Archive for January 7th, 2010

Thursday Morning Angst

Thursday morning has arrived and I find myself feeling vulnerable and anxious.  At first I questioned my emotions, Why am I feeling this way?  There is no reason for it?  I should be feeling great?!  My daughter actually let me sleep through the night?!  As I arrived at the office, though, I identified the source of my angst.  This is the time of the week when I feel this way.  I forget how it feels every week, until I arrive here again and I remember.  Today is my in-between time.  I am in-between the sermon that has been outlined in my head and the sermon that is actually written and ready for Sunday morning.  I hate this in-between time.  But I stay here, prolonging my agony, longer than I should.  I procrastinate.  I get busy doing other things.  And the actual sitting down to write gets put off.  Why do I torture myself so?  Why don’t I just write the darn thing?  Well….I think the honest truth is that the actual writing is painful and difficult and all too often slow.  And I procrastinate because I fear that it just won’t come out of me this week.  Yes, it’s in my head.  But can I translate it to paper?  Can I actually make this sermon a reality, breathe life into it, and make it sing?  I doubt myself and my talents every single week.  The only thing that gets me over this Thursday, in-between-time hump, is my faith that God will be with me, and the trust that has grown in me (after doing this for about eleven years) that the Spirit has something to say…if I will only get myself and my fears out of her way.

I continue to focus on Isaiah 43: 1-7 for this Baptism of the Lord Sunday.  I’ve been practicing saying Isaiah’s words over the heads of my children every night after they have gone to sleep.  “You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” These words are perfect for a mother to whisper over her children’s heads.  They are perfect for a mother and her children, but in Isaiah’s text it is God saying these words to God’s people….all of God’s people…all of God’s creation.  Again, Isaiah is inclusive.  These words are for everyone (every thing) that God created, and formed, and named.  I am yours, God says through the prophet Isaiah.  And, “You are mine.” Again, God is as possessive as a mother…and as protective.  The love expressed here is so intimate that it’s hard to believe it’s meant for us.  It’s hard to imagine God loving us this much.  I think I might refer to Maya Angelou’s story about her Sunday School teacher who made her say, over and over again, “God loves me, God loves me, God loves me.”  Then, when she was done, her teacher told her, “Now try to know it.”  It is so hard to believe, and know, that God loves us this much.  These “comforting and hopeful words of Isaiah 43:1-7 are easier to read and write about than they are truly to hear and believe.  [So] this is a passage we need to return to over and over, just as we need to be reminded of our baptisms.  Words this good—love this uncommon—take time to be believed and absorbed.”[1]

Yes, words this good, love this uncommon, are hard to believe and absorb.  They are also harder still to embody.  I want to conclude my sermon by reminding us of the church’s role to embody this amazing, intimate, and inclusive love.  A pastor blogged[2] this week about the funky restaurant that she frequented in order to write and reflect on her sermons.  She goes to this restaurant because “the music is soulful and the ambience is warm.  The coffee and tea are offered in wide mugs by friendly but not pushy servers.  The art on the wall is provocative.  The feeling is inclusive.”  She gathers there with other strangers who all become temporary colleagues, while working on their laptops and sipping their coffee.  They suggest to each other what salads to try on the menu and watch each other’s computers if someone needs to slip off to the restroom.  Then she hears one of these strangers say something out loud, sort of to herself.  And the pastor replied, “What did you say?”  And she said it again: “I wish my church was like this.”

This blogging pastor interpreted her words to mean, “I wish the church was easy and warm and comfortable and diverse and tangibly hospitable.  I wish there was more art and moving around and conversation and work and laughter and sitting and even praying.”

This was a great blog and it offered us, the church, a great challenge for the new year.  How can we, as the church, embody God’s inclusive love?  How can we make our sanctuaries, our community, our worship, our programs, warm and soulful, provocative and inclusive?  How can we offer hospitality to the people of the world dying to hear the Good News that, “You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.”

Our baptism reminds us of God’s great love for us.  But our baptism also sends us, challenges us, calls us to glorify God by embodying this love for others.

So…enough of this angst…maybe now I can start writing.  🙂

May the words of my mouth, the meditations of my mind, and the feelings of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Amen.

[1] W. Carter Lester, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 1, “Pastoral Perspective,” pg. 222.

[2] http://www.achurchforstarvingartists.com/2010/01/this-is-what-church-could-look-like.html

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