Sunday Messages

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

Sermon June 18: Tell Me Again!

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

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Tell-Me-Again_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church June 18, 2017 Second Sunday after Pentecost Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7, Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 Prayer for Illumination: Draw us close, Holy Spirit, as the Scriptures are read and the Word is proclaimed. Let the word of faith be on our lips and in our hearts, and let all other words slip away. May there be one voice we hear today — the voice of truth and grace.  Amen. Sermon:  Tell Me Again! For $99, and a little DNA, you can now find out your precise ancestral roots.  My aunt mailed in her 23andMe test and, two weeks later, learned that she is 73% Western European, 12% Irish, 5% Scandinavian and 1% West Asian.   Some of the results were expected and some were rather surprising.  It makes the world seem smaller, somehow.   My aunt, a native and life-long resident of rural Maine, has relatives all over the world. For the next several weeks we are going to be talking about families.  Families come in all shapes and sizes.  Families can consist of people to whom we are blood related, legally committed, or simply drawn to out of mutual interests or shared worldviews.  Some people have very strong ties to their families of origin while others, due to distance or estrangement, find family among friends.  Sometimes we are proud of our families, while other times our families can be a source of pain or embarrassment.  One of my cousins (older than me) had a difficult time finding his way.  When my grandmother read about his arrest in the newspaper the shock and pain of that rippled out across our family’s generations. Family stories, when we tell them, can be a source of healing, hope, and perspective.  When we share painful family experiences we may learn that others have had similar experiences and we are not alone.  When we consider our family history we may see how we benefited from the experiences of our ancestors.  When we face struggle or loss we may be able to remember how our mother, or grandfather or great-aunt endured in a difficult time.    And families can also be a source of humor.  We may be able to laugh with (and at) our families in ways we can’t with others.  As one joke goes, “I shook my family tree and a bunch of nuts fell out.” I suspect that Abraham and Sarah, from today’s reading of Genesis, were a bit nuts – or at least their families probably thought so.   Prior to today’s reading the Scripture tells us that God instructed Abraham to take his wife and his livestock and leave his father’s house, his native land.  This was not something frequently done in those days…. To set off by oneself opened one’s household up to thieves and other tribes who might rob or even kill, not to mention the dangers of wild animals, drought and flood.  Together villages could often face these threats but alone, well, who knows? So Abraham should have known better than to drag his elderly wife out into the wilderness….and Sarah should have known better than to follow.  But there was something irresistible about God’s message to Abraham.  God told Abraham that, if he followed, he and Sarah would have a child and their...

read more

Sermon June 11: It Takes Three

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

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/It-Takes-Three_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church June 11, 2017 Trinity Sunday Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20 Prayer for Illumination: By your power and authority, God, may your servant love become our way of life.  May your grace and forgiveness inspire us to hope for the future.  May we become the living embodiment of your good news in all that we say and do.  Amen. Sermon: It Takes Three  The Trinity and I have been having an argument this week.  It’s not going so well on my side, but I guess that’s not surprising since it’s three against one.  Okay. That’s my attempt at a joke on Trinity Sunday.  I’m not offended if you didn’t laugh. But seriously, today is the day we get to talk about the Trinity.  To try to explain the mystery of the Trinity.  To remember that we worship a God who is both one and three, three in one.  Folks have come up with many technical analogies to describe the Trinity.  There’s the shell, white and yoke that make up one egg.  There’s the skin, flesh and seeds that make up one apple.  Water has three states – liquid, ice, and vapor – but remains water.  The shamrock has three leaves but is still one plant. The image I have on the projector shows one technical attempt to explain the Trinity.  As you can see the “is nots” are in the blue circle along the outside.  The son is not the father.  The father is not the spirit.  The spirit is not the son.  Yet the green paths that lead to God say “is.”  The Father is God.  The Son is God.  The Spirit is God.  The three persons of the Trinity are separate AND they are all God. Others experience the Trinity more through art and relationship.  The artist who created this icon depicts the three persons of the Trinity as literal persons sitting together in relationship.  A friend I spoke to this week said he has experienced the Trinity most profoundly in observing the relationship between his three children.  The book (and the movie) The Shack portrays each person of the Trinity as a character.  The father as an African American woman.  The son as a Middle Eastern man.  And the Spirit as an Asian woman.  These characters share a dynamic relationship as they shepherd the book’s protagonist, Mack, through the lessons he must learn. But the real question about the Trinity is, so what?  The doctrine of the Trinity itself isn’t even in the Bible.  It took centuries of theological wrangling, and a succession of ecumenical councils, to finally articulate what we now accept as the orthodox understanding of the Trinity.  There’s another joke about the Trinity (one that I didn’t write, so I promise it will be better): Walking with his disciples one day, Jesus said, “Whom do men say that I am?”  His disciples answered, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elijah, or other of the old prophets.” But Jesus questioned again, “But whom do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by...

