Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 and On Beauty by Kahlil Gibran
Sunday January 14th, 2024
By Rev. Nicole Lamarche
What a gift that we have this beautiful circle and that we can be here together like this and also that we have the Livestream for those who couldn’t get out today.
Welcome again as you are on this second Sunday of Epiphany in the liturgical calendar and a special weekend in our country. I invite you now to let yourself arrive a bit more fully, taking some deeper breaths right now, breathing out worry, breathing in peace…
And I invite you to join me in this prayer from Psalm 19.
God may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
“But the judgement of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning… I meet young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour.”(1)
These are words from the Letter From Birmingham Jail by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., written in the late summer of 1963.
He was calling upon the church, specifically what he called the White Moderate to understand what their calls for patience and finding the right time meant to people of color.
He wrote, “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the
White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action” and they say to him that he should wait for a “more convenient season.” He went on to write, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
They wanted him to wait. To find a more convenient season. And he was calling upon them to see that the peace they had was a negative peace, one that required non-white people to passively accept injustices and what was needed was a positive peace, in which there is the presence of justice. But they wanted him to wait.
And he was calling upon them to see him and the movement as one in which all humans are seen as what we heard from the Psalmist that we are “wonderfully made.”
Because our God knows none of us need to need not wait to hear that, that we are wonderfully made. Even now it sort of feels like a wild, radical vision that each and every human being is wonderfully made, worthy of existing in the world. On this weekend where we celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the idea that we are each worthy of existence, worthy of having bodily autonomy and freedom, worthy of having a place at the table or a seat in the House of Representatives, whatever we call it, the name for God, it says all of us are worthy. Today I am wondering, this weekend I am wondering how would the world be different if we lived as if everyone and believed everyone was truly wonderfully made?
Think of all of the beauty that is missed- all the harm caused because we can’t marvel at one another’s beauty just as we are. The creations that we are.
And think of all of creation that is being destroyed because we aren’t in awe enough, that we aren’t mindful of the beauty that surrounds us, how wonderfully made all of this is.
Here’s the radical message I have for each of you today. I am sorry if you haven’t heard this in church before: You are beautiful! You are wonderfully made! Just as you are!
If no one has ever told you that, let’s make a point of telling one another that this year. As we heard from this poem by Kahlil Gibran on beauty, it is everywhere. And I fear with all that is going on in the world, sometimes we miss it. But it is everywhere like a garden forever in bloom and or a angels that are ever in flight, it cannot be stopped only hidden. Beauty is in kindness and in bravery, it is bold and soft, it is in the leaves and the snow and the mirror reflecting eternity.
This place, this planet, each of us! You are beautiful and wonderfully made!
So when one of us isn’t being treated as beautiful and wonderfully made, it will find its way to the rest of us eventually. People and places, policies and programs with wounds left untreated will eventually make their way to all of us. Part of what was making white moderate so mad at Dr. King and the movement at that time was the non-violent direct action they were taking, like refusing to move from lunch counters. While it didn’t involve weapons, it publicly challenged the idea that only some people were worthy to sit there. It was loud about the injustice, and maybe they were annoyed at being shamed and seeing it all out there like that.
As if they were saying with their bodies refusing to move from their stools, “we are beautiful and wonderfully made.” We are worthy.
We are a diverse church in a variety of ways, including how we understand the nature of a deity and whether there is one, but what a glorious, sacred and revolutionary thing to be committed to the beautiful, worthy existence of each one of us. What a gift to show up here each week and remember that we are each worthy and beautiful! Maybe this is the oppositive of the created idea of original sin? Here at Community UCC, we believe in the doctrine of original beauty.
Knowing each of us arrives from different places and perspectives, I invite you now as you are comfortable, to listen and or share and reflect together. We will have 2 minutes. Did you grow up thinking you wereworthy just as you are? Do you feel beautiful? Why or why not? What do you think about how the church could “rise to this decisive hour?”
Beloved of God, let us not miss reminding one another: You are beautiful! You are wonderfully made! Just as you are! May it be so. Amen.