Sunday, yes… Sermon, no!
Today was a no-sermon Sunday (which I’ll explain here). But yesterday, I led the Presbyterian Women in Central Florida’s Bible Study Retreat. The assignment was to introduce this year’s Horizon Bible Study “Come to the Water” but also make the day meaningful for the 30% of the attendees who would not be using the study.
So, as I am wont to do, I deconstructed and synthesized the study. I took the main themes that the author used to create 9 lessons as the inspiration for 3 segments. I facilitated a combination of individual reflection, sharing in pairs and triads, conversations in tables of 8 and full 120-ish group talk-backs. In between, I did a little teaching, presided over communion, invited the women remember their baptism… and at one point I share this reflection on the connection between creation, chaos, and faith formation.
In the beginning…
In the chaos and the water
In the darkness
In the great mess that was the time before time and the place before place
In the midst of all that… was love.
Love so amazing, so divine…
Love that would one day take on flesh…
But not yet.
Right then, love just WAS
In the beginning there was love and joy, there was Spirit and Word
In the beginning there was water
And the chaos of the water and darkness was not a satisfying place for love
Not what the Creator had in mind.
So the Word spoke and the Spirit hovered
And the Creator laughed with joy to see order beginning to take shape
The water and the darkness gave way to Light
And the light was good
Some of the water went up above the dome of the sky
And that was good
And the waters still below the sky were gathered revealing land
And the earth was good, and so were all the plants that grew on this land…
between the seas and rivers and lakes and streams
And lights were placed in the sky to rule over night and day,
the waters of the seas began to roll and sway, pulled and pushed
by moon and the wind that still hovered near
Living creatures were called forth, spoken into being by the Creator-
creatures swimming and splashing, flying and soaring-
and they were beautiful and blessed and good
More living creatures were spoken into being, this time on land,
Creeping and crawling, grazing and glorious.
And then came one last living creature –
The one made in God’s image.
God looked out over the water and the land
Over the swimming and flying and walking and creeping creatures
And God commanded the human beings to care for them
To care for the land and the plants that would feed all the creatures
To care for the water that refreshed and restored.
To care for one another.
It was good. It was meant to always be good.
On this sixth day, work had shifted from creating to commissioning
And on the seventh day, God modeled what it looks like to rest.
This is our beginning.
God spoke into the chaos
And God spoke again, and again and again…
until everything was in place and the time was right
Then God made us as image bearer.
We create, we speak,
we love, we care,
we seek out relationship with our creator and with creation
The air that our first ancestors breathed…
The water they first drank and bathed in…
How amazing to think that the cycle of evaporation, condensation, precipitation, storage…
over and over for eons and millennia means
that the Holy Spirit who breathes life into us today,
hovered over this water-
in the beginning
And some of the molecules in this water could connect us back to the disciples –
The waters they fished
The waves tossed up by the storms that frightened them
The waves that Jesus walked on.. and Peter almost managed to walk on
The water that washed their feet
The water that they used to baptize the families who came to the way of Jesus through their preaching and teaching and healing
There’s a reason that storms make a great metaphor for difficulties in life.
Somewhere in our deepest core, maybe in those water molecules,
there is a memory of that chaos made of water and darkness, of wildness and wind
Like those bad rainstorms as I drive on the highway-
wipers full tilt, lights on –
I still can’t see the lane markers.
I Find myself wondering what else I can’t see
I feel much the same way when I find myself in the middle of confusion, pain, grief, anger…
I can’t see. I can’t trust my vision of where I’m supposed to be
I’m easily blown off course.
I listen to the lies from that voice that tells me I’m alone in the world, alone in my fears,
But then, God is there.
In the face or voice or email or text or hug of a friend
In the word of wisdom from a sermon
In the words of the psalms
In the way that circumstance change that can only be explained as an act of God.
Those acts of love are an act of creation
Because in the same way that water transforms and builds the landscape,
we are transformed as we grow in faith
God is in the actions and words of our friends
God is in the word proclaimed and read
God is right there, in the storm with us, ready for us to look up and say
Help me, I’m sinking
God is with us and for us
And when we see this truth for ourselves, over and over and over again
Our faith that God will be with us, is with us, is built up.
One of my instructors in college once told us (and I don’t know where he got it):
Knowing is fun. Learning is hard.
He was right. I like the knowing part. Especially when God is teaching me.
The storms and trials that are part of the learning?
Not so much
But the beauty and blessing of each bit of hard-earned faith and growth
make the storms of learning totally worth it.