Sermons

March 31, 2019

Posted by on Apr 2, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Lent 4 March 31, 2019   Psalm 32, 2nd Corinthians 5:14-20, Luke 15:1-10, 11-32 Come home *************************************************************** Religious leaders are complaining (not for the first time) about Jesus welcoming sinners and eating with them. In response Jesus tells a four-part lost-and-found parable.  (I’ve heard the story in the past as a string of three-related parables. But this time I’m noticing Luke calls it all one parable.) And as a song sounds different depending on how fast or slow and what key and rhythm we sing it… (When the band’s in three-four time our feet want to dance a waltz… When the band’s playing with a boogie beat we dance differently…) So also with interpretation of scripture – whichever parts of the word of God get extra accents in our interpretation – wherever we hear the divine cymbals clang and trumpet calls…always influences profoundly our hearing of the word… Which I mention because… Many of us have heard this parable of the so-called prodigal son many times. (Prodigal isn’t a word the gospel writer uses – though it probably works – prodigal  means wasteful or extravagant.) We may even know this story so well we perhaps glaze over just a little, hearing it yet again…. But not everyone has heard the story. Last week I found an art blog post where one teacher said he taught college students art interpretation twenty years, always featuring Rembrandt’s painting titled “the prodigal son.” He’d always ask his students “do you recognize this story of the prodigal son? Do you know where it comes from?’ And he said no more than 20 students in 20 years knew the story, or knew it’s from the bible. In that famous Rembrandt picture, the younger son is seen kneeling at the feet of his father, whose hands embrace the son… Those who study the painting notice…Rembrandt paints one hand of the father as soft and vulnerable, like a woman’s hand… The other hand is strong and masculine, symbolizing different sides of the father-figure… To the right in the picture, standing upright, on slightly higher ground, stands the older son, looking on…. Art scholars point out many details of the picture I hadn’t noticed – like  the younger son’s shoes, falling apart, worn out, from traveling to and from a distant land… There’s much we can learn from artists who have spent much time considering a biblical theme from many angles of vision… As we consider again the parable of a prodigal family… In part one of the parable a shepherd has 100 sheep and loses one. He leaves the 99, goes looking for the one that’s lost. When he finds the lost sheep he brings it home on his shoulders, and calls friends and neighbors to join in rejoicing. And Jesus says “there’s joy in heaven over one sinner who repents – more than over 99 righteous persons who don’t need repentance.” Then in part two of our parable, a woman has ten coins and loses one. She turns on all the lights and sweeps till she finds that coin. Then she calls her friends and neighbors to join her in rejoicing… And again Jesus says “there’s joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Which sounds more than a little strange,...

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March 24, 2019

Posted by on Mar 26, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Lent 3 March 24, 2019  Psalm 63, Isaiah 55, Luke 13:6-19   **************************************************************** We’re in the season of Lent, a time, according to ancient tradition, for repentance. Repentance, meaning literally turning. Turning to God – turning from whatever distracts us from the love of God… and loving our neighbor as our self… And lent means literally Spring. The word lent comes from an old English word lencten, meaning lengthen – which was also an old English word for Spring, as in lengthening days that come with Spring. Spring has sprung. Thanks be to God. Happy Spring… But… as anyone who’s lived in New England any length of time knows – Spring is unpredictable. One minute it can be sunny and warm – half an hour later, a snow squall. Sunny again – then rain or hail… New England weather is notoriously ever-changing, especially in this season we call Spring… Yet, in spite of all the un-predictability of our seasonal weather… Most of us look forward to Spring – as among other things, a time when baseball starts up again. Song birds are back in big numbers, nesting in trees, singing their songs.. Fishing begins… .and it’s time for preparing and planting gardens. Our garden seeds just arrived this past week… Linda and Tom already have flowers blooming. Near the end of Lent Jesus prays in the garden of Gethsemane… Then on the third day, Easter begins… With Mary Magdalene searching for the body of Jesus in the garden, at the tomb in which he has been buried… Only to meet him… speaking with her in that same garden – Risen from the dead. So – perhaps it’s no coincidence – the prophet Isaiah and Jesus our Lord are both speaking in gardening language today… I picture them each out in a garden, in their gardening clothes…Shovels in hand. Isaiah comparing God’s word with the fertility of seed planted in soil, bearing fruit…Jesus comparing the turning over of garden soil… with turning to God… Using earthy language, as he talks about turning a load of manure under, mixing it well with all the dirt around this proverbial fig tree that hasn’t yet given a fig… for the owner of the vineyard in which its planted… It’s a parable – God is never explicitly named the owner of this vineyard – though vineyard and fig tree are familiar metaphors for Israel in scripture… Jesus doesn’t explicitly name himself as the gardener… The word repentance is never used….Though Jesus has been talking directly about repentance just before start of today’s gospel reading. So its not a stretch to guess… we are expected to be thinking repentance – as we hear this fig tree’s going to be cut down next year if it still hasn’t produced fruit for its owner. Which makes this a serious (even a life-or-death-kind-of-a-parable)… for this season of Spring…. Season of Lent… Meanwhile… *** Isaiah the prophet tells us up-front directly – we need to practice repentance – saying: Seek the Lord while he may be found – call upon him while he’s near – Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts – Let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them – and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon....

