July 18, 2021 - Sermon - Marty Culbertson

Sermon Text

Psalm 145 from Eugene Peterson’s The Message


 I lift you high in praise, my God, O my King!
    and I’ll bless your name into eternity.
 I’ll bless you every day,
    and keep it up from now to eternity.
 God is magnificent; he can never be praised enough.
    There are no boundaries to his greatness.
 Generation after generation stands in awe of your work;
    each one tells stories of your mighty acts.
 Your beauty and splendor have everyone talking;
    I compose songs on your wonders.
Your marvelous doings are headline news;
    I could write a book full of the details of your greatness.
The fame of your goodness spreads across the country;
    your righteousness is on everyone’s lips.
God is all mercy and grace—
    not quick to anger, is rich in love.
God is good to one and all;
    everything he does is soaked through with grace.
Creation and creatures applaud you, God;
    your holy people bless you.
They talk about the glories of your rule,
    they exclaim over your splendor,
Letting the world know of your power for good,
    the lavish splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is a kingdom eternal;
    you never get voted out of office.
God always does what he says,
    and is gracious in everything he does.
God gives a hand to those down on their luck,
    gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.
 All eyes are on you, expectant;
    you give them their meals on time.
Generous to a fault,
    you lavish your favor on all creatures.
Everything God does is right—
    the trademark on all his works is love.
God’s there, listening for all who pray,
    for all who pray and mean it.
He does what’s best for those who fear him—
    hears them call out, and saves them.
 God sticks by all who love him,
    but it’s all over for those who don’t.
 My mouth is filled with God’s praise.
    Let everything living bless him,
    bless his holy name from now to eternity!

May God add his blessings to this reading,  Amen


So, The Colorado Trip has returned!  Post “the Worst of COVID 19” we pray!  This was trip number 28 and my 24th Journey.  I have grown older over these past 25 years, since I started my journey in Youth Ministry, but this Faith Journey has never gotten old!  The faces may change over time, but the wonder of this God Filled experience keeps giving!


Thank you again for all of the support you, our Federated Church Family, have given us over the years.  Your prayers, care and financial support are immeasurable! We are so Blessed!

Like so many of us over the past 15 plus months, I had been searching for an escape, a refuge from the Pandemic, the news, the losses felt around the world.  I found myself feeling so helpless.  So I looked for Sanctuary, I searched for places to lift my heart to God in gratitude for all the blessings in my life.  

Worshiping online… together yet apart was difficult for a lot of folks, but I found that having my breakfast and attending worship at the same time was nice   and, I was very aware that we were in community with everyone who logged into the service alongside us.  But worship isn’t enough, even when we are all together Praising God, we need to offer ourselves Spiritual selfcare just like we try to eat right and get exercise.


We all know that God’s Call and the teachings of Jesus are asking us, pointing us to a life of caring for each other.  One thing I know for sure, we cannot live out the call to care for others if we don’t take care of ourselves first… which is why that search for sanctuary, our spiritual self-care is so important.


I am about to take a little side bar here… so bear with me.


The world is full of negative energy that is constantly pulling at us.  This Pandemic magnified so much that is, frankly, screwed up in this world.  Divisiveness, distrust, physical and emotional walls, barriers keeping us emotionally on guard.  But God Summons us to “Love each other”.  So, how do we do that when the events around the world and in our own back yard try to sabotage our efforts?


Anne Lamott is quoted as writing: “Sometimes this human stuff is slimy and pathetic…but better to feel it and talk about it and walk through it than to spend a lifetime being silently poisoned.”  


I think Anne Lamott has a great point… feel it, talk about it…walk through it.  We have had lots of time this past year to reflect, to look inward, to understand where we contribute to the “screwed up world”.  It isn’t easy to take on that kind of responsibility.  But if God is calling us to “Love Each Other” we need to love ourselves enough to address our complicity and make changes.  And to love ourselves is to provide ourselves with Spiritual Selfcare.


