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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

God Anoints - 03/26/2017

“Everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.” (Eph 5:13-14)

Our reading from Ephesians this week reminded me of a song by Liz Vice, one of my favorite contemporary Christian artists. I'm going to sing the refrain a few times today. Feel free to join in if you like. It goes like this:

There's a light in my life shining over me
There's a light in my life shining over me
Let your blessings from above fill me with that precious love
There's a light in my life shining over me

***

Our font is a parched as Ezekiel's valley of dry bones in this season of Lent … but our scriptures have been drenched in Jesus' living waters – Thirsty people! Drink and you will never be thirsty again! we heard last week.

Mirroring all these baptismal images in our readings, each week we are visually saturated more and more in these drops of water that remind us of our baptismal identities as children of God and followers of Jesus.

Our Lenten disciplines call us to the sometimes difficult or even painful task of asking forgiveness for our sins from God, asking forgiveness of those we have hurt or wronged somehow. Your Lenten prayer and contemplation may be calling you to forgive others as well, or maybe even forgive yourself for something that you've been carrying around too long, something that is bogging you down and keeping you from living fully into the life God has imagined specifically for you.

These can be more somber experiences in a lot of ways, taking our minds and bodies into places that are less clear, hidden and maybe even a little scary. And at the same time the days grow longer and we can literally feel the light breaking into our lives again, especially up here above the 45th parallel.

We hear a hint of that kind of contrast in our Ephesians reading. “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.” (5:8-9)

I think it's that contrast, that tension between two opposing things like light and dark – that draws us in during Lent: The sand in our font and the flood of living waters in our readings and worship space; or the darkness of where our sin and brokenness hides out and the longer, warming days of spring.

There's a light in my life shining over me
There's a light in my life shining over me
Let your blessings from above fill me with that precious love
There's a light in my life shining over me

***

When we talk about our baptisms, we often focus on the water and the Word. We don't speak much of our anointing as part of that ritual that puts our sinful selves to death and raises us up in the light of Christ – not very often, anyway.
“You, child of God,” we say as we trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads. “You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.” It's a powerful thing, this anointing. Months after Duray Murk was baptized here, she said to me one morning, “I can still feel the cross on my forehead sometimes.” Gracious God, let us all have that feeling our whole lives!

Being anointed people places us confidently in company of King David, who we hear about today in our reading from 1 Samuel.

The story of when David is anointed gives us a glimpse into how differently-abled God is when it comes to judging someone’s character. When God tells Samuel how this selection process will work, Samuel is told to listen – “you shall anoint for me the one who I name to you.” So what's the first thing Samuel does? He looks at the son called Eliab and sees what he believes a king would look like. “'Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.'  But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'”(1 Sam 16: 6-7)

I think it's pretty safe to say we all make judgments like this in some capacity. It's where expressions like don't judge a book by its cover come from. We have idioms like that to address things we don't really want to do, but we end up doing it them anyway – we cannot help it. Making judgments is one of those things – judging the environment around us is a survival skill at its most basic level. But we can let making judgments get the best of us too – it can cause us to discount something too quickly or assign a fast and rigid definition to something as complicated as another human being.

A few years ago, I went to a bible study on this text. I had come with a particular question. What does it mean for us to try and see the world and other people a little more like God does? What does it mean to look beyond the surface and wonder what's there on the heart? An old English teacher of mine would have characterized this exercise as looking for the hidden, deeper, secret meaning. A social worker might say when you encounter someone who is unkempt, on the streets, begging dollars for a bottle of rum, it's the difference between wondering “What's wrong with that person?” and “What happened to that person?”

At the bible study that morning, one woman told a story that I think shed some light on the human experience of trying to hold ourselves back from making judgments based solely on outward appearances. She said for some time, she had judged people who had tattoos, quite harshly. But then she told the story of friend whose husband was dying. This couple shared a love of dragonflies. Together they loved these graceful little creatures and the evidence was everywhere. Their gardens and home were filled with colorful dragonfly replicas.

Dragonflies are, indeed, a fascinating little bit of God's creation. For one thing, they have been around for 300 million years – a mite longer than we have. That longevity is probably the reason we have so many myths and stories about the dragonfly from cultures all over the planet – from Asia to Europe to Australia. Dragonflies have been associated with traits like maturity and depth of character, power and poise. They have been said to represent the defeat of self-created illusions, of living in the moment, or of a symbolic opening of the eyes.

When the man died, the woman had a dragonfly tattooed on herself. She explained later to her friend, that it was a remembrance of the love of her life that she carried with her everywhere.

Her friend got it. The tattoo was a beautiful and powerful testament to this couple's love for one another. It became much more than a decision to permanently mark one's body in a painful procedure with some arbitrary depiction of an insect. And, it completely shifted her perspective on others and their tattoos.

It was a simple, but effective illustration of how our experiences – often experiences that happen within our relationships – can shift our perspective or add new layers of understanding. It makes this life more complex, for sure.

What was once black and white becomes not only shades of gray, but the entire spectrum of color. And maybe that's a closer understanding of how God looks on our hearts and what God sees – complex, beautiful bursts of light and color and variety.

There's a light in my life shining over me
There's a light in my life shining over me
Let your blessings from above fill me with that precious love
There's a light in my life shining over me

***

I'd like to end with a prayer inspired by another who saw the light in our readings – an unnamed blind man who God shines through for our benefit today.

Let us pray.

God our healer – God our illuminator – you make your light abundant in this world. It was the first thing you  created. “Let there be light,” you said, and it was and has been every since – a light that pursues us with life-giving promises and sight through our valleys of darkness and in our mountaintop experiences too.

Take our anointed bodies, God, and work through them, shine through them so that others are also healed in their blind spots and catch glimpses of You. Glimpses of the pure and beautiful radiance of your love and truth, which we now see most clearly in our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and like the man who was formerly blind, glimpses that bring us to profess “Lord, I believe.”

Amen.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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