Sermon – 12/8/2019

Tracy Jaekel, Ed.D. 12/8/2019 Growing a LOVE Disciple Luke (21:5-19) shares dire predictions of utter LOSS… destruction of governments and beloved temples and betrayals. He stresses that God will prevail not governments or buildings. Isaiah 12 softens this message with hope. Although you, God, were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. This is a time of worry and concern. Every fear seems to revolve around loss: Our churches are losing membership, our Pastor is leaving, our cherished old churches are expensive to keep up, and even the National Methodist church may change. Our District Resource Training last Saturday offered a new way to think about this problem: Mike Breen suggested: If you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples. But if you make disciples, you will always get the church. Dr. Teel presented at a RISEM Resource Conference on Growing LOVE Disciples. What an interesting thought. I had this image of me planted deep in the earth and slowly popping up until I was a mature LOVE Disciple. What is meant by a Love Disciple? We know that a Disciple is a student and follower of Christ. When I googled Love Disciple, it referred me to Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John 13:34-35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” While it is clear that we are to Love, true love is often difficult to do. What stages of development does a student of Jesus’ Love go through to become a Love disciple? In 1Corinthians 13 Paul talks that the first stage is being like a child and then growing into a man. Seeing things unclearly from the outside and growing to see Tracy Jaekel, Ed.D. 12/8/2019 things with greater insight from the insight. In my attempt to understand the stages of growth of being a Love Disciple, I decided to use the framework of child development since this is my area of expertise. So, I’d like to share the story of Me and my growth as a LOVE Disciple. Piaget, a Child Development specialist, shares that during early infancy, babies are extremely egocentric. The infant has no concept that the world exists separate from his very restricted perspective. The baby’s caregiver and his food are all there in the world revolving around him, even though he doesn’t see them. The baby I am working with now is at this stage. I love, that he will look at me intensely with the most delighted look on his face. I’ll make a noise and he will laugh. This is LOVE. But then the little guy will shut his eyes and start screaming. He wants food and he wants it now. I was like this as new Love Disciple. I felt unbelievable love and commitment to God through my Baptism. My baptism took place at the age of 13 years after years of worrying that I would die and go to hell before I could get up the courage to be baptized. When I rose out of the cold lake after a minute of oxygen deprivation, I felt truly washed clean. Dr. Teel encourages us to revisit why we became a Christian and joined the church. I was now washed...

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December 1, 2019 – Sermon

Advent 1 December 1, 2019 Canticle of Zechariah/Luke 1:68-79, Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 1:1-6a, Luke 1:5-25 Guide our feet into the way of peace ********************************************************** Zechariah is greeted by a mighty angel of the Lord bringing glad tidings of good news. And I can relate to Zechariah – who can’t quite believe the angel’s promise…. Especially in this time of year… when I tend be moodier than usual, as the sun sets ever earlier each day. And I get more certain every day…fishing is really over and done with till Spring. Which seems a very, very long time away… And I admit… I am not a naturally ready kind-of-a-person. It typically takes me a couple hours of prayer and study every morning… before I begin to feel ready to peek at the news or answer emails. Yet, even so, the Advent season has a peculiar power… to lift my flagging spirits … As I begin singing songs of the season – almost reluctantly at first, yet, of necessity…selecting songs for Sunday worship… Quietly at first, alone early in the morning, singing softly… As I read again through Luke and Matthew’s opening chapters, many times… Becoming almost ready for Advent… But – as I open again the prophet Isaiah’s series of stunning visions of peace on earth – featured in our Advent readings this year… and on our bulletin cover art today – Sorry, but – this time of peace foreseen by the prophet seems light-years away… The hope of enduring peace on earth and good will to all that the prophet foresees and that we sing of in this season leading up to the birth of Jesus…still seems very far away… Still, I try to prepare… slowly, trying to get ready…. But still mostly not-very-ready-yet… for this understated, under-appreciated season – that, for those who somehow are prepared – can indeed come with power and it’s own unique drama. If we are prepared… We can feel it… I’ve been remembering… a visit with an elderly home-bound parishioner in one of the Vermont churches I once served…Who spent her days reading extra-large-type-font-books and watching all the birds outside her windows, who congregated at her many feeders. One day, as I visited on a late afternoon just before winter solstice, Alice said, “I know the days are still getting shorter for two more days…. But today it stayed light two minutes longer.” She’d confirmed with official data, but she knew it, she said emphatically, because “I could feel it.” That’s how I know…when it’s Advent. I know the church calendar says Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas. Meaning today, this year. But I really only know it’s Advent when I feel it… as its songs and readings start to sing back to me. *** This year I’ve been noticing a detail in the familiar story that I don’t remember having noticed before… While Zechariah the priest and the angel Gabriel are in conversation – with Zechariah, frightened and doubting – and angel Gabriel speaking with great assurance, as one who stands in the presence of God – their conversation is narrated as extraordinarily realistic – like watching a movie in virtual-reality up-close. But when Zechariah leaves the inner temple, now all the people, we’re told, can tell that he has seen a...

