* before reading this I must admit that the title, theme and some of the closing words come from the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul herself, Mary J. Blige. Her newest album, Stronger with Each Tear, has been a revelation and exactly what I needed at this time in my life. I owe much of the sermon to the song "Each Tear" and do not want anyone to think I came up with this on my own. Thanks to Mary and her writers/producers for creating another excellent CD.
Rev. George Miller
March 7, 2010
“Each Snow Flake”
It’s an honor to worship with you today and to share Communion. For me, Communion is a meal put on by God, hosted by Jesus, and open to all.
For this heavenly banquet we use juice from the fruit of the vine, and bread from the grain of the field. But you can’t have fruit or grain without water that falls from the skies.
Now last summer I had a learning moment when my sister Cindy from California came for a visit. I felt bad because it had been raining and assumed she’d be upset.
Instead Cindy looked around and said “That’s why everything here is so green and beautiful.” She explained that in California there’s been no rain so everything is brown and dry.
I thought the rain was dampening her vacation, but instead it was making it beautiful. And you know what? I looked at everything through her eyes and she was right.
The trees were covered in luscious leaves; the flowers rich in purples and pinks; the grass vibrantly green; the lake in my backyard was full, allowing the fish to thrive and play.
Michigan’s beauty, and part of our economy, is due in part to the heavenly water. It causes our blueberries to be plump, our apples to be so tasty, and our trees to be used for furniture.
But sometimes when it rains it pours, and here in Michigan, when it snows it snows.
Let’s be honest: haven’t we had enough of the this winter. It’s gone on way too long and how much snow could one state possibly need?
And metaphorically, it’s been snowing something awful, hasn’t it? Businesses are shrinking, jobs are lost, homes foreclosed, creating a new group of the poor.
When will this economic avalanche of snow stop? None of us know, but perhaps during this Lenten season we can find some hope.
Hope that God hears us. Hope that God will save us. And hope that this dreaded economic and physical winter will soon be over.
In today’s reading Isaiah is addressing the Israelites who have been facing their own storm, this particular one was known as the exile.
They had been attacked by invading troops who ravaged their city, destroyed their land and taken the people into captivity. Everything they had worked so hard for: gone. The life they had built for themselves: destroyed.
They were enduring a sense of shame and defeat.
So as the snow fell into their uncertain lives they wondered if God has lost the ability to care.
Into this winter of discontent Isaiah shouts out a rousing call to the people. He points them into a future time in which everyone will be invited to a banquet and all will be fed.
He uses this image to remind them that God has not forgotten about them and that God is working to bring about restoration.
And Isaiah tells them that on their way to this banquet they’ll be walk past mountains bursting forth in life; past spots where the melted snow has allowed seeds to sprout and bushes to grow.
Isaiah reminds the people that yes, they have been facing some nasty storms, but in the hands of God those storms will bring water to once dry places, creating new life.
I invite us to think today about water, how much we depend on it. Without water from the rain and melted snow, you can’t have grapes to turn into wine or grain to turn into bread.
And let’s think about water symbolically, how into each of our lives there must be times of rain clouds and snowstorms.
Some types of snowstorms include sickness, joblessness and financial problems. They change the rhythm of our lives, making us feel trapped.
Some snowstorms separate us from people, situations and objects we hold dear. They can leave us thinking as if God is absent.
When the snow falls for too long these emotions can freeze our inner strength and place us into darker places we don’t want to be.
But as hard as they are to endure, the storms we face can be a chance for transformation and an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and what it means to be part of a bigger community.
Sometimes it’s in the snowstorms that God is doing the most work. With each snowflake God seems to find a way to enter in, and do something unexpected, and to bring about healing.
There are some storms where we are face to face with death and strife that we become our most open and alive, realizing we can not do it alone.
I’ve watched people encounter such storms and use them as opportunities to better themselves, to look outside and turn to others for help.
Sometimes storms force us to discover things we never would have otherwise. Like looking at the choices we’ve made and wonder why we keep getting caught in the same storms.
Or ways to live cheaper, to explore unrealized talents or to make new friends.
Sometime the snow causes us to stop and relax, to breathe and sleep, using the time to be still, restoring the body, mind and soul.
The storms in our lives teach us that it’s Ok to have times of struggle, to be afraid. That from time to time everyone needs assistance, and there’s nothing wrong with saying “Help me.”
And when we reach out for help we may discover there have been folk waiting all along for the chance to reach back.
Perhaps those are the best kind of snowstorms because they remind us that we part of a bigger community.
That’s part of what Lent is about. During this time we journey with Jesus into the wilderness where he will be tempted, and into villages where he’ll be chased out.
We will go to a garden where he’ll pray for deliverance. And we will walk with him to a cross where he’ll cry out that God has forsaken him.
But at the end of his particular snowstorm, we will discover that God has not forsaken him at all. For Christ will be resurrected in a garden blooming with flowers; flowers that were watered by the melted snow.
And in Christ’s resurrection is the reminder that the Lord does not forgot but is near and full of mercy.
In conclusion, in each snow flake there’s a lesson. Each snow flake makes us stronger then we know.
Just as Isaiah is promising the exiles that they will walk alongside blooming lands watered by the snow, God is making the same promise with us.
Who knows when this winter will be over. Who knows when the economy will be restored or what the next season will look like.
But I am willing to trust that God is busy working to bring us new life.
I’m willing to trust that in each snow flake there’s been a lesson, making us stronger then before.
And I am willing to trust that in today’s Communion we will get a taste of the heavenly banquet God’s been busy preparing for us all.
For just as the Christmas snow melts to provide water for the Easter lilies, the journey to the cross leads way to the resurrection.
All thanks to God who finds ways to transform snowstorms into chances for growth, to the Spirit that guides us along the way and for the Son who invites us to be a part of the heavenly banquet.
Amen and amen.