Rev. Dr. John Judson
May 27, 2018
Exodus 4:21-23; Matthew 6:9-13
He was 19 years old and his mother had just died and his locked bedroom door burst open. Standing in the doorway was his inebriated father holding a butcher knife. He leaped out of his bed just as his father plunged the knife into the mattress. As he later described it, he fought as hard as he had ever fought. He fought for his life. Finally, after injuring his father enough to escape, he walked out of his house with only the clothes he had on; a t-shirt, gym shorts and tennis shoes. Meat, that was his friends called him, would never go home again. He had finally had enough of his father’s alcoholism and violence.
I offer this brief snippet into the life of Meatloaf (yes for those of you who don’t know the singer, Meatloaf, that is his name) because it reminds us of the baggage that is often carried with the word “father.” Father’s come in all sorts and sizes. For some of us we may have had a father who was a Ward Cleaver type; thoughtful, kind and forgiving. Others of us may have had a father who was distant, remote and inaccessible. Others may have had an absent father, or a father like Meatloaf’s. Some of us may not have had a father at all. My point in discussing this baggage is that studies have shown that people associate the attributes of their fathers with God. If their father was kind, so is God. If their father was stern and unloving, so is God. Granted, sometimes people can set aside their own father’s influence and imagine a perfect father; one who fits what they hope and dream that their father might be, and assign those attributes to God. But these are constructs we bring to God as father. They are not the scriptures speaking to us about what they mean, about what Jesus might mean, when he prays this prayer to the Father. If we are to pray this prayer as Jesus taught, perhaps the place we ought to begin is to try to understand what a first century Jew would understand the Father to be. And I would argue the two attributes of Father they would bring to the table were Liberator and Law Giver.
The Father liberates. The Father sets free. One night years ago, at probably one in the morning, our phone rang, bringing Cindy and me out of a deep sleep. The voice on the other end was our son Andy. He said he needed my help. He told me where he was, so I got dressed, hopped in the car and headed to his location. It turned out that he and his then girlfriend had gone four-wheeling in a two-wheel jeep and had gotten themselves stuck between two massive ruts. My task as dad, was to liberate them by calling and paying for a tow truck. This image of God as liberator is perhaps the most ancient revelation of the God of the Hebrews as Father, and can be found in the Exodus passage we read this morning. It is in this passage that God first refers to the Hebrew people as God’s own children and as God’s first born. The story centers around the reality that the people were stuck, they were enslaved. God sends Moses to unstick them; to liberate them. Moses is to tell Pharaoh that he is to set free not just a random people, but God’s people. This is what Father’s do. They act to liberate their offspring from those people and powers that oppress them. If we were to follow this theme throughout the rest of the Old Testament, we would watch as God liberates the people from the Philistines, the Egyptians, the Assyrians and the Babylonians. So when Jesus prays to the Father, he is praying to the one who liberates to give life.
The Father leads. Let me ask you this morning, how many of you had parents? How many of you had parents who tried to teach you the difference between right and wrong? Who tried to teach you what it meant to be a good person? Who put limits on you to keep you safe? Who set down rules and boundaries to help you understand what were appropriate and inappropriate actions and behaviors? Who tried to lead you to becoming the best people you could be? If you had a parent like this, then you understand the second part of what Jesus and his listeners would conceive of as Father; the one who leads them to life and who does so by giving them the law. I realize that often when we speak of someone giving the law we might think of someone who is “laying down the law”, who is angry and is moving toward discipline or punishment. But Judaism understood the Law not as punishment, but as gift. The Law that Moses was given by God to give to the people was intended to lead people to life. It was to encourage appropriate behavior, discourage inappropriate behavior and give the people of God a clear understanding of how life could be fully lived and love of God and neighbor embraced. While not all the 613 rules were clearly understood, such as why you could not eat meat and milk together or eat pork, meaning in Israel we could not get a bacon cheese burger, most were clearly understood as offering positive guidance to create a community of love and service. So, when Jesus prays to the Father, he is praying to the one who leads to give life.
