A sampling of Pastor Laurie’s sermons are found on this website. Contact the church office if you’d like a copy of a specific message not found here.
We then talked about groups we are a part of that at least come close to living out the “love one another” command, and the blessings we receive from being a part of such communities. You simply cannot put a price on the value of mutual respect, or on confidence — and these were blessings members of our groups pledged to share as they work to overcome the “fear of the stranger” that so easily grips us in this culture that worships individualism and lifts up the “self-made person.”
Storms — whether they come in the form of tsunami or hurricane, firestorm or personal crisis — force us to face the truth that we need God. They force us to face the truth that everybody needs God. The “storms” of life strip away the pretense — the silly notion that we are in control. The truth is, we need God, and we need each other.
The passage that launches our four-week emphasis on stewardship is one of my favorite in all the scripture. Actually, it’s more like the most convicting of all scripture to me — the one with which I wrestle the most in my life, the one that I frequently find myself pondering. For me, although Jesus spoke about money and possessions so much in the New Testament, this teaching is the one that it all boils down to.
Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who has, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, spent much of his life engaged in Christian-Buddhist dialogue, and who curates a wonderful website called www.gratefulness.org, has said, “It is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy” (quoted in The Book of Joy, p. 242).
The Dalai Lama counsels: every day as you wake up, think, “I am fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it”.
There are different ways that Romans 5:3 — a particularly challenging verse in our passages for today — is translated. “Boast in sufferings,” “take pride in our problems,” “gladly suffer” … and what is the point? It’s this concept that the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu, in The Book of Joy, call acceptance. It is “the opposite of resignation and defeat… It allows us to engage with life on its own terms rather than rail against the fact that life is not as we would wish”. It is embracing ALL opportunities to grow our character, to increase our capacity to weather difficulty, and particularly, perhaps, our ability to accept other people in all their messiness, to extend grace, not only to others’ imperfections, but to extend grace toward ourselves, accepting and forgiving ourselves and and taking life as it comes.
The ability to notice the absurd in life, to recognize our limitations, and to recognize that we are all human, brings us “down to earth” and bonds us to one another. That, to me, is a divine gift.
Because life is messy, and it requires humility to go through it with grace — especially because we go through it with other people. This past week (at Camp Noah was one of feeling, over and over, that I was not “the best one” but “the one who was there.” We on the staff had to work together, trust each other, trust the safe space we were creating, trust the curriculum, trust our.” intuition, and trust the Holy Spirit. None of us was perfect, and none of us could do it all. Offering our gifts humbly, as caring, older people who have, like all human beings, also experienced grief and loss and come through, however imperfectly, trusting God to let that love plant seeds, and even trusting the kids to heal each other as they formed friendships and worked in small groups and played and sometimes got silly with each other, was quite something to be a part of.
Imagine how the biblical story would have played out had Joseph not reframed the story of his brothers’ jealousy and betrayal as he did, had he allowed himself to become bitter, instead of better. Instead, he kept his head up, made the best of the opportunities that hardship brought his way, and allowed his gifts to develop. In the end, he was able to bless, not only his family, but also his captors, turning those who might well have been regarded as enemies into allies and protectors for his people. It’s an extraordinary case of the transformative power of perspective.
What I hear in the wise king’s prayer is a humble acknowledgment that things get out of balance. They just do, and this frequently happens because it is in the sinful nature of human beings to behave with selfishness and short-sightedness, to seek power and become embroiled in conflict — and yes, to mistreat the land. In spite of God’s good desires for us, and in spite of God’s good gifts to us, we frequently muck things up, and there are consequences, and the world gets out of balance. But always God is calling us to return. Always, God is longing to bring things back into balance, and is calling us back to our best selves, individually and as a human family.
Creative Commons licensed photo by Marilylle Soveran
Might we, see animals as partners in this venture to restore the earth’s balance — even those animals which we have regarded as a nuisance, or as something to be feared? Could this be what the prophet was getting at when he spoke of lions and lambs, children and snakes living in harmony? And what about the people whom we distrust, or fear, or whom we regard as enemies? Can you put on God’s wider perspective-transforming lenses, and see them as keys to your own transformation, your own sense of harmony and balance, and as your teachers?