Delight in the Lord
Proverbs 17: 22; 30: 18-19
Luke 13: 10-17
For 18 years she'd bent ever closer to the ground. Finally she could only see the feet of those who passed before her. She wasn't the sort they were looking for in worship. But she was there when Jesus' feet stopped in front of her and she heard him say she was free.
Can you imagine how, as she slowly unwound her body, the first eyes she met were his? What do you think she felt looking into those eyes?
We don't know what the burdens were, what she'd been carrying year after year. But in the moment that their eyes met, she knew what she was created for. She rejoiced in her Lord.
We've been journeying through summer with the Wisdom of Proverbs, part of the "Sunday School lessons" the woman and Jesus both learned as they grew up. Of earth's origins Wisdom speaks: Then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race. “And now, my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways (Proverbs 8:30-32 NRSV).
Not everyone was delighted on this particular Sabbath though, were they? The one in charge of keeping order, dedicated to making sure everything went according to plan, was not pleased. Jesus was messing with the liturgy, getting things out of order, encouraging people to be where they shouldn't, upsetting expectations.
I wonder whether Jesus had another proverb in mind as he replied to the worship leader's scathing complaints. “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? (Proverbs 1:22 NRSV)
For the synagogue leader, time is something to be kept and controlled.
For Jesus, time is something to be entered.
It is Kairos, the moment as threshhold to God's own life.
It is the moment when delight can overcome complaint.
My earliest expereinces as a worship leader were voiceless, clowning in white face. When one of my professors at the University of Minnesota discovered this he invited me to see what I could do in his next lecture in our Comedy and Tragedy seminar. (As I recall we were reading Freud that week).
Conveniently, I was leading worship in St Paul that morning and just caught the bus over to Minneapolis with green hair already in place and my best red and white candy striped knickers with snazzy red ringmasters' tails, pockets fully loaded with fun.
The bus dropped me off about five minutes after class had started and I let myself quietly into the back of the room, taking a seat in the back row and pulling out my soap bubbles. As the Professor spotted me he dropped his voice to a drone. The bubbles drifted up the aisle.
Heads turned to glare in my direction.
I moved up to sit in the middle of the aisle, shining a few shoes with my best red bandana on the way. (irritated shuffles, a few bemused glances).
"What's going on back there? " demanded the authority figure at the front. That was all it took. The gig was up. Student shoulders hunched. Eyes riveted forward on notebooks, pencils resolutely gripped, the test on "what is comedy" looming in the near future. And I fell in with my classmates, joy surpressed for the one and only time in my clowning experience.
What blocks delight? Fear.
What releases delight? Paying attention to what God is actually doing.
One of my clergy colleagues, Anne Robertson remembers serving not so long ago in an east coast state. In her five years serving community, the other area church pastors, all male, would never let this now award winning preacher and author offer the message at any ecumenical community service. ("We’re afraid Other People will be offended"). At the last community worship she attended before moving to New England, all the Pastors were lined up, man after man after man (i picture them in order of ehight), splendidly arrayed in their best robes, and then Anne, also in her robes, standing at the end.
The chosen pastor began to pray. In his extended and comprehensive prayer he asked for God’s blessing on the assembled Pastors in their ministries.
Help him to serve humbly….
Help him to speak prophetically…
Help him embody Christ to his congregation…
Well, you know how sometimes its hard to keep your eyes closed all the way through a really long prayer? Someone in the congregation lifted their eyelids and glimpsed Anne standing there right as one of the “hims” flew by, and started to giggle at the absurdity of it.
It only takes a spark to get a fire going…….
That one giggle was a spark that ignited the crowd.
The congregation had the good sense to recognize, and to delight in, what was standing right in front of their faces. Jesus was working in them to clarify authentic authority. Their eyes were open. They rejoiced.
It makes me wonder what God is putting in front of our faces, asking us to see and delight in his good creation.
Turn to someone near you and take a few minutes to share something that delighted you this week, won't you?!
Here's one more story of the power of God's delightful kairos. This is more recent, just this weekend in fact, and comes from Tsitsi Nakoma Moyo, Pastor of Randolph and East Pittston churches, (and graduate of Africa University which many of you helped build and continue to support through that mission shares that make us partners throughout the global Methodist connection. )
Facebook post Friday August 23, 2013: Some people broke into our church building Randolph UMC at 16 Asbury street, Randolph , ME; They borrowed my computer, note pad, 42 inch TV, collecting plates, a banner, two microphones and a microphone stand. Then they left me a message on my door: Pray to Satan. No darlings, I wont pray to satan. A note to you who broke into the church: I will pray to my God to bless you richly. and you can bring our stuff back anytime.
Saturday, August 24: Thank you all for all your prayers and encouraging words. Friday being my off day, I don't normally go to the office. But since I lost a whole day yesterday, I wanted to catch up on my work, so I went to the office. Guess what I found on the church door?? a pile of some of the stole items including two of my drums...one that I bought in Ghana and one I bought in Israel, an Old Big Bible, a wooden cross, a box of offering envelop and some Christmas ornament wrapped in a banner. all these items except for the banner, we didn't notice there were gone. I have a collection of drums so I didn't even notice the drums were missing. God is good all the time my beloved friends. I do have one request from all of you, friends and relatives...lets us pray for these persons, who were created in God's own image, whom God so loved that God had to send the only begotten Son, Whom Christ so loved he had to die on the cross for them including me; pray for these precious souls...that one day they will talk about this happening...not as a confession but as a testimony. I believe God wanted them to be in church. I believe when they were doing their visitation inchurch, they read what was on the walls especially in my office "God Loves you Nomatter what" Oh how I wish they had taken that one. I believe God had already started working on their as well as my crippled self. Who am I to tell them to come by the Main door. God saw their troubled souls, and had to do something about it. the church doors were locked, So God beckoned them to come through the open window. if they have never been in the church before, now they have. and I trust by being in the sanctuary, something within them was touched and they were changed.
I don't know how many they were, but because they touched the microphones, I pray that one of them will be a Gospel singer. Because the touched the drums, I pray that one of them will be a missionary who will spread the word of God all over the world. Because they touched the Big Pulpit Bible, I pray that the one who carried that Bible, the word of God be planted in him and he be a proclaimer of the word of God. Because they took the TV used for bible study, I pray that one of them be Christian Education teacher. because they took the office computer, I pray they will be able to read the sermons saved on that computer, and that one of them will be an author of Christian books/literature. Because they took the collection plates, i prayer that a great giver comes out of this. That as they give, they be blessed as well. I truly pray for blessings upon these guys.
May God's delight in who you are created to be overcome any complaint that comes your way this week.
8-11-13 Prepared for the Unexpected
Proverbs 31: 10-31
Here's a question for the womens. Do you ever feel like other people expect you to be "that woman?" Have you ever found yourself wanting to be like "that woman." Think for a minute about a role model you’ve found truly worthy of imitation. What are some of the qualities of that role model?
When I was in my early twenties, I learned to spin (wool, silk, flax). I wasn't consciously trying to imitate the proverbial worthy woman, but who knows what my subconscious was up to?
Last week in worship Rosemary Word (a role model for many United Methodist Women) shared some of the things Sarai Rice spoke about at the first Mid Maine Resource Day last spring. One of the things that has stuck with me is Sarai's emphasis on the difference between technical and adaptive approaches to problem solving.
Proverbial living can be imitating techinical skills (like learning to spin). But frankly, as much as I enjoyed spinning then, its not the most useful skill in my toolbox these days. Instead, learning to focus on an unfolding process has become a resource in adaptive challenges. A technical challenge is one we can solve with available knowledge and skills. An adaptive challenge requires us to step away from our expertise and recreate.
How is God calling me to live faithfully and fruitfully as this woman did then? Do I want to be remembered for having learned how to spin or for learning how to balance generously taking care of my own family and sisters and brothers in Christ as well as those in need in my community?
We have plenty of problems to solve. Cna you thik of a few:
In our world?
In our church?
In our own lives?
We live in an environment that encourages us to prepare for the worst.
But we read scripture and believe a God who leads us to prepare for the best.
