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.
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
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.
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:
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
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
It is God who
brought us together, and it is God who will keep us together.
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.
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!
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.
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
So how did God bring us together and how is God keeping us
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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)