Winthrop Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
No matter who you are. No matter where you are on life's journey. You are welcome here.
Sermon by Pastor Intern Sarah Mills for November 28, 2021: The Thing With Feathers based upon Luke 1:26-38
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.
This week, the first week of Advent, is all about hope. Hope. Something I often struggle to define, but often see and understand most clearly through poetry. Some of you may also know that I am a birder as well, so I leapt at the opportunity to include a certain poem in today’s worship. I’d like to start by sharing that poem with you all. As I said, I find that it helps me to define hope. It’s by Emily Dickinson and you may be very familiar with it already, so I hope you won’t mind hearing it again:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
Raise your hand if you've ever spent time with this poem before. Now raise your hand if you have always felt full of hope for what lies ahead. Even if I can't see you all, I imagine that not everybody that raised their hand the first time kept it raised for the second question. Hope is difficult to summon sometimes. When we are in our darkest places, hope can seem the furthest away. When you feel singled out when you haven’t wanted to be. Like there’s too much pressure being put on you. Like “hope” is the very last thing on your mind or in your heart. Like that gale, that storm, really might be too strong for the little bird to stay gripped to the perch in your soul.
So I’m going to ask you another question: When is the last time somebody asked you to do something for them and you thought “There's no way I could do that!”? “Why would you even ask me that? Who do you think I am? Ask somebody younger. Ask somebody smarter. Ask somebody older. Ask somebody wealthier. Ask somebody who believes that they can do it, because I sure can’t.” Or maybe you wanted to respond by saying “No, thank you. I don't have time, I don't need the added stress. My life is just fine how it is right now, so why don't you find somebody else.”
In our reading today we hear about Gabriel appearing to Mary and saying to her “Greetings favored one, the Lord is with you!”. Now if I were Mary, that's the first bit that puts me on edge. “Favored? What have I done that makes me favored? And why would somebody need to tell me that the Lord is with me, I already know that. I know the Lord is always with me, so why is this angel showing up out of nowhere telling me I am a “favored one” and needing to remind me that the Lord is with me, what is this angel about to tell me? I'm a little bit suspicious, and probably more than a little freaked out about the fact that there is an angel right in front of me.” Talk about a strong gale! It sounds like Mary had a similar response. In our reading it says she was much perplexed by these words and pondered that sort of greeting and what it might mean. You and me both, Mary!
But Gabriel goes on to say to her “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Ohhh, that’s why he called me “favored”. But I haven’t done anythi– “And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.” Ok, if I were Mary, this is the point at which I want to wave my hands and say “Wow wow wow wow, what are you talking about, Gabriel?” The storm winds are a’blowin’! Luke records that Mary says, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” But something tells me that was maybe about the fifth question she would have had. “Why me?” “Do you have the right person?” “Do you know who I am? I’m a nobody” “How many other people did you ask first?”
Have you thought about that? Maybe Gabriel had gone to other women first, appeared to them and said “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.” To a wealthy woman, to a wife of a rabbi, to an older woman, to a queen. How might they have responded? “Sorry, darling, you must have the wrong house.” “What would I get out of this?” “Sorry, not today.” “No, thank you, I have enough to manage.” “No.” “Not me.” “I don’t think so.” Gabriel was left standing on those doorsteps, and thinking “Uhhh, ok. Let me try one more place. Let me visit that 15-year old girl engaged to Joseph. She doesn’t have an impressive, notable family background, she isn’t wealthy, but something tells me, she may be the one.”
It’s true, we don’t know anything about Mary’s background. Luke tells us “the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” That’s it. No genealogy for her, no mention of what tribe of Israel her family comes from, who her parents are, where they are from. Just. Nothing. That is who Gabriel appears to, that is who God has chosen to extend this honor to.
Gabriel doesn’t abandon pursuing Mary when she asks “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” He doesn’t think “Ugh, here’s another one who will close the door in my celestial face!” No! Gabriel explains to her that her relative Elizabeth (that’s the only detail we get about Mary’s family background, she is somehow related to Elizabeth) is pregnant, even in her old age, even when everyone believed her to be barren. “For nothing is impossible with God.” Nothing is impossible with God. Mary needs no other reminder. She starts feeling that flutter of wings, that thing with feathers in her soul. She feels the truth of that statement in her heart. She is moved from trepidation and fear, to hope and trust in the goodness and power of God. “Here am I,” she says, “the servant of the Lord”. How else could we consider ourselves when faced with the statement, “Nothing is impossible with God.” All I can do is say, “You are so great, I am yours,” or as Mary puts it “Let it be with me according to your word.”
