Sunday Message

Sermon August 13: Putting Yourself Out (of the boat)

Posted by on Aug 14, 2017 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon August 13: Putting Yourself Out (of the boat)

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Putting-Yourself-Out_E.mp3 Sermon By Tim Hess August 13, 2017 Sermon “Putting Yourself Out” {Notes to accompany Matthew 14:22-33} This week, we find Jesus in need of some alone time for spiritual renewal. He has not yet managed to take a break to deal with his own need to grieve the loss of his friend and cousin John the Baptist. Matthew tells us that Jesus dismissed the crowds, sent the disciples on ahead in a boat, and went up on a mountain to spend some time alone in prayer and reflection. The disciples themselves had had a long, hard day.  They had worked with Jesus as he healed the sick, and taught.  They had been a part of the feeding of over 5,000 people.  They were tired, and probably longed to relax and get a good night’s sleep. I should point out at this point, that a boat or ship was one of the earliest symbols for the church, and the waters represent the chaos of the world, sometimes calm and sometimes turbulent. Continuing the story, Douglas Wingeier, writing in “Keeping Holy Time”, offers, The disciples were in the midst of a dark and scary chaos. It did not look good—such a great storm and such a fragile boat.  Their whole world seemed to be collapsing around them and their lives appeared to be in danger.  Have you ever had one of those days? Life seems to get crazy sometimes. We love the smooth times, don’t we, when all is well.  But, O Lord, we have serious problems with wind and waves, like the disciples did in the passage from Matthew. We want God to “fill our sails with a lovely breeze that guides our sturdy boats across the glassy sea”; but you know that life isn’t just glassy seas and gentle breezes, and sturdy boats {leaks have to be repaired in roofs!}. Sometimes things get rough. We need help to keep our trust in the Lord during all these rough times.  He calls to us to reach out, to take our focus off our own panic and place our trust in him. God asks us to reach out to others, who are not in our boat, with the same kind of love and compassion that he has given to us. Today many of us come to him with burdens and cares on our minds. Our “seas” are not calm, but he does offer us a lifeline.   He is with us, guiding our lives.  If we ask him, he will give us courage and hope, strengthening us to truly be his disciples. If we want to cement our relationship with God, have an impact on others, and perhaps leave a legacy to God’s glory, then we, like Peter, need to get out of the boat more frequently.  To do this, we must face our doubts and fears.  Jesus didn’t come to make us comfortable, he came to make us brave! A Case in point…. Many young people in our community have written the church off as irrelevant, because the church is not engaging the world in a way that they find useful.  Pastor Dawn Chesser adds “many young adults simply cannot envision a future that in any way resembles the lifestyles that previous generations have enjoyed. They imagine a life defined by struggling to find work, and having difficulty making ends meet economically.  They worry about the health of the planet and climate change.  They imagine the near destruction of the planet as previous generations have known it, and they don’t understand why the church seems to be forever squabbling over...

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Sermon August 6: Inseperable

Posted by on Aug 7, 2017 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon August 6: Inseperable

