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12/1/2019: Hope in Joy

Posted by on Dec 5, 2019 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

Season      Advent 1 Date        12012019 Scripture     Isaiah 2: 1-5         Romans 13: 11-14  Prayer    Loving One, as we begin this new season, this time of fresh                 beginnings, we ask for your blessings upon us.  Blessings that help us             to prepare to move beyond the loss and struggle of                     this past year, and look hopefully into a new year with joy.                  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our                     hearts be pleasing to you, our Love and our Life. AMEN The Hope in Joy Today is the first Sunday of Advent and the beginning of the liturgical year.  During Advent we spend 4 weeks preparing for the coming of Christ. However, the term “the Coming of Christ” is intentionally ambiguous.  In fact, there are three “comings of Christ,” that date all the way back to the theology of St Bernard of Clairvaux in the early 12th Century.  According to St. Bernard, Christ comes first as an infant on Christmas morning.  We hear this anticipated through the prophetic words of Isaiah, announcing a time of peace on God’s holy mountain, a time when swords are beaten into plowshares, when war will cease.  The birth of a savior and a season of hope when Christ walks on earth, teaches and preaches. The second way that we speak of “the Coming of Christ” is often called “The Second Coming.”  The return of Christ is a hopeful time when we anticipate Christ’s physical return to earth. Perhaps you are familiar with the eerie poem by William Butler Yeats:  Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand. (The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert A shape with lion body and the head of a man, A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. The darkness drops again; but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?) Today we heard from Paul in his letter to the Romans encouraging us to wake from our sleep, to prepare for our salvation, to, by George, regain our sense of conviction about our world.   To treat people, not according to the Golden Rule, but to treat them according to the platinum rule, that tells us to treat others as they would like to be treated. Not only that, but to be found treating others and all of creation just this way when Christ returns.  “Surely the Second Coming is at hand.” The Christmas Carol, Joy to the World, is about this second coming of Christ.  “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come!” Even more surprising, the carol is based on a psalm, a writing that predates even the first coming of Christ!   Originally, it was written by Isaac Watts, who was an English poet and outspoken clergy person.  He paraphrased the carol and...

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11/24/2019: Hunger, Thirst, and Satisfaction

Posted by on Dec 5, 2019 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

Season       Reign of Christ/Thanksgiving Date        11/24/2019 Scripture      Deuteronomy 26;1-11         John 6: 25-35 Prayer    Loving Christ, we come to the table hungering and thirsting.          Give us this day the food that satisfies and the drink that             quenches.  For it is in your holy name that we trust.  AMEN. Hunger, Thirst and Satisfaction This morning, the front of our sanctuary is full of food.  Food that will fill the stomachs of so many hungry children and adults in Chittenden County.  Food that will find its way to tables on Thanksgiving and beyond. We celebrate our ability to offer food to those who struggle to feed their families.  It is not unusual for our church to donate hundreds of pounds of food to the Chittenden County food shelf every month. We can be satisfied that we are doing good work here at home. Throughout the world, however, food insecurity is on the rise, particularly in almost every African nation, and it is growing at an alarming rate in South America. Worldwide, 1 out of 9 people is undernourished.    Lack of nutrition is not the only way our world is starving.  We are hungry people living in a hungry world. It seems that even more than 1 in 9 people is looking for something that will sustain and nourish them.  More than 1 in 9 people is looking for the bread that satisfies. Think about the kinds of bread being eaten in our world today.   The bread of violence and war in the Middle East and Africa.  The bread of anger, dishonesty and hostility among our political partiesThe bread of depersonalization that sends legitimate asylum seekers to other countriesThe bread of unrest that is shaking countries like Colombia, Chile and Bolivia and ChinaThe bread of hurt feelings and resentmentThe bread of loneliness and isolationThe bread of fear in a world that seems to become more complicated every day. The bread we eat tells us something about our appetites.  And although the world is full of bread, too many live lives that are hungry, empty and searching.   That may be that we are most concerned with our own appetites.  The appetites that yearn for the food that satisfied yesterday and yesteryear.   “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves,” Jesus says to them. Will our thanksgiving feasts cure our hunger and our thirst?  Will that meal satisfy our cravings? Do we even know what we crave?     Is it turkey and stuffing, gravy and potatoes we crave?  Or is it a closer walk with God?     Will we be hungry again on Black Friday, rushing out the door to shop as soon as the stores open their doors?  Like strugglers and stragglers everywhere:  in animal shelters, homeless shelters, refugee camps, rehab hospitals.  All of us reaching for a sign, that there is reason to hope in tomorrow, to keep going on the long journey. That hope comes in the food that satisfies?  The food that is Jesus Christ. The food that is broken so it might be shared with the entire world.  The drink that never runs dry.   But, we say, how will that stop the worldwide hunger that ravishes the world? When we believe in the teaching of Jesus Christ, when we experience Christ fully, even to the extent of eating, drinking, ingesting and taking him into our whole lives, we begin to live differently.  We can never again depersonalize another due to their country of origin,...

