With what do we measure?

A reflection based on readings from “Beyond the lectionary:”

With what do we measure?

An easier question to answer might be “with what don’t we measure?” for, from an early age, we begin to learn the language of comparison. Our parents applaud enthusiastically when we manage to place the triangle, the circle, the square into the “correct” opening; stack rings in order of greatest to smallest, or perfectly identify the colour of different items presented to us.

Unknown-1

Our teachers add to our limited recognition of numbers when we begin the formal schooling process, a vast array of “measurement” means from dollars and cents to metres and litres to ratio and proportions to angles and planes which we can compare and convert.

Picture 1.png

 

As part of our critical thinking skills and verbal performance, we excel when we can correctly identify the “odd one out” or circle “the one that does not belong’. And we fast discover that those terms can be applied as criteria in our social relationships too.

images

The older we get, the more proficient we become at measuring, sorting, classifying – and the more tools we are given to do so: race, gender, nationality, language, socioeconomic status, highest level of education, and so on.

images

Anything, really, can be used to measure – from whether you’re a cat lover or a dog person, to how many drinks it takes for you to start behaving badly, to whether you wear weird socks underneath your relatively normal looking slacks. And it all means something! as we take our measurements and sort, classify, and compare in an effort to figure out where we fit in the world around us.

cc65a7f832c520abb1484c5f447cc68e-trouble-fitting-in

No wonder it is such a struggle when we enter into the Christian life to learn a new language, a new way of looking at others, that is not based on measuring whether people are worthy or welcome but on offering “how best can I be a brother, a sister, a servant to you?”

Each of our texts today offer us a new word, a new way of measuring, based not on classifying and comparing but on transforming outsiders to insiders, strangers to family, darkness to light.

***

In our Old Testament reading, King Solomon – the son of David and writer of many of the wisdom sayings in Scripture – is placed in the difficult position of rendering judgment in a case where there are no witnesses; only the words of one distraught mother against another’s as each longs for a living baby over the dead one.

The means by which he reaches a decision seems quite cruel, and even illogical,  at first: he orders a servant to get a sword and cut the live baby in half so each woman can get a piece. But the real mother reveals herself by her response. While the woman with no true bond is happy with his solution, the child’s mother would rather give him up entirely than see him harmed in any way.

Love is the measure. Love is what Solomon was looking for as he applied his God-given wisdom to make the right decision. And not just any kind of love, but the sacrificial sort that would see a mother giving up a lifetime with her child just to know that he still breathed; that, indeed, Christ Jesus would embody as he laid down his life for his friends, for his persecutors, for the whole, wide world, for you and for me.

Is it the same with us? Do we display to strangers, to newcomers, to those with whom we would not previously have imagined associating a love which welcomes, which protects, which serves – often at great cost?

***

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, a difficult and divisive congregation, we discover that one of their ongoing arguments resulted from the very human desire to possess what was seen as the greatest of all spiritual gifts – the supernatural capacity to speak in angel tongues, in different languages – and so gain authority and status within the life of the community.

This is an example of measurement at it’s worst where a person’s worth or value to the church was rated according to the gifts that they could offer, but Paul puts an end to it when he says, “if you want to have a spiritual gift, then seek most of all those gifts that will build up the body; that will help the church grow stronger.”

Growth is the measure that Paul offers as an antidote to the poisons of power, of pride, of envy that were so rampant in this congregation.  He warns that the desire for and discernment of our individual gifting and talents should not be for our own advancement or exaltation or – for that matter – hoarding, but for the growth, the strengthening, the knitting together of the body and the drawing nearer of God’s kingdom. Otherwise we are as useless as untuned instruments for leading worship or muted trumpets for signalling an approaching battle.

Is it the same with us? Or do we use our God-given gifts to build another up; to grow together in faith, in love, in understanding?

***

Finally, in John’s Gospel, Jesus tackles the crowd at the Feast of Booths about their hypocrisy; their double standards.  It must have been a difficult time – dealing with his brothers’ disbelief in his divine identity and authority, with the crowd who has questioning whether he was for real or simply leading the people astray, and with the increased, hidden hatred of the priests and Pharisees who wanted to get rid of this healer, this teacher who was upsetting the status quo.

One of their accusations against him was that he had healed the man at the pool of Bethesda on a Sabbath day, commanding him to pick up his mat and walk. Jesus points out the hypocrisy of holding him to the law of the Sabbath (that no work should be done) while happily circumcising a baby boy on a Sabbath day themselves.

