Sunday Message

Sermon October 22: The Grateful One

Posted by on Oct 22, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/The-Grateful-One_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church October 22, 2017 Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Luke 19:11-19, Psalm 66:8-12 Prayer of Illumination (Unison): O God, it is hard to claim the hope and promise of the past in the presence of today’s troubles. Meet us today with your good news that we may be renewed by the power of your presence and be thankful. Amen. Sermon: The Grateful One Over the next few weeks we will be asking ourselves “What Light’s Our Path?” What lights our path? The answer to that may seem easy. The sun. Our LED lights. The high-beams in our car. The street lights. The headlamp that I wear when walking the dogs. The flashlights we keep handy in case the lights go out. Unlike ancient days, today there are so many sources of light that we bemoan light pollution. If only it were dark enough to see the lights of the heavens. Yet light doesn’t always come from the obvious sources. As our children reminded us this morning, God’s word can be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Our Gospel lesson today shines a bit of that light as we hear of one of Jesus’ miraculous healings. Jesus was on the path to Jerusalem. His path was lit by his desire to visit the Holy City during Passover and follow the mission God had placed upon his heart. But Jesus encountered something on the way that caused him to pause, if just for a moment. Ten lepers, recognizing the great healer, called out to Jesus for healing. “Jesus, over here!” And Jesus, seeing their need, healed them. They were so excited they took off without a second thought. They needed to present themselves to their priest to be declared clean before they could return to their families and friends. And this was a pretty big deal. As lepers they were ostracized from the community because of their illness. This healing meant that they would be able to sit for a meal with their loved ones, hold their children, kiss their mothers. It’s no wonder they were in a hurry to get going, to get back to their lives. But one of the lepers ~ yes, just one ~ paused. Instead of rushing ahead with his life, he turned back. This one leper broke from the group and went back to Jesus to thank him. He fell at Jesus’ feet and praised God for the amazing thing that happened. Jesus’ healing was a tangible, physical reminder of God’s goodness. It is a powerful experience to receive a blessing, name it and give thanks for it. David Lose writes that gratitude is, “…the most powerful emotion, as it frees us from fear, releases us from anxiety, and emboldens us to do more and dare more than we ever imagined.” In response to the leper’s gratitude Jesus blessed him saying, “Your faith has healed and saved you.” He was not only healed of his physical disease, but he was given the wholeness of salvation. You could say that this leper followed the path of gratitude and it led him to the feet of Jesus. But let’s think about those other nine lepers for a minute, okay? Didn’t they, too, receive healing? Weren’t they, too, given a new lease on life? So why didn’t they go back and thank Jesus? Why didn’t they show gratitude to the one that set them free? It might be going too far to think that the nine were not grateful, but did they do anything to show...

