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The Apostle for March 2016
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The Great I AM - God of Mercy
 
by: The Rev. Donna Elder-Holifield
Whew! We made it through the week to Sunday. We made it through devastating tornados in the eastern part of the United States; through severe draught in the western United States. We made it through Syrians fleeing from the destruction of their country and their history. We made it through anti-bullying campaigns in middle school and then we sent the children home to watch grown –ups on T.V. shouting over each other and calling each other “liar and loser.” Whew! We made it to this Sunday to this sanctuary.

Well, if you listen carefully, you will find that the Old Testament is also full of name-calling, invading armies, prophet’s dire warnings.
 
So, it is no wonder that Moses, in his search, having witnessed much oppression and destruction and many idols, says to God― what is your name?  Who shall I tell the Israelites you are?
And God says to Moses “I am who I am. The Great I Am.” Yahweh.  The name represents the innermost self or identity of you― of me. The innermost self or identity of Divine. The profoundness of that statement takes my breath away and fills me with breath at the same time.
 
Moses wanted to know the mystery of the divine self, that is the identity of Go―the Great I Am who dwells within us all in this chaotic and seemingly broken world.
I wonder, during this Lenten season, what can we do to become open to our divine self― to God?  Since our Gospel reading this morning was the parable of the fruitless fig tree, we can start there. The parable begins a section of Luke’s narrative describing Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem that focuses on repentance. Repentance ―a complete turning away from former beliefs and action and accepting and believing in God/the Divine self.
 
I have a simple story about repentance. It’s from my childhood. My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Convas was, to me, the personification of the Second World War. She was a sturdy woman who sometimes wore a shirt with a big ship’s steering wheel on the front. I don’t remember what I did, but many times, I ended up in “time out” behind the piano.
 
I do remember, one day, deciding―no more―I was going to straighten up and fly right. No more sitting behind the piano. It worked! Whatever I was doing, I stopped. But Mrs. Convas wasn’t all about an eye for an eye. Let me go on with the story.
 
Even though, the Second World War had ended, there was still and element of scarcity in our school supplies. Our kindergarten art work was limited to one easel. We had to take turns. The process was ―let the teacher know if you want to paint, and when an easel became available, you would have your turn.
So I asked and waited and waited. Then, I became frustrated, impatient, and angry. “I’m never going to be able to paint.” Then I did a terrible thing. While passing the easel one day, I dipped the paint brush in the blue paint―I still remember the color―and I swiped over someone’s drawing that was drying on the easel. Even now, it is painful for me to remember doing such a destructive act.
Seem like sitting behind the piano wasn’t entirely successful as a deterrent to crime. At this point, Mrs. Convas, in her God-like wisdom, really turned me around. Waiting for her wrath, I walked up to her desk when she summoned me. I am still in awe as I remember her words―”why didn’t you tell me that you really wanted to paint. Let’s get you some paper and paint right now.”  That episode became a guiding light in my life.
 
So I painted―but I didn’t quite know what to put on the paper― the other kids laughed at my awkwardness. I drew a house―wasn’t happy with it and then filled in the empty triangles and circles with different colors.
 
You’ll never believe that painting won a prize and hung in the school hallway with other beautiful paintings. Thank you Mrs. Convas and thank you God for that wonderful gift in my life.
 
At that moment, Mrs. Convas showed me a glimmer of her Divine self/God and God was/is merciful. It is through each other that the light of God shines. Please remember that as you prepare to pass a heavy judgement on another person. Open your heart to light.
 
Now let’s go back to the poor fig tree―the object in this morning’s parable. The master comes to the gardener, looking for results from his fig tree, which in its barrenness is just “wasting the soil” the tree, however, has an advocate in the gardener who is willing to provide the special attention it needs in order for it to eventually be productive.

The gardener pleads with the owner to grant the tree three more years of life. Far from offering cheap grace or forgiveness, with no reckoning, the gardener advocates that every chance be given before a final decision is made. And so we have the insight that God’s judgement is tempered by divine mercy. Thank you again Mrs. Convas for showing me, a kindergartner, how mercy can happen and how God’s mercy gives us a second chance,
 
This morning’s gospel is a gospel of second chance, but the second chance Jesus offers is not simply about trying harder and working to overcome our flaws. Much like the fig tree, we cannot work our way out of barrenness. Beginning again is first of all a work of God’s grace. The gospel of the second chance is not entirely about what we can do to redeem ourselves or how we can put right our wrongs. It is about letting God the divine self-bring forth fruit from our lives that we could never have produced on our own.  God―the Great I Am tends and cultivates us thru the Holy Spirit in our midst. Let us call upon God now for an opening to repentance, an opening to a second chance an opening to mercy.
 
Let us pray:
 
 Psalm 63:1-8
 
O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; * my soul thirsts for you, my flesh
     faints for you, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.
Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, * that I might behold your
      power and your glory.
For your loving-kindness is better than life itself; * my lips shall give you praise.
So will I bless you as long as I live * and lift up my hands in your Name.
My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness, * and my mouth praises you
     with joyful lips,
When I remember you upon my bed, * and meditate on you in the night
     watches.
For you have been my helper, * and under the shadow of your wings I will
     rejoice.
My soul clings to you; * your right hand holds me fast.

 

Saturday, March 12, 2016 - 9 AM to 1 PM
(lunch included)

 
God has been listening to our prayers, all those prayers for rain were answered.  I welcomed the rebirth of my yard, probably like you.  The grass came back as did the weeds.  As you look around our church you will notice that St Paul’s got it’s share of rain and now we are very green. Some of that needs to be tended, pulled, trimmed; in addition windows needs cleaning, washing, pews need to be dusted, kitchen and classrooms cleaned.  The list goes on and on.

The time has come, again, for the Spring Clean-up Day.  It will be March 12, 2016 and start at 9 AM and run through lunch.  This is a time to come together from the 3 services, 8, 10, and 12, and pull together for the common good and also in time for Palm Sunday and Easter. There will be a Sign-Up Sheet at each service or call the church and tell us you will be there.  A light lunch will be served around noon.  If you have a special talent or area you are drawn to, we are happy to put those skills to work. 

As the new Junior Warden, I look forward to seeing many of you on Saturday morning, if we all add a little work the task will seem smaller.
 
Howard Coe

 
March Coffee Hour Hosts
 
March 6 -      The McDonoughs
March 13 -    Sally Parker
March 20 -    The Hutchisons
March 27 -    Ursala Bronson