Monday, August 10, 2020

A Battered Boat-- sermon from 8-9-20

Yesterday's sermon was "A Battered Boat" from Matthew 14:22-33.  I realize that the topic of walking on water could have been preached or even something about Jesus making time to get away from it all after mission and ministry to pray.  There are other themes in this passage as well. However, when I read through the Scriptures over a month ago and reflected, it was the battered boat from verse 24 that struck me.  

Like many folks, life has had its challenges, on many levels.

But Friday night, the sermon really hit home for me.

I went into the kitchen to plug in my phone for the night.  Cliff (our sweet dog) and Charlie (our son) were in the living room.  I decided to turn off all the lights as I headed back to the bedroom.  With my water bottle in hand, I head out of the kitchen and into the dining room.  The next thing I knew was that I tripped over Cliff (who had not previously been there) and was flying through the air toward the corner.  I landed on my knees on the hard wood floors with a loud bang.  I didn't move for a while.  I wondered about my prosthetic in my left leg/hip area.  I felt stuck to the floor.  I was finally able to turn over to sit up and Charlie lifted me up.  I was able to walk, stiffly.  My left knee was more skinned up than my right one.  I iced both knees that night.  I hiked on Saturday, gentle hikes.  My left knee swelled up some and then yesterday my right hip began hurting.  Evidently that hard fall did more damage that I realized.  Though I am due for a 2nd hip replacement on the right side, I am hoping to hold off a tad longer.  A song I mention in the sermon is "The Anchor Holds".  The refrain has these lyrics "I fall down on my knees".  Really!?!?!  Now, I realize that this falling down on one's knees is to be in prayer.  However, I tend to do things differently.  I fell down on my knees, for sure.  I experienced a physical battering of this vessel.

There were some other layers to me experiencing skinned knees and the pain that it caused Friday night that struck me unexpectedly.  I will only say here that it continues to amaze me when I walk the path with others, I sometimes really walk the path.  

I made a mistake in the Order of Worship for yesterday, leaving off the prelude.  It was a beautiful prelude and can be heard/seen in the YouTube video.

As I reflected on the theme of battered boats over the week, I thought about the boats I once saw on the shore of the beach at New Smyrna Beach one summer.  They were tiny little boats that has washed ashore.  One didn't know if the passengers had been picked up by the Coast Guard or if they had made it to shore.  But there were several boats along the shore that year we visited the beach.  What a difficult journey that was for those folks.  That makes me think of the song "navegue con amor" by Jose LaTour.

That's enough rabbit trails and randomness for one post.  Below you will find the transcript of the sermon and links for the YouTube service and SoundCloud audio.

Peace and adventures, 

Rev. Deb

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“A Battered Boat” 

Matthew 14:22-33 (CEB)

August 9, 2020 (10th Sunday after Pentecost)

St. Elmo UMC (FB Live)

Matthew 14:22-33 (CEB)

22 Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. 23 When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. 24 Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. 25 Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed.

27 Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”

29 And Jesus said, “Come.”

Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!”

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind settled down.

33 Then those in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!”

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THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.

THANKS BE TO GOD.

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A battered boat.  The title comes from verse 24: “Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land.”

Do you ever feel battered? I mean emotionally, spiritually, by life’s circumstances?

That word can be triggering, I recognize…. As there can be physical battering, along with emotional abuse by a person.  If you are experiencing this type of battering, abuse, call the Partnership for Families, Children, and Adults hotline at 423-755-2700.

There is freedom and healing from all aspects of battering.

We will look more at the concept of the battered boat, but let’s go back and put the passage into context.

What happened directly prior to today’s reading is that the crowd of hungry folks were fed by Jesus and the disciples, with the 5 loaves of bread and two fish.  After everyone had been fed and the leftovers collected, we see Jesus making the disciples go ahead of him to the other side of the lake while he dismisses the crowd.

Note what Jesus did.  He went up onto a mountain to pray by himself.  Time apart.  Refilling time.  As we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, how is our time apart?  Our time of getting alone, going to the mountain (or wherever it may be) and spending time in prayerful communication?

Notice that while Jesus was having his time apart, his prayer time, all hell was breaking out with the disciples and the boat (from verse 24, where the title originated).

Even so, Jesus waited until morning and walked out on the lake to the disciples in the boat.  They were terrified when they saw him (v. 26)  The last part of the verse says that they were so frightened they screamed.

