Last Sunday we were able to gather around the table. We did. And opened in prayer. And then started as we do with the “check-in” — with the conversation around the homework (lifework) from the prior week. Of course, we’d had 2 weeks last Sunday because of a “snow-sabbath” day. So, there had been 2 weeks of considering & writing down what God says to, thinks about, and/or calls you. In the sharing it was encouraging to hear a diversity of answers. Folks hear God with a kind & tender voice, and folks hear God with a strong voice that convicts. There was a shared consensus that depending on the time/situation the way God speaks to us is different. In sitting with some of this insight I asked if the voice of God sounds harsh ever? There was a bit of push-back to calling God’s voice “harsh” — and offered as an alternative was hearing a lilt of disappointment in God’s voice at times. A perhaps similar mention to this was how God is holy — always — there’s never a time when God ceases to be holy, and that reality can feel/sound “harsh” (or convicting or with a lilt of disappointment) to us because sin & disobedience can get in the way of our relationship with God (PRAISE GOD FOR THE GRACE OF JESUS!) — and so we noticed a loving God who wants (always) to be in an intimate and saving relationship with us who is big & dynamic enough to speak to us in different & nuanced ways & tones.
And then we did something a little different. All were given a little piece of paper. Then everyone was invited to write something that God (has/had/was) inviting them to give up — a burden — something we were carrying that honestly we just can’t carry any longer — to write this down in some way on the paper. And then we burned the papers. Fortunately — others are better at burning things than me & as the plate with a little water in it & the matches were passed — the flames came easier. We were invited to leave the offering of our burdens for GOD to carry. And then we turned to scripture — Isaiah 41:10
do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. (New Revised Standard Version)
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (New Living Translation)
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness (King James Version)
As we sat with this one verse, one named the difference of language — both not fearing, not being afraid and also not dismaying. Hearing that God is with us. Some keyed into the thee & thou language with remembrances (I think) of the good shepherd & Psalm 23. The hope of course was to hear God’s voice, God’s promises, God’s intention with us even in this one verse. To hear that God’s heart is for us to trust that God is here with us — to trust and not fear — to trust and not be dismayed — to trust that we are not alone and that indeed it is God who helps us, God who is our comforter, God who is present. It’s a message & promise that I hear at all times — when life is delightful & when it seems less so — God is present & God is there strengthening us.
But with this & with the conversation earlier centered around hearing God’s voice speaking & calling us. There can be this disconnect, this understanding in our head, or when we read scripture that yes — God does say this. But — having that connect & resonate deeply within us — having it be something that we really do trust — is not always easy AT ALL. We get distracted …we choose fear…we disobey….and by grace (praise GOD) God is gracious to move in us to bring us back, back to a place where we can hear the grace, back to community where we can be encouraged, back into the abundance that God desires for us. And so the homework this week (yes you do still have time) is to think about what is your most comforting verse and/or passage of scripture? This is not necessarily the same thing as a favorite scripture — what in the Word of God speaks most to you offering comfort — offering love to you when all of life might be breaking at the seams? What maybe holds you when you don’t have the strength to hold onto anything? That is the homework, to name & share that (these) verse(s) with us all. I don’t know about you — but I am looking forward to being blessed in the sharing on Sunday — see you soon.
In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater