Easter

The Ties That Bind

Sermon Summary for Sunday, May 6th, 2018 | Respectfully Submitted by Kelley Dial

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On Youth Sunday, Sam Braid delivered an exquisitely eloquent sermon that touched our hearts and fed our souls.  His thoughts were particularly relevant as we considered Jesus' words from the Gospel of John:  "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you".  

Sam shared his journey of and into faith with us.  He talked movingly his family becoming a part of Ascension when Sam was eleven years old.  He shared his feeling of fear and insecurity as he became a part of Ascension's EYC group with a little gentle "coercion" from his parents.  He described his desire to hang out with the older kids and how, through their offers of friendship and acceptance, he became increasingly comfortable in that setting.  This level of comfort and feeling of acceptance allowed him to, again with a little parental "coercion", become involved in youth activities at the Diocesan level.   These activities allowed him to draw his circle wider and interact with "a larger community of like-minded people".  

Sam referred to the parishioners of Ascension and the youth of the Diocese of Atlanta as his second family.  He reminded us that we each practice evangelism every day, even if it is often unintentional, as we love, accept, and encourage each other.   As Jesus said - loving one another as He loved us is enough.  It collects all the previous commandments and distills them into one coherent thought and one distinct instruction.

Sam helped remind us of our ability to be receptacles of God's love as we are, simultaneously, conduits to spread that love to those around us.  Sam summed it up well when he said "Ascension has given me a space to feel safe and loved and wanted; a place where a difference of opinion won't be frowned upon but instead communicated and respected", and when he described Ascension as a "safe and welcoming environment to not only deepen my faith but also to question and doubt".  May we continue to be such a place extend our grasp ever wider in this community. 

Thanks be to God for Sam, for all our youth, and for the love that both holds us together and gives us the courage to spread our wings and broaden our horizons.

Reciprocity

Sermon Summary for Sunday, April 29th, 2018 | Respectfully Submitted by Kelley Dial

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Abide in me.........as I abide in you.  The Gospel reading from John that compares Jesus to a vine and God to the vinegrower is familiar.  Some use the words of this passage as a threat: abide in me or you will be pruned away from the vine (the family of God).  Perhaps it is time to look at this familiar gospel reading with new eyes.  

Abide comes from the Greek word meno.  An additional definition of meno is to remain or stay.  Jesus asks us to stay with Him as He stays with us.  He has already cleansed us in baptism just as the vinegrower prunes away useless parts of the vine. The vinegrower does this so the vine will bear more fruit.  Jesus does this so we may focus more clearly on being his body on this earth; so we may focus more on Godly things.  

Jesus stays with us always.  He simply asks us to linger in his presence and accept the love and guidance that is always there for the asking.  

Thanks be to God.

The Constancy of the Good Shepherd

Sermon Summary for Sunday, April 22nd, 2018 | Respectfully Submitted by Mal Underwood

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In the Gospel of John Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  .  . I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”

Mo. Mary tells us that the steadfast love of God for his children is a constancy of life we are to embrace and trust as we share that same love and constancy for those around us. She shared several stories of the constancy of love:

·         Pastor James of Crosspoint Church recently delivered a message of the constancy of our mutual efforts and presence to feed those in the community who are hungry. That effort has begun to produce relationships and trust whereby the needy can find comfort and relief.

·         A panicked woman about to give birth who was threatening self-harm was attended by a nurse midwife who vowed to be with her through the delivery and was her constant rock in the storm of her misgivings.

·         Sister Helen Prejean was a nun whose mission was to minister to inmates on death row as they awaited execution. She was their companion, consolation and constant face of love to the very end.

This constancy of love is of God, similar to the scriptural term “steadfast” as in God’s steadfast love for us. As we worship and serve God, constancy is an important factor in the success of our work in the kingdom.

A passage in Psalm 23 says that “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the Lord’s house forever.” These are some of the most beautiful and comforting words we find in the scripture. Some biblical scholars say the original Hebrew word for “follow” can be translated to pursue or chase down, and the word for “surely” can translate to only. So this beautiful passage might be read as “only goodness and mercy shall chase me down all the days of my life.” This version may not be as poetic in its reading, but it does have a more dramatic tone. Either way, we should rejoice that our loving Good Shepherd will pursue us with his grace and mercy all the days of our lives.

The seven weeks of Easter is the longest season of our calendar year. This serves us to study and learn how God abides with us, pursues us, and grants us grace and mercy through his steadfast love. In return, we are to reflect that grace and mercy in the world as his servants to those whom he gives us the opportunity to bless in his name.

In But Not Of

Sermon Summary for Sunday, May 28th, 2017 | Respectfully Submitted by Kelley Dial

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"And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you."  In this week's Gospel reading from John (17:1-11) we continue with Jesus' Farewell Discourse.  Here Jesus turns from addressing his disciples and begins to talk to God, in their presence, in prayer.  What follows is both an intercession on behalf of Jesus' followers and a revelation to them.  Jesus prays not only for his followers then; he prays for us.    

Jesus' plea to God is often referred to as the "Priestly Prayer".  While familiar words, most have not committed them to memory as they have the "Serenity Prayer" composed by Reinhold Niebuhr.  "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference".  Why is that?  Are the nonbiblical words that present the option of simple acceptance easier to process than Jesus' words that urge us to actively seek unity with each other and Him so we may reap the benefits of that unity, both now and forever?

Jesus reminds us we are "in" the world but need not be "of" the world.  We see examples of this daily in our parish life.  Holy Mowers, Altar Guild, Flower Guild, Choir,  Food Pantry, and many other ministries filled with people performing services to further the Kingdom of God on earth, not for personal glory,  We see similar behavior in the larger community from countless individuals who take steps to make this world more like the next, to show beauty and love to those often bereft of either.

