Luke 14: 7-14


Seating can be a tricky business.  Since we just finished three weddingsin two years we had to think about seating charts, especially at the reception:who should we put at what table? Of course everyone knows there is a headtable; or do they? Without a seating chart would someone actually sitthere?  At a public school assemblyone time, I was involved in a prayer assembly, (yes a prayer assembly!) Atragedy had occurred on the campus. The school had seats with names on them forthe principal, the student government president, family members who hadsuffered the loss, and for me to lead in prayer.  The mayor of the town arrived; seeing that no seat on thepodium said mayor, the major proceeded to remove someone else’s name from onethe chairs and sit down! I thought of Jesus story in today’s message when I sawthat. But in our day rules of behavior are being broken without batting an eye.I have watched plenty of people (and perhaps you have done this) move from thecheap seats in a ball game to the higher priced seats unless someone shoos themaway. It seems that some have no problem moving to the seats that are not theirown. The movie popular with college students called “Wedding Crashers” gavepeople a humorous and raunchy blueprint of how to get food and women at areception that was not theirs to attend.In the James Camerson movie “Titanic” the fictitious character Jackbarely made it on the ship by gambling for a seat in what was called “steerage.”Certainly on the Titanic those conditions were better than on similar ships,but it was still a no frills existence. Ships and their first class passengerswere quite strict about keep other lower classes out: they paid a huge premiumto get their seats so for steerage Jack to ever meet First Class Rose was pureHollywood. Likewise as we flew to Germany in July, we looked longingly at thefirst class cabin of the aircraft as we made our way into the fully loaded andcramped main cabin for our ten hour flight. One person had checked the cost tofly over in first class: it would have been more than three times the price ofour seats! No wonder people in first class don’t want others wandering throughtheir cabin or moving to a seat near them!  And in concerts, most often ticket prices vary according towhich seat you want to purchase.Civility seems to be at a premium in some venues without seating chartsas people push or butt in line and enter a venue saving many seats for peoplenot yet present. It can be maddening.


But there are some places where one’s net income isnot an issue. Any American age 62 or older can buy what is now called a “SeniorPass” from the National Park Service. The pass costs just $10.00, whether youare poor or rich, and lets you and anyone in your car drive into one of ourmany national parks. Can you believe it? One of the few deals in America.  In politics, state funding forcandidates can allows a person of moderate income to beat a billionaire, but inanother race, the millionaire beat one of just slightly more modest means. Inchurch, the prime front seats often remain empty, while the cheap seats in theback get packed! How humble of all of you to leave the best seats forothers!  What would Jesus do?Today’s passage lets us hear his guidance. We note in verse one that he hasbeen invited to the house of a leader of the Pharisees.  Most of us paint the Pharisees as thebad guys in the Gospel drama, but Raymond Bailey has an astute observation whenhe says: “The Pharisees were the good people of their day. They never missed areligious meeting, they studied the Scriptures, they tithed, and they set themoral standard for their cultures. Jesus did not choose the guests but acceptedthe invitation to join them.”  So althoughthey were good men—like some who belong to exclusive country clubs, hunt clubs,or communities—certain etiquette would be expected and a breach of etiquettewould be noticed. Have you ever gone to a gathering when you felt distinctlyunder-dressed, or under classed or just plain uncomfortable? Again, weddingsbring it out in people. Just think of the scenes of discomfort the parents wentthrough as they visited the parents of their child’s fiancée in “Father of theBride” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding!” And think of the discomfort theboyfriend played by Ben Stiller had in “Meet the Parents!”  Grace, hospitality, and humility areall part of Jesus’ lesson for today. In this case, cleansing rituals, foodselections, and religious affiliation would have guided the Pharisee’s guestlist, even as they tried to trip up their invited guest Jesus! But it was hewho turned the tables when he noticed everyone taking their seats in places ofhonor! “When you are invited to a banquet, go and sit at the lowest place sothat when the host comes he may say to you: “Friend move up higher.” I thoughtof that mayor, who had done the opposite, when I read that. Jesus, who at thatpoint knew he was God’s chosen one, chose not to take the highest seat, butjust as he once washed his guest’s dirty feet at another banquet, he took a lowposition at this one. What an example. Jesus was modeling how all who love Godshould act when they are invited to a banquet, particularly to the heavenlybanquet. His message about theheavenly realm only becomes clear in verses 12 through 14.  Who would invite people to a fundraiser if they couldn’t pay? Who would invite people who couldn’t pay to seethe show? No one on earth, right? Wrong. There are examples of grace,hospitality, and a desire to give children or adults of little means a leg up.Years ago when I saw Zero Mostel in the Broadway traveling show of “Fiddler onthe Roof,” it was at the Muny Opera in St. Louis. We were in the area earlywhen we saw a line at the box office and then another line. Although we hadtickets, I asked what the second line was for. My mother told me that when theMuny Opera was built,  the majordonor for its construction stipulated that the back two rows must be keptavailable free of charge for those who otherwise might not be able to be ableto see great plays or hear great music. I was proud to learn about that gift.