read more

Sermon May 28: On Earth, as in Heaven

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

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/On-Earth-as-in-Heaven_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church May 28, 2017 Ascension Sunday Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Acts 1:1-11, Luke 24:44-53 Prayer for Illumination (Unison):  Holy Lord, the gift of your hope and the power of your Spirit are given to all who worship here today.  Help us grasp the enormity of your gifts, that we may receive these gifts with open hearts and celebrate them joyfully as we serve you in every aspect of our lives.  Amen.  And may the words that I speak and the thoughts that we form be acceptable in your sight, O God our Rock and our Redeemer. Sermon: On Earth, as in Heaven It’s a little bit like science fiction, this thing we call the Ascension.  Jesus lifted bodily into heaven, rising like a helium balloon into the sky, feet getting smaller and smaller the higher he goes.  No wonder the disciples were ‘gazing up toward heaven’ as the Scripture put it.  Jaws dropped, they were probably dumbfounded, wondering what just happened.  What could possibly have just happened??? But at least they had a frame of reference ~ a little background ~ on which to draw to make sense of the experience.  This was only the latest extra-ordinary event they witnessed while in Jesus’ company.  Strange things seemed to happen when Jesus was around.  The blind saw.  The lame walked.  The dead came back to life.  Jesus’ presence alone seemed to elicit all sorts of supernatural happenings.  Voices from heaven.  Visits from prophets.  Vacated tombs.  So, come to think of it, being lifted bodily into heaven doesn’t seem so unlikely in light of everything else. Yet, for us, separated by centuries and scientific facts, this story can be a little hard to swallow.  We get caught up in the ‘how.’  How did it happen?  How could it have happened?  We know ‘scientifically’ that heaven isn’t literally ‘up there’.  Up there we find planets and galaxies and black holes and supernovas.  So where did Jesus go when he ascended into heaven?  Perhaps it was easier for those early disciples, heads titled skyward, to believe.  We know too much.  Stories like this are just too outrageous for educated, modern, cause-and-effect folks like us to take seriously.    This whole Ascension thing makes a good story, but really??   Stuff like this only happens in the movies with special effects and computer generated graphics, not in first century Jerusalem. Now, I certainly don’t want to offend anyone but it is probably not a shock that science fiction movies aren’t really ‘my thing.’  Sure, I got into Star Wars recently, but that’s about the extent of my sci-fi interest.  You might convince me to watch for a few minutes, but I’ll probably be gone as soon as my popcorn runs out.  I bet you can guess what kind of movies I like best.  Chick-flicks, that’s right!  I don’t like the stereotype, but it’s true that I like movies about relationships.  And, lucky for me, I think that is what the Ascension is really about. Today is the final Sunday in our “Rise Up” series.  (Which is fitting, since Jesus actually rises up in our Scriptures this morning.)  Over the past few weeks we’ve explored the Christian concepts of belief, salvation, suffering, judgement and, now, the Kingdom of Heaven.  We tend to think...

