Beyond the Sunset
How many sunsets have you seen during this last week, this last month, this last year? How many have you seen in the last ten years? I’m not asking how many have you glanced at, but how many have you gazed on, paid attention to, how many have you really noticed? You see many and most of the things we see every day we really don’t see, because we have taken them for granted. We can take each other for granted, and more tragically we can take God for granted.
It is a lamentable fact, that what is customary soon becomes commonplace, we so quickly take even the greatest of Gods gifts for granted. The often repeated, soon loses its power over us. Repetition seems to sear the heart as if by a red-hot iron. If only once in a century, the sun went down, the fame of the spectacle would be heralded around the earth, and would give people something to talk about for another hundred years.
If a sunset took place once in a century, everybody would be interested in it, but such is the perversity of human nature that a sunset occurring every day loses its power to charm or thrill, and the majority of human beings now living on our planet pay no more attention to the sunset, than do the dogs at their feet.
It seems to me that we never rightly value anything which happens every day. We cannot appreciate any blessing which we possess all the time, nor do we appreciate anything which we get for nothing. The only things we value highly are the things which we buy at great cost. Yet because an angel of the Lord stands in the glory of the blazing west, crying,
“Ho, everyone who thirsts for beauty, come ye to the fountain, come, without money and without price,” we turn on our heel and go away. We do not fully appreciate things which are free, blessing freely given, and so God’s great masterpiece of light and colour – hangs unnoticed on the western wall of our world every day. Rather like the Louvre Museum in Paris, the curator who minds the famous “Mona Lisa” never sees her, yet thousands will pass her by every day and look in awe and amazement at her piercing eyes and her knowing smile?
The purpose of my Sermon today entitled “Beyond the Sunset” is to awaken in you the sense of loss because of your neglect of this great feast of the Lord. First of all I would have you think of the sunset as a means of grace. Have you ever counted up the means of grace? How long is your list?
We may include Public worship; Yes. Bible reading; Yes. Prayer; Yes. But is that all? Should we not include the sunset?
That is a means of grace! By all means, put that down. It is a sacrament. It is the visible sign of an invisible grace. It is a symbol for mediating God’s grace to your heart. Put it down
in the list of the means of grace; include it also, in your list
of sacraments. Reckon it as a page in your Bible. It is certainly a ‘word from the Lord.’ It is not a word from man.
Man cannot speak after that fashion.
There are some things – which God allows man to assist Him in making. If God wanted a potato or a turnip, a cucumber or a glass of wine, He would allow man to help Him in producing it. If God wanted a flower-bed or a finely manicured lawn – He allows man to collaborate with Him; but there are some things
in which man can have no part. When God makes a sunset
He says to man: “Now, please step aside; I need to do this by Myself; You cannot in any way assist Me. This work is completely beyond you; I alone can produce a work like this!”
A Father allows his little boy to do many things. He lets him run on this errand and on that. Some things he and the boy work at together. But, finally, the father says: “Now Son, I must do this all by myself. All you can do is to sit down and watch how I do it,” God alone makes the sunset He allows man to run on many an errand, He collaborates with him in many a task, but when evening comes – the heavenly Father says; “Now my child, sit down, and see how beautiful I can make a sunset!”
It is a means of grace, it is a holy sacrament, it is as a page
of the Bible, … and yet many of you turn away from it.
Whenever God prepares a feast and asks us to partake of it, we all, with one consent, begin to make excuse, It is not because of where you live, or because of your work that you see so few sunsets. It is because you don’t care for them. They do not appeal to you. They do not increase the sum-total of your joy. You can get on well without them and so you do. But if you wanted to see them you would go out of your way, you
would plan, you would sacrifice, you would make an effort to see them.
Let me suggest a few reasons why you ought to give more attention to the sunset:
First of all, Sunset is a miracle. Many people are sceptical by
the miracles of the New Testament; – they cannot believe them.
