Hancock Church Sermon – Pam Cochrane – October 13, 2013 – II Timothy 1:3-14

http://youtu.be/nROEVgjKdxM

 

 “Wrapped in Abundant Love”

One afternoon, just a week or so ago, I made it home as the sun was getting low in the sky and took my dog Cayenne out to the backyard. Usually we head right out for a walk but that today I needed to find some sunlight and blue sky and just be. It had been one of those days where nothing seems to flow and all is off and a struggle, tasks and demands on overload. In my rush and business I hadn’t even noticed the amazing blue sky or felt the warmth of the sun or crisp fresh air. Feeling alone, tired and weary, I just stood there seeking a moment to take it all in and regain some strength. Cay was busy sniffing the shrubs and grass so I slumped down on a granite rock that sits facing the hills looking towards Mount Washusett. At my feet, the dried leaves and next to me, the peonies bush looking scorched, bent and dying. Perfect, I thought, I’ll just sit here alone in the fall decay and wallow in some self pity. The deep amber brown fall colors caught my eye. I looked up and saw the sun sinking low in the sky reaching the tree line.  The days are getting shorter, and darker, winters coming, uh. I felt my shoulders lower more.  As I sat and looked out on the view, the light shifted and I caught the glimmer of movement in the light from my vantage point. As the sun cast its rays, I saw this amazing flicker of insects buzzing everywhere. Clusters here and there, flying low and high and they spread in front of me for as far as I could see. Amazed I stood up, they vanished. I sat back down and they were in full view everywhere around me. I just sat in awe. Was I the only one seeing this? I looked to the right and there was my dog, sitting straight forward, nose in the air, gazing, as if he too was present to all that was moving around us. The days torments seem to roll off my back. I sat, watched and relished in the knowledge that I was present to something much bigger than myself.

I didn’t keep track of how long I sat, but the sun moved below the trees, coolness and darkness were setting in, and I turned at the sound of leaves rustling. It was my husband. I’m guessing he had been watching me from the kitchen window. I hadn’t even gone inside yet. He approached and sat down and put his hand on my shoulder, “Saw you sitting here, tough day?” he said. Warmed by his presence, I shared a few of the gory highlights and then I shared what I had just seen. I began telling him about the amazing symphony of nature that I had just witnessed and told him to look, but as we both turned back to face the hills all we saw were the dark shadows of the field. “Had to be there, huh,” he said, I nodded, yeah.

How often have we all seen things clearly and then not see them at all. There is something about autumn, a time of both decay and new life. In this season, we can easily be distracted by surface appearances of decline and the browning of everything around us especially as the days get darker and shorter. One of my favorite descriptions of autumn comes from Parker Palmer. He writes “the days grow shorter, the light is suffused, and summer’s abundance decays towards winter’s death. Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do in autumn? It scatters the seeds that bring new growth in the spring, and scatters them with amazing abandon.”  Parker describes autumn’s paradox as one of dying and seeding and helps me to see beyond the decay “to the myriad of possibilities being planted to bear fruit in some season yet to come.”   Perhaps it is in understanding this paradox that I can see in my own life that which I could not see when I was simply stuck in the midst of doing or wallowing. In the words of Thomas Merton. “there is in all visible things a hidden wholeness. This line is from a poem Merton wrote about wisdom, “a hidden wholeness behind everything, something mysterious that connects all of reality, that integrates all things, that is the Mother, the creative force behind it all. This sense of connection, wholeness, a feeling of being divided no more, is something we long for in our life.

I was sitting alone on that rock,  until I saw the bigger picture beyond myself.

I need a reminder everyday that new life will break through at any moment.

I need a reminder everyday that I am a part of God’s created world and I need a reminder everyday to be grateful to God for all that I have in this world and most importantly, I need to share this Good News with others.

When Paul wrote his letter to Timothy he was seeking this same wholeness. He was in jail, old and frail, some believe the letter to be the last he sent. Paul was alone, isolated, and fearing that his death was approaching, he sends a letter to young Timothy with words of adoration, conviction and hope. Paul asks Timothy to indeed carry on the message that Christ lives in him and in turn in us, so we are called to pass on the Good News, a plea to reach out in the name of Christ to others, especially those in need of healing, both physical and emotional.

