Shaking Off the Dust

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

I was intrigued recently by an article that aired some dirty laundry. No, it wasn’t a celebrity gossip magazine, or The Presbyterian Layman, for those of you who know PCUSA scandal sheets (They love to publish what they view as theological dirty laundry). It was a science journal, and the aforementioned dirty laundry is the problem that Apollo Moon Missions had with moon dust.

One of the major problems that all the missions shared were not explosions, or mysterious black obelisks, or aliens leaping out of astronauts stomachs (a la the movies “Space 2001” and “Alien”) “The major issue the Apollo astronauts pointed out was dust, dust, dust,” says Professor Larry Taylor, Director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute at the University of Tennessee. This is not your minor annoyance kind of dust. It is not like the harmless dust bunnies that hide under your bed. It is “fine as flour and rough as sandpaper.” The dust was so abrasive that it actually wore through three layers of Kevlar-like material on [astronaut’s] boot[s],” Taylor says. To make matters worse, it was electromagnetically charged, so that the more astronauts tried to brush it away, the more it worked its way into the space suits’ fabric. It would gum up the joints of space suits so that it would eventually be difficult to move. It was everywhere and couldn’t be escaped.1

Clingy, omnipresent, abrasive, damaging, dangerous. This moon dust is like much of our lives. It is like the brokenness of life that clings to us like nothing else. Our uncertain circumstances, our past failures and wounds, our overwhelming challenges and limited resources, these things stick to us like moon dust. Despair, fear, alienation, wear through our Kevlar layers and work their way into our joints until we can hardly move.

My friends, it is time to shake off the dust.

The apostle Paul, when he wrote to the Corinthian church, wanted the Corinthians to shake of their dust. Paul had a long and deep relationship with them as their founding pastor. He went through many ups and downs with them. He loved them, got angry with them, and wept over them. There were times when he had to forgive and times when he had to be forgiven. There were times when the moon dust of life had worked into their joints so that they could hardly move. When they became dusty like that, they became stuck living in ways of selfishness, pride, and injustice, and idolatry.

1 “NASA’s Dirty Secret: Moon Dust,” Science Daily (Sep. 29, 2008): http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/

2008/09/080924191552.htm

But in our text this morning, Paul offers them an opportunity to shake off that dust and participate in God’s blessing. The specific invitation has to do with an offering that Paul was gathering for needy Christians in Jerusalem. The material offering was important, but in our text, Paul teaches the Corinthians that the meaning of the offering was even more profound than providing a meal or a place to sleep for someone who needed it. The offering was a chance to participate in a harvest of righteousness. It was an invitation to be a partner in God’s blessing. It was an opportunity to shake off the dust, to move and to breathe the fresh, clear air of a faith that makes a difference. Not only would it bless the believers in Jerusalem, it would bless the Corinthians themselves.

I hope that you felt it this past week. Our nation has reached a milestone in electing its first African-American as President. As many have observed, even if you didn’t vote for Obama, you can sense that something historic has happened. Last Tuesday night, as we saw the weeping faces in that huge crowd gathered in that park for Obama’s speech, we had hope served to us.

Now, I do have my cynical side. I wonder how the hope of this moment will be spent. Part of me wonders how much change will really come. We face huge challenges of bringing peace and dealing with the current economic crisis. The powerful, almost irresistible temptation in these times is to look out for ones self, to hoard, to act out of fear and mistrust, to blame others and absolve ourselves. This temptation clings to us and paralyzes us.

And yet, though self-centeredness & fear are almost irresistible, we hear the good news in this house of faith that this day is also an opportunity. It is an opportunity to shake off the dust.

The reality is that President-elect Obama can’t do it alone. Things will only get better; change will only come if we all pitch in and participate. If Democrats and Republicans and others seize the opportunity, if we open up our minds and hearts, if we for a few moments not let fear and self-interest rule the day, we can work together for the good, for the good of everyone in this nation, and yes, the world.

Now these words can be idealistic claptrap…or, if we are open to it, this time can herald a shaking off of the dust that paralyzes us.

This morning we are invited to offer the first fruits of our time, talent, and treasure to God, and, like the Corinthians were long ago, we are invited to shake off the dust of life and embrace a living, life shaping faith, to shake off the dust and participate as partners with God in bringing hope, and making peace, and working for justice, all while joyously praising and thanking God, and enjoying each other. This is what stewardship is: it is shaking off the dust, and moving forward.

Look at this building project. We had a little dust to shake off not too long ago. It had gone through some fits and starts, plans had to be redrawn, lots of different things went on.

