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Get Up!

by The Rev. Kaji Douśa
Senior Minister, The Table:  United Church of Christ of La Mesa

Rev. Dousa

Rev. Dousa

 

Opening Worship Message, Annual Gathering 2016, June 3, 2016

When it all comes down to it, where do we go?  When the volunteers won’t say yes.  When the meetings get tense.  When our church’s wider acronyms keep shrinking and shrinking.  When the narrative keeps shifting so that it’s not clear whether it’s holy ground or sand on which we stand.  When the numbers are down.  When old friends and lovers have moved on to other shores.  When the mortgage or rent is too high.  When the meds are off balance.  When the other shoe drops.  When it all seems too dambed much…Where do we go?

He was afraid.   Look at his life, and you’d have thought he was fearless.  He was the thorn in the side of power.  He was the pain in the *ss they did everything they could to stop.  He kept showing up to say:  ENOUGH!  Change your ways!  This cannot continue! There is a better way.

But even a voice crying out in the wilderness, even the balm on the sores of pain, even the sons and daughters of righteousness get tired.  They feel fear.  They can have enough of saying enough.

The mighty prophet feared for his life. And…he disappeared.   He disappeared. He fled and walked, ran maybe, into the desert/wilderness.

You don’t just up and run into the desert unless…I mean, can you imagine?   Why would you go to the desert? This isn’t Sedona, with its gorgeous natural architecture and delicious restaurants. It’s not a retreat center known for its refreshing spa beverages. This is the wilderness desert, undeveloped, no resources. It is a place where you are likely to die.

And we hear so much about that, about death, in church.   I’ve talked to some ministers about their work, and more than a few feel like they’ve become highly theologically trained funeral directors. That’s holy work, of course. Ushering people from life to death, remembering them is at the core of what we do.

That is, if it’s tied to resurrection.   But if death is all we’re up to, if church is all death and memory and no resurrection, then you and I and the people we serve and work alongside of might find ourselves running through our own Sinai Deserts.

Many of our churches are sitting, comfortably, even, under a broom tree. Through with enough. Done.  With every exhausted turn from the winds of change, with every death-grip on traditions that no longer serve, with every petty conflict that teaches our children and their children’s children that this kind of bad behavior is church, with all of these dysfunctional and life-stripping habits that so many of us have come to believe is “just church” we settle our butts more firmly in the sand underneath our own broom trees.

Church. Church!   If this is you, if this is someone you know, if this broom tree experience resonates even just a tad, will you listen, with me, for the voice that’s been crying out to us this whole time:   Get up.

Do you hear the whisper?   Get up.

Does it sound familiar?   Get up.

Can you recognize its timbre? Does it sound like a resonance that’s been pulling at you for some time?   Get up.

There is a kind of getting up that we all can do, no matter what our physical abilities, no matter what might act as a limitation. This is not just a call to the young and abled. This is not just a call to the program-sized or the fancy. If that is not you, then the call, by the way, comes even stronger:   Get up.

We are Christians. We proclaim death insofar as it ushers in resurrection.  We are church. Which means that we don’t eschew the broom tree. We don’t shame people for finding comfort in the arms of death.  We just help them to know that they don’t have to stay there.   We get up.

Good folk: you may be at your wit’s end. Whether silently or aloud, you may be screaming:  ENOUGH.   Maybe the lesson from Elijah is this:   Maybe we need the broom tree. Maybe we need the time of rest. Maybe we need to be so open to God’s will that we’re willing to go to the brink. Maybe, actually, surely, there’s a blessing ready for us.

The angel met him there.   The angel came and said what Elijah needed. Get up. Go to the mountain. The Lord is on the way.   And there was a wind, and the mountains split and the rocks broke. And after the wind, an earthquake.  And after the earthquake, a fire.

God was not those things. Note this, church. God does not cause disaster.

But after the broom tree, after the mountain-splitting wind, after the rocks broke, after the levies broke, after floods came, after the fault split and the ground seemed eaten up, after all this… God came through.  Amen?   God came through. As God always did.

And God didn’t show up in the ways the magicians and the soothsayers might’ve promised. Instead, God showed up where but in the sound. of. sheer. silence.  As God does. As God will.

Sometimes, we need to be still to know that God is God. Sometimes, we need the rest before we get the awakening.

But when God shows up in the new way that’s going to get us going, prepare us for the next leg of the journey, it’s our job to be ready.

We are here together as a church some might say is dying or whatever. Ho hum.   Maybe we’re under the broom tree as a conference.   If we are, let’s look in and through the pain and be still enough to hear God’s angels, and God Godself, calling us forward.   Because the only way out of the wilderness is through. And it may be that we’re in the through right now. But when weeping spends the night, remember that joy will come in the morning.   And God is with us every step of the way.

We do well to take those steps together, hand in hand.   And as we do, God will never, ever forsake us. May we live our lives to say thank you. Thank you, God. Thank you for lifting me up. Thank you for never forgetting me. Thank you for taking death and bringing life. Every single time.

Thank you.

Amen

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