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March 10, 2019

Posted by on Mar 12, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Lent 1    March 10, 2019   Psalm 91, Deuteronomy 26;1-11, Romans 10:8-13, Luke 4:1-13            The Spirit Leads… *************************************************************** Lead us not into temptation – we pray every day… Yet here’s Jesus, who taught us that prayer – led into the wilderness… to be tempted… by the devil… Not led by anyone demonic. But – led by God’s Holy Spirit. What’s going on? Jesus is conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. When He’s baptized, God’s Spirit descends on him like a dove. But now here’s Jesus, filled with the Spirit – Led by the Spirit – into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. What is going on? Well – Location is a clue. In the Wilderness is the Hebrew name for what we call the book of Numbers (fourth book of the bible)… And our gospel story makes more sense as we remember – the wilderness is where Israel put God to the test for forty years… on the way to the promised land…after God led them out from slavery in Egypt… The wilderness is where God also tests Israel… to see if any will be faithful… And almost a whole generation flunks the test… And just before today’s reading, Luke the gospel writer gives a long genealogy of the ancestry of Jesus, naming Jesus as (quote) “son (as it was thought) of Joseph, son of Heli, son of Matthat…” going back, back, backwards all the way to “son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God…” Helping us remember Adam, son of God, who famously flunks the whole family of humankind out of the garden… And making a thematic connection with the devil’s refrain – “if you are the Son of God…” And yes – God the Father sends God the Holy Spirit to lead Jesus, Son of God… into the wilderness… to begin revealing the mission of the Son of God… As Jesus submits to testing on behalf of all humankind…  So that we who fail so often in withstanding temptation and testing (the same Greek word means both) may look to Jesus with confidence – Jesus who has met every test – and overcome every temptation… to show us his way of salvation… as we go with him… through the wilderness… of this world… *** The testing Jesus undergoes reveals only a little of who Jesus is. But his testing can teach us a lot… about what kind of Savior… He is not… In his refusal to work miracles on demand – or accept power and glory from anyone except God the Father – Jesus lets us know – He’s not willing to play the role of Superman…Nor any comic book super-hero…He’s not a Savior who will cater to our every desire… But in his refusal of all the devil’s offers, Jesus lets us know – He is a Son who always does the will of God the Father… As he  goes to the word of God… in every test… In our recent United Methodist Special Session on The Way Forward for a divided church, Scripture was frequently interpreted in contrasting ways. I’ve been remembering a preaching commentary I read on vacation called The Great Texts: Grace…by Stephen Farris – who preaches to preachers – to look for grace in...

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Transfiguration Sunday – March 3, 2019

