“Who Issues Your Call?”
A meditation based on Mark 1:21-28
January 28, 2018
Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista
Dr. Sharon R. Graff
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Today is a party day! Annual Meeting Day! So we’re a bit more relaxed and reflective as we look back over this past year and make some decisions looking forward. In light of this, today’s meditation is different than the usual.
With today’s scripture story, Jesus calls out harmful spirits, and shows, without a doubt, his authority to teach and heal and represent God’s love to the masses. He taught, the scripture author noted years later, “as one with authority…not like their other religious teachers…” That’s a model for us! To do what we do, called by God, with authority. Notice the passage doesn’t say power over that descends upon, or command and control, or dominance, but it shows authority that resides deep within Jesus, and deep within you as well. This is an authority give you by God, that leads you—with strength—from death to life, from falsehood to truth, from despair to hope, from fear to trust; authority from God that, with your actions and words, leads you to be a beacon that leads other from hatred to love, and from war to peace.
So today, I want to share with you a favorite children’s story that, when it was published, won all sorts of awards. It speaks of power. It speaks of that God-given authority. It holds out a vision of just how much each of us—working together—can change the world for good. I invite you to settle in, cuddle up, and listen to the story of “Old Turtle,” written by Douglas Wood and illustrated by Cheng-Khee Chee.
Once, long long ago…Yet somehow, not so very long…When all the animals and rocks
and winds and waters and trees and birds and fish and all the beings of the world could speak…and understand one another… There began…AN ARGUMENT.
It began softly at first…
Quiet as the first breeze that whispered, “He is a wind who is never still.”
Quiet as the stone that answered, “He is a great rock that never moves.”
Gentle as the mountain that rumbled, “God is a snowy peak, high above the clouds.”
And the fish in the ocean that answered, “God is a swimmer, in the dark blue depths of the sea.”
“No,” said the star, “God is a twinkling and a shining, far, far away.”
“No,” replied the ant, “God is a sound and a smell and a feeling, who is very, very close.”
“God,” insisted the antelope, “is a runner, swift and free, who loves to leap and race with the wind.”
“She is a great tree,” murmured the willow, “a part of the world, always growing and always giving.”
“You are wrong,” argued the island, “God is separate and apart.”
“God is like the shining sun, far above all things,” added the blue sky.
“No, He is a river, who flows through the very heart of things,” thundered the waterfall.
“She is a hunter,” roared the lion.
“God is gentle,” chirped the robin.
“He is powerful,” growled the bear.
And the argument grew LOUDER and LOUDER and LOUDER…until…STOP!A A new voice spoke. It rumbled loudly, like thunder. And it whispered softly, like butterfly sneezes.
The voice seemed to come from…why it seemed to come from……Old Turtle!
Old Turtle hardly ever said anything, and certainly never argued about God.
But now Old Turtle began to speak. “God is indeed deep,” she said to the fish in the sea;
“and much higher than high,” she told the mountain. “He is swift and free as the wind,
and still and solid as a great rock,” she said to the breezes and stones. “She is the life of the world,” Turtle said to the willow. “Always close by, yet beyond the farthest twinkling light,” she told the ant and the star. “God is gentle and powerful. Above all things and within all things. “God is all that we dream of, and all that we seek,” said Old Turtle, “all that we come from and all that we can find.” “God IS.”
Old Turtle had never said so much before. All the beings of the world were surprised, and became very quiet. But Old Turtle had one more thing to say. “There will soon be a new family of beings in the world,” she said, “and they will be strange and wonderful. They will be reminders of all that God is. They will come in many colors and shapes, with different faces and different ways of speaking. Their thoughts will soar to the stars, but their feet will walk the earth. They will possess many powers. They will be strong, yet tender, a message of love from God to the earth, and a prayer from the earth back to God.”
And the people came.
But the people forgot. They forgot that they were a message of love, and a prayer from the earth. And they began to argue…about who knew God, and who did not; and where God was, and was not; and whether God was, or was not. And often the people misused their power, and hurt one another. Or killed one another. And they hurt the earth.
Until finally even the forests began to die…and the rivers and the oceans and the plants and the animals and the earth itself…
Because the people could not remember who they were, or where God was.
Until one day there came a voice, like the growling of thunder; but as soft as butterfly sneezes, Please, STOP.
The voice seemed to come from the mountain who rumbled, “Sometimes I see God
swimming, in the dark blue depths of the sea.” And from the ocean who sighed, “He is often among the snow-capped peaks, reflecting the sun.” From the stone who said, “I sometimes feel her breath, as she blows by.” And from the breeze who whispered, “I feel
his presence as I dance among the rocks.” And the star declared, “God is very close;” and the island added, “His love touches everything.” And after a long, lonesome and scary time…the people listened, and began to hear… And to see God in one another…and in the beauty of all the Earth.
And Old Turtle smiled.
And so did God.
Friends in Christ, Sisters and Brothers in faith, we choose to follow One who says to the storms, “STOP!” We choose to follow One who calls to the unlikely, “FOLLOW ME!” We choose to follow One who commands the spirits—the harmful ones and the helpful ones—we choose to follow this One whose authority is from God.
And we choose to follow this One whose authority from God lights the way for your own authority to grow into steady sure confidence so that you, in his name, teach and heal and bring moments of kindness and love through your actions, through your speech, through your decisions, and through your very lives. And I can assure you, God will continue to smile very broadly in your direction!
Amen and Blessed Be