Cross v. World

Sermon Summary for Sunday, March 4th, 2018 | Respectfully Submitted by Meghann K. Humphreys

           The foolishness of the cross versus the wisdom of the world remains a struggle for us. It wasn’t easy in Paul’s time and it is not any easier now. We still struggle.

            Everyone has a role in trying to bring understanding of how the cross is wiser than the world. Jesus started the trend with his #turnoverthetables game-changing move. He made it clear that God is there – or here – in the temple of Christ’s body.

            We still seek thin places to worship, but since Jesus came, was crucified, raised, and ascended, God is everywhere. God is with us to help us walk behind Jesus in the way of the foolish cross.

Precious Scars

Sermon Summary for Sunday, February 25th, 2018 | Respectfully Submitted by Kelley Dial

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On the Second Sunday in Lent, we heard the famiiar story of Peter and Jesus rebuking each other.  Initially, Peter scolds Jesus for revealing to the crowd all that will happen to Jesus - rejection, suffering, death, and, ultimately, resurrection.  Peter does not want to hear this and he certainly does not want the Messiah described to the masses as anything but a strong and invulnerable leader.

Jesus, in turn, will not tolerate Peter's desire to mold the Messiah into Peter's preconceived notion of the Savior.  Jesus forcefully tells Peter and those assembled around them, to shift their focus from the human and move it to the divine.  He asks them to take their personal crosses and follow Him, to let go of their definitions of success, courage, and power and to listen for God's direction.  

That is the fruit of repentance, of metanoia, to be open to the fullness of God, to listen for God's call, and then to follow it, no matter where it leads. The observance of Lent reminds us that the foot of the cross is both the place of struggle and the source of new life.  In that new life we find the courage, the boldness, the perseverance that we seek. 

The Japanese art of kintsugi uses gold and other precious metals to bring together pieces of broken pottery and finds beauty and strength in that brokenness.  It also represents the essence of repentance - to deal with the damage we have endured, to help others deal with their brokenness and, ultimately, to find the unique strength and beauty residing in each of us. May you find new life from your golden and beautiful scars.

Thanks be to God.

Change/Metanoia

Sermon Summary for Sunday, February 18th, 2018 | Respectfully Submitted by Meghann K. Humphreys

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Are we willing to repent and be changed?

Repentance is all about our lives being changed. During this season of Lent, we are called to repent. We are not called to be sad about our sins. Instead, we are called to change through the transforming power of the life and death of Jesus.

Repentance is a gift from God made possible by God’s intervention in our lives to transform the world. So, are you willing to repent and be transformed? Are you willing to be the hands and feet of God in the world?

A Call to Service

Sermon Summary for Sunday, February 4th, 2018 | Respectfully Submitted by Mal Underwood

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Mo. Mary opened the sermon with a story of her daughter’s mother-in-law who, as a devout and loving Christian, spent her life in worship and service. At the end she courageously battled the illness over many years that ultimately ended her time on earth. She was a true servant of God and went to her heavenly home at peace. Mo. Mary wanted to share this to help set the stage for her message of God’s healing love and service to his beloved children, and to remind us that He calls us to discipleship and service as Jesus’ eyes, hands, and feet through which He blesses and serves the world.

Mo. Mary also shared a story of her own bout with a brief illness in public where a young man helped her through the episode and thus her overall healing process. She reminded us that God’s healing love is available to all his children all the time – just not necessarily in our timing. God will heal us from whatever we suffer. We just need to have faith and live in the knowledge of His love for us.

In the Gospel reading from Mark, we are told of an episode in Jesus’ ministry where he enters the house of Simon and Andrew to find Simon’s mother-in-law sick in bed with a fever. Jesus takes her hand, heals her, and lifts her up to health. It says the fever left her and she immediately began to serve them. Now while this may sound a bit patriarchal, it serves to teach us of God’s healing love and His call to service. Male or female of all ethnicities - we are called to serve the Lord and his kingdom in whatever capacity He chooses for us. Part of the genius of God’s creation is our incredible variety of talents and gifts through which we join together to do His work. As Mo. Mary said, “he takes our hand and invites us into the dance of life.” That dance of life takes us to many wonderful places of love, work, and ministry. We are never separated from God’s love and healing, and our ultimate well-being is dependent upon it. Our acceptance of Christ as our Savior keeps us under his umbrella of mercy and grace.

Mo. Mary ended her message with a prayer from Cardinal John Henry Newman:

Oh Lord, may you support us all the day long

Til the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,

And the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over,

And our work is done.

Then in His mercy may he give us safe lodging

And a holy rest, and peace at the last.

Jonah, Combs, and Mercy

Sermon Summary for Sunday, January 21st, 2018 | Respectfully Submitted by Meghann K. Humphreys

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A Moroccan market. A comb maker. An apprentice with his eyes fixated on the maestro comb maker. A left over piece is given to the boy and he chisels away, uncertain in his movements. The maestro adjusts the boy’s grip and gives an approving nod to continue. The boy is there to learn the craft. The maestro teaches the craft. Skill sets are passed down through generations.  

            It is our calling to show and practice God’s mercy to others. Jonah reluctantly did this and was shocked when the people of Ninevah believed him. They repented.

            Thousands of years later, we continue to struggle with the concept of a God who is merciful. Even our enemies from [insert your most hated place or group of people here] can repent and be recipients of God’s mercy.

            We want to be angry, vengeful, and vindictive. As we approach Lent, Mother Mary asks us to think about what it means to repent. There aren’t enough maestros and gurus who show and practice God’s mercy. As disciples of our time, will we mentor others patiently and kindly and in affirming ways? Bring God’s mercy, sharing our stories in affirming ways?

            It’s not easy. But the world and God need us to do it. 

Are You Ready?

Sermon Summary for Sunday, December 17th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Mal Underwood

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.  In today’s Gospel we hear the story of John the Baptist proclaiming his status as messenger of the world-changing news that the Light of the World was coming, the long-awaited Messiah.  John confessed he was not the Messiah or the second coming of Elijah or Moses, but only the voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He stressed his humility as a servant messenger and nothing more.  John’s humility is a lesson for all of us as it reminds us of our place in the kingdom. We are called to be messengers of the Gospel and deflect any praise or acclamation for ourselves as we go about our kingdom work of worship, evangelism and outreach to those in need.

In the Advent season, it’s important to hear the Baptist’s message and prepare our hearts and minds for the coming Messiah.  It’s a message of ultimate liberty and freedom through our redemption and reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ and our ultimate reward in heaven.  But it is not just about the hereafter as our eternal life begins in our time on earth.  We prepare our hearts for living out our lives in Christ now with the exciting hope and joy of salvation to come.  While we’re here we proclaim the good news of the God’s kingdom among us. 

The power of the Holy Spirit in our hearts creates a new beginning.  It brings compassion and love to the world that our Savior modeled for us with his coming.  There can be no Kingdom of God in the world without the kingdom of God in our hearts.

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.