Sunday Message

Sermon April 22: Table Prepared

Posted by on Apr 22, 2018 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Table-Prepared_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church April 22, 2018 Fourth Sunday of Easter Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Psalm 23, John 10:11-18   Prayer of Illumination (Unison): Good Shepherd, we are the sheep of your pasture, you know us by name. We offer grateful thanks for your loving care. Open our hearts and minds to the guiding of your Spirit in our lives. Lead us in right paths, that we may serve you in truth and action. Amen.   Sermon:  Table Prepared Home. There’s lots of sayings about home. Home is where the heart is. Home is where you hang your hat. Home is where the story begins. For me, home is the smell of baking cookies or the aroma of bubbling spaghetti sauce. There’s just something about those familiar comfort foods that taste best at home. It’s nice to eat out, but at home there’s always a place at the table. The past few weeks our worship themes have centered around home. On Easter Sunday we considered how, for Mary Magdalene, home wasn’t a place but was found in the heart of Jesus. Last Sunday we reflected on the disciples’ first encounter with the Risen Christ and how it was like a family reunion. Today, with the 23rd Psalm as our lens, we celebrate God’s provision for us, like a caring parent always saving us a place at the table. As Methodists we know something about good food, right? As the joke goes, “A teacher asked his students to bring in an object that represented their spiritual beliefs for show and tell. On the day of the presentation, the first boy stood and said, “I am a Catholic. This is my crucifix.” The second boy stood and said, “I am a Baptist. This is my Bible.” The third boy stood and said, “I am a Methodist. This is my casserole dish.” Methodists know there is really nothing better than sharing food (good food) together. And our practice of potluck dinners, fellowship lunches and coffee hours is biblically grounded. The sharing of food is a metaphor often used in the Bible. Psalms of celebration speak of feasts to covey God’s goodness and power. As Christians, we are a people of the table. There is a table at the center of our worship space. We are a community that blesses, breaks and shares bread together. The 23rd Psalm is just one example of how table sharing is used to convey blessings. The words of this Psalm are so familiar to us that we often hear their comfort without really listening to what they say. The Psalmist, who is believed to be King David, writes, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” Abundance is what he’s really talking about. We can only imagine that the table prepared by God would be covered with all the finest food and drink. The Message version of the same passage reads, “You serve me a six course dinner right in front of my enemies.” The God of the Universe sets the table, prepares the food, and provides a feast. But the Psalmist ~ David ~ did not have a romantic or unrealistic view of the world.   The enemies he spoke of were not metaphorical. He knew, from experience, that there were enemies, real enemies, out there. Goliath was another. Saul was one. David encountered enemies his whole life long including, at the end of his life, his own son. And David knew that when the enemies on the outside don’t get you the...

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Sermon April 15: Family Reunion