In the first place they never saw them with their own eyes, and not having seen them, they can’t accept them, and, moreover,
the idea of a miracle seems to clash with the scientific concept of universal and unchangeable law. For these two reasons many with that high level of intelligence are loath to give credence to the New Testament accounts of miraculous events. Let me suggest to all such persons that you close your New Testament for a minute and look at the daily miracle right before your eyes. The day of miracles is not passed. God will perform one for you if you will open your eyes and look. The sunset is a miracle,
that is, according to the New Testament idea of a miracle.
For there are four words used in the New Testament for the extraordinary deeds of Jesus. The first is “wonder.” They were called wonders because they excited astonishment in the eyes of all beholders. Men were amazed and dumbfounded by what they saw. Now if a miracle is a phenomenon which arouses amazement then the sunset is a miracle. It will surely stir up astonishment in any mind which dwells on it. It will amaze anybody who picks it to pieces and finds out how it’s made.
It is a wonder!
Another New Testament word for miracle is “sign.” A miracle is an event which points to something, it is a token of something,
it is a symbol of something, it is a pledge of something, it is an indication of thought and purpose. It points to something beyond itself. Certainly the sunset does that. It is a signboard painted on the flaming highway of the gorgeous west,
and pointing to God!
A third word is “power.” The things which Jesus did are sometimes called “powers,” they are displays of power. They give the impression of a power at work beyond the
strength of man. The sunset fulfils this idea. The sunset is a power, a display of power, running beyond the reach of human faculty. No man can make the sunset, no learned discipline of men can make it. Not all the men of all the earth, with all their talent and all their genius, and making use of all the apparatus and machinery which man’s ingenuity has been able to produce, can create the vast and dazzling splendour of a western sky at sunset. More majestic than any fireworks display, more spectacular than any visual light show, or any out-door drive in movie, … the sunset has a power. A display of force running beyond the energy of man – it’s a miracle!
A fourth word is “work.” Sometimes the New Testament writers call the deeds of Jesus “signs,” sometimes “signs and wonders,” sometimes “signs and wonders and powers,” and sometimes they content themselves with the word ” works.” A miracle is
a work – a mighty work; and surely the sunset is a work, a mighty work. It is something achieved, done, brought to pass.
A sunset, then, fulfils every condition of a miracle which the New Testament lays down.
Then the sunset is also something of a parable. A parable is a verbal picture used in order to set forth a spiritual truth. All our Lord’s parables are pictures. The Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, The Foolish Virgins, The Sower and the Seed, are all but unfading pictures, hung in the gallery of the mind, and never to be taken down. Our Lord loved to speak in parables, and on some days He spake in no other way. He loves to speak in parables now. One of His favourite parables is the sunset. It is a picture, setting forth a spiritual truth. The facts which it proclaims is that God is a lover of beauty, and that God is an
artist, and that God is a Genius with Amazing ability. There is no parable recorded in the New Testament which makes that fact so vivid and impressive as the parable which God speaks daily in the western sky.
Then the sunset is a medicine. Shakespeare says that “sleep is a balm for hurt minds“. So, also, is a sunset. It is calming, charming and beautiful thing, and that is what we need at the end of the day. In the morning we are courageous and jubilant, but invariably the cares of the day sap our vitality, and we so often come to the evening hours with strength depleted and much of our vim and zest gone. Life which is often sparkling in the morning becomes in the late afternoon something of a damp squib, and so I recon that God hangs up this beautiful picture to cheer our hearts a bit. Just when the beauty is fading out of life, God gives this great splash of colour to create hope and joy again. When we begin to stagger under life’s routine and monotony, God sets the western sky on fire to make the world romantic again. (And is there anything more romantic than
The New Testament says that sometimes Jesus did His most wonderful miracle cures at sunset. It was when the sun was hovering over the horizon, and the poetry of the dusk was stealing into the air, that the people carried out their sick ones and laid them down at His feet. It was when the beauty of the sunset was at its height, that streams of healing flowed from Him into the exhausted veins of men. Every evening God takes His place on His throne in the west, and before the sun goes down we should bring out our weakened faith, our shattered hopes and wounded affections, and lay them at His feet, allowing the glory of heaven to shine on them, and give us health and strength again. The sunset is a mystery. Did you ever hear a scientist talk about the mechanism of a sunset? But if you should hear a physicist talk to you about the sunset, he would surprise you by his declarations. He would tell you that the sunset is made of a few gases, a multiple of drops of vapour, millions of particles of dust, and a handful of sunbeams. He would go on to assure you that the gorgeousness of the sunset is due to atmospheric dust. The earth is tied up in a dust-bag.
