Sermon Text: Complaining, and Hoping
It's the second Sunday of on-line church only. I still miss you very much. And I am still imagining you here in your usual spot. This is hard to get used to.
I did look at the scheduled readings for this Sunday, the ones we would have used if we'd been here in church together. And the Psalm assigned for today caught my eye.
Every Sunday has its own psalm.
The Book of Psalms in the Bible is a collection of 150 poems or songs. And the Book of Psalms is kind of like the Prayer Book of the Bible. And these psalms, or prayers, are honest -- there is no sugar-coating. The Psalms are a reality check -- not always pretty, but always real.
I have to say that the Book of Psalms, this book of poems and songs addressed to God, is full of complaining! The ones who wrote these things did not hold back from telling God what was wrong.
Today's Psalm 130 is a good example. Listen to this, and maybe you'll agree with me that it fits our lives right now in this difficult time:
Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
In other words, things are bad, really bad, and I want you to hear me, O God.
The writer goes on:
If you, O Lord, were to note what is done amiss, O Lord, who could stand?
In other words, if God has brought us into hard times because we are not perfect, then we have not hope and would always deserve misery.
Yet the writer goes on: But there is forgiveness with you.
In other words, God will be forgiving, and the bad things that come our way are not because we are being punished for wrongdoing.
So far, the writer is describing our situation pretty well. We are in the depths, we need God's help, and what is going on is not God's punishment.
And then the writer goes on with words we need:
I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
in his word is my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
And that's us right now. We wait, we hope, and we look for better times to come.
Psalm 130 can be our prayer for this season, this time, this day. It ends with hope, and we need to hang on to hope. This psalm is an honest prayer for honest people.
Now, in my words last week, I shared a practice which has helped me in this difficult time. I talked about breathing: conscious, intentional, deliberate, spiritual breathing.
Today, I'd like to tell you about another practice which is helping me.
I have been trying to pay more attention to nature. I am a walker, and I love to walk outdoors. I keep safe social distance -- I am nowhere near anyone else. But being outdoors and seeing, hearing and feeling the natural world is a vital experience for me. It is a source of healing and strength.
There was a moment this week when I heard something I've heard many, many times before. Geese flew over my head, and they were honking. I listened more closely than I usually have in the past. It touched my heart to hear these creatures making their sounds as they were gliding above me. It was both haunting and beautiful. And so very, very ordinary.
Rachel Carson was a great naturalist who once wrote this:
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds, the ebb and flow of tides, the folded bud ready for spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature, the assurance that dawn comes after the night, and spring after the winter.
Dawn will come again, my friends. Spring will come after the winter. We will get through this dark time.
Looking at and listening to nature can help us. Nature feeds a human hunger. Nature feeds the spirit. Our religious tradition tells us that, but so does every thoughtful spiritual tradition, and so does the secular tradition.
Earth is our mother. So get outside if you can. Keep a safe social distance in this time of illness, but get outside. Look, listen, feel and appreciate. You will find strength and healing.
And if you can't go outside, you can look out a window. Look at the sky, the birds, the trees, the hills. Or if you can't look, at least listen...let the sounds of the natural world fill your ears. You could even look closely at a houseplant, using your own eyes as if they were your microscope, seeing the simple yet complex beauty of the plant.
I know from experience that this practice, this paying attention to the beauty of the earth, will help us at any time, but especially now.
Let me finish, and underline what I'm saying, with a song.
FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH