Recharging


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As usual our most recent Sunday 10 AM service was filled good spirit and amazing members of the Calvary community — as well as guests.

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This Week’s Sermon Was Drawn From the Following Scripture

Ephesians 1:15-23

‘I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

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A PDF of the sermon as distributed at Calvary is available for download and printing.

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Full Text of Sermon

DO YOU HAVE ISSUES WITH YOUR BATTERIES

In addition to maintaining energy for our bodies, we seem to be running low far too often. Cell phones, laptops, hearing aids, and flashlights fail us at the worst possible times.

When I enter a coffee shop or airport, I quickly revert to a caveman scarcity mentality, hunting for a power outlet to recharge my so-called smart phone. Perhaps you have been part of or observed one of these sad scenarios, with people huddled around a power strip or stretched out in an airport corridor trying to get enough juice to make just one more call. If a phone can recognize my thumbprint, identify the artist and name of an obscure song playing on the radio, and show me a detailed Doppler map of incoming weather systems, why can’t the battery last a full day?

My in-house tech support son explained part of the problem:

“Dad, you have too many apps running in the background.”

For those who avoid mobile technology—and I don’t fault you for that—he was helping me understand that I was unknowingly allowing my battery to be drained by trying to do too many things at once.

Beyond the core processes of using a phone to make calls and send texts and e-mails, precious power was being diverted so I could instantly check my bank and investment account balances, receive real time updates of sports scores, call a taxi, order food, and be reminded that I failed to exercise enough today. I thought when I stopped using an application, the power usage also ceased. Not so! I learned that I had to actively let go of some things to avoid a power shortage.

Power is a key theme of today’s Scripture lesson from Ephesians. Let’s take another look at chapter 1. Listen for how many times the word power comes up:

“ . . . What is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.22

In our short passage from today, the author uses numerous words in Greek that are all translated as “power” in English. The nuanced meanings of those words include: dunamis, miraculous power; kratos, a ruling power like a king, and exeusia, authority or influence. Quaker and World Council of Churches veteran Eden Grace explains, “The author piles on words because ultimately words are inadequate.”[1]

As a culture obsessed and dependent upon power of many varieties, Ephesians reminds us that we are not ultimately in control. Even the wealthiest and most powerful humans have limits. Yet we tend to convince ourselves—with the full endorsement of the culture that surrounds us—that can have it all. If we just had more money, more time, more __________, that then we could be happy. Like our phone devices, we spend our energy on too many things outside of our core mission.

Churches are just as guilty as individuals of spreading ourselves too thin and exhausting each other with meetings and tasks.

What if we acknowledged what the author of Ephesians wants us to know about the only true power belonging to God?

A few months ago, the leaders at Calvary adopted a covenant that we start every meeting with. The first line is from the Hebrew Scriptures, Zechariah 4:6:

“ . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord . . .”

When we invest the humble, but significant power God entrusts to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world, it won’t be easy. We will sometimes feel depleted, but it can be energizing in ways we wouldn’t imagine.

There is some evidence to back that up. As I intentionally share every few months as I reminder to myself as much as any of you, researchers at numerous leading universities and medical schools have examined the phenomenon of the “hedonic treadmill,”[2] in which we are chasing pleasure. Studies have included lottery winners, accident victims, and people living in other challenging circumstances. Though money and purchases do result in short term spikes in happiness, most people seem to return to a baseline level.

Researchers from UCLA Medical School and University of North Carolina studied subjects to better understand “eudaimonic” well-being—the kind that arises from a sense of purpose or service—or “hedonic” well-being, which we get from a good time.”’ [3] Their study found that “happiness derived from leading a life full of purpose and meaning seemed to protect health at the cellular level, while happiness derived from pleasure or self-gratification did not.” In other words, people with a deep sense of purpose were not only more content, their immune systems were stronger. They were ready to take on the world!

I often have the privilege of getting to hear the stories of how people are out there wrestling with faith in the real world. Today, it is my honor to introduce you to Rick Harrell, a person actively seeking to acknowledge the power of God and have a significant impact on the world.

