Tumbling in the Sand
(A note to help with context: this was the first sermon I preached at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Pearl River, NY. It’s a new call for me! Yay! and I had moved in just a few days earlier — so boxes surrounded me at home and everything was completely new. I make a few references to this in the audio of the sermon, but not so much in the manuscript.)
That’s the first word that came to mind as I read the texts for today.
First, in the passage from Isaiah
the images of fire and water and rivers and flames
evoke the experiences of war and exile
for the people of Israel
— the terror and violence and sorrow
— the overwhelming loss of it all.
None of it under their control,
their lives seemingly swept away by forces larger than themselves
I think so many in the world today might relate
experiencing their countries turned on end by war and rumors of war
their lives torn apart by violence
— but I don’t think you need that massive upheaval to relate a little to these texts
— it seems that consuming chaos
and overwhelming situations over run most of our lives
from time to time
… or maybe even most of the time.
Messy. Unplanned. Unpredictable. Such is life.
And then there is this passage from Acts—
we have believers who are baptized by the Holy Spirit hadn’t shown up yet
and so two disciples — Peter and John —
go to lay hands on them.
Now, this was not the normal pattern.
Mind you, in Acts there is no normal pattern.
Sometimes, the Spirit descends first, people believe, and then baptism happens
It’s all rather messy when it comes to the Spirit.
Stuff sometimes happens.
Stuff sometimes doesn’t happen.
Messy. Just messy.
And then the Gospel —
where people are trying to figure out what God is up to
who God is speaking through
who to follow
who to believe
how God is showing up.
And again, it’s messy.
Because, well, John is speaking God’s word
but it isn’t the last word.
John is important — to be listened to —
but there is more
And while the guy at the head of the crowd is speaking
in the midst of the crowd,
Jesus is being called.
Where is God in this story?
In the words of John, to be sure.
And in the waters of baptism
And in the dove descending
and in the Word made flesh in the midst of the crowd
and in the voice from heaven.
Kind of all over the place, really.
So, what do we do with all this messy?
We, who thrive with patterns and rituals.
We, who need some sort of order to live?
What are we called to do in the midst of messy?
In the midst of a life that often seems chaotic
With a God that is hard to pin down
Called by a Spirit that is anything by linear?
What are we called to do?
Well, we are called to be.
in each and every one of these texts
God calls the people
God calls Jesus
to be something —
and that is children of God.
to be — what God already made them to be.
So often we thing God calls us to do
to do something particular
to do some kind of job
to get busy in some sort of particular way.
But that tends to lead to the crazy notion
that certain jobs are more holy than others
and certain lives have God more present than others.
And that is simply not true.
Instead, God calls us like God called Jesus—
And so we are called to be.
In anything we do
In any situation — messy as life is —
In simply resting or in imitating our God who loves us
we are called to be.
in our communities —
We are called to be what we were made to be:
children of God
daughters and sons
Washed in water and promise.
Living grace and healing and hope.
For the world.