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Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

Easter 7 – Year B

I like to think of this last Sunday in Easter, this day of music and song, rhythm and harmony as one big thank you to God. Matthew Fox once said, “the gift of life deserves a thank you.” And so it does. How many of us at any given moment are aware of how truly blessed we are – just to be alive, just to see this day, just to be in this place? How many of us express our joy for life, the same joy that Jesus in our gospel lesson prayed would be made complete in his disciples?
Often we get trapped in the relative trivialities of what we don’t have, what isn’t going right, what needs to be fixed or changed, rather than reveling in the joyful miracle that is this present moment. Einstein once said that, “There are two ways to look at life. One is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as though everything is.” So today we celebrate in song and sacrament, responding to the gift of life with joy and gratitude. We are going to get jazzed up and dig down, down to the basics of all worship – we are going to thank God and celebrate!
Today we celebrate divine creativity. The same divine creativity that fashioned you and me and everything in this marvelous universe. This divine creativity is expressed in the sacrament of bread and wine that becomes the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is found in the sacrament of music and song. Did you know that Leonardo DaVinci believed that our souls are composed of music? I believe that the creative and imaginative powers expressed so beautifully today through the give and take of our musicians and singers is the language of the soul, it is sacramental – it points beyond itself to the divine creative interplay that always exists between the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
No matter where I have travelled in mission over the years, I have always been struck by the joyful worship expressed by people who seemingly have very little. Whether in the townships of South Africa, the villages of Southern Sudan, the mountains of Guatemala, or the shanty communities of Honduras, people who have almost nothing by our standards always gather together with joy and gratitude to give God thanks and celebrate the gift of life. In places where life expectancy is not much beyond fifty, where dying in child birth is common, where just finding enough food to feed your family for another day is a marked accomplishment, the joy of living is palpable.
In contrast, I often think that we have lost our sense of wonder at the miracle of just being alive. We are so protected, so pampered, so surrounded by abundance that we no longer marvel at the gift of this day we have been given. We take too much for granted and as a result what should be an attitude of gratitude is replaced with a dull sense of boredom. As the author Martha Beck once pointed out, “I think that the vast majority of us ‘normal’ people spend our lives trashing our treasures and treasuring our trash.” How is it that the gifts of seeing, hearing, walking, and learning take a back seat to the accumulation of wealth, fame, prestige, and popularity? In other words, we fail to cherish the true gifts God has bestowed upon us.
Have you ever noticed that until you get ill you tend to take your health for granted? Until you break a leg you take a simple thing like walking for granted. All of a sudden you begin to have a new appreciation for it! Why is this? It is in part because we have lost our sense of wonder! Frederick Buechner, one of my favorite writers and preachers, once commented on the miracle of ever day. He said, “Listen to your life … I have discovered that if you keep your eye peeled and your ears open, if you really pay attention to it then it will open up extraordinary vistas. Taking your children to school and kissing your spouse goodbye. Eating lunch with a friend. Trying to do a decent day’s work. Hearing the rain patter against the window. There is no event so commonplace but that God is present in it, always hiddenly, always leaving you to recognize Him or not recognize Him … If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See if for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
If you do indeed listen to your life, you can’t help but appreciate how indebted we are to the gifts and accomplishments of those who have come before us. I came across this beautiful poem/prayer by Arthur Foote II called “Beholden” that I would like to share with you, (I have placed another one of his poem/prayers on the cover of the Sunday Chimes). Foote writes: “Every day of my life I live beholden to others. I am beholden to those who have been guardians of the human heritage of knowledge and wisdom, stewards of the truths, beauties, and goodnesses which are our human legacy: my life is wondrously enhanced by those who have gone before.
I am beholden to creative spirits—wordsmiths, smearers of pigment, chiselers of marble, midwives of music—all who have opened my eyes and ears to beauty; and to those thinkers of deep thoughts, who have looked beyond the known into the unknown: their creations and wisdom guide my way.
I am beholden to all those who have sought new truths, confident that new light will break forth to illumine our way into the future: they have enabled me to live more adequately upon the earth.
I am beholden to those who from my cradle have befriended me, whose kindnesses have renewed my hope, whose encouragement has restored my faith, whose love has taught me the meaning of love and enabled me to be more loving: they have made the world seem a friendlier place and given meaning to my days.
O my soul, seeing that I am so deeply in debt, shall I not give thanks for the richness of life and the goodness of being? Shall I not accept the days of my years with gladness, and endeavor to give back in return into the lives of others what is in my power to give, through kindness and cheerfulness, thoughtfulness and honesty, loyalty, bravery and honor?”
How much time do you spend savoring the priceless gifts you have been given? How much time is spent rejoicing with the people you love? In spite of all life’s struggles, illnesses, setbacks, and problems, there is still so much to be thankful for. So, let’s celebrate this morning in prayer and song, with rhythm and melody, let’s move our bodies and lift our souls to the God in gratitude and say – thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

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