Words of Comfort

Sermon Summary for Sunday, May 14th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Jeff Tindall

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The mother's day sermon reflected on the gospel from John 14.  "Do not let your hearts be troubled."  These reassuring words of comfort are often used to help us through difficult times when we lose loved ones.  Jesus assures His followers that they will be reunited with Him.  He will go forth and prepare a place for them in His father's house.  

It helps to look back at chapter 13 to set the stage for this conversation.  Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.  He gives them a new commandment - to love one another just as Jesus has loved them.  Finally, He foretells of Peter's denial.  You can sense the room evolve from a message from love and comfort to a realm of uncertainty.  Jesus knows what is going to happen, but His disciples seem to grow increasingly uncomfortable.  This is where Jesus reassures them that he will prepare a place for them in the holy kingdom and return to bring them home.  "I am the way, and the truth, and the life," Jesus tells them. "No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also."

Today, we can follow Jesus and know that we, too, will have a place in His eternal kingdom.

Cling to Jesus.  Cling to one another.  Cling to the Church.

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life."

Youth Sunday

Sermon Summary for Sunday, May 7th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Jon Thomas

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This past Sunday was Youth Sunday.  It was a celebration of all the Youth, and a chance to recognize the two bright young women who are graduating and leaving for college: Mattie Rountree & Hannah Miller.  These two are part of the very heart and soul of Ascension, this pasture we graze.

Mattie’s sermon was an expression of gratitude for her years at Ascension and how it would always be a home to her.  Hannah’s sermon was in the form of liturgical dance, which she performed reverently and beautifully.

Both of these unique & inspirational young women will embark on new paths, as their journeys continue to unfold.  As they shared and expressed their love for their church and their faith, we could witness their firm foundation and love of Christ, knowing they will go forth and share their gifts with the world.

The Road to Emmaus

Sermon Summary for Sunday, April 30th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Floyd Braid

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On this third week of Easter the Gospel takes us to the road to Emmaus where two of Jesus's disciples are walking. Soon Jesus walks up alongside them and inquiries about what they are discussing. They do not recognize Jesus and are surprised that the man does not know what has just happened in Jerusalem. They tell the man of what has happened over the last three days and express their grief and fear of what is to come.

The long road speaks to the journey that we all find ourselves on and the doubt, fear and grief we encounter when things don’t always turn out the way we had hoped. Those on the road to Emmaus struggled because they had hoped for a different ending to the Jesus story.

“They had hoped that Jesus would be their Messiah”, “They were expecting a Warrior Messiah, but got a Suffering Servant.” It seems as if they were so blinded by what didn’t happen that they couldn’t see Jesus right in front of them. Jesus doesn’t reveal himself, but instead shares their journey, hears their pain, fear and grief. He is just there with and for them so that they may have the time to make the journey. He came alongside and walked, talked and listened which allowed them to see. Once they had taken their journey and shared their grief, Jesus offered them bread and wine and Jesus was revealed through the Eucharist

“O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

What will you choose: life or death?

Sermon Summary for Sunday, April 2nd, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Jon Thomas

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 “I am the Resurrection and the Life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die…”

Jesus strolled into Bethany.  His dear friend Lazarus had died four days earlier.  Lazarus’ sisters were not happy that Jesus had arrived so late, and had not saved their brother.  Blaming Jesus for our problems is common, even in today’s world.  We forget that we are living, breathing, thinking, and feeling; that we make our own decisions and when we fall, God will always be there to bring us back up.

Jesus, being Jesus, weeps at Lazarus’ Grave.  He performs a miracle, “a sign of God’s Presence and Life Saving Ways Among Us”, and raises Lazarus from the dead!

Jesus called to the others to “Unbind” Lazarus and to participate in “God’s Loving, Healing Works”!  Those who saw, now believed.

“Life is Messy & Complicated.”  Our pain, fear, hate, and addictions (both ours & of those we love), force us to adapt to fit into this world and change, for the sake of the family.  Some choose to let life consume them; to let the pain and destruction reign chaos down upon them.  Others will choose life & the resurrection, but we must remember that our life is our own and that, through the resurrection, we are given new life.  “What will you choose: life or death?” 