What is fascinating to me about this image of the Father to whom Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, is that Jesus, as the son, carries out the same two functions. It is like father like son. Jesus liberates and Jesus leads. Jesus liberates people from hunger, fear, loneliness, possession, hatred, prejudice and ultimately the power of sin itself by his death on the cross. He liberates human beings to be the people God always intended them to be. And in so doing he carries out the work of the Father in all that he does. Though the liberation he offers is not what many looked for, it is the only kind of liberation that allows for the transformation of individuals, communities and the world. Jesus also leads. While Jesus leads by offering a fresh take on the Law of Moses…and by the way often a more difficult interpretation…such as Moses said you shall not kill, but also that you shall not hate. At the same time Jesus leads by personal example. Jesus demonstrates and teaches to his followers what the God centered life looks like. It looks like compassion for all persons. It looks like forgiveness for all. It looks like non-violence. It looks like a life of sacrificial living. It looks like the kind of life that the Law itself calls us to live.
The challenge for us then is three-fold. First it is to rethink what Jesus means by Father; that it is not our preconceived notion of father, or daddy, but that Father is the one who liberates and leads. Second, it is to allow those two ideas to shape our understanding of who God is and what God is doing for us; that God is both liberating us from what holds us back and leading us into becoming whole. Finally, it is to allow those two ideas to shape how we understand the rest of the prayer, by asking that God fulfill those two roles.
My challenge to you then is this, during this week as you pray the Lord’s Prayer, to ask yourself, how am I seeing God anew, in such a way, that I might be more fully led into the fullness of life?
May 20, 2018
These verses from John are categorized as Jesus’ goodbye. We have just come out of the Easter season, so who know why Jesus is saying goodbye, but this was not clear to the disciples. In the chapters before this scene the disciples are obviously confused, they ask all sorts of questions “What do you mean you are going away? Where are you going?” normal questions to ask someone who starts saying goodbye, but you didn’t know they were leaving. The disciples are distressed by the answers Jesus gives, “I am going to my father, I have been with you for awhile but soon will not be with you”. They become so stressed out they stop asking questions because they simply cannot handle the answers. They don’t want to think of a time where Jesus is not there to lead them.
Jesus does all he can to help his disciples through the transition, he reassures them that they will not be left alone for long. Jesus tells his disciples he will send them an advocate, the Spirit, to get them through the journey ahead. Jesus does not sugar coat the journey ahead. He is honest with them about the way the world will treat them and the struggles that they will face. Knowing his disciples will face rejection and death Jesus understands this is still the best way forward.
In fact, Jesus says they should be happy he is leaving because it means the advocate is able to come to them and begin its work. Until now the disciples have been followers, students, learning what it means to be God’s People from Jesus. Jesus was at the lead, Jesus was the one teaching and talking, it was Jesus’ voice that carried the message for the community. The community that was building was centered on Jesus, but something else was happening too. They were caring for one another, looking out for the vulnerable among them, welcoming the outsider. They were becoming the city on a hill Jesus spoke about.
Community was not a new concept to anyone who followed Jesus. In this time, community was a survival technique. Everyone operated within a community of either religious affiliation or family circles or a reginal tribe. People were skeptical of the outsider, they shunned those within the community who did not meet their standards. There is a popular poster online with two children from very different ethnic backgrounds hugging each other and the poster says, “love comes naturally, hate is learned.” I recently heard an interview with a sociologist who said this is not true. Hating the other has kept humans safe for ages. If an outsider came into your camp they weren’t coming to love you. This experience impacted the way communities acted. The traditional way of doing community was to stay together, keep outsiders out, follow the rules, and everyone is strongest when only the strong were involved.
