Harrowing Of Hell
March 12, 2017

Mirrors of Blessing

Preacher: The Rev. Kate Wesch

What do you see in the mirror?

In the name of God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I have some good news to share with you today. God doesn’t give up on us. In the Garden of Eden, as we talked about last Sunday, when man and woman ate the apple off the wrong tree, God didn’t give up on them. Life was changed, but not ended.

When humanity was a pretty sordid lot doing all sorts of terrible things in the time of Noah, God didn’t abandon them – well not entirely. Rather, God chose Noah’s family to continue, entered into covenant with them, and didn’t give up on the whole enterprise to make a long story short. And when things started heading south again in Abram’s day, God didn’t abandon them either. God didn’t swear off this human experiment, didn’t write us out of the plot; instead God met curse with a counter offer so much more powerful that it flipped things on their head. God met curse with blessing.

I could keep showing you example after example all the way through scripture and history
right up to our modern day of God choosing relationship and blessing over curse and abandonment. You see God doesn’t abandon our brokenness. God chooses to remain intimately connected to creation.

God stayed in relationship to the Garden and God remains bound through covenant to the flesh and blood that became human when God mixed dust with breath and Spirit.
“God may grieve, even rant, over the incessant evil that humankind dreams up in every generation, but God is committed and will not, maybe cannot give up on us creatures who share the divine spirit.” (Niedner, Frederick. Feasting on the Word)

God chooses us, the broken and imperfect souls of creation, to bless and to call to greater things as exemplified in this story of God and Abram. Abram eventually known to us as Abraham, but this is the beginning of his story. God calls Abram forth from Haran, the city whose very name means “crossroads” and sends him out. God calls Abram and at this point in his life he’s an iffy choice, summoning him from the literal crossroads of his life and sending him away to Canaan ushering in the birth of a new nation – the people of Israel.

The preceding chapters don’t tell us much about his life up until this point outside of the awfully narrow family tree. But the focus here is clearly not on who Abram was, but on who he will become.

God sees us as we are created, as our very best selves, and invites us to step into that vision of wholeness and holiness. That’s what was happening when God commanded Abram to “Go!”

“The one who calls is the one who equips and that is God. The one who equips always leads the called to more complete expressions of the persons they were created to be.”
In other words, God never gives up on us and continually gives us opportunities to be transformed. And a faithful response to God’s call or opportunity, like the response Abram will give, is “neither forced nor coerced, but a step freely taken toward our true selves.”
(Niedner, Frederick)

God’s calling of Abram was honestly more of a command than an invitation,
he said “Go!” He commanded Abram to leave behind all that he had, to leave behind family, security, his social network, and friends, and ordered him to Go! The command was costly and like so many throughout scripture, Abram had the courage to say yes.
He didn’t know what he would find when he got there. He didn’t know if he would be able to provide for his family or if stability and prosperity would be part of his new future or not, and still he said yes.

God doesn’t merely invite, call, and send. God also blesses. God blesses Abram and all those who are in relationship with him. When you think of blessing, what do you imagine?
Perhaps a sense of well-being or a presence of peace or protection.Do you think of God’s blessing of creation for our sustainment, nurture, and joy? Maybe it conjures up imagery of God blessing our individual gifts, talents, and abilities which God has bestowed upon us.
Or maybe, blessing suggests – humanity serving as co-creators with God through discovery, invention, and productivity.

A blessing is a seal, a sign which we mark upon our foreheads and in our hearts of God’s covenant, God’s promise – a bodily reminder that God loves us. God calls us. And God never gives up on us.

So, God calls Abram out of the crossroads, blesses him on the journey, and charges him with a monumental task – a divine duty. God says, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). God charges Abram with serving his new community as a mirror,
but instead of images, he will reflect blessings – or curses – in the land where he will sojourn. God sent Abram forth with a metaphorical mirror through which to reflect either blessing or curse.

