Psalm 103 & 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
January 22, 2017
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about hope and healing.
One of my favorite writers is the late Maya Angelou. You have likely heard her poem “Human Family” in the recent Apple commercial. It goes:
I note the obvious difference
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.
Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.
The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.
I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.
I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.
Mirror twins are different
although their features jive,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.
We love and lose in China,
we weep on England's moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.
We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we're the same.
I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
Another great quote of hers is: “I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’…There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.” ~Maya Angelou
Love. Our Psalm this morning is a hymn of praise and might have been sung as a song of thanksgiving by one who has been helped by God. It speaks of God’s steadfast love for us.
But what does it mean to love yourself?
Might it be a contentment in your soul, in your own being? A deep peace within ourselves? God has steadfast love for us; God’s love will never let go of us. God’s love for you and me is a deep love that goes deeper than any of our earthly relationships can imagine. I believe that it is through God’s steadfast love for us that we are able to love ourselves.
Yet, loving ourselves can be hard and often much of our pain comes out of a lack of self-love.
God forgives our iniquities and diseases, God is merciful, slow to anger and compassionate towards us, so why do we not treat ourselves the same?
If God, who created us out of dust, who breathed life into our very being, can love us unconditionally and love us through all our flaws and imperfections then why can’t we?
Why do we hold ourselves back?
Why do we hold onto past mistakes, past failures and insecurities?
We do it because we do not love ourselves and are unable to see even just a glimmer of hope.
Just prior going down to the soup kitchen on Wednesday night I had spent 15 or 20 minutes listening to a woman and how she had no hope. She had no hope of getting out from under the dark cloud that is homelessness. She said once you are sucked in there is no way out.
Still holding on to the weight of that conversation and feeling her sense of hopelessness, I walked down the dark dingy stairs to the basement where the soup kitchen is held. Everything seemed brown and dark that night. Even though there were light green and yellow round table cloths covering the 12 tables, and a smattering of Christmas decorations still adorned the hall. The hall had a slight smell stale alcohol, an overpowering smell of dirty clothes, and the taste of destitute.
I sat at one of the round tables and wondered “where is the hope here?”
We hear and use the word hope a lot. I hope you get better. I hope the weather cooperates. I hope for a brighter future. Hope. But what is hope? In Hebrews 6:18-20 we are told to “Seize the hope set before us. We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus is a forerunner on our behalf.”
The anchor symbol for hope in this passage has no scriptural basis but was common in Greco-Roman culture, just as we too are familiar with anchors today. Anchors are a stronghold for a boat. They are dropped down to hold a boat in place. In the same way, “hope provides present stability and assurance in the storms of life in that it follow Jesus.”
Hope is not some pie in the sky wishful thinking. It is a concrete, heavy, iron clad urging and prayer. Hope requires more than just one individual. Hope is a calling out to Jesus to be our anchor and for God to calm the storm.
Hope is a powerful light. Hope can plant seeds for growth. Hope is seeing a box of matches and knowing that with one small movement you can spark a fire.
Yesterday and Friday I witnessed hope. Seeing people gather on the common, hundreds of thousands of people all standing in witness of hope for a better future. All working within our free democracy, expressing their feelings and beliefs. These individuals gave me hope. Hope that people do care, hope that we can come together and heal.
Hope is a vital step to healing.
Healing, my friends, is not curing. Being healed and being cured are two very different things. Healing is a state of peacefulness, a state of spiritual well-being. Healing starts with loving yourself, just as God loves you.
Healing is looking in the mirror and smiling, thanking God for this one wild and crazy life. Once we are able to love ourselves then we can begin the journey of healing.
To feel God’s healing grace we must also have hope. The hope and faith as Paul writes to the Philippians that “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (4:13). All things: you can love yourself, you can love your God and you can love your neighbor.
Loving and consoling each other is healing. Our scripture this morning from 2 Corinthians states: “the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, 4 who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”
God is here with us, consoling us, caring for us…so if we love ourselves, have hope and faith then we will know and feel God’s consoling love. This healing love we will know deep in our hearts and will witness in those around us.
We each are agents of healing. We are called to console one another in hard times and when we do, we are acting as the hand of God. Showing the love, grace, mercy and healing power of God.
Healing is a team sport. Healing starts with the self, moves to hope and faith and invites God, through other individuals into our suffering. The woman who is experiencing homelessness is lacking hope. It is my job to console her and help her find hope.
Jesus exemplified caring and consolation, he was always with people who were suffering and now the Holy Spirit is here among us and working through each of us to console those who are afflicted and healing those who are open.
