Sunday, February 24, 2019
Sunday Sermon from Rev. Deacon Maryan
Luke 6: 27-43 “Be Merciful, Just as your Father in Heaven is Merciful.”
It is difficult to think the words from the Gospel we just heard ever came out of Jesus mouth. Harsh words from one so compassionate are never easy to take lightly.
So let’s go back to our lesson from the Hebrew Scriptures and work our way forward into the words of this troublesome Gospel.
The Genesis Text unfolds as we find Joseph standing before his brothers for the first time since they sold him into slavery.
He introduces himself to them knowing he is now in a position to deal with them as he pleases. Yet, Joseph has become a different person . . . transformed by the grace of God to look at life differently than in his youth. He has inherited a privileged life and finds no need to act harshly with his brothers any longer. God has now brought them together in a place where they can seek reconciliation. Not only with each other . . . but with the world around them.
We see Joseph reach out his hands to forgive them. . . Showing them a greater sense of love then they could ever have imagined. They are forgiven, regardless of what had happened in their earlier relationship and reunited with their brother. They are asked to go and return with their father, Jacob, so Joseph might care for them all.
God has planted a seed in Joseph that will continue to grow as he nurtures his family in new ways of working out God’s plan for all people to walk in ways of forgiveness and mercy that celebrate right relationship and love.
Thinking about this text brought back memories of mission trips I helped lead for the youth of God’s church in the late 1990’s. Their mission was always as spirit filled as the motto that appeared on their T-shirts. Simply stated it proclaimed “Turn the World Around!”
And Turn the World Around they did within the scope of their work and ministry to many diverse cultures. Joy filled us all as we compassionately labored to create a new church space for two Florida churches . . . burned down through horrific acts of anger and racism.
Little did any of us realize the magnitude of love and mercy that was growing among us as God’s people?
As we worked we were constantly fed an abundance of food and love served up with huge hugs and thankful hearts by those we had come to serve. (Pause)
Little did we realize the transforming experience of God’s grace we were all called to receive?
At least not until we sat down and debriefed the day at evening worship.
Each trip had anywhere between 12 and 40 youth and leaders. Some had been on previous trips while others were new to the experience.
So the question arises! What do you suppose was growing among these diverse work groups that helped them see the presence and compassionate mercy of Christ among them as they experienced that same sense of Christ in those they had come to serve?
The answer is Love!
Prior to our trips we all met as a worshiping community using a form of liturgy that served as the grounding resource for group building as well as a well laid out covenant as to how we would respect the dignity of everyone in our group as well as everyone we met along the way.
This set the bar for how we would work together to earn the money for travel and lodging to get us to the places God needed us to be. All covenanted to attend all fun raising events . . . with the stipulation that if not excused by the group they would forfeit their earnings for that activity.
Yet when it came time to judge those who had not kept the covenant . . . everyone of them was willing to forgive them to keep the group together.
This kindness and sharing of Love not only worked its way into the group but into the hearts and souls of all they served.
An evening worship at a church we served in Biloxi, Mississippi was traditionally held outside on the lawn . . . with a handful of young boys of color playing a set of drums to glorify God. They were proud as can be and reluctant to share their instruments until a sense of trust was formed and love could be felt around the circle. Tears filled our eyes and ran down our faces as Love and Kindness moved about in the most mysterious ways.
A trip to inner city Philadelphia brought about a cheerful respect for the dignity of others as we worked in different missions around the city. On a bus to Good News Gospel rehab Center a mom got on the bus with two very small children. The bus driver asked for fare for the oldest and the mom said she had no money to pay. In seconds our youth reached in their pockets and came up with the fare. The greatest gift of all was the dignity they showed when they handed the money to the mother so she was able to pay the fare herself.
And lastly, although there are many stories to be told is a tale of a teaching moment in the mist of all our gratifying experience.
It all happened on the way to a Soup Kitchen clear across town where we were to help cook and serve the Evening meal. Philly has a transportation system much like other large cities. Only in Philly you have to know where north, south east and west will take you!!
Not a place you want to find yourself in with ten teenagers depending on you.
So, I was relieved to see a street person standing nearby to ask which train would take us in the right direction. When we got off the train at our stop I was again taken back by my lack of direction. So, again I stopped and asked what appeared to be someone who would know the way to the soup kitchen and indeed he did.