Posted by on Apr 15, 2018 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Family-Reunion_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church April 15, 2018 Third Sunday of Easter Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Luke 24:36b-48, 1 John 3:1-7 Prayer of Illumination: Risen Christ, come to us now. Open our ears, that we may hear your word. Open our minds, that we may understand the scriptures before us. Speak to our hearts, that our lives may be transformed by your love. Guide our steps as we go forth, that we may be your beloved children, witnessing to your resurrection, and proclaiming your message throughout the earth. Amen. Sermon:  Family Reunion If you’re having a feeling of déjà vu ~ if you sense that you’ve heard this story before ~ you would be right. Today’s Gospel lesson from Luke is very similar to the story the Bishop shared with us last week from the Gospel of John. It was the first day of the week and the disciples were huddled behind closed doors in fear. Rumors were swirling that Jesus, the one who had been crucified, was risen from the dead. The disciples didn’t know whether they should be terrified or rejoice. And then Jesus ~ Jesus ~ came among them to show them his hands and feet, to eat with them, to assure them that he had indeed overcome death. Two weeks later and it is still Easter. At home we’ve probably put away our plastic eggs and Easter bunnies. But here it’s still Easter. Could it be that we’re belaboring the point? Isn’t it time to move on to something else? The Bible is chock-full of interesting stories. Yet here we are on the Third Sunday of Easter telling the same story. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed….. Maybe the wise people who put together the lectionary recognized that we are not all that different from the disciples. The disciples didn’t get it the first time Jesus told them that he would rise from the dead. They didn’t get it the second or third or fourth time either. They didn’t even get it when Mary Magdalene came to them and announced, “I have seen the Lord.” And this Scripture tells us that even in seeing the risen Jesus for themselves they didn’t get it right away. Luke tells us, “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.” Perhaps they thought Jesus was a ghost, not their friend, their brother, raised from the dead.   And, like the disciples, maybe we need to hear it again and again. “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name…” So today we have another account of the resurrection, the one recorded by Luke. It is a story filled with the ordinary and the extraordinary. It tells of gathered loved ones sharing food and studying the Scripture ~ all pretty ordinary things. Yet in this story the beloved had been resurrected, the meal echoes miracle in the sharing of bread and fish, and the Scripture opens the disciples’ eyes to see that their beloved, the one that they thought had died, was not ghost but had indeed risen from the dead.   Jesus used the ordinary to point to the extraordinary. Jesus used regular things, everyday things to witness to the divine among them. And maybe that is why they didn’t recognize him right away. One might think that the Resurrected Christ would appear in a blaze of glory. One might think there would be a chorus of angels and seraphim to announce his...

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Sermon April 1: A New Home

Posted by on Apr 3, 2018 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/A-New-Home_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church April 1, 2018 Easter Sunday Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: John 20:1-18 Prayer of Illumination: Holy One, we worship you today knowing that we are your Easter people. We read the story again and marvel at the sight of your rising Son. Help us reflect the light of Christ that others might see and give glory to you, by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen. Sermon:                                          A New Home Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! We are the people of the Good News and this is a day of very Good News. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! That first Easter, though, didn’t start out as a day of good news. Just a couple days before Jesus was crucified on a cross. The hope of the world had been executed, given a criminal’s death. To Jesus’ followers it certainly seemed like the end. Their hopes had been dashed, their dreams ruined. Defeated, the disciples left Jesus and went back to their homes ~ back to what they had known before Jesus ~ perhaps with the idea that they could put this whole Jesus mess out of their minds. Mary Magdalene, though, wasn’t ready to go home. The truth is that Mary Magdalene probably didn’t have a home to which to return. As a single woman with what some have described as a “bad reputation,” there were few places that would accept her. Jesus, though, had accepted her, had loved her and provided her with a home. Following Jesus as he taught and healed probably felt more like home than any place she had ever lived. So on that Sunday morning following Jesus’ death she gathered her anointing oil and burial spices and went to the tomb of her friend, expecting to find his dead body. And why wouldn’t she? Dead bodies don’t usually get up and move around. When she saw that the stone had been rolled away and that Jesus was nowhere to be found, she suspected the worst. Jesus’ body must have been taken away, stolen. And who could blame Mary for thinking this way? As Craig Barnes put it, “Easter is that last thing we are expecting.” We understand that death is final. And Jesus’ death was not a rumor. There were many eyewitnesses to his crucifixion, including his own friends, followers and family. Everyone knew that Jesus of Nazareth had died. And, despite all that Jesus had taught, no one expected that he would rise from the dead. That life is filled with many experiences of death is no secret. Like Mary, we know the pain of loss. No one can get through life without it. In the midst of life we are in death. Death comes to us in the loss of precious loved ones. Death also comes to us in the loss of cherished hopes and dreams. In a short time we learn not to expect too much because then we won’t be disappointed. Of course Jesus body had been stolen. What other possible explanation could there be? Peter and John, the Beloved Disciple, didn’t seem to know either. Summoned by Mary, they arrived at the tomb and saw just what Mary had described. The stone rolled away. The tomb empty. Indeed, Jesus’ body must have been stolen. What other explanation could there be? After a short time, the disciples left and returned to their homes. To do what, we don’t know. To resume their fishing business? To settle down with wives and kids and everyday responsibilities? To put the last three years behind them?...

