This is the second of my eight week sermon series “Jensi’s Story.” In this sermon, Jensi returns to the trail bridge she visited a week ago. There she hears some surprising news.
Today is episode two in Jensi’s story. We began last week with the information that she is a 27 year-old woman, recently widowed when her husband was killed in a car crash. She is pregnant with their child, and is fearful of the future.
Unable to sleep one night, she walked the a near-by path. While standing on a bridge above a flowing stream, she heard the voice of Jesus speak to her, assuring her that she is not alone, and encouraging her to remember the promises of baptism. The voice also told her to come back to the bridge in a week, for he had more to tell her.
And so this week we find Jensi returning to the trail in the pre-dawn hours of a Sunday morning. As she walked the familiar route, thoughts rushed through her head. Had she really heard the voice of Jesus/ Or had she only imagined it? And if the voice really had spoken, would it speak again? What else was there to say? What was the message she was about to hear? She was anxious and expectant at the same time.
She arrived at the bridge. She stood in silence, waiting. Nothing was heard. She started to grow impatient, and began nervously pacing back and forth. But then she thought, “I guess this is the value of the season called Advent. It teaches us to wait patiently for the Lord.” And she found herself praying, “Come, o come, Emmanuel. Come, Lord Jesus.”
And then she heard the voice saying, “I am here, Jensi. I am happy you’ve returned. How has the past week been?”
She replied, “It was okay. Things went well at work. I slept a little better than I have been since my husband’s death. But I still miss him so much. And I’m scared to death about raising a child alone.”
The voice said, “It’s about the child in your womb that I want to speak. I intend that this child will play a special role in my work.
“This child will offer the world a vision of trust in God, peace among diverse peoples, food for every person, and care for all creation. Your child will be my servant, my witness, of a universe embraced in love. And you, Jensi, will also be my servant and witness, for you shall raise the child in my ways. You will prepare the child for what is to be done.”
“Me?” said Jensi. The look on her face conveyed disbelief and fear. “Me? How is that possible? I’m overwhelmed with grief. I have no experience as a parent. How can I raise a child to be something special? I’m nothing special myself; I’m just an ordinary, average person.”
The Voice replied, “I know that you are worn down by grief. I know that you are tired, weary, and afraid. I know that you think this is more than you can handle. But do not be afraid, for I am with you. Wait upon me, and I will give you strength.
“And Jensi,” the Voice continued, “I will also give you other people who will share with you in raising your child. Be alert for their presence in your life. You will not be alone in fulfilling the work that I give you.
“As my people in Africa like to say, it takes a village to raise a child. I will provide the village you need. Among those villagers is your great aunt Elizabeth. Go to her. Together you will know the uplifting power of my Spirit. Together you will consider how to walk my way. She will help you learn how to raise your child.”
Jensi replied, “But won’t she think I’m kind of crazy? Hearing voices by the stream and all. She’s liable to think I’ve lost touch with reality because of my grief.”
The voice said, “Just tell her what you have experienced, what you have seen and heard. She is a woman of insight and faith. Both she and you will be guided by my Spirit.
“Tell her these words: the voice of the Lord has spoken to you, telling you that your child will lead people to center their lives in God, to feed the hungry, to build bridges between people who are different, and to care for creation. Elizabeth will have insight to help prepare the child to do these things.”
Jensi began to ponder and think about all that she had seen and heard. She doesn’t know how long she stood there in silence. It may have been a few minutes; it may have been an hour or more. She was so deep in thought that she lost track of time. In her pondering, she recalled Biblical stories of God’s people going through hard times. She thought of Abraham and Sarah doubting that God’s promise would ever come true;
—of the Israelites enslaved in Egypt, crying out in their suffering;
—of Moses, and his frustrations with leading Israel during the Exodus;
—of the Jews in Babylonian exile, longing for their homeland;
—of the followers of Jesus, shattered and despairing after the death of Jesus.
She thought of all they had gone through, and yet in them, faith and hope had burst into new life.
Then her thoughts turned to her great-aunt Elizabeth. Now in her 70s, Elizabeth had passed through some difficult times. Twice she had been pregnant, but both ended in miscarriages, and she had never given birth. She had spent three years caring for her husband, whose emphysema was so bad he could only take a step or two before losing breath. Elizabeth’s life had not always been easy. Yet she was a gracious, loving woman who accepted everyone, greeted the children at church with a small gift, and kept the post office busy with the congratulatory notes and well wishes and thank you notes that she sent on a daily basis. She refused to be “old,” and so never stopped learning; most recently taking a course at the local community college on Native American cultures. And over the years, she had worn out several Bibles from constantly seeking the way God wants her to live.
Thinking of the Biblical stories, and of her great-aunt, Jensi realized that she too wanted to be part of this great parade of faithful servants and witnesses. And so she finally spoke, responding to the voice of Jesus by saying,
“Lord, you listen to my cry,
and you lift me out of the desolation of my grief.
You help me stand when I am shaky and weary;
you put a new song of hope and joy in my mouth.
You have opened my ears to your intentions for the world.
Therefore, I place my trust in you.
Continue to place your instruction in my heart,
that I may go where you would have me go,
say what you would have me say,
and do what you would have me do.
Lord, I don’t know the way,
I’m not sure where all of this is going,
the path ahead is uncertain:
but I place my trust in you.
I am your servant;
I will live according to what you have said.”
The voice replied, “Blessed are you, Jensi, for believing the word I have spoken.
“Now listen; I have a name I want you to give your child.” And the name was whispered into her ear.
The voice then said, “Go now to your great aunt Elizabeth. Go and tell her what you have seen and heard, and invite her into this good work with you.”
Next week, we’ll hear the story of Jensi’s visit to her great aunt.