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Pastor's Blog - Thoughts from Rev. Kimberly Hodges

Sermon 11/12/17

On Thursday this week,  I joked with our church secretary, Stephanie, and asked her to write the sermon for me.  She let out a good cackle on that one.  I told her the overall topic – on anxieties in our waiting – and she “oh! Well, let me tell you about waiting!”  And we ended up having a really great conversation about how life teaches us to wait.Image result for waiting

If you are newer here, you may not know that Stephanie has essentially been hobbling around the office since last winter.  She twisted her ankle last Jan/Feb and after months of trying to stay off her foot, going to physical therapy, and enduring multiple tests, she’s going in tomorrow for her second spinal injection for bulging discs.  

On Thursday, she told me how the past months have taught her waiting.  After all the doctors appointments – waiting for the appointment, waiting in the waiting room, and waiting for results – she is an expert in waiting.  She says she doesn’t get bothered so much anymore with the waiting – she’s learned how to slow down and simply “be” – she’s learned how to wait.

Both of our Scripture readings today deal with people who are waiting – and are anxious.  They haven’t learned how to wait.  The audience of Matthew’s narrative was anxious that they had missed the Messiah – and Jesus was trying to reassure them that he was indeed the Messiah.  The audience of 1Thessalonians was anxious that they had missed the second coming of the Messiah. Paul was trying to reassure them that they would indeed experience the fulfilment of God’s plan, no matter when they died.

While we can all absolutely relate to the struggle of waiting, the context and language of these two Scriptures may be a little harder to relate to.  Hopefully by hearing my questions, you’ll be reminded that it’s ok to ask challenging questions of the Bible – it always only leads to better understanding.

  • First, I have some questions about the Matthew narrative.  (This is a safe space, right?) For example, why did the “prepared/prudent” bridesmaids not share their oil with the “Ill-prepared” bridesmaids?  I hear Stephanie Tanner’s voice from Full House in my head – “How rude!”
    • I really appreciate David Lose’s words regarding this. (http://www.davidlose.net/2014/11/pentecost-22-a/)  He says “The parable seems, quite frankly, a little unfair. All the bridesmaids brought oil, all waited, all fell asleep. And the decision about who gets in comes down to who anticipated the bridegroom would be this incredibly late and so brought more oil.”
    • The setting for this parable puts a gap between us as readers and Matthew’s audience, as well, because it is the wedding traditions of the time – the groom would go off in search of the bride, while the bridesmaids and others prepared the ceremony, and upon the couple’s return the celebration would go on for days.  So, that would mean that the groom would only return when he had found the bride.  
      • David Henson asks, “If the bridegroom is already with his bride when he arrives, then how can this parable be interpreted as the return of Christ for his bride?”  In this parable, there is no mention of the bride but it would be assumed that if the groom returned, he had his bride with him. (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson/2014/11/the-breaking-of-the-bridesmaids-how-scripture-undermines-a-parable/)
      • Henson suggests that this parable isn’t about the return of Christ.  Perhaps it is instead about those who are following Jesus’ message and those who are not.  The concern in Jerusalem of that time was who was following Jesus and who wasn’t – who was “in” and who was “out” – this could be a parable addressing that concern.  The concern of who recognized the Messiah and who didn’t.  
    • Nevertheless, the parable makes a point about waiting and preparedness: that it matters how you wait.  What we are aware of or what we aren’t aware of while we are waiting matters.  
  • Second, in the 1 Thessalonians narrative, the audience is concerned about the timing of when they die and the second coming of Jesus the Christ on earth.  Paul uses language that paints a picture similar to that of a king entering a town, complete with trumpets and fanfare.  It is language that the Thessalonians would understand as meaning that a savior is coming to restore peace to the land.  
    • That literal language doesn’t particularly speak to me – possibly you.  I lean towards the language of John M. Buchanan commentary from Feasting on the Word (Year A, Vol 4).  Buchanan says “Jesus Christ comes when Christian people live in hope and never give up.  Jesus Christ comes when faithful disciples express love and compassion and work for justice. Jesus Christ comes when critically ill people know they are ultimately safe in God’s love. Heaven breaks into earth when faithful women and men live in hope and give themselves to the work of the kingdom.”

I am sure that I could ask any person here what you are waiting for and you would have an answer.  Let’s be honest, some of you are waiting and wondering how long service will be today so that you can eat. (There are pimento cheese sandwiches in there!)  Some of you are waiting and hoping for a phone call or text from a loved one saying they’re sorry.  Some are waiting in high expectation for medical results.  Some are waiting for the day when you don’t worry about your child or grandchild’s safety at school.  Some of you are waiting for “the other shoe to drop,” because life is going really good for you right now and it’s hard to accept.  

The thing about waiting is that it means we have a future hope.  It means we hope that there are still pimento cheese sandwiches on the plate when we get in line.  It means we hope that the friend or family member will simply admit that they hurt our feelings.  It  means we hope for an “all clear” from the doctor.  It means we hope for the day that random acts of mass violence aren’t a reality.  It means we hope for the day that we can trust in God’s provision, no matter the circumstances.

And what we do from the waiting to the fulfilment of our hope matters.  We need to balance the “waiting in the now” and “hoping in the future.” We cannot constantly live in the mindset of the future or else we will miss what is happening right in front of us.  

  • We’ll miss the pieces of wisdom and moments of fellowship found in the pews.
  • We’ll miss the lessons learned in how to productively express our emotions.
  • We’ll miss the ways our friends and family support us in love.
  • We’ll miss the crossing over of political lines to reach a compromise and cooperation.
  • We’ll miss the joys that are right in front of us. Now.

Image result for all will be wellAt the close of today’s worship, we’re singing a new hymn.  The words are inspired by Julian of Norwich, a theologian.  Last week, Chantal had said to me “All will be well” in the context of I-don’t-remember-what conversation – but one that included some anxiety.  Those words are the start to Julian of Norwich’s famous quote “All will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well.”  Her radical optimism permeated her theology that when the fulfilment of God is reached and Jesus’ message of love and mercy reigns on this earth, all will be well.

Take heart, dear friends, in your anxieties and in your waiting.  Don’t miss out on the things that happen in between.  Be diligent in doing what you can do to bring Jesus’ message of love and mercy to this world; and then rest in knowing God’s presence in around you.  For all will be well.  

Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

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Sermon 11/5/17

During the 1900s, Karl Barth was a well-known theologian.  He lived in Germany, pastored numerous churches, and wrote Church Dogmatics, where he explores in depth the doctrines of the Christian church.  He is considered to be one of the most influential theologians in recent history.  Some philosophy and theology students today look to his works as an authority regarding church doctrine.

Image result for all saints dayThis morning’s Wired Word class discussed Barth’s influence, him being regarded as a theological authority, and the fact that Barth had a live-in mistress for many years.  Does the fact that his adultery is well-known cloud his theological authority?

Today is a Sunday where we celebrate All Saints Day – celebrating the people who have lived before us and shown us wisdom in living out our Christian faith.  Nadia Bolz-Weber reminds us that “Never once did Jesus scan the room for the best example of holy living and send that person out to tell others about him.”  She continues saying, “[Jesus] always sent stumblers and sinners. I find that comforting.”

Looking to the saints and looking to the places where we place spiritual authority, it motivates us to ask “Where does spiritual authority come from?”  When someone says, “This is God’s word. This is God’s will,” what litmus test do we have to run it through and give it credibility?

We need to think about this because people in society will come at us from all directions, asserting that some ideal is God’s way – is God’s word.  Attaching “God” to an idea gives it authority and, if we let it, invokes guilt if you don’t follow it.  

