Some amazing things happened this week.
I was able to say hello to a good friend of mine from Seminary part two. What’s remarkable about this is that Pearson is in Tanzania and I haven’t seen his huge smile in 4 years. It was because of the internet that I could see Pearson, see the new church his congregation is building. I could hear the fear and uncertainty in his voice, and he could hear mine, when he shared fears about the Delta variant of Covid, and that vaccines have still not made it to Tanzania.
As we ended the call I had a very powerful moment where I realized how much I miss that man and how worried I have been for him and his family.
And it got me thinking about some of the lessons we have learned and embraced over the years. At first I thought about all the changes in just my lifetime, but then I thought about more than that.
Like how when the scriptures were written, the primary way that information was shared was through word of mouth. Today I can’t even remember what days I have meetings without writing it down, and in the ancient world, they could memorize thousands of hours of lessons and stories and history. It was part of their culture. The way that smartphones are a part of ours – most have them, though not all.
The lesson we have today from the Hebrew Scripture was a completely oral history; passed down from generation to generation through stories and lessons. Eventually it was written down, but not for hundreds or thousands of years.
The Epistles are letters that were sent, and each one cost in the neighborhood of $2,000 to write and send.
The Psalms were sung in religious services, but there weren’t hymnals or bulletins to share the words. You had to listen, remember, sing.
The Gospel of Mark was the first Gospel to be written down, and even it was written 20-30 years after Jesus died. It was shared via word of mouth before then.
Churches didn’t start to be built until the late 3rd century. Probably.
The ancient world that we get a glimpse of in the Scripture is so different from our world today. And yet, somehow, there are threads that unite us to the people who lived these words, and those who heard them in 1st Century Palestine.
Sometimes I read Gospels like the one we have today, and I am absolutely struck by how the love and faith in God that is exhibited in these words, how that love and faith in God still resonates as absolutely true to me 2,000 years later and 5,500 miles away.
One of the things that I believe unites us to those people whose stories are told in the Gospels, one of the reasons those stories are still relatable all these years and half a world away, is that for most of us, there comes a point when all we have is hope.
It is hope that unites us to 1st century Christians, and 21st century Christians in Tanzania. We don’t all believe the same things, our day-to-day lives are vastly different, and we don’t necessarily live out our beliefs in the same ways. But we are all united in this one idea: hope.
Now, here’s the thing about hope, it’s not as simple as what we have been lead to believe. Hope is not making a wish and sitting back to make it come true.
For Christians hope is the belief that God will always be there for us; always be with us in the midst of the joys, pains, struggles, the despair. Hope is that when we hit rock bottom or find ourselves trapped by the poor decisions we have made, God will be there waiting for us, extending a hand.
Helping us heal our wounds and the wounds we have caused.
Bringing us back from the brink of death.
Hope is why I am standing here looking at you all, some in person, some who are magically here via the internet, I can look at you all and say after 16 months of a pandemic and trying to put the pieces back together, “I don’t know how, and I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but God is in it and it’ll work out.”
In saying that, if it seems like I’m putting my feet up and sitting back to wait for what’s to come, that is not what I’m going for. We still have to do the work, but, God is with us.
In this Gospel, It wasn’t Jesus that saved this woman, nor that resurrected the child. It was faith. It was the ability to truly believe that God is with them.
They could lay eyes on God and we can’t. And being able to see with your own eyes, that helps.
But this week, I saw the face of a friend who is roughly 7 thousand 400 miles away. With a giant body of water in between us.
And I got to see the beautiful face of a great friend’s newborn baby.
God is in that.
God is with us, right now.
I’ve heard it said that integrity is what you do when no one is watching.
And it makes me wonder what would happen if we spent a week making choices while actively considering that God is watching us; not no one. God.
Would we pick up the litter that we didn’t drop?
Would we let someone in in traffic?
Would we take a moment to listen to what someone is saying, even when we disagree?
Would we come to Church a little early to help set up and learn how to run all of the new technology?
Would we call that person who randomly pops into our head, just to say hi?
Would we stand up for love, for equality, for our neighbors of color?
This is our homework this week. Act like God is watching.
And I’m doing this myself. I actually got this idea because my first grade teacher, Mrs. Leake, popped into my head on Friday. And so you know what I did? I called her. Well, I called my Mom, and got her number, and I called her. She’s in her 90’s. Still remembers me. She’s proud of me. Keeps a picture of me in her bathroom, tells me every time I call.
It made her day and it made mine that I took a moment to reach out to someone; to make a call I didn’t have to make.
God put her in my heart randomly. And I ask us all: what is God putting in and on our hearts?
Why aren’t you doing something about it?