Read More

Sermon October 8: Rule of Life

Posted by on Oct 11, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Rule-of-Life_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church October 8, 2017 Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 Prayer of Illumination: The weight of your words, your laws, your commandments and decrees can become an impossible burden, Lord, if we allow them to overwhelm and crush us.  Yet they were meant to be life-giving, vital and alive – the foundation for our lives, the chief cornerstone of your church, the living temple of God.  As we reflect upon your laws, guide our words and our thoughts.  Amen. Sermon:  Rule of Life Sometimes it feels good to break the rules, doesn’t it?  Swimming next to the “No Swimming” sign.  Speeding down the highway when no other cars are around.  Eating that candy bar after the sell-by date.  As Katharine Hepburn is thought to have said, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” In our Confirmation class last summer, we talked a lot about rules.  We set up Ground Rules at our first class.  Things like be respectful; give everyone a chance to talk; don’t use your phone during class.   We studied John Wesley’s General Rules.  And we even tried to create a game where the only rule was that you could have no rules.  In the end, we decided that a game with no rules was really no fun. The purpose of our no rule-rule game, though, was to demonstrate that rules ~ guidelines, laws ~ are important for living a meaningful life.  Rules provide a framework in which to enact our faith and live out our days.  Without rules, it’s just chaos.  For example, John Wesley’s general rules are:  Do no Harm, Do Good, and Stay in Love with God.  Those are rules that I can get behind, rules that can shape a faithful life.  The truth is, though, that we sometimes chafe at rules.  We like to leave our phones on in the movie theater and chew gum in class.  It was probably this kind of human rebelliousness that drove Moses crazy as he led the Israelites through the wilderness.  God told them not to collect more manna than they needed for the day, but you’ve got to know there was that guy with the stash in his tent.  God told them not to worship any other Gods, but we know what happened with the golden calf.  In today’s Scripture God, through Moses, tried to lay down the law, set the boundaries, establish the ground rules for these people who God decided to save and make his very own.    Some have described the Ten Commandments as God’s gift of law.  We often think of rules as burdens but what if we, instead, think of rules as blessings?   The Ten Commandments present the kind of life God wants for us, a life of honoring God and honoring each other.  The Ten Commandments lay out the boundaries for healthy relationships. And the Ten Commandments are very ~ how do we say it ~ down to earth.  They speak of jealousy, revenge and adultery, lying, swearing and obsession. Things that make a good plot for a soap opera and, if we are honest with ourselves, things with which we struggle throughout our lives.  As preacher Dianne Bergant affirms, “Reverence for the law seems to promise the best that life has to offer.”  The Ten Commandments aren’t archaic rules, irrelevant to us in our modern lives. They are a way of life that leads to peace, reconciliation and wholeness for those who follow them. Yet, to understand the relevance of the Ten Commandments, we must recognize...

Read More

Sermon October 1: Think Tank

Posted by on Oct 2, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Think-Tank_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church October 1, 2017 World Communion Sunday / Family Sunday Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Philippians 2:1-5 Prayer of Illumination: We thank you, Gracious God, that you answer all who call on your name.  Make us bold to ask for your help and eager to hear your word.  May our faith in you transform our lives into testimonies to your love and power.  Amen. Sermon:                                           Think Tank Today is the animal blessing, so I’ll tell you something about my dogs.  Niles is my service-dog-in-training who has been in training for four years.  (He’s not the quickest study.)  Bady, who is my 10-year-old service-dog, is a thoughtful – I might even say intellectual – dog.  He does that adorable dog-thing where he tilts his head as he thinks things through.  Niles, though, is all impulse.  He’s the only German Shepherd we know who doesn’t tilt his head.  He can’t be bothered with thinking.  We joke that the only way we can tell that Niles is thinking is if that spot on the top of his head (between his ears) is warm…… We know who’s the brains in this think-tank.  The Scripture lesson for this morning got me thinking about thinking.  Paul tells us that we are to have the mind of Christ.  Does that mean that we are to think like Christ?  And, if so, how does that work?  Would that make us Christians a “think-tank” of sorts?  A group of people to provide information, ideas and advice on Christian things?  Or maybe we’re thinking too much.  Is there more to having the mind of Christ than thinking?  Does having the mind of Christ call us to act in a certain way? As Paul wrote, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” It seems to me that having the mind of Christ means living so that others can see Christ in us.  Having the mind of Christ means letting go of ourselves, our ego, and those things that get in the way of furthering Christ’s work in the world.  As William Greenway suggests in Feasting on the Word, “One does not self-empty by focusing on oneself.  One is emptied of self to the degree one is overcome by the needs, pains, hopes and desires of others.”  If we adopt Christ’s attitude our work will reflect an unselfishness, a lack of competition, a humility, and an effort to strive and serve. When we live in Christ our own preferences, rights, power and desires drop out of the short list of most important things in life.  Instead of doing things in our own power, we do things in the power of Christ.  When we live in Christ we recognize that whatever humble authority we carry within us comes from God and God alone. So maybe the lesson here is not to think too much.  Maybe we are to be more like Niles ~ all action.  Action that grows out of humility, love, and generosity, knowing that Christ is with us.  Sometimes ~ sometime ~ we have to stop thinking and just get to work. Thanks be to the One who empowers us to do more and greater things than we could, alone, imagine.  Thanks be to the One who gifts us with the work of the Kingdom.  Amen.  ...