Posted by on Mar 7, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Transfiguration Sunday    March 3, 2019   Psalm 99, Exodus 34:29-35, 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, Luke 9:28-36 ************************************************ This Wednesday we enter the season of Lent – a season intended for prayerful   un-hurried reflection… on the life and mission and passion of Jesus Christ. A season that’s all about deepening relationship with God. We need to be creative and persistent to fulfill these lenten goals – since the world has more ways than we can count… of distracting us from prayer…and being fully alive with Jesus… So just before Lent, by tradition, every year we follow Jesus as he takes us, with a few of his first disciples, up the mountain for prayer – where we see Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah, prophets of old – transfigured, now, in the bright blazing light of God… Peter, as so often… says more than he should… without really knowing what he’s saying… (Something I catch myself doing…also…) And as we glimpse disciples, weighed down with sleep, barely awake – perhaps we’re reminded of how they fall asleep again in the garden of Gethsemane… as Jesus is praying again… on the eve of Good Friday. Disciples struggle to stay awake even as God’s glory is revealed in front of their eyes… and they glimpse what Jesus brought them up the mountain to witness. Disciples have a hard time staying awake – even as Moses and Elijah appear, straight-out-of-heaven, talking with Jesus. (How these sleepy disciples recognize Moses and Elijah, we aren’t told. Artists portray Moses with tablets of the Law tucked under an arm, and Elijah with the fiery chariot that took him up into heaven parked in the background. We don’t know how, but somehow disciples do recognize these heavenly visitors.) But as Peter offers to build cabins for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah… Suddenly the cloud of God’s presence overshadows them all… and they are terrified… And they hear God’s voice speak from the cloud naming Jesus His beloved Chosen Son – saying – “Listen to him!” Now, finally, disciples… are silent… as they start the long trek back down the mountain…. *** This stunning encounter on the mountain must have had Peter, John and James recalling our reading from Exodus – where the face of Moses shines so brightly as he talks with God… that all the people are afraid to look at him… Disciples are feeling edgy, most likely, going up the mountain… because of that conversation with Jesus, eight days ago, when he told them he must suffer and die, then be raised from the dead… Quite possibly disciples are fearful also because they’ve been remembering how, when Moses first goes up Mt Sinai to receive the Law (Exodus 19) God tells everyone but Moses and Joshua to stay off the mountain – which is  covered with smoke and fire and cloud… and all the people are terrified… For sure, disciples remember when Moses came down the mountain and found Israel worshiping the golden calf, and Moses smashes the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them in hot anger. It takes some difficult conversation, then, for God and Moses to persuade each other… not to give up on Israel… But, thankfully, they don’t give up… and… Moses goes back up the mountain for a second round of forty...

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February 24, 2019 – Sermon

Posted by on Feb 28, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Epiphany 7 February 24, 2019 Psalm 37:1-11, 2 Corinthians 3:1(b)-6, Genesis 45:3-11,15; Luke 6:27-38 **************************************** Jesus tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who wrong us. Bless those who curse us. Pray for those who mistreat us. And far as I can tell, Jesus doesn’t  make any exceptions. He doesn’t say to love our enemies five days a week, but you can take the weekend off. He doesn’t say love all your enemies except those too evil or rotten to love. Doesn’t say love everyone except the Yankees, the Speaker of the House, the President, ISIS terrorists, or anyone we find difficult to love. Jesus allows for no exceptions to his law of love. Probably because Jesus knows how shaky even the best of people can be in their less-than-good moments. As Christian author GK Chesterton has said, “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors – and also to love our enemies – probably because generally they are the same people.” (That’s why we sing the hymn – “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…”) Jesus knows our nature – knows what he’s saying is difficult… But Jesus ratchets-up the bar of loving those hardest to love higher and higher anyway. Saying if someone smacks you on the cheek – turn the other cheek. If someone takes your coat, give the shirt off your back too. Give to all who beg from you, lend to all who ask without expecting to be repaid. All of which sounds pretty crazy – not to mention almost impossibly difficult. Though – As I mentioned last week – Jesus is speaking very seriously always –  but not always very literally. He’s not intending this sermon on the plain (that we began hearing last week) as a supplement to the ten commandments, to be carved in stone… When Jesus says to turn the other cheek he isn’t saying to endure abuse passively. In that day, for a slave struck by a master to turn the other cheek would be a way of shaming the master, designed to provoke repentance. Those abused and those who love theme should do whatever’s possible to make it stop. And when Jesus says give to any who ask – I don’t think he means give money to drug addicts or gambling addicts. Give a sandwich, give a ride to a twelve-step meeting. But money isn’t always the right thing to give…. When he says “do unto others as you would like them to do unto you” Jesus is assuming we’re not masochists who enjoy water torture. When he tells us “love your neighbor as yourself” – he’s presuming sufficient healthy self-love. We don’t have time to go point-by-point through everything Jesus says today. His main message, again, is – He’s turning the world’s values, expectations, and conventional wisdom upside down. And telling us – be like him. I’m thankful for all of you who remind me, often of Jesus, and help me become more like him – as you love and forgive and pray for everyone. Thanks God for Anne Marie (here/in our Bourne church), who reminds us often to pray for our enemies. Something so easy to forget… without frequent reminders… Which has me remembering again how Jesus...

