Sermon- 9/4/16

9.4.16 sermon- I watched a TV show this week where the teenage daughter and the mother were at odds with each other. The mother argued that the daughter should not attend a college party because something might happen. The daughter argued that she’s always been responsible. As the argument continued, the mother finally said the words that Moses addresses in the first lesson today. The mother trusted her daughter- she didn’t trust the people or events that could happen at the party.
We make the best possible decisions for ourselves and our families based on what we know and believe. There’s a whole world outside that can change the plan we’ve put into place.
This lesson is Moses’ final advice to people he’s taught for the past forty years. That exodus of nearly a million people that he brought out of slavery in Egypt should have reached the promised land a month later. It shouldn’t have been a long trip.
But after living as slaves in Egypt for generations and forgetting the God who claimed them, they needed some reeducation. God can’t hand down land to God’s faithful people if they were no longer faithful. Moses began to teach them about the God who has always been faithful to them and to their ancestors before them.
Moses says choose life- choose God who first chose you. The people have seen God’s miracles; they’ve heard God’s stories from their ancestors-the waters of the sea parted so they could leave Egypt. The manna and quail appeared each day so they would not starve. The water gushed from the rock to ease their thirst. The poison serpents in the camp could not kill the people who looked on the bronze serpent as Moses instructed them to do.
The first generation of unfaithful people died in the desert. But then God was remembered. The people knew God provided and these blessings showed the invisible God whose only form is spirit.
Moses reminds them of the lessons they learned -choose life or death, choose prosperity or adversity, choose blessing or curses. Under God’s eye and with Moses’ guidance, the people are now ready to take possession of the land that God promised. They have the commandments and Joshua, their new leader. They have everything they need to finally take their place as God’s people in the land that God promised.
Moses reminds them that they are part of the line of God’s people, dating back to God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Hold fast to what you believe. Don’t be swayed by other gods. Stand strong in the Lord, remembering the foundation that God set for you long ago, inscribing God’s own name on your heart.
In the gospel lesson Jesus teaches the same lesson to the people. Jesus is facing death in Jerusalem, but he’s got a lot of teaching to do before that journey ends. Jesus’ lesson is about counting and comparing the cost of what is life or death for you.
When Jesus talks about all that we have to give up to be disciples, he reinforces Moses’ words-choose life, so you may live, loving God. That is the greatest commandment and the greatest benefit.
The greatest gift God gives is in our lives now. God gives us love and blessings, in spite of the hurt and pain we continue to experience on earth. God gives forgiveness and peace, so we can live at peace with other people. Jesus came to show us God’s abundant life, here and now and later, after death. We should be living in the full freedom God has given with a sense of joy.
God has given us the freedom to a life that has no conditions set on it. God called us through baptism, into this freedom. An open door is waiting for us, but remember. Upon entering, we trust God above the world-one holy and eternal God. Amen.

Rev. Dawn Richie

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Sermon – 5/8/16

5.8.16- I attended Weatherly High School graduation on Friday night. The program was well planned and the audience was pretty cooperative. But the student speakers brought the excitement. One after another spoke of the future, of the fear, excitement and anxiety they were feeling, all at the same time. They talked about achievements and of perseverance. They reminded their classmates that they had to have enough faith to follow their dreams into the future they’ve planned for themselves.
Having faith and confidence in yourself is necessary if you’re going to achieve anything in life. Faith needs to be built on a solid foundation; the foundation the students referred to was family and the love and understanding that brought them to graduation. But having grown up in this town, I’ve been around long enough to know and remember the grandparents whose faith in God provided the foundation on which these young people are able to build today.
There’s a big difference between confidence and fear and that’s the leap we make in our lessons today. We’re moving from confident, faithful, wise King Solomon dedicating the beautiful temple he built for God to terrified, exiled prophet Elijah, chased from his own homeland of Israel because neither the people nor the king liked the message he brought.
Jesus told the disciples that when a prophet isn’t welcome in one place, they shake the dust off their sandals and take God’s message somewhere else. That’s what happens to Elijah today. God’s king and God’s people don’t like the message God is sending, so they try to kill him. Elijah escapes and wants to quit. But God finds him and sends him to a place where God is not known. Elijah is to teach the people in that land about the great and powerful God of Israel.
God sent Elijah to a place called Zarephath. In Zarephath, Elijah meets a widow and her son, about to die of hunger. When Elijah, a foreigner, promises that God will refill the meal and oil until the end of the drought, they believe him. The meal and the oil last, just as Elijah’s God promised. The widow and her son begin to trust Elijah’s God.
Suddenly, the child is so ill that he can’t breathe. Do something, the widow demands, where is your God? Has your God come here to remember my sin and to kill my son? Do something!

