June 24, 2018

Psalm 133
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

“O Look and Wonder!”
(With Psalm 133 sung refrain #2 from the PCC Book of Psalms, melody by Pablo Sosa.)

O look and wonder how good it is! O look and wonder how good it is!
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
It is like water poured out over the head of an infant,
cleansing her from sin,
welcoming her into the family of God,
gifting her with the Holy Spirit.

O look and wonder how good it is! O look and wonder how good it is!
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
It is like a couple preparing for marriage,
gathering their friends,
making their vows of faithfulness and love,
receiving God’s blessing on their life together.

O look and wonder how good it is! O look and wonder how good it is!
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
It is like our church family coming together Sunday by Sunday,
learning to walk in the way of God,
caring for each other in Christian community,
reaching out in mission and service,
knowing that we are “in the boat” together with Jesus.

O look and wonder how good it is! O look and wonder how good it is!
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
It is like people in communities across the country celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day together,
sharing dances, and songs, and crafts with deep meaning,
listening and learning our common history,
growing in love and care for one another.

O look and wonder how good it is! O look and wonder how good it is!
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
What communities, families, or relationships would you add to this celebration of God’s goodness to us in creating us for relationships of love? Might you give thanks for your nuclear family, your extended family, your adopted family, your best friend, your colleagues at work, or your church family? Ponder that for a moment…

O look and wonder how good it is! O look and wonder how good it is!

Part of the wonder of the good things happening in our lives and relationships, of course, comes from the fact that things are not always this good. Big, extended families gathering to celebrate the Christian Baptism of a child do not happen every day. Broken marriages, estrangements between parents and children, and challenging conflict in families are not unusual. Sometimes we may be more aware of folks who are struggling with serious illness, the loss of loved ones, or issues with addiction or depression or loneliness. We can’t even see the goodness around us.

A couple of weeks ago when all the news started to come out about children being separated from their parents when they try to enter the U.S. from Mexico to seek asylum, a friend of mine posted two photos side-by-side on her Facebook page. One was the now-famous little girl crying while her mother was arrested by police. Next to it was my friend’s smiling, happy, safe, and well-cared-for grandbaby. She was both grateful for the safety and security of her precious grandchild, and broken by the very different reality that other child was experiencing.

Certainly, we cannot be content to simply thank God for our blessings, while ignoring those around us whose circumstances are different. We are invited, as Christian people and communities, both to rejoice in the communities of love that bless our lives and to do our utmost to extend that blessing to others. We are called to give, to advocate, to support through prayer and practical help, and to welcome others into the communities of which we are a part.

For those of us who are enjoying days of celebration and joy in this season of our lives, we should remember that such days are a blessing that we won’t experience every day. Especially if we are determined to follow the way of Jesus, we must know that challenges and trials will also come our way.

Even the great Apostle Paul and his co-workers experienced some troubles. In fact, their commitment to preaching the gospel and doing the work of God very often meant that they put themselves at risk, made sacrifices for others, and were treated very badly.

As servants of God, Paul and his friends needed great endurance to bring them through “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, and hunger.” Of course, I hope that most of us won’t go through anything like that.

But I’m thinking of a friend of a friend I know who spent the last several months sleeping (or not sleeping much, actually) living in the teepee on the lawn of the Saskatchewan Legislature. As part of her faith, she was determined to stand with those whose voices are not being heard, to ask that our government do something significant to address justice issues with regard to Indigenous people. She went peacefully when she was arrested earlier this week. She wasn’t charged with anything, but she was imprisoned briefly.

Paul explains that people of faith endure such trials by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God to help them. They are able to be vulnerable, opening their hearts wide to others, giving themselves freely and generously in relationship, because they are safe in the loving embrace of our gracious and loving God.

I want to turn back to the image of the boat on the water that I talked about with the children this morning, because I want you to hold on to that promise when the difficult days come.

Remember, the boat is the church, and Jesus is with us in the boat. Through the initiation of Baptism, we are welcomed into the boat, which includes not only the people of our congregation, or our denomination, but all the followers of Jesus from every time and place. We’re in the boat together, and Jesus is with us.

On the day you got in the boat (like today, as Galilee crawled into the boat with her parents’ assistance) it may have been a beautiful, sunny, day with smooth sailing. But sometimes the wind will blow, and the waters will get rough, and the waves will splash, and it may seem like the boat is about to capsize.

Indeed, if we are being faithful, we will sometimes sail directly into some of those storms because that is where we are being called to be present, bringing the love and grace of God to others who are in trouble.

So we must remember that we are together in the boat. And we must remember that Jesus is with us. Even if it seems like he is sleeping, we must trust that he has the power to help us and to still the storm when needed. Our faith is not a guarantee that hard stuff won’t happen to us. It probably will. But it is a reminder that no matter what happens, Jesus is with us in the boat, and he will not let us perish.

Remember the disciples’ response after the storm was stilled, and there was a quiet, peaceful calm over the sea? They were filled with great awe and wonder. Let us not be surprised that Jesus is with us and Jesus can help us. But let us look and wonder at the power and goodness of God made present to us in Jesus Christ. And let us give thanks with great joy.

O look and wonder how good it is! O look and wonder how good it is!

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