Simple Gifts

June 11, 2017

 

Psalm 8:1-9
Ephesians 4:1-7

Life can be so complicated at times. There’s even a relationship status on Facebook that let’s you choose, “It’s complicated” as a status!  Whatever that means. 

Most of us like simple things... don’t we?  
*3-ingredient recipes! (Meatballs, Lemon pie)

There’s an old Shaker Hymn that I wish was in our hymnal, called Simple Gifts... it begins with the line, “‘Tis the gift to be simple...” There’s just something appealing and refreshing and alluring about simplicity. 

There was a basic principle that one of my preaching professors (Dr. Fred Craddock) used to stress: the K.I.S.S. principle... which means keep is short, and simple!  And I’ve attempted to follow that advice, whether I’ve been very good at it, or not!       

Of course, everything in life’s not simple!  Some things are complex and detailed and cumbersome by nature! 

Tammy and I have four... 4 different remote controls for our Television in our den... 4 different remotes!  And I’m pretty sure we use no more than 2 buttons on each! It’s ridiculous how complicated simply turning on a TV and operating a DVD player has become. 

And speaking of complicated... Taxes... and just about anything that comes from... or is regulated by the government usually qualifies as NOT simple.  

Of course, “simple” can also have a negative connotation.  If someone calls us “simple” or a “simpleton” that’s not usually and complement... and it can be offensive.  

And we all know there’s certainly nothing simple about God.  Scholars and Theologians and folks a lot smarter than me... have collectively spent thousands of years trying to gain an understanding of God... and honestly, we’re no closer today than when we first began.  

It seems strange... odd... peculiar... maybe the word I’m looking for is Paradoxical... but with as complex and complicated as life and God can seem... you and I can only come to truly know God... Father/Son/Holy Spirit... with a “simple faith.”

Week in, and week out, we affirm our faith using the Apostle’s Creed.  The Creed’s a simple, basic, foundational statement, about the most important teachings in the Bible. 

But, as simple as it is... the Apostles’ Creed is full of rather complicated notions.  God is “Almighty,” the “maker of heaven and earth”. The first chapter of the first book of the Bible draws us into the mystery of a God who creates and sustains... who made us in his own image. The truths we learn from the Bible are beyond simplicity, beyond “black & white” - beyond facts, and nothing but the facts!  They delve into the mystery of a truth that’s beyond our understanding.

And yet... Sunday-after-Sunday we gather together to profess that faith... our faith... in a God Who’s beyond our understanding, as a church. Together, in unison, with one voice... we embrace for ourselves as individuals, and as the “Body of Christ” a list of concepts that point us to truths that words... no words... can fully express.  

The points of the Apostles’ Creed are kinda like road-signs along a highway... pointing us in the right direction... helping us navigate the path to the God Who creates, Who saves, and Who empowers us...  Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  And in it’s simplicity, it helps us engage a truth we can never fully understand... and that, when left to our own devices... we tend to complicate even further!

           There’s a story of a teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put his boots on. When he asked for help, it was easy to see why. With her pulling and him pushing, the boots still didn’t want to go on. When the second boot was finally on, she had worked up a sweat... when the little boy said, “Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.” She looked, and sure enough, they were.
            It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on — this time on the right feet. 
            He then announced, “These aren’t my boots.” She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, “Why didn’t you say so?” like she wanted to.
            Once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off. He then said, “They’re my brother’s boots. My mom made me wear them.”
            She didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up the grace to wrestle the boots on his feet again. She said, “Now, where are your mittens?”
            He said, “I stuffed them in the toes of my boots.”
            Sometimes we all need some help... because we make things more complicated than they need be...

The Doctrine of the Trinity is certainly one of those things!

Our Lesson for today reminds us that there’s “one Spirit... one Lord... one God and Father... but to each of us... grace is given as Christ apportions.” 

Dr. Karl Barth was one of the most brilliant and complex intellectuals of the twentieth century.  He wrote volume after volume on the meaning of life and faith.  A reporter once asked Dr. Barth if he could summarize what he had said in all those volumes... expecting some grand, theologically complicated response. But to his surprise, Dr. Barth thought for a moment and simply said: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

I don’t have to understand everything in the Bible to believe. We don’t have to be able to articulate all the intricate details of theology... the how’s and why’s... in order to have faith. We wouldn’t need faith otherwise!  Is faith not “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen?” (Heb. 11:1) We simply have to use the grace Christ has given us... the grace apportioned to us... in applying our faith and belief to life. 

When we realize that simple gift, we can profess with confidence:

I BELIEVE in God...
I BELIEVE in Jesus Christ...
I BELIEVE in the Holy Spirit...

The Shakers had it right... ‘Tis the gift to be simple...

‘Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right, 
  'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd, 
  To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight, 
  Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

Amen.

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