Jesus responds the same way he does any time someone shows fear around him. He encourages them to not be afraid.  I seriously get a kick out of this.  Whether he’s busting in through a locked door or walking across the water, Jesus tells frightened folks to “be not afraid”.  I’m not so sure that encouragement, that exhortation works fully in a moment of panic and fear.  But I am tempted to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and try that next time I’m in a situation with folks who are afraid.

Battered…. illnesses, broken bones, COVID-19, loneliness, the past, etc.  What IS it that batters you? 

No matter what batters us, we are not alone.  We have connections.  A few weeks ago when I was down at the Riverpoint at the Riverwalk, I took pictures of the spider web playground.  They caught my attention that day.  They reminded me that we are connected and we all have a spider web of connections to hold us together when we are tired, coming apart, etc.

Another way to think about getting through difficult times it to remember that “The anchor holds”  Are you familiar with this song?  It was originally written by Lawrence Chewning and has been performed by several others, including Ray Boltz. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxnQzwrF4OU

Here are the lyrics: https://lawrencechewning.com/the-anchor-holds

I have journeyed 

Through the long, dark night 
Out on the open sea 

By faith alone 
Sight unknown 
And yet His eyes were watching me 

The anchor holds 
Though the ship is battered 
The anchor holds 
Though the sails are torn 

I have fallen on my knees 
As I faced the raging seas 
The anchor holds 
In spite of the storm 

I've had visions 
I've had dreams 
I've even held them in my hand

But I never knew 
They would slip right through 
Like they were only grains of sand 

The anchor holds 
Though the ship is battered 
The anchor holds 
Though the sails are torn 

I have fallen on my knees 
As I faced the raging seas 
The anchor holds 
In spite of the storm 

I have been young 
But I am older now 
And there has been beauty 
That these eyes have seen 

But it was in the night 
Through the storms of my life 
Oh, that's where God proved 
His love to me 

The anchor holds 
Though the ship is battered 
The anchor holds 
Though the sails are torn 

I have fallen on my knees 
As I faced the raging seas 
The anchor holds 
In spite of the storm

Today’s passage has so much more we could discuss…. Walking on water…. Being afraid of seeing Jesus in an unexpected place… Jesus not coming to in the moment of our need (as we see it)…. Making time for that time apart and making it a priority NO MATTER WHAT ELSE IS CALLING FOR OUR ATTENTION.

As you read today’s passage, what stands out to you?  Where do you find yourself in the passage?  What speaks most to you?

As I have focused today on the “battered boat”, know that I believe that it is possible for the boat to be repaired; just as it is possible to us to receive healing and to grow and to go through transformation…. NO MATTER WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN OUR LIVES OR NO MATTER WHAT IS HAPPENING CURRENTLY.

Healing comes through grace and love.  Remember the word “sozo” that I’ve mentioned in the past?  Remember that it means both “healing” and “salvation”?  Therefore, not only does healing come through grace and love, but salvation also comes through grace and love.  The Holy Spirit works in us, as we are open and willing, on this ongoing journey of transformation.

Whatever storms you are facing, remember that you are not alone.  Reach out to someone.  We are in this together.

Amen.

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YouTube Video:

SoundCloud Audio

Monday, August 3, 2020

Wrestling With God-- sermon for 8-2-20


Wrestling With God.

One never knows (at least I don't) how God is going to move in and through a sermon.  What I have learned over the years and definitely through this pandemic time is this:  the word reads me, lives in me, makes its way out of me.  These words just don't appear on paper nor do they just flow out of my mouth.  The Holy Spirit definitely has a part in the weekly process.  I wouldn't want it any other way.

Below you will find the transcript to the sermon, the YouTube link of the service and the SoundCloud link of the sermon.

You will also find a link to Steve Garnaas-Holmes' words from last week on the topic.

May there be growth, healing, and transformation along your path.

