“With God’s Help” Stacey Kohl’s Sermon from Nov. 5, 2017

With God’s Help
Sermon for All Saints’ Sunday, November 5, 2017
The Rev. Stacey Kohl

 

I will admit to having a bit of a complicated relationship with today’s gospel reading. It is intensely familiar to most people. You’ve probably heard the beatitudes somewhere once or twice or a few hundred times. This list of blessings and God’s response to us is really a beautiful piece of scripture.

I’m a list person. I love lists, and I love nothing more than getting to check off a list as I complete each item. Perhaps those of you who share this love of lists encounter a bit of the same response when seeing a list in scripture like this. One that seems so simple at the outset until I begin to wonder. It says “Blessed are the meek.” How do I check that off? Am I being meek enough? What does that look like?

What about being a peacemaker? How do I do more of that? I need to be able to check that one off. What about hunger and thirst for righteousness? How do you even do that? I’m sure there’s a book or a video that will help me check it off.

And suddenly blessings from God become task items for me to complete, things that I have to get done and get done quick. There’s a lot to be doing in this world. I have to get ready to be a good mom, gotta get dinner ready, clean the house, be meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness.

There’s a lot to do, and my anxiety begins to rise as the to do list gets bigger and bigger. And suddenly a list of blessings becomes oppressive, becomes a weight I carry around because I just can’t seem to get it done. Lists are complicated, and they get more complicated when they get tied up with our relationship with God. When our relationship with God becomes something I have to check off, that I need to get done.

The answer though comes in a bit of a surprising place — at least for me, it comes in the midst of a covenant that we will speak together in just a few moments: the Baptismal Covenant. Now this covenant starts off with more lists! Do believe in God the Father? Do you believe in the Son? Do you believe in the Spirit? I can check off “belief” on my list.

Then comes the next question: Will You? Oh boy, there’s another thing on my list.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers? Add them to my list. “I will. I will.”

And then it comes. The sentence does not end with “I will.” It does not end with me, with my to do list, with my responsibilities, with my stuff to get done all on my own. It is followed by three little words that change everything. “With. God’s. Help.”

With GOD’s help.

And in those three words, I find the answer to my anxiety, to my struggle to check off the items on my list. Because the truth is God isn’t sitting up in heaven with a photocopy of my list checking them off to. Instead, God is active and present and guiding and leading and loving me as I struggle and fumble and attempt to walk in to this way of being.

None of us are alone in accomplishing the things God has called us to do. None of us is alone in living into who God has called us to be. God is present in each moment and is in fact calling us to release our iron grip on our lists, and instead to breathe. And so “I will with God’s help,” instead of being another list item, becomes a breath prayer.

As the covenant compels me to…I breathe in “I will.” — accepting the call that God has made of each of us to be in the world.

Then I breathe out. “With God’s help” — knowing I am never, ever called to those things alone. And as I breathe those words in and out, something even more miraculous happens. Suddenly the world that was telescoped down to my own lists, my own concerns, begins to open. As I hear the voices of those standing on either side of me, alone say “I will with God’s help.” That together we will with God’s help.

I am not alone in this battle. I am surrounded by saints who walk the way with me. And so I invite you today as we say the baptismal covenant to hear those five words anew; to breathe in “I will” — believing God has called us into a world that needs the love of Christ. And breathing out “With God’s help” — for it is only with God that we accomplish what we set out to do.

I will (breathe in) with God’s help (breathe out).
I will (breathe in) with God’s help (breathe out).
I will (breathe in) with God’s help (breathe out).

Amen.

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