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Calling on the Lord

Romans 10:8b-13 and I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy by Hafez

Sunday March 6th, 2022

By Nicole M. Lamarche

Good morning again and thank you for showing up here on this snowy morning. It’s hard to believe we gathered on the Terrace for soup and bread on Wednesday and it was in the 60’s, so here we are in the Colorado whiplash of the season.

It’s wonderful to be with you! So as we create some sacred space here to listen more deeply together and to tune into ourselves, to Spirit, to the birdsongs and the gift of sharing life with other humans, I invite you to take a deep breath and to let yourself arrive more fully, to listen to your heartbeat, to your breath and to give thanks for the chance to worship together in all of the ways that we are. Gracious God, may the words of our mouths and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

What are the stories you tell the most? The ones you repeat? The ones you are more likely to share when you introduce yourself? The ones you say out loud about your history and your hopes? The ones you share about your future plans? What are the stories that you see as defining? What are the ones you don’t often tell? What are the stories that are leading your life right now?

As I have shared in other places, I am learning that the stories we tell ourselves and others, become the stories that we live. This means that our stories can hold us hostage to our history and it also means that they can free us from it. Stories can be like chains. And they can also be the keys to the kin-dom, the path to liberation.

Our theme for Lent is Journeying Into New Stories and so over the course of these weeks we will be exploring how we might actually do this. How do we tell new stories and live into them together? And today as we begin, I am wondering if part of how we live into new stories is here in the words from the poet Hafez,

“The saint knows

That the spiritual path

Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved

Has just made such a Fantastic Move

That the saint is now continually

Tripping over Joy

And bursting out in Laughter

And saying, “I Surrender!”

Surrender, that’s what I was thinking about when I thought of how we live into new stories is saying to the Universe, “I surrender!?” When things get to a certain point. Sometimes this means admitting to ourselves that something isn’t working. Sometimes it means being open to a new idea, a new relationship, a new attitude. Surrender isn’t giving up, I think maybe it’s more like being willing to call upon a Higher Power? Or maybe in the First Century way of saying it, is calling on the name of the Lord? As if shouting out to the Universe, not my name God but yours.

Paul says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved! There is a lot of theology in here and maybe some of us cringed. We could get really down deep into discussion. But what jumped out at me when I read this snippet, and he’s writing to the community in Rome- is that he’s quoting the prophet Joel, the prophet Isaiah in verse 12, “the same Lord is Lord of all is generous to all who call on him…” and he also quotes the book of Deuteronomy. Scholars believe in this little piece that he is recounting all of God’s covenant with the Jewish people.

He’s taking that old story and bringing into his now. Of all the stories he could tell from the early movement.

Of course, he was selective, in bringing in, in just this passage, that Paul has included nearly the entire arc.

As Robert Prim wrote, “To understand the real depth of these verses is to follow the references into the whole story of God’s redemptive work through the Jewish people, finding fulfillment in the life, death and resurrection of the Jew Jesus.”

We could get down in the theological mud, but we might miss the bigger view. How do we, the faithful who have come after, how do we live the story of resurrection, of new life, of new stories? How do we surrender to this pattern ourselves? How do we let go to live new stories?

Because the thing about stories, as you know, is that they have power- they aren’t just words, they become alive, informing our thoughts, our decisions, our actions, what we believe about the world around us.

This means sometimes we can get stuck, we can get stuck in a story, even when it is no longer true for us or it doesn’t serve us anymore. It keeps playing. I think of it like a tape that keeps playing.

Not long ago I came across a quote that summed up for me a story I have lived with for decades. It’s a story I have held and inhabited about how I am the kind of person I am and that’s a person who persists. A person who hangs on, who endures, who keeps going through anything. This story served me well for seasons, and years even, giving me hope that I had what it took to keep on and to get through hard things and overcome obstacles to build the kind of life I felt called to live. For most of my growing up and well into my twenties, I was a hard core long distance runner, doing track and cross-country and then later a short stint in Division 1 college athletics and then later marathons. Being a runner was one of those metaphors for toughness for me, pushing on through anything and everything, even through pain. We had a club for those of us willing to run in below zero temps and then a record/club for those of us who ran up Mt. Spokane numerous times and we all had this individual and collective story about being tough, pushing on no matter what.

In the running world Bill Bowerman was an icon and over his career as a coach, he trained 31 Olympic athletes, 51 All-Americans, 12 American record-holders, 22 NCAA champions and 16 sub-4 minute milers. He also went on to be one of the co-founders of Nike. At one point, he said, “There's no such thing as bad weather, just soft people.” This sums up that story that I lived with for a really long time, of being that person who keeps going, the one who can persist, hangs on through anything, one who could endure, almost anything, even dangerous conditions.

But when I saw this quote again recently I both recognized it immediately as a story that once drove me and also as a story that I no longer believe. This story is no longer true for me. It’s one I have given thanks for the ways it carried me through hard things. But it was time for me to put it down. Because I have seen how much damage can be caused internally and externally from pushing even beyond the place where the Universe says stop, where the body says stop, where the Spirit says slow down or you’ll get hurt. This is true in running or in life.

I now believe that the harsh weather of the world should cause us to seek shelter sometimes, not to keep going and should invite us to care about ensuring others have shelter too. And here’s the other thing, pushing on through pain doesn’t always mean we are strong, sometimes it means we are stupid and we aren’t listening, sometimes it means we have tuned out the very voices we should pay attention to, the voices in our bodies, the voices around us, the voices of people we trust. And sometimes pushing on means things will break.

I know Bowerman means it as a slight, but at this point in my life, I kind of love the idea of being labeled as a soft person. Because that doesn’t have to mean lacking courage or strength or grit. I think it could be glorious for more of us to tell and live new stories, like that we are both soft and strong, together.

How do we live into new stories? I think it’s another simple and still challenging call for us.

How do we burst into laughter like the saints and say I surrender!?

Because surrender isn’t giving up, it’s more like being willing to call upon a Higher Power, it’s calling on the name of Love, to live into this ancient pattern, the story of resurrection, of new life, that we are all a part of, it’s making a way for something new.

What are the stories that are leading your life right now? Are they the ones you want leading? Are they still true for you? Because if not, the Good News is this: when you are ready, there is a new story waiting. We have the power to choose which stories we live and which ones we might need to release, and maybe you’ll find like I did, that there’s a beautiful new story to live on the other side of the one you put down. Like being soft and strong. So beloved of God, if you need, let go and dare to make room for a new story for your life. May it be so. Amen.

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