March 21, 2021
To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.
O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil!
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
I have a hard time admitting that I have limits. I know in my mind that there are challenges I can’t tackle by myself, but that doesn’t stop my initial drive to go it alone. I think part of my stubbornness comes from being Dyslexic. In the Second Grade, my family moved to a new school district, and I was diagnosed as being learning disabled. Being labeled and receiving special help set my competitive personality to try and prove myself in school anyway I could. Even with not being able to read I found ways to get by, to overcome struggles in creative ways. As a child, I figured that if I worked hard, I could fake it well enough to be seen as normal, to catch up with my peers. I didn’t want to admit that I needed help.
As a world we have experienced our limits in a collective way this past year. It has been disorienting, and I have found myself at times getting angry, that same competitive spirit pushing me to find a workaround. I enjoy discovering new ways of doing things, but if I’m honest, this has been a little bit more ingenuity and creativity than I was hoping for.
The Psalmist captures this tension in our reading this morning. We are wonderfully and fearfully made, they sing. We can experience the liberating and creative Spirit of God wherever life’s journey takes us. We can be filled with awe at the hidden depths of who we are, giving praise to the Holy One who has knit us together. But the psalmist also acknowledges that we have limits. We are hemmed in; we are held in God’s love. We also have limits that we can’t overcome. The night is still dark to us, even if it is not to God.
And sometimes we get angry, especially when others harm us or those we love. There is evil and injustice that we encounter, that we can’t overcome on our own. We can know in our minds and even in our hearts that we are loved and cared for by God, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get frustrated. The Psalmist, and God, make space for that anger, the hatred of evil that wells up. The Psalmist though realizes that we can lash out at the wrong people and invites God to check their furry.
I am in awe at our adaptation this past year, but if I’m honest, I hate not being able to hug those of you for whom that is a comfort. I miss hearing our voices joined together in the praise of God, the intimacy of community around a shared meal. I miss my family and friends. And I am angry at the injustice we see around us; the violence against our neighbors of Asian Descent, the inequity of vaccine distribution to Black and Latinx folks, the hunger and poverty that stalks our streets. I, like so many of you, want to do something to address these problems. But I also come face to face with my own limits, the limits of our power, the limits of the systems of this world. There is a need for discernment with God; is this something I am called to take on? What is my role in moving the world closer to the Holy One’s dreams for us all?
As a child, I learned that there were limits to what I could make happen on my own. But my teachers also showed me the importance of inviting others into my struggles. I wasn’t the only child who was Dyslexic, and there was wisdom gleaned over generations to empower me. My special educators, even though they represented that I was different, were not my enemies. I discovered that, when I could lower my guard enough, there was usually a way to work around a challenge, creative ways to accommodate the unique ways my brain works. But it meant I had to be honest with them. I couldn’t just memorize the plots of books and use the clues from the few words I could make out to make it look like I could read. I resented having to leave the classroom for special education classes, but those experiences are what eventually led me to be able to read and learn. I had so much anger for being different. Slowly though, my teachers showed me that I was loved, for exactly who I was. My anger was channeled into new ways of thinking, providing me with motivation to keep at it. And If my teachers’ ideas of how to move forward didn’t work for me, they showed me through their example how to pivot to another way. They didn’t get frustrated with my limitations. Instead, they were secure enough in themselves to admit that their plan wasn’t working and try something new.
Beloved, we have all had to adapt this past year. We have encountered new challenges for ourselves, and our neighbors. We have found ourselves facing uncharted challenges. I am in awe at your resilience; adapting to worshipping from home, working remotely, having to don PPE, guiding your children and your students through virtual and now hybrid learning. I also want to give you space though to be able to acknowledge the limits you’ve discovered. There are only so many hours in a day you can be on Zoom. Maybe you’re like me and have found that constantly innovating is exhausting. Sometimes we don’t have the energy to text friends, to try and innovate birthday parties, anniversaries, Christmas traditions. Sometimes there is a peace that we can access when we acknowledge that we are limited. It can free us to take on the evils of this world that we can address.
This past week we started helping secure vaccine appointments for our neighbors in Woodbourne-McCabe who we deliver groceries to. Maybe you’ve had to try and navigate to secure an appointment. It can be frustrating, involving waking up early to log onto multiple websites. But we are not in this alone. Through friends, we have found vaccine hunters who have learned the system, who volunteer to help people out, especially the disabled, people of color, immigrants, non-English speakers, and LGBTQ+ folks. When we learned that our friends couldn’t get the vaccine, in conversations with the Presbytery, we realized that finding appointments was beyond our limits. But there are others whose ministry is using their energy and experience to help. If you’re eligible for a vaccine and are struggling to get an appointment, reach out to me and I can put you in touch with these vaccine hunters. There are folks who, when we only see frustration, they see a challenge they know how to tackle, so we can focus on what is ours to do.
We are not alone. If we risk admitting where we feel isolated, afraid, frustrated, that our grief is overwhelming, that we have been pushed to our limits, that acknowledgement can free us to take on what is ours to do, and hand over to others what is not. We won’t always be able to fix a problem we face, but the Holy One is with us in those dark nights of the soul. Each of you gives me hope. I see God at work through you, in the triumphs, and in the setbacks. May we continue to be the presence of God for one another, even when we are apart, and as we gather in the safety of our cars, and outside.
As we approach Holy Week, I have found a deepening sense of peace. Cassidy is becoming a pro at setting up drive-in church and choir. Leigh and her kids are excited to set up an Easter Egg hunt for Easter Morning. SAGE is getting ready for a planting day with native plants. Leslie is getting ready to collect food for ACTC. We are relying on one another, recognizing what is ours to do, and risking the vulnerability of being a community. God shows up so often in the form of a friend, a new neighbor, a phone call or text when we need it most. May we journey to where God calls us to, knowing we never walk alone. Amen