Sermon for 1-20-08
(SLIDE) Pick Me! ( One Act Play)
I. Take the Bread
A. Isaiah recognizes that he is TAKEN.
Today’s scripture is one of my favorite passages of scripture because when I read it I am reminded that God has already picked me. “The Lord called me before I was born, and while I was in my mother’s womb named me! These words are not just for Isaiah to claim, they are ours as well. This fact shapes our daily lives. God has chosen us, we are taken by God. Each time we celebrate holy communion we take bread, a physical act that reminds God has taken us, chosen us. When we recognize this important and vital understanding of who we are, whose we are we then...
B. Connect to our deepest SELF. There are many who call us all kind of names, who try to pigeon hole us into who they think we are. There is no one who understands this more than God. Yesterday as I walked through the Getty Museum's display of Sacred Art, I was bombarded by many different images of Jesus and his mother Mary. There were a variety of interpretations of the relationship between them. There were images of a purely saintly understanding on one side of the spectrum, artwork that interpreted their relationship separate from the human emotions of affection compared to the works that showed the human intimacy full of compassion and love for one another. I believe that God has the capacity to love each one of us deeply, intimately, not as I love which is very limited, but with a perfect and holy love. To be connected to the God love means to be connected to the deepest, most authentic self, not the one that is defined by false expectations and labels. Further, what is amazing is that ...
C. Our preciousness and uniqueness is a GIFT. We might have similar characteristics to others, we might have similar personalities, quirks, dislikes and likes, but each of us has been created as a unique and precious. Sometimes we are affirmed for our uniqueness sometimes others try to force us to be what they think we ought to be. God has a purpose and call to each one of us, we all have a part to play. Today we honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s contribution in the cause of civil rights. But Dr. King credited the successes of breaking down the structures of racism to those who took actions like the bus boycotts, walking to work rather than supporting back of the bus social attitude, who put their lives on the line, and faced fire-hoses, bombings, threats of lynching, to change the culture of the communities in which they lived. Dr. King possessed the charisma and the preaching skills to inspire, but it was God ,he said that transformed the south, using the skills and gifts of many who for us are nameless. It is all of these courageous contributions we honor today, those who transformed the relationships between people from being oppressors and oppressed to equality between all of God’s people.
II. Bless the Cup
We ask in communion for God’s blessing on the bread and the cup so they will be for us the spiritual food we need for our lives of faith. The need for us to continue the struggle for more people to be freed from the bonds of oppression continue.
A. Blessing is saying YES to Belovedness. God loves us, and blesses us, God loves our friends and blesses them, God even loves our enemies and blesses them. It is easy to say negative things about others, it is harder to say positive things. Blessing means to speak well of one another or saying good things of someone. I have a hard time trusting those who will speak ill of another, I wonder what they say about me when I am out of earshot. God always blesses us, we are called to bless others with our thoughts, words and actions. For most of us this is a constant battle, especially if we root for our favorite sports teams, it is easy to get caught up in the heat of competition and say things that ridicule and put down our opponents. Saying yes to our belovedness means never being afraid that God does not love us, Saying yes means knowing we sometimes fail at being a blessing, but understanding God blessings are not conditional on what we do, but who we are a beloved child. When we forget it is good to turn to God.
B. Psalm 40: 1 reminds us to WAIT patiently for the Lord’s blessing. One of the hardest things for me to do is wait. Today the New England Patriots will be playing the San Diego Chargers for the league championship. This week seems to have lasted forever! This is because I tend to be a worrier, and worry makes me anxious, when I am anxious, I become very impatient, and often will lash out to those I love the most. This sounds absolutely ridiculous when I say it, but it is my growing edge, to keep the worry from triggering the anxiousness and impatience and anger, I need to keep cultivating my ability to be happy, again as psalm 40:4 states: Happy are those who make the Lord their trust. When I trust in football teams to make me happy I will find myself disappointed. What can we do to trust God more fully?
C. CLAIM the blessing with prayer. Nouwen says the work of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about you (p. 76. Life of the Beloved).
Prayer reconnects us to that self that is beloved, as well as to the source of love, God our creator. It is when we become disconnected from the voice of God that we fall into the trap of sin.
Once we have taken the bread and cup, after it has been blessed, we move into breaking the bread, and pouring the cup.
III. Break the Bread
A. We are AWARE of our brokenness, the times we doubt, times of disaster, times we feel down in the dumps, times when our best laid plans unravel before us, despite our best intentions. We live in a broken world and we bump up against brokenness each day. We are not always comfortable with this brokenness, and we sometimes try to cover up our brokenness, deny it, put a positive spin to it, blame others for it. But living the faith means trips to the valleys of death and doubt. When I studied the life of Dr. King while a student at the Boston University School of theology, my professor Dr. Cartwright was a friend and colleague of Dr, King while they were both Students at Boston University school of theology. Dr.Cartwright was familiar with the personal lives of Martin and Corretta as they tried to balance school life, his call to ministry, and their family life. Dr. Cartwright told us the story of how Martin tried to help with the dishes to do his part with supporting his wife. But, he was not blessed with domestic skills, and Corretta kicked him out to kitchen because despite his best efforts, he did more harm than good! There are those who have pointed more serious actions of his brokenness, but Dr. Cartwright taught us to see that this imperfect, broken man was used by God to spread the message of freedom to a broken people. God can use our brokenness as well.