Rev. Deb
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“Wrestling With God” 
Genesis 32:22-31 (CEB)
August 2, 2020 (9th Sunday after Pentecost)
St. Elmo UMC (FB Live)

Genesis 32:22-31 (CEB)
22 Jacob got up during the night, took his two wives, his two women servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed the Jabbok River’s shallow water. 23 He took them and everything that belonged to him, and he helped them cross the river. 24 But Jacob stayed apart by himself, and a man wrestled with him until dawn broke. 25 When the man saw that he couldn’t defeat Jacob, he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and tore a muscle in Jacob’s thigh as he wrestled with him. 26 The man said, “Let me go because the dawn is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.”
27 He said to Jacob, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.”
29 Jacob also asked and said, “Tell me your name.”
But he said, “Why do you ask for my name?” and he blessed Jacob there. 30 Jacob named the place Peniel, “because I’ve seen God face-to-face, and my life has been saved.” 31 The sun rose as Jacob passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh.”
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THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
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Wrestling with God.

What would that be like?

Some of you may have wrestled in high school and/or college and you know exactly what that is like.

All I know about wrestling is what I learned from my two younger brothers and leg wrestling from band camp days. 

Wrestling with God after something is broken.  OUCH!

How many of us know the pain of a broken bone or a pulled muscle, ligament, or tendon?

How many of us have needed to walk with the assistance of crutches, a walker, or even use a wheelchair, or a knee roller?

Now, imagine being in a situation where you are in pain, hurt, yet you don’t let go because you want that something more, that blessing?

Can you imagine telling God you’re not going to let go until you get to that point?!?!  That’s what Jacob did.  Jacob was not going to let go of God until he got what he was after, the blessing.

After Jacob asks for the blessing, God answers Jacob with a question in verse 27: “What’s your name?”

 Is it odd that God asks Jacob his name?  Doesn’t God already know Jacob’s name?  Why would God ask Jacob his name and why at this point?

Notice Jacob’s response.  He answers simply, giving his name.  He doesn’t question God asking his name.  He doesn’t question why a blessing wasn’t given rather than a question.

Upon hearing Jacob’s name, God responds thus: “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.”

The renaming of Jacob to Israel can be seen as a a blessing, as names have significance.  In this case, “The new name ישראל “Israel” is a combination of the verb ש.ר.ה, “to strive with,” and a designation for God, אל.[’el’] The passage uniquely describes a person successfully battling God or his messenger.”
After Jacob receives his new name, Israel, he asks of the one with whom he had wrestled, “Tell me your name.”  However, this was not directly answered either, but rather answered with another question: “Why do you ask me for my name?”  With that question asked, God blesses Jacob/Israel.  Jacob/Israel names the spot “Peniel” because it means having seen God face-to-face.  As he traveled on, he traveled with a limp, because of his thigh.  He wasn’t going to quickly forget this encounter.
It had changed him, significantly. 
What we didn’t start out with was the back story.  Let’s go back and take a look at that.  Where was Jacob going? 
Jacob was on his way back to meet his brother Esau, to make amends with him.  You may remember the encounter where Jacob fraudulently stole Esau’s birthright from him.  There was some fear and trepidation, rightly so, in Jacob going to meet his brother.
Before he gets to his brother, he has this encounter with God that leaves him limping, humbled, broken, yet with a blessing from God.  Changed, in other words.  Transformed.  Jacob is now Israel and is changed in more ways than name only.
Think, for a moment, about the spiritual and emotional struggles that plagued Jacob all those years after having deceived his brother. 
Think about the experience of wrestling with God and not letting go until he got what he wanted out of it, even though he was injured in the process.
Jacob/Israel left that place limping.  He would be serving God from there on out with a limp.  That limp would be a reminder that he had met God face-to-face and was given a new name.  Even with the limp, Jacob/Israel was going to be able to listen to God, to follow God, and to serve God.
Have you had spiritual struggles?  Emotional struggles?  Mental struggles?  Have you wrestled with God? 
How has it felt to wrestle?  Have you wanted to not let go until you get your answer(s)? 
I get it.  Like Jacob, there are times when we find ourselves wrestling with God, for whatever reason.  Whether we are seeking an answer for a situation, whether it is a situation that concerns us, whether it is a loved one in our thoughts.  We can all likely recall at least one wrestling session with God.
Whatever the situation, like Jacob, it changed us in some way.
We recognize that wrestling isn’t safe.  Something can get broken.  Yet, we also understand that it changes us.

Jacob's all night wrestling match with God reminds us it isn’t always safe.  We might walk away with a limp as a reminder we are not able to fully rely on our own strength.

We might also walk away with our true identity because we stayed in the match, like Jacob, until the end.

Wrestling with God produces change, a transformation. 

