Sermons on Paul
Laughter can mask all sorts of hard emotions: shame or embarrassment, and also injury. Maybe the words of the visitor stung her deep inside, broke her heart once again, his words awakening in her the passionate yearning she had for her own baby, and it seemed like the visitor’s words were mocking her, for she was 90 years old and knew that she could no longer bear children. How often do we hear God’s call and almost wish we didn’t, for once awakened, we know we must respond, and sometimes that just doesn’t seem possible? We almost wish the yearning had not been placed in our heart, when we don’t think we can give It birth.
The experience of invisibility can manifest as simply as being the last one picked for a sports or spelling bee team in third grade, not being invited to a party all your other friends are eagerly anticipating, or as complex as not being considered for a job promotion you believe you deserve. Whenever or however it happens, it hurts. It is humiliating. And it pushes back against one of the truths we hold most dearly: that each one of us has been made uniquely and creatively by a God who loves us and who sends us out into the world each week, after being forgiven, restored, and renewed, in order to make our particular contribution, as we join God in mission in our world.
I wonder if these stalled times of our lives, when it seems God’s message to us is to sit in the moment longer, rather than dash forward toward our own plan, can provide for us an invitation to a very different kind of prayer. Rather than asking God for what we need or want, could we echo Simeon’s words, when holding the messiah in his arms as Jesus was presented to him in the Temple, with the prayer in his heart, “I have you Lord, I have enough.”
Joy is actually the fruit of spiritual maturity; joy that shows up in our desire to be attached to some purpose larger than ourselves; joy that shows up in our being loving and patient toward one another, joy that shows up in our desire to play our part alongside one another to build up this part of Christ’s body; joy that shows up in helping to carry the burden of others; It’s a glorious and joyful thing we can do for one another and which we can become. For when we show joy, we are inviting others to taste and see that the Lord is good. And that’s letting God’s grace into the world.
The work, I believe, we bring to scripture texts is to find within the spoken or written words, that which both comforts and that which challenges us. We want our relationship with God to be rooted in God’s everlasting and intimate love of us, which we search for and find in our scriptures, and we want our lives: our actions, beliefs, and feelings, to be challenged, so we can live the gospel faithfully within community.