Do y’all remember in the 90’s the No Fear t-shirts? My brothers had to have them.
It’s hard to not have fear. Fear about the safety of our children. Fear about shootings and bombings happening all over the world. Fear about our health, our college funds, our retirement. Fear about climate change and what the world will be for our grandchildren. These are definitely first world problems…some people worry when they will get their next meal and fear for their very lives.
Christians are meant to be fearless. If we let fear rule our lives, it will paralyze us and our efforts to spread the Gospel. We name our fears and worries in our prayers and give them to Jesus. Naming and saying it out loud takes away its festering power. Like a boil, festering, it can ruin our spiritual lives. If we say our fears out loud they no longer have any power over us. That is, if we don’t pick them back up again. It’s hard not to because we think we can figure it out on our own or box the fears up on our own. We think we have to do it by our own strength. It’s Christ strength that is within us that says “No” to fear. It’s the Holy Spirit at work within us that says “No” to fear. God created Adam and Eve in the Garden to have no fear or worries and not til they had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge did they experience fear. It was not God’s design to have us as fearful beings.
We have power over this fear. In God’s Word, in prayer, in being thankful, and seeing and knowing the fear, but overcoming it in Jesus’ name. The Enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus calls us to boldly proclaim his Good News to all people. We don’t have to just bob passively through life because we have a God who became flesh who is right beside us. In Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” In Joshua 1:9 it says, “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” And in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.” God walks right beside us even through the valley of the shadow of death.
At night when the fears and worries creep in, give it all to God in prayer and the things for which you are grateful. As it says in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Wise words. Jesus even taught about this very thing in Luke 12:22-27, “He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.”
It’s hard to convince someone to trust. That’s basically what it’s about. If you’re fearful and worried all the time, do you have the trust and faith that God will work it out? It’s a nature of God question. Trust me, if you put these things in practice by digging into God’s word, intentional prayer, and being grateful for what you have, I promise it will change your life. You will still face hard times, but lean on the One who never will fail you. The One that says in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” And promises to love you no matter what in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Triune God is faithful and true, and will never leave nor forsake us.
I’m preaching Sunday about common phobias and fears and I’ve created a handout with my favorite verses about conquering our fears. We are going to write down some of our fears then lay them at the altar and give them to God. As 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” If we seek the Lord’s direction in our lives, if we put our fears and worries in God’s mighty hands, as Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
I’ll close with this song that I love by Ben Rector called “Follow You.” Have a great weekend!
I preached this at Point Hope UMC this morning. They were very gracious to me and we had a delicious lunch after church that Mike and the kids have raved about all afternoon. Thanks for being with me on this crazy journey called life. I want you to share your stories with me too! ‘Cause we’re not meant to do this life alone. Amen?
1I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me.
2In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.
3I think of God, and I moan; I meditate, and my spirit faints. Selah
4You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5I consider the days of old, and remember the years of long ago.
6I commune with my heart in the night; I meditate and search my spirit:
7“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?
8Has his steadfast love ceased forever? Are his promises at an end for all time?
9Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
10And I say, “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
11I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old.
12I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds.
13Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God?
14You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples.
15With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
16When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled.
17The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side.
18The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
19Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen.
20You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Some of you may be wondering what on earth is this preacher doing using a Psalm as her text on her first Sunday. The Psalms get to the heart speak. They get down deep, to the nitty gritty. They’re full of real people celebrating their Good Shepherd and crying out desperately to God. Both the mountaintops and valleys, the fullness of the human experience, is captured in the Psalms.
Let me tell you a story. In my previous appointment I went to Costa Rica for a Spring Break mission trip in 2013 with Pura Vida Ministries. Listen to their mission statement: “We exist to transform lives by providing Christ-centered, life-changing mission adventures. We believe that following Jesus is Not an Event, but a Life!” Not an event, but a life. Not an event, but a life. I believe that. You will hear in my messages and hopefully see in my life a fervent desire to live our faith out loud, no matter the storms or challenges. They had different merchandise you could buy with “Not an event, but a life” so I brought back a mousepad for my office, not knowing then that I would have my second brain surgery later that May.
At a conference in Winchester, VA I had my first seizure. It was 2010 and I was 30 at the time. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor that they removed most of two weeks later. My tumor has a Harry Potter spell-like pronunciation to it – an oligodendroglioma. I had no complications or deficits after surgery. I mean I had a tube coming out of my head with a blood bulb that I would put in the pocket of my hospital gown when I went to the bathroom but you go through what you have to. I had the surgery on Friday and I was out on Sunday. My son Enoch had just turned 3 and Evy was 1;
so I recuperated at my brother Josh’s house. I was back home and at work the next Thursday, less than a week later, easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.
