READING FROM THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES (Galatians 1: 1-12)
Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2and all the members of God’s family who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!
10Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ. 11For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
SERMON, preached on May 29, 2016
First Church in Sterling, MA
by Rev. Robin Bartlett
Listen to the sermon here
"When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.” That’s what Saint Anne Lamott says.
And Saint Paul in his letter to the Galatians says: “Am I seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
I have a confession to make. I am a recovering people pleaser. I have been a people-pleaser ever since I realized at around age 5 that if I kept quiet about my hatred of rutebega and just ate it with a smile on my face and a thank you, life was easier. I figured out early that going along to get along would not only avoid a fight or a punishment, but people would like me better.
I became drunk on the thought of being liked. If I was liked, I must be good, I thought.
By 6th grade, it was solidified somewhere deep in my psyche that not being liked was not just uncomfortable, but actually terrifying. If I wasn’t liked, I must be bad, I thought.
And so I spent the better part of my life trying to make everyone like me. I did this to believe I was good; to avoid the discomfort and terror of thinking I was bad.
That’s a lot of work for not a lot of pay off, since people- pleasing in an attempt to create universal likeability always fails. It’s a doomed project.
There are many people-pleasers in this room. Do you want to confess, too? You’re welcome to stand up and say “My name is_________, and I am a people-pleaser.”
I want us to know something. Our value doesn’t come from other people. It comes from God. Beloved, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.
In the meantime, let’s join in a time of confession.
Dear God, we confess the following sins of our communities:
We are so concerned with people pleasing that we say “yes” to everything, when we really mean “no”. We are so concerned with people pleasing that we bend over backwards to make people happy meanwhile making ourselves miserable. We are so concerned with people pleasing that we end up spending our days crammed full of errands for other people, meetings we don’t want to go to, and things to do we shouldn’t have signed up for to begin with.
We forget that when you said “Love your neighbor as yourself”, it means we have to love ourselves first.
Frantic attempts to please people don’t end well anyway. We’re late to coffee with a friend who needs us urgently because we were busy feeding another friend’s pet. The next morning we forget to feed the friend’s pet because we are off at the hospital visiting our sick aunt, who is mad that we didn’t show up the day we were supposed to because we were picking up our boss’s dry cleaning, or volunteering at the school book fair. We people-pleasers make ourselves crazy and disappoint everyone anyway.
God, we are sorry and we humbly repent. We are only human and doing the best that we can.
It would do us good to remember this: our worth does not come from other people liking us. Our worth comes from God. Our job is to seek only the approval of the still small voice inside of us that reminds us who we are. Nothing in heaven, and nothing on earth, not even the failure to show up for the PTO bake sale, will separate us from the Love of God. And so I declare us a forgiven people. Can I get an amen?
Anne Lamott writes:
Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction — and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.
Beloved: when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. Because we were made by God to have nice big comfortable tummies and big juicy creative lives.
Unfortunately, the Christian Church is guilty of waggling their forefinger at us and telling us who they think we should be far more than it should. The Church makes the mistake of thinking it’s speaking for God far too often. Most of the time, the Church speaks instead for human wants and preferences.
Our scripture this morning comes from Paul’s letter to the Church of Galatia. If you were paying attention, and not zoning out, you could probably tell that Paul was sounding pretty peeved. I mean, he’s calling people accursed!
This may sound like really old fashioned, or odd, or like peculiar Bible-y stuff to you, but the reason why he’s yelling at the Galatians is because they were having an argument about whether or not people should have to be circumcised. This was a really big deal in the early church. They fought all the time about whether or not men had to be circumcised in order to belong to the Jesus movement.
That’s not the kind of fight we have anymore, thank God. Right, guys? Can I get an amen?
But circumcision truly was the biggest concern of the early Jesus movement. The Jews and the Gentiles were trying to figure out what their rules were going to be. The Jews were circumcised, and the Gentiles were not. And rules for belonging were important. They figured they should have to look the same and follow the same law. And they fought about what that would look like.
Anyway, you’re probably wondering why fighting over circumcision has any relevance to us today. Well, Saint Paul was trying to make the case against having to be circumcised to be a Christian. He was saying that requiring circumcision is human law, not God’s law. He was saying that to be “in” God’s club, you didn’t have to do anything to mark your appearance. He was trying to make the case that the Gospel is simple: “everyone’s in.”
This is God’s big tent. The kingdom of God doesn’t have painful requirements for entry.
The people who would stand at the door telling people that they didn’t “belong” in the Church were perverting the Gospel of Christ, Paul said.
