reviving the soul.  In verse 11, the psalmist says that by the law of the Lord we are enlightened and in keeping them there is great reward. 

          As I meditated on this psalm, I wondered why the psalmist switched  from God’s creation to the law of the Lord.  It appears there is a connection—that God’s laws are embedded and hidden in God’s creation for us to discover.  A prime example of this is when Jesus says “I am the vine and you are the branches.”  He speaks of pruning the dead branches in us to promote growth, just as a gardener does on the vine in the garden.  Here God’s laws parallel our growth in our spiritual journey.

I’d like to share an example in my own life of how I saw God’s law hidden in God’s creation.

          Many years ago, six parishioners from St. Michael’s flew to the Midwest to a conference that offered different ways to spread the gospel so that people would come to know the love of Jesus in their lives.  At that time, I had worked at my previous job down the block from where I live.  The office was a renovated house and my boss’ wife decorated the front for the fall with mums and corn stalks.

          While in the jet flying back home from the conference, I sat with a parishioner and a man at the window whom we did not know.  We struck up a conversation with the man, sharing a bit of our lives together.  I then got the distinct impression from the Holy Spirit within me to share the gospel with this man.  Being the willing but reluctant disciple that I am, I responded, “If you want me to share the gospel you’ll have to make an opening.”  In the course of our conversation, we found out that he was a Roman Catholic.  I asked him how his upbringing was in the church and we shared a commonality that we both had a very strict background as Catholics that taught us we had to earn our way to heaven and eternal life.  Garnering what I had learned at the conference and what I had learned over the years, I was able to simply share with him that heaven can’t be earned, but that Jesus offers us the free gift eternal life by what he did on the cross.  All we need do is to receive this gift that Jesus offers.  As soon as I said that, the man immediately changed the subject. 

          I instantly thought and second-guessed myself, “In sharing the gospel, did I say enough?”

          Upon arriving at work the next day, I noticed that the potted mums outside my office needed water desperately, as the soil was dry and the mums were droopy.  So I filled the watering can and proceeded to pour the water onto the dry soil.  The water skidded off the soil as fast as I could pour it, none of it sinking into the soil.  It dawned on me that I needed to pour a drop or two of water and wait, so that the dry soil could absorb it.  I immediately received this impression from the Holy Spirit:  “Pat, that’s all the man on the plane could absorb, just a drop of the gospel.”  I was stunned and God’s peace came over me.

          Here’s an excellent example of how God’s law is embedded in nature.  All I needed to share was a drop of the gospel since this is all that the man could absorb.

          It reminds me of where St. Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but it is God who causes the growth.”  Sharing the gospel may not mean stating the four laws that lead to accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Sharing the gospel does not mean beating people over the head with the Bible so they are forced to accept Jesus.  Sharing the gospel does mean to listen and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance for what the person needs with whom you are sharing the gospel.  It is the same as when Jesus met people, one on one, giving them exactly what they needed at the time to bring the kingdom of God to them.

          So I challenge you to look and discover God’s laws in Mother Nature in your own life.  Ask God’s Holy Spirit to show you where they are embedded. 

          I’ll close today with the encouragement I gave in this week’s St. Michael’s E-News to pray for the California wildfires.  Mother Nature is wreaking havoc with wildfires, there and in nearby states, that were caused by lightning strikes.  She needs to be tamed.  Jesus told us that we will do greater things than he did if we have faith.  Jesus told the wind to “Be still.”  Elijah prayed for rain and his servant saw a cloud forming in the sky the size of a man’s hand.  Let us use the prayer of imagination and the power that God gave us when God put us in charge of this earthly home.

Will you join me now in prayer?  In your imagination, see the clouds forming over the Pacific.  Picture the clouds moving eastward and a gentle rain falling on California and neighboring states.  See the rain increasing steadily.  Tell the wind to “Be still” and not flame the fires.  See the firefighters resting from their arduous labors and the people who have lost their homes eventually rebuilding.  Pray for the families who are grieving the loss of loved ones in these fires.  Our country and its people sorely need our prayers during this challenging time.  Amen.