Stay Curious: Sermon 5-22-22 at Flemington Baptist Church

It’s not every day I am called to deliver a sermon, but anytime I am, I humbly take the invitation. And in return, I call upon you to stay curious!

Below is an adaptation of the sermon delivered to the congregation:

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Stay Curious

Good morning! It is always a pleasure to be here in the FBC community but today I feel an extra deep sense of pleasure. I will admit my imposter syndrome is running strong right now. Standing in for Pastor LaThelma. A human for whom I feel a great deal of admiration and awe – Her studies, her practice, her devotion. But I also respect the work she has done as an individual to show up fully as herself – as she was divinely crafted. 

Who am I to preach for her – to you? Am I enough?

Though I am ordained through the Universal Life Church online so that I may perform wedding ceremonies for friends and family, and though I find this to be one of the greatest blessings of my life, I still struggle with my enoughness to be here today. 

The conflict, I know, is not an external one. I have felt welcomed by Flemington Baptist Church (FBC) since our first visit here just over a year ago. I know I have been called here to this community. We, my family and I, have been welcomed home. 

As with most struggles, I wrestled with two contrasting, internal voices. 

The first is the voice that has been given permission for much of my life to speak up as truth. The authoritative voice in the back of my head saying, are you enough? The second is the voice I hear calmly, quietly, consistently saying, My darling, of course you are enough.

When I find myself wrestling with a deep voice in my soul and the nagging voice in my head, I know it’s time to call upon vulnerability. It is time to invite God’s love to breathe oxygen into my life and bolster my courage to overcome my fear – to let my curiosity for what I can be to dominate over what I am afraid I am not. It is time to say, I do not have to do this alone.  I never do this alone. 

Today’s bible passage comes from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.  This passage reminds us of a few things: 

  1. We are to expect hardships in life. Even with God’s love and protection, just as happiness is an expectation – so, too, is suffering. 
  2. that we avoid the ego’s nagging refrains by reminding ourselves that we do not have to be perfect but that God’s power is made whole, complete, perfect when we allow the relationship to be one of deep connection – of openness – of weakness. 

In another sermon, we will break down my feelings on the use of the word weakness here as definitions matter and our cultural connotation of the word is unflattering, but it is assumed that weakness is the opposite of strength – of showing feebleness. In contrast, the kind of weakness Paul speaks of shows courage and clarity that can only be revealed when we trust. I believe that the weakness spoken of here is intended to say “trust” and this requires an openness – a vulnerability to bring forth our own authenticity – our divine truth. 

Fun fact about me, I earned my black belt in Okinawa Kenpo karate when I was 27. I went in thinking I would learn how to fight. What I learned was how to protect myself. How to keep my person and my property safe from danger – from vulnerabilities. What I also learned was balance and peace. The fight stance alone is a contrast. 

In this stance – we are solid, hyper-vigilant, and ready for attack. The translation of Karate means “empty hand”, and the translation of Kenpo (Kempo in some variations) means “the law of the fist”. To protect without weapons except for those organic to the body. It is powerful to practice relentlessly to possess weapons within us. There is safety knowing we have the tools and the experience and the courage to protect and feel peace in that security. Our bodies and minds can be truly powerful (and for this training – I am really aggressive when I take Tai Chi classes – LOL)!

Yet even in our most respectful, humble of scenarios, the bow, we never release the burden of protecting ourselves – of eliminating our vulnerabilities. We never lose eye contact. Never look away. Never hand over our power.

Karate taught me how to eliminate my vulnerabilities (physically) and protect. I am grateful.

But we are called to pray. To open up our vulnerabilities. To open up our weaknesses. To hand them over – to trust in god. 

In this stance we are safe – but we are burdened if we attempt to take on life and its onslaught of struggles and fear alone. 

In this stance, we are safe – unburdened because God has our back.  

But the world today can be a scary place. 

When I look at the world around me, I am certain that each one of us desires in a desperate manner to be seen – not just to be seen for what the world prescribes – but for who we are truly meant to be. To live fully. To dust off the edges of our gems and shine them for the world. If we believe we are divinely created, then we must never stop seeking this truth. We must always leave room for new oxygen – more growth. Continued change. 

We know this, yet we grant permission for our culture to tell a different story of success and belonging. Let’s face it, there are many avenues of influence into our minds, bodies, and souls today, and this weaves a tightly wound, unbreathable corset around our souls.  It is narrow – one of judgment. Standardization. Segregation. Intimidation. And scarcity. We are told to conform – to fit in – to withhold what’s inside. We are rarely told we are special and necessary if we are different from the masses, learn and perceive the world in unique ways, or worship a different God in a different manner in a different church with different music and traditions. 

I am here today to ask you to reframe your weaknesses – see them as a calling from God to explore your innermost beliefs and interests and desires – to see them as guiding lights drawing out the inner gem within. Know your weaknesses are only your truths asking to be set free. Knowing that when we bow our heads and hearts and lift our hands in supplication that we are allowing God to breathe oxygen into our souls and bring forth our inner majesty.

I am here today to ask you to now see this in others – to allow their weakness to find a space to breathe without judgment. 

I am here today to ask you to stay curious. As I have said many times before, I believe that God lives in connection. I believe in the connection between the bees and the trees, and the water and the sand, and the earth and the sky. I believe in the connection between all of god’s creatures and all of god’s creations! 

