Sermon 2009-03-29

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Sermon March 29 (Pastor Lise Sparrow)

I ask that you hold in your hands two small objects a hazelnut and a cross—gifts and reminders of how God might see each of us, each essential to the scripture we read today.

Let us start with the hazelnut…

Today’s scripture is the prophesy of the radical shift brought to us by Christ.  In the midst of Lent, the wilderness time, the fasting time, the time of repentance Jeremiah brings a new vision of God and of ourselves.

We hear in Jeremiah that the wickedness of the Israelites had just brought about the overthrow of the nation, the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple and the exile of the people into Babylonia. It was a terrible time, a crucial time in Biblical history and a turning point for God and for us.

It wasn’t that the laws themselves weren’t good laws but rather that the people saw them as something outside themselves, more rules to follow, another oppressive patriarchy which seemed to have less and less to do with their own lives.

Just as their God seemed a distant God soon too the laws seemed many, complicated and irrelevant to their struggles.

Nonetheless, as an outcast people they needed God all the more.

They were met by the natural consequences of their actions --forced to look at the impact of their misdeeds and in circumstances where they began to question their faith in far deeper ways than ever before.

And there was Jeremiah, who had witnessed it all, there with a vision of a new relationship with God. 

He says…” before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed..

(But now) “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.


God is going personal.

God is personal and specific. God is forgiving and redemptive.

God will speak in us and through us in ways we cannot even imagine.    

God will be ours and we God’s people.


Julian of Norwich had a similar experience in which her whole way of seeing herself in relationship tot God changed. She wrote:

“God showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed to me, and it was as round as a ball.  I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought. What can this be?  I was amazed that it could last, for I thought, because of its littleness it would have suddenly fallen to nothing. And I was answered in my understanding. It lasts and always will, because God loves it, and thus everything has being through the love of God.”

---Julian of Norwich

God asks we go deeper…and beyond rules and laws…beyond good and bad to an intimate relationship in which God speaks to our hearts.

Rev. Woody Bartlett writes of what this might raise in us as questions:

“Is this really good news?  Will this new law on my heart not take away my free will, my freedom to live my life the way I want to?  For those who have been in love, he writes,…this is an absurd question. Having the law of love engraved on one’s heart is an adventure in freedom. It is the freedom to be who one who truly is, knowing that one’s true character is most pleasing to God and therefore reflects the best of what the law requires.”

He goes on to point out that this interpretation of a new law of love gives us a path through controversy, through economic and ecological disaster. It expects us to act out of love and the best of ourselves in the best interest of others on our small planet.

This also allows to better understand Paul’s words to the Galatians:

“But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.  For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

This may well be the phrase from which we learned about “the school of hard knocks”.   We are no longer under a schoolmaster

Paul says, but rather we have “put on Christ”---taken up our crosses, in faith.

And this is where we begin to ponder not only the truth of Christ’s mission but also what this Holy Adventure means to each of us.   In each of your hands is a small cross, so small in fact that others might not even know you hold it.   Nonetheless I ask you to think of what that cross might be..

..some small irritation which currently asking you to develop patience…

…an illness which is asking you to show courage or strength,  a ..worry which is asking you to trust…

This is not to say that all your crosses are small, for, having been baptized into Christ, your cross might be enormous.. so enormous you, like Christ might need others to help you bear it at all on days when you are exhausted and feel beaten down….but you carry it nonetheless and in carrying it you grow in faith and you show forth God’s love.

I cannot count the times people have talked about the people in India as the most spiritual in the world and one might wonder how this could be so, in a land of such poverty, and yet that is exactly “the rub”.

Jesus knew the truth of faith, that when there is no schoolmaster

No bread or wine

No true lover

We look to find God in ourselves and in each other

Christ reminds us

The poor are blessed, those that mourn are blessed, the meek are blessed for they find comfort and the simple blessings of the earth and of each other.

Like pearl oysters the small grit and sand of our lives creates the perfect pearl and the perfect faith.

            The Lenten season asks us to remember what life is really all about.  Reminds us that wilderness times are the times that deepen our faith… the poor in spirit discover the kingdom of heaven.  Reminds us that when our hunger and thirst is after righteousness and goodness we will be filled for those lessons are the ones written on and in our hearts are and the ones for which we need no schoolmaster. Love breeds love.  Faith breeds faith. Persecution leads to strength and commitment and an even deeper appreciation for who we are meant to be.

In the context of our lives, sometimes our blessings and gifts seem small but God figured out early on that that knowledge keeps us humble and assures we work together.  Sometimes our blessings seem few but God needs every one. In the context of our lives, our crosses can loom large but in the end they lead us to big questions and amazing answers.

Let us pray: (from Holy Adventure by Brian Epperly,p. 86)

God of hazelnuts, quarks, butterflies and galaxies, inspire us to experience all things at the center of your love and all things as divine in origin and destiny. Breathe in us, Everliving Spirit of Life and adventure, so that every breath is a prayer and blessing, every breath a healing breath for ourselves and our Planet Earth. Let every breath be praise and prayer.