Let it be. Let it be. Whisper words of wisdom. Let it be. Apologies for diverting from our Emily Dickinson poem, but I have spent the last three days watching the three-part documentary “Get Back” all about the Beatles recording the album “Let It Be”, culminating with their rooftop concert. Now, the Beatles are my favorite band, so I may be a bit biased, but I would heartily recommend checking it out if you have a spare 8 hours, because it tells a great story of hope even when things look dark and just how well music can communicate hope to us. One of the magical things you see in the series is Paul McCartney bringing “Let It Be” to the group. He has said that he dreamt of his mother appearing to him saying “It will be alright, just let it be.” A comforting sentiment at a time when Paul felt out of his depth, overwhelmed, probably struggling to find that little bird of hope. His mother had passed when he was only 14 (right around the same age of Mary in our reading from Luke) and yet his heart knew that he needed to remember his mother, Mary McCartney, at that moment. She had a message for him. Maybe not quite “Greetings favored one, the Lord is with you”, but an assurance that hope is still possible, that it will be ok. If we let it be.
The comfort Mother Mary offers in the song is offered now to us. Mary the unwed teenager has been there, she has said yes to God. She has shown hope in all that God can do. She has said “let it be”. It will be ok because I have hope. I believe in what the Lord can do. I can feel those fluttering wings perched in my soul and the breeze they are creating is real. That small beat of hope will become the heartbeat of a tiny child born into this world as we were all born. Let us let this beat of hope fill our souls and drive us on towards the birth of Christ. Towards an Advent that is filled with flutters of feathers, flurries of questions, and dreams of comforting songs that will see us through the darkest storms. Amen.
Resources consulted while writing this sermon:
Psalm 132 (we read 1-12, I mentioned the rest in the sermon):
Lord, remember in David’s favour
all the hardships he endured;
how he swore to the Lord
and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
‘I will not enter my house
or get into my bed;
I will not give sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
until I find a place for the Lord,
a dwelling-place for the Mighty One of Jacob.’
We heard of it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the fields of Jaar.
‘Let us go to his dwelling-place;
let us worship at his footstool.’
Rise up, O Lord, and go to your resting-place,
you and the ark of your might.
Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
and let your faithful shout for joy.
For your servant David’s sake
do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
The Lord swore to David a sure oath
from which he will not turn back:
‘One of the sons of your body
I will set on your throne.
If your sons keep my covenant
and my decrees that I shall teach them,
their sons also, for evermore,
shall sit on your throne.’
For the Lord has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his habitation:
‘This is my resting-place for ever;
here I will reside, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless its provisions;
I will satisfy its poor with bread.
Its priests I will clothe with salvation,
and its faithful will shout for joy.
There I will cause a horn to sprout up for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one.
His enemies I will clothe with disgrace,
but on him, his crown will gleam.’
Psalm 132:1-12- Gleaming Crowns and Glowing Lamps
I have only one clear memory of the drive my family took when we moved back to Tennessee from Texas. I was four and a half and it was a long drive... I get why I’d only remember one thing. At some point in the drive, one of my parents, probably mom, must have talked about seeing the mountains and how that’s when we’d know we were almost home. And, even at four and a half, I knew that a proper response to something so exciting was to sing. So, I sang. I’m not sure when I started singing, because you can see mountains in a lot of Tennessee and pretty far from where we would be living. I definitely sang when I saw them , maybe about every mountain we saw. And, do you want to know what I sang: “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain when She Comes.”
I think I sang that song about a thousand times. I have no idea where I learned it. If my parents taught it to me, I am sure that they regretted it. But it was the only song about mountains that I knew, so I sang it... a lot... to usher us home. I don’t remember my parents trying to stop me either. Maybe they hoped I’d tire myself out or were just happy that I wasn’t waking up my infant sister. Either way, I sang and sang and sang as we traveled up and into the Tennessee Valley. Sometimes the only way to finish a big, life-changing trip is with a song.