Read More

Sermon September 24: It’s Not Fair

Posted by on Sep 28, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Its-Not-Fair_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church September 24, 2017 Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Exodus 16:2-8, Matthew 20:1-16 Prayer for Illumination: Lord of love, as we hear your word and reflect upon it, come to us with clarity.  May the words that we speak and the thoughts that we form bring to us your message of wholeness and your light of truth.  Strengthen us, enliven us, empower us, for the living of your Word.  Amen. Sermon: “It’s Not Fair” There are grievances flying left and right in our Scripture lessons today.  In the gospel, we see angry workers protesting their employer.  In the Old Testament, we have grumbling Israelites shaking their fists at Moses.  And, in both instances, there seem to be grounds for at least some of their complaints. In the Gospel Jesus told a parable of a landowner who needed his grapes harvested.  At the beginning of the day he went out and hired laborers, agreeing to pay them the usual wage.  For some reason, though, he was not satisfied with the number of workers he had.  Maybe his grapes were overly ripe.  Maybe he thought was going to rain.  Maybe he just has a soft spot for the unemployed.  Whatever the reason, he went out again and again, several times during the day, even as late as 5pm, to hire more workers. Now this would all be fine, but then it came time to settle up.  All the workers lined up and those who worked the longest were feeling pretty good.   They knew they would have enough money to feed their families that night.  And everyone else?  Well, they’d just have to get by.  But something strange happened.  Everyone received the same wage.  As they walked away comparing their earnings, they saw that everyone got the whole paycheck.  Some loafer who only worked half the day – maybe only one hour – got the same pay as those who worked all day long.  The slighted workers sought out their employer to give him an ear-full, “These last worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” And then we have the Israelites.  Having just escaped from Egypt ~ having just seen the power of God in the parting of the sea ~ they were for the first time in their lives a free people.  No longer slaves, but God’s own people.  But today’s story picks up as the awe and the wonder of what had just happened began the wear off.  They complained, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”  At least in Egypt, they reasoned, we had something to eat.  Their grumbling and complaining filled the camp and Moses and Aaron’s approval ratings sunk. It seems that human nature has not changed very much in these intervening years.  We know what it is like to be slighted.  To feel like we are not getting what we deserve, that we are being taken advantage of, used, and made the fool.  You know that feeling, right?  A party that arrived after you is seated before you.  A friend gets a great deal on something you bought for full price.  A coworker gets a promotion when you’ve worked for the company much longer. We have ample opportunities to complain and we often take advantage. And...

Read More

Sermon August 27: How Much Is Too Much?

Posted by on Aug 27, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/How-Much-is-Too-Much_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church August 27, 2017 Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Luke 12:13-21   Prayer for Illumination: (Responsive) Seek first the things of God. We are created in God’s own image. Set your minds on things above. We are children of eternal life. Clothe yourselves in this newness of life. In Christ we have been born anew!   Sermon: How Much is Too Much? How much is too much?  That’s a good question.  Do you ever look around your homes, your basements, your garages, at all the possessions that you have accumulated over the years, and wonder, where did all this stuff come from?   When Gary and I were packing to move last year we wondered how we could possibly have acquired so much stuff.  It seems to me that belongings have a way of multiplying on their own, almost as if we have no power to control it.  Do you know what I mean?  One day your closet is neatly arranged and organized and the next day it is overflowing with so much stuff that you can’t find anything. It is a known fact that Americans have an abundance of things ~ more than any other country.  We could rattle off statistics to show how we compare with people in other parts of the world, but all you have to do is go to any mall or shopping center – Taft Corners would do – to see the masses of people whipping out their credit cards and toting their shopping bags.  Americans love to spend money and have nice things.  And in many ways we feel entitled to these things – like it’s somehow our birthright to have the newest car or the latest fashion.  But, as one comedian joked, “You can’t have everything.  Where would you put it?”  Well, in true American spirit we have storage unit facilities popping up all over the place.  We pay a monthly fee to store the stuff we can’t fit in our houses.  Yet we need turn no further than our Bibles to see that questions surrounding possessions are not new, and are surely not unique to Americans.  In the Gospel lesson we see Jesus teaching on the way to Jerusalem.  Suddenly a man from the crowd interrupted his teaching and called to Jesus, saying,  “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”  A classic case of sibling rivalry over Mom and Dad’s estate.  Apparently this man didn’t feel he was getting his fair share and thought Jesus could do something about it.  While Jesus may not have appreciated being pulled into a family squabble, he had just the parable to shed some light on the situation. There was a farmer, Jesus told the crowd, who had an abundant crop.  In fact, his land yielded so well that he didn’t have enough room to store his harvest.  This turned into quite a dilemma for the man (a good problem to have, some might say).  He felt that he needed to keep every bit of that crop.  So he pulled down his small barns and built larger ones that would accommodate all that he had.  Standing back and surveying all that he done, he said to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”  Sounds pretty good to me.  So what’s wrong with that? we might ask.  The man did well and prepared himself for retirement.  It actually sounds like the American success story.   We might even clap the farmer on the back and congratulate him saying,...

