I'm not very good at creating titles for sermons. When I was asked what my sermon title would be for preaching in Savannah on August 10th, I laughed. But when the second email with the same request arrived, I knew I had to do something.
The gospel text for that Sunday is from Matthew with Jesus walking on the water. In that reading a storm blows up and the disciples are terrified. His response sounds so easy, “Be not afraid.”
And from that came my sermon title (6 weeks out, me ~ the one who often can’t find her keys ~ asked to create a sermon title for 6 weeks out): “What Does “Be Not Afraid” look like?”
What are we to do with these words in our world today? The violence and terror in the Mid East and Africa and in the hallways of our children’s schools. Here in Georgia, our Congressional representatives are passing laws for guns everywhere and we soon will be living with the uncertainty for what all of that means. Walking out of doctor’s offices with news and realize that our lives have just been turned upside-down. Downsizing to the point of no work for many of us, and frantic-catching up work for those of us still working.
And yet, and yet, and yet I continue to believe in the possibility of grace and mercy. And yet, and yet, and yet I continue to believe that there is a greater power that holds us in love and light.
In Wendell Berry’s piece Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front he writes,
“Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die. And you will have a window in your head. Not even your future
will be a mystery any more….So friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the
world….Ask the questions that have no answers. Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias…Be like a fox who makes
more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection.”
Is this what Jesus meant by being not afraid? Can we possibly turn our fears into investing in something beyond ourselves? Can we turn our focus from the mundane to the millennium? Can we give up our need for controlling each and everything that comes our way to welcoming the reality of, the grace of, the holy that can be found in mystery?
Life has been teaching me to trust “and yet’s” and I try to. More and more I trust less and less the notion that being in control is the answer to being in the world. I find myself leaning into what I’ve learned to be true:
~ time is limited
~ God created and is creating still
~ God loved me (and you) from my first breath,
will love me (and you) in my last on earth
and will love me (and you) in whatever is next
~ love lives on.
So thank you, Billy Hester, pastor of Asbury UMC in Savannah for inviting me into this wondering:
How Do We Live? We live our days, we live this day in love.
Wait, you just heard my sermon…
Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days is the working title of my next book. Using a verse or two from the psalms and moving through the rhythm of the moon's cycles. This was the first chapter I wrote. It's for this time of the month, when we are moving from the New Moon moon (last Friday night) toward the Waxing Moon (next Saturday). Companioning the moon brings a comfort to my times of grieving. It gracefully reminds me that shifts come, and I won't always be feeling what I'm feeling now...
Each chapter will have a verse, reflection, breath prayer (breathe in for "time is different" and breathe out for "here") and ends with a prayer for the night.
This was actually the first chapter written. About Mom. Not much of a surprise there. She's always close by...let me know what you think and how many books you'd like reserved for you...
Psalm 90:12 Teach us to count our days that are ours, and we shall come to the heart of wisdom.
Time is Different Here
A few months after my mother died, I heard her voice as clearly as if she were standing beside me. “Time is different here,” she said. Four words. Simple, clear. Powerful, reassuring. And her words have been a comfort and guide ever since.
So much of our days are spent racing against the clock or wishing for time to stand still. We long to be in control of these days we’ve been given. Chronos time is wristwatch time, calendar time, measureable-time. Grief time, God’s time is kairos time. It is the time in-between time. It is the time holding time.
Sitting vigil with a loved one who is dying is kairos time. It can be exhausting and also the most precious, most holy time of our lives. We find ourselves breathing with the one who is leaving. There is so much to say and our words feel both so very intimate and yet not enough. Time is different….here.
Counting our days and then coming to this time when we find ourselves counting our breaths, draws us unto the presence of the Holy. It is here in this place closest to the heart of wisdom that we draw near to the comforting grace of God. It is here where we catch a glimpse of the lifelove that has held us with each breath and will hold us until our last. And (as I’ve heard from Mom) beyond that.
Breath prayer: “time is different” “here”
Wondrous God, teach us to count our days and to live into the beauty of this day. Draw us closer to you and to the grace and mercy as close to us as our next breath. Amen.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.