Posted by: dacalu | 14 January 2018

Hope for God’s Word

Today, I had the privilege of worshiping with the people of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Newport News, Virginia for the second Sunday of Epiphany.  Here is the sermon I shared. The audio recording can be found here under January 14, 2018.

 

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

Readings

1 Samuel 3:1-10-20 (God calls Samuel, “Here I am, Lord”)

Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17 (“Lord, you have searched me out and known me”)

I Corinthians 6:12-20 (“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?”)

John 1:43-51 (Jesus and Nathanael)

 

Sermon

We live in a time of great uncertainty.
	We are revising ourselves, day by day.
	Neither of the political parties stands for what it once did.
	The church seems to shift and change about us.
	Even health and medicine seem to have taken on new definitions.
It seems true for the oldest among us,
	but it is also true for the young.
I remember when Facebook was cool.
	Those of you who are not Millennials might think it still is.
	Sorry about that.
Cell phones caught on in the late 90s, smart phones in the late 2000s
Facebook was launched in 2004
	YouTube 2005, Twitter 2006, Instagram 2010	
	Amazon started in 1994 and Google in 1998
That’s seven different companies that changed our daily lives in the last 25 years.
Okay. I admit, I’ve never had much time for Twitter and Instagram,
	but they matter to teenagers,
	and we live at a time when the President’s tweets make the nightly news.
It’s not your imagination.
The world is changing.

We cannot stop the change, though sometimes we very much want to.
	Sometimes I wish things would slow down, 
just long enough for me to catch my breath.
Nor can any of us alone force the world to change in exactly the way we want.
	I use a phrase from Dr. Seuss: “If I ran the circus…”
	If I ran the circus, I have no doubt, I’d have everything put in order in no time.
	Well, not really.
	I know it’s more complicated than that,
		but there really are things I’d like to do differently.

I recall G. K. Chesterton, who said it this way.
“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. 
The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes.
The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.”
I share this because I do not think that Christianity is inherently
	one or the other.
Christ does not call us to change for the sake of change.
Nor does he call us to resist for the sake of resistance.

He asks for something much more difficult.
He asks us to listen.

How do we listen amidst the chances and changes of life?
How do we learn to say
	“Here I am, Lord.”
	“Speak, for your servant is listening.”
	“Let it be with me according to your word.”

Today’s lessons are all about people who were open to the word of God
	and found themselves pulled into something unexpected.
For Samuel and Nathaniel, it was something wonderful;
	for Eli it was more complicated.
But all of them recognized that there was a relationship with God,
	that there was life and light and grace
	on the other side of the call.
God called and they answered.


This week, I have been particularly struck by the line
	that starts the reading from Samuel:
“The word of the Lord was rare in those days;
visions were not widespread.”
My first thought was to say, “Ha!  Things have not changed so much.”
	The word of the Lord is still rare.
Then I went to a retreat.

This past week was the biennial retreat of the Society of Ordained Scientists.
This past week we shared our personal stories of encountering the Truth,
	in the natural world and in the church.
We shared our personal stories of encountering Jesus.

I forget how often God speaks,
	because I am often reluctant to speak about it.
I do not share my story,
	and others do not share theirs.
I forget to say that God walked with me today,
	and I found peace.
I forget to talk about the wonder I feel 
whenever I see that exact shade of green that allows grass to photosynthesize.
For those of you who want to know,
	Chlorophyll absorbs blue and red light, 
so that the green reflect back to us.
I forget to say that I saw God in a friend’s eyes,
	as she told me a story about her life.

So, when I think about, I have to say that things are different now,
	different from the time of Samuel,
	because the word of the Lord is common.
Many of you,
	perhaps most of you,
	have a story of God speaking to you.
Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to raise your hands,
	but I hope you’ll give is some thought 
	and maybe be just a bit more willing to share your own tale,
	because I think we are blessed to hear it.

That is not to say that I think understanding God is easy.
	Rarely can I make sense of it by myself.
And that is, after all, another reason to share.
	I need you to help me make sense of it all.


