Rev. Linda Dolby
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
Last Sunday I talked about overcoming our differences with illustrations from the movie “42,” the story of Jackie Robinson integrating major league baseball. Today’s theme is from another movie, "Beaches, “ which came out in the mid-80's and is the story of 2 friends - CeCe, who is a flamboyant Broadway star and Hillary, a more demure, refined woman. The film chronicles the ups and downs of their lives and their friendship. My husband would call it a "chick flick" because it's a real tearjerker as in the end Hillary dies. During the funeral scenes, the music underneath is Bette Middler singing "you are the wind beneath my wings." Some of the verses say:
Did you ever know that you're my hero, and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle, for you are the wind beneath my wings.
It might have appeared to go unnoticed, but I've got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it. I would be nothing without you.
I think what one woman is saying to the other is that she has been able to soar because her friend has always been there beside her, cheering her on. It reminds me of the saying "We only give our children 2 things: one is roots and the other is wings."
Which remind me of the words of Isaiah: "Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles.” Today we're going to spend a few moments thinking about church which gives us roots and wings, and the church, the wind beneath our wings.
The mission of each local United Methodist church is to make disciples for the transformation of the world. I think another way of saying it is that our mission to give people roots - to have the saving experience of Jesus Christ in their lives and then to give wings - setting folks free to serve as they follow Christ's claim and call upon their lives.
We need both, don't we? As the reshowing of the movie “Roots” this week has shown us, roots keep us grounded, so we stay in touch with our families and the values that make us who we are. In Christian terms, to have roots is to know who we are: one who has been saved by grace and whose we are: God's own, eternally beloved.
And then we need wings. As one who has done it, I know how hard it is to have children leave the nest. Yet, at the same time, although I love my children dearly and miss them daily, when we are all together, well, after a few days of togetherness, I think we are all ready to return to our regular lives. I’m glad they have wings. In Christian terms, to have wings is to soar with the spirit, to fly to new heights, to become all who God creates us to be.
A few years ago business consultant Peter Drucker became known for something to help businesses improve called "Total Quality Management." Essentially, TQM asked the question: what business are you in? I came here from Rochester, NY, a city known as the home of Eastman Kodak Company. Over the last decade, Kodak has layed off around 30,000 employees. It was slow to learn that it was not in the film industry, but rather in the imaging business. Film and processing and pictures on paper are almost gone, like the Model T, as we now are in the digital age. It's been a painful lesson for Kodak and the people of my former community.
What business is the church in? Well, sometimes if you ask someone someplace about such and such a church they will say: "oh, that's the church that has the great fish fries." Or who “hosts the Rotary meetings.” Or “where they have bingo on Friday nights.” Or, "they have the best bazaar." How about if the church were known as the place that gives people roots and wings? Roots to keep us grounded and wings to soar, becoming all who God creates us to be. I grew up in the church. I am a child of the church. When I was a teenager, I went to church only because my parents made me. And then my mother died. And all of a sudden, the church, which up until then I had only thought of as a building, became a living, breathing community of faith, supporting my father, sister, and me through those horrible days. There was my Sunday School teacher who took me to dinner. The choir's soloist who sang "How Great Thou Art" at my mom's funeral and who later told me that was the hardest thing she had ever done. There were the ladies who baked the pies and brought the meals - who sustained us when we couldn't feed ourselves .
There was the pastor who assured me, and all of a sudden there were all those Bible stories I heard as a child - my roots - that took on new meaning. There were the Sunday School songs that came to mind - "do Lord, or do Lord, or do remember me - I've got a home in glory land that outshines the sun, away beyond the blue." I didn't drift from the faith because I was anchored in the church - in the people, the scripture, the songs. Roots.
And the church has given me wings. Back when I was in college and trying to figure out what to do with my life, a kind pastor suggested a new and daring Adventure, one that has taken me to the White House and Capitol Hill while I was in seminary. Wings that have sent me to Honduras and Costa Rica on mission trips. Wings that have led me to speak out for the poor and dispossessed, to walk with the sick and suffering, to witness with the lost and lonely.
How about you? What if a stranger asked you about Trinity, you might say, "that's my church. The church that stood with me when my husband died. I don't know what I would have done without them.” Or, "that's the church that prays. And where prayers are answered or, "I go to Bible study - we really care about each other and we study God's word." That’s the church that welcomes all people and serves this community. Roots and wings. In the words of Isaiah, "Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu tells a story about a farmer who raised chickens in his backyard. Among the chickens, there was one that looked a little odd. It behaved like a chicken. It walked like a chicken. It pecked away like a chicken. One day a wise woman came along and said to the farmer: "You know, that isn't a chicken. It is an eagle." The farmer said: "No way. That is a chicken." And he looked at the odd bird and said: "Don't get any fancy ideas. You are a chicken."
"I don't think so," said the wise woman. She picked up the strange looking chicken, climbed up the nearest mountain, stood at the edge of a precipice, and waited until sunrise. Then she turned the bird toward the sun and said: "You are an eagle. You can soar. You can change your world. Go fly."
The strange looking chicken shook itself and tentatively spread its wings. It looked up at the sky. It looked down -- way down -- to the bottom of the precipice. It took a few steps back in the direction of the other chickens, where it had been so comfortable, where it had a daily routine and food to eat. "Sorry," it said to the wise woman: "I don't feel like an eagle. I feel like a chicken. And I don't think I can fly."
"That's your choice," the wise woman said softly. "But remember, you are responsible for the decisions you make. If you don't dare to fly, you will never be fully alive. You will never reach the sky. Even if you feel like a chicken, fly like an eagle."
Who's a chicken? Who's an eagle? A chicken may be the one who doesn't have roots and doesn't use their wings. One who has not been firmly rooted in the faith and never sees beyond the present and thus never flies. One who thinks
that this little life is all there is.
But there is good news today. You, my friends, are made for more. You have the wind beneath your wings. The wind of the Holy Spirit, the breath of God and this community of faith here. Now. Rooted in the word of God, the traditions of the faithful, the care of the community. Now you can fly.
Did you ever know that God's our hero, and everything we would like to be? We can fly higher than the eagles, for God is the wind beneath our wings. That's the promise: Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They will mount up with wings as eagles. May it be so.
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