Lent 1—Sunday, February 21, 2021 – Pastor Teressa Sivers
Genesis 9:8-17 & Mark 1:9-15
Jesus, we are here. Jesus, we are here. Jesus, we are here.
We are here for & with you. Amen.
There was this phrase, right in the middle of the explanation about our current worship series, that grabbed me and held me from the moment I read it. It has resonated in the back of my mind and kept resurfacing throughout the last few weeks. When that happens, I have learned (sometimes the hard way) to pay attention. The ‘blurb’ began much how I described our series at the start of worship. Then, in the middle of the description, the authors wrote; “With exacerbation we exclaim, ‘Again?! How long, O God!?’ (we’ve said that a few times in the past year) And yet, in the midst of the motion-blur chaos of our lives, God offers a sacred refrain: ‘I choose you. I love you. I will lead you to repair.’ Again and Again…” The ‘motion-blur chaos of our lives…’ Motion-blur chaos. That is a great description for parts of the last year in our lives and in our world.
Motion-blur chaos: this image invokes speed, everything out of control, life going by so fast or so chaotically that you can’t make anything out, it is just a blur. The first image that comes to mind for me is a zip-line. You strap in at the top and jump. Everything blurs by until as you speed along, propelled by gravity, until the line levels out and brings you to a stop. But that is not the only reason life becomes a blur—sometimes it is blurred by the slow, monotony of it. Sometimes it is because of stress or trauma or pain or loneliness or depression. So many things can cause life to be a blur, to feel chaotic and out of control. And we have experienced a lot of those things since last Lent. But there is something else about the zip-line image that caused it to jump out for me (no pun intended). Though the scenery might blur by every time I rode a zip-line, my eyes remained focused on my destination, and on the one (or ones) who waited for me at the end.
Is that how Noah got through ‘forever’ on the ark? I’m sure life was a motion-blur as he tried to get everything ready before the rain—building the ark, stocking it with food and other necessary items, stowing the animals safely. And then, life was a blur as the it rained and rained and rained and rained. Days blurred together as the horizon revealed nothing but water, and the routine of caring for every creature on the ark wore on. Did Noah keep his vision focused on the end point? On that day when the water receded, when the door opened, and all those animals were no longer his responsibility? Perhaps. Yet, as God spoke this wondrous covenant that we just heard read, as the rainbow painted the sky, did Noah begin to realize that his ‘End Point’ had been with him all along, even on those blurry days when Noah couldn’t feel God’s presence? As God spoke of remembrance, did Noah reexperience some of those days and realize God’s presence with him all along?
There are times in our lives, when things are so blurred, that we yearn for God to tear open the heavens and speak directly to us, pour God’s precious presence directly on us, and wash us clean of uncertainty. “YOU are my Beloved, my Child, my Delight (another translation of what God says).” Instead, too many times we feel like Jesus post-baptism, cast out into the wilderness, beset by hostile forces, trying desperately to spot those angels, those moments of divine help and deliverance, one day blurring into the next. Wet, unprepared and alone in a vast, unending landscape, facing accusations—perhaps even from (only from) ourselves. The refrain from our worship series certainly invokes some of these thoughts and images—Again and again and again…how long, O lord? How long?
Yet, God is not done speaking words of beloved-ness. God will again claim Jesus as God’s Son, claim us as God’s children. God will pronounce delight. Again. Our Lenten refrain also reminds us that the rainbow hangs in the clouds, that the covenant hovers over all the earth, that God’s voice (sometimes no more of a whisper) sings the refrain to us—beloved, child, delight—again and again and again. Even when our lives are too blurry to witness it.
This Lent we are seeking to turn our perception from the ‘motion-blurred chaos’ to a different type of blurred vision. This Lent we are trying to blur our vision as if to perceive something etched onto a window before us, to look at the window instead of always through it, watching the world rush by. For etched on that window of our souls are those precious words of beloved-ness; those words claiming us as children of God; that proclamation of delight.
Through worship, through times of devotion and prayer and meditation, through contemplation, through whatever spiritual practices you feel called to engage in, God meets us right where we are, just as we are, and claims us as God’s own, naming us beloved. God is meeting us, coming to us, breathing with us—again and again and again. We just need to train our vision to perceive our holy Parent, whose love is etched on our souls.
Let us speak our belief as a remembrance that we so often need. Pastor Debbie will lead us.
We believe in a God who is everywhere and right here,
bigger than the sky and in the smallest details,
All at once and in every moment.
We believe that God meets us where we are—
in heartbreak and high hopes,
around crowded tables and in quiet homes,
in joy and in suffering,
in loneliness and in connection,
in sanctuaries and in living rooms,
in marches and in waiting rooms.
We believe that nothing we do or leave undone
can distance us from God’s love.
God is forever drawing us close and pulling us in.
Again and again, God meets us where we are
and invites us into wholeness.
Thanks be to God for a love like that.