Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dark Night of Abram's Soul - Genesis 15

The Dark Night of Abram’s Soul

Genesis 15:1-21
I am told the words, Do not be afraid, appear some 365 times in the Bible (R.Rohr). That is one reminder for each and everyday of the year, except when we have a leap one day this year, this month in fact, you can fear. The rest of the days, do not be afraid!!   

Slide: I like how F. Buechner says it: "Here is the world, terrible and beautiful things will happen. Don’t be afraid."
Easier said than done.

As we continue along our Lenten journey, I have encouraged members of my household, especially the two little ones and myself to give up for lent: Freaking out!

It’s funny the images and especially the songs which come to mind as I cobble together my sermons. Last week, It was devil went down to Georgia.
This week: Aw Freak out:
"All that pressure, Got you down.
Has your head spinning all around"
"Freak out."

No, this Lent I tell the kids and myself Don’t Freak Out! Lent is a period where we recognize our need for God, and in new ways discover how we might become closer to God and to others.
By not Freaking out! we are more pleasant to be around so others might care to be around us. And we are demonstrating a dependence on God, again, easier said than done...
Because we "aww freak out!"  

Why do we freak out?
Any number of reasons: In Star Wars: the Force Awakens, Kylo Ren kind of freaked out on several occasions when he received bad news! I freak out when I’m hungry--hangry moments?  And when I’m tired, and when I’m not getting my way, and when I’m disappointed. when I’m afraid, when I’m  fill in the blank:
In our passage from Genesis 15 we catch Abram, soon to be father of our faith Abraham, is kind of freaking out.
Why? He’s disappointed. He fears for his future.  He's losing his patience.

We can probably relate to this, but if we’re honest many,  if not most of our disappointments have come from unrealistic expectations we’ve set for ourselves. Why were we hoping for that outcome in the first place?  Had we consulted God before we set that expectation? or was it something we just felt like we deserved?

But for Abram, it was different than from most of us, because, at least according to the story in the bible, his expectation had actually been promised to him by the LORD--directly.
In Genesis chapter 12, the Lord tells him countless offspring!
Yet, many years pass and as Abram sees it,
he had been given no offspring---....except for his child born of his slave and foreigner--
Side note: here we see evidence of the prejudice of our forefathers all the way back to father Abram.  A sin we’re still trying to overcome...
So, because the Lord had promised and not yet fulfilled:
Slide: On a starry evening
Star, Sky, Graphic, Night,
Abram kind of freaks out.
Using his personal direct line to God--
which most clergy have of course --
He has this conversation, if we can call it that.
Abram questions…
God responds: “Do not be afraid!”
But, promised!
“Here we go again,” says the patient Lord.  
Abram, go outside and count the stars, that’s how many your offspring will be…..
I wonder if this was kind of a trick God used to get Abram to fall asleep when Abram started freaking out. Like counting sheep.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Free From Worry

Free from Worry- From despair comes hope
Have you ever been tempted to make a deal with the devil? How’d that work out for you?
Tales of dealings with the Devil have long been part of the human experience. In contemporary lore, the devil shows up in cartoons- like the one the girls were watching the other day which had a cute little dog who was conflicted about making a choice.. one option would benefit just him. the other would be good for all his friends...
and then poof above one shoulder appears a little angel with a halo and
poof above the other shoulder a little talking devil with horns
both trying to persuade him on the choice...
SLIDE: Me and the Devil blues
There are popular plays like, "heaven bound" which tours year after year depicting a devil who is trying his darnedest to cause people to make choices that will prevent them from going to heaven...
The devil shows up in all kinds of music. Of course, growing up going the the laser show at Stone Mountain, one of my favorite stories is told by the Charlie Daniel's band:
"the devil went down to Georgia,"
He was lookin' for a soul to steal.
He was in a bind 'cause he was way behind. He was willing to make a deal
When he came across this young man sawin' on a fiddle and playin' it hot.
And the Devil jumped upon a hickory stump and said "Boy, let me tell you what."
The boy said, "My name's Johnny, and it might be a sin,
But I'll take your bet; and you're gonna regret 'cause I'm the best there's ever been."
Johnny, rosin up your bow and play your fiddle hard.
'Cause Hell's broke loose in Georgia and the Devil deals the cards.
And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold,
But if you lose the devil gets your soul."

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mountain Top Experience

Commerce Presbyterian Church, GA
Luke 9:28-36
The Mt. Taylor Quadrathlon:
Some of you may recall me mentioning my adventures from years ago that came around this time of year in New Mexico.
the focal point was a high one. Mount Taylor,  a volcano just northeast of the small old mining town of Grants.[3]
This mountain is the high point of the San Mateo Mountains[a].
Commonly called Taylor for president Zachary Taylor. It bears many names.
For the Spanish who reside in NM It is called Cebolleta which means tender onion.
And the Navajo, who have resided in the land well before Spain or the United States the mountain is--TsoodziƂ, the turquoise mountain, one of the four sacred mountains marking the cardinal directions and the boundaries of the Dinetah, the traditional Navajo homeland.
The mountain is also sacred to the Acoma, Hopi, Laguna and Zuni people.
Mt. Taylor, Cebolleta, Tsoodzil is an impressive 11,301 feet above sea level.  

I feel blessed to have been able to experience the sacredness of this mountain namely through an epic event called the Mt. Taylor quadrathlon.

I competed 4 consecutive years as a soloist.

At the 7 am start, it is well below freezing. The gunshot echoes through the crisp air and the pack begins a 13 mile summit on bicycles. Then, bikes are dropped and we run walk crawl 5 miles, after which we strap on cross country skis and enter the forest,
Finally, a mile from the top we drop our skis and strap on snowshoes for the final ascent.  

So, picture this. It’s February. A snow capped mountain. Well above the tree line. From the top in every direction you can see for miles, and miles and miles and miles and miles...oh yeah,. It is spectacular! You have covered a distance of 21 miles after a 5000 foot ascent.
There is a humble table with frozen water, also called ice, in tiny paper cups.
Every inclination is to stay put. To pause. To stop and bask in the glory that is all around.  
It is transcendent in so many ways.  it is almost as if time stands still.
It is so good to be there,  
But, if you stop, the volunteer, with ice icicles hanging from his nose and beard musters a
“Good job, keep going! you’re half way!”  
Fellow competitors are just ahead, and are coming from behind.
fighting every urge to stay there, even for just a few moments, eventually you have to descend back into the valley.

Mountain top experiences are amazing spiritual experiences.
We experience them physically, when we accomplish great feats, from climbing Stone Mountain--or Rabun Bald.  
Everest--ehh. I’ll leave that to the fanatics :).
Mountain top experiences can happen in a spiritual sense as well.  
When you experience true forgiveness,
when you are wrapped up in the energy and love of someone close to you,
when you are jamming to music that can speak deeply to your soul.
When you experience the birth of new grandbabies
When you finish a meaningful project
When you find purpose once again
Mountain top experiences can happen in silence, and in prayer…
a high like nothing you’ve ever felt before.