Today we wish there wasn’t fighting for or savingseats in theatres any more than we want fighting for or saving seats in pews!After the election this past week I felt like I needed a bath to get the mudoff that kept being flung in newspaper and television ads. What incivility;what does a servant life look like?We need more people to be like Jesus. We need more people like you orlike me to not only be practicing for heaven, but to be living unselfishly onearth.  Christians could cordon themselves off in their giant mega-churchcampuses so they can move about with only like-minded people, or they can dowhat Jesus did: every time he prayed, he went back into the city, or a village,or to those who disagreed with him. After he was transfigured on the mountain,he refused to simply stay there with disciples who adored him. That would havebeen easy; but Jesus took the road less traveled. If the Christ of the gospelsis going to change our world, he is going to do it through his beloved bride,the Church. We are his body, who gather to worship and pray who then goforth to tell about him, show others about him, and inviting others to knowhim. It takes us being in the world to change the world, not avoid it. It takesus all if we want to be invited to the great banquet tomorrow, or even the tableof sacrament next Sunday.  How willyou demonstrate that Christ has taught you the way, the truth, the life?


Jeffrey Sumner August 29, 2010



Exodus 20: 8-11; Luke 13: 10-17


Do you know people who can’t accept gifts well?  I’m one of them!  So many thoughts go through my mind: ifI use the gift right away then it will be gone, so instead I save it! By my notusing the gift, gift cards have sometimes expires or gotten lost. If it’s food,it might go bad or expire. I have seen places in people’s closets where theyhave neatly placed gifts they have received that a) they haven’t yet opened; orb) that they aren’t sure they can use; or c) that they think they’ll “re-gift!”I am bad about using gracious gifts, but now I am working to use them withthanks! Have people given you gifts that you haven’t used? Have people givenyou a gift and you didn’t thank them?Both have the potential of hurting the giver! 


