March 22, 2020 – Sermon Blog Entry from Rev. Brent Neumann

   by Brent Neumann

Day 12

Good Morning Everyone,

Here we are, working with another brand-new reality. It seems rather weird to me to be doing this in front an empty church, trying to reach out to you in a way that maybe meaningful. To reach out in this way is so different from the way we have always done things. Trying to be a community that has had a long tradition of being together, meeting for Church, worshipping together, being together, sharing time with each other.

As I prepared to do this sermon, I found myself feeling like I had nothing to offer you in this situation. Is there really anything that I can say that will be helpful to you? Then, I suddenly remembered that this is not about me, but about our faith. My task is to help the scriptures speak. Our task is to open ourselves to God’s word, allowing ourselves to hear and respond to what God is saying to all of us.

This morning, we really have some fascinating readings to work with. Our first reading is from Samuel. That wonderful reading about Samuel, being upset and disturbed about Saul and his reign as king in the Hebrew empire. He has blown it completely, and Samuel needs to replace him. Samuel is so disappointed about this. The problem was that this thought process was something that was dangerous. Remember that the king has total power of his kingdom, and anyone attempting to dethrone him is participating in treason. Any form of insurrection would be dealt with under the most extreme manner. This is something that people were killed for, and this is the very thing that Samuel was attempting to do. His efforts were incredibly dangerous, and he knew it. He was praying to God for guidance and he was told to create a diversion.

The diversion was set up to look like a sacrifice. Samuel took a cow and went to Bethlehem. Now, Samuel was a very powerful man in his own right. When he arrived in Bethlehem, he was greeted by the elders who asked him if he is coming in peace. After all, if he was arriving, this would be a major event for the people, and they not only would talk about his visitation, but they would also be talking about why he has come. He could not go into this place and be discrete.

He invited Jesse to join him for his sacrifice. He was also told to bring his boys with him. So, Jesse had his boys pass by Samuel, one at a time, and each one has strengths and gifts, but God rejected all of them until all seven has passed by. Samuel asked Jesse if he had any more sons, and the youngest boy (David) was out tending the herd. He was called to come and when he arrived, God tells Samuel that this is the one. Samuel chose David who would be the most powerful king of all time.

We go from there into the reading from Ephesians where Paul is encouraging everyone to be aware of the light; the light that comes through the openness of all things. It is the requirement for all of us to be open, honest and willing to allow all things to be seen. It is a challenge at times when we are ashamed, or wanting something, or needing something . We are worried others might judge us for it. If we open it up for all to see, God can also impact this by the airing. It gives us the freedom to be completely who we are.

We move from there into that, powerful reading from John. It is about the healing of a blind man. Someone who had the courage to step forward and allow Christ to heal him. Now he was being vilified and persecuted, simply because he allowed Christ to heal him. We have to remember that this reading was one of the stories that leads us to the crucifixion. We are in the season of Lent, and this is the time when we take the journey from Christ’s ministry to Christ’s death and resurrection.

The Jews have now started to gang up on him. The Pharisees are actively trying to create a case to have him persecuted. They are conspiring against him, and these truths are being actively pursued at this time.

These readings that we are working with right now seem absolutely appropriate to be working with at this time. When we look at the world around us right now, everywhere, we look, we see fear and angst being expressed by many. We see the devastation of the virus on communities and countries, and we are hearing from our own government that we must take steps to protect ourselves. They are telling us that there is great danger for everyone and to be safe. There is a sense that we are all in this together, but the questions about how long, how much more, where does this stop, etc. are all questions that we must both feel and respond to. We are having to change things so quickly. We are being called to do things that are way outside of our experience and comfort zone, being called to behave so differently…. and none of us are doing it easily… and we are far from perfect in the process.

The impact of this is the exact same kind of impact that landed on Samuel, when he was required to chose a new king. It was dangerous, and he was asked to do things that he had never done before.

We are experiencing very similar emotions and conflicts within ourselves as we are required to do things so differently. We are asking God to help us through this, like Samuel had to do. We can get there, but we need God to help.

This is the same message that Paul had to walk with in his ministry. It was the same message that Christ had to walk with in his ministry. It is the same message that we have to walk with in our faith journey.

These are scary times, and we are being called to walk in a very intentional fashion. We are called as a community to hold together, to continue to pray, to continue to care for those around us. We are called to hold those things that we know to be true as an example to the world around us. We can do this by reaching out to one and another, calling one and another, being sure that people have what they need, being sure that people have someone that they can contact when they are in need.

The greatest gift that we have is God’s love for us. It is the very thing that will carry us through this crisis, knowing that regardless of what happens, we will always have this. Our greatest gift is being connected to God in ways that completes us, carries us, provides to us to keep us firmly rooted in our faith. God will carry us through this if we let him. Our faith reminds us that we have the strength to walk through this. Reminding us that crises have happened before and God was always there. Remembering that we have very little to fear because we have the most powerful thing available to us in this world. That is our relationship with God.

When we are grounded, centered, held and nourished through our relationship with God, this will allow us to experience God’s love, and that experience allows us to love all around us. We have a very powerful thing available to us… and that is through God.

Thanks be to God.