Rev. Richard Feyen
recorded on 9 Feb 2014
READINGS FOR THE DAY:
First Reading: An Excerpt from Praying a New Story by Michael Morwood
“We give expression to the Spirit within us and give thanks for the wonder of who we are and for our conscious awareness of that Spirit at work in everything that exists. “We give thanks for Jesus in whom that Spirit was able to work freely and was able to articulate insights and convictions that open our minds to the presence of the Spirit of Life in our midst.
“We give thanks, as Jesus gave thanks, using bread to speak to us of earthen vessels holding a treasure. We see the presence of God in whom we believe here now in us. We acknowledge now to be our Pentecost time, when God-with-us seeks expression in our actions and in new words and images. To being the presence of God in our world: Amen. Amen.”
Second Reading: Matthew 5:13 – 20. (from The Message – Eugene Peterson)
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. “Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures – either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working. “Trivialize even the smallest item in God’s Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom. Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom.
At our house, I love to do the cooking but hate to clean up and Peggy loves to clean-up and could care less about doing cooking. One of the things that has evolved out of that is that Peggy has learned to eat a lot of food with the Texas flair for the spicy. Crushed red pepper, jalapenos, and habanero garlic have become part of … most dishes I prepare. In other words, in our home the food tends to be on the spicy side! A couple of jalapenos, a teaspoon of crushed pepper, or a few cloves of habanero garlic don’t go by unnoticed, whether one is preparing macaroni and cheese or a pork roast, potato salad or a grilled cheese sandwich. The bottom line though is that we have a pretty realistic image of who we are and what we are doing. We know what we like to do, what we like, and who we are.
I really believe that most people are quite capable of offering a realistic look at themselves. Yet, we are all aware that there are people who, in many ways, are prone to either dressing their life stories in gilded gowns, or threadbare sack-cloth. What is realistic about one’s life, what is building up life or tearing down? What message is there about ourselves that we have to share?
What is our story, as individuals and as a faith community?
I am convinced that each and every one of us has a message to share, a story to tell, a speech to give, or call it — a song to sing. If we say that we do not, then, I believe we might be among those attempting to attire ourselves in sack-cloth. We might be holding back for fear that we will be called upon to dig our light out from under the bed and put our light on a stand, or we might be called upon to add spice to the life of those around us. What is it we have to share?
Clearly, some people have come to Hope in need of a community and the support and acceptance it offers. Some people have come to Hope for the joy in being surrounded by likeminded searching minds, and some have become part of Hope for the music. But having received that support and gaining strength, or having come to know the joy, or having experienced the joy found in the music, sharing it or listening to it; we are called upon to tell our story, give our speech, or sing our song.
That is what this passage from Matthew is inviting us to do. It is what Michael Morwood encourages us to do as we give expression to the spirit living within us.
There is a church in Dallas, Texas, called The Cathedral of Hope. It is now one of the largest UCC churches in the country, with nearly 4,500 members. It is Open and Affirming, and remember, it is in Dallas — part of the Bible Belt. It is predominantly a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender faith community. The minister who was there through the explosive growth years was Mike Piazza. I heard him speak one time and there are several images he likes to use but one of them is that as a person becomes a member, they take off the bib and put on an apron, metaphorically speaking. He began serving that church twenty or more years ago. At that time, it had 150 or so members and it was struggling to get by, barely able to pay the rent on the old store-front it was meeting in at the time. You don’t get to be that large in a community like Dallas by keeping your light hidden under the bed or by not being “out” about who you are as a faith community, no matter who you are, or by trying to hide the flavor of what you are offering!
The stories in Matthew 5 that were read are stressing the importance of sharing our story, sharing the “good we know,” spreading the news, offering that spice of our lives to others. Think about it. We have a message to share collectively, and each of us has a song to sing that is reflective of our progressive views regarding the life and teachings of the man Jesus. And it is not just the choir and our wonderful musicians that have a song to share. Each of us, whether you have to carry your notes in a bucket, cinch them up on the end of a rope, or loft them from the highest staff; all have a chorus to offer those we know. We have to tell the story of Hope in wonderfully beautiful ways; we have to sing it as if it were the halleluiah chorus. We have to whisper it like a lullaby. And we have to carry the melody to all inspired by the spirit-song that is on your hearts.
Light of the world, salt of the earth, jalapeno in my refrigerator, or song on our hearts – – – none are any good if we hide them away. We are (or can be) the light of the world, the spice of life, the music of the moment, the melody of the day, the harmony of Hope, metaphorically speaking as well as in a very real sense. The main idea though and the thrust of this message is that we share an obligation to bring to others the good we have and know here in this place. We do have a different sort of message of acceptance for others and a theology that is more progressive than most and we owe it to others to share who and what we are, with all that we have. That includes our music but it also includes each one of you, in a strong and wonderful way.
The message we have is the song on our heart, the light in the window, the gift we have to give. The message we have is one that says you are loved here. You are accepted here. Your path to God is your path and it is good because it is not about which path you are on but it is about being on a path and celebrating the journey.
Each person has a song to sing, a joy to share, an offering of hope to bring to another person. What is your story, what is your song?
Blessings to you friends.