Today I want to suggest that the Great Gift-Giver ofthe world—God

 –the onewho has given us blessings, and the Son, and creation, has given us anothergift that is often ignored, stomped on, or set aside, and often people do notthank God for it. It’s the Sabbath.It’s a day of rest, or at least a day of doing something different fromthe other days; doing something rejuvenating instead of debilitating. It isalso supposed to be a day to honor and thank God. Even though it is acommandment that is meant to be kept along with do not kill, do not steal, anddo not commit adultery, the gift of the Sabbath is one of the most trampled-onand ignored commandments on the list. I suspect it hurts the giver when we donot receive the gift and use it! Some walk around exhausted, sleep-deprived,over-worked, grouchy, or complaining. Could God be watching and say “I don’twant to hear it! You need to put your foot down and take a day; make a day;carve out a day to rest! I gave you that gift and even modeled it for you inGenesis!” Many would say back to God (and yes, God can take a good argument)“Right! Tell that to my boss, tell that to my kids, or tell that to theircoaches.” Encroaching activity, like crabgrass on a lawn, will eat up yourday of rest. We know since NewTestament days that the Christian churches have most often carved out Sundaysas their Sabbath. If you are Jewish your Sabbath is Saturday (actually Fridaysundown until Saturday sundown.) Jews had problems in this country for yearswhen many occupations required Saturday work and almost everything was closedon Sunday. Now Christians also haveto decide to keep a Sabbath or not since most stores stay open that day.Sabbath is only one of God’s finest gifts, one that often gets set on the shelfof our lives to be used another month, or another year, or decade. But likemany other gifts, you either use it, or you lose it or it expires.  I know a number of people who workednon-stop most of their lives, some of them even working extra hours for extramoney. They looked forward to their retirement day, some even crossing off dayson a calendar, when all their days would be free time. Finally: retirement! Theirsaved-up chores took about a month of retirement time and then many were bored.They decided to travel, but then a heart attack, or cancer, or some otherailment clipped their wings and the second half of life changed from what theyhad pictured. Soon their saved up time was just taken up reading magazines indoctors waiting rooms. Just as the saying suggests to stop and smell the rosesalong life’s pathway, the Sabbath is a gift meant to be enjoyed along the way,not saved. (Jeff Sumner, are you listening??) Using the gift of Sabbathpleases the giver!  There are no starsin our crowns by working ourselves into burnout, bitterness, or illness.


Certainly there are those who do observe the Sabbath- some strictly, some moreopenly.  Some of you grew up whenthere was no card playing, no television, and no shopping on the ChristianSabbath. For the Orthodox Jew even today, any food consumed on the Sabbath mustbe prepared the day before. “No work of any kind” is their way of understandingthis law. Read it in Exodus for yourself. But we find in Luke that Jesusattracted critics when he stopped a synagogue service to offer healing on theSabbath. “Healing is work!” they said. “Heal that person tomorrow!”  Can you imagine if hospitals went darkon a Sabbath day so that no care was offered? Or perhaps the Jewish nurseswould work on Sunday and the Christian nurses on Saturday, and the atheistnurses would take a different day!Even now weekends have fewer staff. But healing and recovery does nothappen according to a set schedule. The Savior, the one who came to give us abundantlife, healed on the Sabbath. You’ll remember his words in Mark chapter 2: “TheSabbath was made for mortals, not mortals for the Sabbath.”  Even on the day Jesus was put into thetomb, his body was not anointed with spices until the next day because “On theSabbath day they rested according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:56) Attendingto the body of Jesus- perhaps one of the most important events in the historyof the world- did not happen for 24 hours because God’s gift was before them.They chose to follow the commandment and not to insult the giver. If they hadanointed Jesus’ body immediately, the Easter story would have been strikinglydifferent.


In her book KEEPING THE SABBATH WHOLLY, Marva Dawnwrites: “To keep the Sabbath means to cherish it, to honor it as the Queen ofour days, in consort with the King of the Universe. To develop the habit ofSabbath keeping requires some intentionality on our part; [but] its ceasingenables us to rest, and its feasting enables us to embrace afresh.” (p.203)


Keeping the Sabbath; we know it is a commandment, notmore or less important than the other nine; we know that it is a choice sinceGod gave us free will, but that God hopes we will keep it. The other thing welearned today is that the Sabbath is a gift and that the giver is God. Now ifwe choose to keep the Sabbath, howmight that be done?  There arethose who have fond memories of Sundays in the past as I do. Growing up when Iwould visit my grandparents in Ellwood City, we would go to church, have familymembers over to share a big noonday meal, we would visit with each other, andthen they would leave and we would take naps! There would be a light supperthat night and afterward before dark when it was cool, we would drive to thecemetery to water the flowers on the family graves and hear once again thestories of their lives. At my grandmother’s in Sylvester we did almost the samething. To the boys and girls here I have to tell you, it was not boring, it wasmagical. I never forgot the ritual. Certainly the times have changed and theway you might keep your Sabbath has changed. Some who work Sundays observe aSabbath on a different day. But if you are like me, you have to be extravigilant to guard your Sabbath. On those week days, you can get swept into workthat is draining and stressful if you aren’t careful. The times are differentin Florida. It is more difficult for most to keep the Sabbath. There aredistractions and attractions everywhere. But when your soul feels most dry, or bitter,or over-worked, only stopping to drink in the living water of which Jesus spokecan revive your soul again. Observing the Sabbath is part of the prescription.


