Sunday Message

Sermon February 25: Embracing Our Name

Posted by on Feb 26, 2018 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon February 25: Embracing Our Name

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Embracing-Our-Name_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church February 25, 2018 Second Sunday of Lent Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 Response to the Word (Unison) God of Abraham our father, God of Sarah our mother, we remember with gratitude your covenant that undergirds our lives with certainty and gives us peace. In our moments of doubt, give us faith. In our moments of weakness, give us strength. In our moments of uncertainty, give us grace. Amen. Sermon:                              Embracing Our Name      Names. We’ve all got them. George. Faith. Melissa. Tim. Whether we are named after someone or not, hopefully our parents gave thoughtful consideration to the names they gave us. Some of us like our names, while others of us might wish our parents had chosen differently. Nicknames are a different thing. They can come up out of nowhere. We might have nicknames particular to certain friends. My childhood friend Julie still calls me Watson because of a detective club we formed in the third grade.  Our loved ones may have one nickname for us, while our work buddies have another. I always get at least one Christmas package from my mother addressed to “Kris Mouse.” Our nicknames may be a shortened version of our full names, like KB or Joe.   And then there are the cruel nicknames we, at times, have to endure. Bucky, Four-Eyes, Bean-Pole and Fatty are among the tamer ones. In our Scripture lesson we heard the story of how Abram and Sarai became Abraham and Sarah. Abram’s name change to Abraham could have been seen as bully’s nickname, a cruel joke. The name Abraham means “Father of Many” or “Father of Nations” but Abraham and Sarah had no children together. This name change just pointed out what Abram lacked. It was a reminder of what Abram wasn’t. It was like calling someone with no athletic ability ‘Sport.’ But God’s new name for Abraham was not a cruel joke. It was, instead a term of endearment. It was a promise. It wasn’t a reminder of how Abraham had failed. It was a reminder of what Abraham ~ even at ninety-nine years old ~ would become. Abram would become the “Father of Nations.” Sarai, whose new name means “Princess”, would become the mother of kings. As Tim Good wrote, “Abraham was first named ‘father’ and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do…” These new names were not meant to chide or belittle, but to strengthen Abraham and Sarah in grace as they awaited the fulfillment of the unbelievable promise. Abraham and Sarah were not the only ones that received new names in the Bible. Jacob became Israel. Simon was renamed Peter, meaning Rock. Paul became Saul. And we, too, receive new names. We are baptized with the names that our parents gave us, but in our baptism we receive a new name. Christian. Like Abraham, we may not think our new name is very fitting. We know that we often don’t live up to our name very well. During this season of Lent we are ask to consider those ways that we fail as Christians and repent those failing. Often it feels like the list is very long. But just as Abraham’s new name was a promise, our new name is a promise, too. We are not called Christian because we deserve to be called Christian. We are called Christian because, even in our weakness, God loves us enough to welcome us into Christ’s family. The name Christian is a promise that we will never be...

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Sermon February 18: Jesus’ Pop Quiz

Posted by on Feb 18, 2018 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon February 18: Jesus’ Pop Quiz