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This widow remembers the God who refills the oil and the meal. Maybe God’s prophet will ask God to refill her son with the breath, the spirit of God that began every human life, even hers. God, who hears Elijah’s frantic prayers, now heals. The boy is revived and handed to his mother, who knows God’s power over death.
Our gospel lesson takes Jesus to the town of Nain and he finds a similar situation. As they enter the town, they see a large funeral procession for a young man; his widowed mother is part of the crowd. Her grief is raw and fresh as she grieves the loss of her son and his future, the loss of a daughter in law and grandchildren she’ll never have.
Jesus sees her grief and fear. He has compassion on her and he touches the casket frame. Young man, rise, Jesus says. The young man sat up and began to speak and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
The story continues with the crowd’s reaction, but we need to stop here a minute to look at what’s happening and see what’s behind it. This story we get tells the simple lesson of Jesus healing a young man and giving him back to his mother.
Now that’s really good news and this is exactly why Jesus came-he came to show us firsthand the care and concern God has for God’s creation and God’s people. God cares for all of God’s people, but some of the temple people put up a fight. There are laws to be kept, religious laws and Jesus is in violation of them. Now, there might have been a time when these religious laws had a purpose, when they kept the people within the boundaries of proper worship in the temple.
But when Jesus comes, he breaks down the walls and he pushes out the boundaries. Jesus erases all the lines that separated the clean from the unclean, the sick from the healthy, the rich from the poor. Jesus comes to fulfill the prophet’s message and God’s everlasting covenant of peace, joy and mercy for all of God’s creation. Jesus ends all of life’s divisions and he opens us to the kingdom on earth as we wait to see the kingdom in heaven.
In the lesson from Galatians, the apostle Paul is starting to explain his work to the church that’s just begun. We’re only in the first chapter, so Paul’s got a lot to explain. But later on, in chapter three, Paul echos Jesus’ own words to the people-no one is justified before God by the law-we read for ourselves that the righteous will live by faith. There are no longer divisions among us-no more Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female-we are all one in Jesus Christ and heirs of God’s promise. It’s all going to be ours one day and God’s kingdom will be glorious.
When the power of God is seen, we experience miracles firsthand. Did you put your feet on the ground today and breathe in and out? Life is a miracle we take for granted every day. But life was not taken for granted by the widows in our stories-the restored lives of their sons meant that their lives would continue and they wouldn’t die as beggars.
Today’s Bible stories teach us another lesson. God’s power over death can revive us, too-assuring us that we are precious, we are loved and we are forgiven. Amen.