Lynne M. Baab wrote a recent book called SABBATHKEEPING in which she admits she struggles to do what her title suggests. Thatis honest. In our world that values what we have accomplished more than who weare, God says “I value who you are most.” Our world tries to create each one ofus into the sadly humorous term “human doings” because it measures our worth bywhat we do. God, conversely,created us as “human beings” because we are valued for who we are.  Therehave been studies of those who have skipped having days off: some by workdemands, some by choice. In both cases, people who took their Sabbath days weremore alert, joyful, and productive. It was once put this way. “All work and noplay makes Jack a dull boy.” What saying might describe your life? How couldyou choose to change it today? 


Our Jewish brothers and sisters have been keeping orstruggling to keep the Sabbath for ages even before Jesus was born. Let meclose with their prayer of the traditional home service for Sabbath eve. Let uspray: (Silence)


Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of theuniverse, who hast sanctified us by Thy commandments, and commanded us tokindle the Sabbath lights.

May the Sabbath-light which illumines our dwellingcause peace and happiness to shine in our home. Bless us, O God, on this holySabbath, and cause Thy divine glory to shine upon us. Enlighten our darkness andguide us [and the world] toward truth and eternal light. Amen.

Jeffrey A. SumnerAugust 22, 2010



Luke 12: 49-56


The comic strip of the cavemen pals “Frank and Ernest”is one I have enjoyed over the years. One time Frank was coming out of theircave with a club and Ernest was with him. Their faces were grim. Ernest said:“I am worried about the future all the time.” Frank says in reply, “Yeah, I’mworried all the time too. I wish we’d never invented the future tense!”  Like it or not, every one of us has afuture. There are some people who think everything in the future is in God’shands- that by God’s providence there is little we can do to change things.There are others who believe that their destiny is in their own hands and it isup to them to either sink or swim in the future. And still others believe inGod’s steady hand in bringing the future upon us, and that God wants us toprepare to face what comes our way. Today Jesus teaches his listeners to casttheir assumptions aside, and to prepare for what they see coming, not for whatthey think is coming. What was onthe first century minds when Jesus was with them?  It will sound familiar: taxes, concerns about governmentleaders, fear of changing weather conditions, anxiety about children being ableto earn a living or be matched with a good spouse when they were ready, andfearing that they didn’t have enough money for food and clothing. It is prudentfor us to listen in to their lessons from Jesus, some of which are our lessonsfor today as well.


“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish itwere already kindled!” What can our Savior mean with those words? Some havesuggested that the metaphor refers to the gospel message. What if the gospelmessage had been already kindled, that is, already lighted? As we saw in thefires of 1998 in Florida, great fires can be frightening and destructive. Somefires begin with carelessness like with a tossed match or a stove left onunattended. But other fires, like controlled burns, are started deliberately.Gasoline engine cars will not fire without a spark. Outdoor grills, whetherwood or charcoal or gas, need a spark to start. Our world, like the world ofancient Jerusalem, is filled with chaff, that is, dry leftover grain ordestructive weeds- people who are useless, destructive, or even evil. Haven’tyou known some Christian families who so damp with their zeal for Christ, solethargic, anemic, and lukewarm about their church that even a spark could notignite their passion for Jesus? Jesus, it seems to me, sees not onlycorruption, but also complacency; he sees apathy and fear. Certainly as inJudah, he could point out some stellar examples in zeal in his day as he couldin ours! But I think Jesus also sees the poor examples of discipleship in ourworld today because I see them too! You can’t get a commitment out of somepeople when it comes to Jesus no matter how hard one tries; but when it comesto other areas of interest. Commitment abounds. Jesus is ready for a fire! Heis ready for a Holy Ghost fire!One day, tragically, a long time ago, a declining church building in themiddle of a town burned to the ground.A sarcastic man in the community looked on from a distance asfirefighters battled the flames. He said to his neighbor: “Wow! I’ve never seenthat church on fire about anything!”I have pictured Christ looking on at some church services in our day fromacross the street, because he wants no part of compromised, damp, or lethargicChristianity. “What would he say if we made our commitments to him clear, andunequivocal, and fervent: “Would he say “I’ve never seen you on fire about Godbefore!” Jesus is looking for a fire, a fire in us, and he wishes it werealready started. Perhaps it is inyou.