I’ve had conversations with many of you about people who have claimed certain ideals were “God’s ways” or you were taught certain principles as a kid that were “God’s words,” but as an adult you are second-guessing those principles.  You are questioning the authority people claimed they had to assert those things.  

If we don’t question the source’s authority, then we open ourselves to following a mindset that would actually be against God’s word.  We need to know what or who we allow to have power over our spiritual lives.  

In thinking of the recent 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it is interesting to reflect on the shifts in thought over the centuries regarding where we place spiritual authority.  The Reformation marked a time when spiritual authority was seen as shifting away from the priests of the Catholic church and solely toward sacred Scripture.  So, instead of only looking toward the priests for explanation and instruction on how to live as Christians, the believers started looking directly to Scripture for that wisdom and guidance.  

This is called sola scriptura; it asserts that the Bible is infallible – without error.  All teaching based off of the Bible is subject to error, but the Scripture itself is without error.

In recent years, a push has been made to highlight the context within which much of the Scripture was written.  This mindset highlights that the Bible was written by humans and, as such, is subject to human influence.  For example, when a verse speaks about how a slave and master should relate to one another, it is not suggesting that in 2017 it is okay to have slaves – it is instead a verse that speaks to a cultural situation of that time and perhaps how to deal with power struggles between humans.

Another place where spiritual authority is placed is in the saints – the theologians, the activists, the family members who guided us in wisdom regarding our Christian faith and passed away from life on this earth.  The apostle Paul is often referred to as Saint Paul in some Christian traditions.  He is regarded as a saint of the Christian faith – a person who provided much wisdom and guidance on living out the Christian faith.

In today’s Scripture, Paul says to the Thessalonians “We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.”  How did the Thessalonians know that it was “God’s word?”  How would they know it wasn’t simply a human rattling off theories about a man who proclaimed to be God’s son?

How do we distinguish human word from God’s word?  Holly Hearon on workingpreacher.org distinguishes human word as simply words from one person to another but God’s word as the intersection of the speaker, the audience, and the context.  God’s word is incarnational and has its “origin in the life-generating nature and activity of God.”  Specifically, when looking at the Thessalonians, she states, “they recognized the very presence of God in the act of proclamation.  God is made known and becomes visible at the very point in time, the social circumstances, the physical space in which the speaker and the audience meet.  In that moment, we become alert to God with us.”

How do we know that the word is at work within us?  We see the labors of love.  Last week we heard about the love Jesus commanded us to have as not being the warm and fuzzy feelings, but the commitment to seeking good will of all Creation. God’s word comes alive in the midst of people’s lives.  

When we are presented with “God’s word,” we need to consider a few criteria and discern if we take it in as such.  

Looking to the saints that have gone before, they preached the word of love (of commitment to God’s word).  If someone tries selling you a principal of “God’s word” and it doesn’t include love, mercy, forgiveness – be weary.  

  • God’s word includes thoughtfulness and insight.
  • God’s word results in living it out in loving action.
  • It includes integrity.  Paul was trying to establish this integrity in his letters to the different churches – explaining how they worked together to spread Jesus’ message.  
  • Reading Paul’s letters and also reading saints’ writings from the more recent past show us that God’s word requires vulnerability and humility.  There is confidence in God’s word but there is also a humility in acknowledging that none of us know it all 100%.  We are still learning.
  • Finally, there is forgiveness in God’s word.  It comes along with acknowledging that we are still learning.  

I’ve admitted to you all before that I wasn’t supportive and affirming of the LGBT community until I was mid- to late-20s.  Well, in my early 20s I was a youth leader at a rural NC church.  I taught – I tried teaching – many youth that being in a same-sex relationship wasn’t what God intended.  I’m happy to say that I keep in touch with most of those youth/now adults and almost all of them completely ignored what I tried teaching them.  I tried teaching them what I believed then was God’s word.  And now I believe I was wrong.  And I’m thankful there is forgiveness.