The people who followed Jesus understood the importance of community, but Jesus challenged them to think better. To welcome in the outsider, to wrap around the people who are seen as weak and protect them. God’s community motto is we are stronger when we are inclusive. Under Jesus’ leading voice he turned the idea of community on its head and it was working. Then came the time for other voices to lead. Jesus says to them “the spirit of truth will speak on my behalf and you also will speak up with the advocates help” he tells them they will find their own voice and it will be inspired by the spirit of truth.
They received these voices on Pentecost. With a rush of wind and tongues of fire they were literally given new voices in different languages. The Spirit found them still in community with one another, still praying, teaching, and learning together. Keeping up the new way to do community and telling the stories Jesus started. But… the spirit does not wrap them and bind them together, the spirit sits on each one individually and sets them each apart for a specific task. Their community is about to take another step. Surviving being apart but still together in spirit.
I get jealous when I read about Pentecost. I would LOVE to speak another language, I have tried a couple of times and I have a long list of excuses why it didn’t work out. But it isn’t even about the languages, the disciples are transformed from scared to empowered. They go from hiding in a room together for safety, to speaking eloquently in the streets about Jesus, and then heading to new lands far from their comfortable community. This thing they received from the Spirit is more than just the ability to speak in a new language. The voice they are gifted with goes beyond being bilingual. It’s a confidence to speak the message they already had within them. This is what Jesus meant by it being good he was leaving so the Spirit could come and begin its work. With Jesus gone and the spirit stirring in them they finally were able to find their own voices.
When I started preschool, I loved it! I loved meeting new friends, new toys, specially packed snacks from my mom. I couldn’t understand why everyone around me would cry when their parents left. First week was a dream. I quickly learned why I should be crying. My brothers were in high school when I was born so I never had to share toys, at preschool I had to share. And not only share, there were kids who were mean and wouldn’t share with me. At home when I got tired I took a nap, at preschool I had to take a nap when the schedule said naptime. The world of preschool was so unfair. I was over it by week two and started screaming for my mom when she left. Of course, by week two most of the other kids had stopped screaming so I was alone in my sorrow. My mom worked in the building my preschool was in, but she knew not to turn around when I screamed. My brothers had made her a pro by the time I was born. She knew I would find something I loved and meet amazing people and learn to find my own way without her to hold my hand. She knew to become the person I needed to grow into she needed to step back. I’m sure that was excruciating for her, and she did occasionally cave. I can remember having lunch in her office and knowing I wasn’t supposed to be there. But my mom knew that when she stepped back something within me would begin to shine.
This is what Jesus knows when he says goodbye to the disciples. He knows his voice has lead them long enough, and that they have learned what they need to for the moment. It is their turn to be in communion with God through the Holy Spirit and find their own God given voices... And we have that chance too. We are just as filled with that rushing wind and balancing fire as the disciples were on Pentecost.
The voice we receive from the Holy Spirit may not sound like a different language, but it does set us apart for a special task. Our voices resonate around a passion we can NOT keep silent about. That may be a special cause, or to speak for someone who is ignored. Your voice may be an ability to sit in silence with someone who is hurting or to rally the squad when a friend is in need. Our individual voices may champion different things, but they are all inspired but the same spirit of truth.
One of my favorite songs begins with the singer cursing God for not doing something to end hunger or step in the middle of abuse. The singer is furious and can not understand why God would sit back and finally cries out “why don’t you do something” God’s reply is “I did. I created you”
Our Pentecost voice is the word we were created to speak, the actions we were created to take, the places we were created to change. In this community we hear the story of God’s love and how to be God’s people. We practice it when we come together. We know it is a huge message for just one person to carry. Jesus did it well, but now it is our turn to carry it into the world.
Thankfully we do that together, each of us speaking a piece of the message that we are most gifted to tell. It is a scary thing to be charged with a piece of God’s message, but Jesus assures us we are never alone when we speak up. The spirit will guide us and help us speak the truth that needs to be heard. Our rushing wind is the sound of air filling our lungs, our tongue of fire sit in our bellies as we speak the words the spirit inspires us to say.
