Rev. George Miller
Feb 21, 2016
In December I took on a new responsibility at Emmanuel UCC- contacting people to be liturgists and ushers, and I love it.
One of my absolute favorite things is to call people forward to share their God-given gifts.
Part of the joy is that many people don’t realize their spiritual talents, or they are shy about them and humbly keep their light under a bushel.
When I contact people to be a liturgist or an usher, there’s a sort of dance we do.
First, there’s the volume of their voice and the musicality of their words.
Some take long pauses. Some voices go high; some become hushed. Some start off by saying “Well…”, others give a big exhale, while others simply say “No.”
I admire folk who say “No.” That word doesn’t bother me, because at least by asking, a seed has been planted, and maybe next time they’ll find the courage to say “yes.”
Some will say they’ve never been an usher or a liturgist before and they’re not sure if they can, to which I find the words to reassure and comfort them that they will be fine and the world will not implode if things don’t go exactly perfect.
Others will reveal that they always wanted to be an usher or a liturgist but were unsure if they were ready, in which I share how no one is ever really ready- you just do.
Others will say they have been ushers or liturgists in their churches up north; others will say “But I’m not a member” or “I’m only here in the winter” or “I’ve only been attending awhile.”
Inviting people to boldly, bravely be an usher or a liturgist is basically the story of life, because the truth is no one is ever really ready, there is never a right time, and there’s lots of people with inner 13-year-olds waiting for a chance to be invited.
We see this in the story of Abram and Sarai.
Today we hear a mystical telling of a time in which Abram has a vision of God in which a covenant is established; a promise that this childless couple will indeed have descendants and the land.
However, what is fascinating to me is what happens before and after today’s reading.
In Genesis 14 we hear of a time in which Abram leads an army of men into a battle against an enemy king who has kidnapped his nephew.
Abram and his men are successful, and are rewarded for their war-time bravery.
In Genesis 16 we have the story of how Abram’s wife convinces him to have relations with her slave-girl so they can have a child.
And Abram, being a man and given a free-pass by his wife, says “OK” and away he goes to have an affair with the servant.
In essence, today’s story takes place between war…and sex. Today’s story takes place between battles…and the boudoir.
Think about that for a moment. Today’s story of how God makes a covenantal promise of children and land takes place between two powerful arenas of life.
Besides death and money, are there two things we hear, read, talk and think about more than war and sex?
Take those two elements away and basically we have no newspapers, no Shakespeare and no 6 o’clock news.
In other words, one of the “a-ha!” moments of today’s reading is that God appears to Abram at a time that is not the most opportune or the most convenient.
God does not wait for the dust of battle to fall, or the longing of loins to be over in order to act.
No, God steps in, on God’s time, and God says to Abram “Hey buddy- let’s go look at the stars!”
God steps in, on God’s time, and God says to Abram “Hey homie- you’re gonna be a papi and a patriarch.”
God steps in, on God’s time, and God says to Abram, “Hey Abe- I’m about to do a great thing and I want you and your wife to be a part of it!”
In essence, what we have in today’s reading is another example of the freedom of God. How God is free. God is wild. God is unlimited.
What we have in today’s reading is the reality that God will act as God chooses to act, regardless if it’s right after a time of war, or right before a time of romance.
God will act as God chooses to act regardless if one is involved with destruction or procreation, breaking down or building up, endings or beginnings.
God is free and unlimited and so very, very full of surprises.
That is why God would call Jeremiah at the age of 13, and call Joseph who was a full grown man.
That is why God would visit a post-menopausal woman like Sarai, as well as a maiden like Mary and inform them that they will have a child.
That is why God would tell one prophet to visit a Gentile widow, and have another prophet visit a Gentile warrior.
That is why God would use a manger to make Godself known, and a cross to reveal God’s glory.
God is wild, God is free, God cannot be contained and God cannot be expected to act at the precisely perfect moment.
This may be a shock for some, but here in Sebring God does not only act between the months of December and May.
This may be a surprise for some, but God does not only act during non-election years.
This may be a head-scratcher, but God does not only act through seminary-trained pastors who use big words and a library full of books.
God acts year round. God acts at all times. God acts with and through all peoples.
God acts in the moments between Superbowl Sunday and the Grammys.
God acts between MLK and President’s Day.
God acts between Republican and Democratic debates.
God acts between times of war and peace, between moments of wandering and grounding, between moments of bareness and fullness, between hellos and goodbyes.
God works in both the best and the worst of times, using the best and worst of people.
Because the truth is that there never really is an opportune moment, there rarely is the ideal person.
And if we wait around for the opportune moment; we wait around for the ideal person…well we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.
God is free. God is unexpected. God is good. Amen and amen.