Rev. Dawn Richie

Holy Trinity Sunday sermon-5/22/16

This week, when I started reading Psalm 8, I remembered the musical version that my daughter used to sing from her children’s book.
Oh Lord our Lord, how excellent your name is, how excellent your name in all the earth. Your glory fills the heavens beyond the farthest star. How excellent your name in all the earth. When I think about the heavens, the moon and all the stars, I wonder what you ever saw in me. But you took me and you loved me and you’ve given me a crown and now I’ll praise your name eternally. Oh Lord our Lord, how excellent your name is, how excellent your name in all the earth.
Without naming each name, this song describes how our Lord, who is called Father, Son and Holy Spirit, continues to touch and bless us in the same way God has always blessed God’s creation-from the beginning of time right through to the end. On this Trinity Sunday, we learn the ways that God touches our lives, in big and small ways, but always with pure devotion and love because God loved us first.Trinity 03
The word Trinity isn’t in the Bible, because the idea of God as three persons wasn’t discussed until after the disciples. The church fathers saw God in three ways as God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, God acts like a father. In the New Testament, Jesus acts like a son who explains his Father’s actions to us. The Holy Spirit is God’s spirit that comes to earth to do the work that God and Jesus began. Each acts in different ways in the world and in us. There’s a lot of spiritual activity going on that we can’t see. But we can feel it as God’s spirit invades our lives and pushes us to do what God has planned for us. Father, Son and Holy Spirit work in harmony with each other, undivided, faithful and with a single minded plan that comes from God.
Let’s look at God as the father of creation, the parent of infants Adam and Eve. Although we’re told they’re a man and a woman, they were new, innocent and naive. They lived in the Garden of Eden and were totally dependent on God-until an outside force encouraged them to explore the big world outside of God’s view.
God said, Ok, go and explore and sent them out of the garden. They’d build their own home, grow their own food, raise their own children and make their own living. This is where God’s creation began to rebel against God, almost from the beginning. Throughout the book of Genesis, we read conflict stories between children, parents and in laws. But we also remember that one member of the family always remembers the God of their ancestors and calls to God for help. God hasn’t gone anywhere; God is always waiting for us to come back again, no matter how far away we’ve tried to run.
People make a lot of mistakes in their relationship with God-they’re bossy, demanding, rude and arrogant and most of the time, God lets them have their own way. Most of the time our bad decisions cause us grief and misery, but that doesn’t chase God away. God always brings us to God’s grace, mercy and peace when we ask to come there.
God deals with some bad decisions in the Old Testament as people want to pull away from God as their leader and be lead by people instead. The people want judges, so God gave them judges. The people want kings, so God gave them kings. By the end of the Old Testament stories, the people have lost everything of value and return to rebuild what’s left of their homeland. For 400 years, the time between the Old and New Testaments, God no longer sends prophets speaking God’s word to God’s people because they’ve stopped listening. God sets phase two of God’s plan in motion by sending Jesus.
Jesus comes into a world that’s been corrupted from top to bottom; top legal, religious and state officials obey the emperor and the people on the bottom are crushed by taxes, disease and misery. While priests continue to make sacrifices, the temple officials hold so tightly to the law that they don’t care that the people are suffering. But God cares that people are suffering and that’s why Jesus comes.
Jesus shows the ridiculous arguments in the light of day. Just because it’s the Sabbath day doesn’t mean you let your animals go thirsty or hungry. The day of rest is for people, slaves and animals, too.
Just because people are sick doesn’t mean you keep them away from other people. In times of illness and misery, we need each other to become whole and healthy again.
If anyone who calls on God’s name is answered, then you can’t exclude the Syrophonecian woman, the gentiles or any other nationality. We are all God’s people, not just a chosen few. Jesus came to explain all of this to the people; he set in motion the next phase of God’s action in God’s world.
The world Jesus is born into doesn’t love Jesus any more than it loved God. It’s a world that forces people to choose sides, insisting that you’re either with us or against us. Jesus came to teach that with God there are no sides. There’s just God. And that’s the teaching that challenged the local authorities. They’re the people who killed Jesus.
We know that God will always have the last word on God’s world, so Jesus didn’t stay dead. God raised Jesus from the dead and Jesus explained the scriptures to his disciples. Then he tried to prepare them for the Pentecost Spirit that filled them with courage and faith and blew them out into the streets to carry out phase three of God’s plan to save God’s people.
This Pentecost spirit is still with us today, when we gather our courage to act and to do what matters to God. There is no us and them in the church. There’s only God, in three persons, who continue to move and to interact with us, bringing us insight and understanding, mercy and forgiveness and a peace that the world will never know.
I believe in a very big and powerful, all knowing and all seeing God. My God is too big and too busy to bother finding people parking places near the mall at Christmas. And my God is too big and too powerful to help find the perfect dress or suit for the next big occasion.
In the past five years with you, I’ve seen God work miracles of growth and healing in these young people who will soon graduate from high school. I’ve seen God’s powerful action work in the lives of Morgan and Cyrick and Joshua. High school graduation is one stepping stone to close a chapter of life as we watch another chapter begin.
So let’s close in the same way we began, in worship and awe of the God who neither slumbers nor sleeps. Oh Lord our Lord, how excellent your name is, how excellent your name in all the earth. Your glory fills the heavens beyond the farthest star. How excellent your name in all the earth. When I think about the heavens, the moon and all the stars, I wonder what you ever saw in me. But you took me and you loved me and you’ve given me a crown and now I’ll praise your name eternally. Oh Lord our Lord, how excellent your name is, how excellent your name in all the earth. Alleluia, amen.