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11/10/2019: Looking With Gratitude

Posted by on Dec 5, 2019 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

Season      22nd Sunday after Pentecost Date        11102019s Scripture    Acts 4:32-35 Prayer Week 4: “Looking with Gratitude” For the past 3 weeks we have talked about the integration of spirituality and money. Using some of the best resources around, the Bible and It’s a Wonderful Life, we have considered the many ways we, as well as others around us, and the world we live in,  relate to money. We have looked back to determine how our past has influenced our spending and giving habits. We have looked inward to determine our values. We have looked out to see if our values align with our spending.   I think we agree that we live in a system of money that is quite a bit larger than we are.  In fact, on our first Sunday of this series we compared our money system to the East African legend of King Sulemani and the giant whale.  It is bigger than a mountain with an appetite equally enormous.   We don’t have the power to change the system alone, but through our spiritual disciplines, like meditation, journaling, walking, meeting with others, researching possibilities, many of us together can make small changes.  And small changes lead to bigger ones.   I am not suggesting that we should choose to share all things in common like the early Christian community.  The early Christian community expected Jesus’ return sooner rather than later and so their communal practices of selling everything may have actually led to some unfortunate surprises down the road. But let’s not dismiss the story because of their expectations.  Instead, let’s acknowledge their faithfulness and gratitude that invites the kind communal living in which no one is left out, no one feels alone, no one fears for their well-being. Even today, we find people of all ages coming together in communal housing situations to make life more affordable.  And in so doing, avoiding the latest health epidemic, loneliness. The true richness of a wonder-full life may be this sort of communal living that avoids the pitfalls of loneliness. We wonder at the companionship and hospitality Jesus’ followers offered  everyone in all walks of life. It doesn’t matter if we “have it all” or don’t have “two pennies to rub together.” The more we cultivate relationship in our lives, the more we increase our chances that we will be loved and supported and will have the opportunity to pass it on. This is what Christ called the beloved community, the reign of God, and our participation increases our constant and enduring hope and gratitude. We do this in a micro way when we participate in the church, when we offer a portion of our income to the good of the community, when we join together to put on a bazaar, when we donate food to the cornucopia and local food shelves (both South Burlington and Chittenden Country).  Yes, all of these are micro expressions of the beloved community, a different financial arrangement than King Sulemani’s giant whale of a system. A way of saying that we yearn for a system of money is not about “dying with the most toys and investments,” but about leaving something for the next generation to have a model of how to use money that will help the generation after them, and so on. Today, there is a growing movement toward alternative economies based on relationship and people.  One that emphasizes a reduction in consumerism and a focus on minimalism (think Marie Kondo). I see a rise in socially responsible investing, financial literacy in schools, ecological and green business.  This movement is...