read more

Sermon May 7: The Valley of the Shadow

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

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/The-Valley-of-the-Shadow_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church May 7, 2017 Fourth Sunday of Easter Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:19-25 Prayer for Illumination:  Risen Christ, open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts, so we might recognize you once again in these words of scripture, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And may the words that I speak and the thoughts that we form be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our redeemer. Amen. Sermon: The Valley of the Shadow This is the fourth Sunday of Easter.  The Easter Season includes Easter Sunday and goes all the way until Pentecost, which is June 5th this year.  These days between Easter and Pentecost are called The Great Fifty Days of Easter.   In the early church new Christians were often baptized on Easter Sunday.  The fifty days between Easter and Pentecost served as a time of instruction for these new converts, an opportunity to learn the basic teachings of Christianity. So, these past few weeks, we’ve been following the example of the early church and exploring some of the basic concepts of our faith.  A couple weeks ago we considered what it means to believe in Jesus.  Last week we reflected on salvation and our understanding of “being saved.”  Today we are looking at suffering.  What does it mean to suffer as a follower of Jesus? First, I think we can all agree that suffering is an inevitable part of life.  We all suffer.  To suffer is to, “…to experience pain, illness, or injury; to experience something unpleasant (such as defeat, loss, or damage); to become worse because of being badly affected by something.”  We suffer broken bones and heart attacks.  We suffer heartbreak and loss.  We suffer from doubt and lack of confidence and the poor decisions of others and ourselves.  None of us get through life without suffering.  As the Psalmist wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” And neither was Jesus immune to suffering.  We speak of the passion of Christ to describe the last week of Jesus’ life when we was arrested, betrayed, beaten, and crucified.  The word ‘passion’ comes from the Latin word we translate into English as suffering.   Our Messiah is a suffering Messiah.  Even the Son of God was not spared the cruelties and humiliations of human life. And, because Christ suffered, Christians over the centuries have attached certain significance to suffering.  We all have our cross to bear.  In our Adult Study class we’ve been exploring some “Christian phrases” that people often attribute to the Bible, but are not actually Biblical.  Everything happens for a reason.  God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.  These reassurances, which are not actually in the Bible, are often used to theologize another’s suffering.  If we can explain someone’s suffering as part of God’s plan, we don’t have to think too much about it ourselves.  Yet suffering, for suffering’s sake, is not redemptive.  Jesus came to relieve our burdens, to lead us out of the valley of the shadow and bring us to abundant life.  So what, then, is the value of suffering?  We all must endure suffering, so what can we learn from it?  I’m sure many of your remember my struggle with migraines. ...

read more

Sermon April 30: What Does It Mean to be Saved?

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

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/What-Does-It-Mean-To-Be-Saved_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church April 30, 2017 Third Sunday of Easter Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Acts 2:14a, 36-41, 1 Peter 1:17-23 Prayer for Illumination (Unison):  We will pay our vows to the Lord, in the presence of God’s people.  We will pay our vows to the Lord, as we purify our souls through obedience to God’s enduring word.  Amen.  And may the words that I speak and the thoughts that we form be acceptable in your sight, O God our Rock and our Redeemer. Sermon: What Does It Mean to be Saved? A while back, while shopping in the chip aisle of the grocery store, a   woman asked me, “Are you saved?”  At first I was taken-aback.  That’s not the kind of question I’m used to fielding while deciding between Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch Doritos.  I managed to mumble out a, “Yes,” after which I received a series of follow-up questions.  It was at that point that I realized that she and I had completely different ideas of what it means to be saved.  The questions she asked me were about the things that I do and the things that I believe that would, to her, “prove” I’ve been saved.  Do you go to church every Sunday?  Do you read the Bible every day?  Do you pray?  Tithe?   Do you believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven?  You see, I don’t believe that we have to do anything to be saved.  I believe that God’s love saves us and God’s love isn’t something we can earn or deserve.  It is a gift.  As we teach our Confirmation youth, God’s grace is a free gift given to us without price.  We can’t tithe our way into heaven or pray our way into heaven or read our way into heaven or even believe our way into heaven.   We are not saved because of anything that we do.  Our salvation is all God’s doing. Yet, for us mainline Protestants the “Are you saved?” question can get a little tricky.  Even today it feels a bit presumptuous to me to answer, “Yes.”  I mean, I can hope….but how can I presume to know the will of God.  And I’ve had this conversation before when the questioner has asked for details.  When? Where? How was I saved?  I was raised a United Methodist from birth.  There is no single moment I can point to when I knew God’s saving love was for me.  It was more of a gradual thing, happening between Sunday school and church camp and potluck dinners. I was about 12 when I first felt what I would later come to define as a call to ministry.  Yet even now, thirty years later, I still have moments when I feel I understand God’s saving love in new and surprising ways.  For me, to say that I was saved at a particular moment, in a particular place, would diminish God’s continuing work in my life.  But that’s just me.  I know others have very different experiences of salvation, which is part of the beauty of God’s individual, specific love for each of us.  God gives us what we each truly need.  Indeed, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, appreciated the variety of believers’ experiences of salvation. ...