When we look at all that connects us rather than all that separates us and allows connection despite the contrast, we create a space for God to live. When we can open up to this, we can see God’s work alive all around us. And I believe this requires our vulnerability.

In cybersecurity, a vulnerability is a weakness that can be exploited by cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to a computer system. To combat this, we hire experts to explore and identify the vulnerabilities long before a criminal might crack into the system – subsequently and allow the software and data and safety to breathe and grow. We install firewalls and constantly check and recheck and protect in order to thrive. For this to be successful, the experts must be curious enough to look closely and honest enough to share the truth.

In the humanities, vulnerability is the willingness to show emotion or to allow one’s weaknesses to be seen or known; willingness to risk being emotionally hurt:

This is the courage to say I love you first, to say I no longer love you first. It is the wisdom to say, I feel alone, and I need support. It is the risk we face everyday to introduce ourselves wholeheartedly to the world.  

This is a risk. But is it one worth taking since God’s power is made perfect when we do. 

This can be scary. When we do it alone. 

But God is our firewall. Our fortress. Our strength. 

It is not a weakness to expose ourselves fully, the real risk is withholding the truth. For in doing so, we risk diminishing the light within. Diminishing God’s work and God’s ideas. Restricting connection. 

Researcher and storyteller, Brenee Brown, defines connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

Connection is the energy that exists between God’s creations. It is the energy that exists between people. It is the Holy Spirit at work.

When we consider where we see God at work – God’s hand at play, I cannot help but think of all the magic there is to share. When we are curious, we find God in the connection of music spanning from the Americas to Africa to Australia and bringing forth a chorus of culture and communion. When we are curious, we find new ways to share the message of love and faith with those who are unfamiliar to the gospel. When we are curious, our differences become a new page in God’s book for us to explore. Our differences broaden our knowing of God’s creativity and confidence. Our differences are God’s divine work.

If we build our boundaries constructed by bricks of fear and judgment instead of trusting in God’s firewall, we will eliminate the opportunity to be seen as we truly are – to see others as they truly are, and this makes deep connection nearly impossible. When we carry the burden of hyper-vigilance and fear alone, we disconnect ourselves from our faith and our sanctuary of God’s love.

We must be curious about what God has in store for us. So simply keep your firewall subscription up to date, and all will be fine. 

So that’s it, right? Easy peasy – 

Wrong. This is not the easiest thing. 

In a society that thrives on fear and scarcity, we must remember God’s abundance. 

Then stay curious about where to find it.

Because you are safe.

John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

To move through with curiosity and confidence – separating the inner voice of God from the nagging voice of fear – we are set free. And freedom is what we crave. This comes from connection. 

I fear that we are struggling as a culture to experience deep connection not only to others but especially to God and to ourselves. To shed light on this, I would like to share a few things with you: 

Glennon Doyle’s podcast, “We Can Do Hard Things”, recently highlighted work published by Australian Palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware. Her “5 Regrets of the Dying” were shared. I was called to this because I, too, have expressed these regrets through life, and I am working to transform their relationship to my happiness and my suffering. In sharing them with you now, I want you to close your eyes and please raise your hand if you have said – or are saying – these things to yourself today. 

  1. I wish I had the courage to live life true to myself, not the one others expected of me. 
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I had had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I stayed in touch with my friends. 
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

If you raised your hand for even one of these, I invite you – as my calling here today – to get curious about the subject. Is it your connection to expectations, work, feelings, relationships, or your inner self that needs your attention?  What happens when you ask the question of “am I enough” and God answers, “Of course you are.” Can you hear it? Can you be still and know that you are safe? Can you stand upon your fertile, higher ground, and relying upon the legacy of your roots, can you reach up and out to shine your light? Can you redefine the perceived weakness?

Jesus said “I am the way and the truth”. He said, “follow me. Be curious with me. Trust me.”  And God will be your refuge, your road, and your right. The truth is the fertile soil and earth upon which our roots grow deeper and allow the branches to extend up and out. We are strong and stable because of the truth (be still and know) and then we are set free by the truth to seek outward turning over a new leaf(stay curious) knowing we can always return to our core. Our faith. God’s work is ever present.

The thread of vulnerability is woven through each branch welcoming both feelings of being held (not restricted) and being seen as we grow and breathe life into ourselves and others. But we must stay curious. We must allow oxygen to breathe life into our souls. 

In this Easter season as we approach Pentecost, we are reminded of the love, the faith, and the dedication that allowed Jesus to face his journey from life to death on the cross. We are then reminded of the love, the faith, and the dedication that defeated death in his resurrection. We are reminded that Jesus never walked alone, and he knew it. He walked each unbearable step in the knowing: He died for it. So that we may be set free. Even in the face of change, danger, opposition, or despair, God is with us just as God’s Holy Spirit held Jesus as he carried hope for you and me on his shoulders. God had his back – just as God has your back and mine.

Our Deepest Fear

Marianne Williamson

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness

That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves

Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small

Does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking

So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,

As children do.

We were born to make manifest

The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;

It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,

We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we’re liberated from our own fear,

Our presence automatically liberates others.”

Stay curious. The world is waiting:)


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