Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling picture
February 12, 2023

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling

This morning, we used the lessons appointed for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Jesus’ words to look at the birds of the air and the lilies of the field; to not worry and to seek first the reign of God.

Matthew 6:24-34

Alleluia!  Christ is risen.

Christ is risen, indeed.  Alleluia!

Last Friday, as I sat on my couch, laptop on my knees, preparing for last Sunday’s meeting with the bishop and all of you about Pastor Javen’s resignation, fielding emails from church council, responding to texts from staff, often just staring at my screen wondering how could all of this have happened, I looked up, and literally saw this:

Show picture of ten robins at birdbath.

Is there anything more symbolic than the arrival of the first spring robin?  I had to laugh out loud at the sight of TEN robins sitting around our birdbath.  I learned later that young robins often overwinter because they haven’t learned to get out of town when you live in Minnesota.  That didn’t matter to me. As I worried about what might be next, as I counted the tasks to be done, there they were. God must have said, “They’re going to need more than one robin this year.”  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

How often in the bible does the messenger show up to say, “Look,” “Behold,” “See.”

Last summer, when I was on one of my sabbatical adventures, hiking on the Inca Trail in the Andes mountains, we slept in tents often near ancient stairs or drop-offs, I remember getting up the first night when nature called, managing to get out of the sleeping bag, the tent, turning on my little flashlight, and carefully making my way to relief.  Just as I made it back to the tent, a little nervous about those steps in the dark of night, I stopped for a second and looked up.  And there it was, the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere, the milky way like a sacred river arcing across the sky perfectly mimicking the sacred Urubamaba river of the Incas below, planets as bright as streetlights, the primary constellation named “The Southern Cross.”  I felt transported into that stunning beauty, so often hidden from our daily lives in the busy, never-dark city.

Look.  Behold.  There is a universe that is beyond what you see on the ground in front of you.  There are stars that still have enough brilliance to light your way.  There is a grandness, a largeness, an opening into eternity–beauty that is always ready to welcome you home, to whisper, “You are already at home.”

There is enough to worry about, for sure.  The fears, the anxieties, the unknowns are not insignificant.  Change, failure, misunderstanding, injustice, illness, and death inevitably shape and form our experience.  We face it as a congregation right now; we face it as a community in a complicated, struggling world right now; we face it as individuals taking each next step with so much to carry right now.

I take heart that Jesus doesn’t say, “Oh, you’re making it up.”  He doesn’t even say, “Your worries and fears don’t matter.”  He just points us to another truth that we desperately need in the mix.  “Look at the lilies.  They neither toil nor spin, yet Solomon in all his glory is not arrayed like one of these.”  He directs us to our depth, into the ground where love promises to hold us, to where an evolving creation promises ever-newness, even in the face of death.  Seek first this reign of God, and all these things will get set into a new order.

On Good Friday, when we tell our most tragic story, the crucifixion of the one who speaks these words of light, the liturgy announced, “Behold, the cross on which is hung the salvation of the world.”  Behold.  Look up.  See beyond.  Even the places where death or loss seem to be at its strongest, God points us to something more, something new, another chance, another way to tell our story.

So in a week of loss, here are some signs:

Behold, On Tuesday, almost every chair in this sanctuary was filled with Christians, Jews, and Muslim clergy who showed up for an ISAIAH event to build a more just, more equitable state.

On Wednesday, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th graders gathered downstairs for confirmation, with real conversations about how the church fails and is renewed, adults intent on sharing faith and grace as part of the way we put the world together.  On Saturday, at first communion class, we crossed the Red Sea and practiced receiving bread and wine.

Behold, at the early service, Anders Thomas, child of God.  You have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.

I watched you comfort one another this week, pick up the mission of the church, provide tender care to the Rojas family, who live in our building, seeking asylum and safety.  You studied the bible and stitched quilts.  You planned a reception to welcome Kao Kalia Yang, Hmong American author, for her after her talk in this sanctuary in March.  You wrote notes to Pastor Javen and Bishop Lull, and you remembered tenderly his care and his passion for justice.  You signed up to help with worship. You stretched forward to build a church that deepens its welcome, widens its mission, and gives rest to the weary.

There were more than robins gathering at a birdbath.  There were the people of God, gathered around Baptismal water, drinking courage, forgiveness, and a peace that passes all understanding, seeking first the kin-dom of God.

And, one last story just for good measure.  As I sat on the same couch, a week later, figuring out what we have to say to one another this morning, I got a text.  “Look at your doorstep.”  Behold, there was a box.  Six donuts, six different kinds, six hearts drawn on the box.  I’m not sure if it was a Valentines gift, or a sign of Easter life.

No less than the birds, or the lilies, or the grasses of the field, it was the sign, the foretaste of the feast that will come in just a moment, the presence of Christ poured out for all of us.

I don’t know what you have to worry about this week, or what you carry, or what the news will set before us, but I promise you, if we look together, we will see signs of new life all around us.  And, perhaps, we will even be that sign for another, despite our stumbling, our worrying and our doubting.  By God’s grace, we are carrying the universe, a glory which cannot even rival Solomon.  Even the Christ, the one who is raised from the dead.

Alleluia.  Christ is risen.

Christ is risen, indeed.  Alleluia!