Roar

This sermon was originally preached on Sunday, August 11, 2019 at Mission Hills United Methodist Church in San Diego, CA. This service, with the exception of consecrating the elements and the sermon, was led entirely by our young leaders. The full recording is available on our Facebook page.

Psalm 106:1

Praise the Lord!

    O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good;

    for God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Nahum 1:7

The Lord is good,

    a strong refuge when trouble comes.

 

There is this phrase people in my family use that I took notice of and it really bugs me. Whenever something happens and they want to de-escalate it, I’ll often hear the response “It’s all good”.

 

We don’t have enough time to finish this project.

It’s all good.

My sister is annoying me.

It’s all good.

I’m having a lot of trouble dealing with this problem.

It’s all good.

It bugs me so much because it feels passive. I am a go-better, the one to find solutions and take action, and telling me “it’s all good” seems like a casual wave of the hand, as if to say, we’re not dealing with that now.

Our Vacation Bible School theme this past week was “Life is Wild, God is Good.” Similarly to the phrase “It’s all good”, “God is good” held a tricky place in my heart, so when I first started preparing for the week, I was nervous. God is good felt passive too, like something that excused our action or our prayers or our standing up to the systems that hurt people. And then, as we got closer and closer, I would think about it anytime something terrible would happen in the world. The day before camp started, we had our 250thmass shooting this year. God is good, I thought? I can’t internalize that right now. I don’t even know how I’m supposed to believe that right now, much less convince a group of 19 kids to believe it. Frankly, I’m mad at God and confused about where God is in times of trouble, I thought to myself.

I showed up on Monday, ready to deflect questions and use sparingly our “God is good” theme for the week, because I was insecure about saying God is good, with all that is happening in our world.

Soon after showing up, 19 kids walked in the door, full of energy and excitement and nerves, and we met each other where we were. They stood up and started singing and dancing and they learned each other’s names and chose jobs and made paper beads and ate snack and played outside.

To nobody’s surprise but mine, I received a total of zero of the tough questions I was anticipating having to answer, and the questions I did receive involved things I could easily answer, like how many minutes until snack, or what project we were doing tomorrow.

Amayah just read for us the verse from Nahum, one of their key verses for the week: 

Nahum 1:7

The Lord is good,

    a strong refuge when trouble comes.

Can any of my campers remind us what the word refuge means?

A safe place.

If our world was a place that was perfect, where no bad things happened ever, or where we were promised no hardships, a refuge wouldn’t be needed. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need to look to anyone, God included, for our happiness or joy or love.

When trouble comes, God is our refuge. Not if trouble comes. Not when God decides not to act. Not in the very unlikely event that life is not perfect. When trouble comes, God is our refuge, our safe place.

Each day, we focused on a specific reality of life, and named it, then said that still, God is good. We didn’t say that because God is good, there is no sadness or anger or change or times when life is unfair. We learned that despite the sadness and anger and change and unfairness, God is good. It’s a small shift but a big difference. God’s goodness is not dependent on what goes on. God’s goodness is a constant, no matter what is happening in our lives, our communities, our planet. God’s goodness is a mark of steadfast love, which endures forever.

These verses Amayah read for us are not verses of lament. They are verses of thanksgiving. I realized this week that I was lamenting, lamenting that my dream version of God was not the God who was alive and speaking and living and breathing in my life. And in doing that, I was missing out of the goodness God was showing me, forgetting to see all the moments God is clearly working. God is revealing to us, through the scripture, that we can be sad, terrified, grieving, and we can also recognize God’s goodness.

This week, we were asked to look for God Sightings, moments where we could recognize God’s goodness in the midst of all the busyness of camp. Behind me, you’ll see a few of those God sightings, and I also want to share with you all a few of mine.

  • I saw God in the dozen or so volunteers and staff, who planned and practiced and made happen a week where their biggest goal was to let the kids know they were loved.
  • I saw God in the leaders that were built up throughout the week, stepping up and being great examples to their peers.
  • I saw God in the crew who adopted a friend into their crew, showing them love and encouragement and kindness.
  • I saw God in the smiles and the laughter, and even in the giggling that happened when they were supposed to be paying attention.
  • I saw God in the theological conversation I had with a five year old, about why Jesus died and why we are supposed to be like him today.
  • I saw God in silly snack creations, in slime, in swings, and in songs.
  • I saw God in our camper who made it their task to sweep for us whenever given the chance, a true helper and person of service.
  • I saw God in the faces of 19 young people, who taught me and reminded me that God is good.

Yes, we had times this week where it wasn’t easy. It was hard to focus sometimes. We needed a Band-Aid or an ice pack once or twice. There were some tears.

And, God showed up in huge ways and in little ways and in in-between ways. God is good, a refuge when trouble comes. Through God, we can learn our call to people, to see God in them and to protect them and to be in relationship with them. Through God, we are called also to be a refuge. Through God, we are promised that God is with us, that we are truly and deeply loved, and that we are worthy of that love again and again.

Who knew that such difficult lessons could be taught through a kid with a red, yellow, or blue shirt?

Friends, as we leave this place today, may we be reminded of God’s goodness, amidst the challenges we face. May we see the wisdom in our young people, leaders and prophets even now. And may we remember to look for sightings of God, our refuge and guide, knowing that we serve a God who promises us sacred relationship, now and always.

Let us pray:

God of goodness and life, we thank you for teaching us tough lessons with a gracious heart. Lead us to be a refuge, like you are for us. Remind us that even when life is unfair or sad or changing or scary, you are good. In your loving name we pray, Amen.

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