Prayer helps bring us to discern how to best represent God on earth.  Prayer changes things, even if we don't see the results immediately.  The Holy Spirit blows where it will.  Prayer helps us discern how to harness that spirit and manifest it in our daily activities.

Jesus' prayer is offered at a time of transition for him.  We are at the point of many transitions:  Spring to Summer, Easter to Pentecost and the season after, and, most personally, transitioning to the summer of Mary's sabbatical.  May we look at this time as a time of adventure, for Mother Mary and the rest of us.  God has adventures planned for us, may we move past our anxiety over change and joyfully join in.

"Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

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.”

Tuesday's Telling of Sunday's Homily

Sermon Summary for 4/24

Submitted by Brenda Worley

 

                  On this Fifth Sunday of Easter, we were blessed to hear the Reverend Bruce Torrey as our guest preacher and celebrant.  Father Bruce works with Food For The Poor to serve the destitute in the Caribbean and Latin America.  Though he spent 31 years in parish ministry in the dioceses of Long Island NY, Rochester NY, and Connecticut, he now dedicates his life to serving the Third World.

                  After opening with “Now the green blade riseth”, sung by him as he played the banjo, Father Bruce remarked about all of the emotions that accompanied the time surrounding our Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  The disciples’ range of emotions went from despair and sadness at the crucifixion to fear for their own lives as they hid in the upper room.  Then came the news of His resurrection, which they met with disbelief and skepticism.  Upon sighting Him, they were elated and felt the courage needed to begin their ministries.  He drew a parallel between this ancient story and our spiritual life and called upon us to live in the joy that we can claim when Christ’s resurrection is the center of our lives.

                  Father Bruce then shared a story in which he experienced many emotions.  Upon visiting a landfill in Honduras, he met many families whose “job” was to search the garbage for items to recycle and items to eat.  One of those families lived at the landfill under a tarp which they had furnished with a sofa found at the landfill.  The mother was named Carmen.  She was 31 years old and 8 months pregnant with her fourth child.  This situation really touched him since his daughter back in Connecticut was also 8 months pregnant.  The contrasts between the lives of Carmen and his daughter affected a wide range of emotions in him.  Though he was filled with despair for this family, they were hopeful and filled with faith.

                  Since his encounter with Carmen and her family, Food For The Poor has been able to provide a fully furnished home, food for several years, and education for their children.  Food For The Poor works in 17 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, feeding over a million and providing housing, clean water and orphanages.  He gave some examples of how we could help.  He suggested that we, as a parish, may want to contribute the $3200 needed to build a home for a family.  Personally, he challenged us to donate $285 to provide a water pump for a village or $43.50 to feed a hungry child for a year.

                  As I thought about this call to charity throughout the remainder of the service, the words in the Eucharistic Prayer, “He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself, in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world” really struck me.  Christ did not just die for people who look like us.  He died for the WHOLE WORLD.  He left us with the command to love one another as he has loved us.  If he can die for us, surely we can part with a little of our resources to show our love for others, for it is by this love that we are shown to be his disciples.

Wednesday's Word

Sermon Summary for Sunday, April 17, 2016

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His Staff has Two Ends
 
Today was the Fourth Sunday after Easter - also known as Good Shepherd Sunday and we heard Psalm 23.
 
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
 
Mother Mary pointed out our stained glass on the east wall of the church where we have a beautiful depiction of Jesus as the good shepherd.  In His hands are a staff.  Mother Mary reminded us that His staff has two ends.  One to protect us and restrain us from danger.  And the other to prod us so he can lead us where we need to go; even when we may be scared.
 
Can you think of a time where Jesus has used His staff to save you in your life?  Where do you feel He may be prodding you to go next?
 
Respectfully submitted by Jeff Tindall.

Tuesday's Telling of Sunday's Homily

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Sermon Summary for Sunday, April 10th

The Restoration, Rebirth & Resurrection of Simon Peter

In this week’s gospel, John 21:1-19, we find Peter, who has returned to the sea to his former profession as a fisherman. The last time we see Peter is in the tomb when he discovers that Jesus has risen. Why do we find him back in his “old job?” Is he running away from his past? Is he hiding from Jesus? Is he searching for a place where he can “fit in” and forget the past? Jesus tells him that he will deny him three times and Peter does, which sets into motion a series of events that fulfill Jesus’s prophesy. He is crucified, dies and rises from the tomb. One can only wonder how Peter felt after discovering that Jesus had risen from the tomb just three days after dying. 

What we know is that Jesus appears to Peter and the group on the shore of the ocean where they have not caught any fish. Jesus, who the men do not recognize, prompts them to cast their nets to the right of the boat and the nets immediately fill with so many fish that they cannot pull the nets in. When Peter sees that the man is Jesus, he puts on his clothes and jumps into the ocean and swims to shore. He is greeted by Jesus who has a fire and food to eat.  Why is Peter fishing without clothes? What point is John making with the nakedness of Peter, immersion into the ocean and ultimately the bookending of the crucifixion story with a meal? Could the nakedness of Peter be symbolic of him being born again out of the ultimate forgiveness by Jesus? Could the immersion into the sea be symbolic for Peters baptism and renewal? Is the breakfast meal Jesus has prepared for him on the shore representative of the break in the fast that Peter has endured since the Last Supper?  Jesus waits until after Peter is reborn, baptized and fed the holy spirit before he allows him to answer three questions:

John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” 

He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep."

With that, Jesus has given Peter his mission.

 

Respectfully submitted by Floyd Braid