As people of faith we are not responsible for the effectiveness of our actions. What we are responsible for is answering the call to become the person God created and called us to be, with all of life’s ups and downs, knowing that God is always there, turning our sorrow into dancing.
August 20, 2023
“Sacred Earth, Sacred Worth”
Part 3: The Paths of Life
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
I exalt you, Lord, because you pulled me up; you didn’t let my enemies celebrate over me. Lord, my God, I cried out to you for help, and you healed me. Lord, you brought me up from the grave, brought me back to life from among those going down to the pit. You who are faithful to the Lord, sing praises to him; give thanks to his holy name! His anger lasts for only a second, but his favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may stay all night, but by morning, joy!
When I was comfortable, I said, “I will never stumble.” Because it pleased you, Lord, you made me a strong mountain. But then you hid your presence. I was terrified. I cried out to you, Lord. I begged my Lord for mercy: “What is to be gained by my spilled blood, by my going down into the pit? Does dust thank you? Does it proclaim your faithfulness? Lord, listen and have mercy on me! Lord, be my helper!” You changed my mourning into dancing. You took off my funeral clothes and dressed me up in joy so that my whole being might sing praises to you and never stop. ord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
The Paths of Life Psalm 30
The inspiration for this sermon came from the title, for which I cannot take credit. As I have shared this is part of a worship series designed by someone else. When I came upon it, knowing that we were being invited to be a part of the One Home, One Future campaign, it was perfect. It combined creation spirituality and worship. It invited us to view the world around us through our connection to God’s creation. It gave us a framework to work within as we continue to reframe and redefine who we are as a Green Chalice community of faith. But I have to tell you, for weeks as I have written, shared, and planned for this series, when it came to this week, I always messed up the name. In my head, I kept calling it “The Path of Life”. It wasn’t until I really spent time this week with the text that I actually paid attention and noticed that I was getting it wrong…in more than one way. The title is “The Paths of Life.” Doesn’t seem like a big deal but that “s” changes everything…because it sets up a new theological understanding on how we perceive life. Or should I say-that “s” gives us an invitation to rediscover our faith roots which are grounded in the concept of the seasons of life.
What I mean by this is that more often than not, we have bought into the narrative that life is linear…that we are born, we grow up, and we die, with all these things happening in a straight line. Sure there might be some ups and downs along the way…but all in all, the viewpoint is that we are progressing from point A to point B, and any deviation from that path is considered, well, a failure. It is so ingrained in our culture that we use terms like the straight and narrow path to describe the only way to do good, to be good, to achieve success. We say things like I just need to get through this and life will return to normal.
This narrative of linear lives sets up a mindset based on achievements and rewards as the only way to define our progress and maturity. The narrative of linear lives has created an atmosphere of competition for resources, for status, for power, for money and we wonder why we are all worn out and overwhelmed all the time.
When in reality, everything about our lives is cyclical. Things happen in seasons. We come back to some of the same experiences, hopefully with a little more grace and a lot more wisdom than the first time around.
Even our faith story has a cyclical rhythm to it, a circle which expands with chapter, with each verse as it encapsulates the story of the people of God through generations. As people of faith, we are told that there is a season for everything under heaven, that God has made everything fitting in its time.
The same seasons of our faith story are reflected in the seasons of our lives. There are seasons of joy, seasons of great sorrow, seasons of creativity and new birth, seasons of compassion and justice making. These seasons of our lives connect us to the wider world around us because they reflect the seasons of Creation…spring brings new life, summer brings celebrations, fall brings the harvest, and winter brings a time of rest.
The seasons of Creation, the seasons of our lives remind us that we don’t have to have everything figured out in that moment. They also remind us that a season will not last forever. Spring gives way to summer, summer gives way to fall, fall gives way to winter, and then we start the cycle all over again.
The beauty of these seasons of Creation is that they remind us that yes there are just some things we cannot control. But more importantly these seasons in Creation remind us that God is God and we are not.
You see, that is the core promise of our faith…that our God who is steadfast and loving, our God who is faithful from generation to generation, will always have the last word and that word is one of love and light.
When we read the words of Psalm 30, we are invited to hear this promise again. We are invited to be in the moment, to allow our experiences to be what they are, to let them teach us, to let them be as we center ourselves in the moment. The words of Psalm 30 reminds us that what is guiding us and leading us through whatever life sends our way is our God, who is trustworthy, who is faithful from generation to generation, who loves us more than we will ever know.
Psalm 30 reminds us that as people of faith we are not responsible for the effectiveness of our actions. What we are responsible for is answering the call to become the person God created and called us to be, with all of life’s ups and downs, knowing that God is always there, turning our sorrow into dancing…because we know, in the words of our sacred story…
“There’s a season for everything… and a time for every matter under the heavens: a time for giving birth and a time for dying, a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted, a time for killing and a time for healing, a time for tearing down and a time for building up, a time for crying and a time for laughing, time for mourning and a time for dancing a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones, a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces, a time for searching and a time for losing, a time for keeping and a time for throwing away, a time for tearing and a time for repairing, a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking, a time for loving and a time for hating, a time for war and a time for peace. What do workers gain from all their hard work? I have observed the task that God has given human beings. God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there’s nothing better for them but to enjoy themselves and do what’s good while they live. Moreover, this is the gift of God: that all people should eat, drink, and enjoy the results of their hard work. I know that whatever God does will last forever; it’s impossible to add to it or take away from it. God has done this so that people are reverent before him. Whatever happens has already happened, and whatever will happen has already happened before. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, August 27, 2023 – The Paths of Life Psalm 30.