We are blessed
Feb. 2, 2020
Rev. Marguerite Sheehan
We are still in the church season of Epiphany, the season that is often called the time of awakening or enlightenment about who Jesus is and who we are as created beings. During this season I have been experiencing some of that awakening.
It started a week ago on Wednesday evening when I went to Temple Israel in Greenfield for a program on the spiritual dimensions of climate care. The program was enlightening and I thought I could wait to share what touched my soul with you later this winter and spring. I thought I could put it to rest for a while.
Then came this past Thursday morning, the day that I settle myself in my office space in the back of the parsonage to pray on and compose my Sunday messages. Before sitting to write I took up my spot in the bay window and sat with my morning coffee, soaking up the sunshine, watching the goldfinches gather at the bird feeder and marveling at the bluest of skies. Then, out of the blue, so to speak, in came a pair of bluebirds. They sat on the bird house — the one that every year gets taken over by sparrows — and they looked directly at me as if asking, “Will the house be available this spring?” Then I said out loud, “Bluebirds! Wow, they are so beautiful. Well, I better get to my desk to write.”
I better walk away from all this glory. Go into a room where I purposely close the curtains to keep focused. Leave this beautiful God-given scene and get to work.
I put my coffee cup in the sink and looked out the kitchen window and I saw the bluebirds fly over the parsonage to the top of the church, preening themselves on the cross. I could not stop laughing. I thought, “Whoever said God does not have a sense of humor? Whoever said Jesus got his sermon inspiration while sitting at a desk with the curtains closed?”
Jesus got his inspiration smack-dab in the world of scripture and humans and bluebirds and seeds and bread and local and global suffering.
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains; the demonic, the people with epilepsy, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. And when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I have never had the privilege to travel to Jerusalem. What I know from my friend Linda, who has been there, is that there really is a mountain where Jesus is to have climbed up to teach. It is called the Mount of Beatitude. Mount of Blessing.
Linda says that when you walk, as Jesus walked, up this mountain (that is more of a tall hill than a steep mountain) you can get tired. You might then sit on the grass and look out to contemplate the Sea of Galilee stretching out before you.
If you know anything about the past and present midEast, or anything about the broken-hearted crowds and our climate crises, or anything about your own poor-in-spirit-soul, you just might weep with joy when you imagine Jesus sitting down on the grass to teach a message of peace and justice and consolation to the sick, the sad people in the broken and often paralyzed Creation.
Here is my confession.
I used to think, even just a couple of days ago, that when bluebirds flock to my house it was okay to close the curtains and turn my back against the beauty of the earth and the sky.
I used to act like the suffering of Creation and the suffering of humans are two different realms without a ladder of hope going between them even when I knew that Jesus came to this very Earth to remind us otherwise.
I used to imagine the crowds that gathered on the mountain and the crowds that gather in our own congregations and communities were a world apart.
I am just now really waking up to the heart of Jesus, who goes up an ordinary mountain and sits down and looks with compassion on the people and the sea; the broken and the hungry, the ravaged and the hopeful. When he looks and names us – because that really is what a blessing is, to look and to name with love – he is teaching what we need to hear. All of Creation is suffering and blessed.
The bluebirds do fly up to the cross. We are all, humans and non-humans, broken and blessed with a love we cannot grasp and yet grasps us fully.
Here is a blessing for you. It comes from one of my favorite pastors, Methodist minister Rev. Stephen Garness- Holmes. You have a copy in your bulletins, if you want to read along, or maybe you want to close your eyes. Maybe you will hear yourself and the whole of Creation being addressed. I hope so. Dearly Beloved, Grace and Peace to you.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the realm of God.” — Matthew 5.3
God, may I be an empty vessel for you.
Bless my willingness to have nothing to offer
except your presence in me,
and my trust in your grace in this world.
Bless my willingness to mourn for my losses,
to weep with those who suffer,
to lament the brokenness of the world.
I trust and await your consolation.
Give me courage to be powerless, to be inadequate,
to be weak, to depend on you,
and trust that in my emptiness
your grace is infinite and miraculous.
Give me faith to work for justice,
to be a peacemaker amidst hate and anger,
to bear your spirit into fearful places,
for I am your child, your Beloved.
Trusting that the kingdom and the power and the glory
are yours and not mine, I yield everything to you.
Surrendering all and seeking the lowest place,
I will be an empty vessel for your grace.
I am willing to die and be raised. Amen.
Soon we will gather to communion and then for our annual meeting. After all that we will all walk out the door and greet the world that is waiting for us to look and bless and act for the beauty of the Earth. Now, let us be together.