The visible signs of our caring are in many of the ministries of our church. From casseroles to Rosie’s place, back packs to Dorchester and animals purchased through heifer, prayer shawls and people going to panama, they abound at Hancock. But let’s break it down just a bit more. Beyond the actions of our collaborations and committees, let’s look at all those tiny sparks of light, like I saw in the backyard that day, that are not always visible. The sparks that in a dark world remind us that we are not alone, that there are others holding us in prayer, opening a door, picking up the phone to say hello, driving us to the hospital, making a simple meal, writing us a letter or just holding our hand. These are the sparks of life that are not quantified but that are what Paul writes about… “when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.”  There are times for all us when we are alone, hidden, a far reach from each other. Paul’s letter was and is a call for us all to receive the word that Christ’s light lives in you. Paul is praying that we too will find our wholeness in Christ and put our trust in the Kingdom of God. The doing of things is right and worthy but the wholeness of testifying that in doing we are part of the whole body of Christ sometimes alludes us.

So what are we supposed to do when we, too, hear Paul’s words and are called to share the Good News.  We can write letters, send thank you notes, love notes, blogs and memes. We can take the time to tell others the Good News that Christ brings new life each and every day if we are willing to open our eyes, our hearts and minds to all those around us. I’m a big proponent of letter writing but I realize fewer and fewer folks send letters. So perhaps today we can simply meet each where we are, meet face to face, post or email, what counts is sharing the word. We live in a world where technology allows us to reach others around the globe in an instant. I received this post just the other day from a friend,  “Today may there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in God, others and yourself.  May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”  This good news I can share!

We can pray, in personal prayers, public prayers, in circles of children and youth lifting up their joys and concerns, centering ourselves on the one we call Holy. We can let go of the material business of doing things and release ourselves to a wholeness in prayer even when we can not see it. This is at the heart of our community of faith and care for each other and it has been passed down from generation to generation. You are all witness to this heritage of care.

 

At the Worship @the Well service in Clark Hall Sunday evenings I light a candle each week for those suffering from pain and chronic illness and one for their caregivers that show so much love and compassion. As many of you know my Dad, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, is not doing well. He’s fallen several times and recently broke his arm. He is now in need of full care in a nursing wing of a life care facility in Concord. He is struggling day to day and needs assistance to do just about everything. It’s easy to lose site of the joy in living each day. It’s easy to be drained and feel isolated and alone. But the spark of light and love for our family has come from many we often miss seeing and naming but who are present; the kind woman who volunteers to read Robert Frost poems to him, the nurse who has saved on his iPhone a picture of the ship my Dad served on in the Navy for late night reminiscing, or the care tech who brings extra ginger ale because she knows it is his favorite and the kind spirit who keeps leaving homemade cookies on his window sill.

I’m knitting a prayer shawl for my Dad. With each stitch I pray for his care, I pray for comfort and I pray that he knows that he is loved and that God is with us even when the days are getting darker and shorter. Nothing is more important now than telling him and showing him that he is loved. As my kids ask what can they do for him, I tell them to keep making cookies, visiting and posting photos on his bulletin board but first and always is to tell him and show him that you love him, that God loves him. My Dad is seeking the same wholeness Paul’s writes of as he faces the most difficult days of his life. All this is knit together, sewn together in a community with Christ.

As you look around the sanctuary notice the prayer shawls and the quilts that wrap the pews this morning, their colors and symbols of love and wholeness, healing and care surround you. They represent the hands and hearts of many who came before us, and many who are present now and they will no doubt be passed on to children and grandchildren in the days to come. Like all those who received these quilts and shawls you too are wrapped in abundant love that brings wholeness and healing and you are a glorious site to God. So go and share the Good News! It is in faith and love that in Christ Jesus, we share Paul’s words, “Guard the good treasure entrusted you…” that love and compassion with each prayer, each stitch, each letter and word is testimony to God’s saving grace, both in living an dying, that makes us whole and strong, one body in Christ.

Amen