I remember writing on the prayer request card from Pura Vida at the end of the trip that I would have an MRI the following Monday. The MRI unfortunately showed the tumor had grown and so I began sharing with people that I would have a second surgery. I thought it would be like the first surgery, so I agreed to do a wedding 3 weeks later and was set to do a workshop in Chicago that June and set to preach at camp for a week in July. Unlike the first surgery where I had no complications, when I woke up I could understand everything the nurses, doctors, and my family were saying but I had lost my ability to speak. The doctors and speech therapists call it apraxia. Apraxia is the inability to execute learned purposeful movements, despite having the desire and the physical capacity to perform the movements. Oh, I had the desire in spades. In other words, the words were still there but the ability to form sentences was broken, non-existent.
The tumor is on the motor cortex, that’s why they didn’t get it all the first time, so I had no feeling in my right arm or hand, and I’m right-handed. I texted these words to my husband, Mike, with my left hand over two weeks later, “The quickness with which I speak comes back?” It took me 45 minutes to text that. I did 30 radiation treatments, 6 months of chemo, physical, occupational, and speech therapy over that year and then I went to the Ukraine to speak at a conference, but that is another sermon.
I’ve learned to rely on God because I HAVE to. I am an independent, non-conformist person mixed with a perfectionistic people pleaser and I ALWAYS relied heavily on my communication skills. I didn’t know how much until I couldn’t rattle off a prayer or answer a theological question or explain simple things to my kids or preach without a manuscript, or even the little things. I used to carry around a small calendar in my purse to jot stuff down in, I used to type x number of words a minute, I used to love to send handwritten notes to people. The ease and what came naturally to me before was lost and I still sometimes grieve that loss. It’s okay to grieve. God is with us when we mourn. God promises to bring joy in the morning, so I went back to preaching in June. I could read things and I reused every sermon that I had full manuscripts for that summer. My oncologist, who I met with more frequently that first year and now at least every 3-4 months, was an older man who was all business and had a wry sense of humor. Dr. Stahl always asked me if I was still preaching every week and I would always say yes. He doesn’t know, by him asking me that question every time that I’m just stubborn, bull-headed and tenacious enough to see that as a challenge and with God’s strength, to make it happen! He wrote this to me when he found out as I was moving, “It has been a privilege and a pleasure to have you as a patient-You have remarkable courage and determination-both of which have you served you well.”
We at the time had services every Sunday at 11 and every Wednesday night at 8:30 and shared in communion each time and it was a challenge to say the least. A number of things helped me get through that time great students and other church members, Gator Wesley had been a local church and our older members sent me cards of encouragement almost every day, my speech therapist being patient and pushing me and saying your brain will rewire itself, songs like “Lord I Need You,” movies like “Rise of the Guardians” talking about what is your center and having faith even when you cannot see and “The Legend of Bagger Vance” talking about each of us has one, true, authentic swing, when I didn’t feel confident in my own voice, and y’all’s prayers, cards, and prayer shawls from around the United Methodist connection. When I didn’t have the strength or the words or even the desire, on the dark nights of the soul, God was faithful. When my primary care doctor said to me that September, I don’t think this brain tumor’s going to kill you, let’s get you healthy and strong, God was working through her to give me the hope that I needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other. God can and does use us to be lights in a world full of darkness. I knew then and I know now that God is with me every step of the way, continuing to strengthen me for the journey. How do I know? God gives us proof. The little reassurances along the way – the person that says something and God’s speaking to me through their voice, the song that happens to come on the radio or the itunes shuffle at just the right time, the passage of scripture I happen to read that morning…it doesn’t just “happen.” It’s a God thing. Claim it. Know it. Trust it. Be the person that Mother Teresa emulated as she said, “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”
God is ever present reminding me I am enough even when I don’t have the words. I am worthy even when I don’t have the answers. I can claim my inheritance by simply resting in the surety that I am a child of God. We all can. We are all worthy and enough. If I have learned anything over the past 6 years is it’s not enough to just merely have these quick fix Jesus highs, these Psalms of praise alone – no matter how great they are – because they won’t sustain you when the ship hits the sand or when the rubber hits the road and you’re left bereft. Developing a real, in depth relationship with Jesus will. Developing a faith that lasts and is rooted and grounded in scripture will. A verse, a song lyric, a prayer….When the storms of life are raging, I know where my hope is and that is in Christ alone. We sang the hymn, “In Christ Alone” at Annual Conference in 2011, one year after the first surgery, and we sang it just now before the sermon. It’s a song that means very much to me, especially the last verse.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
At a retreat a year after the second surgery, the facilitator asked us to write questions on 3 cards. They were to be questions where we needed the Holy Spirit to intercede, questions that were rolling around our heads but we had never articulated. Then we were to paint and cut out pictures from magazines for each card without seeing what questions were on the back. So I went to a place by myself and I invited the Holy Spirit to come by lighting a candle and I wrote these questions:
1. What do I need more of in my life?
What do I need to embrace?
