Our world is so desperate to breathe in the divine presence, we are suffocating here with injustice and hatred and conflict in our world, we so need the spirit to breathe into us and bring us back to life again.
We are NOT the center of God's creation, we are not at the top to rule and do whatever we want to the earth, our purpose is to serve the earth. I will say it again this way: it is not about what is in our own self-interest...it is about what is in the best interest of the earth. This is driven home by the word "keep" which means "to preserve" or "to protect." We are responsible for the garden now and into the future.
Dr. Sheron Patterson, pastor of Hamilton Park UMC, begins our series “Grace and Grit” - Two characteristics of three women in the Bible who show us how to live and lead faithfully in the midst of difficult situations. Experience the stories of Deborah, the Syrophoenician woman, and Hannah in our worship series Grace and Grit.
Jesus says: focus on loving God and loving others and your joy will be complete. The Greek root of the word joy is the same as grace--joy is a gift from God, joy is a gift of knowing you are connected to the divine and this connection is not something you earn or win…it is always present with you, if you will just see it, in moments of stress, see your connection with God and with others and your joy will be complete. Joy comes in, fear goes out when we see ourselves as connected.
Many of us Christians have collected a lot of beliefs we’ve been taught and told and even repeated…this season of Lent is a time to sort through what we believe or have been told for so long and decide: which ideas about the faith do we need to keep and which do we need to throw out? This week we are tidying up our clothes or the things we put on God.
We are a congregation full of prophets. Together we are a prophetic community—we know what God has done in the past, we know how God has consistently worked through people to end evil, injustice, and oppression—we know now is our time. Now is our time to share God’s dreams for a better world. Thy kingdom come.
We must see on the cross our call to action and our responsibility. We must see on the cross the people who are suffering today, those with whom Christ identifies with today. Can you see who is there today?
I see the migrant children who are separated from their families and I see LGBTQ+ persons who have been marginalized by the church and I see children who are starving to death in Yemen because of war and I see the poor who cannot afford to go and see a doctor, and I see those who are discriminated against because of their race or their gender or their religion and can you see who is on the cross with Christ today?
To say yes to Jesus and yes to His kingdom is to say 'no' to the standard behaviors and standard operating procedures of the kingdoms of this world which means we will stand out a bit. I have been returning to this question again and again as I have been thinking about what it means to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God, from Ginger Gaines Cirelli:
If churches are seeking to live as citizens of God's Kin-dom, then why are so many Christian people barely distinguishable from anyone else in their values and priorities?
For a while now, spiritual leaders have been saying that the greatest spiritual problem of our time is busyness. Some have pointed out that the Chinese character for being busy is made up of two elements: heart and killing. Busyness kills the heart. That is a violent image...busyness kills the heart. Thomas Merton says that our overwork is a pervasive form of violence today.
We are the ones to see and treat each person and each encounter as holy, to go out of our way to love our neighbors as ourselves, we are all connected. Do you hear Christ even now?
I am being bullied, stand up for me.
I am separated from my children, help me.
I am failing in school, tutor me.
I am Muslim, welcome me.
I am homeless, listen to my story.
When Moses notices the burning bush he could have said, “oh wow look at that,” and just kept going with his sheep. Or “that’s interesting but I don’t have time to check that out, I have an agenda to keep, I’ll come back later.” Or he could have been busy looking down at his phone and glanced up and thought, meh, and gone back to the captivating cat video he was watching.
Walking is an act of disconnecting and reconnecting. As we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we remember the walks of the civil rights movement - they walked to disconnect us from a system that was designed to keep one part of us separated from another. They disconnected themselves from thoughts of their own safety, because many of them were beaten and some of them died. They walked disconnected from a destination but reconnected to a purpose.
The birth of Christ is the light that has come into the world not just for the people of Israel but for the whole world, and the three kings represent that, they are foreigners from a foreign land who see the light and receive the light and pay homage to the light, too.
This light that has come into the world, this light that has cut through the darkness, is for everyone. This new day, this new dawn that marks the beginning of the end for the dark things of this world is for everyone. Salvation is for everyone.
Have you ever made a decision that led you off the path? Ever made a mistake that led you off the path? Ever had a feeling you were going the wrong way but you’ve been too stubborn, too hard-headed, to stop? And there is this moment when you go: oh this isn’t good. This isn’t right. I don’t have contentment. I’m not experiencing joy. You come to see this isn’t the life you were meant to live, you are off the path.
We are woke because of Christ. Because the Christ in you and the Christ in me stands up in the face of fear, and in the face of suffering, and in the face of dehumanization and says: I will not look away, I will not back down, I will not sit down, I will not let it go...not until the poor have good news and the hungry are fed and the sick are cared for and the stranger is welcomed.
You are covered by Grace. Maybe you don’t believe you are covered, maybe you feel like you’ve done something along the way and your coverage got dropped.
No, you are still covered; so you messed up, so you think you aren’t worthy of coverage, maybe you’ve forgotten that this isn’t a divine points game, this isn’t about earning or achieving. I mean the rest of the world is into that but God isn’t into that and we know that because of Christ crucified, because through him, success is redefined - weak is the new strong, the way up is the way down.