31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
May 29, 2022
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
When I think about people who have turned the world upside down, of course the Apostle Paul would be on that list. While some of the status quo in Thessalonica used ‘turning the world upside down’ as an accusation, Paul turned the world upside down for the better.
With his bold faith and his trust in the Holy Spirit, Paul shared the good news of Jesus Christ, way beyond the bounds of Israel, throughout the Mediterranean, traveling as far as modern day Spain. Paul shared the good news of Jesus Christ beyond the Jewish communities located all over the Roman Empire, welcoming in faithful people of all backgrounds. As Paul changed the Church for the better with God’s extravagant hospitality, Paul changed our world for the better with Christ’s message of unity and unconditional love.
The Apostle Paul is not the only person who would make my list of people who turned the world upside down though. There are inventors and scientists like Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, and Benjamin Franklin, there are civic leaders like William Wilberforce, Harriet Tubman, and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and artists like Michelangelo and Da Vinci, Monet and Georgia O’Keefe.
And of course, there are people of faith, people like Mother Theresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mr. Fred Rogers, people of such deep faith in Jesus Christ, that love of God and love of neighbor was a part of everything they did and said.
Brad Meltzer writes a wonderful children’s book series called “Ordinary People Change the World”. Some titles in the series are I am Jane Goodall; I am Jackie Robinson; I am Jim Henson; and one of my favorites I am Amelia Earhart. The subject of each book certainly changed our world; however I am not sure I agree with the “ordinary” part. Neil Armstrong, Dolly Parton, Walt Disney. They don’t seem like ordinary people. They seem like extraordinary people who with their unique talents from God, turned our world completely upside down for the better.
Hearing their stories inspires me and also makes me feel humble. At my age, I do not foresee myself inventing something that revolutionalizes the world, like the computer or cell phone. I can’t imagine I will paint or sculpt something that will inspire people for generations. And it is unlikely I am going to start a non-profit that ends world hunger.
None of those is my calling though. Since I was 18 years old, I knew God was calling me to be here, as your pastor, connecting with God, connecting with you, connecting you with God, connecting people with one another.
It is a really blessed calling; however most days it is pretty ordinary. I send emails; I make phone calls; I write and write some more; I go to meetings; I pray with and for you. Pretty ordinary stuff. Nothing that is going to get me accused of turning the world upside down, and yet, this ordinary stuff, of caring for people, connecting with people, praying for them and connecting them with God, this “ordinary, every day” stuff, for us as followers of Jesus Christ, is really powerful, really meaningful stuff.
A few months ago, I was reading Graham Standish’s book And the Church Actually Changed: Uncommon Wisdom for Pastors in an Age of Doubt, Division, and Decline, and he shared a quote from Evelyn Underhill, a Christian writer and mystic, who lived from 1875 until 1941. She wrote:
A real man or woman of prayer, then, should be a live wire, a link between God’s grace and the world that needs it….One human spirit can, by its prayer and love, touch and change another human spirit; it can take a soul and lift it to the atmosphere of God. (Standish, pg 149)
With these words, Evelyn Underhill reminds us that we, too, can turn the world upside down for the better. It is not just famous people, inventors, scientists, artists, world leaders, celebrities who can make the world a better place. Every person, every real person of prayer, turns the world upside down and makes it better. Every prayer turns the world upside down and makes it better.
As Evelyn writes, we are a live wire, an active connection, a living link between God’s grace, God’s love and compassion and the world that needs it. And goodness knows that our world desperately needs God’s grace, love and compassion. And we can be that instrument of God’s grace, of God’s peace, simply by praying. Simply by speaking that person’s name, by holding them in our hearts, we can help.
That seems like such an extraordinary thought for such an ordinary act. It seems a little crazy that prayer could make such a difference and yet over and over again this past week, God has been telling me the truth of those words, through not only this quote but the words of my siblings in Christ. Prayer is important. Prayer helps. Prayer makes a difference.
Without knowing what I was writing about, a wonderful colleague said to me, “when we pray, we open that person (or situation) up to heaven’s resources, which are far beyond our own.” Sounds a lot like Evelyn Underhill’s words about lifting another to the atmosphere of God.
When we pray, we connect with that person or situation; we connect them to God; and we also connect them to heaven’s resources, which are far beyond our own. We connect them to grace, love, peace, healing, compassion, forgiveness, joy, and so much more.
Prayer is extraordinary. A person of prayer is extraordinary. They are a “live wire, a link between God’s grace and the world that needs it.” We are a “live wire, a link between God’s grace and the world that needs it.”
You make a difference in this world. Your prayers make a difference. They turn the world upside down – always for the better.