Read More

Sermon August 20: Um….. Jesus

Posted by on Aug 21, 2017 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon August 20: Um….. Jesus

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Um-Jesus..._E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church August 20, 2017 Ninth Sunday after Pentecost – Holy Humor Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Matthew 15:1-2, 10-11, 21-28, Psalm 133 Prayer for Illumination: Lord of love, come to us this day with clarity.  May the words that I speak and the thoughts that we form bring to us a message of wholeness and the light of truth.  Strengthen us, enliven us, empower us, for the living of your Word.  Amen. Sermon:  Um….. Jesus Once upon a time, a woman called the local pastor and asked him if he would officiate at a funeral for her dog.  The pastor was a bit put off by the request.  With a somewhat disgusted tone in his voice he suggested that there was no way he could do such a thing but that she might try one of the other churches in the area.  She agreed to do that but not before she asked the pastor for some advice. “Pastor, do you think $500 is an appropriate honorarium for a funeral of this kind? And would I make the check out to the minister or to the church?”   The pastor quickly cleared his throat and said, “Wait a minute, why didn’t you tell me your dog was United Methodist?” This is as far as I got in my Holy Humor sermon before Charlottesville happened.  I thought the lectionary delivered up quite a juicy gospel lesson for our Humor Sunday.  Jesus calling a woman a dog!  This is a one of a kind scripture in that way!  I was looking forward to celebrating the spunk of the woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer and poking a little fun at Jesus who seemed to be, as many of us are, quite stuck in his ways.   I mean, it was a bit ironic that Jesus had just been telling the Pharisees that it isn’t what you put into your body that defiles you, but what comes out.  And then Jesus came out with a doozy of a line, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But then Charlottesville happened and this scripture didn’t seem quite so funny.  Discrimination is no laughing matter.  When I saw the news footage of white nationalists, members of the KKK and white supremacists wielding torches, displaying Nazi symbols and chanting their hateful rhetoric I was horrified.  I hope you were, too.  No, I don’t deny the right to free speech or the right to assemble.  What horrifies me is that people ~ people not that different than you and me ~ would have so much hate in their hearts that they would speak and act in such a repulsive and violent manner.   Hate directed toward immigrants, Jews, African Americans, gays, lesbians and transgendered people, Muslims – basically anyone who doesn’t conform to a white, heterosexual standard.  And, in my opinion, the violence was compounded by leaders in our nation who refused to immediately condemn such behavior. What those at the highest level of our government don’t seem to understand is that actions taken to stand up against hate do not equal the actions of those who perpetrate hate in the first place. So today’s Gospel lesson is tricky.  First we hear Jesus telling the Pharisees that it isn’t what goes into the mouth that defiles, but what comes out of the mouth – our speech, how we treat other people.  But then we hear Jesus speak words that cause us to cringe.  Before Jesus stood a woman – a Canaanite – with a sick daughter.  As...

Read More