Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion April 18, 2018


Worms. Think much about worms? When is the last time you thought about worms? Maybe never? Maybe when you were planning your fishing trip? Other than fishing worms don’t come up much in conversation. Worms are sort of there and pretty much don’t impact our lives much at all.
But thinking about fishing I use to go dig worms with my grandfather to go fishing and I thought they were fascinating which wasn’t the norm for little girls because most of the little girls I knew would squeal and back up when confronted with a dug up earthworm - although I know of a few little boys who also screwed up their nose and backed off a little when a worm was dangled in front of them. There was a little boy in my neighborhood when I was growing up who would eat a small earthworm just so the rest of us standing around would go “Oh Ick!” and then he would laugh and live to eat another one another day!
I was amazed not so many years ago when I learned that you could go into about any convenience store and buy a container of worms. Buying worms when I had spent so much time with my little spade digging in loose dirt for worms and I would pull one out and my grandfather would say, “Nice One!” In fact those were the first words when the idea of fishing came up - “Let’s go dig some worms!” and we did. The digging almost became as much an adventure as the fishing. We always put the worms in a cottage cheese container - isn't it funny the things your remember.
And then I was even more amazed when I realized that there were people who actually made a living out of raising worms - worm farmers. Really? Growing worms - how is that done? My cynical self has visions of little worm nurseries and as they grow older the babies are taken out of their little cribs and released into a pile of dirt……. Does someone wake up in the morning and say, “I think I’ll become a worm farmer?”
My daughter use to sing a fun children’s song about Herbie the worm but I can’t remember any more about the song other than it was about Herbie the worm. There was a children’s song when I was little which talked about worms playing nic nac on my snout which is kind of a bizarre concept to think about and that is about all I remember about that song as well.
I had a seminary professor who use to talk about worms quite a bit - and your interest is piqued as to why we would be considering worms in seminary? Well, it was my reformation teacher and whenever we got to the topic of Martin Luther he would bring up about how Martin Luther called every one a worm because worms crawl around in the dirt and muck and compared to God so do we. He even brought plastic rubbery worms to class one day and gave one to each of us to really emphasize the point that we were all worms - I have tried to keep it all these years… maybe I’ll look for it to remind myself of that dear professor who really meant a lot to me even though he continually called us all worms which wasn’t really a compliment.
And then there are those really icky worms that built ‘tents’ in your trees…… I use to have nightmares about those wormy things!
Guess all worm talk isn’t about dirt. My daughters had a glow worm when they were young…. Started out with one daughter who had a stint in the emergency room after a fall and with the insertion of some stitches and we bought her a glow worm to comfort her - which was a stuffed animal sort of thing with a battery powered light inside. Well the other daughter was quite upset that she didn’t also get a glow worm so I remember a late evening driving around the city until I found another one so there were two two stuffed glow worms in our house and two happy little girls and an even happier set of parents because they weren’t listening to a grieved child who had not received a glow worm.
So what brought on all this ruminating about worms you ask? It all started after a particularly warm day followed by a pretty good rain. Walking over to the church I began to notice a brigade of worms crawling across the sidewalks of the church. Wonder why the joke about chickens crossing the road doesn’t apply to worms - Why did the worm cross the sidewalk? I truly don’t know but there were quite a number of worms who were traversing the great expanse of the sidewalk. The sidewalk isn’t that wide but I guess for a worm it is a pretty daunting journey.
Anyway, there they were - worms everywhere. I started to call my husband and see if he was thinking about going fishing that day because he truly would not have needed to stop by the convenience store and buy worms!
The great worm migration was early in the morning and when I went out later in the day across the same concrete sidewalk - the worms were still there. But a great tragedy had occurred. What use to be worms were now dried up worm remnants…. It was rather sad even though they were worms.
