No Matter WhatPosted: March 15, 2015
No Matter What
SLIDE 3: OUR LIVES ARE A PRECIOUS GIFT
Once again this week we turn to the Psalms. A Psalm of Thanksgiving reminds us of the importance of gratitude in our spiritual lives. Wake up each morning praying thank you O God, and we have set the tone for the day. In offering thanks we are acknowledging we did not create ourselves. Our lives are a gift precious and wonderful to behold. For as another Psalm says: “we are fearfully and wonderfully made.”
SLIDE 4: PSALM 8
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what are we humans that you are mindful of us, your created children that you care for us?
Yet you have made us little lower than the angels and crowned us with glory and honor. You have made us stewards over the works of your hands; you have appointed us to care for all things. . .
Lord, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
SLIDE 5: STEWARDS OF CREATION
The earth is a gift we cannot take for granted, for God appointed us to be stewards of creation and not rapists and pillagers of our environment. Care for the earth, care for each other, in particular care for the poor and defenseless, because they are God’s special ones.
SLIDE 6: CRYSTAL CLEAR WATER
We can learn to appreciate the gifts that are offered to us. Hear, a story about gifts. A young man while roaming the desert came across a spring of delicious crystal-clear water. The water was so sweet he filled his leather canteen so he could bring some back to a tribal elder who had been his teacher.
After a four-day journey he presented the water to the old man who took a deep drink, smiled warmly and thanked his student lavishly for the sweet water. The young man returned to his village with a happy heart.
Later, the teacher let another student taste the water. He spat it out, saying it was awful. It apparently had become stale because of the old leather container.
SLIDE 7: I TASTED THE GIFT
The teacher replied, “You only tasted the water. I tasted the gift. The water was simply the container for an act of loving-kindness and nothing could be sweeter.”
SLIDE 8: GENEROSITY
Gratitude is also the beginning of generosity. A wise woman traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.
I’ve been thinking,” He said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.”
SLIDE 9: ONE GREAT HOUR OF SHARING
Gratitude and generosity are part of the way of Jesus, and we have a wonderful opportunity today to further our practice of generosity as we receive our One Great Hour of Sharing. OGHS is the one time during the year, when we make a special offering to support Church World Service our organization that provides disaster relief and hunger relief around the world on behalf of thirty-seven Protestant Denominations. When we see food and blankets being passed out to people after an earthquake, or a flood, or a typhoon, often that is Church World Service serving as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world on our behalf. Compassionate generosity is the natural outflow of gratitude.
SLIDE 10: ILLNESS IS NOT A PUNISHMENT FROM GOD
I would like to take a few minutes to consider verses 17 and 18 of Psalm 107: “17 Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; 18 they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.” First let me say, illness is not punishment sent by God. God does not send cancer, heart disease, arthritis, measles, or influenza to punish us for our sins. Sometimes our ill health can be a consequence of life-style and environmental factors. The most common prescriptions offered by physicians are lose weight and exercise – and for smokers and drinkers, quit smoking and moderate alcohol consumption. Many of us suffer the consequences of not following those simple life-style suggestions. But whatever detrimental effects that result from environmental factors and poor health decisions God is not punishing us. God causes the sun to shine on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust. Humans like to think in terms of reward and punishment, but not God – natural consequences maybe, but not reward and punishment.
SLIDE 11: JESUS BY THE POOLS OF BETHSAIDA
There is a wonderful Jesus story from the Gospel of John about healing. Jesus was walking along by the Pools of Bethsaida, where he ran across a lame man who had been lying there for years. The pools of Bethsaida were cisterns just outside the walls of the Temple fed by an underground spring that flowed intermittently. When the spring would flow the waters of the pools would be “troubled,” and popular legend claimed that when the water was “troubled,” an angel from the Temple had come to bathe in the pool. People believed that if a sick person could be the first one into the water, after the angel came to bathe, they could be healed by angel dust in the water.
SLIDE 12: DO YOU WANT TO BE HEALED?
The lame man complained that he had no one to help him get into the pool, and so someone else always beat him to it. And Jesus asked again, “Do you wanted to be healed?”
And when the lame man could finally said, “Yes,” he was healed.
Illness is not a method of divine punishment. Sometimes illness just happens. Sometimes we contribute to our sickness with our behavior – there are natural consequences. Always ask, “Do I want to be healed?” That question may be a key to recovery.
SLIDE 13: WHEN DID YOU STOP DANCING?
Recently, Marrianne Phillips posted a quotation from Gabrielle Roth, who was a dancer and musician with a special interest in movement and spirituality. “In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: “When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
SLIDE 14: I HAVE BEEN CLUMSY, AWKWARD, SELF-CONSCIOUS
In response to, “When did I stop dancing?” I think because I have always been clumsy and awkward, I have been afraid to dance. I was heartened at our Celebration Sunday to see so many people willing to join in the “chicken dance.” But I identify with the story told by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner. His daughter told him that if he really wanted to dance, he had to stop worrying about what he looked like on the dance floor. And he told her that if she looked like he did, when he danced, then she would worry too. But what if we could leave behind our self-conscious fears and let ourselves sing and move with the music. Maybe a conga beat like this. . . .
SLIDE 15: LOVE IS PATIENT LOVE IS
SLIDE 16: SIT STILL IN CHURCH!
Maybe we would all be spiritually healthier if we could learn to move and sing in worship and in our devotional lives. Now I know good Northern European conservative folks like most of us were told to sit still in church. Right? My mother was so embarrassed because I could not sit still in church, and then she discovered I was allergic to the wool dress pants she made me wear to church. And Bill Tucker our resident conservative is likely to say, “That’s just wrong!”
SLIDE 17: WORSHIP WITH OUR WHOLE BODIES?
But maybe we might discover new spiritual horizons, if we learned to pray and worship with our whole bodies. After all Jesus said, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength including our bodies. And, we can manage to move, when we get up hold hands and sing Shalom at the end of worship. Maybe we can learn use our bodies and move at other times in worship.
SLIDE 18: PSALM 150 – PRAISE GOD WITH DANCE
Listen to the joy of Psalm 150: Hallelujah! Praise God in her holy house of worship, praise him under the open skies. Praise God for her acts of power, praise him for magnificent greatness. Praise with a blast on the trumpet, praise by strumming soft strings. Praise her with castanets and dance, praise him with banjo and flute. Praise her with cymbals and a big bass drum, praise him with fiddles and mandolin. Let every living, breathing creature praise God! Hallelujah!
SLIDE 19: STORY-TELLING AND SILENCE GATEWAYS TO THE DIVINE
Story-telling and silence are also both gateways to the divine. We are exploring the power and truth of story-telling as we read and discuss Kee Sloan’s marvelous novel Jabbok, and maybe you have heard some stories this morning worth the telling. And I believe Eddie Colf, who will be leading our Church Retreat in May, will be helping us to explore the sweet territory of silence.
Gratitude, generosity, healing, prayer in dance, song, story-telling and silence. These are all paths to connecting with God. Let us sing and dance to the Lord. Amen.