Posts Tagged loved

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Rev. Susan Sparks

(This piece was featured as a sermon at the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church as well as a nationally syndicated column.)

Thanks to a back injury last week, I spent an inordinate amount of time stretched out on my living room floor. If you’ve ever hurt your back, you know how this goes. At first, it’s not so bad. You have quiet time to read and catch up on your work. Then you move to what I like to call the trashy stage, when you’ve finished your work, and you start binging on things like “The View,” “Dr. Phil” and tacky Hollywood magazines. (By the way, did you hear that Brad and Jen are back together?)

Eventually, the time comes when even Hollywood gossip is not enough. That’s when it gets ugly, because then you have nothing to do but lie there surveying the nooks and crannies of your house that you wouldn’t ordinarily see.

My line of sight was directly under my couch. Much to my embarrassment, I saw, hiding in the shadows, a collection of coins and pens, one sock, several dust balls the size of a ferret, an old Verizon bill, and a small yellow cube, which turned out to be a wayward cheese appetizer from a cocktail party we gave back in December.

I had no idea all that mess was under there. I guess I’d never looked.

In retrospect, maybe it’s not such a bad thing to look at your house — even your life — with a view from the floor. It may not reveal the carefully crafted image that you prefer or want others to see, but it can show you the raw truth of how life really is.

If you took an honest look at your life with a view from the floor, what would you see? What things have you brushed aside or hidden away?

Maybe it is as simple as the stuff in your inbox that you keep shifting to the bottom because you don’t want to deal with it. Or perhaps it is a deeper issue such as conflicts in a relationship you don’t want to face, a financial problem you are trying to hide, or an addiction, illness or other aspects of yourself from which you’re running.

Our tendency to brush aside or hide away things holds true on a larger scale too. Every day in our “global house,” we sweep issues under the couch because no one wants to face the view from the floor. Consider the genocide of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (that no one wants to acknowledge), global warming (that no one wants to claim) or the deep-seated racism and discrimination in our country (that no one wants to admit, let alone take responsibility for).

There is a sad irony in of all this because like a wayward cheese appetizer, if left hidden, these things can easily degenerate and get messy. These are the things that need light, not shadows. These are the things that need to be brought out in the open, not swept under the couch. These are the things that need a housekeeper who cares.

Fortunately, we have one: God. The Psalmist tell us that God knows all about what lurks under our emotional couches: “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. Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely” (Psalms 139).

God sees with piercing clarity those troubled areas in our hearts, in our families, and in our world and still loves us unconditionally: “Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast” (Psalms 139). If God is willing to look upon these hidden places with love, acceptance, even forgiveness, why shouldn’t we?

Last week, we lost Aretha Franklin, one of the world’s great creative artists. Of all her songs, my favorite was “Respect.” Aretha was right on so many levels — life really does come down to those seven letters: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. We should respect our gift of life enough to claim who we are, deep down, in our hidden nooks and crannies. We should respect the lives of others enough to acknowledge their pain and suffering. We should respect our world enough to shine a light on injustice so that all can see.

What things in your life are hidden away that need to be seen?
What painful issues have been ignored that need to be discussed?
What parts of yourself do you need to “R-E-S-P-E-C-T?” enough to bring out into the light and heal?

Whatever it is, it’s OK. God already knows about it. And miraculously, we’re still unconditionally loved.

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Blessed and Loved

Did you feel blessed and loved when you left your house of worship this past week-end? Did you feel up-lifted and ready to face a new week of challenges? You would have if you had been at First Baptist Church of Worcester, Massachusetts, this past Sunday. The Rev. Dr. Thomas R. McKibbens delivered an inspiring sermon, “Claiming the Voice.” McKibbens, who is one of the contributors to the newly published book, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, declared, “We are blessed. We are a blessed people and it is important that you and I recognize that we are blessed. The word, ‘benediction,’ means blessing. It literally means, ‘good words.’ To bless someone means to say good things about them. We all need to know that someone is saying good things about us.” When we greet one another, we are wishing good for each other. It is more than a passing greeting. It is a blessing. We are blessing each other.”

Dr. McKibbens was the speaker for the celebration of the 325th anniversary of the First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, the oldest Baptist Church in the south. He held the congregation in the palm of his hand. He mixes the right amount of emotion with his explanation of the Scriptures to capture the attention of his listeners and involve them in the learning and growing process.

In his chapter, “The Pastor as Friend; Civility in Practice,” in Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, he not only demonstrates his pastor’s heart, but also his knowledge of the history and practice of pastoral counseling. He discusses, Ministry as Therapy.” McKibbens is also the author of, The Forgotten Heritage: A Linage of Great Baptist Preaching. If that book were being written today by a different author, Tom McKibbens would be one of those preachers profiled.

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