I must confess it is a bit surreal to be with you this morning…
I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the fact that the Universe is bringing us all together at this season in both of our lives. I am guessing it’s obvious that I’m giddy, if you have spent some time with me this week.
I have never been good at playing it cool. In fact I am terrible at Poker and when I fell for Jeremy I told him I loved him the same week I met him. A bit later, I played Etta James’ At Last outside his dorm window at our seminary in Berkeley, channeling a little John Cusack in Say Anything.
So when Stan from the search committee called my cell phone on a beautiful summer evening, my husband expressed relief that I had missed the call. “Thank God” he said. “You might have told them, “You had me at hello!” That night I wrote in my journal: OMG! Dream church left a message on my cell!
As soon as we had a date for the interview, I got serious and started streaming Colorado Public Radio.
What got me excited were all those times in the profile that I read the word collaboration. I confirmed with a word search that it was no less than 14 times! It was collaboration and a commitment to activism and right living in our complex world. And your invitation to make an impact beyond walls and the possibility for my daughter to be a part of a group of spiritual seekers who believe there are many spiritual paths, inviting people of all kinds to bring questions and doubts. You had me at hello!
Over the course of this search process, I have looked for signs and sought confirmation. And I have felt the presence of the Spirit, whatever name we have for it, It has been active. And when it comes to arriving at this day; it’s hard to explain, but Spense said it well and from what I know of him this is a big deal. He said, “The convergence of her goals and our visions for new leadership has convinced me that Divine Intervention is at work.”
I don’t know about you, but this kind of thinking is perceived as a bit anti-intellectual in most of my circles, but I believe deeply that there is more going on than we perceive. William Butler Yeats wrote, “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
I believe that, which means I am accidentally radical in my generation: I don’t have any tattoos, I have always been a part of church and I believe that the world is full of magic things, that the Divine is at work, active even now and that it’s our delightful and daunting job to make our senses grow sharper.
In that letter written to the Hebrews, an early forming community gathering around Jesus’ teachings, we read that, “the word of God is living and active,” and that at times, it can feel as sharp as any two-edged sword or make known the true intentions of our hearts, but that the Word is living.
Since you have nearly a dozen ordained ministers in this crew, you might already know, word, in Greek, is Logos, a principle originating in and drawing from Classical Greek Thought where Logos is a unifying and liberating force engaged in reconciling the human with the Divine; manifesting in the world as an act of God’s love. Word Is not just word, it is a Force for good.
So what the text is really saying is not just something about whether the word of God is done, it tells us there is an animating force, a presence, that is actively engaged in reconciliation and love.
Those early students of the Great Commandment probably felt at times like God’s word was done, that their vision and dreams had failed, that the privileged and powerful had prevailed, so that letter to the Hebrews is sent, saying something like, fear not, Logos is living! It is ongoing. It is at work, active even now.
And saying that Logos is living, that Love is living, that the presence of reconciliation, that the word of God is active- this seems like an ancient way of saying that, God is still speaking.
This slogan from the United Church of Christ feels especially important now.
Because there are many who are claiming to speak on behalf of God and who claim to be doing what they are doing in the name of God, using our sacred texts, out of context, to justify the criminalization of poverty, the shaming of women’s pain and the desecration of creation…
It is a moment where we need to sing and share and wave our banner everywhere: God is still speaking! Fear not, Logos is living! Love is ongoing. It is at work, active even now!
In this painful period, where the depth of our divides and divisions have been revealed, an inclusive faith community, an amazing church like this, is an important place for a different message to be lived and shared: Fear not, the word of God is not done, don’t give up thinking hate has won, God is still speaking!
In what feels like a time of unraveling, an amazing church is needed. That’s what Associate Conference Minister for the Rocky Mountain Conference and fellow PSR Alum Rev. Erin Gilmore said about you- that you were amazing. When I read all of the details in your church profile and discerned some of your dreams, woven between strategic plans, budgets, priorities and histories, I sent a message asking if you were as good as you were on paper and she responded with this, “What you see on the paper is true, in real time. Community UCC is a pretty amazing church.”
At a moment when, like our government, the Church is associated with toxic patriarchy, abuse and hypocrisy- an amazing church is needed.
At a period in our history, when the core stories of the Christian faith have been distorted to support the agenda of militarism, unbridled capitalism and the destruction of our biosphere- an amazing church is needed.
When an increasing number of people in our country are experiencing a crisis of frayed connections, loneliness and depression- an amazing church is needed.
Because by definition to be amazing, is to be open to the inexplicable, so to be an amazing church then, is to be a place and a people, that isn’t afraid of being bewildered, facing the unknown, and trusting something bigger…
Trusting that whatever name we have for the Holy, whatever label we have for our Greater Love, It is still creating, still showing up.
To be an amazing church with a still speaking God, is to be a spiritual community open to the inexplicable, committing to not give up when we find we have left familiar terrain and reached the edge of what we know for certain.
In Dietrich Bonheoffer’s classic, The Cost of Discipleship he writes, “Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend – it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own comprehension… Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge.”
But while this might be true, being honest about all that we do not know isn’t culturally sanctioned. At least not for women, but I am guessing for a lot of us. We are taught that being a good leader or a good minister is knowing for sure and that being successful in business and politics is showing might with being right. Am I right?
And yet Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest points out that, “Jesus never said, “You must be right!” or even that it was important to be right. He largely talked about being honest and humble (which is probably our only available form of rightness)…He goes on, “Faith isa kind of knowing that doesn’t need to know for certain and yet doesn’t dismiss knowledge either… Alongside our knowing must be the equal and remaining “knowing that we do not know.”
In our current landscape maybe part of our collective predicament comes from our fear of all that we do not know or cannot comprehend. Part of what is needed then, are safe places for each of us to ask deeper and different questions and to be reminded of our call: to be amazing, to be a community of faith, where together we plunge into the deep waters beyond our own comprehension, soaking our lives in joy, joining the Mystery in unifying, liberating and reconciling, wherever and however we can, knowing that neither the word of God or the work of God is done! The Universe refuses to be limited by what we cannot understand. It’s work will not be held back by those with more power or profit or land. Logos is active, Love is living. God is still speaking!
At this critical moment in our nation and on our planet, what is needed is an amazing church and I look forward to the opportunity to be amazing with you, I look forward to being a part of a community of conscience and compassion, that isn’t afraid of being bewildered, knowing what can happen on a journey out beyond what we know for sure…. Pat McCabe, a Diné (Navajo) woman and student of the Lakota Way speaks of the power of facing the unknown like this, “When you reach the end of your resource, then the magic happens.”
Beloved of God, fear not “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” Divine intervention is at work. The word of God is living and active. The unifying and liberating force in all the cosmos is manifesting even now, “speaking from the whirlwind, nature’s old song, and dance”asking us all, to give the inexplicable a chance. Maybe it sounds something like this, “Over my head, I hear magic in the air. Over my head I hear magic in the air. Over my heard, I hear magic in the air, there must be a God somewhere…” God is still speaking, let us listen and draw near…. May it be so. Amen.
Annie Dillard Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters