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Rest and Be Restored.

This was the sermon I preached in spoken word/slam poetry style yesterday at Community Lutheran Church in Sterling, Virginia.

Pastor Annabelle P. Markey
Year B – Second Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 2:23-3:6
Community Lutheran Church, Sterling, VA – June 3, 2018

 

For everyone
Who yearns to be known,
To be loved,
Appreciated,
Shown,
That they mean something –
Life rippling like rings
In a pond,
Making a difference
Before they’re gone.

Rest and be restored.

For everyone
who’s longed for,
No,
Who’s craved,
A chance to stop and breathe
Fresh air,
Filling the lungs
Expanding the chest,
Providing a way
To push on.
One day more.

Rest and be restored.

For those whose labor
Grinds them down
Day in and day out
The same old sound
The type of keys
The ring of phones
That person with the voice that nags
The boss who says,
As your confidence sags,
“you’re not enough.”

Rest and be restored.

For those who love and care
Patiently,
Patiently,
Patiently,
Waiting, wondering,
Fighting as they bear
Another’s burdens
Daring to hope,
That health will reappear
That death won’t draw near.
That time will remain
Suspended.

Rest and be restored.

For the person
who would love
To clock in and clock out
To have a job
That pays the bills –
Permits them to use their skills!
Joy in an honest wage
Not refused because of gender, race, or age,
But honored and respected for
What they’re able
To bring to the table.

Rest and be restored.

For those enslaved,
Ensnared,
For whom the chains of
Poverty,
Hunger,
Injustice,
War,
Trafficking,
And abuse,
Are weighty, clunking, clinging things,
Forged in the calloused hearts
Of other children of God.

Rest and be restored.

In the beginning,
God spoke into being
The earth spinning,
Life abundant and thriving.
Sun,
Moon,
And stars,
Shining, striving
To reflect
That awesome shimmering, splendor
Of their Creator.

Waters foaming, coursing,
Lands verdant and fertile,
Teeming with
Fanciful fish and flocking fowl,
Creatures towering and tiny,
All singing,
Dancing,
Laughing,
In praise
Of their Creator.

And on the sixth day
We entered the picture,
God-breathed dust people
Crafted to care for creation:
Love God
Love each other.
Fashioned,
Handmade
In the image
Of their Creator.

 

And then God rested.

 

So why don’t we?
Freed from slavery
In Egypt,
The people were told
Rest,
Reverence,
Remember,
Reset,
Let
Slaves,
Strangers,
And even pets! –
Have a break.

Rest and be restored.

Liberated from labor,
But no!
Much more than that,
Freed from fear,
Distrust,
Sin,
From lies
We’ve been told
About who we are,
Who we can be,
Whose we are,
How to be.

Rest and be restored.

Healing and wholeness,
Forgiveness,
Compassion
Flowing from the hands
Of a Savior
Saying any second waiting
Is a second
Too long!
For the renewal of
Of a person’s body,
Soul,
And life.
For the chance for them to sing the song
Only they can sing.

Rest and be restored.

“Behold!
He is making all things new!
Gentile and Jew.
Me and you!”
The kingdom is coming,
Holy Spirit’s a-humming,
Feet tapping, strings strumming,
But we can’t hear it
Over the noise
Of our own needs and desires –
“Work harder so I can acquire –
Be right so I can succeed.”

Rest and be restored.

A day –
Nay!
A time given
To worship the Lord,
That God may be ev’rywhere adored,
Time not just for us,
But ev’ry man, woman, and child,
The weak, hopeless,
meek, mild,
The powerful, strong –
Even those we think wrong.
It’s time to turn
And start again.

Rest and be restored.

Salve –
Salvation,
Streaming from the One
Who poured out
His verve
So we might observe and embrace,
Life’s holiness:
To confess and forgive,
Love and be loved,
Laugh and to weep,
Serve and be served,
Be freed,
And
To free.

Rest and be restored.

A ceaseless call.
Consider what God does
For one and all.
Consider and cease!
What you do
Enjoy and find peace,
Rediscover,
Uncover,
Pull back the curtain
On imagination
Implanted in us at creation.
Help others grasp it,
A chance to breathe,
Sigh,
Be fully alive!
Not just one day,
But every day.

Rest and be restored.

To perceive and practice,
What we receive in rest,
Treasure collected in
Clay crocks.
In cracked pots,
Shaped like me and you.
That hope,
Unachievable,
But attainable.
That gift costly,
But free.

