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1/5/2020 — Faith in the Dark Sermon Series, Matthew 2:1-12
Rev. Megan Huston — Faith in the Dark
Darkness is my closest friend...
- Psalm 88:18
I saw a story on the news this week about a controversial decision to carry on the annual New Years Eve fireworks display in Sidney, Australia. Large parts of the country are under a nation wide fire ban after thousands of people have lost their homes, been displaced and are seeking refuge.
Some say that the fireworks display should have been cancelled so the money could go toward relief efforts. Scientists complained that it set a precedent. Economists said that the income from the event was needed.
The country’s Prime Minister said he was in favor of continuing the fireworks display because the country needed it as a sign of its resilience.
But I wonder if some Australians simply didn’t feel like celebrating on New Year’s Eve this year. There comes a time when one needs to acknowledge what is: the countryside is burning. Now is not the time for fireworks….
But the show must go on city officials insisted. And so they did. The Sidney sky was filled with light despite petitions and protests against it.
Psalm 88:18 proclaims “Darkness is my closest friend…” which leads me to wonder is there some wisdom in befriending the dark?
During some of our darker weeks of the year, we are going to consider what it means to become a friend to the dark in a sermon series called, “Faith in the Dark.” Rather than running from it, we will consider what the darkness might have to teach us about God, life, and love.
Barbara Brown Taylor has a book titled, “Learning to Walk in the Dark,” which inspired this series. I bought the book several years ago, read a chapter or two, and put it back on the shelf because it didn’t mean much to me at the time. Last year I decided to pick it back up again during a time when I was struggling to encounter God and the book took on a whole new meaning.
I love the book because it acknowledges that the feeling of the absence of God is a very real part of our faith lives. It challenges us against what Miriam Greenspan describes as “spiritual bypassing.” In describing this term, Taylor writes:
some use religion to dodge the dark emotions instead of letting it lead us to embrace those dark angels as the best, most demanding spiritual teachers we may ever know.
So as the Christmas lights come down and the New Years decorations are put away, we will turn our attention to Biblical stories of encounters with God that happened in the dark.
I invite you to journey with us as we acknowledge the dark and what can grow within it.
1/12/2020 Faith in the Dark Sermon Series – Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Rev. Megan Huston — Faith in the Dark
I have decided to stand with love. Hate is too great a burden to bare.
-Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Junior
This week I was invited to offer the invocation at the celebration of Dr. King in Bowling Green later this month, so I have been thinking a lot about his legacy.
I have mixed feelings about MLK Day celebrations if I am honest. On one hand, I love the ways it can bring a community together. I’ve heard some incredible and inspiring speakers, musicians and community leaders at our local celebrations.
But at times I also find myself frustrated. Because I believe it is a grave injustice and the picture of hypocrisy for leaders to lift up the name of Dr. King while ignoring the values he represented. Dr. King was not only anti racist, he was for a living wage, and against violence of any kind.
But Dr. King was not just against injustice, violence and poverty wages. He was for a radical love that meant putting one’s body on the line to promote the dignity and equality of all people.
We often fall into the trap of defining ourselves by what we are not, but I believe times such as these call us to decide what we are for.
As people of faith and followers of Jesus, we are for peace: not a squishy peace that is sweet and nice. But peace on earth, peace of mind that makes us thoughtful and considerate of others, peace among our enemies and our friends.
As Christians we are called to the business of loving our neighbor: our sick neighbor, our lonely neighbor, our depressed neighbor, our neighbor who we cannot find a thing with which we have in common.
As believers we are called to worship God with all our hearts, minds and strength. Not just when things are good, but in the dark, when we are in exile and God feels miles away. Prayer I believe to be like exercise. You just keep doing it and then it becomes a part of your muscle memory and your greater spiritual health.
And finally- I believe that our faith calls us to a deep and abiding joy. I don’t mean you have to pretend to be happy when you are not. But I think we should tell ourselves over and over that Jesus said, “I came so that you may live and live abundantly.” If you are feeling down in the dumps, there are a few things you can try to lift your mood. Take a walk outside, eat some raspberries, put on some lavender essential oil, call a friend, or reach out to a professional if you feel like you need some additional help.
As Disciples of Christ, we don’t have a creed, so you may or may not be for these same things. If you don’t like my list- great! Make a list of your own that defines what you are for, as a person of faith.
I look forward to exploring the darkness together on Sunday, as we look to the stars with Abram and consider faith and doubt.
1/19/20 Faith in the Dark Sermon Series - Matthew 2:13-23
Rev. Kyle McDougall - Faith in the Dark
Now after they had left (Wise men), an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him.' Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt.