Next he says “I have a baptism with which to bebaptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!” How does one whowas baptized for us as an example have a baptism still before him?  As those who fight for their country,or give an organ to a loved one or stranger, or give their savings to pullsomeone else out of the jaws of bankruptcy, many people “sacrifice” themselvesfor someone else. Jesus still had a sacrifice before him, an immersion intogiving life for someone else. There is another route besides sacrifice: it iscontribution. Some contribute to helping others with words like “I’ll pray foryou,” or “Give me a call if I can help.” But others say “Move over on thatcouch; I will care for and feed you and stay with you.” It is sacrificial, andsometimes it can pull a caregiver under the overwhelming flood. There is an oldstewardship message of a pig and a chicken walking down a road. They come upona family that is without food and starving. “What do you think we should doabout this?” the pig asked the chicken. “I think we should help them out,” thechicken said. “ I have eggs and you have pork! What do you say?”  To which the pig replied, I’m not sosure: if you offer eggs it’s a contribution. But if I offer pork, it’s quite asacrifice!”  Plenty are willing tooffer a contribution. But how many will sacrifice for their faith? Jesus’baptism that he faced was a metaphor for the cross. In effect he said, “I havea sacrificial death to face, and I feel its weight until it is accomplished.”This is the example of Christ. There are times we will sacrifice for our faith,and other days we just make a contribution.  “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth?”Jesus then asked his disciples, and we listen in. “I am just sure that many ofus, and perhaps three-fourths of his disciples, would answer “Yes! I do think you have come to bring peace! We call youPrince of Peace! If you are the true Messiah shouldn’t you be bringing peace?” Perhapsreading that the Messiah brings peace, as the prophets believed, was a naïveview of God breaking in to this world. If you shift your loyalty from earthlykings to the King of Kings, do you think peace will ensue instead of financialor personal consequences?  If youshift your money from giving to Caesar (like withholding taxes) to giving toGod instead, do you think it will bring peace when you are arrested for taxevasion? Jesus gives a reality check to followers: down the line, when weare safely in God’s Kingdom, there will be safety and peace and joy. Butgetting there has its price. Evenprophets of old saw the conflicts. Micah once proclaimed: “For the son treatsthe father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, and thedaughter in law against her mother in law; your enemies are members of your ownhousehold. But as for me, I will look toward the Lord, I will wait for the Godof my salvation” (7: 6-7) And Malachi, in speaking about the coming of thegreat day of the Lord says “The prophet will turn the hearts of parents totheir children and hearts of children to their parents, so that the land willnot be cursed instead.” (4:6)

Before we come out on the other side, we will gounder the deep waters; before we come out on the open meadowland, we will gothrough forests that are ablaze. Thereis a cost, a sacrifice, and a commitment to live the Christian life.