What do we really, in our hearts, expect?
Because that is what we are prepared for.
Sarah Rice: Every organization is perfectly aligned to achieve the results it currently gets. You only need to change if you want other results.
The clamor for change Is exhausting, we hear it everywhere. IN fact, I'm thinking of striking the word "change" from my vocabulary as a spritual discipline for the next year.
What and where are some of the chnages you notice most?
If only someone would come and fix it! We need heoric rescue!
We see this in political struggles,
We see it in the religious trap of charismatic leaders who fall under the weigh of expectations they themselves build up and cannot sustain.
How did Jesus, the most charismatic human being who ever lived, spirit filled, avoid this trap? The Apostle Paul wrote to early Christians struggling with issues incredibly similar to ours,
"The church is Christ's body in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” -Ephesians 1:23 (The Message)
The wise woman of Proverb 31 is an image of God; hers is a life of creativity, resourcefulness, compassion, strength.
Raymond van Leeuwen describes her work, “to transform a Judean highland plot (as large as 10 acres) into a vineyard is a difficult, massive undertaking. It is done on rocky, hilly ground, not good for much else.” (p. 261 NIB vol. )
Reminds me of Elijah’s “dry bones” vision. Can these bones live? Can they dance?
Her capacity and her will are formed in the image of the God to whom she is oriented. To meet her is to encounter a centered person. She is prepared for whatever comes, expected, or more importantly, unexpected as God does a new thing.
To be honest, most of us want the change that we can expect and control.
Nothing is more frightening than being out of control. This week Jeff and I tried out some of the rides at the Topsham fair. (Not the ones that you go upsaide down on). I like my thrill rides at the Topsham fair, but only with strict safety features in place.
I was thinking about this morning when I received a message from Kayla McClurg about what Jesus tells us in this mornings’ gospel lesson.
“Do not be afraid, little flock….” Simply sell all that you own. Relinquish everything, and give. Fear attaches to things we cannot release, a ruinous mold spreading in the dark isolation of our grasping and clutching. Fear infiltrates all the systems of our life, alters our breathing and shows up masked as various anxieties and dis-eases. Fear erodes the realm God wants to give us. In his teachings, Jesus shines a healing light upon our minds and hearts to clear the mold of fear away.
Now, fear is a great motivator. There’s nothing like a good panic to get the energy flowing. But after a while it’s exhausting. Remember that old proverb about the carrot or the stick? Both are external motivators. God wants to get IN us. To create and sustain great Christians
Sarai Rice reminded us in May that the purpose of the congregation is
To create and sustain great Christians
How do we do that here and now. How do we BECOME that great church?
Part of what's disorienting about the change all Western culture churches are experiencing is that:
•Things we know how to do don’t seem as important anymore and
•We don’t know how to do the things that do seem to be important
So we seek techinical fixes that we can handle:
•Problems for which people have the know-how and procedures to solve them
•Where the solution involves applying current knowledge
•and the problem-solvers are the “authorities”
We resist Adaptive Change:
•Problems that can’t be solved with authoritative expertise and SOP
•that require experimenting, new discoveries, adjustments, changed attitudes, values, and behavior
•and where we cannot see at the beginning that the new situation will be better,
only that there is a potential for loss
•Every organization is perfectly aligned to achieve the results it currently gets. You only need to change if you want other results
Sarai Rice continues:
•Adaptation occurs through experimentation and relies on the presence of diversity
•The most common cause of failure is when we treat adaptive challenges as if they need technical fixes
•Adaptive change is not primarily about managing change; it is about managing loss
In the Body of Christ, we are meant to support each other as we cultivate Christlike qualities. This is our purpose. Great churches create great Christians.
We are not called to sit and wait for rescue. That's just spinning our wheels. It is not a matter of figuring out who will do for us but how will be this healthy Body together, with God’s help.
Jesus never separates hearing from doing. You don't feed a family by reading cook books. You actually have to enter a kitchen, pick up some utensils, and start cooking. A disciple puts into daily practice what is heard and read. - Leonard Sweet
Karen L Munson
United Methodist Pastor & Liturgical Artist