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Faith, Trust, and No Pixie Dust

Sermon - 2/17/13
Rev. April Oristano
First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon

 

Deuteronomy 26: 1-11

Let me first say that I am a fan of Pixie Dust.  As word of the title got out I got a lot of “Ohhhhhh” pixie dust! 

Let me assure you I am not a hater.  It’s just with a 5 year old the only thing running through my brain are a lot of knock knock jokes and Disney song lyrics.

Faith and Trust are the answers to the longings of the heart -  to be a part of something bigger than itself, to leave this world a little bit (or a lot bit) better than how it was found.  To live fully, love and be loved, to be heard and accepted as we are.  There is no pixie dust, magic potion, nothing to make this happen other than ourselves. We must find our way, wandering out there, doing our best.  But have faith!  For God is with us.

It is the season of Lent, a tradition in many Christian communities, and it begins 40 days before Easter.  So technically we started Wednesday. 40 days is symbolic of the 40 Jesus spent in the wilderness or desert as described today in Luke 4.  (or you watched on youtube)  40 is symbolic of the years spent in the Exodus, on the way to the land of milk and honey.  In Lent we tell the stories of Jesus’ death and resurrection.    And for many Christians it is a time of prayerful reflection and preparation.  We reflect on the connection we currently have with God noticing any discord and disconnect in our daily living.  

Day to day, there are moments of deep connection to God, that fulfill our longing, sharing a smile, helping a neighbor, finishing a team project at work.   Moments that we find or find us.  But more often the daily grind of our lives is so full we miss the moment, have trouble remembering the last time we just sat in absolute gratitude.  There are things that gotta get done and we don’t slow down much.  There’s housework, office work, do the shopping, repairing, do the laundry, read a little before you fall asleep – or force yourself to sleep so you can get up again and do it the next day.  We are in our routines, whatever they may be.  Often the routine does not fulfill the longing to be more connected to God.  

We have other longings in our hearts too. 

The longing to be in deeper relationship with others.  We feel alone or a burden to others and so push them away.  We are wilderness people, all of us.  This morning I want to talk about our church’s heart – if we can say that – the Spirit of this church, it’s wilderness, it’s trust in God.   

So let me read verses 1-11 of Deuteronomy 26:

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, 2you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, ‘Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.’ 4When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, 5you shall make this response before the Lord your God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. 6When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, 7we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; 9and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.’ You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God.11Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.

 

Starting in Chapter 26, we are introduced to the rituals that will help guide and shape worship traditions for generations to come. The worshiper approaches the priest with the offering of first fruits, and he or she is to recite to the priest the story of Israel’s deliverance.

It is God who brought us together, and it is God who will keep us together.  

The story begins with their ancestors, Jacob & his sons, people without a land or a home because of famine and settled in Egypt.  It remembers God’s blessings that were poured out upon the people, causing them to grow in number and to flourish. It celebrates that God heard their voices and delivered them from their Egyptian oppressors through the hands of Moses. Verse 9 “God brought us to THIS place, gave us THIS land, and now I give back a part of the gift that was given to me.” It is a tithing ritual, a small sacrifice from the harvest to remind them of all that they have. 

As a way of remembering who we are, I want to tell you our story.  How this church has been carried by God.  It’s a first draft. 

But before I do that let me say a little something about wilderness.

This is the preparation part of “reflection & preparation” on our way to Easter. 

Wilderness has levels.  It can get pretty deep. 

There is the day to day wilderness – as I mentioned before we can get seriously lost in the day to day – you can do that routine in your sleep.  Are you aware of God’s bounty in your day? 

When I walk Hannah to or from school, I am reminded of the bounty in my life.  It helps that as I walk to her school I can see this giant, lovely white cross on the hillside at New Hope College out on Bailey Hill.  But I am!  I am aware of my bounty!

That’s one level. 

There are times when we cannot feel the presence of God leading us.  We question the promises that God has made us. When we feel alone.  Spiritually or physically hungry, questioning everything we thought we believed in.  That’s another level. 

And what about Jesus and his wilderness experience? 

What I love about the passage in Luke 4 that we experienced earlier is the suggestion by many scholars that the devil Jesus fights is himself.  That's deep!  He fights his own transformation, questions his own faith. 

It is faith and trust in God that carry us through the wilderness. 

