First Congregational Church
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Psalm 139:1-16, The Message
“The Hidden Life Within”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
One: God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.
All: I'm an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
One: You know when I leave and when I get back;
All: I’m never out of your sight.
One: You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.
All: I look behind me and you’re there,
One: then up ahead and you’re there, too—your reassuring presence, coming and going.
All: This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in!
One: Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight?
All: If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
One: If I go underground, you’re there!
All: If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon,
One: You’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting!
All: Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
One: At night I’m immersed in the light!”
All: It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.
One: Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.
All: I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
One: Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!
All: You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body;
One: You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
All: how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
One: Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
All: All the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.
Part of the “ease” of coming back from time away so close to Ash Wednesday was because of the bulletin cover. I have no idea how many months ago I found it, but it’s been in the folder waiting for this day. But before I impose my thoughts on all of you, what do you see in this photo?
Thank you all for your contributions and insights. Part of the delight of this picture was that much of this “message” written was the description on the back page of the bulletin.
“In The Hidden Life Within, Giuseppe Penone carves out a young tree within an older tree to reveal its past, showing us what once grew inside so that it may now “live in the present.” Inspired by the quiet slowness of growth in the natural world, the artist asks us to take a moment to stop and think about the concept of time and how there’s a common vital force in all living things.”
I love the balance of this picture - that represents us. There is a hidden beauty in all of us that lies under the bark of our exteriors. And there is a sorrow that the revelation of the inner life became visible when the outer life of the tree ended. The sculpture reveals the honesty of potential and limitation; the juxtaposition of earth and aesthetic.
I also loved the idea that there is darkness in this day - like the darkness of the man’s suit. But it is so human to switch the colors - the black for the browns and the light. It is so easy to fail to see the life of this day, because in our misperceptions, the darkness can seem to loom over us, rather than the light and life that comes from seeing this day for what it really is.
It is easy to think that this day is about us, that little tree in the middle. But it’s also about the bigger tree - the community of people we call family. As a church family, we, too, have a need to get honest with God, that we can be free to inspire others to follow Christ’s light and life. It’s easy to think that our contribution to the ministry is small, inconsequential. But without each one of us, the tree is simply a log with a hole. So each of us has a need to take honest responsibility for our selves - that our together is that much more credible and vital.
We all know I could go on and on with the reasons. But the words are meaningless if we don’t walk the talk. So let each of us put on our walking shoes and turn to page 54 in the spiral books.
Let us pray. Wondrous God, we come before you this day, cognizant that you already know all about us. You know that our hearts need cleaning out every-so-often, and you’ve given us this day to do that very thing. You know our potentials and our failures and the obstacles we knowingly and unknowingly place on our paths. We confess, as individuals and as a family, that we don’t always live up to our potentials, and we hang on to our failures with far too much earnestness. So today we ask for your forgiveness, which you have already given, drenched in mercy and grace. Today we lay that burden, obstacle, guilt, complaint, blame, misgiving, hurt, mask, at the foot of the cross.
Redirect us, by your Spirit, that we may be honest this day, about our life - all of it. Clear our hearts and heads to that we live - really live - in all the ways you have for us.
Recreate us into the family and individuals you have seen us as we pray the prayer Jesus taught us.
Blessing and Imposition of the Ashes
Almighty God, you created us out of the dust of the earth. May these dusty ashes be to us, O God, an acknowledgment of desire - of being honest about life. In these ashes of repentance may we see our forgiveness and acceptance, mercy and grace.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.