While the religious leaders sought to keep up appearances of piety and obedience, Jesus acted according to what was right. Justice was his measure: ensuring that the vulnerable, the diseased, the accused, the outcast, the prisoner knew the power and the presence of God in their lives. Judged unworthy and unimportant by those who measured by the way things look, they are the very ones to whom the Messiah came.

Is it the same with us? Do we value justice for those who are hurting, for those who are searching, for those that society seldom even looks at more than the comfort of our religious rituals and routines?

***

Love. Growth. Justice.

Three simple words. Three powerful ways of measuring – not how others fit in to our community of faith – but how wholly and how vividly we are portraying the face, the heart, the mystery of God as we go about our daily lives.

As those who heard King Solomon’s decisions respected his wisdom and gave glory to God, may those who encounter through our words, our actions, and our priorities a different way of measuring based on offering rather than judging do likewise.

 

 

 

 

Psalm 27 – Stay

At the start of the year, it is relatively easy to stay close to the Source of our Song and Salvation. Our spirits are high; we feel energized and refreshed following a time of rest; and the newness of it all has us imagining the best case scenarios of how we intend life to be.

But by the time that Easter rolls around, our energy and enthusiasms seems to dissipate; our song gets a little softer, our worship a little flatter; other priorities seem to take over; and our presence in the house of God becomes less and less regular – despite the fact that we know deep down inside that being in the presence of God is exactly where we NEED to be.

Today, David – the poet king – urges us:

Stay with God.
Take heart.
Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
Stay with God!

I’ve been wondering why it is so hard to stay with God our whole lives long; to contemplate God’s beauty; to study at God’s feet; to place ourselves consistently in the only quiet, secure spot in the whole wide world. Psalm 27 speaks to four specific enemies that not just lure us off God’s well-lighted paths into sinking sand, but that attack us, bully us, and besiege us until we’ve forgotten entirely about God as our Refuge and Retreat.

In the image of vandal hordes riding down on us, ready to eat us alive, we find a terrifying introduction to the enemy of fear.

Those who have been raped, mugged, hijacked, held up in their homes, diagnosed with terminal illness, evicted from their job and regular source of income, thrown out onto the street etc. can testify to the power of fear as the enemy who …

… makes us forget or disbelieve that God is on our side …
… sets us scrambling for control, struggling in our own strength to find a safe way out …
… tells us we’re on our own and overwhelms our resourcefulness …
… obliterates our capacity for reasoned, rational thought …
… robs us of our freedom, locks us in our homes, imprisons us in our trauma …
… leaves us feeling shaky and powerless.

A no-less-intrusive enemy – and one, in fact, that we often invite into our lives is noise.

If God’s house is the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world … the perfect getaway, far from the buzz of traffic which we all abhor, why is it that we can’t seem to make it through the day without detaching our cellphones from our hands or our headsets from our ears?

Gone are the days of solitude and silence which helped us to stay with God in every moment. Instead, we plug into the news on the car radio, disengage from the worries of work through the television or mindless tablet games, and compulsively update our social media status as though our family and friends care intimately about what and where we’ve just eaten.

Noise …

… distracts us …
… takes our minds off of how we’re actually doing …
… anaesthetises us when we don’t like how we’re feeling …
… compensates for a sense of boredom, or futility, or frustration with our lives.

Worst of all, noise drowns out the still, small voice of the Spirit who assures us that God is near and keeps us on the well-lit path.

Besides external noise, deep within our psyche lies an insidious enemy: inadequacy.

Isn’t it ironic that even as David hears the whisper of his heart to seek God, he recalls God’s faithfulness – “you’ve always been right there for me … you’ve always kept the door open”   – and immediately demand that God not play hide-and-seek with him in that important moment: “don’t hide from me,” “don’t turn your back on me,” “don’t throw me out,” “don’t abandon me.”

Lurking within most us is a hidden sense of brokenness: inadequacy whispers cruelly that we’re not worthy …
… not worthy of time …
… not worthy of affirmation …
… not worthy of love …
… not worthy of loyalty.

And because we feel so inadequate, we’re always rushing around, trying to be in control; trying to make people and plans turn out the way that we have dreamed and desired.

And we’re always looking for the inadequacies in others – as if their faults, their failings, their shortcomings somehow lessen our own.

And we’re always waiting – worrying deep inside –
… for them to walk away …
… to abandon us …
… to move on to someone, or something, better.