2. What obstacles of the joy God wants for me do I consciously or subconsciously allow to hinder me from experiencing that joy?
3. What do I need to let go? Why am I so afraid to share my story?
I went through the cards and picked colors and themes as I felt the Spirit leading me to. Despite my skepticism, this activity ended being one of the most powerful practices that I have ever experienced. I had gotten so caught up in my designs and cutting anything out that struck me that I had completely forgotten the original questions.
The answer to the first question was this: written in pencil “In Christ Alone, cancer, and colors. I needed to embrace my cancer. I was a cancer survivor. And I need to place my trust “in Christ alone.” Even the part about the skin was pointing to me embracing myself. I had the dot tattoo so they could line me up to do my radiation and I had the scars from both the surgeries, but in the back of my mind I was still hiding.
We had been singing “In Christ Alone” during this retreat and when I shared that piece of my story later when all of us were sharing, we sang that as a closing song, which brought me to healing, relieving tears, like I let go of a burden. The second question was this picture. I look at this picture, I feel peace and beauty, and I needed more of that in my life after the year I had so I made a commitment to make room for beauty and positive and calming messages, so that’s why my office and home are decorated in such ways.
The last question of “What do I need to let go?” was the safe question. God was leading me to ask what I really needed. And the Holy Spirit was so loud in me, that I scribbled down the last question. It was surprising to me because I try to be real and authentic in all aspects of my life. That’s why I created the blog in 2010. I didn’t want to actually talk about my blog or anything that I wrote. And it was self-preservation and a bit of laziness to be sure because it was a way to share with my family, friends, students and the communities that raised me and fed me and are praying with me something I couldn’t say out loud. It was to share authentically with the world what was going on with me. It was a way to update everyone at once with what was going on inside my head. I rarely re-read and edit. So this question was surprising to me. But Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” It struck me as I was writing this sermon that I use “afraid.” And I think that is telling. I admit now I was afraid and I am afraid of being misunderstood, of losing my words, of not being in control…but as 1 Timothy 1:7 says God does not give us a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of power and love. God doesn’t call us to be silent, God calls to be bold and step out in faith and God will give us the words to speak.
Everything. I needed to let go of everything. And I felt safe in the arms of Mike in it all, but more than that I felt like God had and is protecting me from the storm. God was creating the perfect shelter, an eye in the hurricane. God was also giving me a clear message with these cards. I needed to share my story, integrating the cancer, no matter how hard, personal, and vulnerable.
I’ve claimed the words of Isaiah 41:8-10 (NRSV) “8 But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; 9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; 10 do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
Bob Goff in his book Love Does says, “I once heard somebody say that God had closed a door on an opportunity that they hoped for. But I’ve always wondered if, when we want to do something that we know is right and good, God places that desire deep in our hearts because He wants it for us and it honors Him. Maybe there are times when we think a door has been closed and, instead of misinterpreting the circumstances, God wants us to kick it down. Or perhaps just sit outside of it long enough until somebody tells us we can come in.”
God wants us to dream large God-sized dreams. God wants us to sometimes kick doors down. God wants to give us a future with hope. As Jeremiah 29:11-14 says, “11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” Or as it is in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” Or as it is in Ephesians 3:20,“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.”
We’re not meant to walk this road alone. I want to walk with you and hear your stories so that in the mountain tops and the valleys, we can share with one another, come alongside one another, praying for each other, being church with one another. It’s a crazy cool relay race in the United Methodist Church’s system of itineracy. Joe passed Walter the torch. Walter passed me the torch and I am ever grateful for that torch and the care in which he handed it off. In 1 Corinthians 3:6, “Paul wrote, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” The earth is fertile here at Point Hope and God is indeed in your midst making things grow and making all things new. I trust God to rock our socks off! That’s the beautiful and crazy gift of having life in Christ. You follow where God has called you, no matter that you’re too old to have kids, like Abraham, no matter if you’re a prostitute, like Rahab, no matter the speech impediment like Moses, no matter if you don’t want to, like Jonah, no matter if you’re left in a foreign land with your mother in law, like Ruth…and that’s just the Old Testament. The Bible is chock full of stories about God doing extraordinary things with ordinary people. God didn’t stop writing stories two thousand years ago. I’m reminded of the Big Daddy Weave song that weaves in the hymn “This is my story, this is my song.” The lines are
If I told you my story
You would hear hope that wouldn’t let go
If I told you my story
You would hear love that never gave up
If I told you my story
You would hear life but it wasn’t mine
If I should speak then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
To tell you my story is to tell of Him
We all have a story and when we take a moment in our busy lives to catch our breath and let the God that came and dwelt among us have room in our lives, we create room for God to share with us. If you’re thinking you don’t have a story, ask God and God will reveal your story. Or if the problem is not you not knowing, but getting it out or just not telling it, than Marianne Williamson says it this way, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be. You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Let your light shine that the world may see and know. If we all share our lights together – we will – with God’s strength – rock their socks off!
