University Congregational Church
Aug. 23, 2020
Reigniting! A Sense of Adventure
Psalm 91 excerpts
Is there anyone listening or watching this morning who wants to live a boring life? An uninspired life? Is your goal to live meaninglessly? I seriously doubt it. Jesus said, according to John 10:10, “I come that you might have life, and have it abundantly”. That one sentence alone would have made him intriguing. Abundant life. That’s what we want. Meaningful, whole, abundant, inspiring, real, adventurous life! We’re in for that kind of experience.
Coronavirus has hit us hard. I am now hearing people say that they are enjoying some aspects of this experience and they hope that we never go back to what we had before. We don’t want the crazy go-go-go life of early 2020. We are getting used to the stay at home, slower pace of today. We like being with our families more and we are adjusting to quality vs. quantity both in time and activity. But we do miss the travel; the relationships; the inspiration and the whole experience of being together in the world.
So, let’s take time today to talk about Reigniting! our lives with some adventure. When I say adventure, I’m talking about stretching ourselves to discover new strengths and interests, expanding ourselves into a fuller potential. I’m not speaking about taking risks just for the sake of taking a risk, or winning vs. losing. This adventure seeking experience is an act of faith. Taking a risk always requires courage. The blank page or easel, the empty stage or podium… all call for an act of faith, for the willingness to risk. We call for guidance and then we listen and move forward with what we hear from the Holy. We let the Great Creator create through us.
The psalmist wrote with this kind of trust when he wrote the poetry found in many of the psalms. I especially like Psalm 91, which many know as a song…
You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your dwelling place,
no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them.
With long life I will satisfy them,
and show them my salvation. Psalm 91 excerpts
Fear paralyzes us and prevents us from experiencing the abundant life. We are fed a constant diet of fear, especially during this time. Some of that fear is true and rational. Some of it is too much to take in, and not based in reason. It is hard to dissect how much to accept as real, how much to throw out, and it is especially tough to know how to balance it in our lives.
As people of faith, fear must be dealt with in relationship to our belief and our trust in what is holy and what is good. We cannot let our fear overshadow our reason, our hope, and our trust in God.
The psalmist mentions that God is our refuge and our fortress. Take a moment to imagine with me the rugged coast of Puerto Rico, on the windswept island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea where the main city of San Juan is located, an old military fort right on the coast. It was built in 1540 and has stood ever since through military and pirate attacks by land and by sea. This is a coveted island as it is the waystation and port to the Americas, often called the “Key to the Antilles”. This fort stands proud on the rugged coast after surviving multiple wars in every century since it was built. Attacked by the English, the French, the Spanish, the Dutch, and various South American countries, the fort continues to stand proud on the coast. Hit by hurricanes, winds and waves over the centuries, it has held strong. Nothing can break it. Tourists climb over every rock and stone and photograph it from every view. It stands as a testament to the refuge and fortress it was built to be. Its name is El Morro.
Its full name is El Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, but it is better known as El Morro, which means promontory. Perched on the northwestern-most point of Old San Juan, this daunting citadel must have been an intimidating sight to enemy ships. If you go there, you’ll follow in the Earl of Cumberland’s footsteps as you cross a large green field to get to the fort. Once you reach the citadel, which has ingenious architecture. El Morro is made up of six staggered levels, incorporating dungeons, barracks, passageways, and storerooms. Its cannons still face the ocean, and you can stand in the sentry boxes, looking out for miles on the water.
Today, El Morro is a beacon for relaxation and photo ops. People go there to relax, picnic, and fly kites; the sky is full of them on a clear day. There are actually vendors selling kites to tourists. I’m telling you this story because it is a good image we are to imagine when we are afraid.
The Holy is our refuge and our strength. When our life seems like we are in the midst of a raging ocean with no help for hundreds of miles and the sea is crashing in…. and the enemies are attacking from every direction… and we have no idea what we will do or where to turn… we can imagine being at El Morro on a sunny day in that fort flying a kite without a care in the world because God is our refuge and our strength and somehow – we don’t understand it and we don’t know how – God’s got this!
Martin Luther King Jr. said “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Paul and I have been talking all summer about Reigniting! our lives – with wonder, purpose, joy, vitality, resilience, and freedom. Today, I’m asking you to put away any fear you have and take a step out in faith. Consider what is important to you and what adventure you would like to have! What risk would you like to take? Knowing that God is your refuge and your strength, what do you want to do that scares you a little or a lot, but that you can stretch yourself and grow by doing? Take a little bit to think about that. What more is God calling you to do or to be?
Our comfort zones imprison us and prevent us from experiencing abundant life. I’ve heard many people say that they will never come back to church again because they love watching it online in their pajamas! I understand the sentiment, but I don’t believe it for one moment – because I know the relationships that we have in this place are too important to miss out on. In fact, our building is so empty now that I’m amazed more people aren’t coming back because it is safe enough to have 50-60 people spaced out, wearing masks and socially distanced. I believe we will slowly return and have the beloved community we know and love here in a physical way still safely gathered.
We want to live a real life, not a virtual life. We want real adventure, not video game adventure. We want to experience the outdoors, not our living rooms and watching the outdoors on our TVs. We don’t want climate-controlled lives much longer. It is time to Reignite! our lives and to be creative about our adventures and our risks. We need to form true connections with people who appreciate our best selves. Focusing on who we are, in the here and now, we embrace ourselves, allow others to embrace us, and share who we truly are.
Let me say clearly that I believe that coronavirus is real and that science is important – I’m not suggesting that we throw caution to the wind and just take unnecessary risks. I started out as a Methodist. And I like Wesley’s idea of understanding scripture with three underlying tools – reason, tradition and experience. He said that scripture was primary – sola scriptura. If there was question about scripture, however, a person used tools to understand and frame it –
• their reason (logic),
• the tradition of the church (how others throughout history had explained and understood it),
• and their experience (how did it work within their own life experience).
This is a good test for any faithful undertaking. Use scripture, reason, tradition, and experience in making a decision. And then we can grow from that point, take risks, knowing that God is our refuge and our strength! Now, let’s start out on our adventures and live with passion and purpose. What will you risk this week to have an adventure, knowing that underneath you is that everlasting refuge and fortress?
Cameron, Julia. “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again”. New York: Penguin
Random House. 2016.