Rev. Dawn Richie

Sermon- 5.15.16

The coming of God’s Holy Spirit-May 15 sermon- Sometimes it’s hard to find the truth. There are so many ideas and thoughts and opinions in the world that it’s hard to sort out what’s valuable and what can be thrown away. We don’t want to make a quick decision and then find out that we’re wrong. We always want to act with discernment and integrity and not jump on the first bandwagon coming through town. As a church, we don’t only speak for what we believe as individuals. We also represent Jesus and the love he brought.
Jesus’ first words to the disciples in the gospel lesson are, Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not let them be afraid, believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places-I go there to prepare a place for you. I will come and take you there, so we can be together. You know the way to the place where I am going because I am the way, the truth and the life. And soon, I will go to be with God the Father.
When Philip demands to see the Father, Jesus explains that they’ve already seen the Father because they’ve seen Jesus. They will do greater works than Jesus has done because the Father is sending in ground support for the disciples. Although Jesus is leaving, God’s sending the Holy Spirit, as their support and advocate in their ministry in Jesus’ name. If you think Jesus did amazing ministry, wait until the Spirit shows up-this is the spirit of truth, of peace who will live in you forever.
Now this sounds like an amazing and wonderful thing, but there’s something you need to know. The Spirit, like Jesus, can only be felt and experienced by people who believe that Jesus is the son of God.
Jesus explains this whole idea pretty clearly. This Spirit helper and advocate can only be seen and experienced by people who believe in God. The world can’t see it because they don’t believe. They can’t experience it because they don’t know it. It’s the same story we had at Jesus’ birth. If people didn’t believe in God, then the starry night when Jesus was born was another night with special planets shining brightly. They may have seen the light show, but they missed the point.
If they didn’t believe that Jesus was the son of God who could be raised from the dead, then Jesus appeared to be another victim on a Roman cross. Only the people who believed in Jesus knew that God raised him from the dead. They knew because he wasn’t in the tomb in which he was placed; God had raised him as Jesus had promised.
The resurrected Jesus first appeared to the friends and disciples to retell them the story, to fill in the blanks, to instill in them a greater peace and faith that would bring them to this miraculous, wonderful Pentecost day. Jesus gave them everything they needed. And today, their ministry began in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit blows them out of their house and into the streets with Jesus’ message that God loves and wants to save all people. Their experience is so powerful that they want the world to experience it, too.
What does a church look like or act like when it’s empowered by the Spirit? We had our own taste of it a few weeks ago at the anniversary service. The old and new, the past and future, the members and the saints all gathered for worship, using old and new language. The blend of structured liturgy and singing was an expression of the Spirit. I think that’s what the disciples are feeling today as the Spirit bursts into the room, fills them full and blows them out into the streets to preach and prophecy God’s old message in God’s new way.
Today’s story takes place on a big festival day in Jerusalem and everybody’s in town for the celebration. A few times a year, on high holy days, religious people come to the temple; you’ll find foreigners there all the time as they come to the Jerusalem marketplace. It’s like trying to drive on Highland Park Blvd on Christmas Eve. Everybody’s there, shopping for the holidays.
If you’ve ever seen someone preaching on the street corner, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what these disciples look like to the people in the street. These guys were from Galilee; they were fishermen. They weren’t rabbis or teachers or Pharisees or Sadducees. They had no standing at all in the temple, but here they were in everyday clothes preaching and prophesying, connecting Joel’s Old Testament scripture with the story of the risen Jesus Christ, son of God. They were speaking the language of every nation; every person knew what they said.
This is a pivotal moment for the disciple Peter, because in most of our stories of Jesus and the disciples, it’s Peter who jumps in without thinking about his words. Today as the disciples are preaching, some people ignore the message and claim the disciples are drunk. This is the growing moment, when the disciple Peter becomes the church father Peter. Standing with the others, he brushes off this comment with the command-Listen to what I say! These words were spoken by the prophet Joel and they are happening in your hearing today. God’s promise is coming true.