Rest and be restored.

The Sabbath was made for you,
Not you for the Sabbath.

Amen.

© 2018. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

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Holy Hands

Calloused hands
Soft hands
Gnarled hands
Scarred hands
Shaking and trembling hands
Injured hands
Distrusting hands
Humble hands
All reach toward the grace
You offer so freely.
Extensions of the people
You touch.

If you only knew…

This was Sunday’s sermon at Community Lutheran Church in Sterling, VA, done in spoken word/slam poetry style from the perspective of the unnamed woman in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 7:36-8:3).

If you knew what kind of woman I was,
You would know
that you should run –
Take off,
Say “I’m done”
Flee from the very sight of me,
And never look back,
Not for lack of compassion,
But because the rules tell you so.

You would know
As soon as I barged into that place,
The look of fear,
Disgust,
Disgrace,
Sweeping over that Pharisee’s face
is your cue –
Do what our culture says to do.
Walk away – forget what you’ve seen.
If you only knew.

Imagine – I’ve heard it all before.
The whispers, the stares, the shame that floods,
Do they think I don’t care?
Do they think I don’t see the glances?
Praying instead for second chances?
Do they think I don’t feel?
Like I don’t have any worth?
Hurt.
Day in and day out.
I carry it all.
If they knew what kind of woman I was.

But somehow in my heart I know,
You’re not like them.
And so I take the last remaining shred
Of street cred and dignity and go to buy
The alabaster jar.
Hope beyond hope
That you’ll forgive the sin that mars
My life
My future
My relationships.
If you only knew what kind of woman I was.

So I’ve come here among your ranks,
Overflowing,
Gushing,
Weeping,
In sheer thanks,
For forgiveness you have yet to bestow.
Low I crouch,
And anoint your feet,
Beat,
Beat,
Beat,
My heart thumps as tears flow freely,
Jesus, will you see me?
If you only knew what kind of woman I was.

I glance Simon in the corner of my eye,
He’s wondering why
I’m here,
Without an invitation
He dines with
The healer of the nations.
“She doesn’t deserve it,
What a waste.”
Waiting to put me in my place,
But unable to pull me
Away from this table,
Even as he burns up inside:
“If he knew what kind of woman she is.”

Every one of my tears
A prayer,
Crying out for all of my years:
“Don’t shove me aside.
Love –
let there be love.
I don’t want to hide.”

And you don’t.

You tell that Pharisee,
Although he thinks he can see,
Although he thinks he perceives,
And thinks he believes,
Rightly –
He’s wrong.
I’m forgiven and free –
Mercy
Washes over me.
I’m seen and I can see –
You know who I was
And who I can be.

You send me on my way,
Saying,
“You’ve been saved.”
And for the first time
I’m light,
Airy,
The weight’s been lifted,
And I want run all around,
From town to town,
Proclaiming,
“If you only knew what kind of woman I was!
If you only knew what kind of God he is!”

You see,
Because that’s your game,
Taking,
Shame,
Blame,
Pain,
And forgiving,
Giving,
A new way of living.
If you only knew what kind of God he is.

But people always misunderstand,
Land to land,
We’re all the same,
Stuck in our sin,
In – ward looking,
Pointing at others,
Blind to our own misdeeds.
On a campus where
Crime is seen as just a youthful fancy,
Or in Latvia –
Women preaching the Gospel
Have made men antsy.
If you only knew what kind of God he is.

Gossip,
Racism,
War,
Hate,
Sins of scarlet
Far and near,
Mark our world,
Jar our lives.
Drowning in disappointment –
Is there a balm –
An ointment?
To soothe our weary souls?

So don’t ask me to simmer
When there are people who need
A glimmer
Of hope
Mercy
Justice
A voice and a choice,
In a world gone bad
With people who are mad –
Trapped in their own mistakes,
Fears,
Trying to break others
Cause they can’t deal
With their own stuff.
Enough!
If they only knew what kind of people they were,
And could be.

We’ve been anointed,
Appointed to tell the story,
Of YOUR glory,
Of your cross,
Your rising
Your Spirit,
To all who will hear it.
To proclaim your kingdom,
Be heaven to earth
Bringing
People of peace
Loving the lost and forgotten
If we only knew what kind of people they are.

Because up your sleeve there’s an ace.
Grace –
Yes, a table of grace,
A place
We can meet you face to face,
Touch you
Like a woman
At another table,
Who loved much.
If we only knew…

© 2016. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

(From: http://www.heqiart.com/2-the-life-of-jesus.html "Mary Magdalene" by He Qi - This woman is unnamed, but some have associated her with Mary Magdalene)

(From: http://www.heqiart.com/2-the-life-of-jesus.html “Mary Magdalene” by He Qi – This woman is unnamed, but some have associated her with Mary Magdalene)

“In the Beginning…”

This was yesterday’s meditation/reflection on John 1:1-18 at Community Lutheran in Sterling, VA.

 

In the beginning,

God’s Spirit, gracefully hovered,

Banking and wheeling, over the swirling chaos.

 

In the beginning,

God spoke, a voice in the darkness,

Calling forth light, seeing that it was good.

 

In the beginning,

God moved, bringing forth life,

Giving beauty, shape, and form to the void.

 

In the beginning,

God stood back, brushed off hands,

And breathed life into all creation – ev’ry being.

 

In the beginning,

God spoke and creation listened,

Praising God – a rich symphony for God’s goodness.

 

In the beginning,

God and humanity walked together,

Before we proudly decided to go our own way.

 

In the beginning,

The Word – God’s own being,

Brought all things into existence – he was light and life.

 

 

 

 

A new beginning,

Grace – the Father’s heart – took on flesh,

Now near enough for all to see, hear, and touch him.

 

A new beginning,

God pitched a tent among humanity,

Taking up refuge with those who had strayed.

 

A new beginning,

The light shone, transforming darkness,

Into daylight, spilling sunlight onto tired shadows.

 

A new beginning,

Light and life came, but still,

People were blind – stuck in their own ways.

 

A new beginning,

The gift of a new start,

Graciously and lavishly given to all who believe.

 

A new beginning,

Power to make us children of God,

A bond so strong, cross cannot conquer, nor death sever.

 

A new beginning,

A dark tomb looked like the end,

But the hope of sunrise – the Son rising – gave new life.

 

 

 

It’s the beginning,

Each fresh dawn, open to welcome,

The fragile Christ child born in and among us.

 

It’s the beginning,

Your sins and regrets washed away,

You are free to shine Christ’s light in the darkness.

 

It’s the beginning,

You are forgiven and cleansed,

Reflecting Christ’s light like sun glinting on the water.

 

It’s the beginning,

Struggles, worries, sickness cannot hold you,

The love and life of God are coursing in your veins!

 

It’s the beginning,

God’s glory has come near, seeking you,

How will you bear witness to that brilliance and truth?

 

It’s the beginning,

God has come among us,

How might you embody God’s love this year?

 

It’s the beginning,

A new year – a new call to follow;

Celebrate the fullness of grace upon grace we’ve received!

 

Amen.

© 2016. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

Sermon #3 (September 27) in our sermon series “The Way of the Cross: Our Journey with Jesus” at Community Lutheran Church, Sterling, VA.

Peter tried to dissuade Jesus from heading to the cross and got put in his place – told to set his mind not on human things, but divine things.  The disciples argued about who was the greatest and found themselves looking at a child and being told to welcome the least of these.  Now, the disciples run to tattle on someone who is performing deeds of power – driving out demons in Jesus’ name.

Out of breath, they run up to Jesus.  “Teacher! We just saw this guy and he was casting out demons.  In your name! We tried to stop him because he’s not one of us.  We did well, didn’t we?!”  And, much to their surprise, Jesus says, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.”  I can see the disciples stopping short and muttering, disappointedly, “Uh… ok.  I guess we’ll just keep walking to Jerusalem then.”

In order to understand what’s going on here, it’s helpful to go back earlier in chapter 9.  A man had brought his son to the disciples for healing. This boy was suffering from a demon that in modern terms seems to be epilepsy.  But the disciples couldn’t drive out the demon.  So Jesus casts it out and tells the disciples when they ask why they couldn’t cast it out, “‘This kind can come out only through prayer.’”

Now there is a man casting out demons in Jesus’ name, but he’s not even in Jesus’ group.  In light of this previous failure to do deeds of power like their Teacher, the disciples seem jealous of the other exorcist.  They are insecure, confused, struggling with their identity as followers of Jesus, and perhaps even afraid that Jesus will kick them out of the inner circle.  After all, they are the handpicked twelve and they can’t even cast out a demon!

