Sunday Messages

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...

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Sermon August 20: Um….. Jesus

Posted by on Aug 21, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

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...

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

Posted by on Aug 14, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

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...

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Sermon August 6: Inseperable

Posted by on Aug 7, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

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. ...

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Sermon July 30: Marriage, Children and Reconciliation

Posted by on Aug 3, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

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...

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Sermon July 23: The Morning After

Posted by on Jul 24, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

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...

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Sermon July 16: Coming of Age

Posted by on Jul 18, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

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...

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

Posted by on Jul 9, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

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...

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Sermon July 2: The Fear of Isaac

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

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/The-Fear-of-Isaac_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church July 2, 2017 Fourth Sunday after Pentecost Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Genesis 22:1-14, Psalm 13 Prayer for Illumination: We thirst for your presence, O God.  When we feel that you have forgotten us, draw close to us and remind us of your steadfast love.  When things feel difficult, show us that you are with us and provide for our needs.  When we are tempted, assure us of the freedom of life in Christ.  When we feel estranged from you, welcome us with your grace, that your love may transform us in the arms of your mercy.  Amen. Sermon:  The Fear of Isaac  Last week we thought we had a tough scripture, with the story of Abraham sending his first-born Ishmael away from the family and out into the wilderness.  Sarah wanted Abraham to prune some limbs off the family tree so her son, Isaac, would be the one to inherit the family fortune, the flocks and the herds….. and the blessing.   But today it looks like all that is in jeopardy.   The longed-for son, the bearer of the blessing, may not make it out alive.  The Scripture tells us that Abraham received message from God telling him to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering on a mountain in the land of Moriah, so that was what Abraham set out to do. This summer we are following along with Abraham and Sarah, watching the story of their family unfold, for our summer worship series “Family Stories.”  In the weeks to come we will see how the blessing is carried from generation to generation.  And we’ve already seen that those who bear the promise are not perfect people.  Thank God one doesn’t have to be blameless in order to be part of God’s work in the world.  But today’s story pushes the boundaries a little…. far. The story starts with God calling out to Abraham, to which Abraham responded, “Here I am.”  Now, the Hebrew word translated “here I am” is hineni.   (As an aside, this word, hineni, has recently stepped into the cultural vocabulary with Leonard Cohen’s last album You Want It Darker, which received a lot of press both before and after he died.)  Hineni.  The word conveys much more than it’s English translation can capture.  Hineni means, “Here I am to do whatever you ask of me.  I give myself over to you.”  So here we see Abraham trusting God so much that he basically agrees to do whatever God asks before he even knows what the request is.  And why wouldn’t he?  God had promised ~ and delivered ~ lands, riches, a son.  So why wouldn’t Abraham trust God? But then the unimaginable happened.  Abraham heard God tell him to take his beloved Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering, a sacrifice.  So, as the Scripture continues, we see Abraham get up early, gather supplies, and lead his son up the mountain.  First century rabbis, writing on this passage, point out that Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice as one carries his own cross. There are many questions about this story.  As Kathryn Schifferdecker asks, “Is it a story of an abusive God?  A misguided Abraham?  Religious violence at its worst?  Or is it a story of faith and...

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Sermon June 25: Rewriting History

Posted by on Jun 25, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Rewriting-History_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church June 25, 2017 Third Sunday after Pentecost Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Genesis 21:8-21, Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 Prayer for Illumination (Unison): Holy One, may we remember the stories of our ancestors.  May these stories become alive in us today, as we respond to your invitation to new life.  And may we be empowered to take up our cross and follow you.  Amen.   Sermon:  Rewriting History Family.  We’re in the second week of our “Family Stories” worship series and we know that family isn’t always… easy.  Recently I saw one of those decorative signs, the kind you might hang in your living room or entryway, which said, “Welcome Friends, Family by Appointment.” Today’s Old Testament lesson offers us a glimpse into a family torn apart by jealousy and insecurity.  The story of Hagar and Ishmael isn’t one that we explore very often.  Even when it appears in our lectionary readings we tend to avoid it.  I looked back in my files and found that in 17 years I’ve only preached on this scripture one other time (and that was back before I knew better).  The reason we avoid this scripture is that it puts Abraham and Sarah, the mother and father of our faith tradition, in a poor light.  It is not a happy story.  Caught between Sarah, mother of Isaac, and Hagar, mother of Ishmael, Abraham makes a choice between his two sons.  One he holds close and the other he casts out into the wilderness with his mother.  Yet, as in all Biblical stories, there is something here we can learn.  It’s a story that conveys truth about humanity and family and gives us a glimpse at the mercy and justice of God. The saga we explore today tosses us right into the middle of a complicated story, which actually started some 20 years before.  Last week we caught up with Abraham and Sarah in Cana just as they were celebrating the birth of their long hoped for baby boy, Isaac.  What we didn’t recall last week was that Abraham already had a son, Ishmael, with Sarah’s slave, Hagar.  Sarah, despondent about being unable to have children, had given Hagar to Abraham so she could have a child for Sarah.  As a slave, Hagar was considered Sarah’s property and Sarah would have authority over the child Hagar bore.  Sarah was hedging her bets.  If God didn’t follow through with the promise of children, at least they would have Hagar’s child. But God did, as God tends to do, follow through on the promise and a few years after Hagar had Ishmael Sarah bore Isaac.  This is when things started to get bad for Hagar and her son.  So, picking up with our reading for today, Abraham and Sarah were having a weaning party for their treasured son.  During the party Sarah looked over to find that Isaac, her beautiful baby, was playing with his half-brother Ishmael.  Instead of being overcome with thankfulness for the great blessing God brought to her life, Sarah was overcome with anger and jealousy. Sarah couched her anger in concern about inheritance.  Isaac was Abraham’s second son, so Ishmael was set to inherit most of the estate upon Abraham’s death.  In Hebrew culture the inheritance went to all children, but...

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