St. Mary Nanoose Bay
February 16, 2020
John 14:11-15 (text taken from my Induction as priest of St. Mary's 3 years ago)
Mark Twain sure knew how to sum things up concisely. He speaks for me when he said, “A lot of terrible things…. have almost happened to me.” But really, the converse of what he said is just as, and maybe more so, true. How many wonderful things happened in my life, and I barely noticed so never gave thanks!?
There’s an old Jewish prayer that goes something like this: Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles. Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing. Let there be moments when Presence, like lightning, illuminates the darkness in which we walk. Help us to see wherever we gaze and exclaim in wonder: “How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it!
When we listen to Scripture, it helps us develop the ability to recognize the miracles and wonders in our own lives. We are reminded that life is fuller, deeper, broader and more profound than we can ever fully grasp. And we’re encouraged to stop for a moment, breathe, notice what’s going on around us, and allow our busy, habitual minds to be stilled and our hearts to be moved and changed.
Consider what we heard this morning. From the reading from Deuteronomy we learn that our lives are full of choices but they basically boil down to life and prosperity or death and adversity. And if we love God and walk in God’s ways, we will live and be blessed…. our choice. The psalmist reiterated this idea…… that choosing to follow the divine way is the way to happiness. And from Paul’s letter to the community in Corinth, we hear again about choice. Who are we following? Does our choice bring life and growth? And finally from the gospel of John we hear that intimacy with God is something available and meant for us now; and that choosing to engage or immerse ourselves in this loving relationship is our purpose here on earth. Because by simply resting into this divine exchange, we come to know our belovedness, and as beloved, are more able to express and share this love we live in. And that by simply choosing to engage in this divine exchange of love, we are more effective in fulfilling God’s purpose for us.
Or, put more succinctly by a teacher I once had….. “Proceed as if you were needed.”
Do you remember those trust exercises that were popular many decades ago? - where one person would stand in the middle of a circle of people, close their eyes and let themselves fall backwards. The people in the circle would gently catch the weight of the person and move them around the circle?
Well, I hated that exercise! The first time I encountered it was in highschool in drama class. I would pretended to enjoy it, just to be cool and fit in, but I was incredibly tense and I couldn’t wait for the class to be over.
Trust has been a long time coming for me. I’ve not been one for whom trust has come easily. I could give you my version of why that might be, but that’s precisely not the point of this sermon.
The point is this. Trust means knowing that we are embraced fully and completely by God, our life is an open book , our fears and shame are known…. and that God holds it everything in love. And if we ask and if we allow, God uses this “everything” to good. Nothing is lost. Everything is composted. Can we trust that all of who are are, have been, and will be, can and will be used by God for God’s purposes?
What happens when we trust? When we say “I have no idea, Lord, but thy will be done?”
I don’t know about you, but for me, becoming a Christian, being baptized into a community of faith began, or maybe more accurately, continued, a journey I never could have asked for, or imagined. It has meant stepping out into the unknown over and over again. Which is what life is really all about, isn’t it? We can pretend to know what’s going to happen next and we plan as though we can secure our own future, but God, in God’s wisdom, opens doors we never knew existed and closes the ones we try desperately to keep our foot wedged in.
Thirty-eight years ago, I had no idea I as marrying a man who would become a priest. Would I have said, “I do” if I’d known?! And I certainly never imagined that I would end up here with you. Hey, 4 years ago, I didn’t really even know where Nanoose was!
And so miracles of miracles, I’ve discovered and continue to discover how trust is key to being led to the places, people, challenges and opportunities that help me grow more fully as a person.
I don’t know what I’m going to say when I sit down to write a sermon, I don’t know how I’m going to respond to each new situation, I don’t know what next week will bring, but if I trust, I see over and over that it’s not that things always work out well for me (at least as I imagine they should!), but what I discover is that deep down, I have a sense of well-being. That when I flub up, I know I’m still loved. I can relax into that knowing and hold the judgments of myself with compassion and some humour. That’s on a good day!
But seriously, the ability to rest into, and trust, the relentless support and love of the Holy Trinity is key to my ability to “proceed as if I am needed.” Every thought, fear, regret, hope, vision and dream is held in that circle of love. Everything is cared for, everything is held and everything will be used.
It’s taken me decades to trust this circle of love….. to the extent that I’m able and willing. Every day is different. I practice falling back into the divine strength with more and more confidence. And to discover there is no judgment in that circle. Just compassionate care and the support to step out again, to try again, to find the words again, the energy again. In order “to proceed as if I am needed.” Not because I’m more special than anyone else, but because I have been created to contribute my unique gifts to the well-being of the Body of Christ; within my family, in this community of St. Mary’s and in God’s incredible world.
At the same time, this growing trust allows me to receive the gifts and care of others so my own well-being increases; my own sense of connectedness increases, and my own ability to give in return is strengthened.
Trust allows us to see deeper into the miracle of life and to participate more and more fully because we know we are held regardless of our experience; that we are led, regardless of our own sense of being prepared, or being the “right” person, or “knowing enough.”
We may think we are serving coffee, setting up the altar, writing words for a sermon or replacing a light bulb – and yes, we are – but we are actually also doing something much more profound. We are learning how to trust God and each other, and how to live into this body of Christ which contains all we need and all we are.
This is the miracle we need to train our eyes, ears and hearts to see. That we have been created in love and for love. And that everything we are and everything we offer is held in the Body so beloved by God.
And that’s why I need, and I imagine many of you do as well, to come to church, to participate in the liturgy, to read Scripture and hear it read out loud, to be reminded over and over again every day, every week, to trust that all is well and see…. “How filled with awe is this place!” Thanks be to God.