I am an Ordained Scientist.
	In my case, that means that I am both a priest and an evolutionary biologist.
	In graduate school, I studied the mechanism and history of photosynthesis,
		light made manifest in the most concrete way imaginable.
	Later, I worked with NASA on the search for life beyond Earth.
		What would it take to convince us that we are not alone?
	Now I work on the history and meaning of “life” as a concept.
		How to we think about life: body, mind, and soul?
		I often joke that Jesus said he came to bring abundant life,
			but I don’t think he’s talking about moss.
		And yet, it is not unrelated.
		You and I find life and light in our concrete bodies,
			in bread and wine, water and oil,
			in caring for one another.
I study life and I have come to think that when read about life in the Bible,
	we must take the words more literally, and not less.
We ARE the Body of Christ.
	Our lives matter to one another.
	Our bodies matter to one another.
	We live out our faith in our tangible, physical bodies,
		just as God worked out our salvation in a tangible, physical body.
Our eyes and ears matter, our seeing and our hearing.
Our service to one another allows God to act in the world.
	It is not the only way God acts, but it is one way,
	and it is the way that I have some control over.
And so I say, “Here I am Lord.”

We cannot stop the change or force the change,
	but there is something we can do.
We can hope.

When we look into the storm of reality,
	the confusing mass of events,
	the strange motivations of our neighbors,
	indeed, even the strange movements of our own hearts,
	we can face it with hope or fear.
We can claim to know the goodness within our reach,
	clutch it too us, and insist that it must be the highest and the best.
We can harden our hearts to the will of God.
Or, we can listen for God in the wind and the fire and the earthquake;
	we can wait for the still small voice,
	we can hear God calling in the night and say, “Here I am, Lord.”

I truly believe that God always has something more to say to me.
I truly believe that God is speaking to me
	in the quiet of the night
	in the glorious creation
	and in the words of my neighbors.
I live life in joyful anticipation of what God has to say next.
“faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
	Our relationship with God is founded on this constant curiosity,
	this patient waiting
	with baited breath
	for the word of God
	working in the world.

I am madly, deeply, passionately in love with Jesus Christ.
	And so I hang around where he is and where he will be.
	I do the work I think he would do.
	I listen for his voice.
It is an embarrassing thing to be so in love,
	but I think that Christians must make fools of ourselves in exactly this way – 
	fools for Christ –
	because that is what we have to share.

“How deep I find your thoughts, O God!
how great is the sum of them!
If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.”

I am a scientist because God made world.
	I could and do lose myself in the wonder of it all,
	the subtlety and beauty, the constancy and variety.
I remember discovering in graduate school 
the fundamental interconnectedness of all living things.
Did you know that every ounce of life, 
from the smallest virus and bacterium
to the largest oak,
shares a genetic code and metabolism,
uses the same molecules in the same ways?
	Did you know that there are thousands of chemical pathways,
		which allow bacteria and archaebacteria to do things human
		can barely imagine?
	They tolerate heat and cold, and the emptiness of space.
	They survive nuclear radiation and toxic waste.
	They live by eating chlorofluorocarbons 
		and reduced iron compounds
		and natural gas.

This does not mean that all things we find will be good.
	I know of death and disease, pain and suffering.
With Paul, I say we must test everything and hold fast to what is good.
And still, I do test everything.
	Still I look and listen, 
	because I know that everything has not been revealed,
		even in my own life. 

I am a priest because Jesus said, “feed my sheep.”
Jesus calls us to hope for more than our own life, 
	but for the life of the community.
Jesus asks that we build, with our lives and labors,
	something greater than ourselves,
We lose ourselves in this common identity,
	the hands and feet, the loving heart of Christ.
We do not become less; we become more.

And all of this is possible, because we listen.
All of this is possible because we hope,
	that God is speaking to us,
	and continues to speak in our world, in our neighbors, in our very lives.
May we always be curious about what we do not know.
May we always be patient enough to let God finish a thought.
May we always have the strength to hope.

“Now to him who by the power at work within us 
is able to accomplish abundantly far more 
than all we can ask or imagine, 
to him be glory in the church 
and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. 
Amen.” 


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