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

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Sermon 10/29/17

Let’s talk about all the things we love – what do you love? (tacos, people, justice, TV shows, etc.)

We throw that word around all over the place in our culture.  Some languages have multiple words for “love” depending on whether you are talking about familial love or romantic love or just really liking something.  And we have words that add meaning – like adore – but we use “love” a lot.  

As many of you have learned in biblical studies, ancient Greek had numerous words for love.  “Philia” – friendship type of love.  “Eros” – romantic love. “Storgi” – familial love, maybe love for your pet, or love of institution.  “Agape” – love between God/man; charitable love; wanting good fortune for mankind.  

The love we are commanded to follow today is an “agape” love.  It’s the charitable love, the love that, as Douglas Hare wrote, is not marked by warm and fuzzy feelings of gratitude but by a “rather stubborn, unwavering commitment.”  

This love is a commitment that beckons us to live better.  It is a commitment to wanting good fortune for all humans.

This love is a heart setting.  If your entire being is on the “agape setting,” then it just seeps into your daily life.  The Jewish people that would hear these words from Jesus were aware that their faith had in it over 600 laws for daily living.  That’s a lot!  To me, that sounds overwhelming because my mind would get bogged down in the minutia details of following 600+ commandments.  

But Jesus boiled it down to “love God. love one another. be committed to being kind.”  THAT I could do.  

Marcus Borg (ucc.org) states that, in ancient Jewish psychology, the “character of the heart depended upon orientation, what it was pointed toward or centered in…its fundamental loyalty.”  Jesus taught that we are to be centered in the Spirit – to be centered on the setting of love.   All those 600+ laws fall under the setting of love.  

Our two Scripture readings today paint a picture of that agape love and we learn a few things about this commitment.

1 – This love includes tender care and generosity.  Living into God’s will sometimes tempts people to forget being tender and generous.  There is a temptation to excuse oneself from being rude or offending others because “I’m doing God’s will.  If you’re not on board, then I’m just going to sidestep you.”

The love can be expressed in an instant interaction, much like many of Jesus’ interactions with people were for one moment, or they can be carried over days/months/years, like Paul’s missionary journeys.

In Paul’s words, “we proved to be gentle among you, like a nursing mother caring for her own children.”  Paul and his ministry team faced a lot of opposition and were bold – but that doesn’t mean they were intentionally rude or dismissive to others.  We, too, can be bold and courageous in our faith and living out God’s agape love – while being tender and caring and generous.  

2 – This love is not always easy.  It is not always filled with puppy dogs and rainbows, because we don’t always understand each other and people aren’t always loving towards us.  As much as we sometimes lean toward revenge, we aren’t helping humanity or showing any Jesus-love by doing so.    

There shouldn’t be boundaries to our love…to our commitment.  It’s hard when others challenge us, but Jesus’ command is to not add to the disrespect.

You can’t command someone to have the warm and fuzzy kind of love.  That would be forced and ingenuine.  However, Jesus does command us, in order to fulfill God’s will on this earth, to be committed in love to one another.  This kind of love is a setting of the heart, the soul, and the mind – your entire being.  

“We are redeemed by love, and we are to be known for our love of others. Love for those near us, and those far; those like us, and those alien to us; those who we like, and those who we have a hard time stomaching; those who are nice to us, and those who have injured us greatly; those who think like us, vote like us, pray like us, and those who work for the very opposite things.We love. We encourage love. We are to build people and communities and cultures on love.”

  • Rick Morley, Growing Edge blog

3 – This love takes you in a direction.   The love that Jesus had for people led him to healing the sick and talking to the foreigner.  The love that Paul had for the message of Jesus led him across city lines to help establish faith communities.