And man, I can’t think of anything more relevant for the church today. Because there are so many people standing at the doors of churches trying to define who’s in and who’s out based on appearance, belief and identity. This gatekeeping all in the interest of keeping the people who are already inside comfortable and happy.
This is a perversion of the Gospel, Paul says. “If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Truthfully, it would be so much easier to make people happy if we were all more alike. We would be far more comfortable if we could somehow ensure that only “people like us” filled these pews.
And so we may be tempted to say:
Oh, you’re from Rutland? There’s a congregational church there, you know. This church is for Sterlingites.
Oh, you’re a Catholic? There’s a Catholic church across the green. This church is for Protestants.
Oh, you’re gay? Maybe you’d be more comfortable at the UU church in Worcester.
Oh, you’re a Republican? This church is only for people who vote for Bernie Sanders.
Oh, you’re an atheist? Why are you here? This church is for believers.
You’re black or Latino? You’re welcome here, but you better learn to like “our” old dead white guy music.
It’s a lot of work to constantly redefine what it means when we say “we.” And it isn’t comfortable.
But church: when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.
As a church, we are consistently told who we should be, both internally and externally. But our call is quite simple: to recognize all people as children of God: Jews, Gentiles, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, people from all towns and cities and states and countries, people of all ages, races, nationalities, abilities, sexualities and gender expressions. No one needs to earn their place here by adhering to old ideas of what it means to be Christian, if those ideas do not represent the heart of the Gospel.
We were featured in UU World magazine this month. The article highlighted our particular way of representing the heart of the Gospel. (First Church: enjoy this year of fame while it lasts, because when no one is paying attention to us five years from now, we can say wistfully, “well, we will always have 2016.”)
The article in the World was titled “Blurring Denominational Lines.” The UUs apparently think they have something to learn from us about the ways in which we bridge theological and ideological divides here. For good reason.
After reading the UU World article, one of my friends said to me, “wow…with a congregation that theologically and ideologically diverse, how do you keep everybody happy?”
Such a good question, right?
I told him that I crack a lot of jokes.
But the real answer is: I don’t and I can’t. God led me to a place where it is literally impossible for me to try and please all the people all the time, as if that ever was possible anywhere. And so I have been forcefully ejected from the land of people pleasers by the grace of God, and liberated at last to follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our friend Joanne Janeski was quoted in the World article saying that people’s boundaries are pushed here. She says that’s a good thing because “being comfortable in life is a dangerous place.” I love that. My colleague Shane Montoya said: “if there is anything Jesus was good at is blurring lines and transgressing boundaries.”
I do believe that this is our call, First Church in Sterling. To gather in the spirit of Jesus by blurring lines and transgressing boundaries. And there ain’t nothing about that work that is people-pleasing.
After all, Jesus didn’t worry about our comfort, or keeping people happy. He worried about the coming kingdom of God, in which the last would be first; the hungry fed, the prisoner released, the naked clothed. The kingdom in which the meek would inherit the earth. Jesus didn’t say that only the “nice” people that everyone liked would get to heaven in the end. Thank God, because heaven would be pretty boring if that were the case.
So beloved, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. Stop people pleasing. Practice disappointing people with your commitment to love God and yourself first. Practice welcome and inclusion and celebration of all people as your gospel. Stop apologizing for choosing the Gospel of Love over the heresy of trying to make everyone happy. Practice saying ‘no’ to life-sucking activities you hate so that you can say a holy ‘yes’ to what you were put on this earth to do. Open the doors as wide as you can, to your church and to your heart. When God tries to tell you who you are, believe God. You are known and named Beloved. You are worthy. So is everyone else. Believe it, and live it.
By Reverend Robin Bartlett
at First Church in Sterling, MA
Listen to sermon here.
Scripture: John 14:8-17, (25-27)
When we read or tell a story, it usually has a beginning, a middle and an end. When we tell stories to children, they often begin with “once upon a time,” and conclude with “the end.” In the case of a fairy tale, “they all lived happily ever after.”
In a fairy tale, the ending is usually after a wedding of a Prince to a Princess. Most of us know that a wedding is only the beginning of a story, and it isn’t all “happily ever after,” even in the best of marriages. Amen? But we like our stories to end neatly and definitely.
When we cross thresholds in life—a graduation, a new job, a marriage, a baby, completion of the 12 steps, a divorce…there is nothing neat and definite about any of it.
We are tempted to think that when we cross a threshold, we are celebrating or marking endings. An end to coursework and paper writing, an end to our subscription to match.com. An end to pregnancy, or Sunday school, or a job search, or a bad marriage or relationship.
…And they all lived happily ever after.
