I cannot believe it is May 31st! Where did the spring go?????
Next Sunday is Children’s Day, so today was Choir Sunday. We started this little tradition last year. I noticed in my previous years at RCC that the choir would sing on Children’s Day, but the focus was always the Church School and they never really got recognized the way they should. So we decided to dedicate a Sunday to celebrating their ministry before breaking for the summer. Our choir has grown SO much this year. They have challenged themselves, grown in size and really brough so much life to our worship services. Today we had wonderful music (there was percussion!) and were able to celebrate the incredible music ministry at the church.
Here is this morning’s sermon!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
May 31, 2015
The Mystery of the Commas Revealed
What’s with all the commas on the walls? Wait, are they commas or are they apostrophes? Why do we have 9’s all over the church? You thought they were 9’s? I thought they were upside down 6’s! Is this a permanent thing? Wait a minute; did the Trustees approve this?
Let’s back up a little bit, shall we?
A few months ago, I Was teaching the confirmation class about our church – the Rehoboth Congregational Church – and the denomination that we are a part of – the United Church of Christ. In particular, as I was talking about what the UCC believes, I referenced a campaign that they had launched several years ago: God is Still Speaking.
Fueled by a quote from the late comedian, Gracie Allen, “Never place a period where God has placed a comma,” the United Church of Christ began to encourage people to look for the ways that God was still speaking (get it?) in their lives. The signature logo for this campaign is – I am sure you can guess at this point – a comma.
About a week after our class, Mike Sullivan-Silva (one of the mentors who has been part of the confirmation program for several years and has heard that particular lecture several times) came into my office. He said he had been thinking about what it means to live out the truth that God is still speaking and wanted to know about the ways that other people heard God speaking in their lives.
So we started a mini experiment.
Mike has been stopping by the church at strange times of the day and night and placing commas at various points throughout the building. The point was never to create something or change anything; simply to start conversations. What comes after that comma? What comes after the comma in our lives, in our faith and in our church?
See here is the thing: For far too long, we, as Christians, have just assumed that the bible was a closed book. More often than not, people believed that God had spoken words of scripture thousands of years before and it was our job to make our lives fit into the interpretations and the structures that were already put in place. Rather than hearing something new spoken, we thought our lives and our churches were supposed to fit into something that had already been spoken.
But what if, in our own lives, we are being called to do something new? What if something new is being spoken in our generation? What if God is still as hard at work in our lives as God was in the lives of Abraham and Moses?
“God is still speaking” implies that something new is always happening, that God never stopped speaking along the way and that God has a special plan for each and every one of us, today, in our lives. “God is still speaking” means that the bible is an open book; that ancient scriptures can still be interpreted in meaningful, relevant and accessible ways. “God is still speaking” empowers all of us to listen to what God is calling us to do in our lives today; to forge ahead on paths that may not already be travelled and to believe that God is carefully guiding us along our journey through life. “God is still speaking” reminds us that we are part of the Christian story that is still being written – God is still writing this story.
This morning’s scripture reading comes from the Old Testament, from the Book of Isaiah. The passage we heard was the commissioning of the Prophet Isaiah. The scene had been clearly set in the five chapters leading up to this passage: Jerusalem was in trouble, people were struggling, nations were at war with one another, communities had turned their focus away from God and exile was on the horizon.
And this is when God called Isaiah.
Angels – or “seraphs” as they were referred to in scripture – were flying above Isaiah. One of them touched Isaiah’s mouth with a piece of coal that had been taken from the altar as a way of cleansing him. Then Isaiah heard God calling out, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And Isaiah said, “Here am I; send me!”
First of all, let’s talk about the really cool part of this story. This story is scriptural proof that it does not matter how big of a mess we humans have gotten ourselves into – we as individuals or we as a community – God will still come into our midst and help us figure it out.
Israel was a hot mess; and God called a prophet to be with them. God called Isaiah to speak to Israel; to comfort them in their time of need, to gently (and sometimes not so gently) remind them to turn back to God and to work with them as they tried to make their nation whole again.
Isn’t that cool? We do not need to be perfect in order for God to come save us. In fact, time and time again, scripture shows that God often shows up to help in the midst of the most dysfunctional chaos. There truly are no lost causes.
And do you know what? We do not even have to take the bible and figure things out on our own, either! God is still speaking in our midst to help us every step of the journey. God spoke to Samuel and God speaks to us. It’s sort of like: Instead of having an instruction manual that tells us what to do that we have to figure out, we have Google or Siri that we can ask questions to and that speaks back to us and specifically to our needs as well.
God never stopped speaking; thousands of years later there is still so much that is still yet to be revealed.
Let’s look at Isaiah.
Isaiah was not born a prophet – he was an ordinary person like any one of us. Scripture quotes him saying:
Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.
In other words, Isaiah was an imperfect man, who lived in a real community and fell to human temptations just like any of us would.
But you know what? It was at this point that God came to him. And God spoke to him. And God called him to do extraordinary things. And I truly believe that the same thing is happening within our lives today.
Our lives have a tendency to get discombobulated at times. We are not perfect. We generally have the best of intentions, but there are times in our lives when – like it happened in Israel – things are out of our control and we just cannot fix them by ourselves.
But these are the moments when God sends us those angels. These are the moments when our lips are made clean, when our sins are blotted out and when our lives are made whole. These are the moments when God speaks to us.
And these are the moments when we are called to say, “Here am I; send me!”
Our lives were not just meant to be lived; our lives where meant to be lived with meaning. We need to remember that our God is a God that is still speaking in our lives and in our faith and in our church. Our still speaking God is calling us to do a new and unique thing. Our still speaking God wants us to live into what we are being called to do, not simply what past generations were called to do. Our still speaking God is breathing life into our faith and creating inspiration in our lives. Our still speaking God is sending angels to surround us, to hold us, to give us wisdom and to make us whole.
The Christian faith is not a story that has happened; the Christian faith is a story that is still happening – and we are apart of it. God is with us and is speaking to us in our lives – and in this church – as this story continues to be written.
Thanks be to God!