In church, we can sometimes feel the burden of “we need to do all the service and outreach possible.”  But we don’t need to do them if we are simply trying to check them off the list.  1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that if we do these wonderful acts in life – but do them without love – then we are like a bunch of noisy cymbals clashing together.  And not in the cute “a 1-year old is playing with pots and pans” type of way.  It’s clashing together in the annoying “it’s 1am and the neighbor is learning to play the drums” type of way.  

We need to love one another – be committed to God and one another in service.  When we love one another, all that other stuff falls in line and we move forward together.  

I have a lot of respect for the story that Dallas Stamper, director of PIN ministries, tells about how he and his wife started the outreach.  They started it because they felt the need to love the people in the area who were without homes.  So, they took some sandwiches down to the oceanfront and ended up spending hours there.  They did it again the next week.  Years later they have founded a non-profit called People In Need and, among many other services, they are starting job training programs within the year.  

That love Dallas and his wife embraced for the community of people here who are homeless took time, it wasn’t always easy, it was full of tender care, and it certainly took them in a direction.

Love is a setting of the heart, the soul, and the mind.

One of the best parts of being a minister: officiating weddings! Best seat in the house!  It’s a prime spot to witnessing the commitment of two people choosing to love one another daily.  Those two people are choosing to set their heart, their soul, and their mind on that relationship.

I want you to think about this commitment of setting your entire being on God – a commitment you make daily to love God and love neighbor.  Thinking of Mother Teresa’s words printed on the bulletin – “I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?

Don’t assume the answer includes “traditional” ways in which you need to check off the boxes – I’ll go to worship, I’ll serve a meal – I dare say just checking off the boxes puts you in the “1am learning to play drums” category.

What is the love you are putting into what you do?  

Scripture: Matthew 22:34-46;  1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

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Sermon 10/8/17

Image result for blessing of the animals

WHY do this blessing?  As far as I know, Lynnhaven Colony hasn’t traditionally done a Blessing of the Animals.  You may have seen it advertised at other churches.  So, why are WE doing this blessing?  

A little history: St. Francis of Assisi, in Italy, is the patron saint of animals in the Catholic church.  October 4th is the day that he died, thus, it is the day the Catholic church honors him and practices the Blessing of the Animals during that week.  He often preached sermons to animals and was a huge advocate that all creatures were part of God’s family in creation.  So, Blessing of the Animals is celebrated in conjunction with the feast day of St. Francis.  

Doing a Blessing of the Animals visually reminds us of the role animals play in our lives and it gives us a chance as a community of faith to extend a blessing to them, just as we receive weekly in worship.  

We, at Lynnhaven Colony, will bless live ones and even stuffed ones!  Fun fact: I had over 100 stuffed animals as a child – those stuffed animals brought me joy and comfort.  However, I’ve now dwindled it down to the 1 that sits in my office.

I would say there are two main things to be celebrated in Blessing of the Animals – their capacity for love and our connection with them as co-creatures in God’s Creation.

Animals have a capacity for love that comes without judgment – without care of age or skin color or education or favorite band.  They are the epitome of pure love.  (I know some of you may argue that statement when it comes to cats, but I assert that many of them are simply misunderstood.)  

I think part of the reason animals have such a capacity to love in the moment is that they are not hindered, as humans are, with a concern about the welfare of the future or regrets of the past.  Their love allows us to experience simply being in the moment.  They can give our souls rest from worrying.  All they care about is that you scratch their ear or give them a treat or throw the ball.

Yes, animals can fight fiercely – sometimes to the death – but their displays of love are just as fierce.  Have you seen a dog greet a returning military person or a horse running toward the barn after a long separation?  Have you seen the video of the ocean fish making a pattern in the sand during mating season?  Animals, unlike many humans, don’t have a filter when it comes to displaying affection.  

Because of their capacity to love, we can have strong connections with them.   Together, humans and animals work for comfort and healing – with hospital therapy dogs or horse therapy, such as at EquiKids.  For people who have lost the use of their legs, riding a horse can feel like freedom again!  That connection, that working together, is priceless to many.  And there are so many other examples!

