Monday, July 4, 2016

Healing the Eagle’s Wings: God’s Mosaic

A Sermon for the 4th of July
The Rev. Leah D. Schade
July 3, 2016
Texts: Isaiah 40:25-31; Galatians 5:16-6:2; Luke 10:1-11

Children’s sermon: 
When I was in Japan many years ago, one of the host families gave me a beautiful vase.  It has beautiful calligraphy and delicate artwork, and I always keep it in this box and make sure to pack it very securely when I move.  Would you like to see it?

Oh no!  This is what I found the last time I moved – I opened the box and the pieces were broken! 

Sometimes no matter how hard we try to keep things safe and protected they get broken.  And that can happen with people, too.  Sometimes no matter how hard we try to protect our hearts, or our bodies, we can be broken too. 

I’m going to talk about what God does with our brokenness during the sermon and I want you to watch the pictures to see what happens, okay?  And after the sermon everyone will have a chance to come up here for healing prayers.  You can come up, too, if you would like.  And let’s pray together now:

Dear God . . . heal our brokenness . . . comfort us when we are hurting.  We love you God!  Amen.

[Watch the video for this sermon here:]

As I am coming to the end of my time as your pastor, I’ve been taking stock of the last five years of my ministry here.
5 weddings
17 funerals
21 baptisms (It’s a good thing when the baptisms outnumber the deaths!)
And hundreds of visits to people who were in need of prayer.

We’ve been through a lot together!  And while I am looking forward to this new venture of full time teaching, I’m also feeling sadness that I won’t be here to accompany you in the things you will face in the future, as individuals and families, as a congregation, and in our country.

In the last five years, our nation has suffered through countless shootings, natural disasters, human-made disasters, and political upheaval.  This coming year seems particularly poised to be a year that will be remembered as fraught with anxiety, fear, grief, and brokenness.
What happens to all those broken pieces of people’s lives? 
     What happens to all the torn and tattered shreds of the messes we have made? 

The temptation will be to respond in ways described by Paul in his letter to the Galatians.  He warned against “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these." (Galatians 5:19).

In contrast, he urged the followers of Jesus to practice, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22).  And especially during these times, he urged them to Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2).

This is what we are doing today in this healing service - bearing one another's burdens.  We are asking: “What does God do with the useless leftovers of the universe, the unwanted, unlovely brokenness…?”  (Wuellner, p. 7).

There is an answer in Luke 10:2.  Jesus says: "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

There is the key word:  harvest.  In Greek the word is therismos, which means “to gather.”  God gathers up the fragments.
And once they are gathered, God will transform them into something new and beautiful.  Something we would never have thought could come from such a motley assembly of brokenness.  All the broken pieces will be gathered and reassembled into something new and creative.  All the broken pieces God pieces together into a new mosaic.
If you look at these individual pieces and would take them apart like a puzzle, they would appear to be nothing on their own.  But like a masterful artist, God finds a way to take these shattered pieces and put them together into something that is beautiful.
God is here, even in this dark time,
preparing to gather the pieces together. 
And this is good news for us who are the fragments of this world. 

The writer Flora Slosson Wuellner writes:
What better [message of hope] for our throw-away abandoned people, our broken, fragmented humanity; our own individual shattered dreams, hopes, trust;
all the shards of lives which have never been realized or fulfilled in wholeness…

The core of Jesus’ mission,
more profound than even healing and restoration, is transformation...
When re-formed by God’s hands [our selves and our world]
are fulfilled and empowered
in a way we had never thought possible. (Wuellner, 8, 9).

We are being put together like broken wings.  Like a song I used to love from the 80’s called “Broken Wings”:  “Take these broken wings and learn to fly again, learn to live so free.  And when we hear the voices sing, the book of love will open up for us and let us in.”

The brokenness can be turned into healing wings.
This is a mosaic of an eagle made by children in school in San Diego called Perkins Elementary where they have engaged in The Rainforest Art Project.  They make mosaics that are therapeutic – healing for the children, the teachers, the parents, and for the whole community.  They can look at this mosaic and say – there’s a piece that was broken.  But now it has purpose.  It has meaning.  And it is beautiful.

Notice the children – all different shades and shapes, different personalities, different nationalities, different religions.  But they put their pieces together they make up a mosaic of what our country is.
I thought, what a powerful message in the heart of the city. 
Listen, children, it seems to say - there is no junk!  There are no worthless pieces.  Only pieces waiting to find their purpose again.
You need only take the time to gather the pieces together,
and open your eyes to the vision that God has given you for transformation. 

These fragments can be gathered together
and transformed into something that gives comfort and beauty
to a whole community.
No fragment is worthless in God s eyes.  
God will gather up even you
and form you into the beautiful mosaic of the kingdom.

One of our parishioners, Kay, reminded me of a beautiful hymn which we will sing this morning – “On Eagle’s Wings.”  It is so appropriate that this is our country’s symbol.  It is based on this text from Isaiah 40:31 – this image of being lifted up on eagle’s wings. 

We like to think of our country as being strong and proud.  But our country is actually a mosaic of brokenness.  The founding fathers and mothers came to this country from brokenness in Europe seeking a new life.  The native peoples already here experienced profound brokenness when their land was invaded by the European settlers.  And their pieces are in this mosaic too.  In every generation there have been waves of people coming to this country, bringing their brokenness, seeking a new start.

Along the way there have been voices who have said, no, we don’t have enough room for any more pieces, or these pieces won’t fit.  But God’s vision for this nation is to expand the mosaic, to see what God has in mind for all these broken pieces - more shapes, more colors. To take the broken wings of people who are coming from different places and incorporate them into the new, healed wings of the eagle.  

When you come to worship, you bring your brokenness as well.  God gathers up all of this within the worship service and transforms it through the liturgy.  All of our broken voices sing together, pray together.  This is what worship and prayers can do for us. 

God gives us a tangible sign of this fragment-gathering,
right here at the communion table. 
     Each one of us is like a fragment of Christ’s broken body.
          But when we share in this meal,
          we are rejoined and transformed
          into something even more miraculous and beautiful.
               Coming forward for communion
               we are part of God’s mosaic. 
            God is transforming the brokenness into new wings.  The book of love is opened up for us, and we are being created as a new mosaic of God’s kingdom.

Today you are invited to bring your brokenness to God. 
As we offer individual healing prayers
come forward to offer your shard to God.
Maybe it’s your own physical illness
or a problem you’ve been struggling with for a long time.
Maybe it’s a relation that has cracks in it,
or has shattered around you.
Perhaps you will want to come forward on behalf of someone you know, someone who, for whatever reason, cannot bring their own brokenness forward.
But you can.
You can “stand in the gap” – offering up this fragment to God,
entrusting this piece to God’s skillful hands.
Maybe it is this country you want to offer up in prayer.
Maybe you’re worried about our future as a nation.
Maybe you’re scared about what may happen next –
the next shooting; the next war; the next president; the next natural disaster; the next human-caused disaster.

Never doubt that your individual prayer is powerful . . .
and necessary.
Because your prayer, too, is part of the mosaic.
Your prayer is part of the artwork that is the kingdom of God.
As you come forth for communion,
remember that your brokenness is God’s wholeness,
That your shattered pieces are transformed by God.
And you are incorporated into the wings of healing
that will lift this congregation
this community
this country
and your own self
into the healing of God.

Work cited:  Wuellner, Flora Slosson,  A Broken Piece of Barley Bread ; Weavings, Volume 14, No. 6, November/December, 2004.

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