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Jesus-Pop-Quiz_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church February 18, 2018 First Sunday of Lent Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Genesis 9:8-17, Mark 1:9-15 Prayer of Illumination: God of wisdom and truth, teach us your ways. As we hear the words of your promise, and as we reflect on the message you offer, let us hear your voice. Lead us in your truth and teach us to be your people. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen Sermon:                                          Jesus’ Pop-Quiz       One of my reoccurring dreams is about being back in school and showing up unprepared for class. Do you ever have those dreams? In my most recent one I showed up to class on the first day and was given a major exam. No time to study. Not even any time to read the textbook. I was glad to wake up from that dream! Most of us get a least a little bit of time between the beginning of class and the big exam. We have some time to get the syllabus, the assignments, do the reading and study. Very few professors would give a test on the first day! Personally, when I was in school my favorite type of exam was the take home test. Take home tests cut down on those annoying things like time pressure and memorization. Take home tests were the best! But what Jesus experienced in the wilderness in this morning’s Gospel was no take home test. It was more like a pop-quiz on the first day of class. Jesus went straight from his baptism at the Jordan into the wilderness where he stayed for forty days and was tempted by Satan. He didn’t get to ease into his life of ministry. Jesus, still wringing the water from his clothes, was sent into the wilderness to be tested before he even had a chance to learn what it meant to be the Son of God. The Gospel writer Mark doesn’t go into many details when describing Jesus’ temptation. Matthew and Luke talk more about the specific tests that Jesus faced. Mark leaves that part to our imaginations. We’ve all faced temptations, so we can probably imagine some of what Jesus went through. Temptations of wealth. Temptations of ease. Temptations of beauty. Temptations of power.  Temptations of greed. And we know that temptations are difficult to resist because they are just that ~ temptations. Temptations come wrapped in attractive packages. As preacher Fred Craddock put it, “No self respecting Satan would approach a person with offers of personal, social and professional ruin. That’s in the small print at the bottom of the temptation.” We succumb to temptations because they are too good to be true.   We can’t resist. Jesus, though, did resist and that is part of what we celebrate this Sunday. Jesus was tempted ~ tested ~ in the wilderness and he passed. He aced that pop-quiz. He emerged from the wilderness, left the wild beasts behind, and was able to proclaim with assurance, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” That Jesus spoke of Good News immediately after his sojourn in the wilderness is a testimony in itself. Our experiences of temptation, though, don’t always end so well. Where Jesus passed his time of testing, we often fail. And it’s not just the pop quizzes we fail, either. Sometimes we even fail the take home tests. We lie. We betray each other. We cheat. We push others back so we can get ahead. We seek credit. We take what doesn’t belong to...

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Sermon February 11: Light for our Days

Posted by on Feb 12, 2018 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon February 11: Light for our Days

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Light-For-Our-Days_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church February 11, 2018 Transfiguration Sunday Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Mark 9:2-9, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 Prayer of Illumination: O Lord, in the light of your presence we turn our attention to your teaching, seeking what you have to say to us. Bless, O God, the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts as we reflect upon your word. May your message to us inspire us and may the light of your love shine through us. We pray this all in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen Sermon:                                          Light for our Days You may have noticed that it’s winter in Vermont. The snow, the negative degree temperatures or the wind chill may have tipped you off! Usually winter doesn’t bother me. I’m a hearty New England girl. But something about this winter has made me envious of our friends who’ve left for warmer climates. Lately, though, I’ve noticed the days are getting longer. Have you noticed that, too? I don’t have to turn on the porch light to let the dogs out in the morning. And when I get home at 5:30pm it’s still daylight – ish. It’s nice not to feel hemmed in by a cover of darkness all the time. In his letter Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth, “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” God who gave us light also gave us Jesus whose presence we experience as light to illumine our lives. During the weeks of Epiphany ~ which is the liturgical season that takes us from Christmas to Lent ~ we talk a lot about light. Epiphany starts with the star that the Magi followed to find the Christ Child. And it ends with the glorious light that radiated from Christ on the mountain where he was transfigured. Throughout his ministry Jesus shed light through his healings, his teachings and the lives of the disciples he called to follow. Jesus was a walking epiphany, a manifestation of the divine. Jesus ~ the light of the world. On the day we celebrate today, the Day of Transfiguration (and last Sunday of the Season of Epiphany), I wonder what the disciples thought when they witnessed Jesus transformed before their eyes. The Scripture tells us, “…his clothes became a dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.” And this epiphany included not only a shining Jesus, but a visit from Moses and Elijah as well. Moses and Elijah represent the faith of Israel. Moses the Law and Elijah the Prophets. Both of these men experienced mysterious deaths. (Moses died alone with God in the land of Moab. Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind and chariot of fire.) It was believed that, in the last days, God would send them back ~ Moses and Elijah ~ to usher in the Kingdom of God. And, as if a shining Jesus and a visit from Moses and Elijah wasn’t enough, there was also the voice from heaven. “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.” The Transfiguration was an epiphany to beat all epiphanies. Yet, coming down the mountain Jesus instructed the disciples, “… to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” The power of the Transfiguration wouldn’t be fully realized until Jesus was crucified and raised. Some have described...

