progressive church logo
honey dripping, lemons, the tao of pooh title

The Tao of Pooh 5 – The Tao of Christ, P’u

July 31, 2022

In this last of our series, Rev. Heather shares stories from camp that reveal how dark reveals Yahweh’s light, how El formed us, and how Elwah is with us wherever we go.

Scripture: Psalm 139: 1-13; 23-24

Sermon Text (Full)

Today we are going to get to a core teaching of the way of Christ.  The words I’m about to read are not Jesus’ own; but as a Jew, he would have known them.  They come from the Hebrew poetry book, the Psalms.  In this passage, we are invited into an intimate relationship with an ever-present God. 

Psalm 139

1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

    you discern my thoughts from far away.

7 Where can I go from your spirit?

    Or where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;

    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

9 If I take the wings of the morning

    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

10 even there your hand shall lead me,

    and your right hand shall hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

    and night wraps itself around me,”

12 even the darkness is not dark to you;

    the night is as bright as the day,

    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;

    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;

    test me and know my thoughts.

24 See if there is any wicked way in me,

    and lead me in the way everlasting.

You cannot read this scripture without feeling the joy of the Psalmist.  Everywhere he looks, there is God.  And, God isn’t like Oxygen, just present in our atmosphere; God is a knowing presence. 

Verse 4 begins this theme of knowing.  The name of God here is Jahweh. 

 

Jahweh, you search me and know me.

Reverend Bob Arthur, a member of NLBCC, one who reads Biblical Hebrew and Greek daily, taught in our Bible Study that in Hebrew there is no tense for verbs—no past, present, or future forms.  Instead, the only choices Hebrew allows are choices of complete or incomplete action.  Here the verb, Yahweh, “I am”, is in the incomplete form.  Thus it has the meaning of I was, I am, and I will be.  Jahweh is without end. 

To view Bob’s full teaching check it out HERE

To sum up, there were two other names used for God in Psalm 139.

Elohim is an oft-used name for God in the Old Testament.  It is a plural noun, like “they” and Elohim is not used at all in Psalm 139.  Instead, El, the masculine singular form of Elohim, is used in verses 17 and 23. 

 

Elwah, the feminine singular form of Elohim is used in verse 19. 

In Psalm 139, God is both male, El, and female, Elwah, and God, Yahweh, is a continuing presence in our world.  This is what Jews of Jesus’ day believed.  It is the soil out of which Jesus grew.  It undergirds the Tao…the Way…of Christ. 

In Psalm 139, Jahweh who is and was and ever will be knows your innermost being, for El/Elwah formed you and set before you all of your days.   

As my friend said, that kind of intimate knowing is really comforting because God is good to be known.   And, it is really scary, because it means God knows even the parts of ourselves we rather hide. 

Notice, that there is no fear in Psalm 139.  It is a celebration of a creator’s love so deep and so broad that there is no way to run from it.

Which is a belief which is remarkably different from other faiths.

In this sermon series, we’ve been looking at lessons from Taoism using that little book The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.  Taoism provides us fodder for our own faith because Taoists, like Christians, enter the world looking to learn.  Taoists seek harmony with the universe.  The universe is their teacher.

In contrast, Christians enter the world looking to learn from one who loves and adores them, the same one who created them and the universe, and the same one who leads them in the everlasting way.  We seek the love for and of God.  Jahweh is our teacher. 

  

Today we’ll note three things from Psalm 139 which guide us on the Tao of Christ. 

1.      Yahweh is present in light and shadow.

2.      El’s hands formed us.

3.      Elwah knows all.

Yahweh is present in light and shadow 



11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

    and night wraps itself around me,”

12 even the darkness is not dark to you;

    the night is as bright as the day,

    for darkness is as light to you.

I just returned from being a counselor at Junior Camp at Loch Leven, the Pacific Southwest Disciples Summer Camp.  Because of that, my illustrations today come from camp. 

