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

Our Hearts Trust in You

Sermon on Psalm 28:7 

Psalm 28:7 - January 17, 2021 - Heartstrings at First United Methodist Church

Heart is

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

“our hearts trust in you”

Opening Prayer

Heart of Worship

One of my favorite moments in ministry is when I sit down with a couple getting ready for marriage. They are so full of hope and joy. In the midst of planning their big day with to-do lists, and binders, and excel spread sheets… the one that brings out the spread sheet, is the one that I have most of the rest of the conversation with!

As I talk about the order of their wedding service. I first talk about ritual. What it is, and why it matters…

When I was in seminary, one of my professors gave us an example of ritual that has always stuck with me…Let’s pretend you are part of an ancient tribe, living thousands of years ago… you have found a spouse in another tribe a days journey from the place you have always called home… So, you start preparing for your journey, your old life, the way things used to be. Your family starts grieving what has always been, letting go of what was, and celebrating what’s to come…

After the preparation and goodbyes, you set-off for your new home, your new life… This is the liminal space. The space and time between what was and what will be. You’re sure of where you intend to go, but at this point there isn’t actually a guarantee that you will get there. This part of the journey is where the vulnerability and uncertainty is… this is the wilderness. The wilderness, is where things shift and change and you grow and see… There is so much life in this space…

Then you arrive. You are welcome with open arms to your destination. There are parties and gifts exchanged, and now, only now, is the ritual complete. Now the new thing is the thing…

Weddings are a perfect example of ritual. There are two separate families, two separate lives… then you have the months and days and hours leading up to the wedding day. Preparation, planning, grieving what was, celebrating what is to be. Then, there is a moment when the couple has set their intentions, the families have given the journey their blessing, and the sets off on their journey. There are no longer two separate families, no longer two separate lives, but not yet one family… This is the liminal space. During this part of the journey there is prayer, and scripture, and a sermon, and maybe music… then, they face one another, make promises and vows and exchange rings… then there is this moment when they are joined together in holy matrimony. They have arrived! Let the parties and cake eating, present opening, celebration begin!

If you look, you will find this patter of “what was,” liminal space, “what’s now”… all over your live. Back when we could go to movies… standing in line for tickets and popcorn, finding a seat, watching previews… then the lights go down, the volume goes up… you are transported to another world, another place for awhile. When the movie is over, the lights go up, you stretch, and head out.

This pattern of ritual is everywhere… You have performed rituals today in fact. You’ve probably, remove your toothbrush from its home, added toothpaste, brushed your teeth, rinsed… maybe even celebrated your newly cleaned teeth with a great big smile and one of those sparks of light with a “ding” sound to go with it! (Maybe not.)  

In fact, right now, this very moment, you are in the middle of a ritual… in the liminal space in between what was and what’s new…

If you look at the bulletin online, you will see three sections to worship… can you guess why I picked three? First, an invitation to worship. You’re pulling in, finding the station on your car radio, or grabbing your coffee and cuddling up in front of your screen… thinking about your day, your week, what’s coming up… This is the “what was.” A time of inviting you to let go of what was, a time of letting go of what was, a time of preparation for the liminal space… putting it all down.

At the end is sending – commitment to courageous discipleship. This is the “what’s now.” It’s a going out into the world with open hands, serving, loving, living in the world with courage and the grace of God. Week after week living into the courage you are called to…

After the invitation to worship… before the commitment to courageous discipleship… from the first note of the offertory where we take a moment to open our hands so we can see all that we have is God’s, and give back in gratitude, through prayer and song and scripture and sermon… to that moment when we are all one in the eating of bread and drinking of juice… that is the heart of worship. The liminal space when set aside life that we might be present here… The center. The core.  The heart of worship…. “our hearts trust in you”

Cleaning the light

Doctor Bertice Berry tells a story of when she was a girl. You see, she grew up doing cleaning work. Cleaning work of all kinds… she cleaned houses in the morning and on weekends and in the evenings she would clean banks. She was young when she started, 12 or so. She cleaned through middle school, and high school, and even later when she would pick up jobs for extra money during college and graduate school.  When she was younger, she would catch to bus to and from work with other women that would spend their days cleaning. I so admire her curiosity! She would ask the older, wiser women waiting with her.. “How should I clean? What the best way to clean this? Or that?” Day after day I would stand there, and as questions about cleaning. And day after day there was this woman that was a little more stand-offish. She wasn’t answering questions I posed the group, she wasn’t teaching me like the others… but one day, she pulled me to the side, and she told me to always, always clean the light! The first time you go into a house, you bring a ladder to the entry way, put it right under the chandelier, and clean the light. Clean each and every little crystal that is hanging down, clean the base, and the light bulb… no ones cleaned the light before you. So, clean the light, always clean the light…