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Sermon February 4: Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow……

Posted by on Feb 4, 2018 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon February 4: Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow……

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dont-Put-Off-Until-Tomorrow..._E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church February 4, 2018 Fifth Sunday after Epiphany Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Mark 1:29-39 Prayer of Illumination: Everlasting God, we listen, expectant, and you speak your wisdom and truth. Guide us in our search and strengthen us on our journey. Embrace us as your children, sending us forth to proclaim the news of your loving power to all the ends of the earth. Amen. Sermon:                              Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow……        Apparently Benjamin Franklin is the one credited with first saying, “Don’t put off until tomorrow…. what you can do today.” The procrastinator’s corrective. This saying has since been put on t-shirts, decorative signs you can hang in your home, coffee mugs…. In the children’s musical “Bebop with Aesop” the ants and grasshoppers sing, “Don’t put off until tomorrow all those things you know you should do. Don’t put off until tomorrow, cause they’ll all still be there waiting for you.” Now, I appreciate the point, but the procrastinator in me questions the universality of the statement. Sure, there are times when one should get to the task at hand. For example, if it’s Saturday night, the pastor really must finish her sermon. But I can think of many other instances when it would be a good idea to put something off until tomorrow. Sometimes the inspiration for a task is just not there. Sometimes tasks need to take a back-seat to relationships. And sometimes rest must win out over productivity. In our Scripture lesson Jesus finds himself in the midst of a very busy first day of ministry. You may recall from last week that Jesus first taught in the synagogue and then healed a man with an unclean spirit. Jesus’ first teaching and first healing in the same day! And after a day of teaching and healing one often needs some refreshment, so Jesus and the disciples headed over to Simon Peter’s house for a meal. When they got there, though, they found that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Simon was concerned, so he told Jesus about her condition right away. The Scripture then tells us, “He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her and she began to serve them.” Jesus’ second healing of the day. But that wasn’t the end of it either. Word apparently spread and by evening a crowd was gathered at the door to see Jesus the Healer. The Scripture tells us that the whole city came. I imagine there were the curiosity-seekers as well as those with real needs. Late into the night Jesus cast out unclean spirits and healed the sick. Exhausted and resting his head on the pillow that night, Jesus would’ve had every reason to be pleased with his day. He shared the Good News. He healed the sick. He helped people in need. He seemingly didn’t put off anything until tomorrow. He did it all that day. But Jesus didn’t take that as permission to sleep in the next morning. Jesus was up and out while it was still dark to find a quiet place to pray. Perhaps he knew that if he was to continue, he needed to refresh himself, connect with the source of his power, and listen for God’s direction. However, Jesus’s quiet time didn’t last long. Simon and the other disciples, anxious for Jesus to back to work, went out looking for him. As Katherine Huey describes it, “A blundering Simon interrupts Jesus time alone, like a modern day political handler moving a weary candidate along.” More...

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Sermon January 28: Permission Granted

Posted by on Jan 28, 2018 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon January 28: Permission Granted

