Choose God, Choose Yourself
Sunday, July 28th, 2019
Grace Episcopal - Yukon, OK
It's SO good to be with you all today. Do ya'll know how long I have been waiting to preach on a Sunday morning at Grace Church??? TWO WHOLE YEARS!!! Can you believe it?? But we are finally here. Thank you so much to Fr. Tim and Mthr. Kirsten for giving me this opportunity and thank you Grace Church for sponsoring me for the Aspirants program and embracing me and loving me and walking with me on this journey.
I'll never forget when I came to the first Celebration Banquet. It was almost two years ago. I had just moved home from Ohio of all places. I remember much of the first 6 months of worshiping at Grace I would cry at some point in the service. Usually at the prayers of the people. When we acknowledged death and intercessions. Or when we had space for healing prayer with one of the priests on the side after communion. I'll never forget at the dinner Theresa Williams came up to me and said something like "I can tell that you are going through something, that you are sad but I want you to know that you are loved, you are welcome here and we've got your back." (I'm not sure if this is verbatim but it was something beautiful and extremely sweet and exactly what I needed to hear). Thank you Theresa and thank you to all the elders of the church who have shown me great love and hospitality. Y’all are so important to the church. You set the standard for how the church loves.
Most of you don't know this part of my story but during Divinity school while I was in Nashville studying at Vanderbilt I met the love of my life and got married 2 weeks after I graduated in May 2016. Having finished my third degree of higher education I gave up my desires to pursue the priesthood and decided to follow my wife's coaching career. We moved to Dayton Ohio where we knew no one and had nothing.
Our relationship deteriorated quickly. It became toxic. Unhealthy. Abusive. Soul sucking. Death dealing. I lost all hope for my life and lost all sense of self. I was lost, spinning in chaos and couldn't hardly breath through the panic attacks I was starting to have weekly. And if you know me, as this strong, independent, energetic, pistol of a woman, you would have been shocked to see me back then.
I'm telling you all this not to feel sorry for me, I'm sure many in the room have dealt with much worse trauma than me but I want for you to get to know me and hear from me of how God works or can work in our lives and how She showed up for me in a time of great pain and grief.
There were 2 prayers I would say over and over again during my panic attacks. The Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary. It was such a primal and natural thing I did without even thinking about it. It was my reaction to my visceral conditions. I innately turned to liturgy. It connected me to humanity, the millennia of people who called on God in these exact same words. I called on God to save me, to comfort me, to soothe me.
Jesus taught us how to pray in the text today. It wasn't a nice, polite little prayer of pleasantries with God. NO. It was a demanding prayer. A persistent prayer meant to be said again and again. He said "when you pray" right? Suggesting we do this over and over. We call on God WITH OUR DESIRES, OUR WANTS, OUR NEEDS. LORD GIVE US THAT DAILY BREAD! FORGIVE US! LEAD US! These aren't passive words, but rather active ones. Meant to initiate the Divine Spirit from within, not just from our communities or from a cloud on high.
One of my favorite things about the Biblical text is that the folks that created the canon left multiple versions of stories in the text. There are 2 creations stories remember? Four gospels! And many different versions and variations of Jesus' sayings and parables. The Lord's Prayer shows up in Luke and Matthew. Matthew is the longer one that starts with "OUR Father." It's the one we recite during Eucharist. But the one in Luke is shorter. It seems more individualistically focused just starting with "Father."
I love that the Bible has these variations because it mirrors human reality. The tensions we must hold living as enfleshed spirits, as individuals living in community. There are many ways to not only read the text but how to interpret it and live it out and even more ways for how we encounter the Divine, how we live in relationship with Her. And I think one of the most powerful ways we can encounter God and access her Wisdom is within our own selves.
