Sermon for 1/28/18: On Silence

Deuteronomy 18:15-20, Psalm 111, and Mark 1:21-28

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Not all of us are called to be hermits, but all of us need enough silence and solitude in our lives to enable the deeper voice of our own self to be heard at least occasionally.
— Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk

Upon Further Reflection

One of our church members left the sanctuary laughing on Sunday.  After my sermon on silence, she said, "You sure can tell you don't live alone!"  It's true.  This sermon is very much a product of someone who does not live alone.  But I have to say in thinking about it, I have never lived alone, even when no one else was with me. I have always had enough inner chatter and reflection to take up the space of a couple roommates or family members. The sermon says less about the people who populate my house and work than it does about what goes on in my inner life.  They are related to be sure. My inner life is a place of constant conversation: talking and listening and meeting needs.  (In fact, I recently started playing a musical instrument so I could take a break from my thoughts.  I was surprised to discover it works!)    

This woman's observation speaks a wide truth: all of us experience the quiet differently. For some, we fight the quiet even as we crave it (that's the sermon). For others, we have made friends with the quiet, many times after a loss. It comforts us now. Still others experience too much quiet and not enough connection.  Remember what I said about isolation as a spiritual crisis?  

Each of us knows something about silence the rest of us need. My gift to this church is an active inner life that supports my teaching and preaching and accompaniment. I wrestle my world for the quiet I get. I am not the only one with a restlessness inner life in this church.  And you too are a gift to us.  If you have too much quiet, you know something the rest of us need to remember about loneliness.  You are a gift to us as well.  If you are at peace with the quiet, than you have an essential way of being that will nurture the rest of us when we feel chaotic inside. Your gift is the stillness God has cultivated in you.  You ground this faith community.

Our relationship to silence is not straight forward.  It changes over time. This week was an invitation to pause and wonder: where am I right now?  What Word of God works on me in the silence?  What do I know that others may not because of the way I am quiet?

Sermon for 1/14/18: The Dimension Of God We Forget

1 Samuel 3:1-10, Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18, John 1:43-51

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Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all human knowledge.
— Abraham Joshua Heschel

Upon Further Reflection

This week I have a smattering of other thoughts and reflections that arose as I worked with these passages evoking beginnings, and callings, and wonder.  So for your own further investigation, I commend you this:

On Truth verses Fact -- I saw this week an amazing video explaining how in recent years, for the first time, scientists have been able to capture how animal eggs send out a flash of light at the moment of conception.  Well the video mentions mice, frogs, and humans anyway.  The brighter the flash, the healthier the egg.  I was so captivated by the imagery.  Connecting to the themes of my Sunday sermon, I offer you this.  Scientific fact tells us this is a reaction involving zinc. Our faith tells us, in the beginning, the first thing God said was let their be light!  This seems true as well.  Neither one of these is wrong.  They both answer and deepen the mystery of our beginnings. If only we could remember more often in our culture wars how badly science and faith need each other.

More amazing science: One of our church members called out attention at a small group session to this podcast.  It's about the discovery of plate tectonics, a fascinating listen to how change happens both physically on earth, and also when human assumptions and entrenched ways of imagining our world are challenged.  More wonder!   CLICK HERE: The Day the Earth Moved

On DACA and Jesus: Sunday, I did not talk about one of the most important lines of our passage on Philip and Nathaniel as they are called by Jesus.  It's that amusing and ironic line, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" -- the one Nathaniel asks snidely when his friend invites him to come and follow. It's a crucial revelation: assumptions about class and place of origin almost thwart Nathaniel's encounter with Jesus.  Will he hear the call of God or will he stay rooted and unseeing and isolated in his prejudice? 

That's a question we have to navigate all the time as individuals, and a question that has brought us spiritual anguish as a global community with a migration crisis. Amidst the divisive immigration politics of our age, the who-said-what, and our  binging on the fallout of it all, we can't lose track that the issues at hand are faith issues. Tonight I heard a brilliant and touching sermon by Pastor Charlie Little of the First Presbyterian Church on Matthew 25. He said that to refuse to care for the stranger in need is an act of self-hatred.  It was a profound moment of preaching because we are seeing that wound on a national scale not just in our daily Christian living. Sobering words.  So however we choose to move forward as a nation on these issues of faith, may we do so loving the image of God that we are.  And may we love not just in church on Sunday or in our own homes, but in the messy, mucky, wider world.