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11/3/2019: Looking Out

Posted by on Dec 5, 2019 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

Season      21st Sunday after Pentecost Date           11032019 Scripture      1 Timothy 6:17-19 Prayer    Merciful and loving One, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to you, our greatest love.  AMEN. Week 3: “Looking Out” Today is the Sunday that we observe “All Saints Day.”  In the early church, All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows, was a commemoration of the martyrs, those who gave their lives for the faith.  In the Middle Ages, it became an occasion to honor all of the saints, particularly those who didn’t have a saint’s day of their own in the church calendar.  During the Reformation and its insight that all Christians, while being sinners are also saints, the holiday became an occasion to reflect on all of those who have passed from this life into the next, especially friends and family members who have died.   It is a kind of Memorial Day in the Church, a time that we remember the people who have gone before, the gifts they gave freely, the love they shared, and the sacrifices they made, so that we might have the many riches we enjoy today. Those riches may be as simple as a healthy outlook on life, the building we are worshipping in, or the endowments that have seen us through difficult times so that we might continue to be community, together.  These saints were looking out. They saw beyond today or even tomorrow, but into the long term challenges that they imagined for their friends and family.  Their vision and wisdom was the basis for the benefits we enjoy today.   This morning you heard from Peter and George Bailey, the father and son from the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.  We have been following them through this 4- week sermon series as we consider our relationship with money. The Baileys’ have a vision for the community of Bedford Falls, just like the saints had a vision for us, for our church and our community.  That vision included everyone having a roof over their heads. In the movie, George Bailey makes multiple sacrifices to move toward that vision, much like the early Christians who shared all of their belongings.  It is true that the early Christians were meant to be a counter-cultural movement concerned with a more equitable distribution of resources and care of those who needed help the most. But this did not mean that those who had money could not help the movement. Benefactors were essential to the spread of Christianity and support of teachers and apostles. Money, when coupled with alignment of values and vision for a more just world, results in the kind of generosity that gives life not only to the Church, but to the giver.  As Paul tells us in his letter to Timothy, Christians did not criticize material wealth as much as the attitude of the person owning it.  Does material wealth get in the way of putting one’s trust in God? Is it a hindrance in following Jesus? Without the financial resources of those with means who are willing to share, the Christian movement and the Church would have crumbled long ago.  Rather, those who have resources “are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” We hear a similar message resonating in John Wesley’s sermon, “The Use of Money.”  The Father of Methodism clearly...

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10/27/2019: Looking In

Posted by on Dec 5, 2019 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

Season:      20th Sunday after Pentecost Date:        10272019 Scripture:    Matthew 6: 19-24 Prayer:    Most merciful One, you know us better than we know     ourselves.  Help us as we explore our relationship with one another     and with money.  May we use our money to make our lives truly full of     wonder.  May my words be pleasing to you, and our hearts and minds     aligned to your will.  AMEN “Looking In” During this season of plenty, a season of harvest and giving thanks, we have been looking at a sticky subject: money.  What is our relationship with money? How does it influence our lives and control our decisions? Jesus knew that money held powerful clout over the choices we make.  You have heard that Jesus talked more about money than any other topic in the gospels, with the exception of the Kingdom of God. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, an amazing one out of ten verses (288 in all) deal directly with the subject of money. When I first heard that Jesus talked more about money than love, about heaven and hell, about healing, I found myself wondering what this could possibly mean about Jesus.  How does this change what I thought I knew about faith and about God? I discovered that money and spirituality, faith and God are deeply interrelated.  So often we attempt to compartmentalize money and spirituality, as if they have nothing to do with one another.  I go to work Monday through Friday, run errands on Saturday, that’s money. Church and maybe some rest, that is spirituality.  However, as I stated last Sunday, God’s realm is over all of creation, even the institution of money. These are not things we can somehow compartmentalize.  Spirituality and money coexist, under God’s careful watch. And, people desperately need wisdom and guidance when it comes to their relationship with finances.  Money has far too much power in our lives. In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey thinks about ending his life because of a financial crisis.  In fact there is a strong link between money and life.   You’ve heard people say  “Time is money.”   “Your money or your life.” “Worth more dead than alive.” “The two things you can depend on are death and taxes.” The prospect of time, and that our days are numbered, is what drives us to make and save more.   Joe Dominguez defines money as “something we choose to trade our life energy for.”  Do we save our lives by saving money? While it is possible to make more money, there is no way you can make more time.  This is a fascinating dilemma and, while there are no correct answers, it helps no one to make believe this tension doesn’t exist.   Last week, I asked you to look backward to think about the messages you have received about money throughout your life, and how they have influenced your thinking, your spending, your saving.  Today, I am asking you to look inward, with courage, while we explore what is truly important to you. Last week I suggested some spiritual practices to look back about money.  Today, I want to suggest a way to look inside of ourselves as we think about it. We can do this together.  It helps to talk some notes, so I invite you to grab a pen or pencil.  I’ve asked the ushers to distribute some. Let’s begin our experiment: Today you learned that you have 5 to 10 years to live.  You...

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