Today’s Psalm is a song that you sing at the close of a trip, in this case a pilgrimage into Jerusalem. It is one of the Songs of Ascents, a group of psalms sung by pilgrims as they entered Jerusalem. It is a song about how Jerusalem came to be the center point for their worship. In a commentary on this text, Joan Stott notes that the people of Israel had often built spaces for worship in places where they wanted to be reminded of God’s involvement in the world. For Abram, it was the simple altar in Canaan. Moses, who led a people following God via pillars of fire and cloud, built a mobile tent in which the people could carry the Ark of the Covenant, a visible sign that God was not only leading them, but accompanying them on the journey. Stott reminds us that it is David who felt called to build the temple in Jerusalem. Though it was his son who finished the building, Solomon was working from his father’s inspiration. This Psalm is a reminder of David’s vow to find a dwelling place for God beyond the one that existed in his heart.
As much as this Psalm is a reminder of David’s promise, it is also a reminder of God’s promise. Within our reading is a reaffirmation of David’s promise, by David’s people. The people demonstrate that they are a part of this promise as well. “Rise up, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your faithful shout for joy. For your servant David’s sake do not turn away from the face of your anointed one.” They are shouting for joy and advocating on behalf of their king. But, in the portion just after our reading, God is responding to this song of praise and supplication.
Verse 13 says that God had chosen Zion, Jerusalem, for God’s resting place. And, the promise that God makes to the people of that place is that they will be provided for in abundance: “I will abundantly bless it’s provisions; I will satisfy its poor with bread. It’s priests I will clothe with salvation, and it’s faithful will shout for joy.” It is good to be reminded that God working in the world look like fully bellies, enough food to share, ethical leaders, and joyful shouting. If the situation we find ourselves in falls short of that, we might need some more divine intervention and human action to get us that vision of a city filled with God.
In her commentary on this text, Jennifer Lord suggests we understand it as both a “warning and a promise.” Many leaders, not just religious ones, will claim to be inspired and appointed by God. When someone chooses to identify themselves with this kind of anointing, they must be willing to be judged by the set of intentions God has laid before humanity. God is both the source of the call and the root of our actions. As we have talked about several times lately, if the fruit of our actions, or our leaders’ actions, doesn’t not measure to the standard set by God for Jerusalem, we have to re-evaluate what we and our leaders are doing. Even David, himself, built too much with manipulation and exploitation, and most of us aren’t David. Dr. Lord argues that “God’s steadfastness is the origin and source of any good that comes from earthly rule.” Part of the work of faith, then, is a persistent attention to, and revision of, how we are living and what we are building to see if it conforms to what Dr. Lord calls “God’s purposes of love and justice.” The temple described in this Psalm may have eventually been completed long ago, but the beloved community that we are living in right now is always adapting and changing to more fully live into God’s vision at that particular time and at that particular place.
Today, in the calendar of the church year, marks Reign of Christ Sunday. The pope who decreed this day to be a particular holy day 100 years wanted to have a day to intentionally consider what it means to understand Jesus as our ultimate leader and also ground of our action. I am acquainted with an Episcopal priest who says that her belief in the Kingship of Christ helps keep her from ever seeking out leaders who think they are God. I’ve been thinking about that a lot these days. Christians have traditionally understood Jesus to be the messiah promised in this scripture, the leader who brings the world closer to the vision of abundance and joy that God promised Zion. And, Jesus’ messiahship did not come through him acting like a new David, though some hoped he would be. No, Jesus said that a leader is first servant of all. That’s how he understood himself and his disciples to be moving closer to God’s reign of abundance and joy. Reign of Christ Sunday is also the lead in to our Advent season, where we spend weeks together considering Emmanuel, God with us, who shared human frailties and lived in divine love. Maybe one way to reconsider the upcoming season is to imagine it a pilgrimage, a journey that can change you and lead you right up to God’s footstool, the manger. What will be the song you sing as you arrive in God’s presence and how will you allow God’s presence to change, for the better, the way you live?
Resources consulted while writing this sermon:
Jennifer L. Lord, "Proper 29 (Reign of Christ)," Preaching God's Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary, Year B Featuring 22 New Holy Days for Justice, Ronald J. Allen, Dale P. Andrews, and Dawn Ottoni- Wilhelm, eds. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011).
