It is still difficult to capture in words what this event has been and continues to be so I will just offer these two sermons I have preached since the storm...they are my heart.
Faith Lutheran Church/Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
September 2, 2017 1st Harvey Sermon by Pastor Deb Grant
Grace and mercy and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
I don’t know what your normal wake-up routine is. Not so much the wake-up routine of a blaring alarm or hungry child or an insistent cat or dog. No the time of wake-up when your body tells you its time to face the new day. You know, that moment when your eyes aren’t open yet but your consciousness is reaching out to figure out what is happening. You feel the warmth of your face on the pillow, the bliss of soft sheets, the thrum of a gentle heartbeat….and next comes the reality orientation administrator with a clip board asking you …..who are you? I am Deb Grant. Where are you? Dickinson, Texas. What day is it? And I would answer appropriately and and receive passage to jump. Eyes open. Ready for the new day.
That’s my NORMAL routine. It was until ten days ago.
I saw a sign yesterday that said: Don’t worry no one in Houston knows what day it is.
What did normal look like for you 10 days ago? Did it look like getting ready for school or work? Did it look like taking children or grandchildren to shop for school supplies? Did it look like mowing the lawn or reading the paper? Did normal look like having bills to pay or a trip to plan? Did it look like making a doctor’s appointment or watching the evening news or going out to celebrate a birthday at a favorite restaurant? What did normal look like for you 10 days ago? Did it look like watching the track of a storm in the gulf? Did it look like hoping that it didn’t make landfall ever? What did normal look like for you who have lived here for many hurricanes seasons and can tell stories of storms like soldiers who wear armed forces campaign ribbons on their uniforms. I would have one ribbon for Ike. Some of you have many more. That’s what normal looked like 10 days ago.
And then…normal stopped.
It is not normal to watch the track of a storm that simply does not move. It is not normal to hold your hands to your ears wondering if the rain would ever end. It is not normal to watch the flood waters rise and slap like a vandal at your door. It is not normal to go from fearing for the damage to your house to fear for your life. It is not normal to hear of people needing to by rescued by boat with few belongings huddled temporarily in under the protection of a funeral home. It is not normal to learn that this is happening all over a sprawling city. It is just not normal.
Ten days ago I did not expect to be the pastor of a scattered flock, some wet and afraid, some wet and heroic. I did not expect to see the Weather Channel cameras at the intersection of I45 and fm 517 watching a flotilla of boats saving life after life – our neighbors, our families, our friends, and some of you. Holy Trinity Episcopal Church did not expect that their buildings would be spared from the flood waters and yet whose property served as a launching sites for rescue boats. Faith Lutheran Church did not expect to have 3-4 feet of water in all of its buildings. It is not normal to muck out homes and buildings, schools and work places. It is not normal for the streets of Dickinson to be canyons of debris that was once our normal table, our normal chair, our normal carpet, our normal bed where 10 days ago we might have enjoyed walking up into a normal day.
I offer the gathered people of God who is Holy Trinity and Faith this Sunday morning – first, a warning. The Bible warns us against the worship of false gods. We have one lurking among us. It is dangerous indeed because we have already fallen victim to its simple but disgusting lie. It shows itself in a sigh, in a cry of frustration, it sounds like this: I just want my normal life. We are a people you and I who worship the god of normal. We want our normal lives back.
Oh, we will muck out our lives. It has been difficult beyond words. Gut-wrench, heart breaking, fear of the future choking. But we are here smart enough, wise enough people to admit that the god of normal is a false god. There is no such think as normal. Take your priest and pastor for example. We know each other just well enough to know there is not much normal about each other. Our parisioners know us well enough to know that too. We know enough about our respective members that there is not one single normal person in the bunch.
You will find yourself tempted this week to worship in the temple of normal, to worship the false god of normal. But you and I are here this day, especially this day, especially in this place as this gathered people because we know that there is only one true God – the God of Love.
One time the scribes and the Pharisees wanted to know in essence what normal was for him and this is how he answered.
“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and strength.’…..and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Normal to Jesus Christ is loving with every beat of your heart, every depth of your soul with every ounce of your strength and every neighbor like your own flesh and blood. At no time in my life have I seen Jesus as often as I have seen him this week. I have have seen people work beyond their limits, love beyond their families, give beyond their resources. This is love. This is what the Body of Christ looks like. This is what is in the DNA of this community and its people. This is the God of Love – not in a label of church denomination, or racial group or a political party - This is the God of Love that transcend the crazy, messy abnormal lives we lead. Let’s choose this day, to follow this God of Love. Let’s choose this day to laugh at the god of normal and love with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. Let’s choose this day not to get back to our normal lives. Let’s choose this day to love God and love others today and the next day and the next. In the morning when I rise give me Jesus. Let’s wake up tomorrow know that we are loved by God, that we are here to serve and that this is the day the Lord of Love has made. Amen.