In year’s past, if you were to ask me where I feel closest to God, I would have told you it was on or near the water.  The sound of moving water is so comforting to me.  There is a power to water and its movement that to me, reflects God surrounding me, Enfolding me in God’s care.  I have always been able to reenergize my spiritual self on the shores of Lake Huron in Canada… but the pandemic foiled that effort last summer… so I needed to find a new place of renewal.  That is when Martine started suggesting I go channel my mother the artist and take my camera and get outside.  It turns out that searching nature for God’s Love offers me renewal, that peace that God is always near. 


From our reading of Psalm 145 we hear these words “The Lord is near to all who call on Him” or as Eugene Peterson Wrote, “God is there Listening”.


Lauren Daigle, a contemporary Christian singer/songwriter, (the Rise Band has sung a couple of her songs in worship).  Her Album that came out in 2018 is one of my favorites.  It is titled Look Up Child.  The title song on this album is a testimony to “God is Listening”.  

Where are You now
When darkness seems to win?
Where are You now
When the world is crumbling?
I hear You say
Look up child, 
Where are You now 
When all I feel is doubt?
Oh, where are You now
When I can't figure it out?
I hear You say
Look up child.

You're not threatened by the war
You're not shaken by the storm
I know You're in control
Even in our suffering
Even when it can't be seen
I know You're in control
I hear You say
Look up child.


These words are a wonderful reminder that we just need to reach out, look up to find God is near, this allows us to create an instant sanctuary in the embrace of God.  This knowledge, this practice of looking up is an opportunity to create a sanctuary in the middle of chaos or self-doubts.


The Colorado Kids are faced with struggles on this Faith Journey, self-doubt, physical and emotional challenges that they work to overcome.

Giving trust to God and to their group members, proves that they are not alone and they can overcome these fears, physical challenges and doubts.  


Let us go back to the reading in Psalm 145.  Verse 5 in the NRSV version, It reads:
“On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.” 

These words are an invitation to find God and your Sanctuary anywhere in God’s Creation.  That is easy to do in the Mountains.  The proof is everywhere you look.  In the magnitude of the peaks and the depth of the valleys.  Here at home, we might need to practice a bit, what are the peaks in your world… the highs you experience, the valleys you have to overcome?  Those are the reminders that through God you can get through it all, you can create a sanctuary in your heart and mind to pull you into God’s love and share that love with yourself.  Or, if you are like me, you grab your camera and head to the park, you might do yoga, listen to music, walk the dogs or pet your cat… there are so many ways we can draw ourselves into God’s Love, into the sanctuary of our hearts.  

Let us return to the knowledge that to live out our Faith we need to be caring for others and if we take care of our spiritual selves we can live into this call.  If we create this sanctuary in our heart, we become equipped to reach out to those who need our support on this journey of life.  

During this COVID Pandemic, Damian Barr, columnist and author of You Will Be Safe Here shared this simple yet poignant poem:
“Seeking safe harbour amidst Coronavirus”
We are not all in the same boat.  
We are all in the same storm.  
Some are on Super Yachts.  
Some have just one oar.

He wrote this about the pandemic around the world… but this is true about life in general.  It is like the thought that we all can score runs but it is harder for some because there are those born in the batter’s box and there are others born on third base and every spot in between.   


One of our main goals on the Colorado Journey is to instill the idea that the group climbing the mountain can only reach the “Peak”, or reach their goal on the trail if they support each other, share the load so the weakest and the strongest can make the goal together… For the human team to win the game… we need to listen to the call to take care of the least of these, feed the hungry, love all, share our resources, create a world where we all have an equal opportunity to succeed.
In closing, I ask you to think about these simple questions: 
What is your sanctuary place or moment?  What draws you close to God when you realize you are too busy to know God is with you, Listening?  How will you create a Spiritually Healthy you?  The end goal is to care for each other… What kind of journey will you take to reach that goal?


My hope for the Colorado Kids this year is that they were able to discover a place in their own hearts that brings them Sanctuary, a recognition that God will forever be with them, and they only need to reach for that place, that moment that reminds them that they are never alone.  


If we all find that place, that moment, we will make this big crazy world a better place for all.


Amen? AMEN