Joan Stott: http://www.thetimelesspsalms.net/w_resources/rnchristkingb_2015.htm
Pulpit fiction: https://www.pulpitfiction.com/notes/proper29b
On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year after year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?’
After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: ‘O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.’
As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, ‘How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.’ But Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.’ Then Eli answered, ‘Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.’ And she said, ‘Let your servant find favour in your sight.’ Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.
They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord.’
“If you can’t speak, you sing. If you can’t sing, you dance.” That’s how I’ve heard musicals described. You can tell how much the emotion in the story is ramping up because the characters who are speaking will start singing. And, if it’s really important, they’ll start dancing. Sometimes the Bible is like this. We can tell that an event is important and highly emotional because one of the people in the story sings a song about it. One of my favorite scriptures is the song Mary sings after agreeing to be Jesus’ mother: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is God’s name (Luke 1:46-49).” Beautiful, right? Mary, who sings with joy about being pregnant with a child she didn’t expect is a spiritual descendant of a person of one of the figures of today’s reading, Hannah, who will sing a song of joy for the child she desperately wanted.
Remember the words of Mary’s song? Here’s part of Hannah’s. It is from 1 Samuel 2:
‘My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. ‘There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”
The themes are clearly similar, even more so when you read the whole two songs together. These are women of a deep faith, a faith that will forever alter their lives. They are confident that God will care for the ones considered lowly in their community. When they count themselves among the lowly, they know that they can call upon God for help.
Part of Hannah’s story is about the way women can be pitted against each other. As Dr. Valerie Bridgeman notes in her commentary about the text, this is a culture and an era where women who are able to marry, become pregnant, and have children, boys in particular, are highly prized. Any women who cannot do those things in that order will be considered lacking. Dr. Bridgeman notes that this is one of many stories where women are in relationships with the same man and one can have children and one has not yet. Rachel and Leah were sisters married to Jacob, when he really had only wanted to marry one of them. Sarai enslaved Hagar, also giving her husband permission to try to conceive with her when Sarai was unable to become pregnant. Embedded in each of these stories are two women trying to live up the expectations of their time and a man who clearly prefers one of them, often the one who has not been able to successfully have a child. Conflict was bound to arise.
As we read these kinds of stories, and this example in particular, in one of her commentaries on this text, Dr. Wil Gafney invites us to consider what would it feel like to fulfill all of society’s expectations of you, and still be less favored and obviously loved less? And, in her commentary on the text, Dr. Bridgeman reminds readers of the precarious life a woman who does not have children, sons in particular. Not only will she face a certain amount of scorn and derision both within and outside of her family, should her husband die, she would likely find herself with no one to care for her. While Hannah’s husband’s deep love for her was appreciated, it did not, alone, grant her security or a place among honorable women in her community. Even aside from the issue of wanting children and not being able to have them, a heartbreaking feeling that I imagine some listening to this sermon today are familiar with, today’s reading is about someone who is living in a tense household where she is often concerned about her long-term security. No wonder she weeps and calls out to God.
Dr. Alphonetta Wines points out that in her prayer to God, Hannah does not seek retribution against Peninnah. Instead, she prays to God to help her conceive and promises to set her child aside as one specially consecrated to God. She is at the temple in Shiloh, a center for worship in the time before David had the temple built in Jerusalem, when we see her praying. She and her husband have offered sacrifices. The priest there, Eli, initially mistakes her grief for intoxication. He assumed she was drunkenly, silently mumbling to herself the prayers that people usually prayed aloud. And, while some people certainly do turn to drink during times of lament, Hannah had not. And, she stands up for herself, clarifying that she is sober but deeply troubled. Rather than pouring drink into herself to cover the grief, she has been pouring out her soul to God.
Dr. Bridgeman encourages readers to pay attention here to the fact that Hannah is reaching out on her own behalf. While much of this story is shaped by things she cannot control- particularly her ability to procreate- she is not completely without agency. According to Dr. Bridgeman, this “is the story of a woman who petitions on her own behalf and does what it takes, physically and ritually, to try to have a child.” Who knows what prayers her husband might have lifted up on her behalf. He worked hard to demonstrate his love. I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t have prayed for her. But, this is really Hannah’s story, so Hannah’s prayers are the prayers we read. And, it is Hannah’s prayers that move the priest Eli to say, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to God.” And, Hannah, who had been so aggrieved that she had trouble eating and drinking, was comforted by this assurance. She went to her husband, nourished her body, and was sad no longer.
