Hymn- Jesus Loves Me
Larry Bender is preaching at Ada Chapel today. Because we don’t have a transcript of his sermon, the sermon on the blog today will be the sermon that Hannah is giving this morning at WIlmington Yearly Meeting.
As of July 5, Ada Chapel has reopened for in-person worship on Sunday mornings. Here is what you need to know about resuming meeting for worship.
1.) Friends should not feel pressured to return to meeting if they are not comfortable doing so. Worship will continue to be posted every week on the Ada Chapel blog for Friends who wish to continue worshiping at home.
2.) If you are not feeling well on any given Sunday morning, please stay home. We want to protect those among us who are high-risk.
3.) Masks will not be required, but if you have been wearing one regularly, wearing it to worship is encouraged.
4.) There will be hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes set up throughout the meetinghouse so that Friends can sanitize their hands, and so that we can wipe down common surfaces, such as hand rails, pews, and hymnals.
5.) Friends must spread out in the pews. Sitting in family units is fine, but leave some space between your family and the next family.
6.) Friends must be respectful of other Friends’ space. Congregating after worship, hugging, shaking hands, close talking, etc. is discouraged.
Our country. All those who are in harm’s way. All of those who are sick, or who have loved ones who are sick. Healthcare workers, first responders, and all those who continue to potentially expose themselves to infection. Our neighborhood and our community. The family and friends of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks. Wilmington Yearly Meeting. Our leaders in all levels of government. People in the recovery community. Parents, children, the elderly, and others who are isolated. Everyone who is feeling discouraged. All of those who have lost jobs, or who are struggling financially during this time. The young people of WYM who won’t get to go to camp this summer. Those who are grieving. Those who are feeling anxious about the spikes in COVID 19 infections.
Hymn- He’s Alive
Wilmington Yearly Meeting Revised Queries #1: What steps am I taking to be sensitive and obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit?
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He separated the land from the sea, and He carved out rivers. From there, God went on to create plants of all kinds—grass, tulips, maple trees, bananas, oranges, and of course, our favorite Midwest vegetable—corn. Then, He created the sun, the moon, and the stars. God created herons, eagles, fish, cows, lions, wolves, horses, mice, and sea monsters—of all things! And then, once all of that was done, God created human beings. He created you and me, and He created us for the purpose of stewardship. That’s what the word dominion means, as its used in Genesis 1. Dominion means to serve and to take care of. So, God created us to bear His image into the world—to love Him, and to love all that He created deeply. Our call was to out forth God’s love into the world—to take care of one another, and to take care of the rest of the creation. And God looked at all of it—all that He had made—and He called it very good. Even the mosquito and Brussels Sprouts.
But we all know what happened next. Adam and Eve were tricked. They were told that they could be like God—not realizing that they were already as much like God as they could possibly be. Adam and Eve chose not to trust God and the peace, the beauty, and the goodness of the world that He had created. Instead, they chose to pursue their own vision of what life could be like, and in that pursuit—everything was broken. Dominion became domination. Violence, poverty, murder, hatred, fear, desperation, and death came sweeping in, and of all of creation was left with mere pieces of what could have been.
Our original call hasn’t changed. We are still here to bear God’s image and to be good stewards. That just looks different now because of the reality in which we live. Picking up the pieces and helping God to put the puzzle of Creation back together has become our call. And that’s more or less what we have spent this weekend together talking about.
We have lamented racial injustice in our country, and considered how we, as Friends, can confront racism and work towards a better world for our siblings of color. We’ve listened to Elizabeth Newby’s story of what it is like to be a Brown person in the United States, and wondered how we can promote change so that the dehumanization of Brown people—specifically at the Mexican border—will be no more. We have talked about the horrors of war, and ruminated on how peacemaking has the potential to bring this world closer to what God wants it to be.We have reflected on Micah 6:8—that beautiful scripture that offers us both a poetic and practical blueprint to follow. So, we know what we are to do. We know what kinds of issues are breaking God’s heart, and what sorts of things in this world need to be repaired. We have instructions from scripture that tell us how, and that offer us guidance in getting started. But what about encouragement, hope, and guidance as we shift from planning to action? How do we healthily engage in the work set before us when we are actually in the thick of it?
Since Hamilton was added to Disney Plus, I have watched it more times than I would care to admit. If you haven’t heard of Hamilton or if you haven’t seen it, the best way that I know how to describe it is that it is a hip-hop show about the life of Alexander Hamilton. It sounds weird—but it’s actually really, really good. Even my husband, who hates anything that is remotely similar to a musical really liked it. Anyway, during my second watch of the show, I started to pick up on this underlying theme about how humankind should be spending and using the limited time that we all have here on this earth.