The refrain that is repeated throughout last week’s text as well as today’s is, “in Jesus’ name” or “in the name of Christ.”  Children are to be welcomed in Jesus’ name.  Demons are cast out and wholeness restored in Jesus’ name.  People are to receive hospitality – a cup of water to drink – in Jesus’ name.  And woe be unto those who cause anyone who would believe in Jesus’ name to stumble.  In short, the name of Christ has tremendous power.

The disciples have heard Jesus predict his death twice already, and they’re trying to get a handle on what they are supposed to do and who they are supposed to be as followers.  In this search for clarity about their identity, the disciples are eager – super eager in fact – to point out the faults and shortcomings of this man operating outside of their little group.  Instead, Jesus uses this encounter to refocus their attention on themselves.  Because they have been called to follow Jesus and bear his name, they shouldn’t stop this man from doing good just because he’s an outsider.  Instead, they should be focused on the ways their actions are preventing healing and good news from flowing to people in Jesus’ name.  Because it’s not about the disciples’ names, but about whose name they carry and how they represent that name.  The actions of the outsider are welcomed while the insiders are warned to be mindful of their own actions.

In baptism, we are marked with the triune name of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – often with a cross traced upon our foreheads.  It is this name we are to carry throughout our lives.  It is the name in which we are called to live, to love and to serve others.  It shapes and forms our identities.  But as the Gospel points out, because we bear this holy name, we also bear a great deal of responsibility.  Jesus’ words to his disciples ask us pointedly, “how are you getting in the way of the gospel? How are you a stumbling block to others?”

This week, we have been inundated by photos, videos, and news of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.  While I’ve enjoyed it, and I think the Pope has wonderful things to say, he’s kind of a tough act to follow.  I mean, I can’t say that I’ve talked to Congress, washed the feet of prisoners, called for peace on a global scale, or even had a Fiat take me around DC! What on earth have I been doing with my life?! It is easy to look at his actions and feel like we cannot live up to them, but I really like how President Obama put it in his welcome speech to the Pope: “Your Holiness, in your words and deeds, you set a profound moral example.  And in these gentle but firm reminders of our obligations to God and to one another, you are shaking us out of complacency.  All of us may, at times, experience discomfort when we contemplate the distance between how we lead our daily lives and what we know to be true, what we know to be right.  But I believe such discomfort is a blessing, for it points to something better.”

Each of us, washed in the waters of baptism and marked with Christ’s holy and precious name, has been given a beautiful gift.  The gift of forgiveness and discipleship in Jesus’ name.  We have been given the opportunity to serve God and the world in the name of Christ.  Jesus issues a challenge, calling us to stop judging others and forcing us to look instead at how we may be keeping others from encountering the good news, the living God in their own lives.  Are there things that we hold dear that might be stumbling blocks to others experiencing God’s grace? Maybe it’s as simple as not moving in our pews to make room for new folks.  Or maybe it’s prioritizing television watching over spending time in prayer or devotions.  Maybe it’s in the way we speak about others which cheapens our witness to Christ.  This is the discomfort we experience when contemplating the distance between how we lead our daily lives and what we know to be true.  It’s the discomfort the disciples experienced that day with Jesus and it’s the discomfort that can provoke thoughtful prayer, contemplation and change in our own lives.  It’s the discomfort that can lead to asking for forgiveness and opening a space for the healing of our spirits.  Because Christ has begun a good work in us and will bring it to completion.

We are all tempted to look at those outside of ourselves or our little groups and think that others are doing it wrong or shouldn’t be allowed to do it at all.  Other denominations worshiping in the wrong style.  Neighbors tending their yards in the wrong way.  People praying differently than we do.  But Jesus warns us that our time would be better spent searching our hearts and allowing those who bring about good in his name to continue.  Instead of tearing down, how can we take the opportunity to build up and to point to God’s grace and love?

Recently, there was a story of a Turkish couple who took the money they could have spent on their wedding reception and instead spent it, and their wedding day, feeding thousands of Syrian refugees.  This couple, who are Muslims and not Christians, caused me to pause and to reflect on how I was welcoming others – offering a cup of cold water to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, and shelter to the homeless.  The “outsiders” helped this “insider” see and hear afresh the call of Christ.

Today you will have the opportunity to come forward to receive individual prayers for healing.  As James wrote, “Are any among you suffering? They should pray.  Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.”  Soon, I will invite you to come forward to receive prayers in the name of the Lord for healing, forgiveness, strength, or whatever you may need this day.  Come and be strengthened, remembering the name in which you live, move, and have your being.  Come, and give thanks for the healing and wholeness that comes through life lived in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

© 2015. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

 

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