I took a journey this past week in which I saw the beauty of a mirror reflected. A beloved priest and mentor whom I’ve known since I was a young child died suddenly and I made the trip back to Oklahoma for his funeral.

In his life my friend, Hal, reflected blessing upon blessing upon blessing and that was evidenced in the outpouring of community, song, laughter, and tears last Tuesday. At his funeral, we sang songs he had written, told jokes he had made up – about Jesus and Satan,
and remembered the gentle profound way he had with the world and with us. Hundreds of God’s people gathered in St. John’s church spanning multiple generations of lives Hal had touched in reflecting God’s blessings.

At the time of communion, at least fifty priests ringed the altar, squeezed shoulder to shoulder, with tears flowing as we gazed upon the sacred meal and one another. Hal had a way of drawing the best out of each person he met and seeing the good, the holy, and the redeemable in each and every soul. I was blessed by having known him.

At the end of a life, we often see reflected back the true nature of a person, the soul shining forth in the memories and stories. This is beginning to happen right now as this community remembers the life and legacy of Connie Gaines, a pillar of this congregation,
and a mirror that certainly reflected blessing upon blessing upon blessing to many of us.
And I imagine all of us can think of someone in our life for whom this is true.

Whatever God’s invitation may be upon our lives this Lent, consider it a time for gazing in Abram’s mirror and take stock of what is reflected back to you. Do you reflect blessing or curse to the world?

Gazing in the mirror is a vulnerable act, a communal act. It requires honest reflection and prayer. It takes openness to transformation and trust in God and your community. Gazing in the mirror means being open to hearing God’s call or command. What if God tells you to “Go!”?

Last weekend, a group of about twenty King County residents answered the call to Go!
Away they went, boarding a bus and riding five hours arriving just east of the Cascades in Sherman County, Oregon. Sherman County has almost nothing in common with Seattle.
It is a rural, farming community that voted exactly the opposite of King County. While 74% of King County residents voted for Clinton in the November election, 74% of Sherman County voted for Trump. The journey last weekend was a day long effort on both sides to listen to one another, to enter into relationship, and begin to learn from one another how on earth our country has become so divided.

One woman, a grad student at UW, said of the experience, “Going to Sherman County and being in person, I think, I was surprised by the complexity of the stories I heard,” They made sense to me in a way that the online stories I’ve read don’t. “To stand in front of someone and hear them speak with passion and feeling about what they believe, you sort of can’t help but expand your own sense of empathy and humanity,”

As I read about this story and imagined the conversations in that room, I could see these men and women from such diverse backgrounds accepting the call into vulnerability and transformation. By the end of the day, they shared many experiences and shared blessings with one another. By no means was it easy or amicable, there was tension for sure, uncomfortable moments around issues of homosexuality and marriage equality, or privilege and starkly different economic realities, but they made an effort to see the best in people wholly unlike themselves. That is reflecting blessing.

Remember, a response to God’s call is “neither forced nor coerced, but a step freely taken toward our true selves.” Are you being your best self in this world? Life in God’s Kingdom is reflecting blessing to each person you meet.

And when we stumble, or spread curses, and fail to be our best selves, as we ALL do, God redeems and restores. If you take away nothing else from this sermon, remember this:
God never gives up on us. God calls us into the unknown AND equips us for the journey.
God loves us, redeems us, and requires of us to reflect blessing to the world. Works Cited:
Guzman, Monica . “Seattleites took a 10-hour road trip to cross a political divide. Here’s what happened.” The Evergrey. N.p., 7 Mar. 2017. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Niedner, Frederick. Feasting On The Word: Year A . Vol. 2. Louisville Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010. Print. Lent Through Easteride.

Sermon Reflection Questions
How is your life reflected back to you in Abram’s mirror?
Are you a person who blesses God’s servants or curses?
Do you let people know how their actions are blessings? Are you brave enough to show others how their words or actions are a curse?