I had no idea before the age of 30 that my story would include a brain tumor, but I know I have life, indeed abundant life in Christ. Not just surviving but thriving. Too often I hear that we’ve just got to get through high school or college or grad school or we have to get our first job or get married or have children or retire to figure out what in the heck to do with our lives, but God doesn’t want us to let life pass us by so that we’re only barely surviving. God wants us to thrive. Jesus didn’t come so we could have a complacent life. He came for us to have abundant life.
I want each of us to be a part of God’s larger. Broader story, in our own particular way, with our own spiritual gifts, strengths or weaknesses that God works for good. Look under your chair, some of you might have peeked already, and that’s perfectly okay. This is to basically sum up my sermon and it was made by one of my favorite artists Suzanne Vinson. Here’s the full quote from Frederich Buechner.
“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”
I would like you to take this with you. Keep it in your wallet or in your dashboard or on your bathroom mirror. Let it be a reminder that nothing can separate you from the love of God and God’s abundant grace, and though beautiful and terrible things will inevitably happen, we are not to fear, because we know the One who spoke things into existence, who is our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen. Let us pray.
* Music that I was listening to while I wrote this sermon. TobyMac “Move” Hawk Nelson “Drops in the Ocean” “Lord I Need You” Lauren Daigle “Trust In You” Sidewalk Prophets “Prodigal” Ryan Stevenson “The Eye of the Storm” Aaron Shust“Ever Be” Hollyn “Alone”
Tonight we will celebrate the Ephipany (Manifestation) of the Lord. This is always celebrated on January 6th. The United Methodist Book of Worship says it’s an even more ancient celebration among Christians than Christmas, originally focused on the nativity, incarnation, and baptism of Christ. Today we celebrate the coming of the three wise men (magi), who brought gifts to the Christ child.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Amen.
Song – Holy Spirit
We started going through the Psalms one by one at Evensong. We’re on Psalm 29 tonight.
1 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendour. 3The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters. 4The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. 5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox. 7The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. 8The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,*
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, ‘Glory!’ 10The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king for ever. 11May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!
Song – Finally Free
I’ve printed out the three scriptures the lectionary gives us to begin the new year (hold up the lectionary book and explain the lectionary). I thought it appropriate during this Epiphany service to give you a quiet prayer time during this busy time of year of getting books and meeting with professors about changing class schedules and learning a new rhythm of life as you figure out where your classes are or when you will break for lunch. Our hope is to create an atmosphere of Holy manifestations. I’ve asked Erin to set out crayons, colored pencils and paint so that you can prayerfully draw or if you’re not into drawing, perhaps circle and underline and pray these scriptures while reading them. Make this time be between you and God. If somethings comes into your mind to distract you, pray for it. If you have a burden on your heart that needs the community to pray, I invite you to share that during prayers and praises. If you don’t want to do the prayer stations, you can reflect and pray. Let nothing come between your time with your Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 (NRSV)
3For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. 9What gain have the workers from their toil? 10I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.
11He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
Psalm 8 (NRSV)
O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Revelation 21:1-6 (NRSV)
The New Heaven and the New Earth
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
Communion Song – Ever Be
Prayer after Receiving
Song – It Is Well
Call to Prayer and Request for Presence (Liturgy Reader)
May the Lord Almighty grant me and those I love a peaceful night and a perfect end.
Our help is in the Name of the Lord; the maker of heaven and earth.
Nunc Dimittis (Song of Simeon) (Liturgy Reader)
Lord, you now have set your servants free to go in peace as you have promised;
for these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
a Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
For some of us we have a harder time acknowledging God in the good times but we cry out to God readily in tough times. Others of us, lean the other way – feeling like if everything’s going right in our lives we must be in tune to what God is calling us to do. I definitely find myself pulled in one direction or the other, but I remind myself of Paul’s words in Philippians and Thessalonians. In Philippians 4:11-13 it says, “Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 it says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
It reminds me of the song Praise the Lord from The City Harmonic’s just released album Heart. The lyrics and the link to the song are below.
