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Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sacred Places

When we listen to each other’s stories, and sing, and praise God, and share the Eucharist, we come together at Lady Wisdom’s feet. The wisdom of God is revealed, and we are united in the spirit of God. Ordinary places are transformed into sacred places.

Vicar Meagan McLaughlin
     Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 20, year B
     texts: Proverbs 9:1-6, Psalm 34:9-14, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58

Wisdom and Life to you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Shortly after I started my year here, one of you said to me, “We LOVE our interns! And then their year ends, and they leave. And then we get a new one! We LOVE our interns!” I knew then, if not before, that being a teaching congregation is an integral part of who Mount Olive is. There is a rhythm to the process of internship that is lived out not just by Intern and Supervisor and Committee, but by all of you, in different ways. It is not easy or comfortable, to live in that rhythm, but for all of its challenges, you embrace it, and for that I am very grateful.

A Lakota elder shared with a group of United Theological seminarians recently that Lakota tradition tells us that our stories are rooted in place, not time. And according to that tradition, the valley below Fort Snelling is the birthplace of creation, a sort of Garden of Eden, and it is also the birthplace of many Lakota people whose mothers travelled days and weeks to get to that place so their children could be born there. No matter how much time passes, their stories and the story of creation itself are alive there in that sacred place.

A part of Mount Olive’s story is that it is a place that gives birth to interns. And in this sacred place, for a century, we—you—have broken bread, shared the Eucharist together. Through the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus, we live in Jesus, and Jesus lives in us, and because of that, we all live forever. This is sacred space. The stories of 46 vicars are rooted in this place, now. No matter how much time passes, their stories are alive here.

As I leave Mount Olive, to return to seminary and then seek a call in a different place, through the mystery of the Eucharist that establishes a communion among us and Jesus our God, a part of my story stays here with you. A part of my story is mingled with the stories of all who have been a part of this community for over 100 years, and in a special way with the 45 vicars who have come before me, with all of you who have listened to my story, and all of you who have shared your stories with me.

And in a week, your new Vicar Anna Helgen will join you here, and her story, too, will become woven into the sacred place that is Mount Olive. It will be up to all of you to figure out how you will distinguish Anna Helgen from Anna Kingman!

It is fitting that the readings for today speak to us of insight, maturity, trust in God. Internship is an intentional time of learning and growth, being called to the house of Lady Wisdom, to sit at her feet and listen for the will of God. Paul enjoins the Ephesians, and us, to live wisely, understand the will of the Lord, and sing praises. In your company, I have certainly had a chance to gain wisdom, experience the work of the Spirit, and sing praises to God!

As I prepared to preach today, my last time at Mount Olive, and as I move on from this place, these scriptures are a reminder to me that, as much as you all have taught me, I am not done yet. None of us are done yet. Regardless of our age, or our experience, or our education, we all have a lot to learn. We all need God’s guidance.

“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Living wisely is not passive, and it is not easy. Living wisely requires first of all that we see the world and ourselves as it is. There is great beauty and love and goodness here, in the world our God has made, and there is beauty, love, and goodness within each one of us. There is also brokenness—as Paul says, “the days are evil,” both in us and in our world. Wisdom sees the full truth, the beauty and the brokenness, and pursues the will of God in light of that truth.

Living wisely is not a one-time action, like a class we can take and graduate from, or an internship we complete, and we are done and wise and know the will of God forever more. We are called to live wisely. All of us are perpetually called to spend time at Lady Wisdom’s feet, listening to her stories. We are called to come together, again and again, to share in the Eucharist. We come to be closer to God, to allow the spirit of God to enter into our very being, and to grow in wisdom and understanding. We come together, knowing that we are hungry, to be fed the body and blood that make us whole, and one, in Jesus.

One of the biggest challenges to this is that, if we are wise, we will respond to Lady Wisdom’s call to “the simple!” Before we can enter into full communion with God and each other, before we can gain wisdom, we have to understand that we need God, and that we have things to learn from God and one another.

In other words, we need to be humble. My favorite definition of humility is “being right-sized.” That means that we resist the temptation to either make ourselves out to be bigger or smarter or wiser than we are, or to write ourselves off as not having anything to contribute to the kingdom of God in this world. In humility, we see ourselves as we are, in all our humanity, knowing we are no better or worse than anyone else. For those of us who like to know where we stand in the rankings, who prefer certainty to uncertainty, this is a challenge, one that seems to go against everything we have been taught. But it is the way of wisdom.

Wisdom sees the full truth, beauty and brokenness, and pursues the will of God in light of that truth. When we show up as we are, in all our beauty and brokenness, we are open to learn, and can be fully present to one another. When we show up as we are, and invite others to show up as they are, and we listen to each other’s stories, and sing, and praise God, and share the Eucharist, we come together at Lady Wisdom’s feet. The wisdom of God is revealed, and we are united in the spirit of God. Ordinary places are transformed into sacred places.

We enter into sacred places, and are moved to action. Living wisely is not passive! Wisdom sees the full truth, and pursues the will of God in light of that truth. We understand something of God’s will for us in that moment, and then . . . . . we pursue it. We pursue peace. We pursue justice. We do what we are called to do to contribute to the kingdom of God in our communities.

We will not do it alone, and we will make mistakes, because we are human, and it’s not about being perfect, after all. It’s about creating places where stories can be shared, and songs can be sung, and the will of God can be revealed. Sacred places, that honor and give birth to life. Lady Wisdom is calling us to learn and grow and change, and none of us are done yet.

Thanks be to God!

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