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February 17, 2019 – Sermon

Posted by on Feb 28, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Epiphany 6   February 17, 2019   (Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17:5-10, 1 Corinthians 15:12-20) Luke 6:17-26    On the Plain ************************************************************* I used to like today’s gospel reading better than I do now. Back when I was in seminary and had very little money and few possessions and was poor… the kingdom of God was mine. I was blessed. I’m still blessed, but – woe to me now, I sometimes think. I don’t think I’m rich, but I’m no longer poor. Between my wife’s good cooking and my good appetite I’m never hungry long. I laugh more than I cry. So I hope Jesus isn’t meaning everything he says here today literally. If he is… I’m in trouble. Fortunately, I don’t think Jesus means everything he says literally. He’s always serious but not always literal… And I believe it helps to notice similarities between this Sermon on the Plain – so called because Jesus is preaching from a level place – and the book of Deuteronomy– last of the five books of the Torah/Law of Moses – which is one long sermon by Moses delivered on the plain of Moab, next-door neighbor country to Israel – just before Israel enters the promised land. Near the end of Deuteronomy (28) Moses gives half of Israel’s twelve tribes instructions to shout four blessings that will come to Israel if we obey God. The other tribes shout out four woes that will come upon Israel if we disobey God. Moses gives Israel the words of blessing and woes that he’s downloading from God –  and makes Israel chant the words back to each other. Like a parent teaching children household rules. Do not accept candy from strangers. Do not lie, cheat, steal or worship other gods. Do love God always and share with those in need. Here in Luke’s gospel Jesus stands on the Plain with a great crowd of disciples and a multitude of people from all over… and… Jesus adapts Deuteronomy’s blessings and curses framework, preaching four blessings, and four woes much like in Deuteronomy. But Jesus is not a rigid biblical literalist. The blessings and woes Jesus proclaims is a heads-up warning – the kingdom of God will turn this world upside down and downside up. But the kingdom is not a law written in stone. Nor is Jesus in any sense celebrating brutal absolute poverty. He isn’t saying there is anything good about people starving or suffering. Nor is Jesus saying we should be weeping and fasting every day. What Jesus is condemning in this Sermon on the Plain – is the idea that happiness comes from material wealth and poverty is punishment from God. Most of all, Jesus is proclaiming reversal of the world order in the coming of God’s kingdom. Building on the theme introduced by his mother in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel – where Mary sings that God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly, He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty… A theme Jesus amplifies in his first sermon in Nazareth (Luke 4) saying The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news...

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January 6, 2019 – Sermon

Posted by on Jan 10, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Epiphany Sunday    January 6, 2019   Psalm 72, Isaiah 60:1-6, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12         eyes on the star ************************************************************* A few weeks ago, reading the Barton Chronicle (the Northeast Kingdom Vermont weekly Joyce McLane subscribes to, and passes along to the rest of us with Vermont connections in our Cataumet church) – I got to a story about a panel discussion among journalists, about the state of the newspaper business in Vermont. I have  Vermont friends who are reporters… I read with interest… As most of us know, newspapers everywhere are hurting financially, mostly due to the internet. (Good local papers like the Chronicle may have a little advantage – since the internet’s not very interested in covering small town life – nor are most of the national media.) Anyway – one of the panelists was Chris Braithwaite, founder-and-retired-editor-publisher of the Chronicle… Another panelist asked him one of those Frequently Asked Questions – ‘How do you define the mission of the local paper?’ And, well prepared, Braithwaite replied: “If someone called and said Christ had returned, my question would be – ‘did he come to Orleans County?’” Panelist David Moats, retired editor of the Rutland Herald, immediately got the drift, chiming in… “And if he didn’t come to Orleans County…” “We’d let the dailies cover it,” Braithwaite said, completing the sentence… Which is sometimes a pattern even with The Good News. If Christ shows up in our town. We’ll be there. If not – maybe we’ll wait and see if he makes the evening news. *** The national religious leadership of the day knows exactly where the Messiah is to be born. They’ve got no trouble answering Herod’s inquiry – quoting the prophet Micah (5:2) – pointing to the little town of Bethlehem, a small village just five and a half miles from Jerusalem – small – but well-known as home town of King David – and final resting place of Rachel, wife of Jacob (whose other name is Israel) – and the setting for most of the book of Ruth. But either religious authorities are thinking so extremely local that even five-and-a-half miles away is too far off to be local news they’re willing to cover…. Or – Maybe these Magi look so out-there – so very not-from-around-here – what with turbans, funny hats, strange clothing, maybe different skin color… that our national wise men don’t trust these wise men from afar to be reliable sources. They decide, perhaps, anyone looking like this, and following a star has got to be dispensing fake news…News designed to make them look bad… And yes, possibly some cultural profiling is happening here… Because if this new king-to-be-of-the-Jews is not fake news – this is not good news for King Herod – who likes to think of himself as king of the Jewish territories – though he himself has never been anything close to a practicing Jew. And if Herod isn’t king, perhaps the resulting government shut-down will cost the religious leaders who advise him and kiss up to him their jobs… So – let the Persian Times or the Roman Herald cover the baby story. We don’t think it’s news… in Jerusalem. ******* I enjoy gazing into the night sky… (Most often I get to do this when I’m out fishing.) It’s...

