Sermons are preached. They are not writing. So, above is the sermon. Below is the sermon “plan”. (Unedited, all my mistakes kept!)

And in our songs we will praise you

…and dancing, songs, joy, and wild hearts

Pslam 28:7 - February 14, 2021 - Heartstrings at First United Methodist Church

God, you are our strength and our shield; our hearts trust in you, in you we have found our courage; our wild hearts dance for joy, and in our songs we will praise you…. Psalm 28:7

“and in our songs we will praise you”

Opening Prayer

Song – Grace – Praise

When I first started attending church, my songs were not about praising God. Don’t get me wrong! God was there! The first time I attended church was shocking to me. I had no idea that church music could be more than a tiny choir that could barely sing. That music in a church could speak to a deep truth, could be loving, and beautiful, and moving… That day my songs weren’t praising God, the music is where I encountered the deep work of God’s grace, where I began learning of God’s wild extravagant love for me.

For the first year and a half, I did not attend a church service, not one, that I did not shed tears. I’ve always look at that year as my baptism year… Not because I was baptized that year (even though I was), but because the tears I cried week after week felt like the cleaning waters of baptism. They felt like God’s presence, holding me, healing me. Inviting me to stop all the striving and scurrying and let God bring healing…Through time that did shift. From my songs being only about encountering God’s grace, to my songs praising God.

In our songs, we will praise God. We will praise God’s love and grace and beauty and God’s wild heart. Week after week we will come together and in our songs we will praise God.

 As wild hearts we will come together and in our songs and worship, we will praise God.

But let me ask you, what does your praise look like? For me, my praise, is in my preaching. In digging in deeply to scripture each week. Giving God my all as I sit and write words and bring them to you to consider with me. In my preaching, I will praise God.

What about you? In your life, where is it that you’re life is given to God in praise? Maybe it is in gratitude? The way you live your life in gratitude through all moments. Maybe it’s the way you raise your kids, or live in love with the hungry and hurting, maybe it’s graphic design! Or math or excel spreadsheets!

In our songs, we will praise God. In my preaching, I praise God. What have you given yourself to so fully, so deeply, that all you can call it is praise?

(Really, take a moment to drop it in the comments… in my, “what” I praise God.”)

If you don’t have anything right now, how can we help you find it?

STOP – transition.

This is our sixth week to talk about this one, short verse. This week I realized that I have talked about it in bits and pieces this entire time… sections and phrases… but I haven’t pulled it together, I haven’t drawn an entire picture. So, I want to take a moment to pull back, to look at the entire picture…

I know, you’ve heart this before, but let’s hear it one more time:

God, you are our strength and our shield; our hearts trust in you, in you we have found our courage; our wild hearts dance for joy, and in our songs we will praise you….

God’s Wild Heart – Our Wild Heart

We’ve heard, week after week this song, Wild Heart. “God isn’t tame, Our God is free // God has no limits, no boundaries // That’s the wild heart of our Savior // There’s no distance God wouldn’t go // To chase us down, to bring us hope // That’s the wild heart of our Savior // God’s running, running To the ends of the earth // God stops at nothing ‘Til we return // We’re coming back We’re coming back to God’s heart” This is such a beautiful vision for the beautiful, wild heart of God, for the one we come week after week to worship, to encounter, to praise.

This extravagant, beautiful love, this is our strength and our shield as we take this journey through living… it is this wild, extravagant, grace that we put our trust in, that gives us courage… that invites us to the dance floor to discover a joy beyond understanding. It is this extravagantly boundless love that invites us to become wild hearts ourselves, it is this vision of God’s wild heart that we, as a community, will strive to live into.

Who we can be for one another?

I’m rereading one of my favorite book series. The Earths Children’s series has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Maybe you’ve heard of the first book or two (they are the best of the series!) The Clan of the Cave Bear and Valley of Horses. The series is set in ancient times, during that relatively short period of time when both humans and Neanderthals walked the earth… In the first book, Ayla, the protagonist of the series, has a child. A baby that is of “mixed spirits” both human and Neanderthal. In the third book, the Mammoth Hunters, she finds herself living with new people, a new family, a new tribe, a group of 20 or 30 people… without her child. But there is a kiddo that lives with them that is also of “mixed spirits.” She loves this kid, Rydag, almost like her son. She spends time with him, teaches him, helps him feel like he is belongs more than he ever had…

During a summer gathering, with hundreds of others, Rydag, finds himself the target of extreme bullying… Children that had been born of both Homosapien and Neanderthal parents, were so thoroughly dehumanized by both species… the cultures in the book called these children abominations, deformed, they were hated creatures that were unnatural and even talking about their existence was reason for feelings of disgust and fear…  So when a crowd gathered around him, the people did what people do when they’ve dehumanized a group… they became less then humane, asking how the family could have an animal at their camp, proclaiming that the child should have been left to die rather than cared for and nurtured…

It is this moment that she stands alone, strong in the crowd, telling her tribe and the mob that she had mothered a child of “mixed spirits.” It is that moment that she discovers that the only thing worse, more dangerous than being an abomination, is being the creator of one…

It is this moment that she must stand with courage, and strength. This moment that she risks being rejected, not just by the crowds, but by her tribe, her family. That is the sort of courage I hope we have because standing in that moment, it is God we trust in, it is in that moment that we take a leap of faith that it is our God that is our strength and our shield…  That is the man (woman) in the arena moment… you remember it… maybe you’ve heart the quote by Theodore Roosevelt recently…

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

So, there is Ayla, standing there, alone. Terrified and strong. Defiant and free… One by one, her tribe stands… slowly at first, then in one mass, they stand by her, facing down the crowd, proclaiming their acceptance of Ayla, and her past.

Brene’ Brown has an exercise that I really do want you to do this week… no worries, it’s pretty simple… I want you to take a piece of paper and write down the name of every single person in your life who’s opinion matters. Every single name. The name of the people that you go to when you feel beat up, attacked, shamed, afraid… Those people that you know will accept ALL of you, even your imperfections…

If you are standing in the arena, standing in courage… and so volunterable… and look up to the nose bleeds seats… you know, those people so far from the arena that they can’t even see you… their names should NOT be on your list. In fact, your list is probably short. It should be short, she recommends putting it on a 1 inch by 1 inch piece of paper, and every time you are uncertain, and need support pull it out… your list should be short… The peoples who opinions matter should be the ones that stand by your side, willing to stand in the arena with you, walk with you, take hits with you, support you…

I hope, that is what being a wild heart means. That our opinions matter because we’ve done the hard work of getting into the arena, we’ve stumbled, and fallen, we are marred by dust and sweat and blood… and we know victory and we know defeat… I hope that the people you greeted earlier, those “good mornings” were said to people that, will, through time, be people on your 1 by 1 piece of paper…

Dance Floor

Here’s my problem… the more and more I’ve thought about it this week, the more I’ve been troubled by an image of an arena. Don’t get me wrong, standing strong in my hopes and dreams and beliefs often feels like standing in the middle of an arena, battles raging… But then, if that’s all it is, then, I’m missing the beauty of dancing for joy, and praising God with our songs…

Maybe, maybe it isn’t an arena. Maybe it really is a dance floor. God, wild and free, boundless, and true, and beautiful… inviting us to join, to find the courage to step out, we have a choice… we can sit it out, or we can dance… the invitation is now before you… Church, will we dance?

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