But the trouble is endings are not endings at all…they are always beginnings. Endings are births. And those of us who have given birth know how much it hurts. Those of us who have given birth know that a part of us has to die before new life can begin. The hardest part of labor is called transition. It is the beginning of a new story. It hurts the most, because when something is about to be born, there is pain.
I turned 40 this week, which was a birthday I had been dreading for that arbitrary reason we dread zero birthdays. 40 somehow symbolized the end of something for me. It was an end to young adulthood; an end to the first half of my life; an end to a decade which was a fascinating roller-coaster mixture of high achievement, existential angst, joy and excruciating emotional pain.
Truthfully, it was hard because the story didn’t turn out the way I wrote it. The story changed wildly in ways I didn’t anticipate and couldn’t control. So much was birthed. Dramatic plot twists like parenthood, a call to the ministry, a new masters program, a divorce, a devastation, a depression, a new love, a surprise pregnancy, a new marriage, a call, a new life in a new place, a newly constructed family. None of it was what I expected.
Every time I thought the story was over, the plot changed, and the story began again. It hurt, like birthing something new always does.
The Holy Text that we study each week contains a sacred story of God with many plot twists—enough to give anyone whiplash. In the Bible, the first words are “in the beginning…” and the last words are “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”
In other words, this book begins in the Hebrew scriptures with “Once upon a time,” and ends in the New Testament with “they all lived with the grace of Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever.” Which to me sounds as close to “happily every after” as you and I are ever gonna get.
But the end of this book is only the beginning of the story, really. It is the transition, it is the birth. It is the “happily ever after” before the plot twist. People will tell you that this book contains everything that God ever said or did. People will tell you that if it is in this book, that’s it. It’s done. There’s nothing more to say.
It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said that “It is the office of a true teacher to show us that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake.”
God is still speaking.
That’s what we celebrate today, with these balloons that represent God’s breath and God’s fire. God speaketh, not spake. God is, not was.
Today is Pentecost, the celebration of the truth that God’s story doesn’t end when Jesus’ life ends.
Today is Pentecost, the celebration of the truth that there is more to the story.
Today is Pentecost, the celebration of the truth that WE are the story. And that we are only a small part of the story…the whole world and all of time, past present and future, is the story, too.
Today is Pentecost, the celebration of the truth that we are the ones we have been waiting for. That it is up to us to create heaven on earth. And that we CAN because the Holy Spirit, our advocate, resides in each of us; lives in us.
What an exhilarating and terrifying idea. This is the celebration of the birthday of the Church, and birth is always exhilarating and terrifying.
Our text from the Gospel of John is part of Jesus’ long goodbye speech before he was crucified. It is his attempt to assure his friends that though he is leaving, they will never be alone.
His friends are not comprehending how they can live without him. As someone whose mom still does my laundry once a week, this makes a whole lot of sense to me.
Jesus’ friends are rapidly going through the Kubler Ross stages of grief—and in this text at least, they have landed on bargaining.
“Can we see the father? We won’t be satisfied until we do,” Philip pleads.
And Jesus sounds exasperated, frankly. He says something to the effect of, “OMG! Have you even been listening? You have seen what God is like because you know ME. And I’m leaving now, but I’m not leaving you alone. You will have another advocate, who will teach you everything, and be your reminder of everything I said and did! You’ll BE FINE!! The spirit abides in you.”
Barbara Lundblad says “This is Pentecost in John’s Gospel. The body of Christ must claim space on the earth. We who dance and climb, who run and get knocked down, we who lie on the grass and sit watching the late-night news -- we are not alone. The Spirit of truth, the Advocate comes, surprising us at every turn, saying, “Guess who?”
WE are the body of Christ claiming space on the earth. The spirit of Truth comes to us, surprising us at every turn. If you’re looking for God, you need only look as close as your own beating heart; your breath; your life.
The story of God is not over because we are the story.
You all know that so much of this year for me has been shaped by death, and figuring out how to carry on the story of God after the death of so many of our beloveds. Death so often seems like the end of a story. I have done a lot of funerals, some for church pillars and dear friends of mine like Rick Dell and Helen Wessels and Anita Benware, some for beloved family members of all of you that I never met, some for strangers. May light perpetual shine upon all of them.
Their stories are part of our story, and the story of God, and it is now up to us to tell them every time we speak their names.
There is one story that I have been walking with since Easter; a story of a man that I never met. I carry him with me, perhaps because he was my age. Perhaps because he loved Tom Petty and so do I. Perhaps because it sounds like he was my kind of people. His family were not big church-goers, and yet they keep showing up here every week ever since he died. This strikes me as a testament to hope. This strikes me as the deepest act of faith.
And I sometimes look out at them and think about the story they may need to hear, and I hope we’ll tell it good and true for them.
