“I have an affection for a great city. I feel safe in the neighborhood of man, and enjoy the sweet security of the streets." -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Two for the Price of One.... Well, Kinda

This weekend I went to visit one of my very best friends in the world. She lives in Birmingham; thats Alabama, folks, not England. She works at a middle school in Hoover. I had the privilage of visiting her class. I cannot express the appreciation I have for those who teach. Seriously, I could not do it. Well, after lunch I left her to mold young minds, and off to the Summit I went. Not having too much money, or time for that matter, I made my stops count. I went straight to Anthropologie. Yes, yes I know, the Summit has shops like Saks and Brombergs. Would a little window shopping hurt anything? Yes, window shopping (even with the best intentions) would have the ability to hurt both the time and the budget constraints.

I love Anthropologie's back room sale area. I have never bought anything there full price. I simply refuse. If it is meant to be, it will go on sale. This weekend I picked up two fabulous new tops. Both of these will be great for work in the summer/spring paired with capri pants or a plain skirt, but they can be dressed up for a party.

Love it.

The Journey

Luke 13:31-35

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! This is a phrase with which we are very familiar! “Hosanna, hosanna, Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” A mere five chapters, following our gospel reading today, we see Jesus triumphantly enter into Jerusalem. We see him greeted with exultation, anticipation, and welcome. But there is a journey before Palm Sunday. There is a journey that has to take place. The Luke 13 passage that we read today begins the journey that Christ will make though out the entire region until he returns back to Jerusalem to hear the crowds chanting “Hosanna, Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” This journey will take him back to his hometown, the area surrounding Nazareth, Then he will journey to Jericho, then to the Mount of Olives, before entering into Jerusalem for the final time.

Life is all about journey’s isn’t it? It was 27 years ago that I began my journey of faith. I was baptized at First United Methodist Church in Greenville, Alabama by Joe Lizenby. That community of faith vowed to raise me in “Christian love and care!” they promised to lead and guide me so that I would be come a person who “walks in the way that leads to life eternal!” That is where my journey began.

Where did your journey begin? Maybe it was in this very place, in this holy sanctuary, surrounded by these wonderful people. Perhaps it began in your hometown, the place where you were born, educated, and given wings that lead you here. Maybe your journey began in college, during your adolescence, or childhood. When did you begin the journey of faith? Today, we as a community of faith joined with Cameron Owens. We promised to be with him on his journey and today he began his journey of faith! We all have a journey. We all have a story. We all have something to share.

Our lectionary reading, from Luke 13 points to the beginning of Jesus journey to the cross. It directs us to Jerusalem. The place to which he will return, the place to which he will give the ultimate sacrifice. But before he returns, there are things to do. People to each, individuals to heal, before he returns he must meet Zacheasus in Jericho, He must tell us that we are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He leaves Jerusalem knowing it will be his final journey, knowing that he will begin his walk to the cross.

I have always been a fan of a good road trip. I enjoy driving, especially if accompanied by a good friend. I have always found that travel renews me and gives me a different perspective. This past summer, I loaded up the car with my boyfriend. As a second year seminary student, he had been invited to read scripture in a marriage ceremony for one of his fraternity brothers and his now wife. The marriage was to take place in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Now, neither of us had ever been to this costal area, but were excited about the opportunity to visit a new place, spend time with friends we do not see often, and of course, eat some seafood! We investigated the area and soon noticed there was no airport that was close enough for us to fly into. After a great deal of consideration, we decided to drive. We left from Prattville and began the 12-hour trek across Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Well, theoretically the 12 hour trek. That is what our GPS told us, it takes a bit longer if you get lost. The journey was fine in the beginning. We went to Atlanta, then over to Columbia. As we approached North Carolina things were going well. We even saw a giant sombrereo welcoming us to North Carolina. We took a picture with the giant sombrero and continued on our way down the interstate. It was not until we got off the well-lit interstate that the journey started to go sour. As night fell we found ourselves on unfamiliar back road that wandered through rural North Carolina. We went through a rain storm, a detour, a sketchy gas station, and eventually found the narrow two lane bridge that was the only way onto the island. It seemed like we were driving out into the Atlantic Ocean. Just before we started to question the GPS system we saw lights! They were small at first a small dimmer. I wondered if by chance they were oil rigs like I was so familiar with on the gulf. The lights got larger, and larger. Finally I was confident that we were not driving out into the ocean but rather we had found civilization. I cannot tell you how excited I was to see civilization. As the lights approached I started to see familiar objects. A CVS! Restaurants, and signs that said “beach this way!”