She and Elkanah offer prayers at Shiloh once more, and return home, where she would eventually conceive. She would name her son Samuel, which means, “I have asked him of the Lord.” She would care for the boy, until he was weaned. And, then, keeping her promise, bring him and additional sacrifices to the temple at Shiloh. She would tell Eli, “For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” And, then she sings her song of praise, the one I shared a bit of earlier.
I don’t know where you might hear yourself in this story. Maybe you are Elkanah, trying hard to communicate your love, but missing the mark. Maybe you are Peninnah, turning the bitterness of being less loved into harassment of one who, through no fault of her own, is less successful according to the measures of society. Maybe you’re Hannah, woe-filled and faithful, certain that God will not forget you. Wherever you hear yourself in this story, I pray that you can feel the presence of the God who breaks the bows of the mighty and girds the feeble in strength. May you live as though you know this God is tending to you and act as though God is already working through you.
Resources consulted while writing this sermon:
Valerie Bridgeman: https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-33-2/commentary-on-1-samuel-14-20-5
Alphonetta Wines: https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-33-2/commentary-on-1-samuel-14-20-3
Wilda C. Gafney, "Proper 6," A Women's Lectionary for the Whole Church: Year W, A Multi-Gospel Single-Year Lectionary (New York: Church Publishing, 2021)
After Annual Meeting on October 23rd, the Maine Conference of the United Church of Christ shared a worship service that any churches in the conference could use. The Rev. Jonna Jensen preaches and musicians from across the conference, including three of our choir members. Our pastoral intern, Sarah, is also a scripture reader.
We had some tech issues on Sunday, so not everyone may have been able to see the first part of worship clearly. We decided to share it here, so you can return to it and catch anything you may have missed.
Psalm 1 The Two Ways
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
What does it mean to be rooted in love? We’ve been talking about it together over the last month. We considered the second creation story in Genesis that reminds us of God’s care and provision for humanity. It shows us that humans are made for one another, to steward creation together, and to build community together. In that scripture, to be rooted in love is to be reminded that humans are a gift given by God to each other. Imagine what this world could be like if we lived like we were made for each other?
We have also considered the difficult demand of Mark 10, when the wealthy and devout man asked for guidance on how to more fully live out God’s commands. Jesus tells him that his hoarding of wealth is a barrier to his following God. In that moment, the man is too bereaved at the idea of losing his money to follow Jesus. We don’t know if he eventually does. In that story, to be rooted in love is to give up your excess so that others may have enough. To be rooted in love means that, if you want to follow Jesus, you won’t walk away from difficult demands. Imagine a world where that man could give away the wealth that was binding him. Imagine a world where each of us could give away the privilege that is binding us.
Our pastoral intern Sarah shared some of her faith journey, reminding us that God is both our refuge and our companion on the journey. For her, her spiritual roots, that is, her keen awareness that God provided protection and safety for her, helped her address self-doubt, self-criticism, and anxiety that challenged her. That is not unlike the testimony Jamie shared today, about how her relationship with Jesus is providing her with healing, and helping her cast out, in particular, a fear of rejection that has been a part of her life for a long time. Imagine a world where all people are as confident that they are as beloved as Sarah and Jamie are, now that they know they are beloved by God for exactly who they are.
And, last week, we heard a word from Jeremiah, who showed us a tender God who offers restoration to those who have been harmed. God will gather up those who have scattered. God will carry along those who would usually be left behind. Imagine a world where God has restored the wounded among us... where the ones who struggle most are considered first in the travel. In our scripture today, the Psalmist speaks of those who follow God’s law, meditating on God’s hope for the world, as being like trees plants by streams of water. Their roots are nourished, so their fruit is rich and their leaves are healthy. When we remember and nourish our roots with God, by living like we are made for each other, by giving up the privilege that prevents us from following Jesus, and tending to our relationship with God, we are like these trees planted by the water. The world you imagine... connected, beloved, just... is the fruit of the faith God is rooting in us at this very moment. May we be grateful for these roots and keep working with God to tend them.
Pastor Chrissy is a native of East Tennessee. She and her wife moved to Maine from Illinois. She is a graduate of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University and Chicago Theological Seminary.