And so, we can celebrate today our connection with animals.  When we start to lose our connection with each other and with God’s creation – animals – we start to lose connection with God.  

As we are in stewardship season and speaking of spreading our branches – we are reminded that, as a tree stays connected to the ground and water, we must maintain a connection to our source of nutrition, God.  And one way we do that is staying linked to God’s creation.  

The Bible is surely not without reference to animals, the role they play, and how we are connected.  

  • Before the invention of cars or field plows, we relied on animals for transportation and heavy work.  Jesus demonstrates this as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey!  The donkey represented a humble entrance.  
  • Further back, in the book of Numbers, a donkey speaks and keeps its rider from entering danger!  In Job, the large beasts are celebrated for the strength they show.  In Isaiah, the prophet spoke of a time when the lion and the lamb will lie down together in peace.
  • Even further back, we are told in the creation story of Genesis 1 that we are given dominion over the animals but “dominion” doesn’t mean “enslavement.”  Just as adults are put in charge of children, but guidance and care and respect is expected – the same goes with humans and animals.  Guidance and care and respect is needed.  And for that reason we will pray later in our service for those that work in fields that need humane treatment of animals.  

Animals, all of God’s creatures, both great and small, play a role in this Creation.  By doing this Blessing of the Animals we are reminded of that.  

A friend of mine, while working as a hospital chaplain, was once called to a unit and a nurse deemed her the “purveyor of symbolic gestures.”  Of course, from the perspective of a chaplain or clergy person, we see these symbolic gestures as more than an outward symbol.  

We see this blessing of the animals, and many other faith rituals, as an opportunity to outwardly and inwardly connect with one another and with God’s creation.  This is an opportunity to give thanks for the creatures in our lives who set an example to us to love fiercely and work with us to better this creation.

LET US GIVE THANKS

Scripture: Psalm 104:10-25

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Sermon 10/1/17

Image result for world communion sunday 2017

One of the things I often hear from people about worshiping at Lynnhaven Colony is the appreciation for our welcome of all backgrounds of people.  It helps us to have a better and wider view of all of God’s children when we hear other languages, when we hear of other’s experiences, and when we affirm that our particular view on this world is not the only view there is.  People see this world from all different perspectives, depending on culture, nationality, education, and many other factors.

One thing we can have in common, though, is the view of love – God’s love.  Paul, in his letter, encouraged the Philippians to be of the “same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”  He reminded them that this requires humility – even looking to others’ needs before our own – and in doing so, we imitate the mindset of Jesus Christ.  

With all the diversity in the world, we most certainly need to have humility when talking with people of differing perspectives.  Jesus modeled for us the balance of confidently standing firm in knowing God’s presence and desire for love, justice, and mercy for all – while also being humble.  For Jesus, that humility meant giving his life for God’s message.  For us, that humility could mean a wide-range of things – from “agreeing to disagree” with a friend whose philosophy is different from ours to intentionally sitting with a person to only listen/not trying to convince them to change their mind.  

In a few weeks, on October 22, we will have a speaker from the Transgender Advocacy Bureau to tell their story – and to engage in dialogue about the trans community.  While we are an Open and Affirming church, we still need to approach opportunities such as this with humility – knowing that we always have more to learn and a wider community of people to support.

A part of this Scripture that particularly jumps out to me is “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  It points to the fact that establishing our spirituality and our faith is not a one-time action – just as a tree (like our stewardship tree) continually draws nourishment from its roots, so must we continually draw nourishment from God’s messages.  

We work out our own salvation when we come together at worship, when we tell our stories or listen to others, when we attend studies or discussions, when we serve a dinner for people who do not have homes, when we pledge to share our skills and talents with one another, and when we come together at the communion table.  
This is what we celebrate on World Communion Sunday, especially as we welcome new members into the church.  We celebrate the wider Christian community across the world.