Sometimes we even give them a push (or several) to help them prove what we’ve already known. And sometimes we cling to them desperately, putting our own wellbeing aside to make ourselves absolutely indispensable to them.

But the trickiest enemy of all is that of dishonesty.

David prays:

“Point me down your highway, God;
direct me along a well-lighted street …

don’t throw me to the dogs,
those liars who are out to get me ….”

Most people won’t simply make up blatant untruths about us; they’ll put their spin, their interpretation on our words or actions, and suddenly …
… we find ourselves being treated differently by others …
… we’re sucked in to the need to protect and defend ourselves; to explain what we actually did or said and why …
… we find ourselves going on the attack, seeking revenge, plotting to annihilate the one who has brought our good name into disrepute….

Yet, what makes dishonesty so tricky is how frequently we lie to ourselves, because when we have walked on a well-lighted path and someone tries to blemish our reputation, others will probably just shrug it off, “Yvonne? I don’t believe that.” In fact, they would probably think less of the one who had tried to lessen us.

But when we have dappled in the darkness ourselves; when we have stepped into the shadows from time to time; when we have run others down; when we have told little lies (and large ones) to keep ourselves out of trouble; when we have made promises that we have broken over and over again, then we put ourselves in a place of great vulnerability from which only God can rescue us.

***

There is a lovely Gaelic prayer about enemies which reads:

May those who love us, love us.
And those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts.
And if he doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles
so we know them by their limping.

If only the enemies of fearnoiseinadequacy, and dishonesty were as easy to identify and avoid. When they attack, when they seek to pull us down, may we courageously declare to them, “I choose to stay with God. At God’s feet I will find all I need to see me through this trouble, to defeat my enemies.”

Watchmen on the wall

It’s an old fear. One which countless children eventually grow out of. One which few adults will ever admit to having. Fear of the dark – and of the unknown, the unseen, that lurks within it. A fear so common that an entire movie genre has spawned from it – horrors – which some people avoid at all costs because they know that they will be terrified to close their eyes for the next few days, and some people can’t get enough of because of the thrill of adrenaline that pumps through their veins with each beat of their pounding heart.

At the heart of a horror is something we subconsciously believe to be true: bad things happen at night.

Maybe that is why the last thing we do before we go to sleep is to check that all the doors are locked and windows are closed before we turn off the lights and shut our eyes against the heavy darkness – sleeping away the hours in which visibility is poor and the world is still and horrors happen.

But amongst those who lived in days of old, there were those who were not allowed to sleep; whose duty it was to watch and to wait for morning, to ensure the safety of all who slumbered under their care. Much like modern day security guards, there were watchmen who stood on Bethlehem’s walls making sure that no enemy, no danger, could sneak into the snoring city to cause hurt and harm.

I wonder what they would have made of the events that unfolded in their humble city in those weeks and months surrounding Jesus’ birth: the new star that brightened the familiar night sky, the arrival of a heavily pregnant woman on the back of a donkey at an unsafe hour when doors were closed and inns were full, the over-excited shepherds who babbled on about an angel visiting them in the hills with good news, the caravan of wealthy wise men who left a palace in search of a king.

What would they have made of this flurry of nighttime activity? Would they have let these travellers pass without a challenge or told their unexpected visitors to come back at a more appropriate time? Would they even have known, in the dark of night, that something amazing was happening? Would you?

What happened that night was that Life came into existence, and that Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light we know as Christ Jesus blazed out of the darkness; and the darkness couldn’t put it out – not the darkness of night, not the darkness of sin, not even the darkness of death.

Yet how many people noticed?

Only a handful were part of the remarkable story unfolding. Some watched and waited for the light to appear on the tops of the mountains – a symbol of a new day dawning, a promise of rest and safety. But most, well, most missed out; slept right through it. And some even shut the door and sent the light away.

Friends, we live in fearful times. We don’t want to think about them; we don’t want to talk about them – especially not in our moment of celebration on Christmas Day.

But war is rife within the world. Hatred and intolerance of the other has stripped away our ability to walk in another’s shoes, to extend a hand in compassion and solidarity. The Laws of love are subject to the law of the land – and the law of the land is used to exploit and oppress and subdue. People starve while others die of obesity-related illnesses. Drought and corruption ravage our future and our security. Foreigners are looked at with suspicion and resentment whenever our resources dwindle. Struggling children are passed from one grade to the next to hand them a certificate but no future of meaningful employment.

People pass each other without a smile or a greeting, wrapped up in their own busyness, heartache, disappointment.

