Sunday, May 20, 2012

"A Masterpiece of God" - Genesis 1:27 - Ephesians 2:10 - Classen SAS Baccalaureate Message

When you speak their names images and emotions flood our hearts, minds and imaginations.  Beethoven’s 9th Symphony; Mozart’s grand opera The Marriage of Figaro; Leonardo’s The Last Supper; Van Gogh’s Starry Night; Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; Tennessee Williams’ A Street Car Named Desire; Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice; Twain’s The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn; Tolstoy’s War and Peace; Michelangelo’s statue of David; and The Thinker by Rodin.  This is a short list that just touches the tip of some of the greatest masterpieces of all time. We could spend hours talking about the greatest works of each discipline and period. Many of you have done that very thing in hour after hour of classes on art and musical history.  It would be easy to begin to debate which book or play belonged on a list of some of the greatest ever.  The list would quickly grow in size and scale but we would discover that the mark of a true masterpiece is that they transcend eras and cultures and each seems to move us in some deep and profound way. 

It is interesting that we can think of a painting, or a piece of music, or a play, or a sculpture as a masterpiece but when we look in the mirror all we tend to see our flaws and our failures, our blemishes and places of blame.  But this afternoon I bring you a very different word.  I want you to know that you as you prepare to leave the halls of high school and to go out into the world that you go out as one of God’s great masterpieces.  You are a great work of divine art.

In the first book of the Bible, one of the five books that compose the Torah, we hear an incredible pronouncement in the midst of God’s great creative work of making all that is.  We listen in on the creation story and hear; So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:27)  I love these words.  When I think of all that there is and its wonder and beauty I think of the work of God’s hand.  But here we learn that we are not simply one of the created – we were created in the very image of God.  What is good and best in us is a reflection of the face of God.  In the New Testament we hear a similar theme. Ephesians 2:10 tells us For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We learn through the breadth of Scripture that we are created to have a relationship with God and with one another.  This verse makes our purpose in our relationship with one another clearer.  Paul tells us that we are God’s workmanship.  The word “workmanship” emerged from the everyday life of the people.  It was used to speak of a person’s very best work.  It represents the height of the who they were in their craft.  Paul uses this work to convey that we – that you are a work of art – a Masterpiece of God! Psalm 139 sings out: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

It is so easy to wake up and look in the mirror and only see our flaws.  If we are not careful we begin to question our value.  We see others as special, but we can think that we belong in the scratch and dent pile.  The problem is that you are seeing yourself through the eyes of a beauty obsessed culture. Hear me that we are PRICELESS in the eyes of God. The God that made and shaped us loved us enough to make a way for hope and redemption – for us to reclaim our place as a Masterpiece of God.

The Ephesians 2 passage calls again; For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. The second half of the verse reminds us that we were created as a work of art – as a Masterpiece of God with a purpose.  We were created to make a difference in the lives of others – to do good works that builds people us rather than tear them down. As you leave the halls of high school and head into the world it is important for you to remember that you were created for a good purpose.  If you want a life of joy then you will discover it is not found in trying to fill your latest craving or by diving in to your latest idea.  If you want to have impact – if you want to create a name of legacy for yourself – if you want to matter and claim your place as a master work of God then you will find the great joy and fulfillment in giving yourself away in doing good to and for others.  When I first visited Oklahoma City they had painted bison all around town.  I was fascinated in the wide range of ways the bison painted.  They were public art – not hidden away in a museum or private collection – but were out them for everyone to see.  This is the kind of artwork God intends for you.  You are some of his very best work and God calls you and me to be out there – doing good and changing lives – so everyone gets a glimpse of the kind of art you are through God.

You do not have to wonder if you are good enough – well equipped enough – or special enough.  God has gone before …preparing the way…expecting us to follow…expecting us to fulfill our purpose…awaiting us to share his masterpiece with the world. This is guilt free…asking for us to be nothing that who we are…as designed by God…need not become Billy Graham or Mother Teresa…but to be the living masterpiece in the world that God has prepared us to be.

Conclusion  You are a masterpiece…can you imagine it…you are amazing….a miracle…more beautiful than the Mona Lisa…more spectacular than a desert sunrise…more wonderful than a Hawaiian sunset.  You are a masterpiece of God!  You are created for a purpose…it is unique to you…it requires you…no spare parts….no inferior quality parts…you are created by God for a purpose…to be a masterpiece on display.

The challenge is whether we can allow ourselves to see the masterpiece that God has created…to allow ourselves to be shaped by God’s love and grace…to see the strokes that God has used with care…claim your place as a masterpiece. There will be so many voices that will tell us to settle for being mediocre. There will be so many voices telling to make it all about you.  There will be so many voices that will invite to settle for being something, anything, less than who you were created to be.  Do not listen to them.  You are a masterpiece of God – created to do good works – that God has laid out before you.  Go and shine, knowing you are a masterpiece created by the greatest artist of all times.  Go and live your lives on display.  Our world is hungry to see all that you can be.   

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