Alexander Hamilton has made it his life’s work to be busy. He has goals, and he has opinions. Hamilton has this carefully crafted legacy that he wants to see written down in history books after he’s gone, and he isn’t going to stop until he can ensure that it will happen. He writes and writes, and he speaks, and he presents all of these ideas of how the newly formed government of the United States should function. He never stops. Hamilton treats life as if it is a giant math problem to be solved, and that’s basically what his life becomes. There is little joy or wonder or beauty in Hamilton’s life—its all about work, and he basically dies because of work.
And on the flip side, there’s Aaron Burr. Burr is cautious, a foil to Hamilton’s recklessness—but cautious to a fault. He has political aspirations and goals like Hamilton does, but he also does not want to take risks. Burr’s strategy for his life is to lay in wait—to wait for the timing to be perfect and for the conditions to be right. He is almost paralyzed by uncertainty throughout the show, and he just can’t seem to figure out how to get started. In the end, when Burr is finally pushed over the edge and makes a definitive decision—it turns out to be a bad one, and he regrets it for the rest of his days.
The reason that these particular characters and their choices grabbed my attention—the reason why I’m telling you about a Broadway show in church—is because I can see myself in both Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. When it comes to the choices that I have made throughout my walk with Jesus, and in how I have approached my own job of picking up the pieces, I can see myself in both of these characters.
I have been a spiritual Aaron Burr. I have been way too hesitant. I have feared making the wrong move, or doing it all wrong. I have been concerned that I don’t know enough to do the work that I am being asked to do. So I’ve read, and I’ve made lists, and I’ve made new discoveries—but after all of that, I’ve still been afraid to budge. I’ve worried that maybe I heard God incorrectly, or that the timing just wasn’t right. And then, before I knew it, I hadn’t picked up a single piece—I’d just been staring at them on the ground, doing nothing while others around me worked.
I’ve also been an Alexander Hamilton. I’ve been far too rash. I’ve worked and worked, picking up pieces and putting them together, and immediately moved on to the next project, until I realized one day that I was exhausted, and that I had no desire to continue working. I had stopped hearing God’s voice, and I had stopped engaging with the other people working around me. I had stopped seeing the beauty that is produced in Kingdom work. My existence had become joyless and punishing. There was no time for anything that remotely resembled flourishing, because there was always something else to be done.
I certainly can’t speak for all of you, but I have a feeling that I am not the only person on this Zoom call who can identify with these two people in a spiritual sense. Maybe the minute that I started talking about Shalom, vocation, and picking up the pieces this morning, you instantly tuned out, because you have been hard at work for years, and you are tired. Perhaps you are feeling convicted right now—guilty that you haven’t been doing enough, or living up to your call. Maybe this entire weekend has been distressing to you, because you are either feeling like the worst Christian/Quaker ever, or you are feeling like the only person in the room who is serious about doing anything at all. So, as we consider my earlier question—the one about how, specifically, we are all going to go out today and take up the work of piecing the puzzle back together—I’d like to suggest that we all keep in the backs of our minds the words that Moses spoke to the Hebrew people as they stood on the cusp of the Promised Land after years of wandering in the desert. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says: I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lordyour God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lordswore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.As we exit this Zoom call today, Friends, and we find ourselves teetering on the edge of here but also not yet—on the cusp on the Promised Land of the Kingdom of God—may we choose life. May we always choose life.
As we sweep the streets, may we decide to work together. May we lean on one another for help. When we don’t know how to get started, may we ask our neighbor where they need assistance. When we find ourselves taking on too much, may we be willing to pass on part of the load that we are carrying. May we find people with similar passions to help spur us on. May we find people who are completely different from us, so that we can grow. May we find people to sweep alongside who we can depend on, and who we can share our triumphs and our trials with. Remember, Friends, that we are not alone. This is not all on us.
As we sort through the glittering pieces of Creation, searching for matching edges, may we trust that the grace of God is enough. God’s grace has been, and always will be enough. May we take a deep breath and know that it is okay to take action, even if we aren’t completely sure that the time is right. May we have faith that we are not powerful enough to screw absolutely everything up, and that God can fix it when we get it wrong.
When we see a giant pile of pieces that need to be fitted together, may we not be overwhelmed in either extreme. May we not become frozen by the weight of the work and unable to participate, but may we also not work ourselves to the point at which we are no longer living. May we work and take Sabbath in equal amounts. Sabbath is not only a commandment, but taking Sabbath allows us to love ourselves, our neighbors, and God more fully. It is an essential part of this work that we are called to do.
