Posts Tagged "Lent"

Sermon March 18: Heart Healthy

Posted by on Mar 21, 2018 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon March 18: Heart Healthy

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Heart-Check-Up_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church March 18, 2018 Fifth Sunday of Lent Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Jeremiah 31:31-34, Psalm 51:1-12 Prayer of Illumination:                        God of love, through Christ you have written the ways of life on our hearts. Guide us to be your covenant people, to follow as you call, and to be a light of love for all to see. Amen. Sermon:  Heart Healthy Every year at Annual Conference in June our Conference health insurance provider offers clergy an incentive to have blood-work done. Early morning appointments are available to have our blood drawn and, for doing it, we get a $100 pre-paid credit card. Now, I hate needles, and faint at the sight of blood, but for $100 I can usually get myself down to the appointment room before meeting Tricia and Julie at the breakfast buffet. There was only one time I nearly fainted and they propped me against the wall and made me sip orange juice for 15 minutes. In addition to the $100, about a month after Annual Conference a full color booklet arrives in the mail detailing the results. They run about 30 different tests and for each there is description and a color-coded dial. Green is good, yellow is borderline, and red is the danger-zone. Now, I like to think I am healthy. I try to eat well and exercise. I take the stairs whenever possible and wear my fit-bit everyday. But each year when that booklet arrives in the mail I am reminded that ~ while I am mostly healthy ~ there are some areas that need my attention if I want to stay healthy and maintain a healthy heart. Over the years my cholesterol numbers have inched closer to red, along with those pesky triglycerides, whatever those are. So I try to avoid Ben & Jerry’s and bike around town when the weather is good, rather than take the car. But I really do love Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Peanut Buttery Swirl. Thankfully, in addition to exercise and a healthy diet, prayer is good for a healthy heart. It is proven that a regular prayer life reduces stress. And less stress is good for hearts, both spiritually and physically. As the Psalmist prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” The Psalmist didn’t know about coronary artery disease or cholesterol, but he did know about getting his heart right with God. He knew what it was to have hope that even the most desperate situation could improve. He knew what it meant to despair and he knew what it meant to give his heart to God. Likewise, the prophet Jeremiah knew that the God he followed was a God of the heart. I’ve heard Jeremiah described as a true Lenten prophet. Jeremiah’s situation was desperate. He foretold and watched the city of Jerusalem fall. He pointed out the sin of the people over and over again. He despaired at the pain and sadness all around him. Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. Yet, even through his tears, he was able to share the beautiful words of promise that we read today. Even after all he endured, Jeremiah hadn’t lost hope. In speaking the words of the Lord, he proclaimed, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts…. they shall all know me… I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah shared a vision of a grace-filled God who made his home in the very hearts of his people....

Read More

Sermon March 4: Who Are Those Fools?

Posted by on Mar 5, 2018 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon March 4: Who Are Those Fools?

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Who-Are-Those-Fools_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church March 4, 2018 Third Sunday of Lent Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 Prayer of Illumination: Creator and maker of us all, bless the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. In this time together show your ways and inspire us to live by your truth. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen Sermon:  Who Are Those Fools?      Have you ever known a fool? You know the kind of person I’m talking about, right? Someone who doesn’t quite get it. My Merriam-Webster defines fool as, “a person lacking in judgment or prudence; a person who acts un-wisely; a silly person.” We don’t like to think of ourselves as fools, do we? In fact, we like to think we are sensible people. Maybe even wise. Wisdom is, “having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing… discretion.” I lock my doors at night. I change the oil in my car every 5,000 miles. I don’t fall for those e-mail scams that tell me I’ve won $100 million. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather be considered wise than a fool. ….or at least that’s what I thought before I was reminded of Paul’s words to the Christians in Corinth that Sharon read for us this morning. Instead, perhaps, our foolishness is in thinking that we are wise, that we have it all figured out. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.” Through the foolishness of the cross God saves those who believe. Um…. What?? I can say for myself that it is difficult, at first, to see how the cross is foolishness. As William Loader says about the cross, “… we have gotten used to it and dressed it up, coated it in gold, made it ‘nice,’ turned it into jewelry.” The cross is a symbol of salvation. It makes sense for us to wear it around our necks, to see it in a prominent place in our church. But maybe we do get a little too comfortable with it. Bishop William Willimon reflects on his faith saying, “I speak of the Christian faith so casually and effortlessly that I begin to think, ‘Fine thing, this Christianity. Makes good sense.’” But if we really think about it, it doesn’t make sense, does it? Just think what the cross would mean to a first century Roman citizen. The cross was the criminal’s way to die. Only those who had done something really bad were executed by crucifying. There was nothing honorable in dying on a cross. It was a gruesome, painful end… Yet here were these fishermen, women, and tax collectors who claimed that this Jesus who died on a cross was their messiah. How much more foolish can you get? And that’s not all. The same messiah who died on a cross taught his followers to love their enemies, turn the other cheek, forgive without limit, and pray for those who persecute you. He spoke of the Kingdom of God being like a family where the younger son squanders his inheritance through irresponsible living, only to be welcomed home by the very father he disgraced. He described the Kingdom of God as like a dinner party that no one attends, so you go out into the streets and invite strangers, the poor, the mentally...