We all struggle and need healing, for as Maya Angelou said “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike…We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
May you love yourself, for our God in heaven made you and knew you before you were born;
May you have even just a spark of hope and faith; and
May you receive and offer God’s consolation and healing.
 Hebrews. Victor C. Pfitzner, (Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: 1997), 103.
"The Light in the Night”
Blue Christmas Service
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
December 21, 2016
This evening I have a message for you about light.
The bright sun last Friday seemed to be mocking me. Glowing through the windows sending patches of light and warmth. Yet when I stepped outside the sun lied to me. Yes, there was still light and it was still bright but where was the warmth? Instead my nose froze feeling as if it would crack and break right off. The layer upon layers of clothing could not protect me from the cold.
Friday’s freezing temperatures is exactly how heavy emotions can feel during this Christmas season. A season where everything is supposed to be “Merry and Bright”, yet at times it feels darker than the darkest night.
We try to cover up our sadness with layers of smiles and good cheer, only to realize the sadness is sleeping in under the layers and at times flowing over our bodies, gripping us until we are frozen and unable to move.
The story of Jesus is a story of loss and sadness just as much as it is about joy and love. Imagine there is Joseph a man who has a job, a good family, a good reputation and has now become engaged in an arranged marriage. Everything he had ever dreamed about. He then learns that his finance, Mary is pregnant and not by him.
He must be devastated, confused and worried. I imagine him running home to his brothers asking what should I do? Can you believe this? All of his dreams for the future: of being a well-known carpenter/tradesman, growing a family with his wife Mary, having multiple children, one of which would defiantly be named Joseph after him of course, all gone down the drain. Where is good in this situation? Where is the light?
Joseph’s situation reminds me of a friend who was engaged. They had set the date, reserved the hall and all was on course, when he began to question everything. As we sat on his sofa talking, he expressed his hesitation to move across the country, to a place where he knew no one and that would be far away from home and his family. He was unsure what to do.
Yes, he loved her but…. So I asked, “what is more important to you, to be with her or to stay here?” He did not answer, I thought for sure the answer would be, to be with her. After all they had been together for several years, they were college sweet hearts. The next day I learned that the engagement was off. The diamond ring that was his grandmothers was returned, tears were shed and future dreams were cut short.
Joseph’s dreams have also been changed. He too is a good man like my friend and does not wish to humiliate Mary, after all might he have even loved her? So he plans to end the engagement quietly. After agonizing all day, wringing his hands deciding what to do, Joseph goes to bed with his plan in mind.
Then in the middle of the night, during the darkest of hours and angel of the Lord appears to him! And as we just heard in our scripture, Joseph is told that what had been prophesied, hundreds of years before, would come true and Joseph shall name the baby “Emmanuel” meaning “God is with us”.
God is with us, in the middle of the night, in the darkest of nights and days Joseph learns that God is with him and God is with us providing the light. This is the comfort we can all find in this season of darkest, on this the longest nights that God will provide the light and that God is with us. For it was told that, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:1-4).
Yesterday, we held a Blue Christmas service in Waltham for people who are experiencing homelessness. Part of the service included passing the Holy Lightfrom one to another. We sat in a circle in the choir room, each on our wood chairs facing one another and a small table in the middle, with a beautiful golden linen cloth covering it as the candles from the Advent Wreath shined bright on the communion bread and juice placed next to it.
When the time came, we asked Paul to light his candle from the Advent wreathe and begin the passing of light from one to another. It was going to be beautiful, as the light would make its way all the way around the circle. However, a couple of the men, one fella who just gotten new front teeth (because his were knocked out in a fight) and another who with his unshaven beard looked like he must have played high school football, took out their cigarette lighters and lit their own candles. I said, “no, no, wait, you guys are jumping ahead of us.” They quickly below out their candles and sat sheepishly, shoulders hunched over, peering around. Then Paul came back over to them and re-lit their candles from his own, still not following the circle of light.
And then I realized that is how the light of God and Christ work. It is not a well-orchestrated, planned ritual. No, it is the movement of the Holy Spirit, appearing in the middle of the darkness. Sometimes we take out our own lighters and light our own candle, while other times we wait patiently for the light to come around to us and then at times we need a friend to come over, out of turn and light our candle.
Just as we feel the layers of clothing upon our bodies: from hats, to gloves, to coats, sweaters, socks and boots; so too do we feel the layers of emotions: the sorrow, sadness, anxiety, depression, joy, excitement, love and awe.
The truth is no matter how we receive the light, no matter how our candles are lit, the promise of God is that they will be lit. That in every dark moment there will be light because: Light is good and God separated the light from the darkness.
All sermons posted are written by Rev. Tina Walker-Morin. All rights reserved.