The Value of Value

Sermon Summary for Sunday, March 19th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Kelley Dial

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Last Sunday we heard the familiar story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman as they meet at Jacob's well.  Jesus, showing human vulnerability, asks for a drink of water.  This confuses the woman since Jews do not normally associate with Samaritans. A somewhat playful conversation follows as Jesus speaks metaphorically and spiritually, but the woman takes his reference to "living water" literally.  As Jesus shows a knowledge of the woman's past she realizes the conversation is not about earthly matters and begins to see Jesus as a prophet.  As the conversation deepens the woman learns that she can have eternal life immediately if she believes, the details of her past and her manner of worship do not preclude it.  She becomes a believer and an evangelist in one fell swoop.  

Much can be drawn from this reading. There is power in vulnerability.  Both Jesus and the woman allowed their vulnerabilities - physical and spiritual - to show and, because of that, were able to have a substantive and meaningful conversation about profound things.  Acceptance breeds receptiveness.  Jesus' acceptance of the woman without judgment allows her to be open to his message.  The nature of the entire interaction makes the woman want the things afforded her by Jesus.  Acceptance coupled with affirmation equals empowerment and that breeds the "other" E word - Evangelism.  

Jesus challenges us to accept eternal life now, to listen honestly and act bravely, to worship in spirit and truth.

Thanks be to God.

God's Love

Sermon Summary for Sunday, March 12th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Jon Thomas

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16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John is very difficult to read.  This Gospel has been used to divide people and cause us to cast shame on those around us.  John’s vision of a God-Hating World is more layered than that.  We are not Fallen Angels, cast out into the void; We are God’s Children, divided throughout the World. 

“God’s Love is Surprising, Audacious, Outrageous, Bold, and even a little Crazy” and God promises to love us, unconditionally.  God sent Christ into our “God-Hating World” to save us from ourselves. 

In this Season of Lent, remember that the Bible is about God; a God who works through you; a God who does not condemn you.  God seeks a relationship that is extraordinary, boundless, and spellbinding; one that defies death, itself.  What’s next, my sisters & brothers?

Temptation

Sermon Summary for Sunday, March 5th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Mal Underwood

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Sunday’s Gospel lesson is the temptation of Christ in the wilderness shortly after his baptism. As always, Jesus sets the example for us in how to combat the great deceiver by quoting the truth of the scripture and staying strong in his knowledge of what he is to do as the Son of God.

Temptation – we have all have experienced it and have succumbed to it on occasion.  Worse yet, we may even have been the source of temptation ourselves to lure others into non-Christian behavior. Either way it’s the work of Satan, the deceiver who has been at his evil work forever, wanting to devour us and take us away from experiencing and sharing the love of God in the world.  I am reminded of some familiar scripture that is on point with the Gospel:

Discipline yourselves, be vigilant.  Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith.  I Peter 5:8-9a

This passage is a mirror of Christ’s experience and serves to warn believers to remain on guard at all times so that we do not succumb to lies of Satan; it was true then and will remain so for all time.

When Jesus was baptized God spoke from heaven claiming him as his son with whom he was well pleased.  Jesus knew whose he was, and therefore who he was, and thus what he was to do. He never forgot.  Under the pressure of temptation, we can lose our sense of identity causing us to sin and move away from our daily walk with God. We forget, and it leaves us insecure and vulnerable, prone to trying empty solutions that eventually move us farther and farther away from God and what we are to do as his children.  At our baptism, God claims us as he did Jesus when we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. We are the beloved children of God, and we are to honor that identity through the worship of our Creator and love of our neighbor.

As Jesus took his baptism into the wilderness to combat the deceiver, we should take our baptism into our world of temptation so that we can be strong and persevere in the way of Christ. We need to remember who we are. We can develop our own personal daily rituals and practices to help keep us mindful of that. Whatever it takes, we must make sure we grow our roots in that identity to find our way in the world with love, peace, security, and hope.  As we go through our daily lives we are to remember whose we are and who we are so that we walk the path of righteousness God has prepared for us to walk.

