Invocation of a Playful, Dancing, Wise Spirit – Season of Jubilee

Megan M Ramer
22 May 2016

Today I don’t so much have a sermon to preach
as I have an invocation to offer on our behalf.
Today we invoke God’s presence with us as we embark into a Season of Jubilee together.
Today we ask God’s blessing on this congregation as we discern together, over the next 2.5 years, some really big questions.  I invite you to join me in the invocation; to engage this time like prayer, more than a preached word.  And if or when your mind starts to wander, if or when you just need to zone out from my words, please consider joining me in an invocation. Please consider adding your prayers to the ones I am speaking. We seek God’s blessing and we need God’s presence with us.

Specifically this morning, we invoke the presence of Holy Wisdom,
(Holy Sophia is her Greek name),
who we encountered in our reading from Proverbs.
Holy Wisdom who was daily beside Creator God,
Holy Wisdom who was with God in the beginning,
Holy Wisdom who was daily God’s delight
and who is always rejoicing in all of creation
and delighting in all of humanity.
We invoke her sacred presence with us as we venture into discernment.

O Holy Wisdom, as you danced among creation and delighted in it all,
we invoke you—playful, dancing Wise One—to accompany us.

She has already sashayed her way into the Spiritual Leadership Team as we’ve gathered together in these past months, specifically on one blessed Saturday afternoon at Camp Burton on Vashon Island when we heard and witnessed God’s clear call for our congregation into Jubilee.

We had already sensed the time was right for a season of discernment.

During these last years of major transition in the life of our congregation, some big questions have emerged…and lain dormant…and re-emerged, and you, good people, dutifully set them aside each time one emerged or re-emerged, in order to attend well to the season of transition you were immersed in.

It was a wise…and necessary…decision, to set aside.

I think it’s safe to say that the season of transition is now over.

Even as we are a congregation who will always be experiencing movement, and going through transitions of one kind or another. There will always be newer ones joining us, and other ones departing us, and the “we” of SMC will always be in motion.

And yet, that very distinct season of transition? We have brought closure to that season.

Thanks be to God!

O Holy Wisdom, as you danced among creation and delighted in it all,
we invoke you—playful, dancing Wise One—to accompany us.

It didn’t take long for Spiritual Leadership Team to have clarity that the next season in the life of our congregation would be a season of discernment. It would be a season for us to pick up those big questions that have been set aside, to ponder them as a community, to intentionally hold the whole of them in conversation with one another, because they are blessedly entangled with one another, and to seek God’s will and God’s voice as we move forward together.

It would be a season of discernment. That much seemed very quickly clear to us.

It was then on that beautiful Saturday on Vashon Island that Holy Wisdom sashayed her way into our circle. I remember the moment when we realized that
November 2018 would be our 50th, followed soon by the moment when we realized that the 50th year is a Jubilee year, rooted in the Hebrew Scripture’s vision of an every-50-year time of restoration, liberation, and redistribution so that all might have enough and live together in just peace; a vision picked up, proclaimed, and lived by Jesus, particularly in the gospel of Luke, where Jesus prophesies that the vision of God’s joyous Jubilee is fulfilled “in our hearing.”

It has come.

I remember the moment when we realized that God was setting a table—
a Jubilee table—
before us.

I remember the way this realizing descended on our gathered circle like a gift…like grace.
A playful Holy Spirit of Wisdom had just danced in our midst and woven our hearts and spirits together in a clear and discerned YES.
Yes, Jubilee is the table God has set for us at this time.
Jubilee is the gift God has given us for this season.
And so: We will come to this table, we will step in, and move toward, and open our hands, hearts, and minds to receive this divine gift for the season of discernment ahead. And that’s how the upcoming season of discernment came to be a Season of Jubilee.
Thanks be to God!

I can only imagine how Holy Wisdom must have delighted; how she must delight still.

O Holy Wisdom, as you danced among creation and delighted in it all,
we invoke you—playful, dancing Wise One—to accompany us.