Journeys can often be challenging. Even for the best of us they can be trying. And as we can see, they were trying for Chirst. Christ knows that when he returns to Jerusalem it will be for his death. He says “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Christ grieves over Jerusalem, knowing it is the place where he will give the ultimate sacrifice. Christ understand what awaits him, he knows the journey will be trying, dark, and full of challenges. He knows his disciples will doubt him, deny him, and turn him over to his enemies. So he leaves…he leaves Jerusalem to make the final road trip…to make the final journey around the area. He leaves Jerusalem to finish his teaching, to heal a few more infirmed bodies and souls, to eat supper with a tax collector, and to prepare himself for the final week of his life.

During the journey of lent we are also called to prepare our own lives for Holy Week… the week that begins with Palm Sunday, goes through Good Friday and ends with Easter. The act of preparation is part of our journey. It is part of our life’s journey. This time each year we take a break from our busy lives, we spend time in prayer and reflection. We repent, asking God for forgiveness, we look inward at our own hearts. Then, asking those around us for forgiveness, we look outward at our lives. We ask God come into our lives, mend our hearts, redeem us, and restore us. This journey can often be challenging. It may be dark and scary at times, but in the end we see the light. We see the Easter morn that is so far off in the distance today. Before we get to the empty tomb we must journey through the darkness of Lent.

A week and a half ago we started this journey in this very place. We joined together for Ash Wednesday. We remember our own frailty, our own mortality. We recited prayers of confession to the Almighty God. Then each of us received ashes on our forehead as a sign of our humanness, and as a reminder that Lent had in fact come. A few weeks ago I was talking with our Senior Minister Bill Elwell. He told me a story about a time when he went to an early morning Ash Wednesday service at a large catholic church in downtown Mobile. Not expecting it to be crowded he walked into one of the largest crowds he had ever seen at 6:00 in the morning. Men dressed in tuxedoes sat in the pews with their wives beside them in full-length formal gowns. They had come from the previous nights balls. It was Wednesday morning and Lent had begun. Someone looked at Bill and said, “We need lent!” Yes, Mardi Gras was over and the revelers needed Lent. Don’t we all need lent? This time of preparation, repentance, and forgiveness, allows us to center our lives on the one to creates us, redeems us, and sustains us. We all need Lent. We need to be reminded of what is most important. We need to set time aside each day to spend in prayer, mediation, and remembrance. We need to open our Lenten Devotional books and read about others experiences. Lent is a vital part of our spiritual journey each year. Lent takes us away from the busyness of life and reminds us that we have a God to hears our confessions and offers forgiveness. During this time we walk WITH Christ back to his hometown, down through Jericho, then to the Mount of Olives, before entering into Jerusalem for the final time. During lent we walk WITH Christ to the cross. The journey that we walk with our Savior is not easy but it was not for Christ either.

Christ knew this journey would not be easy. He knows that in one week Jerusalem will first praise him, then they will kill him. Today the Pharisees warn him about Herod. Luke writes, “At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." Life will be different when he returns. He knows that when he returns back to the Holy City Pharisees will not be warning him but rather they will want to kill him. The journey is hard, dark, but it is well worth the trials.

Regardless of the place you find yourself in your journey of faith, your faith has brought you to this community and to this time of Lent. Your journey has brought you to this time of repentance. It has brought you through the challenges, triumphs, sorrows, and joys of life and today you are here. You are here in this community of faith and together we take the journey to the cross with Christ. We walk with Christ back to his hometown, we journey through the desert, and we will walk with him into Jerusalem. But today we leave, we leave Jerusalem with Christ. We leave the place, that according to our scripture reading, “kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” We leave with Chirst, knowing that the return will not be joyous. Knowing that the road will be long, and knowing that the “Hosannah’s will not last.” We leave and walk to the cross.