It isn’t the only way for change, transformation, and growth.

But it IS one way.

If you have experienced wrestling, know this:  it’s okay.  It’s okay to wrestle with God.  It’s okay to struggle. 

We all have our struggles.  With God and with other things.

Remember that the butterfly has to struggle to get out of the cocoon.  While in there, the caterpillar has transformed in the dark to become a butterfly.  Yet, the transformation isn’t over just yet.  The wings must break through the cocoon.  Then, the wings must dry before the butterfly can fly. 

Throughout this pandemic time, I have shared that I have felt like I have gone through several transformations and have been growing and changing.  There have been some wrestling sessions.

If you are wrestling with God, you are not alone.  Reach out to someone.  Talk with someone.  Share the struggles, the changes, the transformation.  And, if you have received a blessing from your wrestling, share that too.

May we continue to grow as disciples of Christ who share the love and light of Christ with others.


Amen.
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YouTube Video of Service:


SoundCloud Link of Sermon

Steve Garnaas-Holmes on "Wrestling"

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Spirit Groans-- sermon from July 26


This sermon was about how the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf when we don't have words to express.  The word "groans" is used in some translations, while the Passion Translation puts it this way: "emotional sighs too deep for words".    There are times when words don't come.  It's perfectly fine to not have words.  In our silence, there is understanding and communication. 

Even sometimes when we are with others, there are no words.  There can be understanding and communication in the silence.

Below is the transcript of the sermon, the YouTube link to the service, and the SoundCloud audio link. 

After preaching the sermon, I was reminded of a contemporary song as I re-read the words "no matter the challenge, no matter the loss".  I will post that song too.

Maybe there is something here that encourages you.

Rev. Deb

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“The Spirit Groans” 
Romans 8:26-39 (CEB)
July 26, 2020 (8th Sunday after Pentecost)
St. Elmo UMC (FB Live)

Romans 8: 26-39 (CEB)

26 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. 27 The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. 28 We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son. That way his Son would be the first of many brothers and sisters. 30 Those who God decided in advance would be conformed to his Son, he also called. Those whom he called, he also made righteous. Those whom he made righteous, he also glorified.  31 So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him?  33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them. 34 Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us.
35 Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
We are being put to death all day long for your sake.
    We are treated like sheep for slaughter.
37 But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. 38 I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.
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THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
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The Spirit groans.  The title for today’s message comes from the first verse in today’s passage, verse 26 which states that when we don’t have words or don’t know how to pray, the Spirit prays on our behalf with wordless or unexpressed groans.

We do not have to have words when we pray.  We can simply sit with our joy, our pain, whatever the situation may be.  Words are not wrong, but we don’t have to conjure them up.  The Spirit fills in the spaces for us.  With groans.  Unexpressed and wordless groans.

In the Passion Translation, it is stated thus in verse 26 for the word “groans”: ‘emotional sighs too deep for words.’

In the Greek, the word for groans or groanings is “stenagmos” This word is only found 2x in the Scriptures, with the other instance being found in Acts 7:34, where the story of God speaking to Moses is relayed by Stephen to the Sanhedrin. “I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt.  I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free.  Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.” (NIV)

What we recognize from this is that both people and the Holy Spirit groan with unexpressed words, emotional sighs too deep for words and that when we do so, God hears us and responds.

As we look into this passage, it can encourage us as we read these words: NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST JESUS (verse 38).

These words come after verse 35 that asks the question: “Who will separate us from Christ’s love?”

In between the question and the answer are the following situations in verse 35:
**Trouble, distress, harassment, famine, nakedness, danger, sword**
In other versions you will read hardship for trouble and persecution for harassment.
In The Message, verse 35 reads this way: “Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us?  There is no way!  Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture.”

Have you experienced any of the situations mentioned in any of the versions read for verse 35?  If not, what situation would you list?

We are still facing the challenges of a world-wide pandemic.  We are still working to root out racism.  We are working to create brave spaces where we can talk about these things, along with mental health and our spiritual growth.  We face challenges of grief, kids going back to school, physical healing, etc.

What IS your challenge (or challenges)?

Whatever the challenge or situation may be, it still can NOT keep you from God’s love in Christ Jesus.  Let that soak in for a moment. 

No matter the challenge, no matter the loss, we are NOT separated from God’s love. 