So, I did. I took the ladder, my cleaning solution, and I scrubbed and polished that light… and at the end of the day the woman of the house came home, shocked by how beautiful her entry way was! What did you do, it looks amazing in here! And when her husband came home he demanded that I get a raise and that I be the one to come back, that I do the cleaning from then on… “Always take care of the light…if you take care of the light EVERYTHING shines”

Doctor Berry does not do cleaning work anymore. But the lesson has always stayed with her. There is a light inside of each and everyone of us. It needs to be nurtured and cared for. We each need to care for this light that our creator created in us to shine brightly in the world. Take care of that light in you… give it what it needs…“it hasn’t been talked to. It hasn’t been loved. Give it the music it wants. Give it the dance it needs. Give it the sunshine it so admires. Give it the stars at night. That thing about you that shines so brightly that others want to see. […] “She goes on to say… “When you do you give others permission to do the same.” “our hearts trust in you”

That light that shines in us… the heart of worship… the center… the core… of our being God, “our hearts trust in you”

Jesus calling

Years ago, one of our members, Karen Ruyle, who worships with us online, sometimes here in the parking lot, she shared a daily devotional with us called “Jesus Calling.” Its unique because it is written so it is like Jesus speaking directly to us. “My main work is to clear out debris and clutter, making room for My Spirit to take full possession. Collaborate with Me in this effort by being willing to let go of anything I choose to take away.” It goes on to say, “I know what you need, and I have promised to provide all of that—abundantly! Your sense of security must not rest in your possessions or in things going your way. I am training you to depend on Me alone, finding fulfillment in My Presence. This entails being satisfied with much or with little, accepting either as My will for the moment. Instead of grasping and controlling, you are learning to release and receive. Cultivate this receptive stance by trusting Me in every situation.

I found this quote from Jesus Calling in a sermon I found online. I loved the quote, it worked… listen to some of what the pastor writes: “To fully recognize and receive the love and life offered to us in Jesus Christ, we need to make some hard choices: we have to risk letting go of our hold on whatever keeps us from realizing that we need God more than anything in life, whatever keeps us from letting our relationship with God being a high priority in our lives.” The pastor goes on to quote C.S. Lewis from his book The Screwtape Letters. The character, Wormword who is The Devil in the book, is teaching an apprentice Devil how to gain people to their side… Wormword advises moderation for keeping people from being true Christ followers…  “Talk to him about moderation in all things. If you can get him to the point of thinking that ‘religion is all very well up to a point,’ you can feel happy about his soul. A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all – and more amusing!

            Stumbling Block

And that, is where this beautiful, well-crafted sermon, beautiful, heart filled stories, became a stumbling block for me. Don’t get me wrong… I believe in sanctifying grace! I believe God calls us to take care of the light!! But if you have watched the news in the last year, the last decade… you will have seen all sorts of people, from all walks of life, that are moderate in nothing, they have given themselves to the extreme, trusted their hearts to…. What they thought was God and were led: So. Far. Astray.

That somehow, cleaning up our doubts, our questions, our language, our hurts, our fears, our lives… leads to our light shining in the world… How can I trust fully, learn to depend on God alone, if I can’t trust that I know it’s GOD I’m trusting?!?

I’m not saying trusting God in this way is bad… but what if it is? What if that’s not what God wants from us? What if God doesn’t want us to act like we are robots that just follow without question. Cleaning up all the dirt and soot and gunk… what if trusting God with our hearts, means trusting God with all of it… fears, doubts, anger, wrestling, questioning…

Twist/End

Let us pray….

God “Our hearts trust in you.” We trust you with our tears, our fears, our anger, our joy… “Our hearts trust in you.” We trust you with our whole selves – our clarity and uncertainty. “Our hearts trust in you.” We trust you with our doubts about you, the ways we’ve gotten you wrong, the ways we’ve gotten you so right. “Our hearts trust in you.” We trust you with the light shining from our core. “Our hearts trust in you.” We trust you with the soot, and ash, and dust that we accumulate. “Our hearts trust in you.” We trust you with our thoughts, our emotions, our prayers… all the things… our hearts trust in you….

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