May you feel the spirit tugging on your heart, and may you listen to the voice inside you, may you gather the courage to stand and use your God given voice to continue the message of God’s love so that when people hear you they know you speak with the spirit of truth.
The Rev. Susan Beaumont
May 13, 2018
Isaiah 49:1-7; Ephesians 6:10-20
I attended a Roman Catholic elementary school as a child. We wore uniforms. Grey and blue pleated plaid skirts. Matching vests with the school logo. White shirts with a Peter Pan collar. Snap on blue ties. And a beanie worn on our heads while attending mass.
I had a love/hate relationship with my uniform, the whole eight long years I wore it. On the one hand, it was easy, and it provided safety. There was never any argument in our household about what clothes were appropriate for school. No energy invested in shopping.
The uniform was also a great equalizer. You could never tell who had money to invest in clothes, and who didn’t. You couldn’t tell who might have fashion flair and who didn’t. We all looked equally terrible in it. In that sense, the uniform protected me. It was impossible to distinguish me, a geeky late bloomer, from the more popular pack of kids around me. With that uniform, I had a shot at fitting in.
On the other hand, the uniform was restrictive and demanding. Our teachers, the nuns, instructed us in the responsibility of wearing the uniform. It was a signature trademark of St. Raymond’s parish school. We weren’t just wearing clothing, we were wearing the identity of the parish. When someone saw us in the uniform, they knew whose we were. There was pride in that, but also a fearful accountability. It demanded the highest moral character and standards of propriety and cleanliness. Some days I measured up to those standards. Most days I did not.
In today’s scripture, Paul writes to the community in Ephesus, inviting them to put on an unusual uniform. He challenges them to put on the identity of Christ; to wear the attributes of God.
He likens the attributes of God to the components of a suit of armor. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and prayer. These are associated with the belt, breastplate, shield, sword, and helmet.
I must admit that this has always been a troubling scripture passage for me. The references to war and battlegrounds, cosmic evil, the armor. All of it incites a level of machismo and bravado that makes me squirm. However, in preparing this message I’ve gained new appreciation for some of the brilliance of these verses.
The Letter to the Ephesians, like most of Paul’s letters, addresses a tremendous clash of cultures found around the Mediterranean Sea in the first century. The entire region is under the rule of the Roman Empire. There are competing cultures, beliefs and religions operating at odds with one another inside the empire. The Romans are the unifiers of this eclectic empire, but the Romans are also the universal oppressors.
Notice that Paul uses the uniform of the oppressors (the Roman guard) to teach the Ephesians about the strength of God. Historically, the Ephesians worshipped the pagan goddess Diana. But, Paul doesn’t use goddess imagery to teach them. And, although Jesus was a Jew, Paul doesn’t pick Jewish imagery to teach the Ephesians about Christ. He uses the imagery of the Roman soldier-the oppressor.
What’s the lesson? Wearing God will make you stronger than that which oppresses you. A community that embodies faith, truth, righteousness, peace and salvation is infused with God’s power. That community can overcome any form of evil and oppression.
I particularly like Paul’s use of active verbs. Three times in these ten short verses, Paul uses the phrase-take it. Don’t just passively wait for the oppressor to give you your power. Three times he says-put it on. You can’t admire these traits from a distance. You must embody them. Three times he says-stand up. This wardrobe comes with responsibility. You, Christian, are wearing the very strength of God. Take it. Put it on. Stand up.
I wonder, if Paul wrote a letter to our faith community today, encouraging us to be strong in our faith, would he use the same metaphor? Armor was a great metaphor for the first century Roman Empire. Probably not so much for today. Paul was known for adapting his message to the specific context of the community.
