Monday, August 4, 2014

Touch as Many as You Can

On Sunday we started church with the readings from I John and the Gospel of John.

After I finished reading the gospel where Jesus speaks of joy being complete, I invited some of our kids/youth/and my daughter who works at Camp Nawakwa up front to help me have complete joy.

Because one of the things that gives me joy is “The Hippo Song” that we know from Day Camp or other camp experiences. And we did the Hippo Song and I promised that not only was my joy complete, that I would get to why later. And the congregation was experiencing joy too. I personally think that moments we get to be a kids again are essential.

Just in case you are not familiar with the lyrics-
In the Beginning God made the seas,( hands make a wave gesture)
 and the forest filled with trees. (hands moving up and down like tall trees 
God built the mountains up so high,( hands moving up like to steps of a mountain)
 above it all God placed the sky. ( arch your hands up from the sides to make a big circle) 
God's fingerprints are everywhere just to show how much God cares.
( run around and touch your fingers on everyone's arm or shoulder- get as many as you can)
In between God had some fun, ( stomp) made a hippo just for fun! (jump and stomp)
Hip hip hippopotamus ( stomp in a circle)
hip hip hooray God made all of us! (spin and wave arms wildly)

But then I transitioned us to the sermon:

That moment of togetherness was such joy. But the writer, Simone Weil once wrote about two prisoners in solitary confinement cells next to each other. Their cells are divided by a stone wall. Over their long captivity they figure out a way to communicate with one another with taps and scratches on the wall between them. “It is the same with us and God,” Weil said about this story. “Even in separation there (was) a link.” A colleague of mine said that when she read this she began thinking of love as “the taps and scratches on the walls of our existence that mediate a direct face-to-face experience of God. The wall is hopefully not has stark or impassable as the wall of a jail cell, but essentially we live in a cell that is defined by what we can perceive with our senses and our experiences.

So, our cell is… made up of the creation around us that we sang about… and the people in our lives, and everything we can see, hear, taste, feel, and smell. (That is our reality).

The reality of God is that God is outside the wall of what we can experience with our five senses. God is bigger than what we grasp. But God chooses to tap and scratch.

God chooses to try to communicate from the other side of the wall of our cells, and God desires that we will communicate back through taps and scratches ourselves. Love is these taps and scratches.”

And contrary to popular opinion sometimes, God’s primary form of communication is love. Not judging and not hating. Not wall building. Love. A love that God says nothing should ever separate us from.

When we engage the stories of Jesus, we can see this love. Where the wall was totally down and in the flesh Jesus embodied what all those taps and scratches looks like lived out. The person, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus is what the writer of 1 John points to. Jesus touched a lot of people. And tore down a lot of walls. Because after all, in the beginning of all that creating of everything including hippos God said, it was not good for a human to be alone. All the way from the beginning God intended love.

And I wonder for us gathered here whether we get a sense of God’s love for us, and that love reflected through others. So  

I invite you to close your eyes as I ask a couple questions. And I want us to close our eyes so everyone feels they can risk being honest.

Not counting spouses, has anyone told you they loved you today? Have you told anyone?

Has anyone told you they loved you in the last week? Have you?

And now I wonder, have you felt God’s love shown to you through us here?

You may open your eyes. Some people didn’t raise their hands and it’s because I think there are some walls we don’t realize. And I know this is Berks County, but with so many folk coming here who live alone, we need to hear those taps and scratches and see and sense that touch of Jesus.

And maybe we need a dose of the Hippo Song. It’s the exact opposite of wall building. I told you I’d get to it.

The other week I was at Camp Nawakwa to talk about being a pastor, and showing some early elementary school kids my pastor gear. I talked about what I did. One girl was most impressed with my hospital badge that I said let me go places other people could not to care for people. And she said she wants to be a pastor so she can have a cool badge with that power. My husband, Michael was there talking about being a judge. And people liked banging the gavel. Toward the end, I mentioned that we all have jobs we do that are how we God’s work with our hands.

And suddenly this one little girl got wide eyed and said “God’s fingerprints are EVERYWHERE!” It’s from the Hippo Song. And I was thrilled because she connected what we do with what God has done. “God’s fingerprints are everywhere” happens to be a line from the Hippo Song. The song is about creation, and how God made hippos for fun. But in the middle, the song says- God’s fingerprints are everywhere just to show how much God cares.” She got it!

The Hippo Song has hand motions, and at that point the kids are encouraged to run around and touch as many people as they can before the song goes on. And because they have no sense of limits the kids go wild. But the message is the gospel-touch as many people as you can.

We have been raised to be less exuberant, and yet the love Jesus embodied, is the same love we are called to as brothers and sisters in the family of God.  The same love called upon when the resurrected Christ asked Peter “do you love me?” If you do, feed and care for others. You can’t just love God, you have to love people. Eugene Peterson’s translation of our I John passage says- If anyone boasts, “I Love God” …but won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see?”  Touch as many people as you can.

Today we have a baptism that I think is just the most recent example of love in the life of our community. Michael first came here needing community service hours.

And was paired with Robert as his supervisor and co-worker. They have not only worked the 15 hours Michael needed, they have gone on to do more together. One easy way to see is to look at the fresh coat of paint on the outside of the church office and 423 Windsor. But that is not all, they have worshipped together here, and when Michael wondered about baptism, Robert answered some of his questions. Touch as many as you can.  

And Robert came here a couple years ago first looking to hang out under the shade of our trees in a hot summer. But then began to come here to worship and be a part of our community. And has become a volunteer at the Doves Nest and more. Little by little- the message of love gets carried and lives are touched. And it could have just hit a wall. Thank God it didn’t.

We are Christ’s gathered community called to be the taps and scratches and touches of God’s communication for others, and we are gathered to give thanks for those moments when we recognize the love we receive within creation, God’s taps and scratches touches to us.

They tell the story of an abiding love, dwelling love, love that will not let us go, especially when we feel the wall of separation our world offers. We are given God’s abiding presence and love. A love that reaches its goal in relationships of love. In the abstract, love falls short. In human love by the power of the Spirit we see the love of God.

So touch as many as you can with the fingerprints of a God who dwells with us and gives us the chance to live in this love- to receive and to give those around us what it means that actual people who see, hear and experience the sharing of God’s love because Christ first showed us. AMEN

No comments: