Omni —HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD?
Sermon preached by
The Reverend Charles Royden
This week on Wednesday there was a very special day, an anniversary. It was the anniversary of the creation of the world. James Usher Archbishop of Armagh from 1625—1656 concluded that the beginning of time fell upon the entrance of the night preceding the 23rd day of October in the year of the Julian calendar, 710. Calculating that 710 in the Julian calendar equated to 4004 BC he announced that the world would end, according to Jewish tradition, 6,000 years later at 6.00pm. This is not something obscure or cranky and if you have an old Authorised Version of the Bible it will have the dates in the margin according to Archbishop Usher.
Richard Dawkins, Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University said, 'What staggers me about Archbishop Usher's statement is not that he was wrong—so was everybody else—but that he was wrong with such precision'. The Telegraph hastened caution this week however, a 13 day difference between the Julian and the Gregorian calendar adopted in the 18th century means that it could be on November 4th. And Professor Mark Bailey of Armagh observatory pointed out this week that we may be a year early because Usher's chronology ran from 1 BC to 1 AD without a year 0. So the 6,000 will come next year on October 23rd or November 4th. All of this was well reported in the press and on Radio 4 this week, what they did not say was that that John Lightfoot 1602—1675 vice chancellor of Cambridge University in 1654 perfected Usher's work even further and pinpointed the exact moment when Adam was created, it was October 23rd 4004 BC at 9am. This was apparently chosen to coincide with the Cambridge University term. How far we have moved.
Then Pope John Paul 11 this week (October 23rd 1996) declared that Darwin's theory of evolution was compatible with the Christian faith. In a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences which advises the Vatican on scientific matters. He said that the theory of natural selection was more than just a hypothesis. The problem we have is one of trying to order God to our rules and patterns. There is an arrogance of humankind which supposes that we can really reduce God to a size which we can handle. It is in the face of this arrogance the bible teaches us three things about God which I want us to think about this morning which put us in our place. The Christian church uses these three words to describe God, which if we remember them will keep us away from some of the dangers of human spiritual arrogance
We sing about God being 'so strong and so mighty there's nothing that he cannot do', But is it true? The Christians church has used the word OMNIPOTENT To describe God. It is used because it means OMNI = All POTENS = powerful—All powerful. It means that God can decide to do anything which he wants to do. This power is spoken of frequently in scripture. In Psalm 24:8 it says that God is 'The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle'. This realisation came upon believers quite quickly in the development of faith. Right back in Genesis Chapter 18:14 God asks a rhetorical question of Abraham concerning whether Sarah could have a child when she was well past the age of childbearing- he says to Abraham 'Is anything too hard for the Lord'? The answer of course is 'no'—there is nothing which is too hard for the Lord. In Jeremiah Chapter 32:17 the prophet comes to the realisation that if God made this world then there is obviously no constraint upon his power to act in it. 'Ah sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.' The apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:20 that God was 'able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think' and in 2 Cor 6:18 he called God using the word 'almighty' This property of God as 'almighty' is shown throughout the pages of scripture, It is in the ability to show miraculous signs and cause Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. It is in the message of the angel Gabriel to Mary when he said 'with God nothing is impossible' Luke 1:37 Jesus himself said 'With God all things are possible' Matthew 19:26 This power of God is known as sovereignty. It stresses the infinite nature of God's power. Whenever we are tempted to say impossible we need to remember that with God all things are impossible. Do you remember we heard from Gill Poole two weeks ago about a person in Pakistan who was raised from the dead. I wonder what reaction you had. I found myself saying 'Oh yeah!' Well it is not usual to hear of people being raised from the dead, it is right to be sceptical and 'test the spirits' as scripture says. But Gill was right to remind us that even if it is not in our experience today, God can do it. He did it with Lazarus. So you may be cautious, you should be cautious, but don't say impossible, because with God all things are possible.
The only answer to the question of where everything comes from must be that ultimately there is something or someone who created matter and time in the first place. Christians believe in a God who is unlimited or infinite with respect to time and space. God created what we know as time for us to use wisely as one of his gifts—worth remembering in our current hectic schedules. This attribute of God is known as OMNIPRESENCE OMNI = All PRESENCE We could define it as follows—God does not have size or spatial dimensions and is present at every point of space with his whole being. In Jeremiah 23:23 we read—'Am I only a God nearby, declares the Lord and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and the earth Nothing we think or speak or do if secret from God, so that when we place our life in his hands we have one who goes with us in all things. God's omnipresence is expressed powerfully in the Psalm 139:7-10 Whither shall I go from your spirit? Or whither shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. Note that the psalmist doesn't see God's presence as a threat but as him being able to uphold, God presence is to be a blessing to all of us. We are never away from him. Paul expresses this beautifully in the New Testament when he says—God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one us, for in him we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:27 People have always wanted to build churches and temples as sacred places for God to live. There is an honest though about this but it is a folly for us to create a house for God. That is certainly not what we would be doing by building a chapel. The truth is that these places are perhaps better seen as being places which remind us of the fact that God is everywhere. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life we forget and we need to be somewhere where we can come to our senses and realise that God is everywhere.
Means literally All knowing. In the first letter of John Chapter 3:20 the writer says that God 'Knows everything' In Hebrews 4:13 there is an interesting phrase which says that before God 'no creature is hidden but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do' The bible tells us that not only does God know what has been and what is, but that he also knows in the future. 'I am God and there is none like me declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done'. Isaiah 46:9-10 The point that is being made is that God knows everything now, he isn't learning about the world and responding to events like we are. God knows what is happening before it has happened, otherwise God is not all knowing but still learning! This is why God was never surprised at the death of Jesus, why throughout his life Jesus knew he would die on the cross. Scripture call Jesus The lamb that was slain from the creation of the world Rev 13:8 The psalmist reflected on this intimate knowledge of us by God and said 'O Lord you have searched me and known me You know when I sit down and rise up you discern my thought from afar' And again in another Psalm—Even before a word is on my tongue O Lord you know it altogether Psalm 139:4 This knowledge of God is not a bad thing for us it is a good thing. God knows everything about us but not in a 1984 'Big Brother' sort of way to catch us out. Jesus knew this and so he was able to say that God knew and cared about every single detail of our lives Your Father knows what you need before you ask him Matt 6:8 and Even the hairs on your head are numbered Matt 10:30 Because God knows everything we can be assured that he knows the very best things for our lives and we should trust him for the pattern for our lives, for he works wisely in our best interests, even when we do not know it at the time.
It is for us to ask ourselves how our thinking about God reflects what we know about him. Do we have a God in our pocket reduced to concepts and ideas which we understand and like? Or do we allow ourselves to be challenged by the revelation which God has made of himself. Our thinking about God will affect our faith in many ways. It will reflect to what extent we are challenged in our daily lives. It will reflect in our prayers, obviously if God has no power then there is no point asking him to change anything. We only beseech people who have the power to do what we are asking. No good asking a collapsed building society manager for a mortgage, ask a building society with money. We only ask from people what they are able to give. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that some of the lost confidence of the church over the last century has come at a time when we have lost something in our understanding of the reality of God. Do we have a God whom Moses worshipped in whose presence he took off his shoes for he stood on Holy ground, or do we saunter in carpet slippers. Do we have a Holy God such as Isaiah saw, a God whose presence caused him to tremble at his own unworthiness, or do we want a God that we can feel able to understand control.
Hymns 1. Immortal invisible God only wise No 9 2. Wise man built his house 3. Who took fish and bread 4. I am the bread of life 611 5. Alleluia sing to Jesus 592 (Hyfrodol)