Trust in God

On June 18, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Trust in God Preached by Rev. Anne R. Atwell June 17, 2018 Let us pray, “Divine Spirit of goodness and of light…guide us so that we may not be instruments of our own or other’s oppression. And may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts bring peace and healing to […]

Trust in God
Preached by Rev. Anne R. Atwell
June 17, 2018

Let us pray, “Divine Spirit of goodness and of light…guide us so that we may not be instruments of our own or other’s oppression. And may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts bring peace and healing to our world. Amen.”

A number of years ago, I felt a call to ordained ministry. I had actually felt this call for the first time when I was quite young. I was probably 14 or 15 years old. But I put if off because I truly didn’t think that someone like me could be a minister. I’m a girl and at that point, I had never seen a woman minister. Plus I was becoming aware of my sexuality and how it didn’t seem to fit into what society expects of a young woman. And so I really believed that I had two strikes against me.

But as I aged and after a series of events in which people close to me encouraged me to consider seminary, I gave it a go. Now I began with some serious apprehension. I really wondered what I was going to do this education. I had a good job in the Corporate world. I made good money; had great benefits. But still I entered seminary. And as I was working my through school, people often asked me questions such as, “Do you want your own church?” “Are you going to leave Sunshine Cathedral?” “What’s next for you?” I will tell you, I didn’t have an answer for these questions. I just knew, deep down inside me, I knew that I was to continue doing what I was doing. I had trust that it would all work out. I couldn’t explain it beyond that – I just knew that it would. I had to set aside my control issues, my anxiety, and simply trust in God. And that was possibly the most difficult part of my seminary journey. I just needed to be patient and to trust. Here I am, many years later, doing the ministry that I dearly love to do and I truly don’t believe the process could have worked out any better.

The passage we just heard from Ezekiel is what biblical scholars consider a Hebrew Bible parable. A parable is a story or a description used to convey a message or to teach us a new way of thinking or being. In this instance, the writer of Ezekiel is conveying to his community, and I am assuming the author of Ezekiel is male, his imagining of God’s realm or kin-dom as well as his understanding of who or what God is. To this writer, God is a God who will lift up the lowly and will embrace those who have been oppressed. God is a God of welcome and longed-for joy. This is a God of empowerment, if only we will trust.

This ancient community was a people of exile who were carried off into captivity after the destruction of Jerusalem. Now, no matter how very difficult our lives may seem, we here in the United States live in a land of great wealth, power and privilege. So it could only be difficult, really impossible, for us to fully comprehend what these people experienced. Though I would suspect the many people seeking asylum here in the U.S., those who are having their children taken from them, those who are literally running for their lives, know exactly how it feels to be in exile. How fearful and confused these people must have been.

But Ezekiel is conveying to them not only a God of justice but also a God of compassion, a God of tenderness. The writer imagines God saying, “I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.” Here is God’s personal intervention! It’s a Divine blessing for those who feel left out, marginalized. It is for those who need to remember that God is always present, always with them, even when everything seems to be overwhelming. The writer of Ezekiel was encouraging the community to put their trust completely in God and inviting them to experience all the wonderful, miraculous things that can occur when they are willing to trust. That is something that I have worked to incorporate in my life though not without some struggle.

When I was a child, I believed in a God who would give me things. You know, Santa God. I truly thought that if I believed the “right” things about God or if I prayed in a certain way or behaved in a certain way then God would give me what I want. Because I was a “good person” I should get everything I asked for. Right??!! And I will tell you that it took me a long time to step away from that image of God; the God of my childhood. I would suspect that image can still be problematic for many of us. If I’m really good, why didn’t this wonderful thing happen for me? And if this wonderful thing didn’t happen for me, what is wrong with me?? It is important, I believe, to move beyond that “I deserve it” way of thinking and into a deeper and more trusting connection with God. There is a distinct difference between expectation and trust.

When things seem exceptionally difficult or stressful, the first thing I tend to do is put up walls, to wallow in my own agony and to push away those who may help. And then I remember to breathe, to relax, and place my trust in God. I set aside the demanding, expectation that God will give me what I want AND I recognize that all things are possible when that trusting experience occurs. It may not be what I expect, it may be nothing like I imagined and hoped for, and yet, it is often exactly what I need. Trust, though, requires us to live in uncertainty, to be vulnerable, to give up control. And, let’s face it, most of us hang on to control with a powerful, unyielding grip.

Writer and sociologist, Brene Brown, has written extensively on the connection between trust and vulnerability and how it can impact one’s faith experience. What she shares is that so many of us buy into society’s need for certainty, that there must be a “written in stone” plan AND to be vulnerable means to be weak, delicate, helpless. But she reminds there is a strength, a power in being vulnerable; in saying “I don’t know what is going to happen or how everything will work out. But I do know that in my waiting and in my hope, God will be with me.” There is power in setting aside our ego and knowing that the best possible outcome is there for us, if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be trusting in the Holy One who makes all good things possible.

Today is Father’s Day and I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad over the past few days. My dad died last year after an extended illness. Dad was physically a big, strong man, always fixing things, always in control, someone you could always count on for good advice. I want to note that not everyone has similar experiences with their fathers. Some folks had warm, loving fathers. Some had cold, distant, or even abusive fathers. Some had no father figure at all. So I want to honor and recognize those feelings and experiences today, as well.

But during the last year or two of his life, Dad’s strength diminished, both physically and mentally, He couldn’t always control things the way he had in the past and I could see that this decline was troubling for him. He was of the generation that believed men were to be strong in every way. But then, rather than becoming bitter and unpleasant, Dad gave himself permission to be more vulnerable. He became more open to sharing his feelings. He became more open to the love and support that was available to him. He became far more trusting in those who were there to help him AND his trust in God grew into something really beautiful to see. Dad and I had some great theological discussions on God and Universe and what it all means. He knew that his time on this earth was limited and he honored that by being vulnerable, by increasing his trust in his family and in the Divine which made the time he had left far more meaningful. And it was. Many relationships were strengthened and I believe he really felt the love that was always there for him.

Catholic priest and spiritual guide Henri Nouwen wrote, “Are you willing to be transformed? Or do you keep clutching your old ways of life with one hand while with the other you beg for change? You have to trust that inner voice that shows you the way. You know, that inner voice. You turn to it often. But after you have heard with clarity what you are asked to do, you start raising questions, fabricating objections, and seeking everyone else’s opinion. In everything, keep trusting that God is with you…throughout your journey.”

So, my friends, can you trust that still small inner voice and follow it? Are you willing to be vulnerable, to break open your woundedness and let the Divine light shine in? That journey of trust can be most difficult. It requires from us calm and peace and intentional time for prayer and meditation. AND I speak from experience, it can be the most beautiful journey of our lives.

Trust in God and be open to the infinite possibilities that exist!

And this is the good news,
Amen.

~~~~~~~~~

As I pray
As I meditate
As I seek calm in my life
I will listen for that still small voice
I will trust in God
Amen.

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