Jeffrey Cranson, son of Maureen and Donald, brother of Sarah and Kristen, fiancé of Alex, nephew of beloved former church members Ken and Cathy, friend of the whole world, died of cancer at age 39. He was still full of life. He was funny, caring and real. He had a cat named dirty snow pile. He loved Sterling and children and he recently lived in Alaska because he was addicted to adventure and the outdoors. He was in recovery and proud. He loved his people. The bodies of 350 or so who attended his funeral packed in here like sardines, resurrected him in this room. His story resided in them, and tumbled out in bursts of laughter and tears. Jeffrey was on the edge of marrying his fiancé and best friend Alex, who is a light in this world like he was. She is so young and so good. The story of that wedding and marriage never came into being. This struck me as one of the world’s great tragedies; the end of their story. Jeffrey’s death, to be real, could make even the most determined and faithful believer question the existence of a loving God.
I was talking to our beloved Judy Conway about her brother in law who is in the ICU this week fighting for his life. He’s 59 and her husband Jim’s best brother and mentor. She said to me, “I don’t question the existence of God, but I do question who gets chosen.”
Anyway, my friend Maureen Cranson got up in front of this gigantic crowd gathered to honor her son Jeff at his funeral, and she managed to get up the courage to minister to us all. She told us, “Jeffrey would want our stories to go on. He would want us planting our gardens and caring for each other, and rock climbing and going back to work, and playing with the babies, and living. So keep on living.”
That’s what she said, more or less. She told us he would have wanted the story to go on. I think he would have wanted to see what happens next.
Maureen knew this; that it was our job to keep the story going. Even a mama who lost her baby knew this and spoke it to us.
God speaketh, not spake. God speaks through my friend, Maureen. Maybe that’s why she keeps coming here. Because she has more to tell us, and still more to hear.
‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate,* the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
The Advocate will come, and the voice that whispers all we need to hear will say this: It is not over.
When we tell a story, it usually has a beginning, a middle and an end. But beloved, our story is always beginning, and there is no end. So let us birth a continuation of God’s beautiful, tragic, redemptive story for this time and place. May it be a story of hope that we could never write ourselves. Let this church be a place where the spirit lives and breathes and has room to grow. Where God speaketh, not spake. Let this church be a church where we listen for the voice of God in each other’s words. Let this church tell a story of a Love that never ends.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Peace I leave with you, peace I give to you. God is still speaking.
Preached on May 1, 2016 at First Church in Sterling, MA
Scripture: John 5: 1-9
Watch sermon here
When I met with our newly formed and commissioned Called to Care team, I told them that the most important thing they can do besides listening and providing presence is to ban all theological clichés from their vocabulary.
We tried to name them all. Everything happens for a reason. God just needed one more angel. God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. When God closes a door, he opens a window. What are your least favorites?
My least favorite: God helps those who help themselves.
According to Wikipedia, 53% of Americans believe that the Bible teaches this phrase. Of “born again” Christians, 68%. This is an improvement. A poll in the late 1990s (81%) believed this concept is taught by the Bible. Despite being of non-Biblical origin, the phrase topped a poll of the most widely known Bible verses. Seventy-five percent of American teenagers said they believed that it was the central message of the Bible.
So the reason why I despise that cliché so much is that the central message of the Bible is the opposite of the phrase “God helps those who help themselves.” The central message of the Christian scriptures is Grace. God does not discriminate with God’s love. God showers God’s people with love whether we help ourselves or not. In fact, God favors the least, the last, the lost. That is the whole darn point.
“God helps those who help themselves?” Balogna sauce.
Perhaps that’s why I really struggled with our text from John this week, about which so many terrible sermons have been preached.
In the story, a man is lying on a mat near the healing baths by the Sheep Gate, where many sick people lay. The waters of Beth-zatha, according to the Bible, are said to have special healing properties wherein angels occasionally stir the waters, and legend says that the people who went into them are instantaneously healed of their afflictions. The man in our story had been lame (as in incapable of walking) for 38 years.
Enter Jesus. Jesus comes upon this man, sees that he had been lying there for a very long time. And Jesus asks him a question—a question he doesn’t ask in his other healing accounts—a question that should be kind of a “no duh”, right?
Do you want to be made well?
What kind of question is that, Jesus? Of COURSE he wants to be made well. He can’t WALK.
Well, Jesus may have been on to something, because curiously, the man doesn’t answer “yes.”
Instead, he says: “no one will help me into the water, and when I try to get in other people get in the way.”
So Jesus says: “take up your mat and walk.”