In those moments where structure begins to become a curse—when you find yourself becoming overly dependent upon keeping the schedule, or feeling crushed by rigidity—may you remember that God is too big for the boxes that we like to try to put Him in. Be flexible. Be open to where the Spirit takes you. Allow yourself to be led by the Spirit’s whisper—by Her gentle, peaceful blow.
When we complete a job—when a section of the puzzle comes together—may we take joy in that moment. Our God is a God of abundance. When He created this world, it was abundant, and as things come more and more together, that abundance continue to will flow through. May we laugh. May we smile. May we praise God and express our gratitude, both for God and for all of Creation. May we engage in wonder. As our Friend Miriam Speaight says, let us not just look for Light to walk in, but may we also leave footprints of Light along the way for others to see. Even when the job is not entirely done, may we take joy in what has been completed up to that point! May we allow delight to envelop our hearts. A life without wonder, beauty, and jubilation is not life at all—it is merely mitigation and problem solving.
As we find matching edges, and become more and more engrossed in the Creation puzzle, may we remember that ultimately, this work is God’s plan—not whatever our individual plans might be. He has to be included in it for it to work. May we remember to talk to God, and to listen to what He has to say. May we strive to depend on God, and on His love and His grace—not upon ourselves.
When the work begins to shift—when the edges stop matching, and we find ourselves in unknown territory, may we remember that there is a time for every activity under Heaven. There is a time to speak, and a time to listen. There is a time to take concrete action, and a time to plan and to learn. There is a time to take the reins, and a time to let someone else drive. May we remember this, and adjust accordingly.
In those moments when we start to feel discouraged—like all of this work is going nowhere, because things are breaking faster than we can put them together—may we fully feel those hard feelings. Grief, confusion, suffering, and pain will all be part of the job. A world without Shalom is a world where we will encounter rough and heartbreaking things. And unfortunately, feeling pain is part of living. But may we also remember that love always wins. Love is the reason why God created us. Love is the undercurrent that blows through every inch of this world, even when we just can’t seem to see it. Love is what makes everything possible. In this, we can have hope, even while we grieve.
When we find ourselves at a point in the job where we are getting way too comfortable—when we start clinging to idols, because they are what we know—may we remember that idolatry was quite literally the big mistake that the Hebrew people made, over and over again. Idols are easy, and they can make things simple for us. But they are not the way to freedom, and they are not the way to life. Its scary to let old things die—especially when we have grown to depend up on them—but it is worth it to do so that life can flourish.
As we find ourselves tempted to live in the future—either because we are obsessed with marking things off of our to-do list, or because we are waiting for something that might never come—may we choose to focus on what is at hand right now. May we concentrate on what is in front of us at this moment. May we live in the present, and in doing so—choose life.
Life is a gift, Friends. I know that a statement such as this might sound cliché, or that it might come off as irritatingly optimistic in the midst of a pandemic. Or maybe even immature, or overly tidy, because of my youth. Frankly I didn’t even believe myself that life is a gift until about a year ago. But I believe it enough today to say it, and to stand by it. The accounts of creation in Genesis make it so clear that life is a gift. Deuteronomy 30:15-16 and Micah 6:8 remind us of it, and encourage us not to forget. They tell us to choose life. To love God, and love your neighbor. To do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. The Resurrection proclaims it, and renews our understanding of what the gift of life means for us and for this planet. It bolsters us in the fact that God loves us so much that He was willing to go to the cross and to die at the hands of human violence just to fix the broken relationship between us. At the risk of referencing Hamilton too many times on a Sunday morning, as Alexander Hamilton works his life away and can imagine only what people might say about him after he dies, his wife, Eliza, sings: “Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” To be alive right now—to follow Jesus; to participate in the holy and restorative work of picking up the pieces; to be transformed and renewed into Image Bearers who love; to watch this world make its way back to perfection—is a privilege. All of this is an amazing, incredible privilege.
Friends, only you can know for yourselves which of the broken pieces are shining brightest to you. The particularities of your call are yours to interpret and to figure out. Perhaps you are called to work on something that we discussed this weekend—perhaps you are called to something entirely different. But wherever you might find yourself—whichever pieces you find yourself mending; or doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly in regards to—may you choose life. May you do in a way that recognizes what a gift it is for you to even be alive doing it, alongside God and alongside others. May you do it in a way that brings abundance to this gorgeous, strange, sadly not whole, but also beautifully broken world. May you not fall into the extremes—the lies that society likes to tell about who we must be. May you choose and pursue life.
Hymn- Rock of Ages
Ada Chapel Prayer
Father, we thank thee for the night; and for the blessed morning light. For rest and food, and loving care; and all that makes the world so fair. Help us do the things we should; to be to others kind and good. In all we do, and all we say; to grow more loving every day. Amen