Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sermon for May 20, 2012; Psalm 1

Rev. George Miller Psalm 1 “We Are All a Bit Fruity” May 20, 2012 Today is the last Sunday in which we will be in the Easter Season. Hard to believe we have gone from Advent to Christmas, Lent to Easter in such a short amount of time. Next Sunday is Pentecost, which is only designated as one day, but I like to think of it as a season. Pentecost is the time in which we acknowledge the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, which arrived like the sound of rushing wind. The Spirit, which fell down upon the people and swept through the world, bringing with it change, new life, and the opportunity to grow and build. The Holy Spirit also brought with it gifts; gifts which the apostle Paul refers to as fruit; fruit of the Spirit. And the fruits of the Spirit are: love, joy and peace; patience, kindness and generosity; faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I’m not sure if any one person could possibly bear all of these fruits, but I’m sure each of us are able to bear one or two. As today’s sermon states, we are all a bit fruity. But I digress; back to the notion of seasons. Pentecost is marked by the wind of God coming to do something new and to create. But not all winds do that, do they? Not all winds are able to build or bring new life. Some winds tear down and destroy, some winds have been known to wreck a home, harm a family, and annihilate a community. We on the east coast call those winds hurricanes and we in Florida especially know about the destructive path high winds can create; the rains they bring; the trees they can uproot and tear down. Just as the church is about to enter a new season, we in Florida are about to enter into a new season; the hurricane season, in which you best be prepared. But some high winds you can never be prepared for. Today I’d like to share with you a time in my life which I suffered through my own personal hurricane season. It was 1994. I was living on Long Island, young and naïve, working at a fine dining restaurant. I had just moved into my first apartment and the new year began with clear skies. Little did I know a major storm was brewing. 2 weeks into 1994 I began to receive threatening phone calls from my ex. Then my tires were being slashed, my home and car were being spray painted. My ex was not happy that I had moved on, so my ex began stalking me. Scary thing about being stalked is that there is nothing you can do to stop it. You can call the cops, you can file complaints, but until that person is caught in the act, or you are found dead, there is nothing the authorities can do. It was only when I packed up my life and moved across the country to Minneapolis that the stalking stopped. But in the process, I had to leave behind my home, my family, my job and my friends. In other words, I lost it all and had to start from scratch. Needless to say, during the time when this was going on, I didn’t get much sleep. I lived every day on edge not knowing what was going to happen next. I stayed up most of the night; I constantly checked on my car. You know what got me through? The Bible. I would spend my day reading it, finding inner strength and hope in its words. The church. Sunday morning was the only time during the entire week in which I felt safe; the only time in which I knew I did not have to worry about being hurt or my tires being slashed. The Lord’s Supper. The church I attended celebrated Communion each week, and in doing so I felt as if I was experiencing a presence I had never experienced before. So even though I was facing rough storms, even though I felt captive to the ways of the wicked, it was because of God, through Scripture, the church and the sacraments that my leaves did not wither and my roots found a steady stream, a living stream to be nourished by. And I believe it is those roots that were developed that I was able to not only withstand the storms, but to be planted and transplanted from NY to MN, MO to MI, and now down to FL. Has it ever been easy? No. Am I still here? Yes. Have I been able to prosper? Yes. Can I say, with all certainty, that I have had “enough”? Yes. And I know I am not the only one here who has faced a hurricane in his life. Every single person here has had an experience in which if it wasn’t for their faith and their foundation in God they could have become like chaff in the wind. The writers of the Psalms knew all to well about this. Many of them did not live a charmed life. When the word “Happy” or “Blessed” is used, it wasn’t because the author had lived a picture-perfect life of tranquility in which life was nothing but green pastures and still waters. Many of the Psalmists lived during a time of great suffering and upheaval. Those who lived during slavery; those who lived in the wilderness. Those who lived during the Exile, in which they had been kidnapped and forced to live in a land surrounded by their enemies. Those who lived after the Exile and tried to figure out how something that horrible was ever allowed to happen. Many of the Psalmists lived during tough times in which the winds of change had not been positive ones, but winds that uprooted them and destroyed what they knew. One way for the author of Psalm 1 and the other psalmists to find the strength to go on was to turn to their faith: to proclaim that it is God’s commands which rooted them, it is God’s instructions which supplied them with living water, that it is God’s ways which allowed them to prosper and bear fruit no matter happened. For them, their experience of God came through the wisdom and the commandments of how they were to live with each other and how they were to live in the presence of God. For the author of Psalm 1, a tree became a powerful image. A tree which is majestic and strong, which can provide fruit. Flash forward centuries later, when a new a crises hits the people. When their homes are threatened, when enemies come once again to try and take away their joy. For some people they recalled the stories of their ancestors, they recalled the words of the Psalms, they clung to the image of a tree. Then there were others who clung to the image of a different kind of tree; they were the ones who found salvation on a different kind of wood. They were people who were following Jesus Christ, and instead of a tree, they found themselves seeking salvation on a cross. A man-made kind of tree that although it did not have roots, it stood tall, embracing the height of the world, connecting heaven and earth. Instead of branches, it reached east and west, embracing the width of the world. For the earliest Christians, it was on the cross, on this unique kind of tree, in which they found happiness, in which they felt like they were blessed. Because as they understood, it was on the cross that Jesus journeyed to show there is no pain we can go through in which God can not relate. It is on the cross that Jesus personally expressed that there is no experience that God would not endure for us. Though the cross was not planted by streams, it bears for us the source of living water in which we are able to prosper, in which our leaves will not wither. In the last 6 months we have gone through various seasons. We have prepared for the birth of Jesus. We have celebrated the way in which Emmanuel, God With Us, has come into our world. We journeyed with Jesus as he willingly made his way to the cross, teaching, healing and feeding along the way. We experienced how in the resurrection we find that God is more powerful then death and that eternal life will prevail over the ways of the world. Now we prepare to enter the time of Pentecost, in which the Holy Spirit falls upon the people of God, in which we experience how the wind of God moves upon sisters and brothers, and gives us “enough.” Not just “enough”, but allows us to bear and to share fruits of the Spirit that can only come when one is rooted and watered by the ways of the Lord. Again, what are those fruits? Love, joy and peace; patience, kindness and generosity; faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Again, I’m not sure if it is humanely possible for anyone to bear all of those fruits. I’m not sure if our branches could handle the weight of all of those fruits. But I am pretty sure that if we all put our branches together, one would find that all those fruits exist right here, right now, in this place. And in that way, we are all a bit fruity. In conclusion, we all have faced seasons of rough winds; we have all faced times of high storms that have threatened to pick us up and blow us away like unsecured chaff. But by the grace of God, we are not chaff, but mighty and strong trees, trees that are transplanted by living water that feeds our souls and allows us to prosper. And in spite of, or perhaps, because of the storms and the high winds that we face, and the crosses we have endured, we have all bore fruit, born of the Spirit, nourished by the living waters of Christ. Because of this, we can be proud to be part of this Christian community; this grove of fruit bearing trees. So that when others face their own personal hurricanes of life, they too will have a place to go. A place in which they are surrounded by living trees who are there to shade and comfort, produce and teach, grow and prosper. Because at the end of the day, thanks to the breath of the Holy Spirit, the love of God and the living water of Jesus Christ, we are all a bit fruity. For that, let us say “Amen.”

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