But look now. Much of the dust has been shaken off and we are moving forward. Much work remains, but it is God’s work, and there is no better partner to have. When the building is done, we will be better able to shake off even more profound dust in this community as we grow in ministry.

You who are members and friends of this community of faith are invited to shake off a little dust with your financial commitments for 2009. It is tough, I know, in this day. But ultimately we belong to a faith that is not down in the dumps about this day. With our worship, with our fellowship, with our mission outreach, and with our financial priorities shaped by the commandments to love God and neighbor, we celebrate and respond to the invitation to shake off the dust.

I was amused by the British 19-year-old who has officially changed his name to “Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk And The Flash Combined.”

The Glastonbury, England, teenager — originally named George Garratt — said his new name, which is thought to be the world’s longest, has so outraged his grandmother that she is no longer speaking to him.

The teen said he used an online service to officially change his name for a $20 fee.

“I wanted to be unique,” Captain Fantastic said of his name choice. “I decided upon a theme of superheroes.”2

Well, my friends, we are unique, so shall we choose an apt name for ourselves? How about “Presbyterian Captains Fantastic, Dust Repelling, Joy Celebrating, Justice Seeking, Love Making, Peace Planting, Hope Proclaiming Cache Valley-ites.” Ok maybe not that.3 Maybe we can shorten our name to this: disciples. Besides being a little easier to say (and remember), simply being a disciple, with God’s grace, is enough to shake off the dust.

2 “Teen’s ‘Fantastic’ new name ‘Super’ long” Published: Nov. 3, 2008: http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/

2008/11/03/Teens_Fantastic_new_name_Super_long/UPI-90361225751268/

3 Maybe I should reconsider. When I said this name in worship, some really liked it!

November 9, 2008

Rev. Paul Heins

First Presbyterian Church

Logan, Utah

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  • After all this time…

    Well, this is it my fellow followers of Jesus, we are returning to in-person worship at First Presbyterian Church. It has been fourteen long months of us learning to be a worshiping community in the best ways we could figure out (thank you Jesus, even for things like YouTube and Zoom). It’s been challenging for me as your pastor (I imagine Pastor Meg would say the same). It’s been challenging for all of you in faith and life and with family and friends. 

    But we’re going back to church, praise the Lord.

    Many things seem to be happening in our world at this moment. How are you handling it all? We’re opening the church doors again. There was a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis. Many of you have your Covid-19 vaccinations. It’s Springtime and the tulips are starting to bloom. The Sandhill Cranes and other migratory birds are back in the valley. So how are we doing as we process all of this? How are you doing?

    Relief? Sorrow? Joy? Sadness? 

    All of the above?

    I’ve heard several phrases of late, including ‘pandemic pain.’ I’ve felt fatigued myself. But having received the vaccination shots, I am ready to be back in our church building with you praising the Lord together. With high vaccination rates among our church members and several safety precautions, Session has voted for our return to in-person worship. Details are listed in another article inside this edition, but our first Sunday back will be Sunday, May 9th, with our regular service times of 9 & 11 a.m.

    This worldwide pandemic is not over. Not by a long shot as I watch the news from places like India and Brazil, or even Michigan. But many of us have received our vaccinations and we are implementing some practices that should allow us to worship the Lord together, safely. And to be clear (I cannot say this enough), if you do not feel safe coming to church in the near future, please continue to worship from home. I will do my absolute best to make sure our worship live-stream allows you to connect with God and connect with the rest of us from the safety of your own home. We have purchased a small and simple (yet high quality) camera that will live-stream Sunday morning worship directly to YouTube. You have the option to watch it ‘live’ as we are worshiping or watch it at a later time that is more convenient for you.

    So, what might we expect on Sunday mornings in May when we go back? First and foremost, we will be together singing, praying, and praising the Lord. Hallelujah! There will be a few changes, of course. We ask that everyone wear a mask while in the building. We will not have indoor fellowship to prevent ‘grouping’ around the food. Both services will be in Bruner Hall (this is to allow for social distancing). We will initially space chairs out in groups of one, two, three, four, etc. (please find a group of chairs that matches your household). Our air handling system will be on during the service. We won’t use hymnals so that multiple people aren’t touching them each morning (lyrics will be in the bulletin and projected onto the wall). And finally, if you are feeling under the weather, we ask that you please be extra-considerate of your fellow worshipers and remain home.

    Every day of life is a new endeavor. The same is true for us in this process of returning to worship. May we prayerfully and carefully take actions that promote good community health, along with our spiritual health. Thank you for your patience with us, and I look forward to seeing every one of you, whenever that might be.

    —Pastor Derek

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