Friday, August 7, 2015

Animal Crackers

Animal Crackers                                                                                             7.26/15

6th sermon in the series Praise the Lord with Symbols

Genesis 2:19-20, Matthew 6:25-27


Four beginning comments: 

First, Al Curving, a member of the Son Rise church in Flemington, is here today to represent the local chapter of the Gideon’s.  He will be presenting the second half of the sermon today.  He has come to us by way of Walt Errico, a long time Stockton resident and Gideon.  Walt and I have been corresponding for quite some time, and their group sends us yearly postcards that they pray for us. Walt’s children and I were in high school together, and his son is a pastor in Kentucky.  Today’s lesson is on Animals, and how they ultimately perform the will of God.  Our primary job as Christians and as a congregation is to do God’s will by spreading the gospel message.  That the Gideon’s have put Bible’s throughout the world is one diligent example of spreading the word.

Second, because Al is speaking, I have shortened my sermon.

Third, because I have shortened my sermon, I’ve prepared some homework for you. 

Fourth, you’re welcome.

Oh wait, 3A was the implied “Thank You” I know all of you were thinking after I shared number 3.
This summer, we have been talking about symbols in the church and how they give their praise to the Lord.  We’ve talked about bread and wine speaking to the presence of Jesus Christ, the sanctuary, a space where we encounter the Omnipresent God, we talked about the letters on our paramounts and communion ware, letters that represent the Name of Jesus Christ, we talked about the two flags that are in this space, and last week, we talked about the seal of our denomination, reminding us that we represent the King of kings as his ambassadors.  Today, we talk about animals.

The homework is really not work, it is pleasure.  It is a list of animals whose characteristics or behavior is referenced by God the Creator, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit through the biblical authors.  It isn’t an exhaustive list of animals mentioned in the Bible, just the ones that point to something greater than themselves.  It is a list of animals who symbolize something greater.   If you remember the word symbol means a physical token that speaks to an invisible reality.

In Genesis, we have the man naming the animals, as commanded by God.  It could be possible that Adam just blurted out the first syllables that came to his mind, without thought or reason.  But I have always imagined this passage is a very methodical, serious work by the man.  Adam observed the creatures, looking at patterns, behavior throughout different seasons and settings.  He compared and contrasted and recorded his data.  When he was all done, he was ready to name them.  Of course, we will have to wait for the movie version in heaven to find out exactly how it happened.  But what is really interesting, is that “God brought them to the man to see what he would name them”.  What a delightful verse about the Lord!  He was interested to see the man’s work.  He gave freedom and a job, and then waited with expectation about the good work that would occur.  It is a reminder to us, that our work can be very valuable,
Jesus referenced the birds.  Their existence continually speaks to God’s care.  They do not plant their food, they wait for what comes to them, they do not have barns or refrigerators or grocery stores.  They wait upon God for their food.  They have to work for it, and they show great care for their young.  But ultimately, they cannot do more than their capacity.  They have to trust.  Jesus says that we cannot add life to ourselves by worrying.  We too have to trust.

In Scripture, Jesus is called both Lion and Lamb.  The Lion represents royalty, power and strength.  The Lamb was the key animal in the sacrificial system of the Jewish Law.  Jesus is the King.  He was also the sacrifice to redeem our sins.  And thus, in Revelation’s vision of Heaven, he remains the Lion and the Lamb. 

Last week, I mentioned that our job is to be ambassadors of the King of Kings.  The creation joins in praise to God.  We too, though given freedom, can only find our freedom, and true purpose of what it means to be human, when we follow the Lord.  His command is to go and preach the good news throughout the earth.  We have these wonderful symbols from creation that join us in our work.  I invite Al to come forward now to share how this group with a familiar name has done its work, both here and throughout the world.  Thank you Al.

Animals and Their Lessons:

Matching Human Experience with Biblical Witness


Of Creatures Large and Small:

Proverbs 30:24-31:  animals and their attributes


Creature                     Biblical Verse                                     Symbol/Lesson


Ant                              Proverbs 6:6-8                                  diligence


Bear                             II Samuel 17:8                                  defender of young


Beast                           Rev. 4:6-9                                           performing God’s will


Bee                              Exodus 23:28                                      driving away enemies


Behemoth                    Job 40:15-24                                       strength, security

(hippo or elephant?)


Camel                          Matthew 19:24                                    travel through adversity


Chicken                       Matthew 23:37                                    caring concern


Deer                            Ps 42:1, Isaiah 35:6, Habakkuk 3:19  God as our strength


Dogs                            Matthew 15:26-27                              used as an example of faith


Donkey                       Zechariah 9:9                                      Royal procession


Dove                           Genesis 8:8-12, Matthew 10:16          innocence


Fish                             early Christian symbol                        part of Jesus miracles


Fly                               Exodus 8:20-32                                   judgment


Fox                              Luke 13:32                                          craftiness


Locust                         Joel 2                                                   armies, devestation


Horse                           Psalm 147:10                                       strength


Hyena                          Isaiah 13:22                                         desolation


Lamb                           John 1:29                                             name for Jesus, sacrifice

Lion                             Revelation 5:5                                     strength, name for Jesus


Moth                           Job 4:19, Matt. 6:19                            fragility of life


Ox                               Luke 13:15                                          rest for workers


Owl                             Psalm 102:6                                         presence


Pig                               Matthew 7:7, 2 Peter 2:22                  careless trampling


Ravens                        I Kings 17:4, Job 38:41                       fed and helping feed


Scorpion                      Luke 11:12                                          example used by Jesus


Sheep                          Psalm 23, John 10                               believers, God as Shepherd


Snake                          Number 21, Isaiah 11;8                       part of miracle stories, future

                                                                                                     in God’s kingdom, shrewd

Serpent                        II Corinthians 11:3                              cunning


Sparrow                       Psalm 84:3, Matthew 10:29                God’s care


Wolf                            Matthew 7:15, Isaiah 65:25                ravenous, future in kingdom



Douglas, J.D. and Merrill Tenney, The New International Dictionary of the Bible, Zondervan, 1987. Animals and Birds entry was instrumental in making this list. 

This list is not the entire list of animals mentioned in the Bible:  not even close.  It is a list of animals whose behavior or characteristics are referenced by God the Father, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit through biblical authors to teach about what is true and real. 

This list does not include fish, which are referenced generically throughout Scripture.  

Most animals on this list are mentioned more than once, but I included the Scripture that might be familiar or is a good starting point for the image.  

Many animals are referenced in Scripture in multiple ways:  and sometimes in very different ways (example, Jesus is named the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and the devil roams like a lion)




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