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Inseparable_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church August 6, 2017 Ninth Sunday after Pentecost Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Romans 8:26-39 Prayer for Illumination: O God, open our hearts to hear your word of grace.  Give us honest spirits, that we may receive your gift.   Help us experience anew the surprise and joy that your presence in the word can bring.  Amen. Sermon: Inseparable The summer after third-grade I went to sleep-away camp.  Maine’s version of Covenant Hills or Sky Farm is Camp Mechuwana and I couldn’t wait to go.  It was a family tradition ~ my mother, my aunt, and my cousins had all gone before me.  The week arrived and my parents drove me the 45 minutes to Winthrop, ME.  As I dashed out of the car I barely looked back to say good-bye to Mom and Dad as I rushed off to meet my new friends.  Everything was good ~ for the first three or four hours.  Then the tummy ache started and the headache and I couldn’t sleep after lights-out.  I was homesick. And it didn’t turn out to be a minor case either.  My separation anxiety was severe.  The next day, when my counselor couldn’t deal with me any longer, I was allowed to call home.  It was decided that my mother would come up, just for the day, to help me settle in.  Once she arrived I was right back to playing and swimming and getting to know my new friends.  My mother loves to tell the story of how I whispered in her ear, “Mum, you’ll never believe it, but I don’t feel homesick at all since you got here.” Our Scripture lesson today, from Paul’s letter to the Romans, is rich with striking declarations of God’s promise to never leave us.  It’s a beautiful passage.  Paul affirms that when life is at its worst, when we can’t find the words to pray, when we don’t even know how, the Spirit steps in on our behalf.  Paul, who had himself been in the depths of despair more than once, insists that all things work together for good for those who love God and that nothing ~ absolutely nothing ~ can separate us from God’s love. But wait a second ….   In a world where refugees wander the globe seeking welcome and nuclear war seems an ever closer possibility and good people get cancer and fall behind on the rent and struggle to feed their families, how can this be?  Can all things really work together for good for those who love God?  It certainly doesn’t always feel that way, at least to me.  Maybe Paul was using a little hyperbole… getting a bit carried away.  All things work together for good.  Every cloud has a silver lining.  God never gives us more than we can handle.  When you are given lemons, make lemonade. And who could blame him?  It’s easy to get carried away sometimes, isn’t it?  Like when you’re just off a great week of vacation….or you’ve been offered that perfect job….or you’ve received good news from the doctor.  At those times it certainly seems like all things work together for good.  But then there are those other times. I don’t have to tell you about them.  You know what I am talking about.  Tough times.  Days, weeks, months when nothing seems to come together, when everything good seems just beyond reach. The truth is, tough times are part of being human.  No one can escape them.  The Christians in Rome knew this to be true.  Groaning under conflict within their community and persecution...

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Sermon July 30: Marriage, Children and Reconciliation

Posted by on Aug 3, 2017 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon July 30: Marriage, Children and Reconciliation

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Marriage-Children-and-Reconciiation_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church July 30, 2017 Eighth Sunday after Pentecost Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Genesis 29:15-28, Psalm 105:1-11, 45b Story Moment: Stories have been part of our human culture since the beginning.  Some of the earliest carvings found on cave walls are thought to depict stories.  Before stories were written down tribes would gather around the fire where stories would be shared.  Stories help us understand where we come from and who we are.  Stories strengthen communities and connect the present to the past.  Stories of being and meaning have been passed down through countless generations. If any of you are podcast fans like me, you might be familiar with StoryCorp.  StoryCorp’s mission is to record, preserve and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs.  The stories are recorded, shared on podcasts, and archived for future generations.  Listening to StoryCorp podcasts in the car I’ve laughed out loud and I’ve cried.  And I’ve come to realize that you can never presume to know another person’s story. Some might say that the stories we’ve been reading from Genesis the past few weeks are the original StoryCorp.  The stories of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel and Leah were passed down from generation to generation orally – told beside the fire or over a shared meal – so the people of Israel would know where they came from and who they were in relation to God. So today we are joining the ancient tradition of storytelling and having our own StoryCorp, of sorts.  First Bill and Lynn will share a story with us.  Then you will have a chance, if you wish, to share a story about your family…. a story that has informed your life, that tells us something about you that we may not know, or that helped you understand where you come from or who you are. Bill and Lynn……. Stories can celebrate our uniqueness or help us to appreciate our commonalities.  In a few minutes we will wrap up Jacob’s story as we come to the end of our journey through the family stories of Genesis.   Prayer for Illumination (Unison): God of possibilities, mold us into people of possibility.  Keep us ever mindful of your covenant love and grace.  Wake us up to watch and wait for your appearance and your guidance.  Let your Spirit rise within us, that we may bring forth the kingdom and influence others to this hope and promise in all that we say and do.  Amen. Sermon:  Marriage, Children and Reconciliation Earlier I said that we will wrap-up Jacob’s story today, but that is not completely true.  There really is no end to the story because Jacob’s story is our story.  That’s the thing about family stories – they often don’t wrap up all neat and tidy.  There is often the next generation or another branch of the family tree that keeps the story going.  And even if the family tree dies off, the influence of every family lives on in the communities or in the church families to which the family belonged.  Last week we followed Jacob into the wilderness where he fled from his brother to save his life.  You may remember that Jacob ran from Esau who was in a murderous rage after Jacob stole his birthright and his blessing.  Jacob escaped into the wilderness not knowing if he would ever be able to return home.  And it was in the wilderness that Jacob, in a dream, received a promise from God.  God assured Jacob that he would return home,...