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Sermon March 25: Left-Handed Power

Posted by on Mar 26, 2018 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Left-Handed-Power_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church March 25, 2018 Palm Sunday Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Mark 11:1-11, Philippians 2:5-11   Response to the Word (Responsive) Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Word made flesh. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven! Open your eyes to see the kingdom God is creating in our midst.   Sermon:                                          Left-Handed Power A few weeks ago we talked about names. When God made a covenant with Abram he promised him as many offspring as there are stars in the sky and he changed his name to Abraham, which means Father of Nations. Sarai also got a new name, Sarah, which means Mother of Princess. And, in the fullness of time, Abraham and Sarah lived into their names. Today we are focusing on another name, the name of Jesus. Jesus means “rescuer.” A rather fitting name for the savior of the world. And it wasn’t an uncommon name of that day. The Hebrew pronunciation of Jesus is Yeshua, and comes to us in English as the name Joshua. The Spanish pronunciation of Jesus is Jesús and is a common boy’s name in Spanish-speaking countries. There is nothing particularly special about the name Jesus ~ it isn’t a royal name or a unique name or an exclusive name ~ except that it is the name of the One who came to rescue us from our sins. If we look a the story of today ~ the story of the first Palm Sunday ~ we see that, upon entering the city of Jerusalem, the people cheered for Jesus, “Hosanna! (Save us!) Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus wasn’t being recognized as a good teacher or an impressive healer, but as one bearing the very name of the Lord. . As William Loader explains, for the people if Israel “…bearing someone’s name was like bearing their responsibility and being recognized as able to represent them.” Yet this procession wasn’t quite what we might expect for one representing God. Where one might look for a battalion of soldiers, a rag-tag group of followers ~ including fisherman, tax collectors, women, and children ~ lined the parade route.  Where one might expect a king outfitted in armor riding atop a stallion, Jesus sat on the back of a borrowed donkey. Trumpets didn’t accompany the arrival, but shouts of “Hosanna!” One might even think that Jesus was poking fun at the usual show of might that accompanied the military parades of the day, which inspired both awe and fear. And maybe that was the point. Maybe it was meant to be a joke of sorts. A way to show the big-shots that their brand of power wasn’t the only show in town. A way to distract from the show of force and intimidation that usually accompanied a king. A way to affirm that the name of God was greater than any military parade that humanity could muster. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. The reformer, Martin Luther, described this kind if power as left-handed power. Unlike right-handed power, left-handed power doesn’t force or coerce. It doesn’t threaten or bully. Left-handed power isn’t afraid to show weakness or vulnerability for the sake of something greater. It is a power that grants freedom. It is a power in favor of relationship and community, that rejects the idea that “might makes right”. It is the kind of power shown throughout Jesus’ life and in his death. Luther described...

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Sermon March 18: Heart Healthy

Posted by on Mar 21, 2018 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon March 18: Heart Healthy

