XCovid-19: For our live-streamed Holy Week and Easter Services and more info about Staying Connected when we are apart…Read more

Sermon Archives

Be Lovely

Rev. Dan Smith
Sun, Sep 30

The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Leviticus 25: 2-7 and Matthew 6: 25-34

So I’m a bit of a mess today, and a little speechless, honestly, so allow me to keep this message simple. First, thank you! Thank you Reebee and thank you Terry. Thank you Jan and thank you Gaylen. Thank you Sarah, and Karen and Julie. Thank you Mark and Susie and all the Deacons. Thank you Kirsten - who is here with us today! Thank you Peter, thank you Louise and thank you choir for singing Grace today, and always. Heartfelt thanks to all of you for this gift of time, for this rest which I need, body and soul, for this time of renewal and restoration and rebalancing of my life and my ministry. I can’t believe it’s finally here! And as excited as I am, all of this love and gratitude makes this a bittersweet moment because I know how much I will miss you for these four months, which is why I’m something of a mess. Believe it or not, a part of me doesn’t want to go because I don’t want to miss all the great stuff that is going on! Four months is the limit before I’m going to go crazy without singing our hymns with you all. I love our hymns and I love singing them with you which is why I picked some of my favs today. Bread for the journey! I also need to say a word of thanks to my amazing wife and kids, Nancy, Julian and Nellie, for bearing with me and waiting for this time in which to restore a more sustainable work-life balance.

I came across a poem yesterday whose words seemed tailor made for this moment, both for me and I hope for you. Its called Camas Lilies, by Lynn Ungar.

Consider the lilies of the field,
the blue banks of camas
opening into acres of sky along the road.
Would the longing to lie down
and be washed by that beauty
abate if you knew their usefulness,
how the natives ground their bulbs
for flour, how the settlers’ hogs
uprooted them, grunting in gleeful
oblivion as the flowers fell?

And you — what of your rushed
and useful life? Imagine setting it all down —
papers, plans, appointments, everything —
leaving only a note: "Gone
to the fields to be lovely. Be back
when I’m through with blooming."

Even now, unneeded and uneaten,
the camas lilies gaze out above the grass
from their tender blue eyes.
Even in sleep your life will shine.
Make no mistake. Of course
your work will always matter.

Yet Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.

She’s not only speaking to me, she’s preaching to me! What of your rushed and useful life, Dan? I’ll be thinking of that one for awhile! I hope she is preaching to all of us! What of all our rushed and useful lives? Our rushed and useful life as a community? What of our work that matters, and it does matter! and yet…what about just being lovely and leaving ourselves a season in which to bloom apart and together? I can already see that ten acres of sky opening before us which is why I’m already excited to come back!

One of the many things I love about this community is its enormous resilience, resilience rooted in a deep faithfulness and an abiding discernment of God’s presence in our midst. Over the last years, our capacity to maintain the momentum of our ministry within and beyond this community and in spite of circumstance has been remarkable! No doubt, that resilience will continue to serve us in the coming months. Efforts are already underway to once again maintain the momentum of our ministry, through our Stewardship season, through Election Day, through Advent and Epiphany and Annual Meeting! Make no mistake, this work matters! And yet what of this rushed and useful life, First Church? What of our striving? And what of my part in our striving? And what about a time to be lovely, a season to let go, to listen and to learn and to let our community bloom without toil or spin?

These past weeks have been for me an exercise of letting go, of taking my hands off the wheels, of feeling that mix of wonder and solace in realizing that “clearly, I’m not needed!” and in hearing and taking to heart the words of our passage…do not worry. Trusting deeply in all of you, trusting that you’ve got this, and even more that God’s got this, has made this easier than it might have been. That said, the challenge of setting it down came home to me again in acute way just this very morning as I changed my outgoing email and voicemail to indicate that I will be on sabbatical through the end of January. Whoa. I wasn’t able to bring myself to use Ungar’s outgoing note, “Gone to the fields to be lovely!” but if you should happen to get my autoreply while I’m away, read it between the lines and know that I will be trying!

Our good and prayerful work matters and it will always matter, especially for six days a week, or six years as Leviticus reminds us, it matters and yet…my prayer for us all is that this will be season where we can all set some of it down, where we can all take our hands off the wheels, knowing and trusting that God’s got it! Even if you can’t imagine setting it all down, just think for a moment, or a morning, or every Sunday morning, every Sabbath morning, every time you enter into this sanctuary, just think about those lilies. Better still, think of yourselves as lilies, as a field of beautiful, blue camas lilies, opening into acres of sky! No toil or spin required!

If you’re like me, its harder than you think, this business of just being lovely. Dan, be lovely! Yikes! It takes practice. I invite you to try it for yourselves. If it doesn’t feel right the first time, try it again, and again. Go ahead and just try to be as lovely as you already are, in God’s sight and in mine. Try it until you can you taste the freedom, the rest, and the joy therein. Try it until you can receive in your heart or hearts this good news, this non-anxious gospel word from our brother Jesus! My hope and prayer is that in this season of no ordinary time, you will be able to listen to and learn the voice of God speaking these words to you and to me. First Church, be lovely, be what you are, be what God says you are, and together, we too will bloom and open into ten acres of sky. To recap - thank you. Thank you all. Thanks be to God. Thank God who’s got us all. Don’t worry. Be like those lilies. Be lovely, as you are! Amen.

Looking for ways to support our community during this unprecedented time of need? The Missions and Social Justice Committee has compiled and vetted a short list of organizations looking for assistance to aid in their work in the COVID-19 response...

In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Shelter has expanded into Sage Hall to allow for greater social distancing, and is now open to guests around the clock, thanks to additional funding from the Commonwealth. They would very much welcome...