Grace from Service

Sermon Summary for Sunday, November 26th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Kelley Dial

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In the parable of the sheep and the goats Jesus tells us we will find Him when we look into the eyes of the needy, the stranger, the prisoner.  When we serve them in love we serve Him.  Every week Ascension reaches out to those who need assistance -  not to receive their gratitude, even though it is almost always offered, not to receive fulfillment, although it is unfailingly fulfilling, but because we are called by Jesus to serve others as he served us.  

Some have suggested there should be a sacrament of service.  It is an intriguing thought.  Just as the water of baptism and the bread and wine of the Eucharist provide visible signs of inward grace, those in need are visible signs of the inward grace received from service.  

In these divisive times, it is important to include those from whom we are divided to the list of those who are worthy of service.  "Whenever you draw a line between who's in and who's out, you find Jesus on the other side." As we reach out, it is helpful to remember part of an unattributed quote "There are ways that bear no resemblance to Christ's ways and these ways beg to be opposed, but opposed as Christ would oppose them himself - by offering himself to them, by feeding them, by showing them how God acts.  

May we all be imitators of Christ as we serve.

Thanks, be to God. 

We Have Our Father's Eyes

Sermon Summary for Sunday, November 5th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Kelley Dial

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All Saints' Day.  A day to remember those we love but see no more; a major and the most personal of feasts.   A day for each of us to remember those who let the light of the divine shine through them, as sunlight shines through stained glass.  A day to reconnect with those people looking down and wishing us well from above and, perhaps, a day to say what we did not or could not say when we knew them in the temporal world.  

Our belief that we can and should continue to converse with those who enriched and enlightened us while they lived on earth molds our faith.  We believe that what we say and do goes places; our thoughts and actions are heard and seen from above.  Otherwise, prayer would be a joke.   God and our personal saints see, hear, and listen to us. We are not alone.

In our tradition, the table of our Lord always gets the last word.  The altar, where heaven and earth kiss, reminds us of our closeness to the eternal.  As the second reading from 1 John tells us, "What we do know is this; when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.  And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure".  

With all our imperfections, at our core, we resemble God; each member of the human family looks like God.  God who loves those we hate, just as he loves us. He sees the saint in each of us.  Our challenge is to act like God as well, to participate and not frustrate God's grace.  As Father Donal McIlvane, one of Bishop Wright's personal saints reminds us, sometimes you have to "raise a little hell for heaven's sake".  May we use our saints and our God to provide us with guidance and strength as we commit fully to the love of God and as we put our mind and our behind in line with it. 

Thanks to Bishop Wright for bringing the message and thanks be to God who gave us His eyes and ears.  May we use them well.

“For many are called, but few are chosen.”  Matthew 22:14

Sermon Summary for Sunday, October 15th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Brenda Worley

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At this point in the gospel, Jesus has already faced off with the Sadducees, scribes and elders of the church.  He uses the parable of the wedding feast to face down the Pharisees.   We find this parable recorded in 22nd chapter of Matthew.  Scholars believe that the author of Matthew was possibly a Jewish Rabbi.  The followers of Christ in this time were getting anxious because they thought that Jesus would return immediately.  This disappointment coupled with the violence against them had caused many to give up.

Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to the kingdom in the parable.  This is a harsh parable in which the King is giving a wedding feast for his son and has invited many to attend.  The King sent his slaves to call them, but they did not attend.  He sent his slaves again to tell the invited guests of the great wedding banquet that awaited them.  Still they did not choose to attend and, in fact, killed the King’s slaves.  This enraged the King and he sent troops to destroy the murders.  Finally, he sent his slaves into the streets to invite everyone to the wedding banquet.  They all came, but one guest did not dress in the appropriate wedding robe.  When questioned by the King, the guest had no reply.  The King had his attendants “throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This parable certainly parallels how mankind has responded to God’s call to the feast.  He sent prophets and sages and they were killed and destroyed.  He sent his son and we crucified him.  He wanted everyone to meet his son and greet him in love, especially the leaders of the Church.  However, they wanted everything to stay the same and they rejected Jesus.

How does this apply to us today?  Surely, we are struck by the persistence with which our Creator pursues us.  He comes to us time and time again asking us to take up his work here on Earth.  We have a feast every Sunday, but it is not enough to show up and do the same old things.  We must clothe ourselves in the robes of love, belonging, and celebration.  Visitors should witness us love each other and enjoy the feast.  Often, we wear the robes of self-absorption, jealousy, envy, and noncommitment.  We must work in the kingdom to share and participate in the party.  Donning the robes of forgiveness, goodness, joy, and peace will make us right guests to share the good news of the feast.   

Stewardship Moment #4

Dear Parishioners,

Here are the Stewardship Moments provided by your fellow Parish members leading up to Consecration Sunday.  Please take some time to read the wonderful stories that are submitted each week!

          My money follows my heart, which follows the love. Part of my heart is here, at Ascension. The rest of it is scattered among family, friends, memories, lifetime pursuits, etc. You get the picture, but…sigh....my heart is consistently (and persistently) bigger than my money.

          Perhaps I can’t “pick up the tab”, but I can “pick up the yoke.” The yoke is not a symbol of drudgery, but a symbol of a field well tilled and a plentiful harvest.

            Ascension is a community where I find connection and caring with others. A community I want to support with my money, talents, and time. There are so many things to do which keep Ascension thriving. All things we can participate in: the worship service itself as a reader of the Lessons and the Prayers of the People, offering wine as the Cup of Salvation, assisting as Acolyte, taking Communion out to those who are ill or infirm.

