Please pray with me.
You have taught us to overcome our sins
by prayer, fasting, and works of mercy.
When we are discouraged by our weakness,
give us confidence in Your love.
We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with Your and the Holy Spirit
One God, forever and ever. Amen.
A Chinese proverb tells us that "a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." Sometimes that first step is difficult to take and we're faced with uncertainties. Where is it that I have come from, and where am I going on my journey?
Mary Magdalene's Sunday morning walk to the garden tomb could be considered too short to be called a journey. Yet, that is exactly what it was, a soul-transforming journey. Much like my journey, Mary traveled from darkness to light, from fear to hope, from despair to joy.
Where is it that I have come from? I come from an un-churched childhood. I come from darkness, fear and despair. My father was raised in the Catholic Church, however as an adult he chose to distance himself from the church. Although dad never speaks poorly of the Church, it is easy to sense the resentment he feels towards his Catholic roots. Right or wrong that attitude shaped my understanding of religion as a child and young adult.
I also had a close high school friend who was Catholic. I remember wanting to be part of her church life. As any teenager, I wanted to belong. However, when I attended church with Cindy I was reminded of the things I could not do; communion, stand or kneel at the right time or recite the correct response. These experiences convinced me that “church” was unavailable to me. In my young mind I didn’t meet the requirements.
I spent much of my early adult years, searching. Searching to belong, searching for acceptance, searching for love. One could say I was the non-observant Samaritan woman at the well. Desperate.
That need to be part of something took me to the Portland Playhouse one evening in the fall of 2004. (This is where you all will need to use your imagination and hang with my metaphor.) When I got to the Playhouse there was more than just a man there, there was a group of man and women, who in a sense, created a “living well” for me. An introduction and many hours of rehearsal grew into a friendship that resulted in a simple invitation.
“Kelly, you should come to church this Sunday.”
Well, I did! I came to the “well” and it seemed as if you all knew what I needed. You knew what I was craving: grace. Although I didn’t ask, you all set about showing me the ‘gift of God’.
The ‘gift of God’ has been shown to be in so many, many ways for which I will be forever grateful. However, there is one thing in particular that seems to speak directly to my heart: the music. (Not only did my new friends from the theater sing on stage; they sang with a band. How cool is that?) I doubt that this comes as a surprise to any of you, but it was through music that I came to know God’s amazing love.
The woman of Samaria, my church family and music have taught me that each person matters to Jesus. Jesus wanted to bring new life to the woman at well; as a matter of fact he wants to bring new life to all of us.
John4:13-14 “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst-not ever. The water I give will be a spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
In a way, Jesus was telling the Samaria woman and me, ‘you are more than the choices that you’ve made. You are more than the sum of your past mistakes. You’ve been remade. Thank you Tenth Avenue North for those words.
This story also teaches us that Jesus offers to forgive everyone. He offers new life to all, even if they have been very wicked. I still struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness. Sometimes it’s hard to believe He loves someone like me. Sometimes it’s hard to believe God has forgiven me when I have yet to be able to forgive myself. Sometimes it’s hard to fight off the evil.
John 4:23-23 It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.
But the hold of my sins is weakening … He is saving me from my sins. He has given me great hope and I find my hope in Him because of my community of faith here at PUMC. The woman at the well had her sins “washed away” by Jesus. This church (as a body of Christ) has helped me realize that God through Jesus “washed away” my sins. I have discovered His divine mercy in the living water of grace. The woman went to the well to get a jug of water. I went to the theater to find acceptance. Instead, I got so much more, a cleansed and refreshed spiritual life.
The journey that Mary Magdalene took that morning is for me, and you and you. It is for those who have doubts and questions or those who accept it all without any doubts. It is for all of us who are willing to leave the comfort of where we are to discover where we might be. It was a journey that started in darkness and ended in the light.
So, here is my journey, it goes something like this:
Come just as you are, taste the living water…
I’m desperate for you, I’m lost without you…
Oh how I need you
I once was lost and oh so bound by your grace I have been found…
Open the eyes of my part Lord…
Lord I come to You, Let my heart be changed, renewed …
I surrender it all to you
Let you love surround me…
To you I lift up my soul
I choose Jesus
(more to fill in here)
When times were tough and I faced one of my darkest valleys
Trust if Jesus; everything is go’ in be alright…
Just hold on a little while longer…
Somebody is praying me through…
You hold my life, you know my heart and you call me by name
Here I stand forever in your mighty hand…
Your love is a mountain firm beneath my feet…
He calls me friend…