The Fullness of God

Sermon Summary for Sunday, February 26th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Brenda Worley

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Mother Mary spent most of the previous week recovering from a virus, so we were very pleased that she felt well enough to be our preacher and celebrant on this Transfiguration Sunday.

During her recuperation, she spent some time watching the news and realized that the breaking stories such as plans to build up our nuclear weapons stockpiles, strengthening homeland security, protests for the Affordable Care Act, continuation of for-profit prisons, and reports of crimes may cause anxiety and fear among some.  News from the world of politics may thrill some while frightening others.  Regardless of your stand, this division and angst is not helpful to our mission to live a Christian life.

The gospel for the day is the record of the Transfiguration of Jesus which was witnessed by Peter, James, and John.  In this story from Matthew, Jesus goes up a high mountain and is transfigured so that his face shined like the sun.  Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with him.  Peter wanted to build dwellings for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah so they could stay on the mountain.  When the voice of the Father declares that Jesus is his Son, the disciples are overcome by fear.  Jesus commands them to rise and not to be afraid, but not to tell anyone about what they have seen until after his resurrection.

Let us identify with Peter in this story.  Just days earlier he had a “mountain top” revelation when he realized that Jesus was the Messiah.  However, when Jesus told him of his death and resurrection, Peter rebuked Jesus and was rebuked by Jesus.  Now Peter was again having a “mountain top” experience, but had to be aroused from his fear. 

Like Peter we are called to hear Jesus through all the anxiety and fear we face each day.  We are called to “be raised up” and to come down from the mountain and be all that God made us to be.  Realizing that it is our fear that holds us back more than anything else, let us hear Jesus saying “do not be afraid.”  Meditate on what it would look like to live into the fullness of God.  Know that you can choose calm in the midst of chaos, love as the answer to disagreement, steadfastness in the face of uncertainty, and Jesus as the alternative to fear.  

Love & Forgiveness

Sermon Summary for Sunday, February 19th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Jeff Tindall

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In this Sunday's gospel, we heard Jesus commenting on how we should treat our fellow man.  Instead of loving our neighbor and hating our enemy, we should also love our enemy and even pray for them.  We are all God's children.  

So when you are wronged, do not seek revenge.  If we take and eye for an eye, then we all end up blind.  Instead, strive to find forgiveness and shine light on your enemy's darkness.

The Law

Sermon Summary for Sunday, February 12th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Mal Underwood

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In Sunday’s continuing study of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of Matthew, Mo. Mary began by reminding us of the first two installments where we are taught about our blessedness and our essence as life to the world.  Today’s lesson focuses on the law – not as law handed down and sternly enforced by a judgmental Creator, but as a guide for living in the kingdom with our brothers and sisters as harmoniously as possible.  As we were reminded, some see God as a finger-pointing, punitive judge while others see him as a loving heavenly Father or Mother primarily concerned with our happiness and well-being.

It is in this context that Mo. Mary shared the insight that while breaking God’s law is harmful to us individually by weakening our spiritual strength and separating us from communion with God, it is also harmful to those around us with whom we live, worship, work, and play. Today’s lesson from Jesus’ sermon mentions several specific sins – anger with your brother or sister, adultery, divorce, and dishonesty are among the highlighted transgressions.  Mo. Mary shared a story of sin and redemption of someone in her life, reminding us that while we all fall short of the glory of God, our Savior and Redeemer restores us to spiritual health through our acknowledgement, repentance and metanoia – that is, a turning around to the pursuit of righteousness.  We are reoriented, reconciled and restored to community and life with God.  We are able to choose life and share the love of Christ with all.

God’s enforcement of the law also provides us protection.  Mo. Mary shared a story of an older brother who was physically threatening his younger sister.  As their mother intervened, he says, “I can do whatever I want – she’s my sister.”  The mother restrains him and says, “no you can’t – she’s my daughter.”  Similarly, the image of God as loving parent is manifest when he intervenes on our behalf with those who would harm us, saying, “no you can’t – she (or he) is mine.”  God’s law and his presence across the universe protect his beloved children from harm.

The law is a gift from God to guide us to healthy spiritual living with Him and each other.  We can choose life and love by living within it. Our adherence to the law is our gift back to God in gratitude for all He has given us.