Often times I think we take for granted the theological concept of imago dei. We were made in God's image, right? But don't forget God breathed life into us. God gave us consciousness, God's breath is our consciousness! Howard Thurman (the great African American mystic) says God is the very source of life. Now think about that for a minute. Our bodies and our souls existing as one in the living thing called a human. God put God's self into us so that we might LIVE AS GOD LIVES.
WE ARE NOT ALONE. WE ARE GENETICALLY MADE OF GOD. OUR VERY BEING IS MADE OF GOD-NESS.
So when I was alone in the depths of darkness and despair I called on God and She showed me, myself. Is this making sense? When I gave up my personhood for my marriage I lost GOD. I couldn't hear Her anymore. I couldn't thrive or function or be this beautiful, strong, independent, intelligent woman that stands before you today.
Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."
I slowly realized I couldn't make it out of this hole of depression and trauma by myself. But God started to speak in that still small voice ever so much as a whisper and was telling me to go home. I remember crying out at night literally reaching out screaming for my mother to come and hold me. God was telling me what to do in my very body.
I finally gave into her and made an action. I called my parents. I went and stayed with my second mother in PA until my mother and my best friend could get to me from Oklahoma and we packed up my things and I came home. I chose to save my life because GOD CHOSES MY LIFE.
YA'LL. GOD IS ON OUR SIDE. GOD WANTS US TO FLOURISH. TO THRIVE. TO LOVE. TO BE HAPPY. TO ENJOY THIS LIFE.
GOD CHOSES YOUR LIFE. Do you all know this? GOD IS ON YOUR SIDE. GOD IS ON OUR SIDE. Knock and the door will be open Jesus said. He didn't say wait around and sit on the couch and eat bon bons all day. JESUS SAID TO GET OFF YOUR BEHIND AND DO SOMETHING!!! CHOSE YOURSELF. Because choosing yourself is choosing God.
Let me be clear here. Don’t get this twisted. I’m not saying to be self absorbed and selfish to the detriment of your relationships and community. I’m saying we all know self sacrifice is a Christian value right? Jesus empties himself for us on the cross and how he lived his life with and for others. We should do the same. But if we have no self then what self do we have to give? Let me say this differently, you can’t give of yourself if you have no self!
So What are you waiting around for? Is being miserable and suffering what God wants for us? How are you contributing to God’s kingdom on earth if you’re lying on the floor? Or staying in that toxic relationship? Or not taking care of your body? Why are you choosing to be silent? To do nothing? WOMAN, GET OFF THE FLOOR AND CHOSE LIFE IN THE FULLEST.
See with Jesus there was always and is always an action item for us. We don't have a passive God and a passive faith. OUR GOD LIVES. SHE LIVES IN OUR BODIES, IN OUR HEARTS, IN OUR MINDS AND IN ROCKS AND THE TREES AND ALL OF CREATION. But we have to chose to live with Her in all Her ways. We have agency. We have responsibility in this life. To chose God thereby we must also chose ourselves.
The moment we neglect part of our "God-ness" our worlds will be thrown into chaos. This is why we not only have doctors for our bodies but doctors for our heads and our heart too, right? We are enfleshed spirits enlivened and emboldened by our Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer, our Father in heaven, right?
Jesus said a Father wouldn’t give his child a scorpion if he asked for a fish, right?? The metaphor of god as father is powerful here. God as father, Jesus is saying wants to PROVIDE for us, PROVIDE was makes us LIVE! WHAT MAKES US HAPPY. THIS IS A GOD THAT LOVES.
I want ya'll to know I am fully aware of situations where folks may have no agency to take action. I pray for those kids in cages and women drugged and sold into sex slavery. I pray for those struggling with mental illness, those who are sick, the dying. I know my message won't save everyone. But God saves us.
Jesus came down, I think, not to save us from ourselves but to reveal that God's self was already in us and around us and of our very flesh.
And for those who don't have agency, this is where the church, the body of christ comes in. But we can't act out of love and compassion if we don't first love and have compassion for the god inside of ourselves.
So knock, woman. Open that door. God is waiting for you.