Sermon 2009-03-15

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Sermon March 15 (Pastor Lise Sparrow)

On Friday I picked Gabe Morse up so that we could go and see his mother. He was very excited and was determined to skip the pizza at school so that we could be on our way.   He had his back pack, his jacket and boots, and as we went out the door of the school he stopped and said “oh you have to see this…they just came up today…(crocus) those came up today but the others came yesterday” and --we saw the little shoots, still green with brown buds on the one and just the first day shoots on the other with bare wet earth all around.  A little boy, on his way to see his very ill mother, stopping to share the signs of Spring.  Still so much to see and to share amidst the dark shadows of illness.

         I like to think of it as the Little Awakening on this weekend when we are marking the Great Awakening in our history. On this Sunday when we welcome new members it seems important that we together claim both our history and its complications and our future with its hope and promise. Just as the new members refresh us with their new ideas and commitments the church as been reborn again and again since the time in which Christ lived.   In fact our lectionary today marks the most vivid of all moments in Christ’s ministry.  The one time they say that Christ was angry.  Angry at what the temples had become…angry at how much had been forgotten… angry at the leaders for their neglect and at the people for their torpor.

         In essence he was saying “Wake Up!” Wake Up and remember the truth of who God is and who you are…remember what it is we are here to do together!   It is the one time he was angry and we have to assume that those who assembled the Bible must have decided there was much to be angry about.

The tables, the animals and birds, the money-changers and salespeople all had to go--- to make a place once again for worship and silence and reverence and celebration of all God was and is.

         The psalm and the gospel which Cindy read hold up for us the grand paradox of humans as they worship.  Nature is God’s hymnbook with every small flower and every mountain celebrating the mystery and magnificence of God’s glory while our small temples fail again and again. And like a hymnal, Nature baffles us and surprises us with the dark and minor keys of storms and illnesses on the one hand and the harmonies of grace and hope that feed and inspire us on the other.  So we humans build our little churches and temples to find solace and comfort, to join together and to learn how to weather and celebrate all life’s storms and pleasure and to remind ourselves of why we are here at all. 

         The scripture we did not read today but which is given is that of the ten commandments…that slate of rules given to Moses as he wandered with the Israelites in the desert.  Breaking free of the oppression of the Egyptians was one thing but living together as they tried to survive the desert was another whole challenge for Moses’ people.  It is significant that we are reminded of that desert journey today on this fourth day of Lent.

Wilderness itself reminds us of the truth of our dependence on nature and also of our dependence on each other and the morays needed to live together.  Left to our own devices we are reminded we naturally fall into fears and habits which pull us away from being awake to the world and each other.


We have seen this happen again in Christianity just as we see it in all institutions.  We must grow  and change or fall to ruin.  So it was with early Christians that 300 years after Christ died they needed to meet again at Nicea to come up with a creed that everyone could agree on for the simplicity of Christ’s call had been lost to the differences.  

Then again, in 1517,  Martin Luther called for another remembering which we call the Reformation in which he called for the church to reclaim its simplicity, to give up its vainglory and re-formed churches were stripped of their pomp and brought back to the most basic of tenets and simplicity.    In Germany this simplification led to the establishment of the Lutheran church, in Scotland to the Presbyterian Church and in England to the Anglican Church.  Just as Christ had called the clergy back to scripture and churches to their healing call, so then these reformed churches formed the basis of what we call mainline churches today—similar in their hierarchies to the catholic church but slightly less attached to politics and power.

         Our denomination was born then two hundred years later when the  Calvinists or Puritans broke away again to keep Christ—not the King-- the head of the church.    We know all know this history of the Pilgrims escaping to Holland and then to the new world with John Robinson assuring them that “God hath yet more truth and light to pour forth from his holy word”.

For that was the beginning of the “God Is Still Speaking Movement” and the Great Awakening.   This revival spread like wild fire across the colonies as Baptists, black and white together in tents in fields and prairies claimed a personal connection to God and Jesus and to the radical thought that God finds amazing ways to break forth even in the darkest of times.


Again and again humans have swept the decks clean and reclaimed and recreated churches to better reflect what they know of God.   And again and again people have thought they were crazy if nothing else to push the system, to challenge  the economic systems, to stand up for all men and women as children of God.

We can only imagine the money changers…the Bernie Madoff’s of the time, well established, supported by the rich and famous when the tables came crashing down and simple people like you and me laid claim to a living god who  claimed all persons as filled with light and hope.  We can also imagine the small business men and women with their few birds and small indulgences because he challenged them too.    He challenged them to make a place for silence and worship and celebration to remember why they were working at all.  He really made things muddy until it wasn’t clear what was right and what was wrong.


         Jesus created a situation in which people had to look again at what they were doing and why,   to consider if they would return to how it had been before or try something truer and deeper, to consider if they would work together with people they may never have known before or hide away hoping he might go away.     As Christians we believe God worked through and in Christ to create something new for us.


         We are living right now in tough times, with challenges in our lives and a complexity of pulls and pushes we may never have known before and we-- like the people in that temple, and the people at Nicea and the people at that church where Luther hung and proclamation the door -and like the pilgrims who set off to a new land have been called back to the simplest of calls.

We are being called back to silence and mediation,  to simplicity and humility, to hope amidst complexity -- to remember our bodies as temples and our temples as bodies of possibility and solace.


Our church is a simple church and it is simple for a reason and it  lives on the edge of a balanced budget constantly and I believe that is a blessed connection for it calls each of us again and again to be still and listen to what we hear and to do what we can do to hear the pulse of God’s heart in our own lives.