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November 24, 2019 – Sermon

Christ the King Sunday November 24, 2019 Psalm 65, Jeremiah 23:1-6, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43 Christ our king ************************************************************** The sign the empire hangs above the cross of Jesus says: “This is the king of the Jews.” Meaning (lest there be any misunderstanding–) this is what happens to those who preach justice – mercy – faith in the God who made heaven and earth – instead of bending knees to the worship of power, privilege, prestige and wealth – the gods of empire. This is what happens to those who bring eye-sight to the blind, forgiveness for sin, and new life to the dead. The power of the empire of this world depends on the blind staying blind – sin unforgiven – the dead staying dead. The good order of the empire depends on everything remaining in it’s proper place in the established order. The crucifixion, above all, is meant to cast fear – fear among Jesus’ followers and anyone who might be thinking to become one. Fear also for the nation of Israel. Watch out! This can happen to all of you. If you push back on the powers-that-be. And the message of fear is working. The crowds who were greeting Jesus with glad shouts of hosanna when he entered Jerusalem a week ago – crowds who hung on his every word as he taught in the temple courtyard…Have now turned against Jesus… They’ve begun to defect during the night…that starts with Christ’s last supper with disciples… and continues through the long, darkening night – as one apostle betrays him – another denies him – the rest desert him…As Jesus is arrested and put on trial before the religious leaders – and Pilate – then Herod – then Pilate again with faith community leaders and crowds under their sway together… Now the crowds watch in stunned silence as Jesus is crucified… Religious leaders who have given Jesus to Rome for execution taunt him. Soldiers cast lots for his clothing, mocking, scorning, challenging him to save himself from death by crucifixion – the cruelest, most painful and humiliating death-penalty option – reserved for murderers and rebels. Jesus, crucified with criminals, Jesus in the middle – main threat to good order… Hanging, dying…Taunted… He cries – “Father, forgive! They don’t know what they do!” One of the two bandits crucified with Jesus mocks and taunts him… But the one on the other side of Jesus has somehow seen in Jesus – something of the heart of God… that causes him to rebuke the other criminal, saying “we deserve what we’re getting for our deeds – but this man’s done nothing wrong. Crying – “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus says – “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” *** We’re celebrating Christ the King Sunday. And what kind of king is Jesus? A king so very different from all the kings of this world – that hardly anyone other than this dying criminal on the cross recognizes Jesus as king – while he’s among us in the flesh. And… It’s still hard for me to recognize Jesus as King – even with our reading from Colossians confirming Jesus truly is God’s-own-first-born-from-the-dead, who is now to have first place in everything...

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November 10, 2019 – Sermon

Pentecost 22 November 10, 2019 Psalm 145, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ephesians 4:1-17, Luke 18:9-17 ***************************************************** Jesus tells a parable – one of many – this time about two men praying. Judging by what the first man says about himself – he’s keeping all the commandments, giving the expected amounts, and doing a little extra in the spiritual practices department by fasting twice a week. As he prays he gives thanks to God (a good thing to do of course – except) – what he’s praising God for is what a good guy he is, compared to others… Including that other guy over there… That other guy who makes his living as a tax collector – working for the Roman empire that has colonized and oppressed Israel. And – all that other guy can say for himself as he prays is “God be merciful to me a sinner.” So – which one gets it right – the guy who’s sure he’s been doing it by the book? Or the one who should perhaps have the book thrown at him? And… This is an open-book exam, and the book’s open if our bulletin is open. So – we know the guy who beats his chest and asks for mercy gets it right – while the guy who puffs out his chest and recites his accomplishments gets it wrong… Next, we see Jesus correcting his disciples as they attempt to keep him from wasting his time with little children. (In those days children were loved but not regarded as sufficiently important for grown men to be concerned with.) But here’s Jesus, lifting up even infants – helpless, dependent infants – adding emphasis to Jesus’ theme of his kingdom reversing many the world’s priorities… As he instructs us in how we need to receive the great gift of God’s kingdom. Probably many of us know this parable and this teaching of Jesus. Probably most of us know the message of our reading from Ephesians in which we’re reminded to live lives worthy of our Christian calling – “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Probably we remember “there is one body, one Spirit, one hope – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all – who is above all and through all and in all” – within whose oneness we all have our unique individual gifts and graces to be employed in God’s service… Probably we know the good news of Jesus Christ better than we know we know… Because the days the prophet Jeremiah speaks of (which are recycled almost word for word in the New Testament letter to the Hebrews) are at least partly already fulfilled in Christ. God’s law of love is already written in our hearts and in our minds through the gift of faith given by grace that we have already been receiving… Yet… At the same time, we have plentiful evidence of the persistence of sin and error even in the church, even among the saints. So we know the kingdom of God, while present indeed, already, is not altogether fully here yet. And we have evidence aplenty of our need to...