Monday, February 22, 2010

If the shoe fits.... hopefully it is a leopard print stiletto

So I must admit it.
I love clothes, and I especially ESPECIALLY love shoes. Some of you might think, "Hey you are in ministry isn't that loving material possessions?" Yep, and I do not apologize. I mean, come on, I am a 27 year old girl who has always found Saks Fifth Avenue to be a haven of beauty. My love of clothes started a quite a young age... or so I am told. I do not remember a time when I did not care about the current style. In fact, one Easter I was given the task of designing my own easter dress which my mother would wonderfully make. Well, this "designer dress" ended up consisting of hot pink and green flowered material, a princes waist, puffy sleeves, and the fullest skirt imaginable. Not, the typical french hand-sewn dress which was my typical Easter outfit. It was 1990 and that dress was exactly what I wanted.

This love of fashion has continued on into my life... It can be found both in my social world and the world of ministry within the church. This past Sunday I was told to wear "extra special shoes." Why? My shoes were mentioned in a puppet skit. Fabulous! I wore leopard print, Cole Hann, stilettos that I got four $30 at TJMaxx in Buckhead! AWESOME! The little girls loved it! Maybe I am inspiring some future fashionable clergywomen!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wedneday

This was my first Ash Wednesday to impose ashes. What an event. I did not realize what a moving experience this would be. As a looked into the eyes of various individuals, both young and old, I was moved by the manner in which we all come to Ash Wednesday broken. We come needing something, wanting something, and seeking it in the comfort of a community of faith. I knelt down this evening a placed the sign of the cross on a fourth grade girl. On one side was her mother and on the other side knelt her grandmother. Three generations came to a place of worship to begin a journey to the cross with Christ. Reminded of our humanity, our mortality, and the shortness of life, the work of the Holy Spirit was active in Prattville, Alabama tonight. Hearts were joined together. People offered all that they had; "a broken and contrite heart. From dust we were born and from dust we will return. That was the message. Tonight Easter Sunday is in the far far far distant future. To get to that day we must journey to the cross, witness the sacrifice, wait in anticipation, and find hope in the empty tomb. It is a long journey. It is a tiring process, but let us begin it. Let us begin the lenten journey; offering our "broken and contrite hearts" to the God who Creates, Redeems, and Sustains throughout our journey of life.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow.... ok where is the Sunshine?

Alabama has found itself in quite a quandary recently. No, I am not talking about the gambling debate... I am talking about snow. Four whopping inches of the white, cold, flakey stuff. This past weekend it snowed. The event started on Friday morning and ended sometime around Saturday when people started to emerge from their homes, hot chocolate, and blankets. As a general rule southerners do not do well with cold weather. We do not know how to drive in it, our homes are not built for it, and most of us do not own the clothes to weather the conditions. On Friday the state shut down. Schools closed, roads were blocked, and there was ice from Huntsville to Gulf Shores. Really, yeah, Gulf Shores. People hit the supermarkets and gas stations and "hunkered down" like there was a hurricane brewing in the gulf. While many southerners may call a few flurries a natural disaster, the younger generations poured outside to the winter-wonderland in droves. As of this morning you could find the remains of snow men and women. The scene, this past weekend, was beautiful. I drove around Montgomery with my mother and we marveled at the manner in which Alabama's capitol city had taken on a New England feel.

Perhaps the occasional snow is not a bad thing. Although I do not think many people will complain when swimming pools become operational again, and ice no longer covers the road to Gulf Shores. Until then, I suggest hot chocolate.

In Mary's Shoes

Luke 1.39-55

Now, as many of you know, I love shoes. I really do. In fact, during my six months serving you in this church, my shoes have been a topic of conversation on more than one occasion. A few weeks ago someone asked me about why I wear such tall heals on Sunday morning. Well if my 5 foot 2 inches is not an obvious give away I am not sure what else is. None the less, they said, “you know, you do not really wear preacher shoes.” Now I am not sure what that means but I know I do not want to wear the shoes that Bill wears on a Sunday morning. Mary, who is with child traveled in what I am sure were a torn and dusty pair of modest sandals to go and travel to be with her friend Elizabeth at Elizabeth and Zachariah’s home. I am sure this poor girl from Judea did not have the newest Runway quality pair of Prada pumps but I want us to take a moment and walk with her in her shoes. I want us to place ourselves in Mary’s shoes

One of my favorite television shows is “the Golden Girls”, which in case any of you are wondering this television show still airs on the Hallmark channel each night. Sophia, in this show often tells charming stories from the old world which all begin, “Picture it, Sicily 1939. A young girl….” and then the story continues. So, in channeling Sophia I want you to join me with this story as we walk a bit in Mary’s shoes.

