Monday, December 29, 2014

End of the year message

Sermon for 12-28-14      To Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church               Text: Isaiah 61:10-11
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God;

2014 is about to end. For me, this year held so many important events, and experiences. We celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, sporting accomplishments, school achievements, the rain, and the coolness of winter. We have worked to gather to provide hope for the hungry, by supporting Empty Bowls (fundraiser that benefits the hungry) and the Baily Center at the Tujunga UMC.(a place where those who need food and a shower can go during the week)  We have worked on peace through educating ourselves about the concerns of others that perhaps we had not understood before, issues like prison life, hunger, education of those who are considered uneducable, HIV/AIDS.
We worshipped and held meetings; we shared food and fellowship, love and concern, prayers and greetings.
We cried when we felt the pain of living in such an imperfect world, and the sorrow for those who have lost loved ones. We witnessed new families being born through marriage and expanded through birth and adoption. We laughed until we lost our breath, and listened to a stream of stories. We spent money, earned money, received money, gave away money, and tried to be good stewards of money. We sang songs both familiar and new adding to our repertoire, we tripped and fell, we scraped our knees or scratched our arms, we listened to the news and it broke our hearts more times than we thought possible, violence and ignorance running rampant in our world. We said goodbye to those we knew by their art, those who made us cry or laugh, or feel comfort or who moved us to action.
We faced moments when we did not want the moment to end and moments when we thought this was the end.  We shook when the earth moved, burned under the intense sun, sneezed during windy days, and bundled up when it turned cooler.
We gave thanks for the blessings, and yearned for finding the words to express our deepest desires for connection to God, to one another so we could find peace.
We discovered once again the world is scary and magnificent, enormous yet small, strange yet familiar. We discover just when we thought we had it all together, it all fell apart, and yet we started again, and again, and again.
We learned not to trust advertising to give us the truth about the world, nor movies or fiction. But we learned the truth in just a little more depth than the year before even if we cannot put it into words.
We learned that our experience of the world is not the same as others even our neighbors, but somehow we all stop for red lights, and go on green, even when chaos threatens our safety. We have learned once again there is always another way to look at a situation, and how hard it is not to give an opinion before all the facts are presented, how we want things just to stay neat and tidy even though the reality is very chaotic. How do we not fall off of the earth?
As we move into a new year, we will make promises, and break them, resolutions and become unresolved, set goals we will meet and accomplish, we can rejoice and be glad because God prepares us, and gifts us with all that we need to move into the future. That is not to say life will do all it can to steal away the garments of salvation and robes of righteousness from God, but do these thieves foil God? Will God’s gifts be taken from us never to return? Yes life does often give us more than what we can handle, but God gives more, so we can find purpose and honor in the days ahead. God will always be with us and For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

So in those times ahead when we experience a flood of anxiety and worry and fear about whether or not God has been defeated, that our best efforts go unrecognized, that our gift seems to small to impact lives, take heart, God will always spring up again, no matter how many times God’s work gets torn down, plowed under, destroyed, cemented over and abandoned. God is always at work and so we are those who move into the future with hope, and with the assurance that God is at work in the world, in us and you shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

As Howard Thurman said it in his poem The Work of Christmas,

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

Our work, our lives have been born anew, it is time to make music, seek peace and rebuild the nations! Amen.