It reminds me of the ordination question, “How do you interpret the statement “Jesus Christ is Lord?”” So I pulled out my ordination paperwork and perused the answers that I wrote in 2004 and 2007. I wrote this in 2007 as I went before the Board for my Elder’s orders, “Jesus is (past, present, and future) our Lord. He is the Lord.” I go on to write, “In confessing Jesus Christ as Lord, I am affirming that Jesus Christ won the ultimate victory over sin and death. Nothing in creation can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord and Redeemer.”
I like the images of seeming contradiction of being on top of the world and the world on your shoulders.
So what do you think? Is it easier for us to see God at work in the good times or the bad? Do we feel closer to God in our turning towards God after we’ve been through things? Is it easy to see God at work in our lives? Or a challenge at times? No matter where you find yourself on your journey, I hope you will wrestle with these questions. And that God will give you real, tangible signs that help you to praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord when it comes out easy Praise the Lord on top of the world Praise the Lord ‘cause in every moment Jesus Christ is Lord Even in the middle of the joys of life There is always grace enough today to Praise the Lord Praise the Lord Praise the Lord Won’t you praise the Lord? Praise the Lord with the world on your shoulders Praise the Lord when it seems too hard Praise the Lord ‘cause in every moment Jesus Christ is Lord Even in the middle of the long, dark night There is always grace enough today to Praise the Lord Praise the Lord Praise the Lord Won’t you praise the Lord? Praise the Lord if you can sing it at the top of your lungs Praise the Lord like every moment is a song to be sung Praise the Lord: though it might take blood, sweat and tears in your eyes There is grace for today so praise the Lord There is grace for today so praise the Lord Praise the Lord Praise the Lord Praise the Lord Won’t you praise the Lord? There is grace for today so praise the Lord
My mom sent me a song in an email. It’s meant to be encouraging. It’s meant to speak truth to my life. It’s meant to remind me that God’s with me.
But I deleted it.
This was a particularly low point in chemo (I had brain surgery in May of this past year and they completely got all the tumor, but because it had changed to a grade III which is cancerous and my type of a tumor – an oligodendroglioma – is in the cells, the doctors thought that I should have radiation for 30 days as well as chemo for 6 months. The surgery also affected my speech and right arm since it had invaded the motor cortex.)
But you know how God keeps popping up, two weeks ago, my friend Corrie posted the video. I hesitated opening the link because I didn’t want to acknowledge that it could be about me. You see the song was Mandisa’s “Overcomer.”
I felt God working on my heart so I finally listened to the song. And I’m glad I did.
My communication skills are something I’ve taken for granted. I heavily rely on written and verbal communication. I didn’t realize how much it was my “go to” thing. Until I lost my ability to communicate. These gifts were a part of my identity. They made me who I am. I’ve struggled to find my new normal and I have often found it frustrating. But God has been faithful in the midst. Giving me the verses of scripture that I need for me to keep moving forward.
“Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6
“Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” – Psalm 37:7
“The battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory on your behalf…Do not fear or be dismayed…the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:17
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” – James 4:8
“From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now, and not long ago.” – Isaiah 48:6-7
The Lord said to Moses, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:16
The Lord said, “See, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.” – Isaiah 48:10
The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
Last week as I drove back from Evensong, I was sharing with a friend, that I felt like there were moments during Communion as I said the Communion liturgy where it naturally flowed. It was the first time post-surgery, I had ever felt that way. That’s when “Overcomer” came on the radio. I had never heard it on the radio before. I guess it’s not in the regular rotation on the JOY FM or 106.9 The Pulse. I just had to stop the car and acknowledge this as a God moment as tears began to fall.
On August 20th my mom sent me another email that had a new video with Laura Story, who she knows I really like and yet again, I haven’t opened the email until this afternoon. Call me a slacker. Call me an avoider. Call me a procrastinator.
We need a healer, comfort, peace… What makes you, YOU? You’re enough. You’re more than enough. Laura Story says about the song, “How freeing it is to just sit back and allow God to be the one that writes the story. Allow God to be the healer in the relationship.” God loves you for you. You were known in secret in your mother’s womb. God knows when we sit and when we rise. What makes you think that God doesn’t know what’s on our hearts – our worries, our fears, our hurts, our struggles? So why are we surprised when God shows up and provides what we need? God is faithful when we least expect it. Even when we don’t want to hear it. Even when we’re kicking and screaming. Even when we ignore Mom’s emails.