Light, Silence, Connection

Sermon:  LIGHT
Texts:  Genesis 1:3, 2 Corinthians 4-6

Date:  August 27, 2017

Anne Hopkins, Eagle Harbor Congregational Church

 

The thought I’d like to share with you is LIGHT.  The power of LIGHT.

In Genesis 1:3 “And God said, “let there be light.” And there was light.

 

One night when I was restless and anxious, I decided to meditate to try to settle down to sleep.  And the message ‘IT’S BETTER TO LIGHT ONE CANDLE THAN CURSE THE DARKNESS” came to me.  Though I hadn’t thought about it for quite some time.

It is the motto of the Christophers, an order of Catholic priests dedicated to supporting the belief in the profound ability of each person to shape the future.  They believe each person has been given a special task in life – a sense of personal mission and the power of goodness.  As we were drawn to film stories that honor the human spirit we were honored that the Christophers felt our work resonated with their Order’s mission.

While the Protestant faith does not use iconography, there are parables and stories.  The image of St. Christopher is that of a man carrying on his back the Christ Child radiating His light.

I believe that image is meant to convey carrying Christ’s message out into the world.

At a time in my past that was especially challenging, I was told that there is no reason to fear the dark, as darkness has no power of its own.  Darkness is merely the absence of light.  It is light that has the power.  As experienced this week during the solar eclipse.

In 2 Corinthians 4-6, For God said, “Let light shine out of darkness” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In these challenging times, we are often fighting the darkness of anxiety, fear and anger.  The idea of lighting a candle to dispel the darkness is, to me, a powerful concept.  We can choose through our daily actions to bring light – carrying Christ’s message of compassion and love.  As we care for our families and neighbors – interface with strangers with a warm smile, holding a door, listening to another’s point of view and being open if it’s different from our own – brings light into the darkness of doubt.

I think our beautiful little church on this corner is a beacon of light to all in our community – from the bell that rings on Sunday morning gathering us to prayer, to Jennifer’s beautiful banners of inspiration, super suppers. Mary’s Place  and the UNICEF Halloween event, the many contributions that Eagle Harbor Church brings to Bainbridge Island and beyond is a reflection of God’s message of light.  The source of all life.

It has helped me to recognize that each of us is a candle and our actions illuminate an otherwise dark world.  As we come together in the communion of this church community and as we go forth into our daily lives, let us be the candle and may our light shine ever bright and beautiful.

All sing :  THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE

 

August 27, 2017, Eagle Harbor Congregational Church

Scripture: Psalm 46 and Mark 4:35-41

Meditation by Jennifer Merrill: Love’s the Only Engine of Survival

I appreciate that song we just sang because, I don’t know about you, but for me it sure seems like too many days are punctuated by, if not engulfed in, darkness.  And I don’t mean the kind of darkness we experienced last week with the solar eclipse, which, instead, had most of us experiencing awe.

No, I mean the kind of darkness and stormy weather that’s expressed in both Psalm 46 and the excerpt from Mark.  Psalm 46: “…the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; … its waters roar and foam, … the mountains tremble with its tumult. …”  And Mark: “A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.”

Both of these texts may well be describing physical situations, but of more interest to me is what they’re telling us about our psychology.

Psychologically speaking, are you, like me, experiencing a flood of anxiety, free-floating or otherwise?  I mean, all one has to do is pay any attention to the news, or, more specifically, Twitter.  (Wink, wink; I am not mentioning any names…)  Day after day, ever since you-know-who was inaugurated as president, it feels to me like our nation is in an uproar, like as a culture we’ve become unmoored from basic civility, from thoughtful discourse, from any kind of universal desire for the common good.

I feel like I’m in that boat with the disciples, and the storm surrounding us is a hurricane of racism, militarism, and economic elitism.  It feels like our kingdom is tottering.  It feels like it’s tottering even though I want, with all my heart, for God to make, as the Psalmist says, “wars cease to the end of the earth,” and for God to break the bow, shatter the spear, and burn the shields with fire.  And since, at least some days, I see little evidence of God doing those things, I admit I ask myself:  Where is God?  And I admit I can fully relate to the disciples admonishing Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

So.  Where is God in all of this?  Where am I in all of this?  Where do God and I meet?  Says the Psalmist: “Be still, and know that I am God!”  Says Jesus to the storm, and I think, too, to the disciples: “Peace!  Be still!”

These are wise words.  When I am quiet, I can remind myself that human history is filled to the brim with strife and unrest.  And I can also remind myself that in the face of such seemingly constant injustice, the elders, the wise ones, the prophets, they’ve all gone out into the metaphorical desert and they’ve all listened for the still, small voice of God.

And what have they heard?  Singer, songwriter, and dare-I-say prophet Leonard Cohen answers that as well as anyone I know in his song The Future: “Love’s the only engine of survival.”   That bears repeating: Love’s the only engine of survival.

More coincidentally than intentionally, but, nonetheless, with the presidential changing of the guard, I started spending a few minutes almost every morning here in the sanctuary, before work, reading something “spiritual,” and then attempting to meditate.  Time doing this has not obliterated my anxiety (dang it!), but it has kept my hope alive.  It has reminded me, over and over again, that God and I meet in love, that God’s will for God’s kingdom is love, and that I have a role to play in keeping that engine-of-love fired up.  All of us have a role in keeping love alive.

So, all that said, I’d like to conclude with a little guided meditation, a little trip to the desert to listen for the still, small voice of God.  I’d like you to close your eyes and listen now as I read this poem by Edwina Gateley titled “Let Your God Love You.”

Be silent.

Be still.

Alone.

Empty

Before your God.

Say nothing.

Ask nothing.

Be silent.

Be still.

Let your God look upon you.

That is all.

God knows.

God understands.

God loves you

With an enormous love,

And only wants

To look upon you

With that love.

Quiet.

Still.

Be.

Let your God—

Love you.

 

Amen.

 

August 27, 2017, Eagle Harbor Congregational Church

Scripture: Matthew 6:33

Meditation by Howard Emery: Connection

 

I would like to thank all of you for taking my wife Janet and me into your church family; you have made us feel really at home here.

Sightings of the Kin-dom of God.  I like this terminology as it emphasizes the importance of our recognizing that we are all interconnected.

Yesterday I read something in the NY Times that so well illustrates at least one important aspect of this Kin-dom.  It was an opinion piece by Ariella Rosen referring to a memorial bench in Central Park in NYC dedicated to one Charles Stover.  She discovered that it took some research to find out who Mr. Stover was.  She found that he was humble and little celebrated man who had a profound influence on the lives of many in NYC at the turn of the 20th century.  As parks commissioner he was influential establishing parks and playgrounds throughout the city.  He, along with two colleagues, recognized the need for a supportive community for the many impoverished immigrants living on the lower east side of the city.  They established the University Settlement House, which began the Settlement House movement.  They provided many supportive physical and psychological services.  They developed the first kindergarten in NYC, the first round of Head Start and the first public bath, among other services.  It was here that an 18-year-old Eleanor Roosevelt came as a voluntary dance instructor and brought her future husband, FDR, who was horrified at the impoverished conditions and exclaimed, “My God, I didn’t know people lived like that.”  It is impossible to know many lives that legacy influenced.

In our own church family there are many who live your lives paying attention to the needs of those around you and stepping up to help out when a need is recognized.  One that came to my attention recently is Mary Clare who realized that while Stephen and Noyuri were dealing with illness they did not have time to care for their beloved garden.  Mary Clare quietly stepped in and came over and worked to maintain the garden.  Another sighting was of Sheila Curwen, who works as an usher at Mariner’s games and walks from the stadium to the ferry, often after dark.  As we all know, this is an area with many homeless people.  Sheila recognizes the humanity of those who are there and is greeted and responds by name to at least one of the men who frequents this area.  Sheila is treating this man with dignity.  She acknowledges him and shows respect for his humanity.

We believe that we are connected to all the human family with whom we share the world.  And I believe that we can expand these connections, beyond shared humanity, to all of God’s creation, in whatever form we understand creation.  In a recent book, The Hidden Life of Trees, by the German forester, Peter Wohlleben, he shares evidence of trees supporting each other.  A lovely example is the aromatic oils that certain trees in Africa put out to discourages giraffes from eating them.  When this happens trees in the surrounding neighborhood will also put out similar distasteful oils before they are approached, indication that these trees communicate by some version of the sense of smell.  Last fall I had the opportunity to travel to Japan to experience how the Japanese have developed a formal discipline, named Shinrin-yoku, recognizing the healing power of “immersion” in the forest.  Studies by physicians in Japan have documented that certain aromatic oils in the Japanese forest which protect the trees from disease and predators also boost the human immune mechanism and help protect us from illness, in some cases even from developing cancers.

For me this is the essential ingredient needed for a healthy and prosperous community.  To see that the interdependence that we all share is  accompanied with the recognition that we all benefit from a world that works for everyone.

To close I would like to share a story told by a college buddy of mine who I joined for the recent eclipse celebration in eastern Oregon.  His son-in-law operates an oyster farm in the bay off of Homer Alaska.  Recently he working on the dock and his favorite knife slipped and fell into 25 feet of cold, cold water where no one was going to go diving for it.  The next day when he returned the knife was lying on the dock.  It seems that they have developed a relationship with a local river otter who hangs around their farm.  Apparently the otter had returned the favor of the friendship and retrieved the knife for him.  Now that is Kinship that will get your attention.

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