Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sermon: Dancing Anyway

Matthew 5:13-20

“Hearing the word “cancer” spoken from a doctor

directly to us can be devastating. How much worse then, words about how “we must amputate your leg to keep the bone cancer from spreading.”

In his book A Path with Heart, Jack Kornfield tells the story of a young man who had to have his leg amputated at the hip when he was just 24 years of age. As one might readily expect, he became angry. Intensely angry. He became furious with healthy people, believing that they had unfairly received the chance to live a “normal” life when he had not. What had he done to deserve what he perceived as a horrendous punishment?

He began to work with a therapist who uses art and meditation to help people deal with the spiritual journey of their recovery from cancer. She knew it would be a long and difficult battle.

Perhaps surprisingly, the man worked hard – telling his story, painting his story, re-living his story. As he did so, some of the anger fell away. Instead of focusing on those who he felt had received undeserved health, he began to focus on others who had suffered major physical loss. One day, he visited a young singer who was very depressed after losing both breasts. She found it difficult even to look at him.

The man happened to be wearing short pants and, desperate to bring the woman out of herself, he detached his artificial leg and began dancing around the room to the music on the radio. He jumped and hopped as best he could, snapping his fingers to the beat. The woman stared at him and finally, unable to contain herself, started laughing. “If you can dance,” she said, “I can sing.”

Earlier in his therapy, the man had drawn a sketch of a vase with a crack running through it. Frequently, overwhelmed with anger, he would draw the crack over and over. Many years later he looked at the picture again. When he acknowledged that it was not finished, the therapist suggested he finish it. Slowly he ran his finger along the crack and said, “this is where the light comes through.” Then he took a yellow crayon, and drew light streaming through the crack to the inside of the vase. “Our hearts grow strong at the broken places,” he said.”[1]

We are called to be people through whom the light of God shines

– but we are often broken vessels. It can be hard to let that light shine through – yet we can do it. In fact, Jesus talks about us being light, and the need for that light to shine through us. Listen to Matthew 5:13-16:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.”

So, yeah Jesus said we are lightbulb saltshakers. You are the light of the world – he never said you are the light of the world only when you are in perfect condition and everything is going well. No, you are the light of the world, as you are – in your current state. Sometimes bright and shining and smiling, but other times fractured, dimmed and afraid. Yet in all time we are to shine for others to see, so they can see the good things we do and praise God in heaven.

Jesus said, you are the salt of the earth – he never said you are the salt of the earth only to be used for seasoning the good times of life. No, you are the salt of the earth – for every time of life. For the times of steak and potatoes, and for the days of bread and water, your job is to add the God flavoring to life, so that others can taste and see that God is good.

Of course, being salt and light in the difficult times isn’t easy.

We have to be able to lay aside our anger, our fear, and realize that life isn’t just about ourselves and our situations. We have seen a video of a young rock climber, and we have heard the story of a dancer, and each of these stories inspires us, because we admire those who overcome adversity, we gain hope from their stories for the times when we face trouble, and we draw strength from knowing that it is possible to defeat the difficulties of life.

Likewise, when we face troubles, when we dance with one leg, when we sing despite losing our voice, when we climb mountains, whether we see it or not, there is beauty in our brokenness that can serve to inspire others. That is being light, that is being salt. That is true for whatever our brokenness is: whether we suffer from depression, ADHD, or cancer; whether we have gone through divorce, the death of a spouse, or a tragic accident; whether we have been abused, been addicted to drugs, or parented a special needs child. Those very things that we see as difficulties, those very struggles with life, are chances for us to dance so the world can see.

Jennifer Rothschild, in a radio interview on Revive Our Hearts actually takes it a step deeper than that. Jennifer is blind, but what she realized is that, “Blindness is not what makes me broken. If it is not well with your circumstance, that is not what makes you broken. That is simply what God can use to introduce you to your own brokenness.”[2]

Think about that for a moment. The more I think about it, the more profound that statement is to me. It isn’t the specifics of our lives that make us broken. Our brokenness is our need for complete healing and wholeness, our need for God’s grace, our need for hope. Those needs are not dependent upon our situation, as much as we like to think so. Even if our struggles immediately went away, we would still need God’s healing, we would still need God’s grace, we would still need God’s hope – because that is what it means to be human in relationship to the Divine. That’s why the cross is such a powerful symbol to us, in it we see all the brokenness of humanity, all of it, right up to death and mortality, and burial in a tomb, and then, in what can only be called an eruption of hope, God raises Jesus from the dead. Resurrection lifts him. It doesn’t erase the scars from his hands, it doesn’t remove the wound in his side, but it does miraculously more – it heals us. It heals the brokenhearted, it restores our spirits, it makes well our souls.

It is the work of faith to embrace our whole selves,

wounded and healed, scarred and suffering, so that we can “grow into our fullest, most compassionate [selves], our greatness of heart.”[3] It is the work of faith to find our true brokenness, and be healed. What do you need to do to do that? Where do you need to grow, heal, accept yourself, be willing to share?

You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Without you, the world is a bland and dark place – we need you. Yes, each of you to do your part. Dance and sing! Show how God heals brokenness that is deeper than what is apparent on the outside. So who do you need to shine God’s light for, who needs to experience God’s hope through you despite your brokenness? Where are you to be salt and light today?

[1] Donald Schmidt, Seasons of the Spirit, 2017
[2] https://www.reviveourhearts.com/radio/revive-our-hearts/embracing-your-brokenness/
[3] Seasons of the Spirit

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