Scripture: Philippians 2:1-13

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Sermon 9/24/17

This Psalm brings to mind the image of a dance.  This dance doesn’t just include a human being or two moving their arms and legs and bodies choreographed to music.  This dance includes all of the creatures and creations of the Earth, not just humans.  The music is set to praising God.  It calls on the creatures of the land, the creatures of the sky, the plants of the fields, the planets and stars beyond our atmosphere, and the air that surrounds us to recognize and give thanks to the Creator that connects us all.  

It is an art – and I know how much this congregation loves art!

So, what are some of the ways you experience the art of Creation?

  • the oils from plants that help to calm and soothe
  • the feeling of wind against your skin when riding a bike

Norman Wirzba, author of “From Nature to Creation,” states, “According to Scripture, the world we live in is God’s creation.  It is the visual, fragrant, audible, touchable, and tasteable manifestation of God’s love, the place where God’s desire that others be and be well finds earthly expression.”  

I appreciate Wirzba’s mention of all the senses because we experience art in Creation through all of our senses.  It means that even if a person is blind or deaf or unable to squish their toes in the sand, they can still experience the art of God’s creation through some means.  Nobody is excluded from experiencing God’s creation.

This Psalm reminds us, too, that we, humans/animals/plants, are all a part of God’s Creation.  We are connected in every visible and invisible way.  If you don’t see that, I challenge you to try eating without any connection to plants or animals.  

The beauty in the Psalmist calling on every part of Creation to praise God is that it shows the diversity among us. The diversity in experiencing God’s creation and the diversity in adding to the praise. Is the cow’s praise the same as the sunflower’s praise?  No.  Sunflowers don’t moo and cows don’t open petals toward the rising sun.  However, both are needed in order to make the praise complete.  

Do humans praise God the same?  No.  One person photographs a sunset, another person plants a garden, and another finds ways of using nature to heal bodies.  I am sure that, for as many people as we have here today, we can name that many different ways humans praise God.  What are ways in which you praise God?

It is not hard to see the immense diversity and the beauty therein. What is especially great, I think, about including the animals and plants and stars in this command to praise is that these parts of Creation praise God by simply doing what it is that they have been created to do.  The cow moos, the sunflower turns toward the sun, the fire transforms.

What have you been created to do? Some of us cook amazing meals that nourish our bodies.  Some of us give the best hugs that remind us we are loved.  Some of us can see exactly how the human body moves and can help others walk better.  Some of us can explain reading and math to children in ways that help them learn.   

What have you been created to do? It’s a simple question that can get you into a rabbit hole of thought about your purpose in existing.  It’s a challenging question that requires thinking about how you hear or feel what you are created to do.  

But it can also be a life-giving question.  It’s a question that can help to focus you on what you are doing – at whatever stage you are at in life.  It’s a question that can help you get in tune to how your body, your personality, your life experiences can come together to add good to this world.

So often we hear comments about how busy life is – Lord knows I have made those comments for myself.  We hear about families and individuals being pulled in so many directions of work, school, sports, hobbies, and friends.  And, if we are not careful, we can feel rushed along in the current of life, forgetting what we were created to do, and feel lost.  

So, ask yourself, simply, what were you created to do?  

Joining in Creation with praise to God is a part of the journey to reconcile ourselves to God.  Thinking of last week’s message – to remember, repent, and renew – we need to remember the ways that we haven’t been the kindest to Creation, remember the ways that we simply haven’t done what we were created to do, to apologize and ask forgiveness of God’s Creation, and then to start a renewed relationship. To start a renewed relationship that leads us towards what we are created to do.  A relationship that includes praise.  And we were all created to praise – in numerous, beautiful, and wonderfully diverse ways.  

My hope is that today you will ask yourself what you were created to do – much like how the cow naturally moos or the sunflower naturally opens toward the sun – and that you will see ways in your life to do that.  

Scripture: Psalm 148

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