We in our day and age are blessed with Doplar radarand other modern devices that let us see clouds, tornadoes, and hurricanes asthey form. Even with modern devices and years of experience, my weathercastershave told me to take an umbrella when I didn’t need it, and they’ve told me tolook to the skies with the promise of a sunny day and I got raindrops on myface! Weather is not a perfect science, but even in Jesus day, they knew somegeneral signs that warned them to get ready. When they saw clouds forming inthe west, they could almost be assured that rain was on the way. When they felthot wind from the south, they knew that strong sirocco-like winds were on theirway. We don’t need a degree in meteorology to know the basics: if we seelightning, wise people move indoors; if our weather radios sound an alarm, wisepeople stop and listen. If we read that a hurricane is approaching, we rush outfor supplies. We can do those things. Jesus wonders if people notice and respondto weather so well, why can’t we respond to the times? I am noticing moreextreme weather, whether from God or from global warming. That means I readyfor the strange weather patterns I have seen this summer, where the Midwest wassteadily hotter than Florida for a time, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Arkansas have beenflooded, and a glacier three times the size of Manhattan has broken loose and isdrifting. Jesus says if we can see those weather signs and prepare, we shouldlearn how to read the times: is there fighting in families: check; is their waramong nations: check; is there economic meltdown: check. Isn’t it possible thatpeople should be turning to God more instead of putting God in second place? Dothe things going on in your life make you want to lean on those everlastingarms even more, or to pull away? With all that is in the headlines in our day,does it, or does it not occur to you to prepare for the time when you will meetthe Lord?  There are signseverywhere; but some people don’t even have enough sense to come out of therain.


Jeffrey A. Sumner                     August15, 2010


“Searched and Known”


You might have noticed I havestrayed off lectionary for this morning. Well at the end of July I attended aconference with a number of our youth that was called Into the Wild. Theconference was about the wilderness that each of us face in our lives everyday. During the conference we talked about the two texts I have chosen fortoday along with a number of others. I thought the lessons we learned wereimportant enough to share with all of you, hence my detour off of lectionaryfor today.

The first passage from Isaiah, was one that we talkedabout during our evening worship. I have heard this passage from Isaiah manytimes, as I’m sure have all of you. But I heard it in an entirely new wayduring the conference. I’ve always heard the voice crying in the wilderness.Haven’t you?

Well, actually, it can be read as A voice crying out.And what the voice cries out is “In the wilderness, prepare a way for theLord.” The voice isn’t in the wilderness, the one who is preparing the wayis.

Isn’t that an odd way to look at it? When we go outon a trip, we tend to prepare BEFORE we get to the wilderness. When I went onthe trip with the youth, I didn’t think about packing after we had left. No, Ipacked ahead of time (admittedly it was the night before, but it still wasahead of time.) We try to prepare before we get to the wilderness.

Yet this voice tells us to prepare in the wilderness.Why? Because we are already in that wilderness. Look around at the world. Welive in a deep wilderness. Wilderness is a word used many times in the Bible.It is meant to be a place without rules, a place away from others. Peoplefrequently are traveling there to flee God. Or to speak to God. But it is aprevalent place.

The wilderness is full of the dark places in ourlives. The untamed. The place where unexpected things happen. We all have ourown wilderness that we have dealt with. Or maybe you’re dealing with yours now.A fight with a trusted family member that has gotten out of hand. A strugglewith an addiction. A loss of employment. The breaking down of an importantrelationship in your life. These are our wildernesses. It isn’t all jungle andwild animals.

That’s why the voice tells us that we have to preparein the wilderness. We are all in the wilderness! If we waited until we wereback to a place of safety to prepare away for the Lord, nothing would get done.No one would be able to prepare. Instead we are called to prepare a way for theLord in the mess of our lives. Not when things get calmer. Not when jobs areworked out. Now. In the mess of our lives today, we are called to prepare.

And what are we preparing? We are preparing a way forthe Lord. The Lord will come in glory and rule in our lives.

Not an easy thing to think about. After all, when we aredeep in the wilderness, we don’t necessarily want to share those experienceswith anyone, do we? When we are feeling shamed by what has happened, orembarrassed by our actions to try to solve it. We are a people ofself-reliance. We want to deal with the wilderness by ourselves and not showthe flaws to others.

