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When trusting God ‘is all we can do’

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) celebrates the gifts of women

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Terrlyn L. Curry Avery

LOUISVILLE — To celebrate the gifts of women, worshipers gathered online Wednesday to hear a Sprit-filled sermon from the Rev. Dr. Terrlyn L. Curry Avery, pastor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Massachusetts. Watch the entire service here.

The service, co-hosted by Presbyterian Women Inc. and Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, centered on the 2022 theme “And a Sword Will Pierce Your Own Soul.”

Led entirely by women, the service exhibited the gifts women throughout the Presbyterian Mission Agency and Presbyterian Women Inc. bring to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). One of the service’s unique aspects was the passing the peace. The worship leader asked online worshipers, “What gives you peace?” Individuals were invited to respond to the question in the “chat” feature of the Zoom platform. Worshipers replied with words and phrases like “acceptance,” “if we are children of God, then we are heirs of God,” “knowing God is in charge,” “a cup of tea” and “the sound of a sweet child’s voice,” an acknowledgement of the song sung by a little girl during the service.

Using 1 Samuel 1:3-18 as the text for her sermon titled “When Trusting God is All We Can Do,” Curry Avery said, “In the beginning of today’s scripture, we find Hannah in a barren place, seemingly feeling sad, perhaps alone and dejected. And we imagine feeling a little rejected because in those days it was not easy to be a barren woman.”

“The Bible is replete with story after story of a woman being looked down upon if she had no children,” she said. In this case, she said, we see Hannah’s husband’s other wife, Peninnah, taunting her. “But Hannah understood that if she were to overcome her situation, she must put her problems in God’s hand,” Curry Avery said. “She must trust God, something that is critical for each and every one of us.”

Curry Avery reminded worshipers that we may have prayed for an accomplishment or to be healed from broken-heartedness, or to be lifted from spiritual darkness to what seemed to be no avail. “Maybe some of us here right now, some of us who are listening over the social media, might be in a place where it seems like we just can’t do anything right,” she said.

“Maybe some of us are in a barren field place with pain because our loved ones are suffering mentally, physically, medically, and we simply don’t know how to help them,” she said.  “Sometimes we remain in a barren place because of something that haunts us from 20 years ago, something that we hold on to with a family member, even though they may be dead and gone. We have regrets for some, something that we said, did or didn’t do.”

“There are times in which we might be overwhelmed with emotions and heartbreak, learning to live with the pain that might be just underneath the surface,” Curry Avery said. “Perhaps some of us have been in that place like Hannah where others have criticized us, especially in our fights for justice. For others, or even ourselves, folks may not understand why we talk about racism, sexism, ableism, or any other form of ‘isms.’”

She encouraged worshipers by noting that like Hannah, we can’t wallow in the negativity that’s going on around us. We have to get up from the metaphorical table and remove ourselves from surroundings that will swallow us up, “and sometimes that means that we have to turn off the social media and the news, the surroundings that make us feel badly about ourselves and tell us that we’re not worthy or good enough, or we have nothing to offer, surroundings that only highlight what we don’t have,” she said.

“Now I want to hasten to add that I’m not suggesting that we live in a bubble of being uninformed or fail to address our issues because that’s important,” said Curry Avery. “I’m not suggesting that we engage in spiritual bypassing either. But it is necessary for us to remove ourselves from negativity and go to that place where we can find healing.”

According to Curry Avery, the place where we can find healing begins with God. Like Hannah, we must remove ourselves from the table and go to the temple or to the church, she said. “And I think going to the temple and to the church is great, because prayerfully going to the temple will help to reinforce the love that God [has] for us,” she said. “But I want to tell each of you this morning: You don’t have to go to the temple to meet God, because you can meet God anywhere. And guess what! That place is in your heart.”

“Whether we’re in a place of bitterness today, or praying for someone else who is, when we go to God in our quiet place, be persistent in our prayers and trust God to answer prayer,” she said. “Beloved, sometimes trust in God is all we can do.”

Worship leaders and members of the planning team included Jewel McRae, the Rev. Alexandra Zareth, So Jung Kim, Jashalund Royston, Susan Jackson Dowd, Beth Olker, Betsy Ensign George, and Stephanie Vasquez.

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