Scriptures: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17 Mark 4:26-34
LET US PRAY: Holy God who calls and urges us to new heights ~ help us toSEE with our hearts, toHEAR with our imaginations, and to SOAR with You in faith. Amen.
LOOK at one of our stained glass windows … Now: tell about yourself your life.
SQUINT / hold up your fingers to narrow your field of vision on that window …NOW: tell me your STORY
Truth is: sometimes we are so busy glancing at the huge picture that we miss the fine nuances of details in the scene before us.
AND, sometime we often confuse FACTS for STORY
- The FACTS about our life are the clinical / statistical / cold statements about our life … to quote Jack Webb in the old DRAGNET tv show: “Nothing but the facts, ma’am.” For instance: I might tell you that I am past 60; I have a brother and sister; and my husband Dave and I have been married for 34 years. There is no life, pizzazz, umph to just the facts!
- BUT: our STORY is a whole different entity. Our story is about what you think, feel, sense, dream, vision … those moments in your life that dramatically changed YOU forever … what make you: YOU ~ deep down inside. Such as: David and I just found out that we are going to be grandparents for the 1st time … and we are totally excited by the fact that our ‘baby’ is having a baby!!!
PAUL is trying to get the folks of the early church in Corinth to think more about what makes them: THEM ~ unique members of the early churches and followers of Jesus Christ. And, so we hear Paul tell them: “We live by faith, not by sight.”
This is a pretty bold statement in the early Greco-Roman world … a world that prided itself on its burgeoning scientific thinking and magnificent architecture. Think about the difference between sight and faith:
SIGHT is literally OBSERVING the world around us with the eyes in our head. And, when we do: our brain receives images via the optic nerve … then records those events, and then sends impulses so we can react to what we are seeing. In short: when we look at something, our brain then analyzes, names and identifies, and gives us an appropriate response.
FAITH , on the other hand, is SEEING with the heart, mind and soul. In essence, even while our brain might be reacting to our physical stimulus: by FAITH: we are touched by atmosphere, sounds, smells … we sense what is going on … we give meaning to the moment from our experiences with each other AND with God … we grow deeper in faith and as a person from these new experiences.
Looked at from this perspective, I would say that FAITH is found at the intersection of the realm of what we perceive to be realAND the realm of what we envision can be possible.
I’d like to share story about a recent experience I had. On Friday, I was getting ready to lead worship in The Garden at Pine Run Medical Center~ a unit devoted to folks with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease. The aides and nurses were escorting residents into the Activity Room. One nurse came in, pushing “Charlie” in his wheelchair. He obviously didn’t want to be there because he suddenly grabbed the door frame ~ so forcefully that he spun himself, his chair and his nurse in the opposite direction. The nurse took him back down the hall.
About half way through the service, “Charlie” ‘foot-walked’ his wheelchair into the middle of the activity room ~ where we were praying and singing … turned his chair several times until he was sitting and staring at me … and “Charlie” just sat and listened.
Reality for “Charlie” ~ possibly, the transition from 1 place to another was too fast for him; maybe too upsetting and scary.
Possibility: perhaps he was seeking his own balance in a place of praying, stories and hymns ~ a moment of quiet connection, in a way that we cannot comprehend, with the God who cares. In a way, I often long to connect with God in that same deep fashion as ‘Charlie’ seemed to find.
FAITH is found at the intersection of the realm of what we perceive to be real AND the realm of what we envision can be possible. In our Gospel reading today from Mark, Jesus is telling his disciples 2 different ~ yet similar ~ stories. And I love the story about the beautiful, gigantic bush that grew from a simple mustard seed … a plant that was to become a haven for even the smallest creatures in God’s creation.
But: I couldn’t help but wonder: would that mustard plant have grown so big and so beautiful and so beneficial to the rest of the world and nature IF it had known how small, puny and humble its beginnings were?
After all: a mustard seed is practically microscopic. Take out the pencil in the pew rack and make a simply dot on your bulletin. That dot is probably bigger than an actual mustard seed.
These thoughts THEN led me to wonder: Does OUR own realization of what we were and where we came from … of who we are and what is expected of us … of what we have always been and done … does all of this sometimes hold US back from being EVERYTHING that God intended us to be?
What stops us from freely sharing our experiences and stories with others? What stops us from sharing our experiences of God in our lives with others?
Another story from Pine Run: there was a large crowd gathered for worship this past Friday. One woman was sitting right in front of my make-shift altar. She didn’t have her teeth in … but seemed to be filled with joy and smiled a lot as I spoke with her and others. Well, part of my sermon was about a story of friends who secretly helped each other on their respective birthdays … in essence, being magical hands and secretly doing each other’s chores so their friend would have a good birthday.
As I talked, I asked the folks to imagine what wonderful things their hands could do. For instance: they might shake hands and greet each other, each day. As I said this, I shook this woman’s hand. She then held tightly to my hand … looked up at me with big eyes … told me how glad she was that I was there … and then said: “I have to give you a kiss!” As I leaned down to receive her kiss: time suddenly stood still … everyone else faded into the background … In that moment, we were blessed to be in God’s presence … a moment that grew from the small seed of a simple handshake.
FAITH the size of a mustard seed … In another Gospel story, we hear the story of a man who complains to Jesus that His disciples could not heal his son. Jesus then cures the boy; which lead the disciples to ask WHY they could not do that. And, Jesus replied: Your faith is too small and puny!
IF your faith were even the size of a mustard seed ~ Jesus tells them ~ you could tell the mountains to move and they would do it. You could tell a mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea and it would happen.
My friends, think about it: IF each of us had the faith the size of a mustard seed …AND put it into USE … just what might we be able to accomplish for our community … for our world … for this church!
In faith, we might envision a new way to move out into the community and share in outreach ministries to the disadvantaged.
In faith, we might engage in new ministries of extravagant welcome, making sure that ALL find a home here at St. Paul’s.
In faith, we might discover the new story that our still-speaking God is calling us to share … a story that began in sacred Scripture and that gains new meaning when intertwined with our on-going stories.
In faith, we are called to envision what we are meant to be and who we are meant to be.
We are called to envision what is possible and let God’s grace carry us over the finish line! SO what are we waiting for?!!! Amen.