Part of the counselor’s responsibility was to lead our Family Group in activities and conversations around God.  I was gifted with a co-leader named Zoe.  Zoe is an art teacher.  On the day we were talking about expectations, I had run out of activities.  The catapult made with popsicle sticks held together by rubber bands did not work well enough to keep the children’s interest for another hour.  It did not meet our expectations.  I asked Zoe if she had an idea of what we could do in our afternoon session.  She said, “yes, I do.”

That afternoon, she taught us this.  I’m drawing a box with two squares, coloring in the squares so that they are dark.  What do you see, she asked?  One child saw it immediately.  It took the others a little longer…it is an “H”.  She actually drew out God Loves Me. 

Our expectation is that the meaning will be found in what we are drawing and, instead, it is found in what we leave alone.  The darkness reveals the light. 

At camp, that first night, a camper in my cabin struggled mightily with homesickness and anxiety.  She couldn’t sleep.  I tried everything from telling her a story to laying next to her in the bed, to singing, and finally, to I’m done…just lay there quietly. Be still.  It was a BAD night—none of us got much sleep.   So the next day we had a talk. 

“I will reward you greatly if you stay still and sleep tonight,” I said. 

She asked, “what is the reward?” 

I said she could have a longer shower.  But that is no reward when there is no hot water. 

So I gave her a second option…”How about I will be so very proud of you if you sleep tonight.” 

She didn’t agree but she didn’t push for more either.  That night she did the very difficult thing of falling asleep on her own. 

When she woke, I made sure I was the first face she saw, and with tears in my eyes I said “I’m so proud of you…you did it!” 

On the last day when the camp director asked the children what they were most proud of…my girl raised her hand and said, “I slept through the night.”

Without the long night, her sleeping through the night has no significance.  The dark reveals the light. 

And so, with faith, we can go into every difficult, shadowy land, believing that the struggles in the dark places reveal what is good and holy and of God.  For the darkness is as light to you, O God. 

Yahweh is present in light and shadow and El formed us.



13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;

    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

Benjamin Hoff teaches the Taoist term Pu’.  The P’u is us in our most natural state.  In Taoism, P’u is translated as the uncarved block.  It sounds very much like what our Psalmist calls our “unformed substance.” 

There are many personality tests that seek to help us see ourselves and others…to appreciate our innate differences.  I gave my church a simple one based on the Pooh characters…and I’ve got to say that it has helped me immensely.

So at camp when the director irritated me by being so focused on details that, to me, did not matter at all, I took a breath and understood that is just how she operates.  She is an Owl with a dash of Rabbit which means she makes a plan and, once she has created it, does not change it.  My personality is more like Tigger, I operate out of trial and error, and out of what feels right.

 

At camp, we had a song leader lead the children in worship while the counselors met with the director. It frustrated me to be spending time talking about what movie we were to see on Wednesday rather than worshipping with the kids.  It felt wrong.  We should be modeling worship! 

I had to say to myself, Be still, my child in me…she can’t change this plan at a drop of a hat even if she saw how right I might be…this is just who she is.  And because she is who she is…she was able to make a plan that allowed everyone to tie dye a shirt and wear it home on Friday. 

Each of us is beautifully and individually made, handcrafted by Jahweh.    And there is room for all personalities in the choir. 

I could stop here but I won’t because it is too easy.  Repeat this after me.

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

Does it not feel a little weird…almost intrusive…like saying to God “you saw me naked?”

The Psalmist celebrates that not one bit of him is hidden from God. 

One of the boys in my family group was named Ethan.  Ethan proudly shared how he was part of a winning baseball team. One afternoon, we filled balloons with water.  You know, if the director ever asks, we were talking about baptism.

Anyways, we tossed a full balloon around awhile which broke.  And then, there was a balloon that only had enough water to give it weight.   We played the same game of tossing around.  It wouldn’t break.  So we got up and stood further apart.  Still, even if the child didn’t catch it and it fell to the ground, it stayed whole.  Finally, Ethan ran as far away as the building would allow and delighted in throwing it 30 feet to the other athletic boy in the group.  Ethan was proud of his athleticism.

But he was shy about another ability.  I had the children find a rock to sit on, I gave them a clipboard, and asked them to spend time with God.  They were welcome to draw or write to God, but the focus was to be on God. 