We will need her—and specifically we will need her playful dancing—as we consider questions that are complicated and entangled.
For example…and here’s just a foretaste of some of the tough stuff: our current congregational giving does not fully financially support our ministries.
We rely on our large asset—the Thieme Fund—to make up the difference. Some in our congregation do not give, or give less, because of our endowment, or because of the way we have or have not spent it over the years
(I know because some of you have shared that with me.).
And that fact has therefore increased our dependence on the endowment.
Last fall we discerned a YES to our 2016 budget which includes an 11% increase in congregational giving.
We said that we would give considerably more than we did last year. Are we happy with all of this?
More importantly, and more difficult to discern: Is God pleased?
And what is God’s next call to us?

What might God be imagining in our campus planning conversations?
In this and in all conversation we might ever have: Can we each set aside our own stuff enough in order to come together and to listen for and discern God’s voice as God imagines what’s next for our space, our buildings, our land, our rootedness in this particular neighborhood, and our way of being neighbors here.

What might God be imagining for our pastoral configuration?
For our ministries both within and without these church walls?
Oh yes, we will need the presence of Holy Wisdom—and specifically we will need her playful dancing—
as we consider these questions that are complicated and entangled.

O Holy Wisdom, as you danced among creation and delighted in it all,
we invoke you—playful, dancing Wise One—to accompany us in this season ahead.

I have a new favorite online news source. It’s called The Babylon Bee, and it’s like The Onion for church nerds. If you’re unfamiliar with The Onion, it’s a satirical “news”paper, filled with fake news, of course.
And so it is with The Babylon Bee. Only Christian.
A few recent favorite headlines include:

  • Armed With Just His Personal Relationship With Jesus, Man Invents Several New Heresies
  • 32-Year-Old Forcibly Transferred From College Ministry To Singles’ Ministry
  • Man With Jeremiah 29:11 Tattoo Recounts His Time In Babylonian Captivity

For this morning, however, nothing beats this one:
Everything Local Man Feels Led To Do He Coincidentally Really Likes[1]

What makes satire from The Onion or The Babylon Bee so funny is that it’s alarmingly close to true, even if not at all factual.
This story is so funny, it’s worth reading a short excerpt.  Set in fictional Waraw, Indiana, starring fictional Don Farmer, age 43:

…For instance, last week Farmer was considering whether he should go to the Men’s Golf Outing or volunteer at the city food pantry, when he says, miraculously, he knew just what to do. “You could say I really just felt led to lend my support to the church event,” Farmer confirmed to reporters. “It would have been great to be a volunteer over at the food pantry, but I had to say, ‘Here I am, send me, Lord, even to the ends of the fairway. Plus I recently purchased a new driver, which I took as a definite sign.’”

Though I sincerely believed in hearing God’s voice and seeking and following God’s will as I was growing up in the church, there came a time in my life when I became deeply skeptical of that language and even the whole concept of God speaking and me / us being able to hear it. I recall with some vividness several situations in my late-teen to early-adulthood years that weren’t quite as ludicrous as the fictional Don Farmer in the Babylon Bee story, but were similarly shady.

When someone’s claim about God’s specific call to them…just…smelled fishy. When it just seemed like what they wanted to do, while they blithely blamed or ‘credited’ God. When I went to seminary, I started to get asked, with some regularity, to tell my “call story”— how I was called by God to seminary or to ministiry. At first I was still carrying quite a bit of skepticism about the notion of call.  The language felt a little foreign and insincere for me.  But over time, I experienced a begrudging sense of rightness about the language and the experience of call.

I do have a call story. It’s long and messy, and it hasn’t always been clear to me in the moment, but I do believe that God called me to this thing.
I’m aware there are some for whom this is still troubling language, a challenging concept, and with good reason, given how it’s at times been overused, blithely used, and abused. And yet I do believe it can and does happen: that people seek God’s voice, discern it from among many competing voices, and choose to follow. It’s not formulaic,but I do believe it’s real.

Hearing nearly always begins with listening. Though not in the excerpts we heard this morning, Melanie alerted me to Holy Wisdom’s repetitive imperative—“Listen”—in the rest of Proverbs 8.

Listen,
listen,
listen.
If we listen enough together, I wonder what we might hear?

O Holy Wisdom, as you danced among creation and delighted in it all,
we invoke you—playful, dancing Wise One—to accompany us
as we seek to discern God’s voice and respond to God’s call.

In our brief gospel reading from John, Jesus promises the disciples that the Spirit of truth will come, and, though there’s much they cannot yet bear, will eventually guide them into “all the truth.”  In this passage, I’m struck that Jesus’ promise is communal, not individual. One commentator I read pointed out that John’s gospel seeks to encourage within communities an openness to new revelations and “fresh encounters” with Jesus.

“John intends to shape a community that is receptive to Spirit-guided growth.”[2] And that makes me recall a Pentecost blessing, written by my friend Jan Richardson. It begins:

Here’s one thing you must understand about this blessing: it is not for you alone.|
It is stubborn about this. Do not even try to lay hold of it if you are by yourself, thinking you can carry it on your own…[3]

And then the blessing goes on to say many additional beautiful and true things. But I stop there.
Because I’m so struck by how this blessing is stubborn about coming to a WE, and not just an I.

Though the questions may be complicated and entangled, God has given us to one another, that we may come together in discerning and receiving blessing. It’s not all up to me to hear the voice of God; it’s up to us.Thanks be to God!

And God has given us the gift of the transforming joy of Jubilee.
This is the table God has set for us in the season of discernment: joyous Jubilee.

Thanks be to God! Ours is not a spirit of fear.
Ours is a spirit that dances and delights, plays and ponders.
And so we invoke, one more time, the presence of Holy Wisdom to playfully dance among us in the season ahead.

O Holy Wisdom, as you danced among creation and delighted in it all,
we invoke you—playful, dancing Wise One—to accompany us.
Breathe the fire of imagination into our weary spirits.
Inspire us with courage, audacity, compassion.

May it be so.

Thanks be to God.

Ezekiel 37.9, Re-Imagined

God summoned our congregational ancestors and said,

Prophesy to the wind;

prophesy to this family of faith.

Thus says our Abundant God:

Come from the four winds, O Breath,

and breathe the fire of imagination

into their weary spirits.

Inspire them with

courage,

audacity,

and compassion.

Let us begin!

Proverbs 8.1-4, 22-31

The Inclusive Bible

Doesn’t Wisdom call?

Doesn’t Understanding raise her voice?

On the hills along the road,

at the crossroads, she takes her stand;

beside the city gates of the town,

in the gates themselves, she cries out,

“…people everywhere, I’m calling out to you!

I cry out to all of humankind!

…YHWH gave birth to me at the beginning,

before the first acts of creation.

I have been from everlasting,

in the beginning, before the world began.

Before the deep seas, I was brought forth,

before there were fountains or springs of water;

before the mountains erupted up into place,

before the hills, I was born—

before God created the earth or its fields,

or even the first clods of dirt.

I was there when the Almighty created the heavens,

and set the horizon just above the ocean,

set the clouds in the sky,

and established the springs of the deep,

gave the seas their boundaries

and set their limits at the shoreline.

When the foundation of the earth was laid out,

I was the skilled artisan standing next to the Almighty.

I was God’s delight day after day,

rejoicing at being in God’s presence continually,

rejoicing in the whole world

and delighting in humankind.

John 16:12-15

‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.’


[1] http://babylonbee.com/news/man-feels-led-things-coincidentally-likes/ (retrieved May 19, 2016)

[2] Eugene C. Bay, Feasting on the Word C3, 46.

[3] Jan Richardson, “This Grace That Scorches Us,” Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons, 169.

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