Sermon: Scattered Shards by Rev. Brian Merritt

Mark 9:30-37
9:30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it;

9:31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”

9:32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

9:33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”

9:34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.

9:35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

9:36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them,

9:37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

When I left Louisiana I was a broken person. I felt defeated, I was in the midst of an addiction that I was unwilling to admit and I was suffering from serious health issues. Carol was asked to consider taking a job in Barrington, Rhode Island as the Senior pastor of a medium sized church and so we decided to move. With our 1 year old daughter in tow we headed out for parts unknown. We did not have a place to live, so we graciously bunked in the attic of owned by a local Presbyterian pastor in Providence. I was now unemployed, probably unemployable in in my current condition. So, what does one do? Unable to afford childcare, living alone in an attic I became a stay at home dad.

After six months we moved into a 950 square foot house that seemed to me like paradise. My days consisted of playing with a little girl and my nights were filled with drinking. The reason this place was such paradise was that while nursing a hangover I was able to overlook the Narragansett Bay. Even better were days when Calla and I could explore the small beach that was two houses down on the end of our block.

I thought myself a poet and writer. This was my opportunity to explore myself, write the deep poetry that I was meant to unleash on the world. Many times Calla slept in a car seat while I sat in the front seat of the car, jotting down lines as I overlooked the rocks in the Atlantic ocean in Newport.

I was lonely, alone, isolated and isolating. There were days, probably weeks, that the only conversations I had were with a 2 year old and Carol when she returned late from her time at the Church. I was depressed and did not know that I was suffering from panic attacks.

What a mess. Well, it wasn’t quite true that Calla was the only person that I interacted with on a regular basis. There were other children in that neighborhood. Two in particular who loved playing with Calla. Let’s call them Billy and Jane. They would run with Calla on our small beach and I can still hear the laughter. They also made sure that Calla did not attempt to run straight into the water, as she often liked to do.

There was one thing in particular that Billy and Jane loved, that was collecting the ocean glass that had washed upon this shore. Now if you do not know what ocean glass is I will tell you. It is the shards of bottles that have entered the ocean. Yet, over time and the elements the rough edges of that glass is worn down and the glass has no sharp edges. Sometimes the glass has a frosty look. Red, green, blue, white, black, orange and clear we scoured the beach and the water’s edge to find these treasures.

A bucket was pushed into the sand in the beach’s center and when we found glass we would make an exclamation. “Green! I found a green!” “Blue! I found a blue!” “Black! Look this is a big one!” The excitement was infectious.

We were all so proud of our finds. When we were done Billy and Jane would dump the bucket out on their front porch and the mosaic of colors on the porch’s edge grew with each trip. It was beautiful to see.

This is my vision of Christ’s message. Suffer the little children to come unto me. They have so much to teach us. They are not little humans, but are full humans. If we do not learn from them we will not understand faith.

In those dark days of depression, isolation, sickness and fear I learned something that has staid with me these many years later. It was something that was taught to me by these children. They taught me how I want to view the divine. I want God to see me like they saw each one of those supposedly worthless shards of glass.

The question isn’t “Who is the greatest?” We will leave that question to the Donald Trumps. The question is “Who do we value?” The answer is always the same. We value whom the divine values. How do we value them? The first shall be last and the last shall be first. A child is more important than a dignitary. Everything in society that we know is turned upside down by the yearnings of the divine.

Each shard has beauty, it glimmers in the light a certain way. Sure it is broken, rough edged and way less than perfect. Yet, when all of these shards are laid out together they make a beautiful, chaotic and random pattern.

In my mind I imagine the divine picking me up on that beach, the broken human, the addict, the self pitying wreck, the one who too often feels absolutely worthless and exclaiming, “Brian! How beautiful! Look at how he shines when I rub the dirt off of him.” Then I am placed back with the rest of the broken, hurting, lonely shards of people of the world and we make a beautiful creation that only the divine could imagine.

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