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Heart-Check-Up_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church March 18, 2018 Fifth Sunday of Lent Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Jeremiah 31:31-34, Psalm 51:1-12 Prayer of Illumination:                        God of love, through Christ you have written the ways of life on our hearts. Guide us to be your covenant people, to follow as you call, and to be a light of love for all to see. Amen. Sermon:  Heart Healthy Every year at Annual Conference in June our Conference health insurance provider offers clergy an incentive to have blood-work done. Early morning appointments are available to have our blood drawn and, for doing it, we get a $100 pre-paid credit card. Now, I hate needles, and faint at the sight of blood, but for $100 I can usually get myself down to the appointment room before meeting Tricia and Julie at the breakfast buffet. There was only one time I nearly fainted and they propped me against the wall and made me sip orange juice for 15 minutes. In addition to the $100, about a month after Annual Conference a full color booklet arrives in the mail detailing the results. They run about 30 different tests and for each there is description and a color-coded dial. Green is good, yellow is borderline, and red is the danger-zone. Now, I like to think I am healthy. I try to eat well and exercise. I take the stairs whenever possible and wear my fit-bit everyday. But each year when that booklet arrives in the mail I am reminded that ~ while I am mostly healthy ~ there are some areas that need my attention if I want to stay healthy and maintain a healthy heart. Over the years my cholesterol numbers have inched closer to red, along with those pesky triglycerides, whatever those are. So I try to avoid Ben & Jerry’s and bike around town when the weather is good, rather than take the car. But I really do love Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Peanut Buttery Swirl. Thankfully, in addition to exercise and a healthy diet, prayer is good for a healthy heart. It is proven that a regular prayer life reduces stress. And less stress is good for hearts, both spiritually and physically. As the Psalmist prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” The Psalmist didn’t know about coronary artery disease or cholesterol, but he did know about getting his heart right with God. He knew what it was to have hope that even the most desperate situation could improve. He knew what it meant to despair and he knew what it meant to give his heart to God. Likewise, the prophet Jeremiah knew that the God he followed was a God of the heart. I’ve heard Jeremiah described as a true Lenten prophet. Jeremiah’s situation was desperate. He foretold and watched the city of Jerusalem fall. He pointed out the sin of the people over and over again. He despaired at the pain and sadness all around him. Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. Yet, even through his tears, he was able to share the beautiful words of promise that we read today. Even after all he endured, Jeremiah hadn’t lost hope. In speaking the words of the Lord, he proclaimed, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts…. they shall all know me… I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah shared a vision of a grace-filled God who made his home in the very hearts of his people....

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Sermon March 4: Who Are Those Fools?

Posted by on Mar 5, 2018 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon March 4: Who Are Those Fools?

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Who-Are-Those-Fools_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church March 4, 2018 Third Sunday of Lent Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 Prayer of Illumination: Creator and maker of us all, bless the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. In this time together show your ways and inspire us to live by your truth. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen Sermon:  Who Are Those Fools?      Have you ever known a fool? You know the kind of person I’m talking about, right? Someone who doesn’t quite get it. My Merriam-Webster defines fool as, “a person lacking in judgment or prudence; a person who acts un-wisely; a silly person.” We don’t like to think of ourselves as fools, do we? In fact, we like to think we are sensible people. Maybe even wise. Wisdom is, “having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing… discretion.” I lock my doors at night. I change the oil in my car every 5,000 miles. I don’t fall for those e-mail scams that tell me I’ve won $100 million. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather be considered wise than a fool. ….or at least that’s what I thought before I was reminded of Paul’s words to the Christians in Corinth that Sharon read for us this morning. Instead, perhaps, our foolishness is in thinking that we are wise, that we have it all figured out. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.” Through the foolishness of the cross God saves those who believe. Um…. What?? I can say for myself that it is difficult, at first, to see how the cross is foolishness. As William Loader says about the cross, “… we have gotten used to it and dressed it up, coated it in gold, made it ‘nice,’ turned it into jewelry.” The cross is a symbol of salvation. It makes sense for us to wear it around our necks, to see it in a prominent place in our church. But maybe we do get a little too comfortable with it. Bishop William Willimon reflects on his faith saying, “I speak of the Christian faith so casually and effortlessly that I begin to think, ‘Fine thing, this Christianity. Makes good sense.’” But if we really think about it, it doesn’t make sense, does it? Just think what the cross would mean to a first century Roman citizen. The cross was the criminal’s way to die. Only those who had done something really bad were executed by crucifying. There was nothing honorable in dying on a cross. It was a gruesome, painful end… Yet here were these fishermen, women, and tax collectors who claimed that this Jesus who died on a cross was their messiah. How much more foolish can you get? And that’s not all. The same messiah who died on a cross taught his followers to love their enemies, turn the other cheek, forgive without limit, and pray for those who persecute you. He spoke of the Kingdom of God being like a family where the younger son squanders his inheritance through irresponsible living, only to be welcomed home by the very father he disgraced. He described the Kingdom of God as like a dinner party that no one attends, so you go out into the streets and invite strangers, the poor, the mentally...

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