There’s one small problem with that, which we see inPsalm 139. God already knows. God is with us in that wilderness and God knowsour pain. God knew us before we were born and knows the layout of our days. Godknows the deep secrets we try to hide in our wildernesses. Isaiah is talkingabout listening to God in turn in his passage. Paying attention to God in God’sglory instead of turning away and trying to ignore God’s presence. We can’tkeep God out, the Psalmist talks about that. But we can and do pretend that Godis not present.

I ran across a delightful video on youtube this pastweek by Wendy Francisco. The lyrics begin: “I look up and I see GoD, Ilook down and see my dog. They would stay with me all day. I’m the one whowalks away. But both of them just wait for me and dance at my return with glee.Both love me no matter what, divine God and canine mutt.” The song goesone from there, and I really recommend watching it. But for a God whoseknowledge is too wonderful for me” looking at a beloved dog helps our minds tounderstand God’s enduring love. God is always with us, but we sometimes pushGod away. Forget that God is there.

Why do we do this? Well, it’s not an entirelycomforting thought is it? I mean, there is the joy and delight in knowing thatno matter what happens, we are never ever alone. And there is the shame and theworry that no matter what happens, we are never ever alone. Everyone hassecrets they don’t want to share with anyone. Ones that we just want to beburied. But God already knows those. God knows our inmost thoughts so God knowswhat spurred us into doing them.

By pretending that they are hidden from God, allwe’re doing is holding onto that shame and fears by ourselves. When God iswaiting to help us in the wild, we try to forge ahead, all on our own. Turningback to God, eases the journey. Allows us to be loved and known, even in thedark places.

God knows us. What an awesome thought! One of thebiggest causes of loneliness is the fear that no one really knows you. But Goddoes. You can be completely yourself with God.

That doesn’t mean that its okay to continue with thesins you’ve been hiding because God already knows. By turning back to God, weare loved and embraced, but we also have to acknowledge the wrongs we havedone. God knows you and loves you, but like anyone in love, God wants what’sbest for you. God wants you to grow beyond the limited space you have allowedyourself. God wants you be the best you, you can be. And God knows who that is.

One of my favorite lines in the whole Bible comes inthis Psalm “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” What a richthought.

We are fearfully made because God has created us andnot we ourselves. We are finite, limited; that knowledge stirs up fear. We havethe capacity for making choices, but we cannot choose what the outcomes willbe; and that stirs up fear. We can imagine a life with no sin, but we discoverwe are powerless to achieve that life. The gap between what we imagine forourselves and our reality stirs up fear.

We are wonderfully made because we have a uniquecapacity for wonder, prayer, song, friendship, love and redemption. We areremarkable creations who in turn can create. That balances out the fear of oursinful selves.

Yes, God is all knowing. Yes, God is all powerful.And on top of that, God is creative. You are a marvelous expression of God’spower and knowledge. We learn this from the creation account in Genesis, whereafter forming humankind, God said it was very good. You are an expression asHis masterpiece – a living expression of the creativity of God.

For Middle Schoolers I think this Psalm is valuableto hear. God knows and loves your strange and awkward self. Every middleschooler feels they don’t fit in at some point. But they always have a placewith God. As I listened to this Psalm again with fresh ears, I realized that itisn’t just middle schoolers who can benefit from looking more closely at thesewords.

We all feel like we don’t fit. We all forget that weare fearfully and wonderfully made and instead feel strange and awkward. We allhave deep secrets that we think no one else can know. We don’t remember thatGod knows all of us. We all need to hear the comforting words of the Psalmisthere.

For all of us do have our own wilderness to getthrough. Our own dark times. Yet we can take comfort in the fact that no matterhow dark the times are, God is wit
h us. Nowhere we can go and nothing we can docan separate us from the love of God. God has searched us and knows us. Godmade us just as we are and God loves us! Even in the depths of the wilderness,God is with us. Amen.

Rev. Cara Gee

August 1st, 2010