Picture it. A small town in the backwoods of the Judean hill country. 1 B.C. A young, frightened girl travels to visit an old friend who can offer advice on an unlikely predicament. Mary, pregnant, frightened, and unmarried goes quickly to visit an old minister’s wife by the name of Elizabeth. She needs comfort, peace, and the warm heart of an old friend. She thinks, “maybe Elizabeth will understand, maybe she will understand my fear, my worry, and my awe.” Mary, pregnant with the savior of the world, is subject to much ridicule. She is young, unmarried, pregnant, and is great danger of death by stoning if her secret pregnancy is found out. So she travels to safety. She travels to the Judean Hill country—the backwoods of the area. There is nothing glamorous about this area and here no one will be able to find her. In the Judean hill country, she is safe. There is among friends. Elizabeth, a mother figure to Mary, understands. Elizabeth, along with Mary, is experiencing a bit of a miracle herself. Both of these women are in awe of the Lord Almighty and the mighty ways that God is working in their midst. These women are unlike candidates to be the individuals used by the Lord. Both women come from relatively humble backgrounds, they are not wealthy, they do not have an abundance of resources. Mary is too young and Elizabeth is too old. They are not likely candidates to be used by God. Many expected the birth of the savoir to come in greatness. To come in glory. Many expected for the mother of the Savoir to be a prominent queen, not a humble and scared unmarried child, with dusty sandals, which are torn from the journey to the backwoods of Judah. Mary is an unlikely candidate.

How often has God called us to do something and how often have we responded “but I am not good enough, holy enough, skilled enough, old enough, young enough.” How often have we asked God “are you sure, you want me, me to do that?” Not someone prominent, not someone great or accomplished BUT you want me to do this? God are you sure? We often seem like the unlikely candidate. We often seem too insignificant… but God looks past what we see in ourselves and sees as we truly are. We just have to be available.

When I worked at the Wesley Foundation in Auburn there was a young woman who felt like God was calling her to go into ordained ministry. Unlike many people when they are called into ministry, this young woman did not make excuses. She did not say “I am not good enough, I am not smart enough, I am not compassionate enough…” No, she made herself open to the call that God had placed on her life. She made herself available. She felt like an unlikely candidate to serve the Lord, but did not let her questions get in the way of God’s call. She accepted God’s call on her life. She did not run, she did not question. She thought she was an unlikely person to serve God. She was young, she had been told by multiple people that God could not use her. She was too young, she was a woman, she was not educated enough…but instead of listening to them she listened to God. She allowed God to have a much greater impact on her life than many of us often do. Although she viewed herself an unlikely candidate to serve God in ministry, God showed her that she had been given talents and gifts that can be used in ministry with God’s people.

Last night, I watched “Evan Almighty” on television. Since I started to work with the youth ministry, I have found myself looking more closely at movies to see if they would be a good candidate for a movie night, bus trip, or other youth function. Evan Baxter, a junior congressman from New York seems like an unlikely candidate. He does not seem like someone God would be interested in using for much of anything. He is selfish, conceded, and arrogant… But again God often looks past what we see and sees a person’s heart. God has asks him to build an ark, similar to that in the familiar Biblical story of Noah and the flood. This comedy is humorous and at times far-fetched but at one specific time in the movie the point is made very clear. When asked by a reported “How do you know God has called you?” Evan responds, “God calls all of us.” Yes, God calls all of us, even the most unlikely candidate.

Like Mary, and Evan, and that young woman in Auburn, we have all been called to serve God in ministry…. And it is never too late to respond and say “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” All of God’s creation is worthy to serve God with honest and willing hearts. Even if we think we are an unlikely candidate, God will use to to the Lord’s glory.