 

Source of sustainable gratitude, by Calvary member Rick Harrell

Good morning. You can see by my robe that I am a proud member of the Chancel Choir. In fact my entire professional career has been in the field of music.

I worked as a professional opera singer and early on in my career I made a transition from being a performer to being a stage director and teacher. This transition quickly led to a series of high profile positions in places like New York, Tokyo, Bangkok, Amsterdam and San Francisco. The doors to these jobs always opened at opportune times and I felt the hand of God leading me to where I was supposed to be.

I was blessed to be able to travel the world making beautiful music with talented young singers.

The thing is, I always felt like an outsider. Like I was at the wrong party. I’m not really all that much of an opera fan. Don’t get me wrong. Opera is a magnificent and important art form, and I really love facilitating young people discovering their own gifts, and opening their hearts through music.

However, many of those legions of students that I worked with over the years were not seeking satisfaction from the process of discovery and from sharing their spirit through music. And too many of my colleagues operated from a place of competition and cynicism.

After several decades, just too much of the work was becoming repetitive and disheartening, I began to really question what it was that I was doing, and why I was continuing to do it. My last “opera day job” was becoming a real dead end and I was losing heart and spirit in the work.

But I invested 40 years of my life to being in opera. What could I possibly do for the rest of my working life? How would I find a job to pay the bills? It was hard for me to visualize how the next door that God opened for me would not lead me back into just another opera gig.

My work required me to do a good deal of traveling, and over the last ten years I have encountered dozens of young soldiers in uniform at airports. When I would see these young people, eyes bright with promise and purpose, I would always think of how different they seemed from my conservatory students. These young people, standing in line with me for coffee, were literally on their way to give their lives for their country. My heart would sink as I thought about how many of these young lives would be shattered or even lost. Those experiences with young soldiers in airports were part of the genesis and inspiration for the new work I was about to begin.

A year and a half ago I made a real leap of faith and began a new organization called Heroes’ Voices, which touches the lives of veterans with the gift of music.

To date, we have done dozens of music and poetry workshops with veterans, mostly with men and women in residential PTSD or drug and alcohol programs. The experiences that we provide for these veterans is very healing and often cathartic.

The healing in my own heart and soul from interacting with these veterans has been profound. I have met such terrific people working the field of service to veterans. Also, I am deeply thankful for the love and support of friends and family that has made this life transition for me possible. I suddenly find myself surrounded by so many varieties of heroes.

Some of the most profound moments we share in our workshops are when veterans read their own poetry. Some of these poems are really dark and edgy, reflecting the internal struggles of the veterans. Just a couple of weeks ago, a Vietnam era veteran who was in our workshop last year contacted me saying he wanted to come back to our workshop to read a special poem. It was a poem about the source of his PTSD as a young man, a story that he had never shared with anyone except his psychiatrist. To facilitate his recovery, he drove 90 miles to our workshop to read us his story to us about being raped by his drill sergeant. He returned the next week to read more of his poems and to continue his recovery by sharing his work with fellow veterans.

I have trusted the guiding hand of God throughout my life, but I am so grateful for this most recent and unexpected turn. My life has been blessed with adventure, joy and beauty, but I feel that I am just beginning to allow God’s promise and purpose to fully blossom in my life.

There was a young man in our most recent group who wrote beautiful and lyrical poems about his recovery. In our final workshop, two weeks ago he invited his parents who had never read any of his work. His father is a Vietnam veteran who like his son, struggles with PTSD. Here is one the poems that his son shared:

The Past Cannot Change Our Song

The past cannot change my song
Neither should the dreams of the future
Sweep my tune away

For my song is strongest
When I reside in today

No more hurrying and scurrying
Rushing down that road
Looking for someone
To fill in the missing years

My song is my strength
And in it I find a light
To guide me home
To the bright morning,
Free.

Amen.

[1] Eden Grace, “Study on Ephesians,” Quaker and Ecumenical Essays, (2004), www.edengrace.org.

[2] Brickman, Phillip & Donald Campbell. Hedonic relativism and planning the good society. 1971. New York: Academic Press. pp. 287–302.

[3] http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/a_healthier_kind_of_happiness

 

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