Monroe Congregational Church, U.C.C.
Pastor Diane Schmitz
We come together this morning - a group not unlike those people from Judea and Jerusalem who gathered to hear Jesus that day on the plain. Our lives are full of aches and weariness. Things we don't understand, things we can't control, and situations that cause us pain trouble us. Just as the crowd sought to touch Jesus and be healed, so we seek to feel a power that will calm us and give us reassurance.
We live in a culture where we are surrounded by messages that tell us how to ease our pain - how to live a happy life. Buy this car, this food, this shirt. Travel to this vacation spot, attend this play. Take this class, smell this candle. We try these things and still we hunger and still we weep.
We live in a culture where we are encouraged to be self-sufficient. Dependency is a bad word. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps; rely on no one but yourself. So we wander through life with a sense that we must be strong and self-reliant.
We get sick, we get old. We are forced to deal with limitations in our lives. We wonder about our value to others, we worry about the future.
We blame ourselves. We haven't tried hard enough. If we'd just done this or that. We feel a sense of dis-ease with our life.
A sense of failure, a feeling of shame weighs us down as we hold silent our despair and deep longing for life to be different. We hold these concerns deep within us often afraid to bare our feelings to others. Trying to be independent we stalwartly keep hidden the aches we carry.
Dependency is not a bad word to God. Admitting our discouragement and our need to be healed is welcomed by God. Jesus' response to the people who came to him to be healed was not "Oh, these people are so needy and dependent." Rather, "You are blessed" Jesus tells the people. You who hunger and are searching for a different way, you who long to be whole.
It is in those worn, embattled, broken-down layers in ourselves that we find God. When we are vulnerable and our defense is weakest we give up our reliance on ourselves and put our hope in a Holy Mystery to heal us.
When our spirit becomes weakened and poor in strength we hear Jesus' promise differently: Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God tells us that through our despair and turning to God we will find a way to a new way of life.
Aramaic is the spoken language Jesus used. It is a language that differs greatly from the Greek. A translation of his words from the Aramaic broadens the understanding of this passage. "Healed are those who devote themselves to the link of spirit, the design of the universe is rendered through their form. Healthy are those who devotedly hold fast to the spirit of life, holding them is the cosmic Ruler of all that shines and rises."
We are held, we are healed and in that wholeness the kingdom, the design of the universe, comes into being.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted is translated this way: Blessed are those in emotional turmoil; they shall be united inside by love. Aligned with the One are the mourners, they shall be comforted. Tuned to the Source are those feeling deeply confused by life; they shall be returned from their wandering.
In our grief and mourning we turn to the Source of our being and find ourselves home. We are united by love.
It's not always easy to turn to God and to lean on God for God is intangible to our normal ways of thinking. It's why it's so tempting to think that other things can bring us happiness. For we can go to a store, see them, touch them and their power to make a difference in our life seems so real. We are promised outcomes and results.
When we turn our lives over to God, we must trust our faith in that belief. We have to let go of our own agendas and open ourselves to healing in ways we may not see or understand.
Pedro Arrupe, a Catholic Jesuit priest composed a prayer after he suffered a debilitating stroke, the effects of which he patiently endured for the final ten years of his life:
More than ever I find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth. But now there is a difference; the initiative is entirely with God. It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God's hands.
Many of you know the experience of the stillness of floating face up in the water. There is a sensation of completely letting go knowing the water will hold you. This is a potent image of God's holding of us. It's interesting that this position is called the "Dead man's float." For in essence you give up holding on to anything and trust you will be held. You surrender "life" as you know it to experience life in God's care.
The image of being held in God's hands or God's arms is one in which we can rest. There are other images of God that can help us to imagine connecting to the Spirit which surrounds us.
The Aramaic translations of the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer both reference God as ruah, spirit and breath - whatever moves, stirs, animates, and links us to life. Many of the images in these translations unite around the image of the entire universe filled with one cosmic breath of life.
If we imagine God that way then we know we are breathing in God with every breath we take. We can surrender to the feeling of our breathing to cradle and rock whatever part of ourselves has been starved from its connection with the source of life. We lean into the Holy Mystery, we breathe it in.
That kind of attentiveness to each moment increases the possibilities for an awareness of God working in our life. As we heard from Jeremiah this morning, those who are not focused on God are like a shrub in the desert that does not know when relief comes. If our attention is focused elsewhere we miss the water that comes to fill our thirst.
There are other ways we can feel connected to God's presence. Experiences of nature and mystical encounters help us to find a way to lean into God. But, perhaps one of the most accessible is through our relationships with others.
A couple of nights ago I was in Eileen Rosensweig's hospital room. It was clear she was dying. I experienced a palpable sense of God's presence as two members of our congregation held to each other as their tears flowed. The mystery of life and death danced at Eileen's bedside. Love and gratitude for her were woven in with a sense of impending loss and sorrow. In that vulnerable moment we leaned on each other as a way of leaning on God.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God. Blessed are those who turn to God in the midst of their mourning. Those who weep now will someday laugh again. Blessed are those who lean upon God for their comfort and for whom God is the vision of the fullness of life.
Please join with me in this chant.
Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten, Those who seek God shall never go wanting. Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten, God alone fills us. (#772)