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Saved From Distress

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 and Excerpts from Hymn for the Hurting by Amanda Gorman

March 10th, 2024

Fourth Sunday in Lent

10:30 am

By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche


Thank you again for being here on this Fourth Sunday in Lent, on this weekend of springing forward. Did everyone spring all the way? It felt like a winter wonderland on Friday! It does go back and forth here for a while.

I invite you now to take some deeper breaths, letting ourselves arrive as fully as we can, to tune into whatever word is meant for us today.

And as you are moved, I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer.

God may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

America’s in a united state of stress and disillusionment

Stress in America 2023: A nation recovering from collective trauma

2023: A Year of Era-Defining Crises and Stress for Americans

These are all headlines that reflect something that seems to be a part of our collective life and culture right now. We are notably, measurably, certifiably more anxious, stressed and distressed. A poll done by the American Psychological Association after the pandemic found that Americans are anxious because of things like being “disheartened by government and political divisiveness”…being “dismayed by widespread violence” concerned “for the future,” worried about inflation, “facing a barrage of external stressors that are mostly out of personal control.” Those were all listed as reasons why.

I think the pandemic reminded us all how little control we really have over some things in the end.

We do our best to forget this, maybe to get through the days. We try to set up life in such a way that this truth is managed, so that our fragility is not at the forefront with things like schedules and plans months or even years into the future, we buy insurance and build savings account, but even those things aren’t a guarantee.

We can easily get ourselves into thinking that how things are is how they will be and there is some comfort in that, even though it might be false.

There’s a long list that we could create- low interest rates or a restaurant fully staffed- all of those things seemed like they would just be that way and then they were no longer.

I wonder if part of the reason our collective anxiety, stress and distress have increased is because more of us are living closer to the reality of how fragile this all is- our bodies, our planet, our relationships, our communities.

And were also made aware how quickly things can shift. The illusion of anything else has been shattered.

And living with this truth out in the open, at first, might make us feel more anxious, because it means we are paying attention in a different way, but part of how we don’t stay there forever is understanding that it means we aren’t numb; it means we haven’t given up, which I believe gives us access to hope, which saves us from distress.

As we heard from the poet Amanda Gorman, in this time, all kinds of alarms are sounding, and we who are hearing them are called to respond.

She wrote,

“This alarm is how we know

We must be altered —

That we must differ or die,

That we must triumph or try.

“May we not just ache, but act…”

I think that’s the number one way to be saved from distress- to be doing something that builds what we want to see more of, adding more love into the world however we can, taking our aches and putting them into action.

Maybe that is one of the most important things we do as a church, providing opportunities to put our aches into action. Yesterday some of you gathered to help build a house, to put aches into action! And on Tuesday a group of us gathered to kickoff our chop saw team, which you will hear more about later, but I know many of us have a real ache about gun violence in this country and I left that meaning feeling so inspired, learning how to literally chop up wanted firearms.

I give thanks that part of what we do together is putting our ache into action. So that’s the number one thing you can do. I am going to give you three things. You can put your aches into action. I know for me that reduces my anxiety that I am doing one thing regularly to help with some of the hurt in the world.

The second thing is to spend more time with all that is steadfast, with all that is good. Part of what I mean is that it gives me comfort to spend time in those mountains, knowing that even amid fears of the rise of White Christian Nationalism that won’t endure, but those mountains will. I think we humans can be saved by the trees. I saw a study that shows spending time with trees reduces stress, lowers our blood pressure, and improves our mood.

So I wonder if that is part of how we will be saved from our distress, giving more time to our with hands and feet in the soil, time with our face to the sky, time looking for the new life is popping up as springs come, which birds are leading the choir today and if you get the pleasure of hiking with Maddie, you get commentary and descriptions about what the new life is.

The third way that I think we can reduce our stress and distress is giving more of ourselves to being undistracted not just outside with the trees but with each other. It's increasingly clear that time is often treated as a commodity, even though we can’t really get more of it, we can’t buy it trade it we sometimes talk about it that way. I am finding that not living in the past or in the future but right here also reduces my anxiety.

When I have allowed myself to be more now. To look up and down and to breathe deeply and to notice fully as a spiritual practice. One of the readings at our contemplative service over Lent was written by Christine Painter and she speaks about Lent as a time of fasting from multitasking. She says if we try to accomplish too many things, we are not really present for anything. That’s the third invitation for you today. That’s a beautiful way to pay attention, to let go of multitasking and to be in the moment.

We are living closer to the reality of how fragile this all is- our bodies, our planet, our relationships, our communities. Because we know for sure how quickly things can change. It’s reasonable to feel stressed right now. But I want you to know that’s because you are not numb. And that’s a gift.

Knowing that we all arrive from different perspectives and places, we are going to take a few minutes to share as we are moved. Do you feel stressed, anxious and stressed right now? How do you manage it? Have you found that taking action or being outside or being fully present is helpful for you? Or what do you do to help with that? I love to hear the wisdom in the room.

And to you who are a part of our worship on the livestream, you are invited to journal or discuss with those in your home or ponder on these same questions.

COMMUNAL REFLECTION

Beloved of God, we can be saved from our distress at least a little, when we put our aches to action, participating in love and healing, when we give more of ourselves to that which is enduring, to being outside and in touch with how small we are in the scheme of space and time; we can be undistracted and fully present in the good and glorious here and now. May it so. Amen.


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