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“In the last days, I will pour my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophecy; your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams. My spirit will be poured on both male and female slaves and they will prophecy.
I will show portents in the heavens and signs on the earth; blood and fire and smoky mist. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of God’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Wow! If these Galilean nobodies can preach like this in the spirit’s power, just imagine how that power would affect us. In a world that can’t stay quiet, imagine the power of words that can speak directly to the heart, life and experience of every person present.
Peter points the people in the direction that he wants them to go and then he shows them a vision of the future. He talks about the last days and explains that God’s presence and power are with God’s people. It’s their turn to use that power of prophecy in their own towns and villages, to take Peter’s spirit filled message home and to preach it because it’s deeply touched their own heart.
Times and circumstances change. Slaves no longer belong to masters; they’re slaves to God who claims and gives them the gift of prophecy. Barriers torn down, God’s message is taken to the streets.
Most important of all, the message of the spirit creates the birth of the church. The message goes out to all people, who carry it into the world. It’s the message of peace and the spirit of truth that comes from God-it shows that God is active and intervening in our world. It shows that God’s activity and God’s prophecy do not wait for us in the far off future. The Spirit comes to us in all times, all circumstances. It is the Spirit of truth and love of God. It is the gift of salvation for everyone who hears and comes to believe. Amen.

Rev. Dawn Richie

Sermon- 4.10.16

4.10.16 sermon– How long does a book sit at your house unopened? Or maybe I should ask how many new books do you have on your electronic devices that haven’t been read yet? I have 10 unread books on my Kindle. I must have 50 unread paperback books on the shelves. I hope to read them when I retire because all of these books look like really good.
I’ve learned that I have to set aside time if I’m going to remember what I read. I can’t read a few pages and put a book down, so I use reading time as a reward for getting work done. I get very involved in the story and if it’s a fiction book, I can picture the action as it’s happening. Do you do that? Some writers describe so well, I see the story unfolding in my imagination.
Now I’m telling you this so we can enter this gospel story together. Today, we’ve got a long lesson from John’s gospel, chapter 21, which was written later by a different author.
John 21 is called an epilogue and it was written to tie up loose ends that were left dangling in this gospel story. Last week, the lesson ended with the words that Jesus did many signs that are not written in the book…..but these were written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah…..and that through believing, you may have life in his name. While it is a beautiful ending, it’s abrupt. Chapter 21 renews the relationship Jesus had with the rest of his disciples and it shows the same overabundant and extravagant God we met in the beginning of John’s gospel. It closely links chapter 21 with chapter 1, reconnecting, recovering the relationship that seemed to be lost when Jesus was taken away from his disciples for crucifixion.
No one writes the good news of God in Christ the way that John writes. John writes his gospel as a member of a sect of Christians who closely follow Jesus. He knows God as holy and powerful, loving and over extravagant. John knows God as a God of abundant grace and mercy, whose plan for the world will only be detoured for a short time. And John trusts that God will keep his community safe and defend them from the enemies that all Christians are facing as John writes his gospel 50 years after Jesus’ ministry.
Using words that we can almost picture from the Genesis creation story, John tells us that Jesus was with God in the beginning. He was a part of everything that was created and life came into being through him. The life was the light for all people and even the darkness of the world can’t extinguish a light that God has created.
Using words of testimony, grace and mercy, John describes God’s action in the world. John the Baptist came to testify to Jesus’ identity. Jesus testified to the people by being baptized as one of them and then telling them about God. John the Baptist points his disciples to Jesus, as the Lamb of God-and isn’t that an interesting name for a new prophet-Lamb of God, the only one who would take away the sin of the world. John told his disciples that they should no longer follow him, they should follow Jesus.

