Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Lord is my light

Psalms 27:1-6
Triumphant Song of Confidence
Of David.
​The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.
One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.
Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Midsummer in this hemisphere
The longest day
But for many 
Just another long night
Another sojourn in the dark
Another day of grieving another night of loss
Where was the protection of God?
Where was the shelter?
When a gunman filled with hatred
Blinded with prejudice
Chose the sanctuary of a church
To wreak carnage
To proclaim evil
To defile all that is sacred and true
How does the beauty of the Lord
Ever emerge from the shadow of such darkness?
How did we get it so wrong
How did we fail so miserably in sharing the love of God
And the teachings of Christ?
That children of God can look into each other's eyes
And see differences with eyes of judgement
Judgement that divides and diminishes 
While God, our light and salvation
Weeps in impotence
Consumed by the darkness
Too dense for the light to breakthrough
And a triumphant song of confidence
Becomes a song of lament

Remembering: Cynthia Hurd, Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders. Ethel Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons Sr, Myra Thompson.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

A place for all

Psalms 69:1-16
Psalm 69
Prayer for Deliverance from Persecution
To the leader: according to Lilies. Of David.
​Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
many are those who would destroy me,
my enemies who accuse me falsely.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me,
O Lord God of hosts;
do not let those who seek you be dishonored because of me,
O God of Israel.
It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my kindred,
an alien to my mother’s children.
It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
When I humbled my soul with fasting,
they insulted me for doing so.
When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me.
But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
With your faithful help rescue me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the Pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I visited a member of our congregation that I've never seen in church in the seven years I've been here.
I thought that he must be elderly or infirm, perhaps not able to get out much.
That's not the case.
He's relatively young and fit and active.
And he has faith.
So - Why doesn't he come to church?
Quite a few years ago, this man was widowed.
Left caring for a young family and elderly parents.
He did his best to be in church every Sunday.
He wanted to be a part of the community of faith.
But, eventually, he felt that church simply wasn't the place for him.
Because he had too much sadness in him.
And church was a place where folk were supposed to be happy.
A place where folk gathered to praise God, to give thanks for the blessings in life.
And, with everyone putting on their happy faces, Sunday by Sunday, this man felt as though he simply didn't belong, where there was no room for him and his grief.
I fear that that is still a perception people have of church.
Church is a place where we have to keep it together.
A place where there's no room for grief or lament or sadness.
A place where we have to suck it up and "look forward in faith."
A place where we have to live into the realities of the promises of faith and not dwell on the here and now, which, often, is far from that promised hope.
Save me, O God, (cries the Psalmist) 
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.

How often has that been closer to your experience than the Psalm we read last week:
Psalms 113:1-4
​Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.

The Psalms - prayers and songs of the worshipping community, assure us that there is room for us in the worship of God, whether we feel like praising or cursing.
There is room for us.
God does not ask us to leave our troubles and our disappointments at the door of the church as we enter.
God does not ask us to check in our anxiety and our depression in the hallway.
God bids us come - as we are.
God welcomes us in all our mental fragility or robustness.
Here those who are bruised or broken are welcome along with those who come with joy and thanksgiving - and those who are somewhere in between.
God welcomes us.
God holds us.
And God nudges us to be mindful of one another.
To make space.
We have no need to dampen or joy when we feel it. 
Or ignore our troubles when they weigh us down.
Because there is room for us all.
A place for us to hold and to be held.
What is your need this morning?
Are you holding on by a thread?
Are you up to your neck?
Are you full of the joys, ready to burst into song, and proclaim, Bless the Lord,O my soul?
Or are you somewhere in between.
Take a look around you.
Know that only God can see minds and hearts.
But, even when hurts are well disguised, as they often are when we gather for worship, let's resolve to notice each other.
To encourage each other.
To know ourselves welcomed and valued by God.
And welcomed and valued members of this community gathered for worship, whatever we bring.

Come as you are.
Bring what you have.
Not just  good news.
Not just the praise.
Not just the highs of the day.
But every cry and every want
and every complaint,
even despair.
These too are welcome
in God’s sight.
For God wants all of us,
the parts we reveal
and all that we hide,
the things we can live with 
and the things that we bury.
All of these- shaken, stirred, poured out and laid in plain view 
are not pretty to us
but precious to God.
God is big enough to take all of us
and love us even when we do not love ourselves.
Steadfast God who takes it all.

We were lucky enough to attend a concert on Friday - we went to hear The Piano Guys at the Usher Hall.
A pianist, a cellist, a vocalist and a special effects guy make up the Piano Guys.
If you get the chance, check out some off their videos on You Tube.
They play the most haunting music in amazing locations - on speeding trains, on glaciers, on the Great Wall of China, underneath the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro and the Ignazu waterfalls. 
One of the arrangements they played on Friday was a blending of Gabriel's Oboe from the film - The Mission and the hymn tune: How Great Thou Art.
I'd like to share that music with you this morning.
As we listen, May I encourage you to rest in God.
Look at the picture of the sanctuary you received add you came into worship this morning.
And know - there is a place for you here, just as you are.
(Music:The Mission/How Great Thou Art)