As a child, the darkness was not my friend. From a young age I suffered from night terrors. I would wake up screaming. I would wake up in different parts of the house. I would even wake up in different clothing. I blamed these night terrors on the darkness itself, so I did everything in my power to avoid bedtime. This was hard on my parents, but they knew that nights were hard for me. They would regularly find me sleeping at the foot of their bed, or curled up on the floor in the bed skirt. I slept with a night-light in my room until I was 14 years old. It didn't stop the nightmares, but when I woke up frightened, I could at least see what was going on around me.
Today, I still suffer from night terrors, but as an adult, I have a better understanding of what's real and what isn't. I have black-out curtains in my bedroom and can't stand any bright light when I'm trying to sleep.
I have learned that the dark isn't always bad; that it isn't always scary.
The Holy Family learns that the dark can protect them, just as God protects them, in our gospel lesson this Sunday. They fled by night to safety. They fled by night toward a new hope.
I invite you to think about an experience in your life when the darkness (metaphorically or literally) wasn't all bad. Maybe you were able to learn something from being in the dark. Maybe you felt protected by the darkness.
God is there with us in the light, because God is the light. But, the promise of our gospel story from Matthew is that God is also there in the darkness as our protection.
1/26/20 Faith in the Dark Sermon Series - Psalm 30:5
Rev. Megan Huston — Faith in the Dark
You have looked deep
into my heart, Lord,
and you know all about me.
- Psalm 139: 1
This Sunday we are talking about depression and faith. I am both excited and nervous to take on this topic. I am excited because I think we need to talk more about mental health in order to remove some of the taboos around it. I am nervous because it is difficult to determine the right words to approach such a broad & personal topic.
In our culture, I think it can be difficult to be really seen. There is so much pressure to be successful, happy, and put together. But did you know that one in six people will experience depression at some point in their lives?
My suspicion is that percentage is a little low based on reporting. I bet there are even more who struggle silently with no one knowing. But according to this Psalm, God knows us (really knows us) and never leaves us alone.
The Psalmist says, "You have looked deep into my heart, Lord, and you know all about me." Which, to me, is a comfort. Even when we feel invisible or alone or uncertain... even when we have stopped feeling all together... God sees us.
If you were to read on in this Psalm you would discover that not only does God see us, but God says that each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made.
I pray that we will have the courage to dive into the conversation on Sunday and that we will be reminded of the love of God that never lets us go.
2/2/20 Faith in the Dark Sermon Series - Mark 4:35-41
Rev. Megan Huston — Sleep...
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
A few years ago I read a blog post by Rev. Erin Wathen about sleep. She writes about reading another article about sleep that scared her straight. The main idea is that sleep deprivation impacts us in huge ways and that a lack of sleep can actually take years off our lives.
So I started using my bedtime app on my iphone, where I set what time I will wake up the next day and 8 hours and fifteen minutes before that time, my phone chimes the beginning a soft lullaby. It reminds me that I need to stop what I'm doing and get ready for bed.
I'm not going to say I have been 100% successful at this, but it has helped me to do better.
How are you sleeping these days?
It is truly amazing how many products are marketed to help us sleep: pills, bubble bath, even sleep stories are available to us. Clearly sleep doesn't come easy for many or we wouldn't hear so much about it all the time.
This Sunday we will consider a different aspect of the dark and remember when Jesus fell asleep on a boat in the middle of a storm. We will consider those moments (or sometimes hours) when we wake in the middle of the night and struggle to go back to sleep. Is it possible that the time we spend lying on our beds, minds wandering, is actually a productive time? Is it possible that God meets us in the 2am darkness?
How often did God speak to people in the Bible through their dreams? Does God still speak through our dreams today?
I am really looking forward to thinking together about how God meets us in both our waking and our sleeping.
2/9/20 Faith in the Dark Sermon Series - Exodus 19:10-25
Rev. Megan Huston — As the final sermon in our series “Faith in the Dark” we will explore the places we meet the “Holy of Holies,” places that often transcend both darkness and light. The Hebrew Bible has a term for this: “Araphel.” Barbara Brown Taylor defines araphel as “the thick darkness that reveals the divine presence while obscuring it, the same way the brightness of God’s glory does.”
I have found that I often meet God in unexpected places. Just in the moment when I am expecting the least of God, the Holy of Holies comes and slaps me in the face. (A Godslap, Kyle would say…)
In times of great loss, when you have hit rock bottom, in the person you least wanted to see…
So where do you discover the Holy? Is it in the light? Or the dark? Or maybe a space in between that transcends darkness and light?