I started podcasting this week. Here is my first sermon.
Don’t ever procrastinate making a podcast. It should be up in iTunes next week (fingers crossed!) Until then, and while we are patiently waiting for iThings to do their magic, you can have a listen right here.
That being said, here is Episode 1! Yay! Next week is Katherine Balmforth. Enjoy!
The lectionary readings can be found at that Vanderbilt website here.
Here is the transcript:
As I was reading through the lectionary from that Vanderbilt website we all use, I was immediately drawn to Psalm 19. Now, I realize, it’s probably not going to be read in many churches, but considering my venture into podcasting, and even more, this Women In Preaching podcast–how can I resist
19:3-4, “There is no speech, there are no words, their voice is not heard.” And then, “Their voice goes out to all the earth, their words to the end of the world.”
It’s a hopeful and prophetic word, even while I wrestle with where my voice is welcomed, received, and beloved. I reflected on this while I began to sermonize, and angstily wrote:
“My voice is tired. And I keep speaking. My body needs rest. Real sleep. I need a moment to not think about all the things I need to be thinking about. My voice is tired. I’m writing this sermon, and I want to give up. What’s the point? Who will listen? Why does it even matter? It won’t change anything. Am I even trying to change something? I don’t know. And I keep speaking.”
I imagine I’m not the only minister who feels this way. But here, on Women in Preaching, I suppose that I am simply aiming for a venue. A venue where there is a community of voices, not just one. Not just male. Not just evangelical. Not just preaching to the choir.
Psalm 19:1-2 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork!” “Day to day pours forth speech. Night to Night declares knowledge!”
BTW. What’s a firmament? It’s the sky, the expanse, the dome, that’s over us, through us, keeping us all alive and connecting us.
This preaching venue is right now somewhere in the firmament. My voice is somewhere there traveling from my body to your body. (POWER.)
The sun, moon, stars, sky, their voice just is–power, life-giving, and everyday whether noticed or not. They speak without words, and their entire being has voice.
And our voices can be like the heavens, existing day in and day out giving life and proclaiming the divine. Not just with spoken words, and heard words. With written words. With reading eyes and hands. With active bodies being present, serving the poor, and standing up for the oppressed.
I look online, and there are all these “movements” for gender equality. Just recently Emma Watson started a more or less viral campaign #HeforShe. This campaign is aiming for true gender equality in the whole world. A very noble and insane attempt. I don’t want to be debbie downer here, But how many people have actually heard about this and are REALLY listening? How many are sacrificing their whole being for a cause? How many does it take?
I don’t want this conversation to go to that “us” and “them” mentality. Where we get it, and you don’t. But there is so much hate. As soon as someone tries, they get knocked down, and both parties are encouraged by their respective backers.
The internet breeds preaching to the choir (something I might be doing right now). Where is there genuine relationship? Where is the transformation? Where on the internet, do you see someone’s mind actually change?
Like Taylor Swift says, “Players gonna play. Haters gonna hate. Fakers gonna fake.” I’d add preachers gonna preach.
How in the world do we genuinely cross over into “the other’s” territory? And have a real conversation?
Like in the Psalm, how does one become like the voice of the sky? Life-giving. Far reaching. Inescapable. I need to seek to hear and to listen not just with my ears or my eyes (as I read), but experience with my entire body.
Yesterday, I was laying, and looking up at the sky. No, really, I did this, and I wasn’t just looking for something to sermonize about. I saw a teeny tiny little plane, well, we know that it’s not really tiny. Probably a passenger plane, and it slowly went by in and out of my view, and THEN I heard it. After it past.
I kept looking up and, I thought about how far the sky reaches. How it seems so far and distant and different, at the same time connects the whole world, and keeps us all alive. I wondered about others who might be looking up at the sky (likely in good weather). I wondered about those where the sky is night or the weather is different…
And, because I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek on Netflix, I thought about how far beyond the sky the sky goes. What is out there? Why is it there? Why do I even matter? How does my voice compare to the heavens?
I just took a moment to really let the world envelope me. It’s overwhelming to pay attention with your entire body–not just a hashtag.
So, how do we pay attention? Do we need to? Where do we start?
Taylor Swift suggests just shaking everything off. Do your own thing, don’t worry about anyone else. Or maybe she (great prophet of our time) is suggesting that we all dance together?
There has to be a starting point, and for the Psalmist, the starting point is the Law of the Lord. The psalm says:
19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple;
19:8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes;
19:9 the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.