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November 3, 2019 -Sermon

All Saints Sunday November 3, 2019 Psalm 150, Revelation 7:7-9, 1 John 3:1-3, Luke 19:1-10 Out on a limb **************************************************************** Last week (in Bourne) Richard Jensen, our liturgist, instead of saying the usual “Good morning” instead sang – “Good morning!” And – we all sang back– “Good morning!” “Wow,” Richard said, “I didn’t quite expect that! Let’s do it again!” And he sang“Good morning! Good morning to you!…” And we all sang back again to him – Good morning, good morning to you!…. And I remember thinking – “Wow – didn’t know we could sing so well together, without any practice or warning…” (Of course it helps that Richard, our choir director for many years, has a gift for singing in ways that inspire responsive singing…) Which is kind of how I’ve been thinking about the kingdom of heaven this week, based on our first reading from Revelation, where we hear we will all be “heartily singing” by the throne of God together… People from all tribes and nations, races and languages, singing the Lord’s song together to the Lord…and to each other… Which is also how I’ve been hearing Luke’s gospel lately. Visualizing it as a biblical musical – the words of the gospel our script – the hymns and spiritual songs of the church our musical score… And by the time We all get to heaven… We’ll all know our parts in the gospel drama so well… That we’ll be ready, willing, and able to join in singing the gospel story together, responsively – anytime, anywhere… And… Maybe it’s because we’ve just done the Halloween thing again (including hosting the town library’s costume party with the Toe Jam Band in Bourne) that I’m thinking of the characters in this gospel musical as all dressed up in slightly exaggerated gospel costumes… to help us better visualize and communicate all the ways each and every character helps tell the gospel story… And maybe I’m also thinking of children and halloween all the more because… Just a little before our gospel reading today Jesus tells us – unless we receive the kingdom of God as a little child we won’t get in at all… So – I’m remembering a children’s song about a short little guy in Luke’s gospel: Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he– he climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior passed that way, he looked up in the tree – and he said – Zacchaeus – you come down! For I’m coming to your house today. I love this little story of a wee little guy going out on a limb for Jesus, because… I remember, back when I was a small boy, I used to love to climb trees to get a view from higher ground, when the world below was getting me down. I can relate to little Zacchaeus – short in height and short-in-stature – low-down-on-the-social-spectrum, like the kid nobody wants to be seen with in school. As a chief tax collector, working for Rome, the evil empire of the day, Zacchaeus was probably filthy-rich from exploiting his neighbors – taxing them-to-the-maximum on behalf of the Roman colonial empire that ruled Israel with an iron hand. Imagine...

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Pentecost 17 – October 6, 2019

(Ps 37, Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2 Timothy 1:6-14) Luke 17:5-19 Faith, love and gratitude **************************************************************** Just before where our gospel reading begins Jesus tells us – ‘it’s better to be tossed in the ocean like fish bait, with a quarter-ton-stone-sinker attached to you – than to lead a child or disciple astray’ – and – ‘if another disciple sins against you seven times in a day and says “I repent” seven times – you must forgive each time.’ No wonder the disciples say to Jesus “Increase our faith!” But Jesus says “if you’ve got faith the size of a mustard seed you can tell a tangerine tree to tango and it will start dancing.” Faith, according to Jesus, isn’t about size. It’s about trusting God – and even a very tiny size faith is enough to do wonders. It’s a metaphor. It’s a parable. And– If we’re faithful in our relationship with God – Jesus says – we can ask in his name and God will move the metaphoric mulberry tree – into the ocean and out again. Which can sound like fun. But the follow-up example of faithfulness Jesus tells next makes me say again “Increase my faith!” As Jesus asks us to imagine having hired servants who have been ploughing and tending sheep all day long – and when they come in from the fields they’re expected to wait on you at table before eating – not expecting any thanks – saying “we are unworthy servants, just doing our duty.” Now I’ve never had any hired servants – and I doubt the first disciples did either. So I’m pretty sure Jesus intends for us to see ourselves as those servants, working in the fields of the Lord, and in God’s kitchen. Not expecting thanks for our labors on behalf of Jesus. Just saying “we’re unworthy servants, just doing what we’re supposed to do.” (There will be a time, Jesus says elsewhere, when the faithful are thanked – but that’s not to be our motivation.) But – before I can even begin to say “increase my faith!” – again – Luke the gospel writer directs our attention now to an encounter with lepers – in which – Ten lepers approach Jesus crying “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” And Jesus says, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” (Leprosy meant any kind of skin disorder considered contagious in those times. Lepers had to stay outside towns and villages, and be certified healed by priests before they could rejoin the community.) And – Now all ten lepers are healed as they go. And one – turns back – falls at the feet of Jesus, praising God, thanking Jesus. And – “Where are the other nine?” Jesus asks – “Were not all ten healed?” **** With these gospel stories before us we’re walking with Jesus on the biblical road of stewardship. Perhaps the first theme of the bible… as – In the beginning God makes human beings in the image of God, and commissions us to be stewards of creation. And in the beginning God instructs us to tend the garden – as we ourselves are tended, nurtured, taken care of by God… Stewardship means employing all our God-given gifts, grace, resources and abilities to do all God asks us to...

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