Maybe because of the mood I’m in this month, or because of the political debates I’ve been watching on TV…that command by Jesus sounded very much to me this week like, “stop lying around and feeling sorry for yourself, and get up.” It sounded to me a little bit like “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and stop waiting for someone else to do it for you.” It sounded a little bit to me like “Quit your whining. God helps those who help themselves.”
I identified with the man in the story, and so I got mad at Jesus this week, which usually means the text has something to teach me.
If I’m being honest, my answer to the question “Do you want to be made well?” is never an unambiguous “yes.” Maybe in theory, I want to be made well, but the work I have to do or the things I have to let go of in order to change sound hard, and unappealing. I am attached to the obstacles in my way. And so my answer to Jesus’ question sounds instead like the list of excuses the man gives to Jesus:
“No one will help me. Other people are going first.”
Friends, can I be honest with you? I have had a hard year this year. I have been over-functioning in this job, working long hours, saying yes to too much, losing a ton of sleep, eating less than healthfully, and all but ignoring my family. I have been cranky and resentful at times. I have had interventions by congregants, and colleagues and family members and friends saying, “Do you WANT to be made well? Try exercise. Make sure you take your days off. Enlist help. Shut down your computer and bring your kids on a hike. Quit your volunteer activities. Take a Sunday off. Take a vacation.”
And I give a lot of excuses. I tell people there’s no one else to do the jobs, or that the demands on me are very high, or that I promise I will slow down after I’m not new anymore.
Frankly, it sounds a lot like “No one will help me into the water, and when I try to get in other people get in the way.”
The truth is, I know the path to being made well. But then I do the exact opposite because I have a lot to lose: the approval of others, the ability to be in control, the addictive feeling of success, the ability to ignore my three children’s loud yelling and constant needs because I have “more important things to do.”
“Do you want to be made well?” That’s a good question, Jesus.
We all need to be asked this question, since we are all afflicted.
We are afflicted with addictions: to shopping, to cigarettes, to alcohol, to food, to video games, to work, to email checking and youtube watching. Healing might mean giving up our self-medication of choice and feeling all of the feelings instead of numbing ourselves to them—including boredom, discomfort, anger, sadness. Healing can be like ripping off a bandaid and exposing our wounds to the air.
“Do you want to be made well?” That’s a good question, Jesus.
We are afflicted with unhealthy relationship patterns. Some of us are committed to being nice, rather than telling the truth, and making hard decisions that might hurt others feelings. Some of us are committed to being right. Some of us are passive aggressive, or just aggressive. Healing might mean engaging conflict, saying out loud what we think and know, listening to people tell us the way we’ve hurt them. Healing might mean having the courage to say “no,” or asking questions we don’t want to know the answer to and listening—really listening to the response. Healing might mean making us vulnerable to hurt, and criticism.
“Do you want to be made well?” That’s a good question, Jesus.
We are afflicted with stasis. Some of us are living like the walking dead, just going through the motions. Some of us are holding on to grief because the grief feels familiar. Letting go feels like letting go of the last vestige of the person or relationship we are grieving. Healing means death before rebirth, and we are terrified of death.
Do you want to be made well? That’s a good question, Jesus.
Sometimes it just takes a long time to be made well. I love this story by Portia Nelson.
It’s called Autobiography In Five Short Chapters
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost... I am hopeless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in... it's a habit... but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street
We all have holes in our sidewalks, but we can always walk down another street. Because God who is a God of Grace heals us whether we want it or not, regardless of how often we fall in our holes. That’s why we come to this place—because we believe, at least on some level, that we are still capable of transformation. Of opening our eyes a little wider. Of putting down the bottle or the grudge. Of forgiving ourselves. Of being in community again, even though it hurts sometimes. Of exposing our wounds to the air, and letting them scab over until only the scar remains.
That’s what it looks like to pick up our mats and walk.
Brene Brown says that she went back to church, like so many of us do, following a crisis that she had in her life, looking for comfort; an anesthesia for her pain. Instead, she found challenge. “Church wasn’t an epidural, it was a midwife. It just stood next to me and said ‘Push, it’s supposed to hurt a bit…”
“I thought faith would take away the pain and discomfort, but what it ended up saying was that I’ll sit with you in it.” She said.
We sit with each other in this. We cannot be made well alone. God does not help those who helps themselves, God helps those who help one another. Because it is through other people that Christ heals us. God gives us companions to steer us around the holes, angels on earth to pull us out if we fall in, and the ability to choose another street when we are ready to.
Push. It’s supposed to hurt a bit.
Reverend Robin Bartlett is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, with dual standing in the United Church of Christ. She is the Senior Pastor at The First Church in Sterling, Massachusetts.