Does that bring you hope?  Peace?  Comfort? 

Going back to the first part of the passage--during our challenging situations, when we don’t have the words to say, remember that the Spirit intercedes for us and groans, sighs on our behalf.

That, too, can bring hope, peace, and comfort as we recognize that we don’t have to have all the answers.  That we can rest in the mystery of unknowing and trust God.

I have a small booklet entitled “Listening to the Groans: A Spirituality for Ministry and Mission” written by Trevor Hudson with Stephen Bryant.  Trevor Hudson is a teacher, retreat leader, and pastor from South Africa.  In this booklet he challenges us to listen to the groans of creation, the world, those within ourselves, within our communities.  As we listen with intention, we can become agents of healing.

“As we listen to these groans we are led to a deeper faithfulness, both in our personal discipleship and in our life together as God’s people.  When we listen to the groans, we begin to have a much clearer understanding of how we can participate in God’s wonderful dream for the mending of our broken world.” (17-18)

Just as the Spirit hears our wordless prayers and intercedes for us, Hudson tells us that “it is often when we come to the end of words that true ministry begins.  This is the moment when we begin to listen to the groans.  Sometimes, we will need to listen very carefully.  The groans of those who suffer deeply can often be disguised.” (23)

We all have the opportunity to listen deeply to others.  Whether we call someone up, set up a free ZOOM, do a FB video chat, text, send a note or a card, or meet outdoors for a socially distanced coffee or meal—we can engage in deep listening to another and offer that space of grace.

Hudson exhorts us in this listening: “It is crucial that, in our life together, we listen deeply to each other’s stories of pain and grief.  In this way we become for each other what Christ was for the world: the place and the means where the pain of our land can be focused and concentrated and held in God’s healing presence.  And in this way we participate in God’s overarching purpose of bringing healing to the world.” (31)

Who do you need to call, to write?  Who can you reach out to?  Has the Spirit placed anyone on your heart or mind? 

Maybe you yourself need someone to listen to you.  Will you be vulnerable and courageous enough to let someone know? 

Though we don’t see each other face to face on a weekly basis, we ARE a faith community.  We gather virtually each week to worship.  Some gather in other ways. 

How are we helping each other grow as disciples of Christ? 

How are we listening deeply to the needs of one another?

How are we reminding one another that God’s love can not be taken away from us?

How are we being the body of Christ?

While we may not have answers to these questions or to the many challenges we face daily, remember that the Spirit intercedes for us with deep sighs and groans.

May we attempt to listen deeply to know how we are to respond as followers of Christ who seek to grow.


Amen.


LINKS:

YouTube Service:


SoundCloud Audio


Flawless by MercyMe:


Completely Known-- sermon from July 19


I enjoy preaching the Psalms.

I especially enjoy being able to preach a Psalm that is meaningful to me.

Psalm 139 is one of those Psalms.

I used the New Living Translation for this one.

Below you will find links to the entire service, the SoundCloud audio, a reading of The Runaway Bunny (mentioned and read in the sermon).

Maybe there is something to encourage you along your faith journey.

Peace,

Rev. Deb
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“Completely Known” 
Psalm 139 (NLT)
July 19, 2020 (7th Sunday after Pentecost)
St. Elmo UMC (FB Live)

Psalm 139 (NLT)

Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!
I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night-
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!
19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
    Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
    your enemies misuse your name.
21 Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
    Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
    for your enemies are my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
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THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
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Completely known.  As I read through Psalm 139, this is what comes to my mind.  I am completely known by the One who created me. 

Being “completely known”—how does that feel?

Do those words strike fear?  Bring comfort?  Or a little bit of both?  It may depend on who completely knows us, right?

Who CAN completely know us when we don’t really completely know ourselves?

What does it mean to be completely known?

How does it feel to be completely known?

Today’s Scripture gives us an idea of what it means and how it feels to be completely known, doesn’t it?  What can we glean from it?

Let’s take a closer look.
Verse 1 acknowledges that our hearts have been examined.  Our inner most part is known.

Verses 2 and 3 let us know that we are known regardless of what we are doing or where we are. 

Verse 7 acknowledges that we might desire or attempt to flee and hide.  “Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your Presence?” (NIV)  To run, to flee, to hide--that is natural.  Yet the One who created us, knows us well.  We are not able to hide.