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December 30, 2018

Posted by on Jan 1, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Christmas 2   December 30, 2018   Psalm 85, Isaiah 49:1-6, Colossians 1:15-18, Luke 2:41-52          In our Father’s house ************************************************************** Even Jesus goes through a bit of a difficult growing-up phase. (Thankfully, for his parents, it only lasts three days.) But – here, today, we see Jesus – twelve years old – going on thirty… Jesus and his family have gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the annual week-long festival of Passover – as was his family’s practice every year. But this year, on the way home, his parents notice they haven’t seen Jesus all day. They search for him among family and friends. People typically traveled together as extended family-and- friendship-groups in those days (as some still do). It wouldn’t be unusual for older children to travel together a bit apart from grown-ups and younger children for much of the day. (That still happens.) But when Jesus still hasn’t shown up at the end of the day at the campsite, now there’s cause for alarm… So his parents anxiously return to Jerusalem to search for him in the morning… (The full day’s journey they’ve gone towards Nazareth, and the full day’s journey back to Jerusalem probably count as part of the three days in which Jesus is missing. Though the gospel doesn’t seem interested in explaining chronology for us…) On the third day they find Jesus, finally, in the temple with the teachers of the Law and Prophets of Israel. Listening to them and asking questions. In the next breath we’re told – all who heard Jesus were amazed by his understanding and his answers – suggesting that already, as it will be later, his questions and his answers are essentially inseparable… Doubtless Mary and Joseph are also astonished. Though not exactly overjoyed, I expect, to find Jesus here like this – having disappeared, it seems, without having said good bye. I can’t imagine his explanation, “Didn’t you know I must be in my Father’s house?” could have been much comfort for his parents. And when St Luke tells us “his mother treasured all these things in her heart” – it catches my attention – thinking, for me, as a parent, this would be a bit like treasuring a memory of surviving a car crash. But I’m not Mary – I can’t know all that was in her heart… Though I do remember… Luke’s gospel has mentioned Mary pondering several times previously. Pondering when Angel Gabriel tells her she’ll become the mother, though still a virgin, of a holy child who will be called Son of God. Pondering again, and this time treasuring also the words she hears when shepherds show up on the night of nativity, testifying of a host of angels appearing to them, proclaiming her son’s birth. (This latter pondering and treasuring is our Thought for the Week). I have no trouble envisioning Mary pondering, again, this Jesus coming-of-age episode – though this time St Luke’s word treasuring – seems like a stretch. But pondering – treasuring, whatever we call it – here’s our heads-up sign of what lies ahead… As Jesus lets his parents – and us along with them – know – he’s already got the vision of his life’s work – as he tells us he must be in his Father’s house – doing his...

