(Video of this sermon is available, here)
In the United Church of Christ, we like to say “God is still speaking.” This is based from a quote by Gracie Allen: “Don’t put a period where God has put a comma.” God is still speaking.
Gracie Allen was a vaudeville comedian, and a person of faith. This statement of hers about God wasn’t a joke, she was writing a letter basically counseling her husband, George Burns. But it’s the kind of thing that maybe it takes a comedian to say because it is all about a spirit of improvisation with whatever it is we’re going through in life.
“Don’t put a period where God has put a comma.” God is still speaking.
The Divine is continuing to reveal more of Godself through an ongoing creative engagement with and within creation. And we can be a part of that. The Divine urges us join – in the midst of all these fraught or wondrous changes we can be creative and courageous partners in the process … as long as we don’t shut things down by assuming it’s all said and done and we don’t have a part to play, in partnership with The Divine.
There’s that story about someone who’s stranded on a desert island. They pray to God about their predicament. And this tremendous feeling comfort and assurance overcomes them, and they hear the message that it’ll be all right.
The next day a boat comes by. The person on the island doesn’t bother flagging them down.
The day after that a coast guard helicopter flies over and drops a ladder down onto the island. The person calls up, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll wait here. You go on.” And they send the helicopter off.
A couple more days pass and this person is starving and they start to despair. They cry out to God, “God, save me! You said You’d save me.”
Immediately there is a radiance surrounding them. And from that luminous cloud a voice calls out to them: “I sent you a boat. I sent you a helicopter. What more do you want from me?”
You know you’re in trouble when the voice of God manifests to you as an exasperated New Yorker.
Now, in reality, we’re usually not such clear-cut fools.
I recently came across something that Rebecca Solnit recently wrote about hope in these times: “The tricky thing about hope is to not confuse it with optimism. Optimism is confidence that you know the future and it requires nothing of you. It’s a mirror image of pessimism, which likewise assumes it knows the future, only pessimism’s future is dismal and not up to us either. Hope is a sense of possibility within the uncertainty of a future that does not yet exist, but that we are making by our actions.”
So, let me ask: Are you overall feeling this “sense of possibility within the uncertainty of a future that does not yet exist?” And is this motivating your participation in helping to make that future for yourself, for the world?
Or is your sense of agency shut down? And is because of being pessimistic, or because of being optimistic?
And then, what are the deeper beliefs that are behind this orientation of yours, of hope, or of optimism, or of pessimism? And of your role in your life and the world with God. What beliefs about God are behind this? And beliefs about the world, and about ourselves?
In general, naïve optimism tends to get connected with the kind of belief in God that we see in the desert island story. God’s totally in charge of everything, everywhere, all the time. God’s got this. And God’s good. And we’re good and deserving of good things. So, don’t worry about anything, don’t sweat it. Just kick back and give God the glory.” Meanwhile you’re suffering on a desert island as ships are passing by.
Then, on the other hand, there’s a kind of pessimistic atheism that’s disillusioned: “There’s no God. Life is hard and unfair. People are terrible. I haven’t got any power to change any of that. Let’s just figure out how to ferment these coconuts.”
Now, there are also forms of religious pessimism. And there are forms of secular optimism, of course. I’m over-simplifying, here.
But the question for us as a community of faith is, what fuels in us the kind of faith that calls us to hope? The kind of faith that call us to action on behalf of that hope, action that is goodhearted and smart and tough and smart.
Now, this doesn’t mean it’s just up to us. Faith in God also helps us with that. So much is out of our hands. But we do have our hands and we have the breath and spirit and strength that God has given us, for whatever station of life we are in, whatever measure of life is ours.
“Don’t put a period where God has put a comma.”
God is still speaking, and is beckoning each of us to participate in what is becoming.
We can hear, we can see, we can feel, we can sniff out the Divine on the move through our lives, as it urges us to become more fully who we’re created to be.
What does that look like for you?
What does that feel like for you?
How have you experienced this in your life in the past?
How may you be experiencing this now?
Thanks be to God.