Verses 8-11 let us know that we cannot go beyond the presence of the One who created us,  that not even the darkness will hide us.  There is NOWHERE we can go that we are not known.

Because of one’s past in life or even in the church, that might be a rough road right there.  Hearing that you aren’t able to hide from the One who created you could be a scary thing.  I recognize that.  However, I invite you to allow the possibility that the One who knows you best and who created you seeks you out because of love.  We are not able to hide from our Creator because our Creator loves us, not because of any other reason.  With that reminder, maybe there is comfort in recognizing that you can be exactly who you are, as you have been created to be and that you have no reason to hide.  You are loved.  You are beloved.  If you have hidden and/or are hiding, you are loved.  You are beloved.
Verse 13 reminds us that we have been created and knit together.  That is known.

In verse 14, there is recognition of being fearfully and wonderfully made.  “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!”

We could spend a lifetime on that 1 verse.  How many of us truly thank the Creator for our weirdness, our uniqueness, our complexity?  It takes a lifetime to understand that our uniqueness is truly a gift and there is only one of us.  That the things we think are weird, odd, complex, etc. are a part of us, a part of our DNA.  There are things we can change and make better.  Always.  We can separate those things from our uniqueness.  It’s something to think about.  What about you is truly a unique gift, that without YOU we would be missing a piece of the puzzle?!?!  Think about it.  Let’s learn to celebrate our uniqueness rather than wishing it away.

I want to share a children’s story with you this morning.  When I first learned about this story, it was introduced to me by Evelyn Laycock, a Lay Speaker and teacher in our Holston Conference.  She taught a class I took and introduced this book, connecting it with Psalm 139. 

The reading time is short: about 3 minutes.  The book is by Margaret Wise Brown.



As you listen to this story, where do you find yourself in it?

[After reading the story, show a heart and read it…]
[heart inside book reads: I love you because I created you.  I knit you together in your mother’s womb.  You are mine forever.  You are beautiful to me.  Love, God.”]


Recognizing that any analogy has its stretching point, there is something to be gleaned from this story.  Think about how this story connects with today’s Scripture of Psalm 139.

Personally—there are many times I’ve run—from God and others.  I didn’t want to be seen.  I didn’t feel lovable.  I didn’t understand that the Creator created me, knows me, and loves me.  Often—loves me anyway.  I am still learning to accept the creator’s love.

The final verses in today’s passage are this:
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

In closing today, as our prayer time, I want to share three Psalm Prayers with you.  Two are from The Upper Room Worshipbook, numbers 350 and 351.  The last one is written by Jerry Webber, who is at Chapelwood UMC in Houston, TX.  I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer as you hear these prayers.  Let us pray.

Psalm 139 Psalm Prayers from the Upper Room Worshipbook
350
Loving and tender Creator,
     you knit us into being.  You truly know us.
     You forever love us.
Praise to you at morning’s light.
Praise from heavenly heights,
     praise all our days.
Wonderful is your love.  Amen.
Adap. by Larry Peacock

351
O Creator God,
     we thank you that though we may run, we cannot hide from you.
      There is nowhere we can go that you are not with us.
We praise you for the power of your presence
      every moment of the day and of the night.
We place our lives into your safekeeping.
     In the name of Christ we pray.  Amen.
Adapt. by Jo Hoover

Jerry Webber's Psalm Prayer from Sometimes an Unknown Path: “A psalm for wherever the journey leads”

O Lord of light, You shine the searchlight of Your love into my life;
     You illumine my life with Your brightness;
     You know everything there is to know about where I go,
                           what I do,
                           and who I am.
Sometimes I walk a well-trod path,
       and sometimes I venture out where there is no trail to follow.
Wherever I am, You find me,
       in order to guide my steps.
Though my journey may seem frightening to me,
      it is not unknown to You.
Even when I don’t know my way,
      I am not lost to You.
You are in front of me and You are behind me,
      surrounding me with love wherever I go.
Your strength and peace are constant companions,
     as if You laid a hand on my shoulders Yourself,
     as if You were closer to me than my next breath.
I can’t go anywhere to be away from You.
     I can’t shake Your encompassing Spirit.
Whether I go to the heights or the depths,
     to the east or to the west,
    You are still present to me.
I may soar with the eagles or be in the deepest agony,
     and even then Your hands hold me fearlessly;
You embrace me in determined love.

Amen.


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