Posts Tagged "Epiphany"

Sermon January 8: Looking For Our Star

Posted by on Jan 8, 2017 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon January 8: Looking For Our Star Faith United Methodist Church January 8, 2017 Epiphany Sunday Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Matthew 2:1-12, Isaiah 60:1-6 Prayer of Illumination: May we, like the Magi, have a star to guide us on our journey to find the one who will truly set us free. May we draw closer to you, that the good news of the birth of light and love will transform our lives. Amen. Sermon:  Looking For Our Star       Any Star Wars fans here? I’m sure I saw the original movies when I was a child. In fact, I remember being in the theater, covering my eyes, as Luke pulled the mask off Darth Vader’s head. I was only eight or nine at the time and that qualified as pretty scary. Apart from that, though, I really didn’t know much about the whole Star Wars thing. That was until this holiday. Ben and Gary wanted to see Rogue 1, so I decided to tag along. And, I have to admit, it was a pretty darn good story. That, and Carrie Fisher’s untimely death, got me curious about the Star Wars phenomenon. Over the next several days we watched the original Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Five Star Wars movies in less than a week left me contemplating good verses evil, the power of the Force and the hope found in giving one’s life for something greater than oneself. It’s not surprising that books and articles have been written about the theological themes in Star Wars. But we’re not here for movie reviews today. We are here to consider the story of another star….not Star Wars, but the star that that led the Magi ~ the Wise Men ~ to Jesus. Entering into Jerusalem, at the tail end of their long journey, the Magi questioned, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.”   If you think about it, the story of the Magi and their star would make a good movie…… The story begins with a star shining in the sky that no one can explain. This star grabs the attention of some Eastern astrologers, scientists ~ known as Magi ~ who can’t leave well enough alone. They travel a great distance, following the star, only to find themselves in the foreign city of Jerusalem. The plot thickens when they meet Herod, the King, who at first seems very helpful but is harboring ulterior motives. Things get more complicated when they finally reach their destination ~ Bethlehem. The star stops and, “…they [are] overwhelmed with joy.” What they find, though, is not a King in the traditional sense, but a baby. This might be the plot twist in the story. Upon seeing the little boy, they recognize him for who he really is and give him gifts fit for royalty. Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh. The plot takes one more turn when, before leaving, the Magi are warned in a dream that Herod isn’t such a good guy after all, and they head home by a different route. Now, we hear that story and we nod our heads and smile because it is part of the Christmas story we have heard forever. But just think of how strange it must have been at the time. Almost as surprising as the Alliance Fleet taking out the Death Star. Mary and Joseph, with their little boy toddling around, suddenly find themselves entertaining camel riding travelers who wear strange clothes and bear strange gifts....

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Sermon February 22: Divine Meetings

Posted by on Feb 15, 2015 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon February 22: Divine Meetings Faith United Methodist Church February 15, 2015 Transfiguration Sunday Rev. Krista Beth Atwood Scripture: Mark 9:2-9, 2 Kings 2:1-12 Prayer of Illumination: O Lord, in the light of your presence we turn our attention to your teaching, seeking what you have to say to us. Bless O God the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts as we reflect upon your word. May your message to us inspire us and may the light of your love shine through us. We pray this all in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen Sermon:  Divine Meetings   Here at Faith United Methodist Church we know about meetings, don’t we? On any given night of the week you may find a few of us gathered here for a meeting of one sort or another. We have outreach team meetings, Trustees meetings, worship team meetings, Church Council meetings, Stewardship team meetings, and even meetings to arrange our meetings. Thinking about our fondness for meetings I am reminded of the old light-bulb joke. How many Methodists does it take to change a light bulb? At least 15, one to change the light bulb, and three committee meetings to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad. (That’s another thing about Methodists, we know how to do a good pot-luck.) My friend and instructor Rev. Barb Lemmel, whose father is also a pastor, shared a story about her childhood at a recent Tending the Fire session. When she was a little girl Barb went to a friend’s house to play. After dinner the friend’s father when to the living-room and began watching TV. Barb asked her friend something to the effect of, “What’s wrong with your Dad? Doesn’t he have a meeting to go to?” Barb was so accustomed to her father going off to church meetings every night that she thought that’s what everyone’s parents did. Meetings, though, do date back to Biblical times, right? Our meetings aren’t without purpose. We meet for the very good and real purpose of furthering the Kingdom of God in our small corner of the world and beyond. We come from a long history of people of faith trying to do the exact same thing. So it’s no surprise when Jesus, in this morning’s Gospel lesson, called Peter, James and John to a mountain top meeting. Perhaps these chosen disciples thought Jesus had some special task for them or wanted them to evaluate the other disciples’ work. They probably felt special being summoned when the other disciples were left behind.   Who wouldn’t want to be picked for Jesus sub-committee? But then, when the got to the meeting place, something strange happened. Jesus’ clothes turned dazzling white. Moses and Elijah joined them unexpectedly. A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the beloved. Listen to him.” This kind of think doesn’t usually happen at our Church Council meetings ~ or at least not when I’m there. John Wesley, and other long dead heroes of our faith, don’t usually show up. Our winter coats don’t suddenly become as radiant as the freshly fallen snow. What kind of meeting was this? It is likely that the three disciples wondered the same thing. At least Peter’s struggle to understand it all was captured in his plea, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here…” Peter, forgetting about the agenda, thought they all should stay right where they were and bask in the glory of it all. As Madeline L’Engle put it, this one moment broke, “…ordinary chronology into a million fragments.” There was,...