B. Befriending our brokenness is our first step. Once we are aware of our brokenness, we can move from being burdened to being freed from the weight of guilt and remorse by seeing our brokenness as lived and experienced as highly personal, intimate and unique. (Ibid. p. 87). Being human means suffering as no one else does, because no one is exactly alike. Yes, we all have experiences that are universal, loss of a beloved, physical injury, abuse, feeling rejected, ignored or despised. We can even endure many of these unless we sense we no longer have anything to offer anyone. Sometimes when we experience pain we try to avoid, deny or cover it over, it would be like breaking a leg and then trying to live as though it never happened. “Steve, you are limping around, what is wrong?” “Oh, nothing”, but there you cannot put weight on that leg by the way you are dragging it behind you”, so on and so on. Until I realize the leg is broken, I will not seek treatment, and set on the road to healing. The only way we can move forward is to face and accept our brokenness, and put it before God.
C. Putting ourselves under the BLESSING. This is opposed to putting ourselves under the curse. Our brokenness is often very frightening to face if we experience our pain as a confirmation of our negative feelings about ourselves. We whisper to ourselves: “I always suspected that I was useless or worthless, and because I am going through this painful experience, I am sure of it”. Putting ourselves under the blessing means bringing our pain into the presence of God. Instead of the ostrich approach of burying our burden we are called to lift that burden up to God through confession. We can’t really hide anything from God, God already knows our pain before we even admit it to ourselves. Once we admit our pain and face the fears, God blesses us, and transforms the pain into joy. This brings us to a place where we can offer the world a gift.
Once we have been taken by God, blessed and learn from our brokenness, we are able to give.
IV. Give: Isaiah knew that he was known by God and he knew also he was called to a particular mission in a particular time to use his particular skills and gifts.
A. ISAIAH discovers his mission. During his lifetime many threats to this purpose could of caused Isaiah to change course. But, Isaiah was able to keep on course because he kept aware of the brokenness of others, and yearned to be a light to lost in darkness so they might be brought back into right relationship to God. So we learn the purpose of our lives.
B. Fulfillment in giving to OTHERS comes when we see the brokenness of the world and our call to bringing to others bread and drink. Sometimes this means literally bringing food to those who are hungry, those who are homeless, those who suffer from malnutrition. Sometimes it means bringing the spiritual food others are seeking. When we befriend our brokenness and bring ourselves before God’s blessing, we discover that it is exactly our brokenness that helps us to minister to those who hurt. Those who have walked through the dark valleys can use their experience of salvation. When we have gone through an especially difficult experience, we often find ourselves listening to others differently. If you have ever had a biopsy, when you hear of someone awaiting their test results you feel close to their worry, if you ever struggled with addiction, you know the bondage another experiences who admits their addiction, if you have been abused, you are sensitive to the pain of someone who has experiencing abuse to name just a few examples. Our sensitivity to the brokenness also allows us to minister to those who have been through things we have not experienced, being bought and sold as a slave, living on the street, committing a violent act such as murder or rape. It also means allowing them to work miracles of healing in our own lives. I often look back to the time when I went to South Africa to build this church you see on the slide. I thought I was going to give my time and energies to helping others who seemed to on the surface have so little. But, what I found was so much more. Even now, three years later, this experience gives me food for the journey of faith. What I found to be true is when we break bread together, whether here or at our tables in our homes, we connect to one another in a deep way. Being in communion with others means to bring our brokenness to the table as we live (Slide)
C. Being ALL we can be. We will be talking more about this point, but for today it is suffice to say being all we can be means bringing all of who we are, broken and healed, joyful and sad, courageous and afraid, faithful and sinful to the table and to one another. The image I think about is the starfish because as you might know if you cut a leg off a starfish, it has the ability to not only live but form a whole new starfish. In a book “The Starfish and the Spider, The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations” Brafman and Beckstrom argue that organizations that have a rigid hierarchy and top down leadership are not healthy. Rather we should have starfish organizations that rely on the power of peer relationships. This is exactly what a healthy church is, called to be the body of Christ each according to their own gifts and skills, aware of their brokenness, but letting the power of God heal and transform our brokenness so we can bring our special gift to a hurting world. Today, we will celebrate our deep communion with God and one another. The method of communion will be for us to gather in one big circle around the church. You will be given the bread, and take a piece, keep this and offer the loaf to the next person. Then the cup will be offered to you, you will dip your bread into the cup, eat, then take the cup and offer it to the person on your left. We will serve one another, because this is exactly what it means to hear and answer the call of God. Amen.