Yet we continue to deal with this spiritual darkness in the same way that we deal with physical darkness: we shut the windows, lock the doors, and close our eyes in the hope of waking up to a new day. As good Christians some of us may even pray, “Lord, send your Angel-armies to watch over us and keep us safe this night.”

But what the world really needs from the God-begotten, from you and I, this day – and every day – are watchmen on the wall, voices that proclaim: there’s a light upon the mountain, a future and a hope that blazes through the darkness; eternal and inextinguishable; accessible to all who notice, to all who want it; capable of turning the horrors of night into a new day.

This Christmas morning may you receive the Life-Light in a way that helps you to be your true self, your child-of-God-self, your bright and radiant and brave and truthful and wide-awake self. And as your life-light shines to the glory of God may the hope and the light and the love celebrated on this new day spread from the mountains to every heart and home.

Protect your reserves

If you have ever had the misfortune to run out of petrol, you know all too well the anxiety and frustration of the foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 – as well as the embarrassment of having to admit your mistake and ask for assistance.

Although this passage is often used for a sermon on getting ourselves ready, or being prepared, for the coming of God’s kingdom, the more subversive message it contains is this: God wants you to protect your reserves.

The reality is that we should never find ourselves running on empty; or worse, running out entirely.  Our petrol tanks are designed to hold a small reserve which, when activated, triggers a warning light which says that we need, as a matter of urgency, to get to a fuel station to replenish our tank.

And yet still it happens that we sometimes find ourselves running out: whether we have underestimated the distance we have to travel or the traffic we have to travel in, or overestimated the capacity of our reserve, or simply haven’t prioritized filling up, or maybe, even, are hoping that prayer will get us through to pay day so that we can afford to fill our tank, many of us can find ourselves in this awkward, embarrassing, stressful situation.

We certainly hope that if it ever happens to us, the person we reach out to for help will be kind and sympathetic and immediately available.  So the response of the wise women to the foolish ones in verse 9 offends our nature and our understanding of what it is to be a good and kind Christian person:

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.”

No.

It’s a word that we seldom use, and when we do, often feel guilty for having in our vocabulary.  We’re happy to teach our children to say “No” to junk food, “NO” to drugs, and “NO NO NO!” to sex before marriage but when we are asked to something for someone else so often we automatically respond with “Yes.”

Which is why we so often feel at the end of the day that we have nothing of ourselves left to give.

Yet, like the wise virgins, God longs for us to protect our reserve tank and I would propose three principles for doing just that:

1. Say “no” to the unimportant things, the distractions in life, the little crises that take away from your long term hopes and dreams.  The Afrikaans assignment that your boss wants you to look over for his child which really doesn’t fall under your job description, or would lead to you working late to get your actual, pressing work done.  The person who constantly calls you in tears asking for time togetether but bails at the last minute because something better has come their way.  Even the colleague whose car broke down and who just assumes you’re available to help because they’re “on your way” – adding 40 minutes to your commute in the traffic and creating chaos in your household routine.  Know what’s important, what you MUST fit into your life and schedule – things like family and relaxation and taking care of your health – and evaluate what else you can do once those needs have been accounted for and satisfied.

2. When you say “yes” to something important, be 100% present.  In addition to struggling to say “no,” so often we try to manage our many “yeses” by doing a number of things simultaneously.  We call it “multitasking” and smugly inform people around us that managing to do many things at the same time makes us efficient utilisers of our time and resources. In reality, we are simply dividing our attention and not doing what we have committed to as well as we could because 2 tasks can get at most 50% of our time and effort; 3, 33%; 4, 25%.  You get the point.  Rather, if you’ve committed to a family dinner leave the cellphone at home (or use that much-neglected “off” button).  If you’re at work late, don’t feel guilty about what’s going on at home (assuming you’ve consulted with your partner, of course) but invest your time and attention into getting the task at hand done well.  If you’re at church stop thinking about what you need to do for lunch and be present in body, mind, and soul.

3. Prioritise God.  We know that when our warning light is on because our petrol gauge is near to empty, we need to be disciplined enough to refuel or we will find ourselves in trouble.  Our lives are like that too.  Sunday worship is not enough to tap into the abundant, overflowing, never-ending energy and power and love of God.  We need to set aside time and space in which to refuel – whether that means soaking ourselves in Scripture, enjoying vigorous religious debate over coffee with friends, or sitting in on a worship practice so that our hearts can be uplifted by song.  We need to prioritise God – not when we’ve run out and we’re requesting assistance – but every day; in multiple moments we need to open ourselves up to the fact that God is with us and longs to fill us and to bless us.

