Posts Tagged "Easter Season"

Sermon April 15: Family Reunion

Posted by on Apr 15, 2018 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon April 15: Family Reunion

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Family-Reunion_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church April 15, 2018 Third Sunday of Easter Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Luke 24:36b-48, 1 John 3:1-7 Prayer of Illumination: Risen Christ, come to us now. Open our ears, that we may hear your word. Open our minds, that we may understand the scriptures before us. Speak to our hearts, that our lives may be transformed by your love. Guide our steps as we go forth, that we may be your beloved children, witnessing to your resurrection, and proclaiming your message throughout the earth. Amen. Sermon:  Family Reunion If you’re having a feeling of déjà vu ~ if you sense that you’ve heard this story before ~ you would be right. Today’s Gospel lesson from Luke is very similar to the story the Bishop shared with us last week from the Gospel of John. It was the first day of the week and the disciples were huddled behind closed doors in fear. Rumors were swirling that Jesus, the one who had been crucified, was risen from the dead. The disciples didn’t know whether they should be terrified or rejoice. And then Jesus ~ Jesus ~ came among them to show them his hands and feet, to eat with them, to assure them that he had indeed overcome death. Two weeks later and it is still Easter. At home we’ve probably put away our plastic eggs and Easter bunnies. But here it’s still Easter. Could it be that we’re belaboring the point? Isn’t it time to move on to something else? The Bible is chock-full of interesting stories. Yet here we are on the Third Sunday of Easter telling the same story. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed….. Maybe the wise people who put together the lectionary recognized that we are not all that different from the disciples. The disciples didn’t get it the first time Jesus told them that he would rise from the dead. They didn’t get it the second or third or fourth time either. They didn’t even get it when Mary Magdalene came to them and announced, “I have seen the Lord.” And this Scripture tells us that even in seeing the risen Jesus for themselves they didn’t get it right away. Luke tells us, “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.” Perhaps they thought Jesus was a ghost, not their friend, their brother, raised from the dead.   And, like the disciples, maybe we need to hear it again and again. “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name…” So today we have another account of the resurrection, the one recorded by Luke. It is a story filled with the ordinary and the extraordinary. It tells of gathered loved ones sharing food and studying the Scripture ~ all pretty ordinary things. Yet in this story the beloved had been resurrected, the meal echoes miracle in the sharing of bread and fish, and the Scripture opens the disciples’ eyes to see that their beloved, the one that they thought had died, was not ghost but had indeed risen from the dead.   Jesus used the ordinary to point to the extraordinary. Jesus used regular things, everyday things to witness to the divine among them. And maybe that is why they didn’t recognize him right away. One might think that the Resurrected Christ would appear in a blaze of glory. One might think there would be a chorus of angels and seraphim to announce his...

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Sermon May 7: The Valley of the Shadow

Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon May 7: The Valley of the Shadow

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.  For years I would have debilitating migraines come on seemingly out of the blue.  I’d have to hide away in a dark room, sometimes for several days.  And I never knew when they would come on.  I suffered.  (And those who were called on to step in to my place...

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

Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon April 30: What Does It Mean to be Saved?

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.  Wesley didn’t profess a simple formula for salvation, but rather, a way of salvation.  The way for one person may be much different than the way for another.  One may experience an earth shattering moment of conversion, while another comes to a gradual realization of God’s love, like my experience. ...

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Sermon April 23: Seeing Is Believing?

Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon April 23: Seeing Is Believing?

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 too late for that.   Christianity has moved from the Upper Room out into the streets and communities across the ages to us.  Unlike the disciples we don’t have the opportunity see the Risen Christ with our own eyes, to touch the Risen Christ with our own hands.  Our belief does...

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Sermon February 12: Give It Away

Posted by on Feb 12, 2017 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon February 12: Give It Away

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Give-It-Away-Feb-12-2017_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church February 12, 2017 Sixth Sunday after Epiphany Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Matthew 5:21-24, Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Prayer of Illumination: Caring God, nurture the life within us. You have shown us the ways that lead to life. You have challenged us to move beyond easy answers, to embrace the hard choices that come with caring deeply for others. Give us the wisdom and the courage to resist evil and walk in your ways of love. Amen. Sermon: Give It Away! Today our worship theme is “Creating Right Relationships.” And we spent a little time earlier hopefully doing just that. In order to be in relationship we have to get to know each other. But what, exactly, is “right relationship.” It’s not a phrase we hear very often. We hear about good relationships or challenging relationships, toxic relationships or loving relationships, but not often “right relationships.” In a theological sense, right relationships means putting God at the center of our lives. Only when we have God at the center can we be in right relationships with those around us. Being in right relationship means that we try to love, to live, to forgive, and to hold each other accountable as Jesus did. Right relationship requires that we sometimes put our needs, our wants, our desires aside to meet the other person ~ whether a friend, a lover, a parent, a child ~ where they are. We don’t stockpile God’s love for ourselves. Instead, we give it away. One thing I’ve learned ~ and I’m sure may of you have learned ~ is that relationships take work. In the “chocolate and roses” phase of a relationship it seems that nothing could ever go wrong. And then something does go wrong. Sometimes that is the end of the relationship. But other times we don’t want to walk away, so we get down in the mud and muck and try to work things out. Sometimes that means saying we are sorry. Sometimes that means accepting an apology. Sometimes that means adjusting our expectations or preconceived notions and starting fresh. And this is true not just for romantic relationships, but all kinds of relationships. Friendships. Family connections. Working relationships….. And church relationships. We here are a family of faith and, just like any family, we have our disagreements. When these disagreements come up we have to decide if we are going to work through them or walk away. Staying and working through things often requires hard work and sacrifice but, as Jesus reminds us, there are often great rewards. Today we meet Jesus teaching on the mountain ~ the Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon Jesus touches on some pretty tough topics, including ‘anger’ which we hear about today. Jesus’ audience ~ the disciples and the crowd gathered around them ~ were familiar with the Jewish law and what the law said about anger. They knew the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses. And Jesus, having just proclaimed that he hadn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, was surely expected to uphold every word. But Jesus added a little twist. He preached, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’… but I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment.” Jesus didn’t just uphold the law, but expanded upon it. It’s as if Jesus was saying, “Yes, your actions matter, but so does your heart.” Indeed, Jesus invites us to see the emotion that lies beneath the...

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