Resilience 7-7-13

My theme for the summer begins this morning with this sermon on Grit and Resilience. I want to introduce it today even though I won’t get back to it until sometime in August when we will be studying Jeremiah and his take on grit and resilience. I introduce it today on this communion Sunday, however, because summer can both build us up and wear us down. Things slow down and we get the kind of break we need to build ourselves up, and it’s hot and we sometimes give in to feelings of lethargy or going numb.  I want to encourage the former attitude toward the summer, obviously. Today, let’s begin our exploration by looking at the historical context and why this concept of grit and resilience has become so important for our time.

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16 Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. 9-10 So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. 11-13 Now, in these last sentences, I want to emphasize in the bold scrawls of my personal handwriting the immense importance of what I have written to you. These people who are attempting to force the ways of circumcision on you have only one motive: They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ’s suffering and death. All their talk about the law is gas. They themselves don’t keep the law! And they are highly selective in the laws they do observe. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast of their success in recruiting you to their side. That is contemptible! 14-16 For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!

July 7, 2013

Resilience

It’s interesting to think about how the time when we were born effects how we view the world. I became an adult in the 1970’s when folks were optimistic about the possibility of changing the world. We felt like any problems that we were not solving currently, at least we would get to them eventually. We expected equal rights for people of color, for women, for gay folks- for everybody. As a country, we were at war in Vietnam, so we knew this was going to be a struggle and we were ready to engage that struggle.
Folks who became adults in the 90’s had quite a different experience. The country was not at war. The economy was roaring along and folks were feeling very optimistic about new technology. The internet was just becoming popular and it seemed like we indeed could solve most problems or avoid them if we had to.
On the other hand, think about what people who became adults in the last decade faced. Those who came of age in the beginning of the 21st century began their adult lives by experiencing one of the most dramatic acts of terror our country has ever faced. We launched into a period of extended and difficult wars. Soon after, the economy lurched into the biggest recession since the 1930’s. Even the planet itself is warming and a climate of increasingly large storms and weather events has become one of the key problems that people have to think about.
These and a number of other factors are encouraging psychologists to promote the concepts of ‘resilience” and “grit” for young people today. The idea is that you are not going to be able to avoid problems and difficulties in your life. You can’t get around the storms of life; you can’t stop them. You are going to have to be ready to go through the storms and come out the other side. You have to be prepared with grit, resilience, toughness, courage to face the challenges of a world full of storms.

As you may anticipate, today I am promoting scripture and the church as sources of support for gaining these significant tools and skills in our lives – building grit and resilience. The Bible is full of such encouragement. Our two readings for this morning are immediate examples – Psalm 30 is a beloved psalm precisely because of its resilient tone. The psalmist has been sick, to the brink of death and returns to the land of the living praising God and determined to live a life filled with singing and praise. Grit indeed.
And Paul is all about resilience: “9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”

This is how you build up grit and resilience: 1. By having a family of faith, people you can count on in your neighborhood, in your church, in your family and community; 2. By taking care of yourself – with meditation, prayer, exercise, a balanced life, not too much TV, a healthy diet, & outlets for creativity; 3. By supporting local farmers’ markets, credit unions, renewable energy sources, by walking and biking and learning first aid & CPR.
Clearly, working to build our own grit and resilience also builds up our community, which supports our nation, which supports our planet. It’s all tied together.  When we come to the table this morning, we gain strength to take these next steps in our own lives, and give ourselves to the community to build up others.

Communion hymn: 437  This Is My Song