It says that Jesus was led by the Spirit;  the Israelites also trusted God that was within them and beside them.  Nowhere does it say it was easy.  Remember:  It is God who has brought us together and God will keep us together.   And telling, and retelling the story of God’s presence in your past can build your trust in God and bring you peace in the present moment and give you hope for the future.  

So how did God bring us together and how is God keeping us together?

OUR STORY

The movement that became the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) began as an effort in the early 19th century on the American frontier to unify all Christians by returning to a so called “primitive Christianity”. Our father was a wandering Presbyterian. 

Well one of them, anyway.  The other founders were Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians.  The vision of the future was true Christian Unity, beyond the denominations they were raised in.  And they knew if the church would be united at all, it would be around the Bible.

And so they told the stories of Jesus and together they studied the books of Paul and other Apostles.  And they prayed together, each in his or her own language and God heard their prayers. 

From Kentucky through the Midwest, onto the Oregon trail and into the Willamette Valley, Disciples preached that we may all be one in Christ. God was with these Disciples on the Oregon Trail, when Cholera and other diseases claimed the lives of so many.  God was present each time they gathered to celebrate and remember Christ in the Lord’s Supper.  God was with them as they argued over how to celebrate at the table and the right way to worship.  They multiplied and planted churches in each city.  It was as early as 1861 that Christians began to meet under the name Campbellites or Disciples in Eugene and in 1866, the Eugene First Christian Church was formally consecrated:  51 members enrolled with 21 baptisms.  That was 147 years ago.  And here we are today.  Realize the bounty of this harvest. 

Thank you God for bring this congregation this far. 

“In essentials unity, in opinions liberty, and in all things charity.”  This was a motto of that early church, along with “Where the Bible speaks, we speak.  Where the Bible is silent, we are silent.”  Christian unity in this context has been a wilderness experience every step of the way.  For Every person is free to interpret the Bible according to one's own experience and belief. At the same time, the expectation is to show respect for the opinions, viewpoints, doubt and questions of others.  It has not been easy to stay together! 

Here is the essential point that guide us: 

We believe in the love of God for all people.  You are welcome here, your whole self, to study, to pray, to eat as a member of the Body of Christ. 

As we seek to grow, to market ourselves to others, we ought to center ourselves in our history, the prayers of our ancestors, the longing in our own hearts.  If we do that, I know we can find our way together through whatever unknown wilderness lies ahead of us.  Like say a change in worship times?  Or 500 college students moving across the street? 

God is not finished with us yet – we are always on the precipice of change.    This church is a living legacy and we are still learning to live the way of Jesus, taking seriously our mission to witness to the life changing love of God.  We were all once wandering, searching for a home, and found one here.  A community that valued independent thought, and shared leadership, commitment to helping others.   A people who proclaim “All are welcome!”   An open communion table was one of the foundational pieces of our church’s birth.  That God loves all and therefore all have access to God.  But that was just a starting point.  “All are welcome” continues to be lived into.  It is not just a story from the past.

If we accept our mission to serve others because we believe in the inherit dignity and value of all people then we now have a  responsibility to make space for someone else find their faith and become one in the body.  For there are others, in search of a home.

If we believe our purpose is to strengthen the relationships we have with God, with each other, with our families, and with our world, then This Lent, spend some time reflecting on your origin story – and honor God this Lent by recognizing this truth.  We are dust.  Star dust, pixie dust, dust bunny dust.  We will not be here forever.  Our life is a gift and  what we do with the life we are given is up to us. 

This Lent give up chocolate, if that is what you need to do, but also Give of yourself to God this year – you are the harvest in this story.  You are the bounty.  You are shaping the future of this church, with action and by inaction.   So do your best to develop a daily spiritual practice that helps you reflect on God's abundance and God's power in your lives.  Think of a practice that helps you feel led by the Spirit in the desert.  To keep you centered.  Remember the longing of the heart. So that we might learn to reframe our lives and this church and be better prepared for the upcoming wilderness  experience. 

This Lent, Think of Israel, past, present.  Think of Jesus’ longing in the desert.  Think of all those Disciples that came before you - Those are our spirit people.  They did not lose themselves amongst lifetimes of wilderness.  Allow their longing to speak to yours; allow their faith and trust to grow inside you, to make you brave until you feel your faith deepen.  So that years from now, those that come behind us will “celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord our God has given them.” (26:11) 

Amen.

 


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