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September 27, 2020

“Tell Me Something Good”

By Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy

Philippians 2.1-13

Exodus 17.1-7

September 27, 2020

Pastors are often asked to give hope and encouragement in rough times. Individuals and families go through ups and downs at various parts of our faith journey, asking for scripture passages and prayer. This past week I encountered a real heightening of this need for hope and reassurance, more than I have ever experienced in my time as pastor. This past week was a struggle for nearly everyone I spoke with – between the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the decision made in Louisville about the murder of Breonna Taylor, the individual concerns one might have, the questions and uncertainty about supreme court, concerns for job and money, and, oh, don’t forget, we’re still in a pandemic. It was a difficult week for many.

First, you are not alone. This has been a horrible week for many people, and I have found that in the time of COVID-19, we seem to all go in waves of anxiety, where a few weeks will be monotonous, and then everyone’s anxiety increases, and then it decreases again. I’m telling you this not because I’m overwhelmed – I’m telling you this because I do think it’s important for you to know that you’re not alone and that so many people are feeling this. So many people are on this roller coaster of stress and anxiety and unknown.

Second, I tell you this because I want you to know I hear you and your concerns, and I’m praying for you. More importantly, God hears you. God is listening to each of your prayers, cries, questions, and sighs. Third, and finally, because my seminary supervisor who graduated from Princeton told me all good sermons have three points, there is good news. I won’t pretend all the other stressful stuff isn’t out there – but I will try to shine a light toward the places where I have sensed hope.

There are stories of struggles and difficult times throughout the Bible. One of the reasons I believe people find comfort in the Bible is because it tells the stories of humans, of God, and our relationship to God. When we see that people throughout time have struggled, we know we aren’t alone. When we see that God has intervened, we have hope as we retell these stories.

These past few weeks we have journeyed with the Israelites a bit. They escaped from Egypt with Moses’ help. They have complained about food and today we hear their concerns about water. The places are named Massah and Meribah, which translate to test and quarrel because they tested God and quarreled with God. Whenever the people complain or raise concerns, God hears and responds.

This is our comfort. God hears us. God hears the sighs of the doctors who are overworked. God hears the screams for justice in the streets. God hears the silent weeping of overtired parents and grandparents. God hears the deep breaths of patient teachers and professors. God hears the heartache of those who have lost loved ones. God sees the tears shed for those who have not been able to physically embrace their loved ones. God hears the questions, the unknown. God sees us throwing our hands up and going, “what now?” God hears the frustration and woes and exhaustion plaguing our world.

This week my sister-in-law sent me a Tik Tok video that had to do with praying to God. It was a woman riding in a car, and she stuck her head out the window, and screamed. Even when our prayers are not articulated into words God hears them, senses them, experiences them and understands them.

In the letter to the Philippians we hear some good news of compassion and love and humility, aiming for unity. As we near the election we might think unity would be a nice, if not distant idea. The idea here is unity in Christ. It is not pushing our own agenda, but listening to Christ’s. It is not self-interest, but God’s interest. When I was working toward certification for community organizing there was a lot of talk about self-interest. The purpose of meeting individuals and talking is to find out their self-interest. Yet, as our group talked more, we discovered it wasn’t about self-interest. Ten people with ten different self-interests led to all of us going in different directions and not working together, nor accomplishing much. We talked about communal interest and how we can work together toward a common interest. Here, Paul is writing as a community organizer to bring together the Philippians to work toward unity in Christ.

As I thought about what good things have been happening in the world, and working toward a common goal, I came across an article about two gangs in Washington DC. A neutral party gathered the gangs together via Zoom to work together for reconciliation – and they called a truce.[1] This is some good news in a world that is feeling isolated and alone and where the news seems only filled with violence. The way people show up to help at House of Hope and to participate in the 21 Day Challenge and for opportunities of growth are good news. Hearing from other churches at the presbytery meeting about how they are reaching out to others in their community is good news.

We are not only to work toward the goals set before us in Christ, but to imitate Christ. Where have you seen people imitating Christ? Where have you seen good news – even if it seemed small or insignificant at the time?

God is still speaking. Remember that, and be strengthened. Scripture reminds us time and again that God tells us to take courage, be brave, and not to fear because we are not alone. God is with us, and we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses – including those here and virtual, and those who we meet throughout our week. Be encouraged, be strengthened by God. Know you’re not alone, and that this space is a safe space to share your woes, your complaints, your fears, and your disappointment – because God hears it and is with you and will not let you down. God works in the chaos and loves you. Amen.