St. Paul’s Congregational Church, February 2. 2020
Micah 6:1-8; Matthew 5:1-12 – Epiphany 4A
Rev. Cynthia F. Reynolds
Let us pray: may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Epiphany – the season of the coming of the Light – I have to admit, I’m not feeling the light so much this week – the reflection for today has been difficult. Friends are going through tough stuff in their families. Colleagues are experiencing very hard times in their ministries at their churches – and we’re not exempt from this here, either, are we. I pray we find answers, wisdom, a real movement into an uncertain future soon. Family members are experiencing strains in their relationships – financial burdens are growing. I’m mourning the apparent loss of integrity, honesty, partnership, openness in our country’s leadership – it feels like we’re adrift, lost, overwhelmed. I, did, though, have a flash of hope on Friday with the opening prayer the Senate chaplain offered – it didn’t last as long as I’d wished, but there was a glimmer of hope, a small speck of light, and a reminder that God is still speaking – are we listening?
The light of Epiphany has come. Sometimes that light is dim for us but it has come. And our scriptures this morning point us toward a beautiful vision of that light: meeting God through covenant faithfulness, through creation of a whole and just society, encountering God’s power in the pain and struggle and “foolishness” of a world suffering for justice and peace.
It is a good time to be church! God is calling us to follow Christ into the world to engage in a lifetime of faithful, creative, courageous, community-building love. God will meet us where we are and lead us to the vision beautiful. Will we follow? Will we experience the joy, the surprise, the blessing of such a life in God?
It’s a good time, even an essential time, for our light of hope and love to shine – the love of God and neighbor just because we’re ALL created in God’s image.
The prophet Micah is very clear about how our hope and love will shine: what does God require of us: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. Imagine how the world around us would change if we all named and claimed and acted on this almost too simple call!
I believe we’re all being called to something good and special and true – in spite of what we hear and see going on around us – maybe as we are challenged by the state of our country, our world, today, we’re called to go deeper into our faith – what is it we really believe? How can we act on what we believe?
It’s a good time to be church, friends –each and every religion teaches the same thing: love neighbor, do good, love God. We share these beliefs with our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters, all of us children of Abraham. Let’s start with what we have in common.
Our scripture passages today both challenge and encourage us, I think – to go deeper in our faith – I’ve been working on concentrating on the question every night, “Where did you meet God today?” It’s helping me focus as I pray for awareness, pray for discernment as to how I can make a difference, pray for help from God in deepening my faith and a call I’m feeling to step up, in the words of the UCC Statement of Faith: God’s promises to all who trust, courage in the struggle for justice and peace and God’s presence in trial and rejoicing. Words we all need to hear and believe as individuals going about our daily lives and as church as we look ahead to the shape of our future mission and ministry here at St. Paul’s.
That question helps in my attempts to slow down, to be more aware of God’s touch in not only my life, but in the lives of people I meet.
Where did you meet God today? I think we’re all familiar with the idea that we meet God in special times – special places – silent places, often by ourselves. In times away from our routines – standing high on a mountain, looking around and seeing nothing for miles and miles except clouds passing by, the hills and valleys fading into the distance.
The scripture tells us this is often what Jesus did.
Or maybe it’s when you go deep into the woods – you hear nothing but birds singing in the trees. Or by a river, the current swirling by, carrying leaves and twigs to a destination hundreds of miles from where you sit. Or at the ocean – the waves roll in and out, pushing and pulling the gravel and sand, the sound of the waves crashing and breaking – the sight and sounds of the birds chasing whatever it is they can find to eat on the newly wet sand. Where’s your place where you go to meet God and allow God to touch you in the midst of the beauty, the quietness, the solitude? Where’s your place where you feel that great sense of peace? Later, we return to our ordinary world, feeling more refreshed and stronger than we were when we left it for a time.
This kind of retreat is wonderful, isn’t it – and it is one of the ways – one of the important ways, in which we meet God. There are other ways, of course – ways which involve other people, ways which are not quite so quiet – ways that bring us into God’s presence. Maybe it even happens for you here in worship – I hope so.
In all of these encounters with God, the thing is that we are intentionally looking for God – we are taking time out to be holy. And that can and will change us in how we live.
But, what about where God meets us? If we search for God – and I believe we all do at one time or another – if we search for God in special times and places – where does God search for us? Where does God meet us?
Life is not, after all, full of special times – full of special moments, is it. Life is full of other stuff – it is full of routines, of ordinary things.
We work, we eat, we sleep.
We play and relax.
We suffer and feel pain.
We sorrow and grieve.
We struggle and fight against trials and tribulations of all kinds.
And in these ordinary times we are in ordinary places – at home, at work, visiting with a friend, driving in our cars, standing in elevators, or standing in line at the Shop Rite.
What about all these ordinary times and these ordinary places when we are not taking time to be holy, the places where we don’t expect to meet God – those times and places when we are actually getting on with living our lives?
Those are the times and places where God meets us.
Maybe we end up missing God’s presence in our lives because God has done so in a different way, in a different form, in a different place from that which we expect.
Blessed are the poor in spirit – for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn – for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, - for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful – for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart….
Blessed are the peacemakers…
Blessed are those who are persecuted falsely.
What these words mean is simply this: those who are living out their lives in faith; those who go about, seeking to do what is right; those who are able to feel their pain and express it; those who are trying to show mercy, do justice, those who are willing to accept insult and injury for the sake of doing what is right; those who seek to make peace; those who are walking humbly before God: these are the ones who are met by God.
God encounters them, us.
God inhabits them, us.
God strengthens them, us
God rewards them, us.
God comes to them, comes to us, and meets us where we are.
God meets us in ways we do not expect; not in the way of the world, but in God’s way. Where did, where will you meet God today? Remember the story we heard this morning during the children’s moment?
We’re called to pay attention!
We can go to meet God in many special ways and places and that is good. But know and celebrate this: God comes to meet us, in all ways, and in all places. And God has taught us what is required of us: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. And most of all, to love God and our neighbors. Praise be to God, now and forevermore.
God will meet us where we are and lead us to the vision beautiful! Will we follow? Where will you meet God today?
How and where will God meet you?