This sermon was preached by Rev. Jill Sander-Chali on May 25, 2014, at University United Methodist Church.
O God, in the stillness, come meet us. Amen.
This past week, I had two experiences that touched my heart deeply. I want to share them with you this morning.
The first was our day of service last Sunday. Yes, the teams who went out to serve in the community did an amazing job. But, I felt God touch my heart in particular during the worship service we held at 10:30 when most people were out at work sites. The kids who had packed toiletry kits earlier in the day and several adults gathered for worship. I had planned an interactive service, knowing we would have a lot of children!
Part of the service was to make about prayers of confession. We talked about how a prayer is when you tell something to God and a confession is admitting when you have done something wrong that hurt someone. And even though God already knows those things, it’s important for us, for our hearts to make confession to God so that we can feel forgiveness.
We compared this to blowing bubbles. (Pick up the bubbles that are on the altar table and demonstrate.) When we blow a bubble it floats upward toward the heavens and eventually pops. That is just like our prayers. We send them up to God and when God hears them, POP, they disappear and we are released from whatever we did wrong. It makes us feel free!
When I was trying to demonstrate, I couldn’t get the bubble to actually blow; it just kept popping. So, Evelin and Lila immediately came up to provide assistance! “Pastor Jill, we can blow bubbles! We can help you!”
After we talked and finally demonstrated!, we passed our bubbles to adults and asked them to partner up with kids to pray and blow bubble prayers of confession.
This was fun and exhilarating. We never blow bubbles in church! Especially not in the sanctuary and it is rare for us to be moving in and around the pews and running back and forth during worship. Especially chasing bubbles!
I felt free. I felt happy. I felt close to God. And I felt forgiven. Being with the children showed me that.
At the end of my week, I went to visit two of our members at home, Polly and Jules. They have been married 65 years (if I remember the number correctly) and their love for one another has weathered many ups and downs. I went and picked Polly up at home and we went to see Jules at the St. Louis Veterans home.
All the way there, she was amazed that the “woman” (GPS) in my phone not only knew how to get there, but was telling me how to do it. While we were there, we drank root beer floats and sat in a beautiful sunny atrium. Polly gave Jules a photo of the two of them someone had sent in the mail. Jules asked Polly for a handkerchief and admired how it was hand embroidered. Polly asked Jules where the delightful music was coming from. Jules remembered when they used to be snowbirds and go to Florida every winter and how he bought the shirt he was wearing down in Florida, but it didn’t have a pocket, so Polly’s sister had to sew one on.
I left the table to throw away our trash and when I came back Polly and Jules were holding hands.
On the way home, Polly decided to outsmart the woman in the phone and she gave me the directions about where to turn. She was delighted to keep telling me to turn on streets, saying “I don’t know where this one will go, but we’ll get home!” Every time we turned, she would say, “Oh! I know where we are! This is so much fun!”
I was about to say goodbye when Polly insisted I had to take one of her teapots as a gift to remember her by. Polly loves to serve tea and to “do it right” as she says. Every previous time I have gone to visit her, she has served me tea.
The next time I need to slow down, to quench a thirst, to have a deep conversation, I can pick up this cup and tea pot and remember a wise woman and loving man.
I felt humble. I felt grateful. I felt close to God. And I felt love. Being with Polly and Jules showed me that.
The community of people in this congregation is extraordinary. Each one of us has lived on this earth a specified amount of time so far and the time that we have makes each of us unique, gives us special experiences and perspectives.
We listen to and learn from one another. We build relationships across the generations.
For centuries, faith communities have been a gathering space for people of all ages. It is one of the few places in society that we don’t segregate people by age. Even way back when Jesus was a child, he found his way into the temple.
Every year Jesus’ family goes to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover. Jesus is 12 on this particular trip. I guess Mary and Joseph are very busy during the festival and their group is large, so they don’t really notice that Jesus had slipped away and isn’t with the group when they start home. Instead, Jesus is in the temple, listening to the teachers and rabbis and asking them questions. The teachers and rabbis would have been much older than Jesus, but it seems that they are equally impressed with him. They are amazed by his understanding and his answers.
When his parents realize he is not with them, they look for him frantically. When they find him, they are relieved that he is fine. At the time, they don’t necessarily even fully understand what has just happened.
But, Luke says that with time, Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
It is in faith community that Jesus finds a space to interact with people of all ages. Time and experience make each person who they are and give them what they have to share. The teachers and rabbis have very important knowledge and experience to tell Jesus. Yet, Jesus also has a freshness and perhaps even a naiveté to share with the teachers and rabbis. They are listening to and learning from one another, building relationships across the generations.
It is true for us as well. The faith community is one of the only spaces in current life where five generations can gather together for a common purpose.
This happens at UUMC.
It happens when we blow bubble prayers of confession and it happens over cups of tea or root beer floats. It happens here in the sanctuary and it happens beyond these walls. It happens with people who worship together and it happens with people who can no longer attend.
Being in intergenerational community is not always easy, but the gift of time means that we go through many life stages and experiences. Sometimes we have different worldviews, different skills, different understandings of what is important, and different paces of life.
Our vision at UUMC is to grow as a church where people of all cultures, all nations, and all ages can come together to love and serve God and neighbor. To do this, we must embrace the gift of time and humbly acknowledge that we are different, yet also embrace the opportunity for us to unite through the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is this Spirit that helps us become people of distinct generations who listen to and learn from one another. It is this Spirit that enables us form relationships across the generations. It is this Spirit that unites us and makes us one body, one people, one church!
Copyright 2014 by Rev. Jill Sander-Chali