Responsive Call to Worship
Today, May 1, 2016, is a day to celebrate
beauty and fun and life.
It is simultaneously a day to recognize
amidst life—within all the beauty and the fun,
how much help we need.
Today is a day to know ourselves
as those unconditionally accepted and loved,
of whom far more is expected.
And so we know ourselves to be beloved—blessed,
and still discontent enough to keep wanting more.
Today is a day in-between—
a liminal space—a thin place—a threshold
between the spring equinox and the summer solstice—
between who we are
and who we yet want to be—
between the status quo
and our best dreams and visions
of how life could be.
Today is a day to acknowledge and affirm
joy today amidst our still growing.
Witness of the Closed Canon, i.
Psalm 103:1-5, 15-18
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
Witness of the Living Word, ii.
It’s been a full service already
celebrating baptism and communion.
Isaiah preached the best sermon today—
that love is still worth giving your life to.
So I really don’t have much to say—
something to say—just not much—
a few quick observations and comments.
You’ll remember we’re in the midst of our lectionary sabbatical—
looking less to the church year and to the scriptural story,
as to the stories of our culture
always with the question of what we have to say in response.
What is our scripture-informed—
our faith-based response to our culture?
And today is May 1.
That may make you think of dancing around a maypole.
I looked on line and there are lots
of local Mayday PlayDay festivals.
Halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice,
May 1 represents in some ways the kick-off to summer.
I did a little digging,
and y’all may know all of this,
but Mayday celebrations go back a long ways—
back to ancient Rome and the Floralia, the festival of Flora,
Roman goddess of flowers, vegetation and fertility.
The Floralia was a a multi-day party
with lots of games—lots of flowers—
and wreaths on poles processed through the streets.
Mayday is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane—
another celebration of summer, growth, and fertility
when giant bonfires were lit
and cattle, beginning their journey to summer pasturage,
were led around or between these bonfires for protection and fertility.
All household fires would be extinguished
and then relit from those bonfires,
and ashes from these fires would be sprinkled on fields.
And homes and livestock would be decorated with yellow flowers
as if it were somehow important
to be wreathed in imagery of flame—crowned with fire—
surrounded by light.
In many of the Germanic countries,
Mayday coincides roughly with Hexennacht—witches’ night.
In the ancient stories, it was said the witches gathered
around the peak of Brocken Mountain—
highest of the Harz mountains in north central Germany.
Now that’s an interesting mountain.
Because it’s so much taller than anything around it,
it actually has the highest precipitation in northern central Europe,
and is mist, fog, and cloud bound some 300 days a year.
There’s actually something known as the Brocken specter.
Because when the sun is low,
and someone’s standing in the right place on the mountain,
that person’s shadow can be eerily and hugely cast
onto the clouds—against the fog—
you know, some 300 days a year.
Within the passing seasons—
the cycles of life and growth and death,
there is joy and beauty, wonder and love,
and there is what’s scary—
often magnified and eerie.
Life is both gift and risk.
And so we celebrate the longer hours of light,
even as we light our bonfires against the darkness—
even as we gather as community,
acknowledging, I can’t do this on my own.
So it’s appropriate, that in less ancient times,
from 1905 up until 1923, any ship or airplane in trouble,
sent out the Morse code, SOS—
three dots—three dashes—three dots,
but that in 1923, Frederick Stanley Rockford,
a senior radio officer at an airport in London
was asked to come up with a word—one word,
that would clearly indicate someone in trouble—
someone in need of help.
With much of the air traffic at the time coming from Paris,
Frederick suggested the word, “Mayday”—
from the french “venez m’aider”—
venez—“come,” m’aider—“help me.”
So the very word for today, May 1, Mayday,
represents simultaneously a call to celebrate and a cry for help.
That’s so theological!
That’s baptism, right?
Something so profoundly good and right
the whole universe shifts a little bit—
that is, at the same time, the affirmation,
I can’t do this on my own.
I need God, and I need my community of faith.
When you look to flora in Scripture—not the goddess—flowers—
when you look up flowers in Scripture,
they tend to represent the passing—the temporary—
typically tied to some affirmation, as well,
of the eternal, steadfastness of God’s love,
and, often, affirmation of their breathtaking beauty.
So on this brief, ephemeral passageway we call life,
today—this passing set of hours that is May 1, 2016,
amidst all that is scary and hard,
within the transience of our time,
we celebrate breathtakingly beautiful lives committed to love
that make the whole universe shift just a little bit.
We affirm our need for God and for each other.
We celebrate simultaneously a passing fleeting breath
and eternity within that—
as we reach for the truth of God in the moment—
God’s steadfast love with us always.
That, my friends, is Isaiah’s sermon for us today—
Witness of the Closed Canon, ii.
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;
yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory
was not clothed like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field,
which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven,
how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!