Elizabeth L. Windsor, DMin. The Fourth Sunday of Lent The Second Sunday of Physical Distancing March 22, 2020 Psalm 121 Romans 8:35-39
During Lent, we have been exploring Christian disciplines to sustain and empower us in times of crisis - crises such as the pandemic in which we are now living. Today, we will explore engaging the Scriptures.
That said, you might think that geometry is an odd place to begin. As many of you know, I came to Eliot via the Episcopal Church, a part of the Anglican Communion, for most of my life, followed by ten years in the United Methodist Church. Both of these denominations define their approach to Holy Scripture in geometry. The Anglican practice uses a triangle – more commonly known as “the Three-Legged Stool.” Scripture is understood through reason and the traditions of the Church, and it is tied together by human experience – our own and those of others. The Methodist Church – a denomination that grew from the Anglican Church - uses these same principles – Scripture, reason, tradition and experience – but each word anchors a corner of what is called “the Wesleyan Quadrilateral” after Methodism’s founder John Wesley.
The UCC does not have a geometric shape to help us hold Scripture, Reason, Tradition and Experience in tension – something for which I am eternally grateful as triangles and quadrilaterals are my limit when it comes to geometry! The UCC’s approach to Scripture is to “take the Bible seriously.”
John Thomas, a former General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, describes taking the Bible seriously this way, “[we] recognize its transparency, expect to see beyond mere text to the mysterious presence . . . the ultimate living Word [that] encounters us full of challenge, comfort, judgment, grace and truth . . . the transparency works both ways and allows the Word to see us for who we really are . . . the Bible is both divine revelation and human disclosure. Beyond the sacred page, we seek [the] Lord and in so doing, [we] look over God’s shoulder to see ourselves as God sees us.”
We know we live in a troubled world, even more deeply challenged now. Everything is out of balance – and the warnings clang louder and louder as we continue to degrade our planet, wealth inequality grows, borders and hearts become hardened and pandemic spreads around the globe. Despair, fear and anxiety fill our every moment. We are overwhelmed. It is critical to remember that God does not send these things to punish us, but there are natural consequences to the ways in which we have been living, and those consequences are upon us now. To restore our perspective, to understand who we are in relation to God and one another, it is urgent to renew our acquaintance with the Bible.
Rev. Thomas encourages us to “befriend it and like any good friend, look to it to tell [us] the truth, the hard truth, the whole truth, astonishing truth, the Gospel truth.”
The “hard truth” . . . We have brought ourselves to this mess because we have forgotten who we are and whose we are. And still, the “Gospel Truth” continues to proclaim what has always been revealed in Scripture; God loves us. God is with us. We do not have to be afraid. We can always come home – although perhaps we should change that to “stay home” right now.
I invite you use the restrictions of our current lives to “befriend” Holy Scripture and take it seriously. One of the best ways to do this is by reading the Psalms. There is a Psalm for just about everything. The Psalms reveal the human desire to reach beyond the text to the mysterious loving presence beyond them. They help us to see the best of who God calls us to be and they hold us accountable when we fail to do so. There are Psalms of praise, Psalms of lament and Psalms for every human condition in between. Psalms help us to regain the proper prospective in our relationship with God. Begin with the Psalm we heard read this morning, Psalm 21 and ask these three questions:
What does this Psalm reveal about God? What does this Psalm reveal about people? What does this Psalm reveal about God and people together?
These are generally good questions to ask about any Scripture passage, but during this strange and terrible Lent, this Psalm is particularly helpful. Jot down your thoughts as you ask these questions or perhaps draw what the Psalm evokes for you. In whatever medium you prefer to use, open your heart and mind to encounter the God who loves us beyond measure.
We are hoping to organize a Zoom meeting this week where we can reflect together on Psalm 121. We are working on getting to know the software and will send you the information on how to access it when we have it set up. I promise, there is no geometry involved. Amen.