Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Parish Picnic Sermon: We Silly-Nillies!

Every year St. John's has a parish picnic and the congregation gathers, this year at Lake Tomahawk in Black Mountain, to worship and to share a meal together. This is my sermon from this past Sunday. Justin, one of the youth in the parish, passed around a bowl filled with mustard seeds as I began my sermon. Each person took a tiny mustard seed to hold in their hand.

Sermon for Year C Pentecost 19 Proper 22


Increase our faith!
That’s what the disciples ask of Jesus.

That might make a very good goal on a parish profile:
Increase our faith!
That phrase is also a wonderful prayer—
one which all of us could pray every day:
Increase our faith!

It seems like such a daunting task.
We, who are filled
with so many doubts, so many worries, so much anxiety,
so long a “to do” list—
Is there any space left inside us
to increase our faith?

Yes! Jesus says, You silly nillies!
If you had faith the size of a mustard seed,
you could make this picnic table
hop over into Lake Tomahawk!
(I bet folks would never miss a parish picnic after that!!)

Look at these mustard seeds.
Take one and place it in the palm of your hand when the bowl comes around.

I’m not sure if it really is the tiniest of seeds.
Perhaps it was at that time or in that place in the world.
But it is indeed small.
Jesus makes his point.

We think we don’t have enough of what it takes to love God, to serve God?
We silly-nillies!
Indeed, we do have enough.
In fact, we have more than enough.

Maybe the faith, the gifts we have seem impossibly small, so insignificant.
But Jesus says, we all have enough already.

We need to erase our scarcity mentality,
to look with new eyes and see
that even if all we have is a teeny tiny amount--
of faith, of wealth, of grace,
God makes it enough.

I saw a photo this week of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field of the universe.
It took my breath away.
To think what is out there—in the sky—
what exists that is beyond our human seeing.

I remember when I was still working in museums
and I was working on an exhibit design,
working with several oceanographers.
One of them told me
we know more about outer space
than we know about the ocean deep.
So much mystery that is beyond what we can see.

Jesus calls us to go beyond.
To go beyond the simple “must do” lists of our lives,
to offer ourselves beyond what we believe is possible.
And to give thanks.

To give thanks for all we have, for all we are, for life itself.
To give more generously and abundantly of our wealth—
which we so often see as meager and limited—
but God sees beyond.

As we heard in the letter from Timothy this morning:
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

There is a piece written by Marianne Williamson—
Many think Nelson Mandela wrote it
because he used it in his 1994 speech
when he was inaugurated as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.
This was after he had spent 27 years in prison.
Here is part of Mandela’s speech/Williamson’s writing:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I
to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God…
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others."

Our tendency is to think we don’t have enough.
Our tendency is to think we are poor:
Inadequate in our faith
Inadequate in our wealth
Inadequate to be truly loved by God.
(from Marianne Williamson's book A RETURN TO LOVE)

Jesus says, You silly-nillies!
All it takes is faith or wealth or grace the size of a mustard seed,
and you can do miracles in this world.
We can. We really can.

Believe and give thanks!
Give thanks to God!

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