Posted on Thu, Mar 3, 2011
Rev. Jim Merritt's Sermon Febraury 27, 2011
In the Palm of God’s Hand
Rev. Jim Merritt
February 27, 2011
I have some good news for all of us this morning. You may think you have heard it over and over again and the truth is you have. Still I am going to repeat it because the gospel opens up a window for us this morning that we just should not resist. Here it is; are you ready? You and I, every one of us gathered here together, we with no exceptions, we are the beloved of God. We are the apple of God’s eye; created in the image of God, deeply loved by God and I am 100% convinced of that fact and one more; that it will never change.
I say that to you today because it is very important for us to remember that and to live in that assurance that when we sing “Jesus loves me this I know…” it includes you and me, too. Oh the other hand, this deep and loving relationship with God does not mean that our lives will be free of difficulty. It doesn’t mean that all of us will live on easy street. It doesn’t mean that we will always be safe and secure. It does not mean that we will always have all the “stuff” we want. What it does mean is that we will never travel alone, that God will always be with us and that we will never, never walk one mile alone. Isn’t that good news?
Sometimes, in spite of this assurance, we choose to worry. We worry about where we will be a year or two from now. We worry about our children. We worry about our parents. We worry about all these major events that are happening in places like Egypt and Lybia and Wisconsin and here in our own state. We worry about money and employment. We worry about our church and our friends. The list is endless. I have a thesis about this; try it on. When we spend our time worrying we rarely take advantage of the opportunity to DO something about the issues that trouble us. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were able to live like the lilies and the sparrows and just radiate our beauty all the time? Sometimes it just feels like we don’t have the resources to do what we might want or need to do in a situation. As my friend Rev. BK Hipshire says, “The flowers may not toil or spin, but the do have photosynthesis!”
I love what Isaiah has to say about all of this. The prophet reminds us that all of nature rejoices when God has comforted God’s people and that the universe has shown compassion on those who suffer. He reminds us that even when it seems that other people don’t care less about liberation and the experience of those who suffer, even though they do not notice Isaiah imagines the sky and the earth and the mountains; all of creation shouts and rejoices and sings for joy. It seems that God’s creation in itself can be like a life coach to us. It can serve as a reminder of God’s presence with us even in times, especially in times of suffering and oppression. Nature reminds us that we belong to a comforting and compassionate God whose back will never turn on us. That’s more good news for us today.
You see my friends, this experience of God’s constant presence comes from a lifelong practice of discipleship. It comes from the experience of walking with Jesus all the day long and all the week long and all the month long and year after year after year. True discipleship involves a choice to focus on God’s work throughout all of creation. Service to God is service to the people of God, to the body of God. Real discipleship brings about service to others and service to others indicates that active discipleship is taking place in the life of all of us who claim to be friends of Jesus.
Mona West reminded this week how much I love flowers. I’m loving the camellias blooming on this property now. I love wild flowers. One of the things I like about wild flowers is that they bloom on their own and radiate great beauty. The intensity of the sun comes and some of them die and then the highway department mowers come and they are cut down and run over. And then when Spring comes they bloom again, seemingly all on their own. Why? Because that is what God created them to do. I want to suggest to us that as we live life we might have occasion to worry, people might come up against us, We will experience illness, grief, despair, and many difficulties in our lives. We also have choices about how we react to all of that. We can let life wear us out and use us up OR we can let the wild flowers be our role model. Even when we feel like we’ve been mowed over and plowed down, we can rest assured that our own spring time is coming. Spring is always on the horizon. And when spring comes to us, we can rise up again, we can radiate our beauty. We can share our resources with others. We can return to our practice of real discipleship.
Many years ago I heard Rev. Nancy Wilson end many of her prayers by saying, “and hold her in the palm of your hand.” I told her how much I loved that phrase. Wouldn’t you know it, she said, “Jim it’s from the Bible.” And here it is at the end of today’s reading. God says to every one of us I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.
Do not worry, and do not be afraid. In my parent’s house there are many rooms. I am going to prepare a place for you and if I go I will come again so that where I am there you will be also. Remember, my dear sisters and brothers, you and every one of your circumstances are important to God. Because God holds you in the palm of God’s hand.
God bless you this morning. AMEN.
Old Testament Reading Isaiah 49: 1—16
Thus says Adonai: In a time of favor I have answered you, on a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages; saying to the prisoners, “Come out,” to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.” They shall feed along the ways, on all the bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. And I will turn all my mountains into a road, and my highways shall be raised up. Lo, these shall come from far away, and lo, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene. Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For God has comforted the people, and will have compassion on those who suffer. But Zion said, “God has forsaken me, my God has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.
Gospel Reading Matthew 6:24—34
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Creator feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will God not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Creator knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kin-dom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.