Space Junk

PictureThis sermon has three parts.

It’s about Jesus harnessing the power of creation to help clarify questions of faith.
It’s about God in Creation and God in Community.
It’s about Synod, Space Junk, and making statements and creating space.

Braided together, hard conversations and escapism into sunsets point to the work of our generation: to do the work and be the church.

Mark 4:35-41
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

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Who is this, that creation itself is in his power?

Jesus is teaching and evening comes.  He calls to them— let’s go over to the other side of the lake!  With his disciples, and not much else, they all got in the boat.  Then, a windstorm arose! Creation itself whipped up a ruckus while Jesus slept on, his head resting on the cushion as the fear and anxiety of his followers amplified.

Don’t you care?
Where are you?
We are dying!
He rouses, rebukes the wind, and in the coming calm, raises an eyebrow and turns to the people:  What are you afraid of? Where is your faith?
And they knew, saw power, saw Christ, and said to each other: Who is this that even the very elements of nature bend to his command?  Creation itself is in his power?

Who is this that draws on awareness of creation to change the state of things?   And why?
Maybe because sometimes looking at creation even helps us gain perspective and see the longer view.

This week: I slept outside on a porch and listened to a chorus of loons.  I swam in a lake with teenagers.  I walked in the woods.  I talked about God.  I slept beneath the stars on a ledge, Mt. Washington in the background.  I taught about Jesus.  I prayed that I might possibly see a Moose.  I sang songs with themes of justice.  I went spelunking in caves.  I taught teenage girls how to own their power and affirm their voices.  I taught youth that Christianity is not belief in certain things, but the willingness that being in relationship with God and each other.

Creation itself was the backdrop for taking the long view.  For youth and adult leaders to find out what is really important in Christianity and intentional community.  Where is your faith? came the question out of the awareness of the Power of Nature.  Whether it was beside a lake while the water lapped at the shore, or in the lodge with the laughter of the younger groups encouraging our questions and exploring, we, too, heard Jesus ask us about Faith, as we asked and learned and grew in ourselves and in relationship to God.

We had hard conversations about what it means to live in community.  If one’s bed time is 10 and another wants to stay up talking until midnight, how are we all going to make space for each other?  If one articulates her need to not hold hands during games, and another brings an exuberance of activity, how do we compromise?  If one speaks so quietly that he is rarely heard, and another’s voice drowns out his, how do we hear the concerns and find the community decision?  We began the week with a covenant of relationship, and lived through that covenant into community.

We learned that even in the midst of all of what we bring:

Youth from families that looked and acted differently,
from different areas of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and NH,
from a variety of access to wealth and privilege,
youth who identified themselves across the spectrum of sexuality and gender,
youth who pointed to their experiences at camp as the formative way they are able to articulate a connection to God,
youth who are leading churches and will continue to grow to Christian leadership…..
even in the midst of all this incredible diversity, we must have the hard conversations and keep the faith.

Though, I confess, it feels as if doing “faith” in nature, is easier.  When the power of creation surrounding seems to challenge and affirm community building… it seems as though the connection flows freely.

Even with the youth this week, when we thought about nature and sunsets and mountain tops and moose and loons and coniferous trees…. we could say, “here is God!”  …but in the moments of doing the work of being in community, it was harder.

Who are we, that the power of Nature so clearly shows the power of God, and yet the head of our Faith is one who commands the storm itself?  I wonder if the disciples thought this when they were experiencing the awe of “the nature” on the lake.  Creation herself honoring the power of the Christ… Finding God in nature and thus helping to see God in community.

Finding God in Nature is seductive, and easy for most.  Finding God in community is evasive, and stunningly rewarding, for those who are faithful enough to try.

We tested the limits of God in community when we gathered for our National Gathering of Church—General Synod, in Cleveland the beginning of the summer.  We spoke about controversial topics and voted on several major resolutions.  The tension in the room was so palpable that many pastors there were practicing their techniques in being a “non-anxious” presence.  We spoke about why we were calling a straight, white, cisgender, man over 50 to lead, when so many people were expecting a visual representation of diversity in our leadership.   We spoke about Just-Peace and divestment from Israel’s businesses profiting from within the settlements in Palestine, and whether we’d call that apartheid.  We called for the removal of the confederate flag and everything the symbol has been constructed to represent.  We resolved to learn and call attention to the use of the derogatory name of the Washington Football Team, the “Redsk*ns.”   You might imagine the tension in the room.

The whole time we spoke of these issues, there was running commentary on twitter.  People tweeted goofy, profound, Godly things.  We tweeted prayer and community hopes and dreams.  They tweeted opinions and mournings and wonderings.  We tweeted articles that would help people get learning and background of each vote.  They tweeted about the background conversations within each committee.  And then— something started happening in the place of tension, on twitter first:  people started asking for the Space Junk resolution.

What?!  Space Junk!?


Picture

Space junk became the punch line to a tension filled hall of hard conversations.  Space Junk became the safe word- of, I’ve had too much! Sometimes conflict is hard! So is living in community!
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In the midst of a tension filled hall, the care of Creation and the power and call for our natural world cut through the complicated messiness and allowed us to step into our fullest selves and do the work of community.  Mirroring Jesus, we called on the awareness of Creation to change the state of things.

The hard work of living in community and being Christians together is that hard conversations never leave us.  They make us want to say “don’t you care! we’re dying!” And sometimes it takes an awareness of creation herself to call us to re-charge and come back to care.

Picture

When we finally did get to the Space Junk resolution, the relief of our commonality bonded us together.  With little fanfare, and much relief, The United Church of Christ affirmed our commitment to be faithful stewards of all of creation, even beyond this world.  With some giggles for space junk, and go forth and prosper.

Picture

The tension of the storm ceased, we were reminded of our faith, and to have faith in our covenantal process.  From Christ in the boat, to camp on the Mountain, to a witness in outer space, it always strikes me that finding God in Nature is seductive, and easy for most.  Finding God in community is evasive, and stunningly rewarding, for those who are faithful enough to try.

We take our cues from Creation, and bring our creative spirit into community, for the Christ that calls us together in faith and witness to the world:  in this space, and in all space.  This is the work of our era: to do the work and BE the church.

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