Sermon,  Sermons

Living Is Believing

Remembering our baptism and living into our faith

Sermon video, part 1. You can find part 2 here.

You have heard it said: seeing is believing. But if believing something requires faith, then seeing isn’t often a possibility when believing is required of you. In fact, seeing something will more likely obscure a matter rather than illuminate it.

We are now in the liturgical part of the year referred to as Eastertide – season between Easter and Pentecost. We remember our baptism and what it means to live out the reality of the risen Christ – Live into our belief.

The trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell asserted that,

“every formula which expresses a law of nature is a hymn of praise to God.”

Maria Mitchell, Life, Letters, and Journals of Maria Mitchell

And it was the physicist John Archibald Wheeler, who popularize the term black hole, and said, “this is a participatory universe [and] observer-participancy gives rise to information.”

Scientists observe and make calculations, we observe and speculate, but enlightened information comes only when we participate – engage the medium, make a leap of faith, live into believing. But finding meaning in the data, the information – even enlightened information – deriving meaning is an interpretive event superimposed by mortals, individual and collective.

So to observe and participate in a given scenario, step into the situation that one can, with varying degrees of reasonability do so believing it is to be done – the experience is unique to the participant. The interpreted meaning, still more so. True, collective, communal experience and meaning-making is an essential part of the process. But it is part of it, not the entire, and certainly not the last conclusion.

There are two broad topics I want to bring to our time here together, and will tease out over the coming weeks. It all stems, though, from the pervading principle of the resurrection that informs how we live into our belief:

Making something new – continuous, persistent, perfecting . . .

May’s edition of Sojourners magazine includes two important articles for our times. One speaks to the UMC and how our denomination has historically addressed, and continues to address two kinds of injustices. One is the injustices against one another based on difference alone; and the other, injustices against the bountiful, creative gift of the land, the earth.

First, Mount Vernon UMC in DC. A book group started by Caroline Anderson-Gray:

“We cannot just be observers. So, we . . . call each of us into a response, no matter how controversial or complex.”

Kimberly Burge, “Remembrance and Repentance,” Sojourners

The drew from Ta-Nehisi Coates, James Cone, Michelle Alexander, the Holy Spirit and UMC guidelines.

Though we may not have created the problems we still have a responsibility to address them. Dismantling structures of hate and prejudice, acquiescence to the already privileged and easy to follow, is a participatory event.

Repentance is never a one-time thing.

“Race relations has always been the work of white folks, but white folks haven’t seen it that way.”

Carol Travis, Asbury UMC, predominantly African-American, DC church, “Remembrance and Repentance,” Sojourners

Second, creation care.

“Let the Animals Teach You”

“But ask the animals what they think—let them teach you; let the birds tell you what’s going on.

Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics.

Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories. Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree that God is sovereign, that God holds all things in God’s hand—Every living soul, yes, every breathing creature?” (Job 12:7-10, ~MSG)

(pages 18-19)

It seems to me that if we have the time to consider slights committed against each other, that we are tired of doing the same things again and again, and with increasingly fewer people to maintain them, perhaps we are not using our time well.

Let me be clear: this is my own confession here. I spend more than enough time expending mental energy on the ways in which my husband is letting me down, or what my sister-in-law said on Instagram. I have read the quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry at a number of funerals, who defined love this way: “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

When we look at one another to see or find love there, it is likely borne out of the more personal desire to be loved. But, if you’ll remember, our sight is rather cloudy still.

That enlightened sense to know good and evil obscured our vision that was created to see the Divine in one another, God’s image in each other. So, we must trust that love between us and look out together and truly, more profoundly love—in the strength of our relationship—and love creation and one another better.

Jesus rose on the third day – transfigured, transformed. Jesus’ body went through every transformation to make all things right to make the way for us to do the same.

Heaven is near, at hand, within you, among you. Life is here and now.

During our Lenten journey together –

We spoke of loving God with our whole being: our lament (pain, suffering, sadnesses), our transformation (of words – they matter, the labels we give and receive, believe), our restoration (inner healing and communal healing), our creative superpower (breaking down boundaries and creating bridges, pathways toward each other), our vision (look beyond our shame and love better). Holy Week’s exploration of the meaning of Christ’s movement toward the cross, death on it, and the body that resurrected on Easter, the possibility of bodies that do the impossible, a church that can do the impossible.

Whether you have been with us in the space every week of Lent, only been here for a few, or are here after a prolonged absence or never been before – I would like to invite you recall the last several weeks. Will you please join me in a Lenten Examen, a few moments to allow the Spirit of God to speak to you about God’s movement and presence in you life.

It is imperative we take moments such as these together, because if we do not, the ease with which our brains revert to an indignant sentiment at someone else’s “thoughtless” actions is exquisite.

I am well acquainted with this. Because these slights can turn into brooding which turns into divisions, that turns into hate and even terrorism . . . (Sri Lanka at Easter, San Diego Synagogue; Christ Church, New Zealand Mosque; Pittsburgh Synagogue; Jerusalem mosque; the 3 black churches in Louisiana).

We are being made new, renewing, every morning, and our vision clearing. Listen to the Spirit of God within. Pay attention to your breath…

I become aware of God’s presence as I look back on my Lenten journey…

I ask the Holy Spirit to be present as I bring to mind the significant moments of my walk…

I bring to mind the moments where I felt a sense of consolation… Where did I feel encouraged, with a sense of love, hope or joy? 

I bring to mind the moments where I felt a sense of desolation… Where did I feel discouraged or experience some resistance? 

I bring all these to the Lord and recognize God’s movement and action in all of this…

How is Jesus speaking to me about these things, how I can participate in God’s action . . . in me . . . in this church . . . in the UMC . . .

Give us the courage and strength, O God, to live into our belief. Help my unbelief.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

In this Eastertide – this season between Easter and Pentecost – let us remember our baptism and what it means to live out the reality of the risen Christ – Live into our belief. Live into believing. Live.