Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
June 18, 2017
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about worth.
One of my core beliefs is that we each have inherent worth. That we all matter, no matter where we are from, who we love, what professional we are in and no matter what actions we have done (good or bad) in the past. We all have worth because God created us.
I believe this yet sometimes I also forget this simple truth. Last week one of our Waltham community members was hit by a car. This person sleeps outdoors and her husband is currently being held by the state so she is out on her own. It was about 8:30 at night according to the police report when she was crossing the road and a car (which was over the middle lane) struck her and then drove off.
I know this person, who was hit fairly well. She was certainly intoxicated, likely wearing darker clothes, certainly not a bright yellow, or orange reflective vest so it would have likely been hard for the car to see her at dusk. I have no idea if she was in the cross walk or not; may be not so it is easy for anyone to believe it was her fault for being struck by the car which broke both of her legs and her collar bone.
Our society assigns value to people. The wealthier class is worth more, the better dressed are more valued, the clean cut and societal “normal” are held in higher esteem compared than those who dress differently or those who sleep in shelters, cars or outside. Our society also assigns value to the numbers of people. Businesses or organizations which are more popular and have more people are worth more. Music that is listened to by more people is more important than local artists. Churches which have more members is better or valued more than smaller community fellowships. Small businesses and communities are not important are not worth as much. And this is where my friends we and our society are wrong.
Our scripture this morning is about Father Abraham, the founding father of the Jewish nation of Israel. Abraham’s name in Hebrew means “father of a multitude.” He originally was called Abram or “exalted father” but God then changed his name to Abraham as a symbol of the covenant promise to multiple his descendants into a great nation that God would call God’s own. Abraham is proclaimed in Romans that “He is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).
Maybe you have heard of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the infamous town. Where two men from a foreign land come to Sodom and stay with Lot. All the other men in the city surrounded the house and yelled to Lot: “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.” (Genesis 19:5). Lot begged the men not to attack his visitors and even offered up his daughters. Many have used this story over the years as a way to condemn homosexuality however this is a story of a town that becomes famous for its violent disregard of the norms of hospitality, it is a story of greed, theft, deception, disregard of the poor and the orphan and inhumanity.
Abraham is aware of the horror which is occurring in Sodom and Gomorrah, as is God. Abraham then proceeds to attempt to persuade God to have mercy on the city because there are innocent and good people there. As we just heard, Abraham asks God will you save the city if there are just 50 righteous people there?
God says okay, if you can find 50, I will forgive the city.
Abraham replies well how about 45? (This bartering reminds me of the Price is Right, when a person is trying to win the car and has to guess the price and they plead to the “mighty sound effects lady” do I have two numbers right? Oh might sound effects lady, do I have 3 numbers right? Oh might sound effects lady, do I have 4 numbers right? Oh might sound effects lady, do I have all 5 numbers right?...)
So God responds yes, if there are 45, then 40, then 30, then 20 and finally 10!
God agrees that if there are just 10 little righteous people then God will forgive the city. I would guess if Abraham continued all the way down to 1 good and righteous person, God would still have agreed to forgive the city, because this is a story of salvation and mercy for the least and lowly of us. For all of us who at times are told or feel we are not worthy.
Abraham persuades and reminds God, that God is merciful and slow to anger and that God should show that mercy and love on behalf of just a few people among the masses. Abraham realizes and knows it is worth fighting for even a few people. Abraham knows it is worth fighting for the minority, that is it worthy standing up for the good people no matter how large or small a group it is. That it is worth standing up for and fighting for even just one. That you are worthy and worth standing up for.
Just as the woman who sleeps outside with all of her belongings is also worthy. She is worthy of being noticed of being given the benefit of the doubt. She is worthy of a car stopping in the street to let her cross. She is worthy of a call for help after the collision. She is worthy of staying at the scene.
You are not just worthy and worth working for, but so is this faith community. I heard this story once and it stuck with me:
A tired bird landed on a branch. The bird rested, enjoying the view from the branch and the protection it offered from dangerous animals. Just as the bird became used to the branch and the support and safety it offered, a strong wind started blowing, and the tree swayed with such intensity that it seemed the branch would snap in half.
But the bird was not worried for it knew two important truths. The first truth – even without the branch it was able to fly, and thus remain safe through the power of its own two wings. The second truth – it also knew that there are many other branches upon which it can temporarily rest.
This little story shares a lot with us about our own self-confidence and belief in self-worth. We each are capable of so much more than we realize. The trouble is we hold onto different “branches” in life. Whether it be the fear of change, the way things have always been, the fear of what might be. We are all capable of so much more but we have to be able to let go of our tight grasp of the branch that is anchoring us down Once we let go, we then can start to understand how much worth and power we have together and that we can do great things.
Birds do not build nests for just themselves, they build nests for their family, for many birds. This faith community is a nest which provides a safe place for us each to grow and develop spiritually. But nests can take different forms. Some birds do not make nests at all and instead lay their eggs in a simple scrape in the ground, while others construct their nests from natural materials like straw, grass, leaves, fur etc. In the last two weeks I have seen a couple different nests. At our house in Sandwich there is a bird nest in the crook of a down spout. It is a little nest which houses four baby birds. A couple of weeks ago the youth and I, while kayaking also saw a huge nest up on a pole which was for egrets out in Great Esker Park. Nests can be built almost anywhere.
So what does this have to do with Pilgrim? Well my friends you are worthy and this faith community is worth working for and growing. However it is not a one bird project. We all must let go of the branch we are currently perched on and it is going to take the whole flock to build nests all over this community.
We must be creative and build our nest out of new materials, crazy things like worshiping in a different way, maybe in a different time or place. Sunday school in a new way. Getting off and letting go of the branch to be in relation with God and one another.
If you are interested in being a part of this movement, if you are willing to let go and want to fly with me and build new nests, please see me after service. We will be putting together a flock to imagine and vision how we can be move forward with the Holy Spirit under our wings. Because you, we are worthy.