Several weeks ago, I heard a speaker whose ideas have stayed with me. Her name is Kerry Egan. Kerry is a hospice chaplain. She makes her living sitting with the dying and suffering. What I found unusual about Kerry was her personality. I encounter many hospice chaplains in my line of work. They share a predictable temperament. Most are quiet, introverted thinkers, non-reactive, thoughtful, and somber.
Kerry was different; boisterous, extroverted, talkative, funny. She laughed easily. She was joyful. The more I learned about Kerry’s story, the more I was drawn to her. She has endured a chapter of great personal suffering in her own life, and she immerses herself daily in the suffering of others. Yet, she wears a uniform of joyful strength.
Here is how Kerry talks about wearing God’s strength:
When I first started working in hospice, someone told me this: In most of life, you can be weak inside and get through by putting on a tough outer shell. But if you work in hospice, you have to stay soft on the outside. So in order to stand up straight, you have to have a spine of steel. Two ways to go through the world, two ways to deal with the loss that is an inevitable experience in life-with a hard shell or with a rock-solid backbone (Kerry Egan. “On Living.” New York: Riverhead Books, 2016. Pages 109-110).
So church, which way will you choose to move through the world? With a hard-outer shell, like the armor of the first century Roman solider-or with a rock-solid backbone, formed and strengthened by truth, faith, righteousness, peace and salvation.
Perhaps, much of the scary stuff we are experiencing culturally and politically today is the result of too many people trying to be strong by putting on hard-outer shells. We put up our shields to protect ourselves from ideas we don’t agree with. We wield the sword of our own self-righteousness and attack the shortcoming of the “other.” Truth has become something arbitrary, with everyone yelling “fake news” at everyone else. Salvation is something that the other guy needs.
We can be different. As Christians, we are called to be different. We can move through our world with rock-solid backbones, standing firm against injustice, but bending, yielding and growing in our mutual pain, loss and confusion. We can demonstrate strength through vulnerability.
These past seven weeks, we have been exploring what it means to be an Alleluia community, an Easter people. Each week has concluded with a challenge to the community.
Here is your challenge for this week, church. Look for an opportunity to demonstrate your strength- with vulnerability. Maybe it will be an opportunity to simply sit and listen to someone with whom you disagree. Maybe it will require you to serve in a place that feels uncomfortable to you. Perhaps it will be speaking out against an injustice you witness. Possibily, it will be an opportunity to share your faith story with someone else.
Whatever it is, look for that place where the world needs a strong Christian presence, and step into that place with a rock-solid backbone born of your faith. And God’s strength will be with you and in you. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Kate Thoresen
May 6, 2018
Psalm 105:1-6; Ephesians 5:6-20
We continue our sermon series on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and the way that the Risen Christ r transforms us into God’s Alleluia people. This selection from Chapter 5, if read only by itself, can make Paul seem like a real spoil sport. But we need to first consider the overall themes of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where his upbeat energy and enthusiasm shine forth.
Throughout Ephesians Paul stresses that believers have a new life in Christ. He contrasts the old life with the new life. Or, as our young people so eloquently proclaimed last week, we can be that Light in a world full of darkness. In Chapters 4-6 Paul outlines certain standards of conduct so that his beloved people can be that Spirit-filled community that brings God’s power and loving presence to the world.
So it’s in this context that we turn to Ephesians 5:6-20:
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be associated with them. For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
‘Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
At the ending of her life, Jenny Bone gave me a profound life-giving lesson. I was serving as Associate Pastor at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Livonia. I drove over to a nursing home to serve Communion with one of the longtime members. Jenny was in a hospital bed with all her earthly possessions in one of the metal cabinets along the wall. She had lost just about everything—her family was gone; her possessions were depleted, and her health was failing. She was lying on her side with one hand grasping the protective metal side bar of her bed. We visited a bit. Then we began to share in Holy Communion. And in the middle of our sacrament, Jenny declared in her wonderful Scottish Brogue, “Ah, God is good.”