What was interesting was that for the next several weeks I kept witnessing this same event, worms in the morning and dried worms int he afternoon. I fully admit that there was a part of me that wanted to spend my morning moving all the alive slowly migrating worms back into the soil but I realized that would have been a never ending project and I did have actual tasks to accomplish.
And then yesterday when I took my walk in the afternoon - my usual walk time except for the days when I get highly motivated and walk early in the morning - on the track upon which I walk the worm phenomenon was there as well. Only since it was afternoon it was the worm remnants that were there and it was overwhelming how many worms thad been there. In places the worm left overs were so numerous you couldn’t walk and not tread on left over worms…….
I don’t know whether to be scientifically curious as to this worm happening or to just feel sad for the loss of so many worms.
Sometimes we dry up in our faith just like these worms. We wonder away from the church, from the nurturing presence of our church family, our teachers and our leaders; we wonder away from the place where we have our home in Jesus constantly surrounded by his love and grace. We think we can venture out on our own - we don’t need God’s people to surround us and care for us - we don’t need the petty little snits God’s people get into sometime because we are all just people and while we try we can never get along perfectly.
But even those uncomfortable moments are part of God’s instruction that we can get along and disagree and still share the love of Jesus with one another - that is part of the process.
We venture out on our own - Jesus is with us all the time, isn’t he? - so why do I need the church? I can make it on my own.....
And then our faith begins to dry up, we begin to lose the connection, we are worms stranded in the middle of a warm sidewalk and we don't feel that warm, loving connection quite so much. The things of God begin be become a memory.
God gives us the warm nourishing soil of the church to keep our faith alive and fresh and yes even tested sometimes. But we know if we stay, God will always fill us with the combined spirit of others and it will fill us and warm us and keep us from finding ourselves alone and wondering where God might be. Amen

Devotion April 11, 2018

When you think of Easter you think of a lot of things.  Of course there is the religious/church thoughts - the things we should think about but we have to admit that also comes to mind things like Easter Egg hunts and Easter bonnets (does anyone still do Easter bonnets?) and bunnies and cute little yellow chicks.  Of course here we go with the “I remember when” thoughts that seem to be pretty prevalent to me any more…. but I remember when I was a little girl and each Easter meant a new dress, a new hat, pretty white shoes and those cute little kid gloves.  
For some reason I remember us little girls standing in a circle on Easter Sunday morning comparing our shoes… we were mainly concerned about how high our heels were because back ‘in those days’ little girls wearing any type of heel at all on her shoe was a major deal and a teeny tiny little heel on your Sunday Shoes marked a major milestone in your life. 
Prepare yourself for  another majorly trite saying:  “My how times have changed!”
Now I realize that we probably have a much better perspective on Easter now-a-days since we don’t stress over the new Easter dress or the Easter bonnet but there are some very fond memories of Easter with the dressing up and the Easter dinners of ham and scalloped potatoes (we had steak this year for Easter dinner throwing all the major traditions out the door!)
However having been in three different churches over the course of this Easter season I noticed one staple that still remains as an Easter necessity - and that is the Easter Lily.   Easter Lilys everywhere.  
Now Easter Lilys are very pretty and we have even assigned ‘Easter meaning’ to these flowers that have come to symbolize this season - mainly because they bloom during Easter and they are pretty and they have parts we can say symbolize the things we understand about Easter.  And I admit to using this symbolism over the course of my church leadership life in educational settings to help explain various aspects of our understandings of the events of Easter!
However, Easter Lilys are not my friend. While they are very pretty and they come out at Easter and they can be very useful as Easter illustrations, Easter Lilys have this pervasive scent that can reduce any Easter Lily sensitive adult to a sniveling pile of runny noses and coughs and even a feeling of become a little overcome with wooziness. 
That would be me.
There was a traumatic event that happened in my life that caused me great consternation and I realized way too late that the culprit was the presence of Easter Lilys!  
