Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tenth after Pentecost, 2007

August 5, 2007 X Pentecost (RCL 13/C) Luke 12: 13-21

It’s great to be here this morning—just great!

All kinds of things happening in the Robison family: Susy and I back from a lovely vacation, staying at what is now her brother’s home at the shore up in Massachusetts; daughter Linnea home at last, just the day before yesterday, after nearly 2 ½ years abroad, in Mongolia; and now she and her brother both planning a return to their university studies in a few weeks, as summer turns to fall.

Great to be here, with you—catching up on summer news, looking forward to the season ahead with all the preparations around the church, and as we move in and settle into our new offices over in what we’re still going to be calling for a while “the Old Rectory.” Challenging in lots of ways, but fun.

Take a deep breath, I think, and enjoy it. This life of ours. Remembering the old joke I first heard on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh in Show about 40 years ago. “My life used to be so depressing: I’d get up, eat breakfast, go to work, work all day, come home, eat dinner, watch television, go to bed. But now things have changed.” “Really, how so?” “Now I GET UP! I EAT BREAKFAST! I GO TO WORK! I WORK—ALL DAY! Then I COME HOME! I EAT DINNER! I WATCH TELEVISION! I GO TO BED!”

I know a friend of ours, who has seen some of the really hard things that life can have, accident, addiction, brokenness. Ask her how she is, and she says, “Honey, I got up this morning!” – Lots of people didn’t, but I did, this Sunday morning at the beginning of August, and today there is a fresh start, an adventure, and it’s all gift, all blessing.

And we all did: get up this morning, and what a gift that is. And to be here with you, and in this great place, St. Andrew’s, and to spend an hour singing and praising God, sharing the bread of life and the cup of our salvation. Even if it’s a little warm and the humidity is high: here we are, and what could be better? The old joke, from a church message board: If you think this is hot, just wait!

Thinking about it, I just can’t think of anything better, really. Than to be here with you.

I mean, I remember when we were kids one of the things we would talk about: “If you knew this was your last day on earth, what would you do?” If this were going to be the last hymn we were ever going to sing, how would we sing it? The last morning over breakfast with the family, the last time walking up to this altar? If it were all going to end, wouldn’t we fill our eyes with the vision of those we love, fill our ears with the sounds of their voices? Imprint them on our memory, savor and treasure them? No dozing, no taking even the smallest moment for granted. Maybe the exercise is a little ominous, and certainly I don't want to cast any shadows this morning. Just to say, like on the last day of vacation. You’ve traveled to this wonderful place, where you’ve always dreamed of going, and you’ve enjoyed every minute of your week-long stay. And now you’re off, vacation over, headed home in the morning, and you take one last walk along the shore, one last stroll through the city, one last hike up the mountain, and you want to commit it all to memory, so that even as you must leave, you can carry it with you in your heart, your imagination.

When I was about 10 I read my dad’s old high-school copy of the George Eliot novel Silas Marner. The young man whose life is battered, who becomes a wealthy miser, hiding away from the world and counting his gold, until his world is suddenly interrupted with the life of an orphan abandoned on his doorstep. And slowly, over years, love breaks down the closed-in places of his heart, and generosity returns. A story not unlike the story of Scrooge in the Charles Dickens Christmas Carol.

A theme for Victorian novelists, perhaps, in an age not unlike ours, where the world suddenly seemed adrift and people were enmeshed in greed and consumerism, and seemed to these novelists to be unmoored from the human values of relationship and compassion, generosity and love, that are so essential to the fullness of human life. These characters locked behind psychic doors, unwilling to step beyond the safety zone, to reach toward another. Unwilling to be vulnerable, afraid to give anything away. Simply afraid.

A couple of weeks ago while I was driving down to Virginia for a meeting I heard that wonderful Lee Ann Womack singing the song she had as a country-and-western hit a few years ago. Really heard the words for the first time, so when I got home looked them up on the internet. By the songwriters Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers. I hope you never lose your sense of wonder;, you get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger; may you never take one single breath for granted; God forbid love ever leave you empty handed. I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean; whenever one door closes I hope one more opens. Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance; And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance . . . I hope you dance. I hope you dance.

Who is this gospel story about? The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him . . . . Well, you know the rest of the story. We all do. One of the parables of Jesus that doesn't really require intensive explanation. All of us living it every day, except when we in these beautiful moments have the chance to wake up and to be “rich toward God” – what a great phrase that is. Rich toward God. Savoring every moment. Basking in his presence. Singing as though we have only this one song in the world to sing. Loving each other and loving God and being who we can be at our best, as though there were no tomorrow. As though this were the moment we have all been waiting for.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance. The song goes on. Never settle for the path of least resistance. Living might mean taking chances, but they’re worth taking; Loving might be a mistake but it’s worth making. Don’t let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter; When you come close to selling out, reconsider; Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance. And when you get the choice to sit it out, or dance: I hope you dance. I hope you dance.

I got up this morning. How about you? Here with some of the greatest people I’ve ever known. Singing with them, praying with them. On a great Sunday morning. How about you? Sharing his gifts, going out into his world, saved by him, lifted up into his life. And that’s all so very good. Better than I ever could have imagined, beyond anything I would have dreamed asking for. How about you?

Bruce Robison

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