Pow! Here was a person who could have felt sorry for herself and complained about all sorts of things. But her focus was on God and the gifts of God. In spite of everything in her immediate circumstances, it was as if she were tuned into a different channel—a life-giving channel that gave such a message of joy, hope, and peace. Being with her was like being on Holy Ground.
Jenny taught me that we can often choose which channels of messages we hear, just like being able to switch channels using the remote controls of our televisions or to which radio station you listen. She taught me to notice to what frequency of messages was I listening or playing in my own head.
Throughout the Bible we are invited to switch channels and tune into those things that lift our souls and spirits. How can we do this? Psalm 105 inspires us to give thanks to God. To praise God, claiming that “God IS good.” The transforming power of giving thanks helps us to rise above our usually self-absorbed or negative, destructive thinking to marvel at God’s marvelous deeds. Such practices are life-giving clues to a sense of abundant living no matter what our circumstances or what has happened to us or what we’ve done.
In Ephesians 5 Paul sets up the ways people can change those channels of non-productive living. In a way he’s asking,” Why settle for less when you can tune into God’s love in action in the here and now?” He exhorts people not to listen to negative, false messages, but to lift our sights and to tune in to what is pleasing to God. He says to wake up to grasp the abundance of life all around. Paul says that we don’t need to get high with lots of alcoholic drinks or other mind-altering drugs—but can get high on the Holy Spirit.
He goes on to give more timely suggestions. Tune into some of your favorite the psalms like Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need.” And what about choosing to sing to yourself some favorite hymns as you go through your day? Make melody to the Lord in your hearts. Like, as we drive along, why not marvel at the colors bursting forth all around us?
“Give thanks,” Paul writes, “to God at all times and for everything in the name of Jesus Christ.” In doing so, we live out our calling as Alleluia People, A Life-Giving Community.
We are so fortunate in that we are surrounded by many Alleluia people here at this church. Last week our high schoolers led us in worshipping God. And doesn’t it make your heart glad to see so many kids rush down for the children’s message each week? Our inclusion ministries are life giving. Have you been to one of the Rejoicing Spirits services yet? Over 60 people come from all over to share through songs, scriptures and their prayers, and you get a tremendous sense that “God is good.”
I’ve had the opportunity to meet many life-giving people through our Foster/Adoption Families Partnerships and the Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care. When people come together from various organizations and agencies devoted to the welfare of our most vulnerable and invisible children, you get a sense of being part of a strong community of God’s love in action.
I’ve gotten to be with so many Alleluia people. If I began to share some of these stories, we’d be here until the tremendously inspiring concert at 5:00 tonight! And doesn’t this entire choir and music program under the direction of Andrew lift your spirits???
So, here’s the challenge for today: Reflect back on your past 24 hours. Take a deep, calming breath and invite the Spirit to call to mind whatever has happened that brought you a sense of love or joy since yesterday morning to this morning.
Some of these may have been gone un-noticed at the time. Let yourselves pay attention to them especially during Holy Communion. The more you become aware of those life-giving moments, the more these can flow through you to others.
And, as you participate in Communion, also known as The Eucharist, which means Thanksgiving, remember that “God is good. God is so good.”
Thanks be to God in whom we live and move and have our being. Alleluia and amen.
April 29, 2018
First, I want to take a poll. How many of you have been woken up due to light pouring into your bedroom due to a very mean person drawing the curtains to wake you up? A quite painful experience for all of us. No one enjoys this experience and their first reaction after seeing the light isn’t to rise and shine and give God the glory.
We hear the word “light” all the time when referring to Jesus and other miracles that happen in the bible. This has created the thought that the light within can only be divine, but it’s more than that. The shining of light in our own lives is what sets us apart from others, our gift to the world. Whether that light is through an art form, or a particular work ethic or even the ability to be approachable, to counsel others, like our Stephen ministers.