The wise women in the story were wise not because they had stocked up on oil for their lamps, but because they protected their reserve.  They prioritised that which was important – being present to fulfill their purpose of meeting the bridegroom. And, in order to protect that priority, they said a very necessary “no” the the foolish women who had run out and who ultimately missed out on the dancing and the laughing and the celebration and the belonging of the wedding feast.

Protect your reserve tank.  Prioritise God. Be 100% present in the things that you have committed to.  And learn to say “no” to that in your life which is unnecessary.

 

 

Christ in control

A Meditation on Colossians 1:15-20 for Cosmos Sunday

Imagine for a moment that you have bucket-loads of money and not only the car of your dreams in your driveway but also an expert driver to go along with it – an ex-formula 1 champion with an impeccable safety record and an intimate knowledge of how to get the very best performance out of your car.

For the first few weeks, as he drives you from place to place all goes smoothly: he gets you to the office and home in record time, and it’s an absolute pleasure to see the expertise with which he takes the gaps and rounds the corners.  You settle in, get comfortable – complacent even – and eventually take to reading your newspaper in the back seat.

One day, however, you glance up to find that you’re miles outside the city limits.

“What on earth are you doing?  Where DO you think you’re going?” you explode.

“I don’t think that you’re living up to your full potential,” the driver responds.  “Just trust me – the place I’m taking you to will be much better for you in terms of your health, your happiness, and your family life.”

I think that very few of us would simply sit back and surrender, putting our complete trust and faith in this relative stranger knowing precisely what is best for us.  We’d more likely yell for him to stop the car, fire him, and resume control of the driver’s seat.

Now this is the very experience that we are afraid of when we choose to be Christians; when we put Christ in control of our lives.  It’s alright when we see the blessings pouring in and like the direction in which our lives are moving – then we happily sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.  But when we take an unexpected turn, or when it looks like he’s going to take us to the dodgy side of town, we snatch for that steering wheel and shout, “I think I’ll take it from here buddy!”

The reason for that is that when we ask God to be in control of our lives we don’t suddenly become new creatures devoid of history or habits.  We have dreams still; imagined lives full of what we hope for.  We have pasts that have shaped us, parents who have passed down their high (or low) expectations of us, aspects of our personalities that define us and influence our choices – and it often feels like those things are at war with what God is calling us to and with what God commands us to do.

The cosmos invites us to consider our choice, to question whether Christ is worthy of being in control.

Paul’s letter to the Colossians responds with a resounding, “Of course he is!”

He is the image of the invisible God – the epitome of love, defender of the weak, worker of miracles; one who gives generously of himself so that we can know forgiveness and freedom.

He is the firstborn over all creation – the one from whom light and life flows; the one who speaks and brings into being beauty and order and purpose.

By him and for him all things were created – even the powers and authorities of this world for whom he groans when they use their power and position to use and abuse and tear down and oppress.

He holds all things together – from the stars and moons and planets of our ever-expanding universe, to people of different tribes and languages, to families broken by the death of a loved one, to the unnatural gaps in the world like the divide between the rich and the poor.  He reminds us that we are all interconnected.

He is the head of the body, the Church.  He is the one from whom we take our example and our lead; the one who teaches us how to live; the one who gives us our mission and our meaning; the one who holds together our different gifts, our different passions, our different dreams.

He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead – a God of unimaginable power and possibility; the one who can break every bond that imprisons us, who can resurrect every area of our lives in which we have given up hope, who can open up opportunities for new ways of being and thinking and doing.

The fullness of God dwells in him that he may open our eyes to the fullness of life – to the rest and restoration of gentle rivers and green pastures, to the pressing and cleansing presence of his Spirit in our woundedness, to his comfort in the valleys so dark and full of shadows that we fear we will be lost in them forever.

He is the one who shed his blood on the cross that all things might be reconciled to him who with dying, tortured breath declared, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

This is who Jesus is.

And the cosmos asks us whether we think that one such as this is worthy of being in control of our lives.

The reality of human experience is that we have others in control of us from our very first breath – parents, teachers, friends, older or younger siblings, bosses, wives.  Very rarely do we feel that we are in control.  And very rarely are those who have influence and control over us anywhere near as worthy as Jesus.  So it’s hard to trust, to hand over.