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Sermon July 23: The Morning After

Posted by on Jul 24, 2017 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon July 23: The Morning After

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/The-Morning-After_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church July 23, 2017 Seventh Sunday after Pentecost Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Genesis 28:10-19a, Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 Prayer for Illumination (Unison): Search us and know us, O God.  Test our hearts and know our thoughts.  See if there is any wickedness that clings to us like dew to the grass.  Search us and know us, O God.  Lead us in the way of everlasting life.  Amen.  Sermon:  The Morning After Do you know that feeling of waking up the morning after you’ve made a really bad mistake?  For a few seconds everything seems right with the world but then….. you remember.  You remember what you did and how it hurt the ones you love and how your life will never be quite the same because of it.  I suspect that is how Jacob felt on the morning we read about in our Scripture lesson, waking up with a stone pillow under his head. You see, Jacob was on the run.  He was fleeing from his brother who was in a murderous rage because Jacob tricked their father and stole two of the most precious things one could – his brother’s birthright and blessing.  As the great preacher Barbara Brown Taylor put it, “…he has simply pushed his luck too far and has left town in a hurry.  He is in-between times and places, in a limbo of his own making.” Because of his actions Jacob has become the black sheep of the family – the odd or disreputable family member who gets pushed outside the inner circle.  Jacob had always been a little bit of an outsider.  His brother Esau and his father Isaac liked the same things.  They were outdoorsmen while Jacob enjoyed being inside.  They hunted together and tended the flocks together while Jacob stayed with his mother to cook and clean.  Maybe he even longed for a better relationship with his father and brother, but didn’t how to make that happen.  Isaac and Esau probably made fun of Jacob, calling him a ‘mamma’s boy.’   And Jacob probably got fed up with it.  But what Jacob did put him firmly outside the family circle, on his own in the wilderness, running for his life. So when Jacob, physically and emotionally weary from running, falls exhausted for what he could only expect to be a fitful night of sleep in the wilderness he took a stone for a pillow and prayed that no wild animals would come along and eat him in the dark.  Instead of a restless night of sleep, though, Jacob received a beautiful gift, a dream that assured him his place in the family of God.  Jacob was not the black sheep in God’s eyes.  In his dream there were angels traveling up and down from heaven on a ladder.  One scholar suggested that the angels came down to earth to carry the fear, the guilt and the suffering of Jacob up to heaven.  In his dream, God also spoke, “I am the Lord…. the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring;… Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go… I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Jacob, whom some have called a cheat and a scoundrel, found out that he could not flee from God.  The morning after his amazing dream Jacob took his stone pillow and used it to mark the spot where he heard God’s voice and saw the angels.  Up until this point in the story Jacob had only...

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Sermon July 16: Coming of Age

Posted by on Jul 18, 2017 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon July 16: Coming of Age

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Coming-of-Age_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church July 16, 2017 Sixth Sunday after Pentecost Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Genesis 24:19-34, Psalm 119: 1-5-112 Prayer for Illumination: Nourish us, O God, with your word of life.  Bring us to our senses so your purposes may be apparent to us.  In our sharing and our reflecting, may we rejoice with our sisters and brothers as we find new life.  Amen. Sermon:  Coming of Age I am probably not the most qualified person to be giving today’s sermon.  You see, I am an only child and today’s story is about brothers and, more specifically, sibling rivalry.   I didn’t have brothers or sisters to compete with for Mum or Dad’s attention.  No one compared me to an older sibling or told me to be a good example for a younger one.  So, today, I am going to ask for your help with the sermon.  We warned you that you might have a chance to tell a story today!  But first, I’m going to set the stage a little bit – give you a chance to think if you have a story to share. So, let’s consider, if you had a choice, would you want to go back and live your childhood over again?  Childhood.  Our first experiences with accomplishment and our first glimpses of defeat.  It seems like childhood is, in some ways, the time in our life that holds the greatest possibility, while also forcing on us the most change.  As Bill Watterson, the creator of the comic Calvin and Hobbes, once said, “People who get nostalgic about childhood were obviously never children.” It is probably no wonder that many people look back on childhood with a bittersweet feeling.  Childhood days were filled with play and laughter to a degree that we don’t often experience as adults.  But childhood was also when we faced life’s first hard lessons.  Our first skinned knee.  Getting teased in school.  At a tender, young age we learned that the world is not always a happy or safe place. The Scripture hints that Jacob and Esau most likely didn’t have an easy time in childhood.  Isaac and Rebekah ~ the lovebirds from last week’s story ~ were not the best parents.  They chose favorites.  For twins, Esau and Jacob were nothing alike.  Esau was the type of boy who loved to hunt and be outdoors.  He and Isaac probably spent a lot of time together in the fields.  Jacob was a quiet boy who liked to stay inside, probably helping Rebekah with the household tasks.  Isaac and Rebekah, whether wittingly or unwittingly, created competition between their sons instead of love and mutual respect. The first example of this is from our lesson today.  Jacob cheated Esau out of his birthright for a bowl of stew.   Now this just sounds ridiculous.  Don’t you think?  Jacob was greedy and devious.  Esau was impulsive and short sighted.  Esau was so hungry that he thought he was going to die.  Jacob took advantage of his brother’s vulnerability.  Jacob one-upped Esau and we get the feeling he was pretty happy with himself. But Jacob didn’t stop there.  His deviousness continued.  He had his brother’s birthright and he wanted his blessing, too. If we read on in the book of Genesis we see the family story take a tragic turn. While Esau was out hunting game, Jacob sneaked into his tent to deceive their old, blind father.  Jacob tricked his father into thinking he was Esau and he, Jacob, received Esau’s blessing.  First a birthright and now a blessing.  Once Esau discovered what had happened,...

