There’s a chance that by now you all have figured out that I don’t always do things in the typical ways. It’s why I am such a lovely fit to be the priest in charge for you all! I don’t always do things differently to be difficult or contrarian. Usually, I do things differently because they make more sense to me that way. Or, because something needs to be done or said.
For example, I know in a lot of churches today patriotic music is being played, and that’s ok.
But for me, being a patriot means standing up and being willing to do things differently. Being a patriot means, to me, that I love my country enough to encourage it to be the things it professes to believe: a place of Liberty; Equality; self-actualization; diversity; unity.
I believe in transformational change. I believe it is possible individually, corporately, institutionally, nationally. God cries out to us to work towards and for transformational change. And, when we cry out to God for help, God offers us help, if we are willing to see and to do the work, to change. That help though, it may way look totally differently than what we expect.
As a step towards transformational change, today I want to invite us all to consider something differently. Something maybe we don’t consider at all.
But that we should.
It’s in the last line of the reading from Samuel. It’s also one of the first things I say as we start service, and what is said to begin the celebration of communion.
Today, I invite us all to think of what it means for God to be with you?
And I mean it. When you hear the phrase, God be with you, what do you think?
(When I wrote this sermon I thought we’d be spilt in-person and online. But since we’re all online, I invite anyone who wants to answer to do so, or to type it into the chat.)
How does that change when the sentence is instead “[a]nd David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him.”
I think, over the millennia, we have come to accept that a mark of God being with someone is wealth, success, greatness, athletic ability. It certainly was for David. He was handsome, successful in military endeavors, he had hundreds of wives and concubines, hundreds and hundreds of children, money, palaces. Things that at that time, and even today, are a mark of greatness, a mark of God being with you.
But I think, truly, that wealth, earthly success, perceived greatness, those are signs of things that humans lift up, rather than being signs of God being with them.
Today, I challenge us to approach this idea differently. Today, I invite us to take a moment to think about instances where God was with us. Not because we became greater and greater, or wealthier and wealthier.
Instead think of the moments when you noticed something subtle, something easy to miss, and it ended up being good that you did.
Think about the moments when you got a hunch about something, someone, and you were right.
Think about the moments when you found the strength, the courage, to do or to be different.
On Thursday I talked with my Mom as she drove home from work. A few minutes later, she was in a bad car accident. She walked away, because of a series of small things, small things that seem, well, small, on the surface. But those things add up, and they add up over time.
It is in the adding up of small things that I can look at that accident and see that God was with my Mom. That God is with my Mom.
I can’t tell you how I know, but I know that accident has the marks of God on it (the other driver, who swerved into my Mom’s lane, also walked away).
Now, a thing to remember in this is that God didn’t cause the accident. The accident happened because of rain, and speed, and a person losing concentration for a split second.
God also didn’t stop the accident. The accident happened. It was the small decisions that my Mom said yes to, which shows me that God is with her. Those decisions, those things she said yes to, are what added up to surviving that accident. Not one miraculous and easy to see event.
Lots of small decisions.
God doesn’t cause disease, war, abuse, accidents, addiction.
God is constantly offering opportunities to change, to be different, to make different decisions, big and small. And God offer those opportunities before, within, and after disease, war, abuse, accidents, addiction.
It’s up to us to take advantage of those opportunities.
Taking those opportunities to change, that is when transformational change happens.
Sometimes, an opportunity to change comes about by looking at something with fresh eyes.
And, I think this is happening in America today.
We are beginning to look at practices, laws, systems, that were set up long ago and were deemed perfectly acceptable at the time. Now we look at them and say “no, no that really wasn’t ok.” And, those things we thought were ok are now obviously in the way of equality, liberty, self-actualization, diversity, and unity.
Slavery and Colonialism are easy to identify as things we look back at and now know are not ok. The same is true of the treatment by colonizers of Indigenous people. Just this week the remains of hundreds of native children striped from their families in the 1800’s were found in Canada. And the US had a program even more brutal towards Native Americans and their children.
We look at these things now and we know they were not and are not ok.
I think, what we as Christians, and what we as Americans, must do is to take the next step. That next step is to look to see what the present day impact of those policies are. Because there are present day ramifications.
We can’t make it right until we acknowledge that it still isn’t right. Not merely that it wasn’t right. That it still isn’t right.
God didn’t cause slavery, nor did God ordain slavery. God was with the enslaved, offering hope, love, meaning in life. God was also with the enslavers, whispering in their ears, pleading with them to do and to be different.
Some of them did. Most of them did not.
Transformational change happens when we listen to God’s whispers and pleadings. When we allow ourselves to feel where God is pulling or pushing us, and then we wade into the hard work.
There is no skipping the hard work. We don’t get to start on go, stay on go but say we see that there’s a trip around the Monopoly board to do, and collect $200.
We have to actually work our way around the board.
Because it’s the right thing to do.
Because it’s what God is calling us to do.
Last week I invited you to consider that God was with you in making your decisions.
This week, for homework, I ask you to consider those moments when you could tell God was with you. Or with someone you love. Consider what does it mean for God to be with you? How do you know?
And then, consider what it looks like for God to be with someone else. What are the marks of God in others, to you?
Do those things match?