Faith Lutheran Church - 3rd Harvey September 17, 2017
Grace and mercy and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
One of the more agonizing aspects of what has been going on in thousands of households in these days clean-up and recovery from the storm has been all of the gut-wrenching decisions that have to be made regarding items big and small that in the course of time found a place inside houses, and more than that – a place inside of us. Do we throw it away, do we keep it and can it be salvaged. So many of the pieces trigger a memory – of how that thing came to be in our possession, what we did to buy it or who gave it to us as a gift. This was my grandfather’s hammer. This was a drawing of my daughter when she was in the 1st grade. This was the cupboard my husband built for me. Sometimes it is like a person’s whole life is laid bare on the lawn for everyone to see . There is a grief that is deep and unspeakable that goes with all the decision to keep or thrown away. There is a fear of thinking that there is more than piece of who we are tossed out on the debris piles of the neighborhood. We are afraid of losing an important piece of ourselves and we are also not a little ashamed of how easily and quickly our lives are fused together with some of the things we have convinced ourselves we cannot live without. Temper flare and frustrations build with all the waiting for answers, estimates, contractors, funds. The family relationships that were difficult and stressed before the storm are still difficult and stressed.
Is there an end in sight? That is what we want to know. Does this awfulness have an end in sight?
Oddly enough that is what even Paul one of the most devout and passionate followers of Jesus wanted to know about the limit to God’s grace. Can you imagine that? We want to know when all this storm mess and suffering will end and Paul is asking is there and end insight to God’s grace. Where is the limit of forgiveness? Because that is the way the world works, isn’t it? Sure, we can extend forgiveness to one another at least once – maybe more but then we get into the weeds of the What if……what if they are sincere about the apology? What if they keep on making the same mistake over and over again? What if they play lip service to the words but will never really change?
Jesus offers an answer that is annoying, impossible and revealing. We tend to want to know there is an end in sight so that we know when to stop trying. It is annoying to hear that forgiveness is to be extended an infinite number of time – that is what the phrase 77 times means – infinite number – no end in sight. It is impossible to hear because in our human experience we rarely accomplish such a feat. And even those who boast they have will still succumb to the consequences of sin in death. It is impossible for us. And it is revealing…..because we learn about what God is made us….we learn about the height and breadth and nature of God’s love…..it doesn’t give up, it doesn’t walk away, it loves fiercely and warmly and relentlessly. The story of God’s people in the scriptures is one in which people keep breaking the rules, hurting themselves, hurting each other, pushing God away and God calls them back to obedience, loves and forgives them and reminds them again of what they are made of. And even in death, God promises that there is no end in sight of who we are as the living breathing Body of Christ.
I’ve done a lot of walking through the buildings at Faith over the last several days. Amazed at all the work that was accomplished cleaning out the flood damaged items. Then the carpet ripped away to the concrete and then the wet sheetrock torn and pulled and dumped by the wheelbarrow full. And then all the studs were exposed about half way up on everywall in every room….it was as if this bully called Harvey had snuck up behind the buildings and pulled its pants down. The rooms look vulnerable, exposed, difficult to imagine an end in sight of what will be required to restore it.
But on one of those laps around the exposed wood vertebrae of our buildings it occurred to me that I was seeing some of the foundation of the history of the family of Faith. Some of the studs in the fellowship hall were originally parts of the very first sanctuary built over 64 years ago. The studs of the current sanctuary finished in the the 60’s – the studs of the education/office wing built in the mid 80’. Every piece of wood was put in place by a people who had a history of brokenness and suffering and yet believed that when it came to God’s grace- there was no end in sight.
This is another time not only in the history of Faith Lutheran Church but also in the history of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and in this community where is are discovering what we are made of. We are discovering again that houses are built of sheet rock, and flooring and furniture and sweat and money. We are discovering again that the families inside those houses and the people inside our church buildings are still the same messy, flawed people we were before the storm. We are discovering again that we will have empty houses and empty churches and empty communities if we don’t have what it takes to restored the hurt we cause one another, to restore the broken relationships that look more like debris piles than families. We are discovering we need forgiveness that is endless in order to to hope for the days ahead. We are discovering we need to be made of the stuff that God is made of – endless, limitless unrelenting forgiveness. We are discovering again that we are God’s people. We are discovering again that whether we live or whether we die , we are the Lords. We are discovering that there is no end in sight to God’s grace and willingness to forgive us. We are discovering that we are made by and of a God who picks each of us up in his hand, who picks each of his damaged human creatures up and remembers us and calls us by name and says this one I keep – this one is worth saving – and over and over again he says that to you and me and everyone of us. And there is no end in sight. Amen.