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December 23, 2018

Posted by on Dec 28, 2018 in Sermons | 0 comments

Advent 4   December 23, 2018   Psalm 98, Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-4, Luke 2:1-20          How beautiful are the feet ************************************************************** Long ago, the letter to the Hebrews reminds us, God spoke to us through the prophets. God still speaks through the prophets – especially, in this season of Advent, through the prophet Isaiah – whose scroll the early church sometimes called “the fifth gospel.” The prophet Isaiah proclaims “how beautiful are the feet of the messenger… who – announces peace – who brings good news – who announces salvation…” But in these last days, Hebrews says, God has spoken to us by his Son – whom he has appointed heir of all things – through whom he has created all the worlds. Which is one very big download. No wonder sometimes we’re a little slow…in  figuring out how best to be messengers of… God’s stupendous grace… It’s difficult to visualize God’s peace unfolding in this war-torn world. Hard to picture God’s good news triumphing over all the world’s bad news… God’s full salvation prevailing over the world’s despair… Yet in this darkest time of the year we are reminded – God’s ways are different from our ways. As the Son of God Most High is born to a young unwed mother in the lowliest of circumstances. No room in Bethlehem for the Son of God to be born… except a stable. Where his mother lays him in a manger for his cradle. And… some time… late in the middle of that night…A band of shepherds, strangers to Mary and Joseph, glimpsing, perhaps, light shining dimly in the stable… Enter… and quietly draw near… to see this child wrapped in bands of cloth… lying in a manger…The child of whom they’ve heard angels speak… And sing… *** The Christmas story is still so very strange and beautiful… But often the story gets so mixed together with the mythologies of the commercial Christmas season… that the story sounds either so long-ago-far-away… or so overly familiar in not-very-beautiful-ways… that the story becomes hard to hear…Hard to find our part in. Unless – we’re young, pregnant, poor, about to give birth… Or homeless, not sure where we’ll lay our head tonight… Or accustomed to long, searching, silent conversation with God… Or used to noticing the merest whisper of God’s Spirit… Used to God leading us in strange directions… If any of this is part of our experience… Maybe we can identify with Mary and Joseph… Or…perhaps if we’re a night-shift worker used to being outside at night for long hours… A night watchman… a fishermen or sea-farer out at sea… a police man or woman on night patrol… Perhaps if we’re used to looking up in the night sky a lot… Listening… to every shift in wind and weather… We can identify with the shepherds… Watching flocks by night. But for most of us Christmas can be a difficult time to hear the genuine Christmas story… Unless some how the story catches us by surprise… And we find ourselves… anew… caught up… in the story. *** I’ve prayed and read the Christmas story…Sung the songs of Christmas… many times these past few weeks getting ready… Still I’ve found myself far more often than I had hoped… suffering various forms of seasonally-affected-dysfunctionality. Which is...

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December 9, 2018

Posted by on Dec 15, 2018 in Sermons | 0 comments

Advent 2   bournecataumetparish.org/?p=2626 (Canticle of Zechariah, Isaiah 9:1-7, Philippians 1:3-11)    Luke 1:26-38   Then the angel… ************************************************************ Then the angel departed from her… Leaving Mary to ponder what has happened… And what she has heard… and what she’s said… I’ve got no doubts as to the truth of the words of St Luke’s gospel…But I can’t help wondering about the rest of the story – the parts undisclosed – like, what can Mary have been thinking? – as this encounter with the angel happens…And I can’t help imagining Mary asking God – and asking herself – “‘Did this really happen?’ (And… realizing yes, it surely did – did I really say – ‘yes?’”) Remembering… There was no way in those days for Mary to snap a selfie with the angel. Even if there had been, would the image of the angel be visible to anyone but Mary? I’m very sure we don’t see or hear everything God is doing…. We don’t see or hear everything God keeps inviting us to see and hear… And quite possibly God chooses Mary partly because she is a very good listener… (but…) We have no way of knowing what may have gone through Mary’s mind. The bible  respects our privacy and seldom discloses our innermost thoughts (except where not to tell would be worse than telling). We get to overhear only these brief snippets of conversation between the angel Gabriel and young Mary – engaged, not yet married, still a virgin – now, suddenly, invited to become mother of a child to be named Jesus who will be called Son of God, who will inherit the throne of his ancestor David and rule over the house of Jacob forever… And ‘not to worry’ the angel tells her – ‘all this will happen by the power of God’s Spirit. The child to be born to you will be holy.’ And as the moment of encounter is fulfilled… I picture Mary praying silently, urgently… and God’s Spirit stirs within her… and the assurance of God’s presence comes over her….And I imagine… the first word that comes to Mary is a deep, almost silent – Wow. The whole conversation’s takes only a few moments…   But… this very short conversation between Mary and God’s messenger turns out to be more than enough…. to keep the universe pondering ever since…  what has now begun… in this invitation from God Most High…and… This yes – let it be with me … response… from Mary. ***** Getting to Yes with God seldom goes anywhere near as quickly for most of us… as it seems to go with Mary… I often feel guilty about how slow I am to listen and hear what God is asking. And I’m probably a little afraid of some of the things I imagine God might ask. Still, I resolve, often, to try to do better at listening. So it was good for me, last Thursday, when Pastor Sandra Smith and I attended a workshop on prayer, led by Kristen Vincent with Upper Room Ministries (publishers of The Upper Room daily devotionals). As we went around the room answering Kristen’s opening question – “What is prayer for you?” – I was relieved to hear it’s not just me – a lot of us talked about prayer...

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