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Sermon January 11: The Start of Things

Posted by on Jan 11, 2015 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon January 11: The Start of Things Faith United Methodist Church January 11, 2015 Baptism of The Lord Rev. Krista Beth Atwood Scripture: Genesis 1:1-5, Mark 1:4-11 Prayer of Illumination: Holy Spirit, descend upon us this day as you descended upon Jesus on the day of his baptism. Heal our brokenness and seal us once again into the fullness of your love. May the words that I speak and the thoughts that we form reflect our identity as people of water and the Spirit. Amen. Sermon:                                        The Start of Things         Eternal Father: When nothing existed but chaos,          you swept across the dark waters          and brought forth light. Water. It’s more than just something that’s bottled in Poland Spring, Maine. It’s more than that with which we wash our clothes and dishes and selves every day.   At the very start of things, when nothing existed but chaos, God swept across the waters. In the days of Noah          you saved those on the ark through water After the flood you set in the clouds a rainbow. When you saw your people as slaves in Egypt,          you led them to freedom through the sea. Their children you brought through the Jordan          to the land which you promised. Water. We let it run from the faucets when we brush our teeth. We get annoyed when it falls from the sky ~ which it can do as rain or ice or even snow. Yet none of us can live without it. It makes up something like 60% of our bodies. It is one of the most ordinary things on earth, yet an instrument of God’s extraordinary grace. In the fullness of time you sent Jesus,          nurtured in the water of a womb. He was baptized by John and anointed by your Spirit. He called his disciples          to share in the baptism of his death and resurrection          and to make disciples of all nations. These are the things we affirm about water every time we prepare for Baptism. God created the water. God works through the water. God calls us to the water. I was one of those kids at swim lessons who didn’t want to put her face underwater. I had to practice at home in the tub. Holding my breath. Putting my face in the water. Turning my head to breathe. I finally got the hang of it, and was eventually even able to dive to the bottom of the pool, but there is something a little scary about the water. When we’re in it, the usual rules don’t apply. That can also be said about the waters of baptism, it seems to me. The usual rules don’t apply. Baptism isn’t just a pretty ceremony or ‘the thing to do.’ As one pastor put it, Christian baptism isn’t just some water being splashed. It is water and the Word. The Book of Acts tells us of several folks who found this out for themselves. In one case, recorded in Acts 19, some believers gathered with the Apostle Paul and Paul asked them what they knew about the Holy Spirit. They responded truthfully, “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit!” Upon that, Paul filled them in and, for them, everything changed. They were baptized in the name of Jesus ~ immersed in the water which has flowed from God since the start of things ~ and filled with the Holy Spirit. Water and the Word. The Scripture tells us that, upon their baptism, these believers began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Not something we often...

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Sermon January 4: Manifestation

Posted by on Jan 4, 2015 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon January 4: Manifestation