Needless to say we experienced a somewhat troublesome view of our society at the soup kitchen. It was not only sad but brought us to the reality that we are truly more privileged than most.
That night at our debriefing time one of the students in my group told the entire gathering how “Maryan” talked with homeless people on the street and asked for directions. I was stunned and replied “Who else would know the way to the Soup Kitchen.”
Immediately I realized that I too was being judgmental whether I intended to be or not. It is a sad fact that after paying all the bills and rent some people do not have enough money to feed their families.
Serving at a soup kitchen is just one of the ways we can let all God’s children know that we care. Kindness and mercy are also shown by supporting our local food pantries. Not only because it is the right thing to do but because we desire good for all God’s people.
Luckily, we all started to laugh as we shared forgiveness, and prayed for all the new friends we had made that day.
I have to think this is what Jesus is getting at in today’s Gospel!
True trust that in sharing the best of ourselves with others.
We can “Turn the World Around” as Forgiveness and reconciliation are invested in a Grace and Kindness that becomes the way instead of discord and violence.
That God’s way will triumph as we serve in ways that help us to understand and actually feel the pain and suffering of others in a way that manifests true forgiveness, patience and Love for all God’s creation.
This is the Way of Love our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is calling us to birth anew into all creation . . . For we are all called . . .“To be merciful just as our Father in Heaven is merciful!”
Thursday, February 21, 2019
Message from Kelly
Had plans gone as expected, I would have been in Hopkinton today with my clergy colleagues, at a retreat and preaching workshop led by the Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, who is on the faculty of the Virginia Theological Seminary. But the storm that is with us today kept her flight from leaving Washington, DC, and so our plans to gather and learn together had to be postponed. But as Canon Tina Pickering wrote to us: “May there be blessings in this gift of time, and stay safe in the snow and ice.”
It’s possible that the weather this weekend will also impact Sunday services. Thanks to the efforts of Deacon Maryan and others back in January, we have a several-part plan in place to share news of cancelled services, including publicizing that information on WMUR. If we do not gather to worship together, both the Treasurer’s Forum and the Vestry/Bishop’s Committee meeting, currently set for this Sunday, will be rescheduled.
One thing that will not be postponed, of course, weather or no weather, is the arrival of Lent. With the support of a grant from the Mission Resources Committee, we have several books to share to support our faithful journey through the coming season. All are welcome to a personal copy of Living Well Through Lent 2019: Practicing Forgiveness With All Your Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind. Pick up your copy of this guide for prayer and reflection in any of our worship and office spaces. An evening study of Henri Nouwen's book The Return of the Prodigal Sonwill begin the week following Ash Wednesday. We have copies available for those who would like to take part. Please speak with me if you're curious about that opportunity.
Whether or not we see each other this Sunday, know that you are in my prayers, and in God’s hands, who is doing more for us than we can ask or imagine.
Thursday, February 14, 2019
Message from Kelly
Remember presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle back in May? Valentine’s Day is a great day to be reminded of “the power of love…to help and heal when nothing else can…to lift up and liberate when nothing else will…to show us the way to live.”
The full text and video of Bishop Curry’s sermon can be found here.
And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Faithfully, Kelly +
Thursday, February 7, 2019
Message from Kelly
As promised last week, we’ve set dates and times for two open-to-all conversations with our leaders. See below for your invitation to two Treasurer's Forums, to meet, converse with, and ask questions about our finances and budget with Treasurer Wayne Trombly. More conversation and communication to come. Stay tuned, stay engaged, stay curious.
And just as congregational dialogue isn’t a once-a-year thing, neither should your turning to prayer and praise be Sundays-only. As Episcopalians, the Book of Common Prayer gives a rich resource for daily prayer. Check in with me, or with Deacon Maryan, or with anyone who took part in our summer classes on praying with the BCP.
Just recently, though, I was reminded of an online resource—Pray as You Go—(click here for link) that blends scripture, music, and directed invitations to prayer in a 10-15 minute daily audio program. It may be just the spiritual pick-me-up you’re craving.
To read, ponder, and pray, remember the steady presence of Forward Day by Day. Booklets for February through April are available now in the office and our worship spaces.