With Elizabeth, Mary praised God in the hill country of Judea. She was the most unlikely of candidates to serve God, to serve as the mother of God. She was scared, pregnant, young, and an unlikely candidate. I am not sure if any of us in this sanctuary this morning can adequately understand what she was going though even if we try to walk in her shoes. But in the midst of all of this, in the midst carrying the child that would Redeem the world…..Mary praised God.

Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, 
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. 
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 
His mercy is for those who fear him
 from generation to generation. 
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 
He has helped his servant Israel.”

Although she was scared, although she was in an unlikely candidate, although she was young, pregnant, and unmarried…. Mary praised God. Mary took the task of carrying the Son of God, the one who would redeem us, the one who would save us…. And Mary praised God!

Each of us here can give excuses about why we are not fit to serve, about why we are not able to serve. Maybe we think we are too old, maybe we think we are too young, maybe we think we are not good enough, maybe we look at all the places we have messed us and say “God could not use me.” That is far from the truth. None of us are unlikely candidates. None of us are unworthy to serve the God that calls us continually.

A few weeks ago we began our journey of Advent. On a Sunday night we gathered in this building. God called us to reach out to those in our community and we responded with eagerness. We worked on over 500 projects that will share the love of God with those in our community. Our youth loaded trolleys and traveled to Prattville Health and Rehab to deliver the door hanging Christmas trees. College students received packages to remind them of the love they feel in this place even though they are far from home. We wrote and mailed cards to soldiers deployed over seas. Over the past few weeks you have brought beautifully wrapped presents in by the load. This church has provided over 60 children with gifts to open on Christmas morning. God has called us, all of us. Even the most seemingly unlikely candidates. We just have to respond.

We have to say “yes” like Mary did. We have to walk in Mary’s shoes. Let us respond “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” God uses us all, all of us, Even the most unlikely candidates, we are all called by God in some manner. So as we journey to Christmas Eve, let us put on Mary’s torn and dusty shoes, let us listen to God, look to see where God is calling all of us, and respond with “my Spirit rejoices in God my savior!”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Not too much, Just a little bit...

As a child my mother received a very special necklace for Christmas one year. I imagine it came from either the five and dime store or perhaps my great uncle’s Western Auto store, which sold everything from saws, to toys, to jewelry. This necklace was a glass ball with a tiny little mustard seed in it, held together by silver trim. Some of you may have had one or seen one at a certain point in time. Apparently they were very popular in the late 50’s and early 60’s. She wore the necklace frequently in elementary school, and quite a few years later I found it as a young teenage woman. It had the “cool factor.” You know what I am talking about if you have ever talked to a 13-year-old girl. When I was a in Junior High pressed dried flowers sealed in small glass balls to be worn around a young girls neck seemed to be the trend of the month The necklace that was my mothers was very similar… but different. It was not a flower but a mustard seed, and while it looked “cool” it had a special meaning. On finding this new treasure, I asked my mother if I could wear it. She gave me permission and I wore this necklace for the majority of my 8th grade year. I wore it proudly! When I had the opportunity to start contemplating this new find, I realized that the purpose of the necklace was to remind the person wearing it of the importance of faith. It reminded me of faith like it had reminded my mother of faith in the 1960’s.

Hebrews chapter 11 tells us “faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” As a body of believers, we have faith in God our Creator, faith in Christ our Redeemer, and faith in the Holy Spirit that sustains us in all circumstances.

Earlier in the gospel of Luke Jesus has instructed his disciples that it does not take much faith to do miraculous things. In Luke 17:6 he tells them they need “faith, the size of a mustard seed.” Just a small amount of faith, just little bit, can do miraculous things in a community…even in the face of injustice. A few verses later, he illustrates this point a bit more using the widowed woman and the unjust judge.

The judge in this passage has greatly abused the power, which he has been given. He has “no fear of God and no respect” for those in his community. His responsibility is to make peace among people and obviously, this is not something he has done. His abuse of power has caused injustice in the community, which the widow finds herself, but that does not stop her… now does it? No, she is persistent. She has perseverance. She has faith. She boldly approaches a person who possesses much more power, according to the society of that day, than she will ever know. So, in order to avoid becoming annoyed, the judge grants her justice. A person who, according to this story, seemed to be the epitome of a power hungry and unjustice individual shows justice. Not out of the desire to create equality and provide this woman with a validity but because she is getting on his nerves. Justice came from a person who neither cares for God nor those to whom he has been given the charge of serving.