Read More

Sermon February 25: Embracing Our Name

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

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

Read More

Sermon February 18: Jesus’ Pop Quiz

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

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

Read More

Sermon April 9: The Hour Is At Hand

Posted by on Apr 11, 2017 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon April 9: The Hour Is At Hand

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/The-Hour-Is-At-Hand_E.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church April 9, 2017 Palm Sunday Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11, 26: 14-16, 36-46, 57-58, 69-27:2, 15-23 Prayer for Illumination:  Give thanks to God, for God’s steadfast love lasts forever!  In this faithful love, we are forgiven and strengthened in Christ.  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.  Amen. Sermon:  The Hour Is At Hand Palm Sunday started out so right.  How could it have gone so terribly wrong?  That’s the question centuries worth of Christians have asked, and there is still no easy answer.  The crowds that danced with joy on Sunday, waving their palms to shouts of “Hosanna!” stomped their feet and shook their fists on Friday crying “Crucify Him!”  Everything seemed so promising at first.   By Friday the hope of the world was nailed to a cross.  Sometimes that’s the way things happened, though, right?  Things aren’t always what they seem.  Jesus’ followers thought that he was going to overthrow the Roman government and return Jerusalem to the Jews.  They thought Jesus was going to be a military hero like his ancestor David.  They had been down on their luck for so long, but Jesus was going to fix all that.  Or so they thought.  When it became clear Jesus wasn’t going to meet their narrow expectations many of his followers turned their backs on him.  And, not only that, they joined with the Roman authorities in cheering his death. What, at first, seemed like a miracle turned into a nightmare. And it wasn’t enough that the religious authorities were out to get him.  It wasn’t enough that the crowds turned against him.  But his most intimate friends, those with whom he shared the most, didn’t understand.  Judas betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver.  Peter, James and John fell asleep when Jesus needed them most.  And, later, when asked if he was one of Jesus’ disciples Peter denied it three times.  In the end, Jesus was left alone. Last week, in our “Emptying Our Plates” series, we talked about emptying our plates of doubt.  In reflecting on doubt, I said that I don’t believe doubt to be the opposite of faith, but fear.  And, today, I think that is exactly what caused everything to go so wrong.  Fear.  A lot was at stake for the Jews of Jerusalem.  The Roman authorities, and even the Jewish leaders, were already suspicious of Jesus.  And even more so after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Jesus didn’t do things the way everyone else did.  Through his acts of healing and his radical teachings he drew attention to himself.  People were actually beginning to believe what he said.  To the Roman authorities and the Jewish leaders ~ those interested in maintaining the status quo ~ Jesus was a dangerous man.  They were afraid. So, in aligning themselves with him, Jesus’ followers were taking a risk.  A big risk. They were publically calling into question the rule of law.  And, as minority members of the Roman Empire, this was scary stuff.  This was not a democratic society.  There was no freedom of speech.  There was a very real possibility they could lose their livelihood, their homes, possibly even their lives.  Even the disciples, those who left everything to follow Jesus, likely had fears.  Presumably they had family back home in Galilee.  We know Peter had a mother and James and John a father.  We can assume they all had brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, if...

Read More