“Touchpoints of Holiness” The Rev. Stacey Kohl’s Sermon from Jan. 20, 2019

Touchpoints of Holiness
Second Sunday after Epiphany-Year C
January 20, 2019
Psalm 36:5-10

Sermon video available on YouTube

As many of you know, I began my career in ministry at a Midwestern evangelical mega-church as the lighting and stage designer. It’s hard to imagine a more different worship environment between my past and my present—no more rock band, concert lights, big sound system, or stadium seating. And yet, the way God connects my two worlds continues to surprise me. Today’s Psalm is one of those unexpected connections. As the first line was spoken, “Your love, oh Lord, reaches to the heavens,” I found myself instantly drawn back to an encounter with God that took place at least a decade ago, in that very different space. This Psalm, Psalm 36, is a “touchpoint of holiness” for me.

What is a “touchpoint of holiness,” you may wonder. Well, it’s a phrase I made up—but it’s one that I think captures well those moments when a memory of an encounter we’ve had with God is triggered by something external to us. The “touchpoint,” the external stimulus, draws us back into a memory, and has the power to remind us of when holiness broke through the everyday and revealed to us a glimpse of who God truly is and who we truly are.

My “touchpoint,” the ancient words of Psalm 36, sparked a musical memory–a modern song with an ancient message in which God’s love “reaches to the heavens” and “I find my strength in the shadow of God’s wings.”

It was ten years ago or more, perhaps it was the week after Easter, when all the energy of the last few weeks had been spent and now the inevitable “post-Easter depression” had set in. Maybe it was approaching Christmas, and, after a week or more of watching sappy holiday movies alone in my apartment I was feeling a keen sense of loneliness. Or maybe it was just a regular week, in the midst of a regular month, and the intensity of “doing ministry” was wearing on me. Or, more likely, it was each of these times, and many more.

Normally, during the Wednesday worship service, I could be found in one of three places. 1) sitting behind the lighting board running the elaborate stage lighting system for worship 2) sitting in the lobby chatting with friends and co-workers I didn’t often have time to connect with or 3) at home, curled up on my couch with my cat after a long and exhausting day.

But not this Wednesday. I was worn out, body, mind, and spirit, and I knew it. The temptation to sneak out the side door and head home to my comfy couch and cuddly cat was immense, but something in my soul told me that wasn’t what I most needed in this moment. Instead, I waited quietly in the lobby, politely smiling at friends but, in truth, waiting for my chance to make my escape.

Begin instrumental of Your Love, oh Lord by Third Day

As the first praise song began to filter in through the doors to the sanctuary, I made a run for it. I slipped quietly through the “secret” door that led up to the highest level of the auditorium. One of the benefits of being the lighting designer in a large church was knowing where all the quiet, peaceful corners were—the spots that were perpetually darker, the few people sat in.

I found my favorite corner and sunk to the floor and as I curled my knees up to me and lowered my head, the ancient words began to echo through the space…

Start singing first verse, then pause

As the words poured over me I was reminded of who God truly is and how much I am loved, not for what I can do—not for my fancy stage design or beautiful lighting; not for my over-functioning for the sake of the church or for my pouring out of myself until I had nothing left—none of those things were why I was loved—I was loved, because God’s love reaches to the heavens, and it reaches to me.

As realization of that love poured over me, refreshing my soul like a long, cool drink of water on a hot day, my heart filled to overflowing. I sat weeping on the floor of the auditorium as the words of the Psalmist came again, and provided me with a response to God’s unfathomable love,

And I will lift my voice…

Chorus + Ending

This is the story of one of my “touchpoints of holiness,”–a simple song that reminds me of how much I am loved by God, and how that love is made even more profound when I lift my voice to share it with others. I wonder, what are your touchpoints?

Perhaps it is like my story today, found in the words of a song or in the instrumentation of a beautiful piece of music.

Perhaps it is a particular place. Pam shared with me her memories of silent retreats and holy encounters with God, memories that are re-kindled whenever she steps into Riverside Park in NYC.

Perhaps it is something more physical—the smell of baking cookies that reminds you of your Grandmother’s constancy and love.

Perhaps it is the cold rain falling on you, reminding you of the first moment you truly saw the pain of homelessness in another’s eyes.

Or, maybe we are those touchpoints. In our own willingness to move closer to those who are hurting, and to love them with God’s love–love that reaches to the heavens and stretches to the skies–we remind others, and ourselves that holiness is always breaking through.

Amen.

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