When our five minutes with God was over, Ethan wanted to continue because he was enjoying this quiet time of prayer.  He returned to the group, and we saw that he had drawn a dragon.  Ethan had kept the artistic part of himself hidden.  When he spent time with God, the part of himself he didn’t share, came into the light.  And it was beautiful. 

Likewise, when we spend time with God, those parts of us that we may be ashamed of, and want to keep hidden, we see them anew…even the greatest disgrace, with God, can be turned into something of beauty. 

Unlike Ethan, we are not usually hiding an inner artist but rather an inner shame.  And, yet, when we allow ourselves to see that part of ourselves through the eyes of God, shame is often replaced by awe…despite that unspeakable trial…you found the strength to endure, to grow, to live. 

It seems fitting that the Hebrew word for God, El, is also the word for strength.

El formed you; you are strong and you are beautiful. 

Jahweh is present in light and shadow; El formed you; and Elwah is everywhere! 

 

7 Where can I go from your spirit?

    Or where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;

    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

9 If I take the wings of the morning

    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

10 even there your hand shall lead me,

    and your right hand shall hold me fast.

Back to camp, on the way down from Inspiration Point, on that first night, one of the girls was so happy she was dancing.  I actually didn’t see her dancing because if I did, I would have done something about it.  We were 100 yards from the cabins when suddenly she shrieked…” my tooth!” 

I learned later that in her joyous dance the flashlight, which was hanging on her wrist, flipped up and hit her in the mouth. 

I was nearest so I took her hand and led her to the nurse’s station while she cried out “my adult tooth” through a blood-filled mouth. 

When we got to the nurse’s station, there was no nurse.  She was in the highest part of the camp helping to clean up.  I tried the walkie-talkie in the office next to her…it wouldn’t work.  No one answered.  I went back to the sobbing girl who I had left in a seat in front of the nurse’s door.   I called out and roused the nurse’s husband.  He tried the walkie-talkie, but couldn’t make it work either, so went up to find her.

Later, we found out that the nurse had turned off her walkie talking because she didn’t want voices coming through during our evening vesper time…she had forgotten to turn it back on.  That was unfortunate, but wait…

While we waited, the nurse’s high school daughter walked up to us.  She didn’t know all that was happening.  But she could see the distress on the girl’s face, so she started talking about the stars.  She showed us the big dipper and the north star that can be found at its end.  “Cool,” said the girl, holding the part of the tooth that had broken off, sitting in the chair. 

By the time our high school friend had shown us what she knew, Nurse Annie arrived. 

Now, because I look for God in all things, it seems to me that our high schooler was sent to us to help the girl through the waiting, through her time of trouble.  

I see it that way because I’ve felt that same hand guide me through my trouble, sending me people that could help me see beyond my pain, to the Creator’s beautiful creation, out there…and in me. 

Like all of creation…I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 
|

I choose…and invite you to choose…

To be held by God, seen by God, and led by God.

Choose

Yahweh who is in light and in shadow

choose…

El who formed and continues to form you and me.

Choose

Elwah who is everywhere. 

 This is the way of Christ. 

Reverend Heather DeVoe Miner, M.Div

Reverend Heather DeVoe Miner, M.Div

Rev. Heather invites you to find your best self by connecting with God's power and love, Christ's faithful community, and through serving others.

More Inspirational Reflections

woman crying, sad

Listening to God’s No

In a world where your home is the only place you can be, home, and whatever it takes to keep a home, takes center stage. Life can sometimes feel like it is all about survival instead of joy and song.
Is this you?  Is this someone you know? 

Read More »
Church Life and Ministry

Friends of Jesus

Much of what gives my life meaning is being with friends, journeying together to fight against the evils of our world, not with magic, but with the power of faith in God. 

Read More »
walking on the beach

March ON

And, so, the great exchange.  When you find yourself in sorrow or shame; in sickness or pain; when you feel the pain of a stranger whose face is on the news; when you worry about coming storms or anticipate loss; acknowledge what it is you feel. 

Read More »