On January 17, 2021 The Rev. Dr. Susan Carter preached her first sermon in situ as it were, to the Christ Church congregation.
Readings for Pentecost XVI - Year C
1 Samuel 3:1-10, 12-17
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Many of us are now “people of a certain age.” It is all the more poignant in this time of Covid. “Being of a certain age” means that we increasingly find ourselves subjected to various medical tests and procedures – some more invasive than others – all for our own good.
“We want to establish a baseline,” is the comment that often supports the proposed examination.
And then I sigh.
A little while back, I underwent a test for bone density, as a “baseline” measurement for osteoporosis. It was really not a big deal at all. Lying there on the exam table, a machine, positioned three feet above me, scanned a leg, hip, and spine, checking for solid bone structure.
At one point, I carefully sneaked a peek at the monitor – mindful not to move – and saw what the machine was capturing. With pleasure, I can report that there is, indeed, a backbone in this body.
What was far more striking was that, for the first time, I was seeing right into my body – live.
I was witness to what God has seen, and known, and made.
O Lord, you have searched me out and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from far away.
There is no physical piece of me that God does not know; what came to my eyes in that clinic room has been clear and obvious to God for a long time.
So, too, are my thoughts. And my actions. There is no part of me, no aspect of me, that God does not know.
You trace my journeys and my resting places
And are acquainted with all my ways.
In some ways, it is very overwhelming. God is fully aware of all I am, of all we are, and of all we do, even before we do it. There are no secrets.
Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.
“You can run,” said the boxer Joe Louis, “but you can’t hide.”
There in the exam room with the machine peering through my clothing, my skin, I was riveted with the knowledge that God has seen all of this, and accepts all that we -- in our frail human packages -- bring with us. I felt vulnerable, and astonished, and loved.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
It is so high that I cannot attain it.
Nearly three thousand years ago, the psalmist wrote those words.
Even today, they capture how wonder-filled, how awe-some God’s understanding of us is.
What do we do with this knowledge? Where do we go with it? The intensity of it can be overwhelming.
Where can I go then from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
Heaven or the grave, you’re there, God. There is no escape.
You can run, but you can’t hide.
For many of us, parts of our lives are compartmentalized, shuttered off, hidden from view.
As humans, we desire to look good, to be seen always putting our best foot forward.
We work hard on our images and want to put a positive face on all that we do. Our reputations matter to us.
Yet in the corners of us, there are pieces we’re not proud of.
In the words of our Book of Common Prayer, there are “things done and left undone” -- that we wish we could change, but can’t. And so, we live with the unflattering segments of who we are, tuck them away, and hope that others don’t discover them, for if they do, we may be embarrassed, shamed, or even scorned.
“Surely the darkness will cover us,” we think. Instead, the darkness is as light to God.
We can run, but we can’t hide.
We are like children, little ones who, hiding our faces, believe that we won’t be seen – we can’t be seen – by anyone, even God. Remember the poem by Dorothy Keely Aldis called “Hiding”? It begins:
I'm hiding, I'm hiding And no one knows where; For all they can see is my Toes and my hair
Recall how the parents in the poem weren’t fooled by little Benny hiding, but played along until Benny laughed out loud, wiggled his toes, and revealed himself -- when he was ready.
The parents were patient and accepting. They loved Benny totally and were quite willing to indulge him in his self-deception.
So, too, is our God totally patient, accepting, and loving while we engage in our own hiding, and until we sort things out and come to God.
God can see our toes, and our hair.
God can discern our thoughts from far away and scan our backbones. And all the while, God loves us, inside and out, shining parts and dingy ones.
Jesus tells us that God is infinitely patient – even if he sometimes isn’t.
God is willing to let the weeds grow with the good seed, waiting for the right time to separate all.
No haste here, rather patience and love with humans. Is there judgment – yes.
Still, the God who sees us, and knows us, through-and-through is willing to hold us in our darkest moments and see us as though in the light.
Whatever we harbor in our furthest recesses is known by God. We are loved – even when we are most unlovable.
How do we know we are loved, especially in those dark moments? How do we know God sees and grasps all, and continues to love us during those times? How do we feel God’s love?
It comes to us in the gifts and acts we receive from others, and those we give to them. We find God’s love in our prayer and contemplation and worship, in the conversations we have with Jesus.
God’s love, patient and harboring, even in the deepest sorrow, was there. Even in the despair of Covid-19 and the challenges it has wrought.
We are named and we are known by a loving and patient God.
We can trust, for we have nothing to hide – because nothing is hidden from God.
As God called out Samuel, so too does God call to us, because we are so well known to our Creator.
Search me out, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my restless thoughts …
And lead me in the way everlasting.