read more

Sermon April 23: Seeing Is Believing?

Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Sunday Message | 0 comments

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Seeing-Is-Believing_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church April 23, 2017 Second Sunday of Easter Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  John 20:19-31, Acts 2:14a, 22-32 Prayer for Illumination (Unison):  Living Christ, you give us what we need to transform our doubt into belief.  You come, offering us peace, and filling our lives with your living presence.  With joy and rejoicing we turn to you, confident in your love.  Amen.  And may the words that I speak and the thoughts that we form be acceptable in your sight, O God our Rock and our Redeemer. Sermon:  Seeing Is Believing? Thomas.  Thomas.  Thomas.  Doubting Thomas.  Tardy Thomas.  Too-late Thomas.  We’ve all been there, right?  We all know what it’s like to miss out on something really exciting, to arrive just a couple minutes too late. But to miss the Risen Christ is really something.  Where was Thomas anyway?  The Scripture tells us that the disciples were locked inside the house where they were staying ~ doors bolted shut ~ for fear of the authorities.  The disciples were scared.  They were scared because their teacher had been crucified.  They were scared because of the rumors he had risen from the dead.  Whether Jesus was really dead or had actually risen, they had reason to fear for their lives.  So where was Thomas?  Why was he not locked safely away with the other disciples?  Was he not, too, scared for his life?  Thomas appears in our Lectionary readings every year on the Sunday after Easter.  The Lectionary Committee, who assigned most other Scriptures on a three year rotating basis, must’ve thought that Thomas’ story was important enough to hear every year.  So each year we hear of how Thomas missed out on Jesus’ first post-resurrection appearance to the disciples.  Each year we hear how he complained that he couldn’t believe unless he saw for himself.  Each year we hear how Jesus then returned a week later to show himself to Thomas, nail-scarred hands and all.  And each year we hear Jesus pronounce, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have yet come to believe.” I might be missing the point, but I think we focus too much on Thomas’ doubt.  The truth is that Thomas didn’t ask for anything more than the other disciples had already received.  Earlier in the day Mary had come to all the disciples to tell them, “I have seen the Lord!”  Yet, instead of celebrating they locked themselves away in fear.  It was only after they saw Jesus for themselves that their fear turned to rejoicing.  When Thomas returned from his errand all his friends told him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas,  understandably, wanted to see him, too. And, truth be told, so would I.   I do experience the Risen One in my prayer life.  I feel Christ’s presence in the midst of our church community.  I sense Jesus among us as we share together the bread and the cup.  I know Christ guides us as we share our gifts in worship, in ministries of compassion, in our encouragement of each other and in a hundred different ways within and outside these walls.  But how amazing it would be to see Jesus, to touch his hands, to feel his breath. Yet, the reality is that we are about 2,000 years...

read more