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Sermon July 9: “A Match Made in….. Nahor”

Posted by on Jul 9, 2017 in Sunday Message | Comments Off on Sermon July 9: “A Match Made in….. Nahor”

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/A-Match-Made-in...Nahor_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church July 9, 2017 Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67, Psalm 45:10-17 Prayer for Illumination: Abraham and Sarah heard God’s call and traveled where God led. Rebekah heard God’s call and traveled to Isaac as God led.  The God of our ancestors calls to us even now.  May we travel where God leads in the name of Jesus the Christ who strengthens us for the journey.  Amen. Sermon:  A Match Made in….. Nahor Today, in our Family Stories series, we have a love story.  It may not be the kind of story that we expect, with our modern day understanding of love.  Isaac and Rebekah didn’t meet at a bar on single’s night.  They didn’t message each other on Match.com.  Their eyes didn’t lock over the coffeemaker at work.  Their love story was more of the ‘arranged’ variety.  Abraham decided that it was time for his forty-year-old son to settle down, so he sent his servant back home to the city of Nahor in the country of Haran to pick a wife for Isaac from his family clan. In those days it was often the families that set these things up, taking into account dowries and clan relations.  Not very romantic.  Custom even required that, once betrothed, the groom wasn’t supposed to see the face of his bride until the wedding night.  (We’ll see later how that got Jacob into trouble when, intending to marry Rachel he married Leah instead.  But that’s a story for another day.)  Today we see Isaac, the long-awaited and much beloved son of Abraham and Sarah, take another step toward the promise as he welcomes a wife and settles down as a family man.  We may wonder why Isaac waited so long.  As the bearer of the promise one might think he would want to get the promise going.  Let’s get this party started!  If one is going to be the father of multitudes, one better start having babies.  But Isaac, at forty-years-old, lived seemingly as a bachelor, a loner, moving around, tending his flocks and herds. Isaac’s reluctance to settle may have had something to do with what we talked about last week, Abraham’s near sacrifice of him.  Maybe Isaac had some trust issues having been nearly killed by his own father, at God’s instruction no less.  Maybe Isaac didn’t think love was a real thing, having been hurt so badly by one who supposedly loved him.  At the end of today’s lesson we find Isaac coming from the land of Beer-lahai-roi to the Negeb.  Beer-lahai-roi is the land associated with his step-mother Hagar, the land she and Ishmael went to when fleeing Sarah’s anger.  Isaac having just been to Beer-lahai-roi brings up memories of another of Abraham’s questionable actions, the banishment of Isaac’s own half-brother. With family like this, who needs enemies, right?  And neither was Sarah, Isaac’s mother, blameless.  But she did, it seems, hold a place in Isaac’s heart.  For it was at her death that Abraham sent for, and Isaac accepted, a wife. So far we’ve talked a lot about Isaac, but Rebekah is no wall-flower in this story.  In fact, most of the story we read this morning is about her and her family.  Rebekah has variously been described as generous, compassionate, full of energy, and courageous with a sense of adventure.  In fact, in this story, and throughout their marriage, Rebekah really over-shadowed Isaac.  She was a strong woman who usually got what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to take a chance. And it appears that Rebekah’s...

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