But the car analogy is not actually a good one for in the passage from Colossians we see a Christ who is Supreme but who doesn’t take over.  He accompanies, he journeys with, he holds together, he connects.

He is more of a co-driver than a chauffeur: the navigator of a rally car team who tells the driver what lies ahead, where to turn, what obstacles to look out for.  He is hands-on – often performing maintenance on the car during road sections.  There is an incredible level of trust and frequent, open, clear communication between the two.  There is a bond, a comradeship, a sharing of direction and responsibility – and this is what the Christ who is with and in and through all is inviting us to.

I pray that your heart leaps with all of creation in crying out, “Oh Lord, you are worthy!”

 

In the beginning

A Message for Confirmands based on John 1 and Genesis 1: 15 September 2013

In the beginning …

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.

In the beginning …

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

In the beginning …

Our God is a God of beginnings.  God is present at every start.

God is there at the moment of conception as two cells come together and merge and divide miraculously into fingers and toes and a beating heart and a mass of grey matter that has potential beyond our imagination and understanding and, even within the womb, a personality that sets each child apart and makes them as unique and special.

God is there at the first moment of independence – the first breath, the first inhalation of life, of Spirit; the first exhalation; the first cry; the first angry shout; the first word; the first step; the first fall.

God is there at the inauguration of our work: the first time we help mom in the kitchen, the first time we take responsibility for a pet, the first time we put on our school uniform, the first test we write a test, the first job we have, the first time we change our mind about what we want to do with our lives, the first time we dream about the mark we want to leave on the world.

God is there at the blast off of love – the first time that someone catches our eye and takes our breath away and becomes the center of our thinking, our being, our doing.  God is there at the first stuttered conversation, the first date, the first kiss, the first beak-up, the first heart ache, the first faint rustling of hope that this is something we should try again.

And God was there the first time that we met together as confirmands.  Some came shyly, some reluctantly, some because their parents insisted that they attend; some because they didn’t want to sit on their own at Children’s Church, some because they saw a gathering of similarly-aged young people and were curious; some because confirmation was the next part of their spiritual journey that they deliberately wanted to go through.

Yet why they came was actually unimportant.  As were their differences in terms of age and personality and levels of maturity and experience of church and understanding of this faith we call Christianity.

What is important is that God was there – in the beginning.

No.

That’s not quite right.

God was there before the beginning.  When things were formless and empty and dark, even then God was there and God said, “Let there be light” and there was light.  And there was Life – in the beginning.

We sometimes forget that because life is not always good or kind or enjoyable.  Sometimes it is scary and messy and incomprehensible and utterly beyond our control.  Sometimes – through our own choices – or through the choices of others, life subjects us to unbearable suffering, excruciating pain, heart-breaking disappointment.  Sometimes it is merely the boredom and the dullness of our daily routine that eats slowly away at our passion, our vision, our courage.  Sometimes we don’t know which way is up, or which road to choose in the multitude of forks that lie ahead of us.

Yet God is there.

In every moment, in every sense, in  every memory, in every thing that sustains life, God is there.

Like the many to whom John refers in his Gospel we do not see that.  Though God is in our lives; though our lives were made through God, we don’t recognize God in every moment: both good and bad; the times of smooth sailing and the encounters with stormy waters.

Yet God has been with us since the beginning.

No – since before the beginning God has been active and moving and present; in you and in me.

As our leadership listened to the testimonies of the confirmands yesterday that is the word that they shared: God is there.  As we have gathered as church, as guild, as community it is a word we experience: God is here.  As our young people have made vows today they have asked, “God walk with me from this day forward” in the faith that God has been with them since the beginning.

And to those who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, God gives the right to be children of God.

To our confirmands this morning I want to say that this is, indeed, just another beginning – a start into what it means to be a child of God.  It is an adventure into discovering your uniqueness, your belovedness, your part beyond this community and within the whole of God’s creation.  You are never alone, never unseen, never unimportant for you are made and named by God and utterly precious in the eyes of God.  God is there – in the moments that spark light and life and energy and passion and in the moments that seem empty and formless and dark.

God is there.  And we, your very extended family, are here too – to nurture and encourage and support you; to point you to the signs of life and light in the moments of darkness; to reflect God’s glory; and to be to you a place in which you can experience God’s grace and truth.

To those of us who are in need of such encouragement and support, who have lost our first love for God, who have wandered away from the paths that lead to life, let me remind you: our God is a God of beginnings and you can begin anew with God in this moment, on this day.