The widow is persistent because of her faith. Her faith is what has given her the perseverance and the strength to approach the judge time after time. Her faith has given her the strength to repeat over and over again “Grant me justice against my opponent.” “Grant me justice against my opponent.” “Unjust judge, please grant me justice against my opponent.” It is her faith that gives her the confidence to know that sooner or later, eventually, she will receive justice. And like Jesus tells his disciples earlier, not much faith is needed…not much at all. Just a small bit, faith the size of a small mustard seed can do miraculous things, move mountains, uproot trees, and provide justice to a situation that lacks all form of equality, honesty, and integrity.

When I first moved to Atlanta, I thought that since I finally had my own kitchen, I would try my hand at cooking. For the record, I am not a good cook. I have a lot to learn from Nan and those that cook our wonderful meals on Wednesday night. Nonetheless, I set out to make a loaf of bread. As a child my mother made bread with one of those sourdough starters that you have to feed and halve each week. This starter became more like a pet than a cooking device because she had to “feed” the starter each week. Each week I loved the smell of freshly baked bread. So, this one fall afternoon in Atlanta, I though “well why not try to make my mothers bread.” I went to the Kroger, just around the corner from my house. Loaded up all the ingredients in the shopping cart…all organic ingredients please note. As a word of advice to new cooks, before you decide to purchase organic ingredients make sure you know what you are doing. Well, I got home, mixed them all up. You see I did not exactly go by the recipe. I thought I would add a little here and a little there. I added orange juice to so that it would give it an orange taste, some cinnamon so that it would have a bit of a kick. I was a real chef, the Rachel Ray of Atlanta, Georgia. I proudly placed my creation in the oven and well, I am not sure what happened but it was bad. Real bad. You see, as I was adding a bit of this and a bit of that I thought I needed more yeast. The bread went everywhere! It did not take much yeast at all. Just a small amount would have done the job.

That is what Christ tells us about our faith. It does not take much faith to do some pretty miraculous things. Faith is transformative. Faith establishes justice…justice for the widow, justice for the community, justice for you, and justice for me. It heals our brokenness, our hurts, and our feelings of pain. It unites us as a community. A little bit of faith can be very powerful.

The power of faith can be seen in the manner that it establishes justice in the times when we most need it. The widow in Christ’s parable, is given justice at a time when it is most needed, at a time when she has begged, and pleaded with the man in power. Verses seven and eight of this passage say “Will God not grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?” No, God will not delay like this judge God will not wait to give justice to those who need it. God hears us. Our Creator hears our cries. The Almighty God hears our pleadings, and our cries for help. The God that hears us in our most troubled moments will give us the justice that we so desperately need. We just have to have faith. Not a lot, but the faith of the widowed woman and the faith of a mustard seed is more than sufficient. Not much, just a little. With a small amount of faith miraculous things can happen. Things that we cannot understand. Things that we cannot explain. With a small amount of faith justice can be given in the situations where it is most needed.

The 1950’s and 1960’s were a time of racial injustice in the entire country but the focus seemed to be placed on this area, our community… the River Region. As a native of this area, I became very familiar with the Civil Rights movement through my history classes in both elementary school and high school. In the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in our nation’s capital, the Baptist minister who once served a church in Montgomery, Alabama said these inspirational words about the power of faith. Dr. Martin Luther King proclaimed, “This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”[1] Dr. King knew that it did not take much faith for justice to be established. He knew that faith was powerful. It was nation changing, and it is life changing. He had the faith that the widowed woman had. He knew eventually justice would be offered, and equality would become the norm. It just took faith. Just a little bit of faith. The faith of a widowed woman, the faith the size of a mustard seed.