Finding your light for the world is not easy, especially when it seems like everyone else has already found theirs. I go to a high school where seventy percent of the seniors go to the University of Michigan or Michigan State, and it appears we will have plenty of doctors and engineers in the future based on what everyone wants to pursue in college. And good for them, but since I don’t fit into that group and my talent isn’t in those areas it makes finding my light a little harder. I have always loved acting, singing and dancing, the whole nine yards, but never considered it my light or my God-given gift until a couple months ago.
I was speaking with a friend about emotion because we had a big psychology test the next hour on that very subject. The conversation quickly went from discussing Piaget and Freud to what happiness is. Neither of us could come up with an emotional response to this, only a biological definition based on chemicals and such. Then my friend asked me, “Where are you happiest?” Another answer I did not have. I can be happy for all sorts of reasons and anywhere. Then he said to me, “How about the theatre?” I said to him, “I feel purpose when I’m acting. I know that what I am doing will be able to make a difference in someone’s life if only for a second -- to give them the opportunity to look inside themselves.” My friend says, “Are you happy when you do that?” And I said, “Okay I get it, be quiet.”
I believe God wants everyone to have a calling, a gift to share, a light inside them and to bring it out one must be honest with themselves and realize when they are happiest and when they have a defined purpose. Those that have found their light in the world, keep doing you and try to increase your range of light to others so you can impact and give the feeling of God’s light.
But what about those of us that still haven’t realized our gift, our one thing that we can light up the world with? Or what if our gifts have changed over the years? I don’t think that’s a problem as long as you don’t stand still. Your light to the world is given to you from God to give to the rest of the world. I like to think of it as a duet between God and a person, which together they can build off of each other until that gift is fully realized. A person’s light is created with God. God doesn’t just hand you this gift and says go have a good time. No, it takes constant work and introspection to shape the gift you are given.
It is easier to just hide under that bushel basket and not have to take the risks that go along with pursuing your light. I have spent an entire day watching Netflix and shopping online for shoes instead of learning my lines or doing my biology homework because it can be so nice. But every time I say “I’ll do it later,” I’m straying farther and farther from my goals and the light that was placed in me.
It is easy to see others light in the world because their talents seem to shine brighter than others. But that’s the world we live in that creates these idols and people that seem to out shine everyone else because of what they do or where they went to college. God didn’t intend for us to realize our talents and throw them away because of the odds of success or the average salary of that job. God wanted us to pursue our passions and see them out until each person can look back and be proud of their life.
I know this sounds like a typical “get out into the world and do what you love speech to high schoolers,” but why I am here today is because many of you have not heard this message for a while, I need to tell you that you are just as capable of finding your passion now as you were back in high school. Every person deserves to find that one driving force that makes them happiest. God will not give up, so neither should you.
When those blinds are opened and the light pours in, we pull our covers over our face because we fear having to face the light. The light, especially through Jesus, is the truth, but I will say it is easy to fear. John 3:19 says “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead.” The light given to each and every one of us can be scary because there might not be a lot of jobs in that career or we may have dismissed our talents as just hobbies we used to do. In this meditation I have listed excuses that we use to keep us where we are and not take the risk to do what we are called by God to do. Excuses will always be an option but never a solution to finding our purpose.
Accept your gifts and spread them to the world.
So, I challenge each of you to look inside yourself and find that one thing that makes you tick. What is your one passion that when you do it you lose track of time? Where do you see the largest impact of what you do in others’ lives? The answer to these questions will lead you to amplify your God-given light so you can share it with others.
Let us pray.
Dear God, thank you for being with us today in this beautiful place of worship and always with us. Whenever we are lost, you bring us back and whenever we are scared, you show us the light. Please guide us to find our light in the world, so we can use our gifts to light up the worlds of others.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Pastors and Associate Pastors: Dr. John Judson, Rev. Joanne Blair, Dr. Kate Thoresen, Rev. Ted Thode