This was during the days when I was serving a three church parish and it was Easter Sunday morning and I was, with the help of my youngest daughter, flitting between churches leading worship and of course since it was Easter there were extra services so the morning was quite busy and quite rushed and quite filled with Easter Lilys. 
Somewhere along the trip I did realize I was beginning to get a headache and I did realize that my nose was beginning to run and I did realize that I was sneezing a little more often than normal and I did realize there there was this tickly cough rearing its ugly head and but I was really too busy to pay much attention other than to secure some tissues to prevent any embarrassing moments and I continued on my overly involved Easter Sunday worship leading.
Finally I reached the final stop on my Easter Sunday world tour (just like a rock band!) and I walked into the church and there were what looked like a thousand Easter Lilys.  Now I realize that might be a slight exaggeration but not by much.  It was a small church and on every surface there was an Easter Lily including four covering the sides of the pulpit.  I admit when you first walked into the sanctuary it was quite beautiful and there was a special moment of thinking of this special morning in the life of the church but it was a chilly morning and the doors and windows of the church were closed and of course the smell of these Easter Lilys had invaded every nook and cranny and to someone who had already been sensitized by Easter Lilys from previous stops along the tour route this was quite the overwhelming experience….
But as the trooper I was I figured that I could muscle my way through one more hour of Easter Praise and Easter Lily aroma…. But no!
About half way through the service, in one of my talking moments as I was pontificating on the Easter experience and what it means for us in the modern day, I began to feel a little strange and before to long I realized that if I didn’t stop and sit down there was going to be a prone preacher on the floor not able to continue pontificating.  
Now one thing you learn after many years in the pulpit is adapting to the circumstances…. So fortunately we had planned as part of the worship service to walk outside during the passing of the peace and flower the cross and now seemed like a really good time to do that even if it was out of place and I believe I actually admitted to the fact that I was fading fast and going outside seemed like a really good idea!
So out everyone went, I sat down, drank what seemed like a gallon of water, popped a couple “Halls” (you know those great lozenges which are suppose to help in situations such as this) and by the time everyone got back inside I was able to finish out the service and as I was leaving with my daughter driving (I lived 90 minutes from the church so getting home woozy was an issue and my daughter had her learners permit and so she gleefully accepted the driving task) and said a Thankful prayer that I had made it through the great Easter Lily escapade almost unscathed….
Since then I have learned about Easter Lilys.  And one of the critical bits of information I learned was that Easter Lilys are one of the most potent of allergy producing flowers to people who are sensitive to the Easter Lily pollen.  I also learned that if you remove the little yellow stems inside the flower you remove the allergy producing portion of the flower and those who are Easter Lily sensitive like me can actually co-exist in the same space with the Easter Lily without getting all woozy and runny nosey and sneezy!
So when Easter comes and the Easter Lilys arrive, I don my face mask and my rubber gloves and I stealthily enter the sanctuary with my scissors and zip loc baggie and like a thief in the night I snip out the troublesome parts of the Easter Lilys and I even gently wipe off the remaining yellow residue in order to render the Easter Lilys safe for Easter Sunday morning!
And I am hoping that everyone is so enthralled with the service and my pontificating that they will not even notice the act of terrorism perpetrated on the runny nose, coughing, sneezing, whoozing production of the Easter Lily.
But you know, we have to be careful about doing the same act with the word of God.  It is so tempting to go in and sanitize God’s word by removing those parts we don’t like.  It is so tempting to go in and ignore the words of scripture that make us uncomfortable or rub against our sensibilities or let’s face it - give us a headache because it stretches where we are comfortable or ways ‘we always thought…’.  
God’s word has to stand on itself and has to be taken with all the parts - the parts we like, the parts we don’t like, the parts that offend us, the parts that give us hard work to do, and of course the parts that give us peace and comfort and those parts we agree with cause we like those parts - 
So go and clip those Easter Lilys so we can gather and enjoy (and in my case survive) Easter morning, but the word of God has to stay intact!