            I do my best to increase my pledge each year and then my best to keep it. All that I can give goes to service to God, whether it helps pay the power bill, the phone bill, or buy the flowers on the altar. Every offering of money, no matter the amount, helps keep our community alive.

            C'mon y'all! There are so many other ways to bring our talents to the table, just ask to participate in the thing that captures your imagination: grounds (Holy Mowers), food (Coffee Hour/Receptions), flora (Flower Guild), children (Sunday School), host/hostess (Ushers), feeding others (Food Pantry). It was a year or so before I figured out that it was ok to ask to participate. I have just flattened your learning curve! All you have to do is ask!

Respectfully Submitted by,

Leata Selby

Stewardship Moment #3

Dear Parishioners,

Here are the Stewardship Moments provided by your fellow Parish members leading up to Consecration Sunday.  Please take some time to read the wonderful stories that are submitted each week!

My Dear Ascension Family,

            I regard stewardship not only as contributing money, but also the gifts of my time and hopefully talent. 

            I feel that giving of time is as important as monetary donations.  Of course, I give money I pledged to give – I also give of my free time.  My grandmother taught me that giving is a great responsibility and should be done with a spirit of gratitude that all we have, all we possess, all are gifts from God.  Through our gratefulness, we should give as freely as possible.

            I give of my time in many various ways, always with a grateful heart that I’m actually able to do so. 

            When I came to Ascension about six years ago, I knew immediately that this would be my spiritual home and outlet and that I wanted to stay here as long as possible.  I was lost in the world at the time and this church family has been an enormous help in me finding my way again.  So stewardship to me is a gift and my sense toward giving is a joy to behold.  

Respectfully Submitted by,

Dan Bennett

Forgiveness: Part [Infinity]

Sermon Summary for Sunday, October 1st, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Meghann K. Humphreys

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Forgiveness is always there for us.

Forgiveness opens a future for us every day.

Every moment is there for us to be forgiven.

          Is there anything holding us back from receiving that grace? Are any of us stuck in our relationships with God?

          Jesus ticks off the chief priest and elders and doesn’t help matters with his story about the two sons – one who says “no” but goes, the second who says “yes” but doesn’t go. We don’t know the motivation of the sons or what their backstories are. There are things we don’t know about one another. We are all different and we feel strongly about our differences.

          We are encouraged to engage in conversations with people who think differently, to understand, to grow in compassion and mercy.

          It is by God’s mercy that we can forgive and grow together. 

Stewardship Moment #2

Dear Parishioners,

Here are the Stewardship Moments provided by your fellow Parish members leading up to Consecration Sunday.  Please take some time to read the wonderful stories that are submitted each week!

Three personal beliefs on Stewardship as an interior journey, a spiritual discipline and an outward symbol of my love for God and God's people.

One: Everything I have is from God and all that God has given me is pure gift.  Abilities, intellect, and money all come from God. This idea places me in a position of asking, "How am I being called to give back a portion of what I have been given?"  With this question, money then becomes a sacrament and ownership a responsibility.  

Two: No one has everything to give and no one has nothing to give. We need each other.  Sometimes we have more energy or time or even money than other times. In a heathy community, this changes constantly and we are called to pick up the slack for each other.  Simply stated, I can't do it all, but neither can I sit in a pew week after week doing nothing and expect to feel a part of this community.  If I do it all, I get resentful and burn out. If I do nothing, I drop out.

Three: This is at the heart of my stewardship understanding. While I am in possession of what I have, I have some control over how I handle my possessions. In my life, I have either operated from a position of scarcity or generosity.  Either position spills easily into how I move through the world.  God doesn't need my money and this parish will continue if I withdraw my money tomorrow; however, I need to give because how I give does determine the type person I become.   

Respectfully Submitted by, 

Connie Evans

Jesus: Pastor, Prophet, and Poet

Sermon Summary for Sunday, September 24th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Kelley Dial

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Jesus tells us the story of the workers and their wages.  On a superficial level, most of us are made uncomfortable as the generous landowner pays those who worked only a short time the same amount as those who worked all day.  Human nature causes us to put ourselves in the place of the worker who toils for many hours and we believe the late arriving workers are unjustly enriched.  Jesus, however, means for us to go beyond the superficial, to reject an existence written in, as Bishop Wright puts it, "cold, scared, prose". 

Jesus provides a different, counter-intuitive mindset.  He removes us from our narrow, self-centered perspective and helps us zoom out and see the entire landscape.  He takes us from prose to poetry and poetry is what we remember when we think on a "soul" level.  On that level, Jesus urges us to think in terms of generosity to all, to live out our Baptismal Covenant as we "respect the dignity of every human being" - not just in thought but in deeds.  In eloquent, poetic, God-like deeds.

Thanks be to God,

Kelley Dial

Stewardship Moment #1

Dear Parishioners,

Here are the Stewardship Moments provided by your fellow Parish members leading up to Consecration Sunday.  Please take some time to read the wonderful stories that are submitted each week!

I was not a cradle raised Episcopalian. I was baptized and raised from birth to age 8 as a Roman Catholic. Ever since my family moved to this church it has been a blessing being in such a wonderful community. It has given me a space to feel safe and loved and wanted, a place where a difference of opinion wouldn't be frowned upon but instead communicated and respected. This church introduced me to Camp Mikell, one of the most loving and accepting communities I have ever witnessed. It has given me a place in my youth society and most of my greatest friends.

Respectfully Submitted by,

Sam Braid