Paired with the Psalm is the 10 commandments in Exodus.
Law, decrees, precepts, commandment, fear, ordinances–perfect, sure, right, clear, pure, true–reviving, making, rejoicing, enlightening, enduring. They are valuable and they taste good.
I also do not want this sermon to be about how we have to keep all of God’s commandments in order to be good saved perfect Christians and make the world a better place (though it probably would be).
The way that the Law is laid out in Exodus, the Psalmist praises the law and how great it is. It is the foundation for relationship with God and relationship to our neighbor. It makes sense how joyful this Psalm is! The Law is how God relates to God’s people. The Law is God’s relationship with the people. And the Law allows for good relationships with others.
But just like all relationships they tend get screwed up. In fact, the Commandments are broken even before Moses gets down from mount sinai, and he has to convince God not to destroy the people.
Now, compared to the rest of the readings this week, this 10 commandments and psalm combo is probably the most positive part of the readings.
The other ones are mostly about failing the law, and consequently being cut off from God, or begging to be reconnect to God. But here, in Psalm 19, all is right with the world.
Our relationship with God is the Law, it is great! It is exactly what we expect, what we want, what we’re waiting for. Of course we’re happy when we get the law, the round peg goes through the round hole. We get along with our neighbor. The pieces fit perfectly, it’s harmony and happiness!
How often do we get caught up in what our relationships are supposed to look like. We expect something to always be the same forever. Comfort food. It feels happy and nostalgic like Psalm 19. Everything is good and perfect and lovely.
But, like I said, it never seems to last. The relationship is somehow rocked, and then it does become “us” and “them”.
Story of every person’s life ever? Story of the internet? Every person fitting perfectly in wherever they belong, triangle peg in triangle hole. The rules and boundaries are set, and you either fit or you don’t. And if you do, everything is great! And if you don’t, well too bad, find another hole.
Even the Psalmist appears like he/she knows that there will be a break [again].
19:11 Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
19:12 But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.
19:13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
The Psalmist knows that there is always going to be something shiny grabbing at our attention, away from the law, away from the relationship that is right in front of us.
And God, almost naively, keeps trying to mend the relationship.
In the Gospel reading in Matthew 21:33-46, Jesus tells a parable to the people. It’s a familiar picture of a vineyard, workers, a landowner, tenants… The Landowner, could be like a metaphor for God. And in the story, the Landowner leases the vineyard to some bad tenants. The landowner keeps sending his people to collect rent, but the tenants keep killing every person the landowner sends.
The tenants are KILLING the Landowner’s people, and the landowner, assumes that, “Well, if I send my son, maybe they’ll respect him.” Nope.
Some may think that, “Ah, this parable is about how the Jews failed to recognize the Messiah (and killed the Messiah), and therefore, they will be punished.” Nope.
It’s about how everyone at some point or another, rejects, kills, takes advantage, and has no respect for the life, the relationship, the love they’ve been imparted. And they have no respect for anyone else’s either.
And it’s dangerous to say all that because as soon as I say, “Haha! Those stupid Pharisees don’t get it!” I condemn myself. I become just like them. We become what the parable condemns, disrespecting and stealing from the landowner.
We all fail to listen. We all fail in our relationships. But God keeps trying, sending every possible anything, and we always have the opportunity to pay attention, listen, and heal the relationship.
In the Psalm The voice of creation praises God.
And then the foundation for relationship with God’s creation (humanity) is laid (in the law)
The relationship will be or is broken, the boundaries, the rules are all broken.
And God keeps trying.
This parable is a reminder to all people that God doesn’t give up on the relationship. God’s being is relationship.
While I look at this Psalm and see it as the happiest of the lectionary readings. It also can feel a little despairing–No matter how loud, or big, or powerful, or life-giving you are, you still might not be listened to. Even worse, you most definitely won’t be. Even worse, you might be scorned, stolen from, disrespected, not viewed as a neighbor human being.
Even when you’re tired, you’re talking to a wall, you’re unnoticed, you’re rejected, you don’t even want to, but you keep trying…
What are we trying to do? We’re trying to mend the broken relationship. Healing the relationship means voices must keep speaking, like the firmament, with their whole being and using every resource. And unlike our response to the voice of the firmament, this seeking to mend the relationship, requires whole body attention and active listening.
First steps to mending our relationship to God is listening… And maybe that’s a part of the first step to mending our relationships with each other–listening to ignored voices.