“My mother was a church musician, and as a child we sang hymns and songs that I did not always understand,” said the Rev. Teresa L. Fry Brown at the 9:15 a.m. Tuesday morning worship service in the Amphitheater.
“One hymn we sang every Sunday for five years was ‘Blessed Assurance,’ ” she said. “I did not understand the word ‘foretaste’ as in ‘O what a foretaste of glory divine.’ But as an adult I found some hint of what it meant back in 1873.”
Her sermon title was “Taste of Assurance,” and the Scripture reading was Psalm 34:1-8, in which David was looking back on his life.
“He was reflecting on everything he was big enough to do, but it was not always right, as my mother used to say,” Fry Brown said.
David was more mature, had more regrets and had more time to reflect on his life. He could think about having to pretend to be insane to escape Saul. David escaped but his enemies came after him, lied about him and sent minions to take him out. But David remembered to trust in God.
“Have you ever been in that space where you have to pretend you are someone you are not in order to survive, to have your intellectual capacity dismissed to avoid critique, to silence your religious convictions?” Fry Brown said.
Psalm 34 is a hymn of David’s experience of not being who God intended except through God’s forgiveness, which he did not think he deserved. In this psalm, “he shared his spiritual and faith testimony, to try to help someone else,” she said.
Fry Brown repeated the phrase “I will bless the Lord at all times,” changing the emphasis on each word and syllable.
“I am glad God kept me on my faith journey at all times — every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year, century, millennium,” she said. “I will bless God at all times, not just the good news times. I will revere God with every breath.”
She asked the congregation to think about the attention span of a human, about 8.25 seconds, and that of a goldfish, about nine seconds.
“Most of my students have an attention span of 10 to 15 minutes,” she said. “What is your amount — 140 characters, a YouTube video, Facebook, a liturgist, a preacher?”
It would be wonderful if we gave thanks with the same energy that we use to kill or critique people, she said.
“Across the ages I will magnify the Lord; the Lord has been better to me than I have been to myself,” Fry Brown said. “Sometimes the thanks is just a whisper, and sometimes it is just a thought.”
She called on the congregation to worship together, to tell their stories, to weep their own tears, wipe their own snot, rock and sing and reflect on the beauty that God has kept them. One size does not fit all and “you don’t need a resume, a vitae and title, God knows what you need. God never put you on hold or referred you to another god. You know who God is; he is always able to deliver. Taste and see.”
Fry Brown likes to cook; it relaxes her, and she called cooking a “tangible, tactile, taste-full reflection of love that my friends and family can enjoy.” Each taste bud responds to a different stimulus — sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Smell and temperature add to the sensation.
“When you just use the tip of your tongue, you are not fully committed, and if you take a spoonful you know it will be good,” she said. “Sometimes you eat the whole meal before you stop. Our relationship with God is like the taste of a meal: sometimes it is sweet when we get what we prayed for, or bitter when we are filled with disappointment.”
God designed our taste buds to be replaced every two weeks, and even though as we mature things don’t taste as they used to, the taste is never totally lost. David experienced God’s “Yes, no and wait” and he still trusted God.
The good news is that God is listening. Fry Brown delivered a litany of the people whose lives God touched: Shiphrah and Puah, Moses, Samuel, Vashti, Esther, David, Abigail, Ruth, Hannah, the widow of Zarephath, Leah, Hagar, Jonah, Rahab, Deborah, John, Mary of Magdala, Martha and Mary, the man beside the pool and Saul who became Paul.
“God gave them all a foretaste of glory divine,” she said.
God knows what we need and continues to deliver us. God endows us with the Holy Spirit so we can walk where God tells us to walk, she said.
There is a fifth taste, umami, a savory, pungent taste.
“We need to rest and savor God’s grace,” she said. “We need to let it settle on our spiritual taste buds and remember what we already know. Stop fast-fooding God, stop trying to avoid the bitter and only have a Muppet, happy, happy time.”
We have experienced the bitter, she told the congregation, and we are still standing.
“You need to walk down your own spiritual street and retrace your steps and say, ‘This is my story, I am still here. God met me more than halfway,’ ” she said.
Look at the smile on God’s face when you say thank you for what God has already done.
“God’s mercy endureth forever, and ever, and ever, and ever. And let the people say, ‘Amen,’ ” she said.
Deacon Ed McCarthy presided. IOKDS scholarship student Victoria Childress read the Scripture. She is studying civil engineering at Texas A&M University. At A&M, she is on the staff of Christian Engineering Leaders, which advocates for and supports students in their faith in a field where that isn’t always widely accepted. Victoria is a recipient of the Texas Branch Scholarship. The Jackson-Carnahan Memorial Chaplaincy and the Harold F. Reed Sr. Chaplaincy provide support for this week’s services. The Motet Choir, under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, sang “The 23rd Psalm” by Bobby McFerrin. McFerrin dedicated his rendition to his mother.