Along with establishing justice, the power of faith can also heal our brokenness. I want to be honest with you. We are broken, all of us both individually and as a community of faith. Our church has been weathering something that we did not expect. It seems like it came out of nowhere. One day we woke up and there was a flash flood in the middle of our church. Not one that was expected but something that seemed to quickly appear and break our hearts. As the waves of brokenness washed over our congregation we have all been left with hurt and loss…all of us. We are tired, exhausted, and ready to move on to the next step. We are ready for this brokenness to be healed, for our hearts to be placed back together. Faith has the power to heal us in our most broken place. It has the power to transform us, pick up the broken pieces, and restore us. Through faith, God takes our weary souls, our tired bodies, and our drained emotions and begins to heal us. This community has faith! We have faith that God, the Creator of the Earth, the Lord of All, the Almighty, will take our hearts and start to mend them. God will take our hurts sorrows and turn them into joy. From here we move on, and we are already moving on to the next chapter! People are stepping up, filling in, sharing in the joy of ministry here in this place. We have faith! We start to build new relationships, form new friendships, and look to the God who heals us. Look to the God, who through faith, heals us and transforms us into the people, and the church, that the Almighty desires. We will begin to heal and strive to be the church that God needs in Prattville, Alabama. It does not take much faith, just a little bit. The faith of a widowed woman and faith the size of a mustard seed is all that is needed. Just a little bit of faith can move mountains and just a little bit of faith can heal hearts.

Faith also unites us as a community of believers. There is nothing more powerful than a faith that can join us together, bind our hearts and unite us as the body of Christ. It gives us a common bond with those sitting next to us in the pews. It allows us to share with one another, carry burdens for one another, and rejoice with each other. Faith unites us, as children of God, into the Christian family. Although we may not have a great deal in common, our common bond is faith. Faith in God who creates us, redeems us, and sustains us. Faith unites us.

When I was a senior in college, I was invited to join a discipleship group through the Auburn Wesley Foundation. I had participated in a similar group, somewhat like the Habits group that our youth program offers, when I was a high school student. But, it had been about three years since I had been part of a community like that so, when I was asked to join, I jumped at the opportunity. One of my best friends from high school, Aimee, was part of the group. With me I brought my sorority sister, Amanda. Amanda and Aimee had met in passing but did not really know each other well. Amanda, Aimee, and I all went to the first meeting together. We met at the intern of the Wesley Foundation’s apartment. She had snicker doodles; homemade snicker doodles, which became a tradition for our group. When we walked into the apartment we met Michelle. She was sitting on the typical college style couch eating one of these famous snicker doodles. A month later we were inseparable. Best friends. The type of friends I never expected to have but now could not live without. Oh yes, we have had our ups and downs, we have fought over relationships, clothes, and like any girls “who took all the hot water.” We have experienced death of family members, worried situations over parents, and a wedding. Last night we met in Birmingham to support Michelle as she visited her grandmother for what could be the last time. We are united by our faith. Our love of Christ is what first connected all of us. As four very different women, with different personalities, and very different interest, faith is our common bond. Faith is what draws us together as sisters in Christ. This small amount of faith that the widow had that day, the faith that allowed her to beg for justice, united me to three girls that are as close to family as I could imagine. It does not take much faith, but just a little bit. Just a little bit of faith can unite a community. The faith of a widowed woman and the faith the size of a mustard seed can join hearts together in unity.

Like my best friends, faith will unite this community of faith. Faith will unite this body of believers. Faith can join hearts together, build bridges where walls have been placed, and join believers together with a common purpose. Faith changes lives and it changes communities. Faith will make us one, and allow us to move from here changed people, united people, and people in ministry to Prattville and the world.

Faith is a powerful thing. Faith can change lives and unite broken and hurt communities. It can bind hearts together when we feel like we are standing alone in a storm that seems to be overtaking us. Faith sees us through the most challenging of times, and through faith we rejoice knowing that we serve a good and loving God. So, I ask you. Do you have faith? It does not take much faith. It takes the faith the size of a mustard seed. It takes the faith of a widowed woman who sought justice from an oppressor; it takes the faith of a people with broken hearts in need of a common bond. It does not take much faith, just a little bit. Just a tad bit of faith can do miraculous things. Just a tad bit of faith can change hearts, change minds, and change communities. Just a little bit. Not much at all, but just a little bit. So, let us join together, with a little bit of faith. Let us be joined together, healed, and look for justice with just a tad bit of faith. Let us move mountains, change lives, and heal hearts with the faith, just a little faith, that we have in the God who created us, redeemed us, and continues to sustain us in all of life’s unexpected events.

[1] www.usconstitution.net