Pilgrim Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
February 26, 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 ‘where’s God?’
Have you ever seen Ellen DeGeneres’ standup comedy act where she calls God on the phone? She first performed this act on Johnny Carson’s tonight show. On the show she comes out from behind the curtain, styling a nice mullet (it was the late ‘80s afterall) and says:
“so here's the thing, I feel like that everything on this earth is here for a reason. That’s just my opinion, I think that there are no mistakes and I think that even if you don’t understand why one thing is here, you find out later that it works with the ecosystem somehow.
I don’t understand why we have fleas here though because fleas do nothing at all beneficial. But I thought at times like this, when we can’t figure it out for ourselves, wouldn’t it be great if we could just pick up the phone and call up God and ask him these things?
Just pick up the phone and call up God.... yeah hi God its Ellen.. Ellen.. DeGeneres.. De-Generes. …. She goes on...listen if you weren't too busy--- yeah sure I’ll hold (somebody's at the gate). Onward Christian soldiers marching--- yeah. No just singing along to your tape. It’s not a tape?! They're good!
Listen, God, there are certain things on this earth that I just don’t understand why they're here.... no not Fabio. No. … I was thinking about insects. No, bees are great.. the honey. That was clever. You’re welcome. No, I was thinking more about fleas.. they seem to have no benefit--- no, I didn’t realize how many people were employed by the flea collar industry. Not to mention sprays.. well I guess you're right. Course you are! Oh well you got a little cold, God bless you! Bless yourself! You could just bless yourself, couldn’t ya.
Ellen continues and finishes with it was good talkin to you too. And ill see---I’ll talk to you later. Alright. Buh-bye"
What if we could just call up God? What if we could beckon God to show up and God did. Mary and Martha are thinking the same thing. They too called God…well, they sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was dying and begged him to come.
Jesus hears Lazarus is ill but stays two days longer in the place where he was. Eventually Jesus heads towards Bethany. When Jesus arrives Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Martha is the first to get word that Jesus is on his way and she runs out to him and says to him if you were here Lazarus would not have died. We called on you and asked you to come save him and you were nowhere to be found.
Martha leaves and Jesus remains there and waits for Mary to appear. Mary also says, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died” (v. 32). Mary falls at Jesus’ feet…not down on her knees as if to worship him but literally falls to the ground. Jesus seeing Mary and others weeping also begins to weep as he is led to the tomb of Lazarus. Some who were with Mary said “could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Why didn’t Jesus show up in time? Why did God not answer when God’s people called?
The people of Jesus’ time asked these very questions; questions that we also ask. Where are you God? God where are you when an innocent child dies? God where are you when I am personally struggling? Or simply, God, where are you?
The other week while at work in Waltham, my boss and I were sitting at our work table when she heard something. She said to me, “do you hear that?” As she walked over to our second story window at Christ Church, I too heard a man yelling. I could not tell what he was yelling, was it English or in Spanish? My boss said, “I think he has been drinking” as the yelling continued.
Looking out the window she saw a man sitting on the bench near the bus stop surrounded by snow, yelling up to the sky. My boss turned to me and said, “I think he is yelling at God, do we know him? Someone is sure to call the cops.” I came over to the window. At first I could not tell who it was sitting there under a red, white and blue knit cap. As I watched this man he turned again towards the church yelling to God and I realized that is Marco! I know Marco.
We quickly grabbed our coats and headed outside. As we came out the church door, walking towards Marco, I waved and motioned my hand to face, as if to ask if he was on the telephone. He was not. I said, “Hey Marco, are you okay?”
He said “I am so mad! I am so mad at God. I don’t know why he did this to me… why he makes things so hard. I just got fired and they took half my pay because I did not have my shirt with me and then I went to McDonalds to grab something to eat and I lost my last eight dollars. So now I have no money and I need to catch the bus to get into Boston for a doctor’s appointment. Why is God making it so hard? Why is he doing this to me? Why can’t he give me a break?”
We stood there listening to Marco and he apologized for yelling and for yelling at God, he was so upset. I told Marco it is okay to yell at God. God can take it. I also said, “what if God did not do this to you? What if God did not make those things happen, but instead is here with you now and here with us. God is here trying to help you when things go wrong and is looking out for you? What if God heard your cry and sent us to come be with you?” Marco looked a little puzzled and said, “I do feel calmer now, thank you”. We talked for a minute or two longer. My boss ran upstairs to our office and grabbed Marco a T-pass so he could get into Boston and a McDonald gift card so he could get some dinner that night. As the bus pulled up, Marco continued thanking us and talking (I was worried he would miss the bus). He asked if he could call and talk with us some time, we of course said yes. As he got on the bus, he turned eyes bright, smiling and said, “thank you and God Bless You.”
Like Marco, Ellen DeGeneres was also going through a tough time. She wrote that comedy shtick after tragically losing her partner in a car crash. You see, they were having difficult time in their relationship and Ellen had temporarily moved out. They both met up at a concert one evening where Ellen’s partner was encouraging her to come home. Ellen pretended she could not hear her partner. Ellen, leaving a little while later, saw a crash on the side of the road with the car split in two. Not realizing it was her partner she drove on. The next morning on learning that her partner had died she was filled with grief and while sitting in her basement apartment thought this “basement was infested with fleas. There were just fleas everywhere, and I remember thinking, ‘It just seems so ridiculous that this young, 23-year-old girl who I was just living with [is] gone, and fleas are here,”’…”it would be great to just pick up the phone and call up God and talk about this.”
It would be great to have a phone line directly to God and we do through prayer. However, it is hard because it often feels like a one way radio. Yet God does show up and God’s presence is in community. Marco, Mary and Martha expected Jesus and God to show up in one way and yet God comes to us at a different time and in a different way. God comes to us in community. Jesus came with his followers to Mary, Martha and all who were grieving. Jesus came in community and God’s power and presence is know when we join together.
As shown by Jesus, we are called to be and help one another. When we do this God is present and is showing up. We are not meant to do it all on our own.
So where is God? God is in our relationships and in our community. God is in the seeing and knowing, God is in the comfort we bring to each other.
Lent begins this Wednesday. This year I invite you to join us in community as we seek and experience God together. God is here walking, singing and joining with us through all the good and the bad.