The First United Presbyterian Church
Rev. Amy Morgan
January 26, 2020
But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-- on them light has shined.
3 You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
4 For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.
13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,
14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 "Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--
16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned."
17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."
18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen.
19 And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people."
20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them.
22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
We’re going to be hearing a lot of talking at the Annual Meeting of the congregation after church. And I’ve had a lot of meetings this week, where there have been lots of great conversations. And I feel like what we need this week in worship, more than more talking, more than more words, is just some time to be quiet, to ignite our imaginations, to see what God desires us to see. And I can’t claim to know what that is for each and every one of you. So today, I will lead you in a guided meditation on our gospel text. We’ve done this several times before, so many of you know the drill. There will be some suggestions for your imagination, and some periods of silence. It may put some of you to sleep. And that’s okay, if that’s what you need right now. But for most of you, I hope this is a time of vibrant, active imagination. You are encouraged to let go, to just be, to see where the Spirit takes you and what gifts she has in store for you.
So for just the next little while, I invite you to relax. To sit, or lay down on the floor, if you like, in a comfortable and grounded position. You can move to the chairs at the back in the fellowship hall if that’s better for you.
When you are ready, you might close your eyes or soften your gaze. And just begin to draw your attention to the breath in your body. Don’t judge your breath or try to change it. Just notice it. Give thanks for the gift of life, the gift of breath. Throughout this meditation, if your mind begins to wander, just draw your attention back to your breath. Feel it moving softly over your upper lip. And then re-engage wherever you left off.
As you breathe, I invite you to imagine that with every breath you inhale, you are breathing in the very Spirit of God, that love, and comfort, that guidance and peace that is always as close to us as our breath. That Spirit of God that moves around us and in us and through us.
And as you exhale each breath, I invite you to imagine that you are releasing any distractions, discomfort, fears, or frustrations. Just for this short period of time, let all your responsibilities and concerns be set aside, set down, so that you can give just this brief moment over to God completely. Let God be in charge, in control, of everything, and just be. As those distractions and thoughts try to re-assert themselves throughout the meditation, just let them go on the next exhale and return to being fully present to God in this moment, attentive to the Spirit that is on your breath.
And now…I invite you to imagine that you have moved to a new home, in a new city. The surroundings are unfamiliar. You’ve left behind everyone you know and love. You don’t know your way around. There are crowds of people around, busy about their daily lives, but you feel terribly alone. Perhaps you’ve experienced this before. Tap into how that felt for a moment.
Inside your new home are objects that remind you of your old life – family and friends and familiar places. Think about one person, place or thing you miss. And imagine an object – a trinket or token of some sort – that represents that person, place or thing. Focus on that for a moment. If there are other people or things you miss, imagine objects for each of them. Take some time to imagine these objects and the memories they hold. See how they fill your house. All of these memories, in a new and lonely place.
You decide you need some time, away from the memories, away from the newness. You walk out of your house, and up a hill overlooking the city.
Sitting on the hill, you watch the life of the city. People shopping. Riding bicycles. Eating in restaurants. Playing in parks. A widow struggles with the self check-out at the grocery. The bike rider narrowly misses getting hit by a car because he’s wearing headphones and the car driver is on her phone. A woman sits alone at the café, reading a book. A nanny scans through social media on her phone while a toddler shouts for her to look at him.
And suddenly, that is the only sound you can hear. “Look at me.” It begins with the toddler, but then it grows and spread throughout the city until it becomes a dull roar. Everyone in the city shouting, “Look at me!” until the sound becomes almost deafening. “Look at me,” they all plead.
You know you must help them. But you also know you can’t do it alone. There are so many of them. You descend from the hilltop into the heart of the city.
You walk into an office building, where you hear more shouts of “Look at me.” People with their faces glued to computer screens, headphones on, sitting at desks, in cubicles, work alone. Together.
Then you look through a window into a conference room. People are talking. But more than that – they are engaged. Gesturing, listening intently, sharing ideas, collaborating. They are seeing and hearing one another. They are not shouting “Look at me” like the others all over the city.
You can see that they are working on making or selling something – widgets, perhaps, or engineered food products. If they can collaborate like this to sell widgets – ah! what they could do for all the people of the city shouting “Look at me!”
You open the door – you don’t even knock – just walk in. You look at them. You see their gifts, their potential. You see how far they’ve come. You see their struggles and their accomplishments. You look at them. And they look at you.
Urgently, you tell them – “Follow me – I can put your lives to better use!” They are confused for a moment. But then they hear what you’ve been hearing. The cries of “Look at me!” coming from all over the building.
They drop their whiteboard markers and charts and follow you without a second thought.
As you all move through the office building, you stop at each desk. You see each person. Their beauty and their pain. Their history and their promise. You see their infinite value.
Some return your loving gaze and stop their shouting. Some even follow you and the others. But many don’t see you at all. Some even just think you’re creepy and ignore you on purpose.
You move out of the building, with more and more people following, more and more people quieting their cries of “Look at me!” More and more people are looking, loving, being together. Together.
Those who followed you have spread out all over the city. The din of shouting has quieted down, and many people are even spreading out beyond the city, to other places, even far away places, where people are desperate to be seen and known and loved.
You come upon the park you saw from the hilltop. The nanny sits on a bench, shouting at her phone screen “look at me!” and the toddler stands at the top of the slide, crying at the nanny “look at me!”
You walk up to the nanny and gently lower her phone screen. And you look at her. You take her hand and lead her over to the toddler. And she looks at him. And the toddler slides down the slide into her arms. And they laugh.
You think about returning to your new home and your old memories. To your loneliness.
You see the nanny and the toddler playing, hear them laughing.
And you shout to them, “Look at me!” They stop for a moment, and they look at you. They see your memories, and your loneliness. They see your infinite value. They invite you to be together. Together.
As we conclude our meditation, I invite you to take a moment to give thanks to God for whatever you have received in this time.