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A sense of wonder

A number of years ago we bought a lovely black Labrador puppy and named her Rosie. Rosie and I went to puppy school so I could learn how to be a good obedient puppy owner. Although Rosie and I gained first place in the schooling, there was one command which I wasn’t giving Rosie correctly – the command to drop – ie on all fours on the ground. On that command Rosie would always cock her head to one side as if to say, ‘Speak proper doggie English dad!’

 Sometime later, I wanted to train Rosie a new trick, so, in the vein of Young Einstein (if you’ve seen the movie), I thought I would train her to speak proper English. I asked her to watch my eyes and then said to her ‘speak’. She looked into my eyes, and nothing happened except for that inquisitive look with the head cocked to one side.

 Not to be outdone, I said in plain, clear English ‘Coorrnflakes!’ – to which she immediately dropped to the ground on all fours. From that day forward, Rosie’s new command for a drop to the ground was ‘cornflakes’ – which, when other people were around, caused them to cock their head to one side with such inquisitive question marks on their face!

 In the Psalm reading with us today, we read of wild animals and cattle and all manner of creepy crawlies being told to Praise the Lord, birds too, and mountains and hills and stars and sun and moon and even humans!

 But wait a moment! I’ve been in ministry for 36 years tonight, and I wouldn’t say I’m any Billy Graham at winning hearts for God. Nor could I ever convince animals and birds and stars and sun and moon and even humans to praise God. And I’m pretty sure that you’re probably in the same boat here!

 So what’s happening?

 Having given this some weighty thought, I suspect that this call for all of creation to Praise God is something that’s cemented in place by God. Creation in all its form and shape cannot not praise God! All creation is alive and in its own way offers its praise to God.

 My body clock seems to have a built-in alarm that generally goes off at around 4 am. I love waking up at that time – usually when everything is quiet and calm – except for the early morning bird chorus which I interpret as being their praise to God.

I thoroughly enjoy being outside and looking into the first light, for it’s there that the stars and the moon and the early morning sunshine and the clouds offer their praise to God. The list goes on, and I’m sure that you’re getting the idea that God is to be praised in the context of the whole world and our place it that world.

 And then I think about humans. There have been times when I’ve thought that many in Australia are without the Spirit of God.

That runs contrary to the imperatives of this Psalm, and I think I’m starting to believe that, as humans, we often, if not always, give our praise to God. It’s just that we who have been schooled in the church don’t do this in a way which we understand others should praise God.

 I think a lovely illustration of this happened for me when I was watching on TV an interview on the ABC’s 7.30 show on the 4th of December. Leigh Sales was interviewing Sir Paul McCartney of the Beatles fame. Paul was in Australia for some concerts.

 In wrapping up the interview, Paul said to Leigh “I like to keep a sense of wonder. I don’t want to get too jaded you know!”

 Without acknowledging God in any form, is this the language of a person who desires to keep their life on an even keel?

 Christians talk about confession and being forgiven in order that we don’t become too jaded. Christians also like to keep a sense of wonder about them – a sense of mystery where God resides and isn’t too clearly revealed lest the mystery and wonder disperse.

 And again with the human race, I think of those who seek to travel the world, or who desire sleep, and play, and work. And those who at least in Australia often long to head to the beach or bush or throw a Barbie or a party, or for some, to seek quiet solitude and hide away for a time to escape the frenetics of busy lives and demands.

 Many of us seek to make our homes and our lives a little better, or we want to improve our own understanding and knowledge of the world. WHY? …

 Is it because we desire for our lives to reflect a certain ‘goodness’ – a show of ‘success’ and an ‘at oneness’ with the world around us? We crave acceptance, and hold maybe a little of a desire to be like our interpretation of the understanding of God within us – whether we acknowledge God or not!

 I’m mindful that this runs counter to many aspects of all that we hold dear as Christians, and I certainly wouldn’t want to say that all people are universally Christian. What I am saying is that in understanding the embodiment of this Psalm, God in God’s own way has ‘built-in’ the where-with-all for all of God’s creation to praise Him.

 A war journalist once said to me that the earth has all the time in the world, but we don’t! To God, a thousand years is but a day. All of God’s creation is held firmly and lovingly in His hand!

 Think of the creation stories of Genesis. In a unique way, all of God’s creation cannot transgress or fail the boundaries set by God. Creation belongs to God!

 These indelible implants are that we must praise God – and even the atheist will do that in a way which does not match any of our common language in the church.

 God has implanted within us and His creation an indelible Spirit which must join the chorus of praise to Him, whether we believe it or not.

 2000 years ago, God built on this, his creation, by sending His son Jesus Christ to enable a window of His light to open our minds, hearts, and spirit to see more clearly God Himself.

 As we stand on the threshold of 2018, what ‘sense of wonder’ are we holding? Have we see some of the light that God has given us through Jesus Christ?

 Psalm 148 tells us one of God’s truths, that our whole being delights and craves being a reflection of God, offering praise and thanks and wonder to God. Psalm 22:3 also tells us that God embodies or inhabits the praises of His people.

 Maybe Sir Paul McCartney had parts of his understanding of life right, that when he said ‘I like to keep a sense of wonder’, maybe we could all join with him and hold that wonder of our God as an expression of our praise to God. I love big picture stuff, and God’s big picture for us warms my heart to no end. God made it simple for us – all of creation is to praise God!

 Permit me to read the epistle reading for today, from Gal 4:4-7 ‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because we are children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’

 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.’ You are God’s child, permit your heart, mind, soul and spirit to sing praise to Him through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Gary Wheband

The Rev Gary Whelband is a retired Uniting Church minister and Air Force chaplain. Gary’s ministry both within the church and the Air Force has taken him to many parts of Australia and overseas. Gary continues to support our congregation’s worship through his preaching. 

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P: (02) 6231 0488
F: (02) 6296 3403

Comrie Street
Wanniassa ACT 2903

PO Box 423
Erindale Centre ACT 2903 

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About Our Church

Our faith community began in 1975 as a small ecumenical gathering of people who settled in the new Canberra township of Tuggeranong. We have grown with the Tuggeranong Community, and our parish centre is the hub for our work, as a place of worship, of gathering, fellowship and ministry.

We come together for authentic and Christ-centred worship. While we worship in a variety of styles, we share a common focus on faithfully listening for God’s Word and sharing His kindness and compassion with others. We express our love for God and others through a range of ministries, and connections with our community.

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