Faith United Methodist Church January 4, 2015 Epiphany Sunday Rev. Krista Beth Atwood Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12, Isaiah 60:1-6 Prayer of Illumination: When terror strikes and fear overtakes, when life makes no sense, when even Christmas gifts lose their shine, draw us back to the manger, that place where we fear not and simply behold. There let us know peace – there let us know you. Amen. Sermon:  Manifestation Last spring my mother mailed me a book she had written. She worked on it for several months without letting me know, so it was quite a surprise. She told me it was coming, but wouldn’t tell me what it was about. She is a good writer ~ and has had a couple things published ~ so it wasn’t implausible. When it arrived I tore open the package to find that it was a book ~ about me!   Over the course of about a hundred pages she shared her memories of me as a baby, during my growing-up years, and even as an adult. A book written just for me. She also recorded some family history and stories about my grandparents and great-grandparents. It was a wonderful surprise and, in many ways, the most precious gift I ever received. Much of the book was about times and events that I can recall. It was interesting for me to read about my first boyfriend, the day I got my driver’s license, my first job ~ all from my mother’s perspective.   But the most interesting stories to read were the ones about when I was a baby ~ my first words, my first steps, little songs I sang, games we played ~ those times I can’t remember, that only my mother can recall. The baby Jesus ~ human baby that he was ~ would not remember the night he was born in a stable, the visit from the shepherds, or the singing of the heavenly host. The Scripture tells us that Mary pondered it all in her heart, never to forget it. I’m sure she later told her son all about the miraculous circumstances of his birth, how she and Joseph made the dangerous journey to Bethlehem where the only available accommodations were in a cowshed. By the time the Magi (or Wise Men or Kings) arrived on the scene Joseph had moved Mary and Jesus out of the shed and into a house. I imagine he did carpentry in the local village to support his small family. Some speculate that Jesus was as much as two-years-old when the Magi finally arrived, their trip from the East taking a very long time. Jesus was likely toddling around, playing with toys, getting into mischief, throwing tantrums and keeping his mother busy, as any two-year-old would do. It’s possible that the visit from the Magi stuck in young Jesus’ memory, particularly because it was so out of the ordinary for day-to-day life in Bethlehem. It wasn’t every day that astrologers from the East showed up on the doorstep with presents for the young peasant-king saying they had followed a star. Perhaps later Jesus would recall the strange humped animals they had with them. Maybe one of the kings lifted the giggling toddler-king up on a camel’s back for a ride. We don’t know if Jesus remembered, but surely Mary did. What mother wouldn’t remember a visit from strangers bearing gifts for her child? It had been some time since that star-lit night in the stable. It had been longer still since the angel Gabriel visited her to tell her she would bear God’s own son....

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Sermon February 23: The Second Mile

Posted by on Feb 23, 2014 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon February 23: The Second Mile United Methodist Church February 23, 2014 Seventh Sunday after Epiphany Rev. Krista-Beth Atwood Scripture: Matthew 5:38-48, Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 Prayer of Illumination: Teach us your ways, O Lord, that we may live by your statues with hearts filled with joy.  Give us understanding, that we may follow your paths all the days of our lives.  We have longed for your words of life, O God.  In your righteousness, give us life.  Amen. Sermon:  The Second Mile  I like to think of myself as a runner.  Lately that is as far as it’s gone ~ thinking of myself as a runner.  I haven’t actually run for about a year.  You see, I didn’t discover I liked running until I was in my thirties.  I wasn’t fast or ~ particularly graceful ~ but I had fun.  A few years later, though, I developed a pain in my knee and my physical therapist told me that my knees aren’t built for running.  She said I could run if I really wanted to, but I would always have problems with my knee.  So I ran some.  And then didn’t run.  And then ran a little more.  And then stopped running.  During those years I was running, though, I really enjoyed being a runner. And during those years I ran in a few 5ks and a couple five-mile races.  When running a 5k (three miles) I always found the second mile the most challenging.  The first mile I was excited and the adrenaline was pumping.  The third mile I could envision the finish line.  The second mile, though, was just one foot in front of the other.   This experience gave new meaning to Jesus teaching, “Go the second mile.” Go the second mile.  Jesus, though, wasn’t talking about a race.  He was talking about something much more serious. In the world he lived in Roman soldiers were allowed to compel those under the occupation ~ the Jews ~ to carry their packs for them.  Heavy, cumbersome packs.  Legally, though, they could only force such service for one mile.  After a mile they would have to find someone else to carry their pack.  But to this Jesus says, “…if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”  What?  Why would any self-respecting Jew want to serve his oppressors more than absolutely necessary? To this challenging teaching Jesus adds several more:  If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.  If anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give him your cloak as well.  Give to everyone who begs from you and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Unfortunately this passage has often been used to dominate and oppress others.   Jesus seemed to be saying that we should not stand up for ourselves.  Throughout the ages people have used these teachings to encourage the abused to stay with their abusers, to keep the oppressed ‘in their place,’ and even as a justification for slavery and other atrocities of injustice.  Turn the other cheek.  Go the second mile.  Love your enemies. Yet, if we read closely we’ll understand that Jesus did not condone or support oppression. I think to fully understand what Jesus was saying we have to take seriously the last verse of this passage.  At the end of this teaching Jesus says the hardest thing of all.  “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.” The Greek word translated perfect doesn’t mean flawless or without fault.  It means complete, mature,...

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