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Permission-Granted_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church January 28, 2018 Fourth Sunday after Epiphany Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Mark 1:21-28, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 Prayer of Illumination: God of all people, through the power of your Holy Spirit help us grow deeper, wider, and fuller in our knowledge and understanding of your ways. In your wisdom help us to bring others closer to you and to your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen. Sermon:                                          Permission Granted  Authority. We live with it and chafe under it and sometimes even question it. There are certain people in our lives who are natural authority figures ~ teachers, parents, bosses, police officers. There are others who are authorities in certain areas ~ doctors, airplane pilots, accountants. When I was ordained the bishop laid his hands on me and said, “Take thou authority…..” I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that means. The truth is, though, that we all hold within us a certain authority. We carry the authority of our experiences and what we value as important. And we are the premiere authorities on our own lives. We know best our fears and joys and our journey with God. As Christians, we carry with us the authority of our baptism. We are brothers and sisters of Christ and what we say, what we do, and how we live matters. This is what Paul was getting at in his letter to the Corinthians. All his talk about eating meat or not eating meat really came down to a question of authority. You see, at that time in Corinth much of the meat (the affordable meat) had been sacrificed to idols before it was sold at market. Some Christians argued that since they did not believe in idols they should be able to eat the meat without worry. They were looking for a cheap meal!   Paul agreed with them, that whether they ate the meat or not didn’t really make a difference. But it wasn’t quite as simple as that. (It never is, is it?) Paul argued that they needed to think of the message they would send to others who might see them eating the meat. As Christians they carried the authority of the faith with them. If one of the younger or less mature Christians saw them eat meat sacrificed to idols and began to question their own faith it would do great harm to the fellowship. Yet Paul wasn’t going to tell them what to do. They had to decide for themselves. As our “Seasons of the Spirit” explains it, “Paul suggests there is authority within us that allows us to act with freedom of choice.” Our Gospel lesson is also about authority ~ Jesus’ authority. In our lesson Jesus enters the synagogue in Capernaum to teach.   This was Jesus’ first official teaching and the Scripture tells us that the people were, “…astounded at his teaching for he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Sure, the scribes could speak with the authority of scholarship, study and tradition, but Jesus was different. Jesus spoke with a different kind of authority. His authority didn’t come from books or scrolls. In fact, we see his authority primarily in his actions. While he was teaching he was interrupted by a man described as having an ‘unclean spirit.’ Jesus didn’t skip a beat. He spoke to the man and called out the spirit and the people were even more amazed. They wondered, “What is this? A new teaching ~ with authority!” His was an authority that even the...

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Sermon January 21: Are You Calling Me?

Posted by on Jan 22, 2018 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon January 21: Are You Calling Me?

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Are-You-Calling-Me_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church January 21, 2018 Third Sunday after Epiphany Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Jonah 3:1-5, 10, Mark 1:14-20 Prayer of Illumination: God of new realities close at hand, open our ears to hear your call. Give us the insight to know that it is you who calls us. Grant us the courage to go where you send us as we journey with the risen Christ. Amen Sermon: Are You Calling Me?? I like my old-fashioned phone. It reminds me of my childhood when we had a party-line. There were five houses on our rural street sharing one phone-line. I remember picking up the handset to eavesdrop on our neighbors on our party-line. Maybe my grandmother next-door would be on long-distance to my aunt or our elderly neighbor would be scheduling a dentist appointment. As a five or six year old, it was thrilling to feel like a spy, listening-in, undetected. That is until my mother walked in the room and caught me red-handed. Another thing about the party-line was that it was difficult to call the people with whom you shared a line. As I remember it, when we wanted to call my grandmother we would dial the number, but then have to hang up the phone. We would then have to guess how long it would take for her to answer. When we thought enough time had passed for her to get to the phone we would pick up the handset and hope she was there. This led to a lot of frustration – either waiting to long or not long enough. On more than one occasion I remember my grandmother showing up at our front door asking, “Are you calling me?” Our Scripture lessons today are examples of calls. When we talk about calls in the spiritual sense we are speaking of times when God tries to get our attention. In the example of Jonah, our reading picks up at the end of the story. If we’d read from the beginning we would have heard God’s call to Jonah telling him to go to the Assyrian city of Nineveh. Jonah, though, thought God had the wrong number. So convinced was Jonah that he could not do what God had called him to do, he volunteered to be thrown off a ship mid-storm to certain death. Much to Jonah’s chagrin he was rescued by a large fish and called by God ~ again! Today’s lesson picked up with Jonah, finally, doing what God had initially asked. The fishermen in our Gospel lesson also received a call. Simon Peter and Andrew didn’t carry cellphones with them while fishing the Sea of Galilee, but Jesus called them anyway, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Now, after receiving such a call we might expect some….. deliberation. The Scripture, however, doesn’t suggest anything like that. Unlike Jonah, they didn’t question their call. We are told, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” And then, just a few moments later, Jesus does the same thing with two more fishermen. Perhaps they shared the same party-line. James and John were in their boat with their father Zebedee and when Jesus called them they didn’t hesitate either. They left their poor father mending the nets and followed Jesus. I can imagine old Zebedee shouting after them, “Hey guys! Where are you going?” And trying to explain it to his wife later that night when she asked, “What do you mean they’re not coming home? Are you saying the boys won’t be home for supper?” The response of...

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