My first attempt at a sermon.
|Thank you Abba
This was my first attempt at writing and delivering a sermon. Given at the Bolivar United Methodist Church on November 24, 2019.
Precede with Bible readings:
Genisis 1:1 and 1:31
Faith and belief are things that we all cherish deeply, but both are expressed and felt very differently by each and every one of us. I am not sure that I am qualified to stand at this pulpit and express my own, but I do believe that God has been calling and prodding me to do so for quite some time now. So here I stand, in spite of the fear of exposing my soul to you.
As some of you know, I live off the grid alone in the woods. I often go four or five days without seeing or talking with anyone except God. He and I have had some VERY long conversations. In light of the fact that I spend more time talking with Him than to other people, I am going to base this sermon around a special prayer. My hope is that at least one of you finds their own message within it.
Before I begin, there are two foundations to my faith which have shaped the way that I feel.
One is written in the first chapter of the Bible, in Genisis chapter one, and can be paraphrased to say that, in the beginning, God created everything. I know that everyone in this room has heard that - many of you can even recite the exact verses - but have you really thought about the depth of that creation? It may be far deeper than you think.
My other foundation stone is my understanding of the depth of love that God feels for every soul on earth. Jesus was able to express that love with a single word. Because he was a Rabbi, Jesus undoubtedly spoke Hebrew, and possibly Greek or Latin, but his native tongue and that of the apostle Paul was Aramaic. “Abba” is an Aramaic word which loosely means “Father”, but has no direct translation in most tongues. The word “Papa” comes close, but “Abba” specifically refers to the deep love that a father feels the first time he sees his new born child. I remember vividly the first time that I met my daughter. The intensity of the love that washed unbidden through me almost knocked me down. It took my breath away. Have any of you experienced that? (Pause) I believe that God feels this way toward all of us every moment of every day of our lives. Jesus felt this way too. In chapter fourteen of the Gospel of Mark, just before he was betrayed by Judas, Jesus prayed to God saying “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Jesus was, at that moment, filled with fear and anguish - but he still understood how much his Abba loved him. Because it cannot really be translated directly, “Abba” still appears some places in many different translations of the Bible. After understanding its meaning it is the word I use to address God when I pray. Of all the names we have for “God”, this one feels the most appropriate to me.
What follows now is my prayer. If you wish to be in an attitude of prayer that is fine, but please don't feel that you must. This is as much a gift to you as it is a prayer to Abba.
Abba, Father, help me stand
and share what I have seen,
give me courage for this task
and let me be serene.
Be it that these people here
do wisdom from me glean.
Oh Abba, help me lord.
I thank you for the storms that blow
and fill our hearts with fright.
I thank you for the darkness first,
the fading of the light
for when my eyes can see no more
I know the joy of sight.
Oh Abba, make it bright!
Without I'd seen the darkness I
would never ever know
the wonder of a sunny day
and all that light can show.
I thank you, Abba, ever more
for the wonder of that glow.
My sight, to dark, I owe.
I thank you for the rain that comes
and falls upon the earth
though cold and wet it soaks the ground
and brings the forest birth
so now I look upon the damp
and understand it's worth.
O Abba! Thank you Lord!
I know that darkness comes to us
in many other forms,y
not just in the majesty
of the summer thunderstorms -
it's sometimes pain in body
or in thoughts that come in swarms,
but all are gifts adorned!
I thank you for the pain that makes it
hard for me to walk
for silent sitting gives more time
when you and I can talk.
It let's me watch the forest too -
the chipmunk and the hawk.
Oh Abba, thank you lord!
I thank you for the thoughts of those
with whom I disagree
for understanding what they think
makes light of what's in me,
and sometimes in those other thoughts
I find new ways to see.
Oh Abba, thanks to thee!
I see that it's the differences
'tween things that makes them real
and you have given choices vast
so I could choose to feel -
I choose to feel your love, my lord,
in joy my heart you seal.
Oh Abba, thank you Lord!
Abba, Father, thank you for
the gifts you give us all -
the ones that make us stand up
and the ones that make us fall.
Within this web of choices
let us always hear your call.
Oh Abba, thank you Lord.
Abba created everything, that which we think of as “good”, and that which we think of as “bad”. Many of the things which disturb us do so by our own choice.
I have a vivid memory of a time when I was very young, probably four or five years old, and I was terrified of thunder storms. Lightning would send me scurrying to my bed in fear. My parents had a small balcony off their bedroom which was covered by an overhanging roof. One night during a particularly intense storm I was burried under my blankets, afraid of the crashing and flashing and darkness and rain. My dad came in and picked me up - then carried me to the balcony and sat me in his lap wrapped in a blanket. We watched the storm together and he would get genuinemy excited pointing out the biggest flashes and loudest crashes. He loved watching lightning, and his joy changed the way that I looked at those storms. Fear of something that I thought was “bad” changed to wonder, respect, and even awe of the power and beauty of Gods' hand.
A great many of the things that we think of as “bad” are not so at all. It's a choice how we feel these things. We can decide that even things that hurt us or opinions we don't agree with are gifts - gifts that help us understand more of our own feelings and thoughts.
Take a look at your own hearts, your thoughts and dreams, your loves and hates, your good and your bad. How you feel about all of these things are choices. Take a look at the choices you have made. Find the positive in at least one of your negatives. Decide to focus on the light instead of the darkness. Do this to different thoughts now and then and you will find that your feelings of joy and gratitude will grow on their own. Take a look at your enemies, or just people whom you do not like. Jesus told us to love everyone, no matter their race, creed, religion, or whatever beliefs they have. To do this you have to understand them at least a little. Learn about those you dislike - you don't have to agree with them, just accept their right to their own opinion - just as you have the right to your own. And who knows? In the process you may learn things about yourself that you never expected, and in that find that your attitude of gratitude to Abba grows - one idea at a time.
I have followed this path for several years now - choosing to see joy in everything. I know that some of you make light of the fact that I don't mind walking in any kind of weather, and even come here to church soaking wet sometimes - but I truly do find joy and gratitude to Abba in everything. I have come to a point of incredible peace in my life. I am filled with a joy so intense that it is difficult to express. I have a home and heat and food and clothes and a church and community which I cherish deeply. This peace, this joy, comes from treating everything as a gift from my Abba. He will give you the gift of joy and lift you up too - all you have to do is teach yourself to be grateful to Abba for everything and every one.
As a final note, if I have made it this far through this sermon, then Abba has answered the first verse of my prayer, where I asked for strength and courage. Right here, right now before you, you have witnessed the hand of God in action, holding me up and helping the words to flow.
It is well with my soul. Oh Abba, thank you Lord.
May Abba's arms enfold you all.
Follow with hymn #377 from the Methodist Hymnal, “It is Well With My Soul”