Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sermon for Jan 18, 2015; Psalm 139:1-14

Rev. George Miller
Psalm 139:1-14
Jan 18, 2015

What would you do for someone you loved? How far would you be willing to go for a cause you cared about?

Would you search out and hem in? Would you take wing and settle at the furthest limits of the sea? Would you allow darkness and danger to get in your way?

Perhaps if you were Victor Mooney you would set sail from the coast of Africa and follow the 3,000 mile path of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to St. Maarten.

According to the Tribune, the 48 year old Brooklyn Native made the journey to honor his brother who had died of AIDS and to bring attention to the need for HIV testing.

Three times Victor Mooney attempted to cross the Atlantic, three times he failed. But his fourth attempt in June was a success.

11 months ago Victor began his journey to honor his brother and raise awareness, citing “We all have responsibility to do something.”

So he left the Canary Islands in high spirits that were quickly dashed once he hit rough seas with big waves and violent currents that tossed his boat around.

His response? As a devout Catholic he placed crucifixes all around the vessel and reminded himself of this- to be still.

The weather improved. He continued his journey, holding onto his faith, chatting by radio to an oceanographer and a meteorologist, reminding himself that his African ancestors had traveled the same route as slaves.

He fell into a routine: up at 4, rowing an hour at a time, followed by a thirty minute break. Often the rough seas erased his efforts: he’d go ten miles but wake up the next day 15 miles behind.

Life can be that way sometimes, can’t it?

“I asked my ancestors…for help to push me along,” he stated.

He’d devour freeze-dried food until it ran out and so he fished for his food, until the line broke and then he scooped up the fish with nets or waited for one to fly into his boat.

Then came the sharks that circled his boat. They’d go around, go under, come up and strike, damaging the 24-foot vessel.

Before landing at St. Maarten, a tanker asked if he needed help. “I don’t need a rescue,” Victor responded. “I want a burger.”

128 days later, after losing 80 pounds, traveling the 3,000 mile path his ancestors took, in order to pay tribute to a brother who died and to encourage others to get tested so they can live, Victor said he never felt alone.

Where have you come from, and where are you going?

What would you do for someone you loved? How far would you be willing to go for a cause you cared about?

Would you search out and hem in? Would you take wing and settle at the furthest limits of the sea? Would you allow darkness and danger to get in your way?

Would you allow sharks to stop you? Would your faith be enough to carry you through?

If we have lived long enough and we have the empathy and intellectual ability, we will have asked ourselves these questions from time to time.

What would you be willing to do for someone, for some thing you loved?

What is your ministry? What is your mission?

When it comes to God, and what God would do, we don’t have to look very far. Psalm 139 makes it easy for us to comprehend.

“Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up…you search out my path and are acquainted with all my ways…”

“Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence. Your right hand shall hold me fast…even the darkness is not dark to you…”

In other words, we are not alone; no one is alone.

See, if Genesis 1 & 2 was all we had- and with it the knowledge that God created the world, separated the dark from the light, formed us by hand and called what was created “good”- that would have been enough.

If Exodus 3 & 14 was all we had and with it the knowledge that God had heard the cries of the Israelites and parted the Red Sea for them, that would have been enough.

If Joshua 3 was all we had and with it the knowledge that the people crossed over the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land, that would have been enough.

Creation, salvation and blessings: how much more do we really need to live a healthy, happy, eternal life?

But that’s not God. God is generous, God is extravagant, God is passionately loving, so with God there is also going to be something more.

And according to Psalm 139, that more is this: that God knows us. Not in passing; not in a fleeting sort of Facebook-way.

But God knows us, intimately, truthfully, deeply.

God knows us the way a best friend, a parent, a lover knows us.

The real us. Not the perfectly fake us that we try to present to others. Not the denial-ridden us that we present to ourselves.

But the us that we really are: the bad and the good, the hurts and the halo, the scarred adult and the starry-eyed kid that still lives in us all.

God knows us. When we wake up, when we doze off on the couch. God knows what we are about to say and the thoughts we keep to ourselves.

God knows when we are at a place and a time of great life and light.

God knows when we are in dungeons and darkness.

God knows when we have rowed 10 feet ahead; God knows when the waves have pushed us 15 feet back.

God knows when the sharks are circling; God knows when we are hurt because of the brother or son we have lost, or the husband and friend we are losing.

God knows us even when our memories begin to fail and we barely know ourselves; God sees us even when our eyes begin to grow dim; God hears us even when our ears can no longer hear without the assistance of new batteries and a hearing aide.

God not only knows us, but God loves us for who we really are and God is constantly working to help us better become who we were created to be.

That may not sound like much to you, but for me, knowing that God knows who I am, no matter where I am on life’s journey or what I’ve done or left undone, is comforting.

Psalm 139 is a poetic reminder that no matter who we are, no matter what is currently going in our lives, God knows what is happening…and it means that we are not alone.

That means we have at least one person in our lives cheering for us; that means we have at least one person who is rooting us on.

That means that no shark, no sea, no boat, no bad guy can ever have complete hold over us.

That means that we are people of worth; that means we are people who are worthy.

Wonderfully formed in our mother’s womb, knitted together by the ultimate artist, intricately made and the apex and most awe-inspiring aspect of Creation.

That’s why God became incarnate. That’s why baby Jesus was born- to bring new light into the world and remind us that we were not designed to flounder in the dark.

That’s why the 10 Commandments were given on Sinai, that’s why Jesus told parables and shared stories on the mountains and on the plains and in boats.

That’s why Jesus offered healing to the unwell and wounded, shared meals with the outcast and curious, and forgave the sinful and the sincere-

To remind them, to remind all of us that not only were we each wonderfully made by God, but we are all known by God.

And because we are known, we are loved, no matter what paths we take, no matter where we lay our head.

We are known. We are loved.

We are not alone.

Amen and amen.

*Victor Mooney’s story adapted from “Man Rows Across Atlantic on 4th Try” by the Associated Press as it appears in Tampa Tribune, June 29, 2014

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