A Word from the Pastor: What Is God For?
A few years ago, the college where I was working was hiring an additional art professor to accommodate the increased demand for art classes. The college hosted two finalists for the position to come to campus for interviews. The finalists, each in turn, presented to a group of faculty and staff members about their work, and we were encouraged to attend and then give our feedback to our administrators about who was the better candidate for the job.
The first candidate showed us photos of her artwork—mostly large installations around her campus. And as she explained the various pieces and installations, she interpreted to us what they were “for.” For instance, this installation in the student center was designed to raise awareness about some current political issue. And another piece was devised to make a point about some trendy social issue. And yet another of her works was tailored to make a statement about some public injustice that she felt strongly about.
And it took me a few years to identify why that presentation troubled me so much. But this is why: “Art”—as such—is not “for” anything. Art is valuable in and of itself, rather than being useful for some supposedly greater purpose. To put it more plainly still, art does not serve some social purpose (to make a point) or some political agenda (to persuade people) or even some moral objective (to point out unjust actions). Although we may enjoy art and find it pleasurable—and we may even be challenged by it—art doesn’t have to be “for” anything. It merely exists for its own good—because it is a worthy pursuit.
And I think the same point could be made for God. Some may wonder, in their hearts, “What is God for?” What good is God? What purpose does it serve for us to worship God? Why should we trust in Jesus and follow him? What is the church and our faith “for”?
And those are good questions. But we risk becoming too utilitarian when we make faith and God and even worship all about us. Because, like art, God is not “for” anything. God exists not to serve some political agenda or moral objective or social purpose. But God is valuable in and of himself, regardless if we find him “useful” for some purpose of ours.
Jesus Christ died for our sins, and he rose from the dead to defeat death itself. He ascended into heaven where he intercedes on our behalf. On the Last Day, he will return to gather his people into his kingdom, and he will finally establish himself as Lord of all. And if we trust him, we will participate in his kingdom, and we will benefit from his death and resurrection. In this sense, God is “for” us (Romans 8:31) and “for” our salvation. But that’s not the only reason God exists: to save us. Jesus is worthy of worship and adoration simply because of who he is—and not just for what he can do for us. We worship him; he doesn’t worship us.
Although we may enjoy worship and we may benefit from prayer, God is nonetheless worthy of our honor simply because he is the Creator and Redeemer. As the Psalm proclaims, “The LORD is great and is highly praised; his greatness is unsearchable.” (Psalm 145:3 CSB) So even in difficult times we can praise God because he is worthy.
For some, this is a major shift of thinking. We assume that art or God—or whatever—has to serve some purpose. And usually, that purpose is our agenda. But we run the risk of making God into an idol that serves our purposes, rather than exalting living God who is worthy simply on his own.
By the way—as a footnote—the second candidate for art professor shared his artwork with joy and wonder—and without any agendas. It was delightful to share in his handiwork. And he got the job.
The Life of Our Church
Bring your Bible and a friend. Every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. We will continue to meet throughout the summer.
Online or In-Person Services
We are open in a “new normal”! Feel free to worship in-person, with common-sense precautions (e.g., masks and keeping social distance). But if you are uncomfortable coming to worship, you may worship virtually through our YouTube channel. We will stream the service live, and the service will be archived after that.
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American Baptist Women’s Ministries
ABWM will meet on Wednesday, June 16, and Wednesday, July 21, at 1:30 p.m.
Our deacons will gather after worship on Sunday, June 13. We will be discussing and deciding on a plan for our congregational meeting, which will be after worship on Sunday, July 11.
Atlantic Food Pantry
Please remember to support our local food pantry, either directly or by dropping off goods here at our sanctuary. The food pantry is looking for paper grocery sacks, but they don’t need any more empty egg cartons.
Summer Sermon Series: Isaiah
Pastor Ray will be exploring “The Gospel According to Isaiah” throughout this summer. We will hear from the various prophecies of Isaiah that point toward the Messiah, Jesus. Bring a friend and hear God’s Word!
We celebrate the Lord’s Supper every first Sunday of the month. This summer we will be observing it on June 6 and July 11. And if you are watching worship on YouTube, you are certainly encouraged to participate at home with your own elements.
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A Prayer for Trinity Sunday
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. from the Book of Common Prayer