Some of the most amazing sky-scapes and sunsets are visible during the times of volcanic eruptions. An ocean of dust flows around our planet several miles deep. The dust particles nearer the earth are large and coarse; but as you rise higher they become smaller and smaller, until at last they become microscopic, and in the highest regions they are so small that no instrument can detect them. We know of their existence solely from the effects they produce. If it were not for this dust, the sky would not be blue and the sun would not be golden. If it were not for the dust, the sunset would be robbed of its glory.
Then the sunset is a revelation of God. It reveals His infinite resources. It lights up for us the idea of infinity. A sunset is one of the most transitory of all creations. It is shorter lived than the flower of the field. In the morning the flower grows up; in the evening it is cut down and withered. But a sunset grows up in the evening and is cut down in the evening. Its entire life covers but a few minutes. You have perhaps seen a child to draw a picture on a magic slate, and rub it out, draw another and rub it out, draw still another and rub it out. But he soon gets tired and lays his slate down. God draws a sunset and rubs it out, draws
another and rubs it out, another and another and another, and
rubs them out – and He has been doing this for thousands of years, and no two sunsets are alike, “since the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy.”
You cannot Stand Near to a sunset, but wherever you stand it is a picture! Outlines such as no artist ever sketched; cathedrals, minarets, spires, ancient castles, majestic palaces, towers, domes, more majestic than those of which any architect ever dreamed. And colours oh, what colours! Delicate tints, exquisite hues, artistic shadings, combinations of lights and shadows such as never entered into the heart of man to conceive. And this is none other than the work of God the work of the Infinite Artist. If Moses took off his sandals in the presence of a burning bush, well may we bow our heads and hearts in the presence of a sky
all aflame with God! We need the sunset for consolation. We need to be comforted. In his famous hymn, Reginald Hebet speaks of a country in which “every prospect pleases and only man is vile.” Yes, Gods Creation is everywhere and always beautiful to behold – if only we would notice it.
Look over the landscape from any hilltop. Beautiful! Stand in the valley and look toward the horizon. Beautiful! The mountains are beautiful and so are the hills. The rivers are beautiful and so are the lakes. The water is beautiful; there is one beauty in the silence of the vast ocean, and there is another beauty near the shore where the tide beats itself into spray on the rocks, and the spray catches the sunbeams and holds them as if loath to let them go. Look into the heavens at morning, at noon, and at evening nothing but beauty the whole day long!
“Every prospect pleases.” Every view delights the eye.
Every look rejoices the heart. “Only man is vile.”
It is man who breaks down our faith, darkens our hope, tramples the life out of our love. It is man who makes us doubt the goodness of God. It would be easy for us all to believe in God if it were not for men. How often have Men have destroyed your thoughts of God? How often have men prevented you from simple childlike faith. Men may keep you out of Heaven,
but they cannot keep you out of hell. Think about it!
The whole point I am trying to make today in this reflection of the Sunset, is that there are things BEST LEFT with God.
Problems, Pressures and Pains over which men have no power. Look away to God today, get your focus off of men and off of yourself, and allow the Divine Artist to complete the Canvas work on your life. Take your hands off, don’t spoil his process and his progress. He who began this good work in you, will bring it to completion, will perfect it. Phil 1:6
God is working on another Masterpiece, beyond the sunset, God is working on you.
Let us also spend more time with Nature and with Gods Creation. The trouble with us is that we spend too much time with men, and too little time with God, beyond every sunset there is God, waiting and wanting to fellowship with his children and longing to show us more of His immeasurable love.
Let us, then, come back to the idea with which we started. The sunset is a word from God …”The heavens are telling the glory of God;”
God Bless You Amen