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Throughout John’s gospel lesson, Jesus uses words of invitation, Come and see, follow me. At the Cana wedding, Jesus supplies an overabundance of the best wine-a wine the bridegroom can’t afford. Jesus answers the questions of Nicodemus who comes to him under cover of darkness, asking what it means to be born from above. And Jesus explains that he was sent into the world to save the world; God doesn’t want to see people destroyed, but saved by him. God has an unconditional love for all of God’s people. God doesn’t want anyone to be lost. But some will wander away and may never come back again. God keeps calling.
Jesus answers all questions, no matter who is asking. With Jesus, there are no stupid questions, no boundaries, no fences-only welcome. He gives the unholy Samaritan woman at the well living water, he healed a Roman officials son and a lame man at Bethsaida and he feeds five thousand. He healed and he taught and he confronted the men who would have stoned a woman caught in adultery. When Jesus said, Let the one with no sin cast the first stone, they all turned and walked away.
Jesus taught and explained that he was the living water, but more than water; faith in Jesus would never leave anyone thirsting for truth. He taught that he was the bread of life, but much more than the flat bread that kept them alive; Jesus would never leave anyone hungering for righteousness. Jesus taught that he was the light of life that no one could extinguish as he talked with the prophets and with God on Transfiguration Mountain. His suffering and death might have extinguished the light that the evil people could see, but you can’t see much light when you insist on living in darkness. That’s a choice that people make, but God continues to call them back again. No one is lost until God says they’re lost. It’s a good lesson to remember.
As Jesus came closer to crucifixion, his disciples and friends gathered closer to him. The gatherings became closer, quieter, more intimate. There were times of prayer, of anointing, of foot washing, of sharing meals-all regular parts of their life together. Although they scattered, running for their lives at the crucifixion, the women once again came to anoint, to pray, to wash the body of Jesus but they found he wasn’t there. It was a confusion of hopeful wonder and absolute terror, not knowing who had taken Jesus’ body away. But then he appeared to them in the locked room, not once, but twice and opened their minds, helping them remember what he had promised. Their lives together came full circle last week in that room as Jesus breathed on those gathered disciples the Holy Spirit.
Did you notice that Jesus never reprimands his disciples for a lack of faith in these last days? Jesus comes from the God of abundance and gives them abundant courage through the Holy Spirit. When he exits the tomb, he only leaves behind grave clothes. When Jesus exits the upper room, he leaves with them his witness and the Holy Spirit. And when he encounters Peter and the other disciples who have fished all night and didn’t catch a thing, he says, put the net down on the other side. What a ridiculous thing to say! If the lake has no fish, it has no fish. But Peter plays along and tosses out the net and can’t pull it in because of the overabundance of fish they catch. There’s only person who has ever shown what mercy and abundant love are and that is Jesus. He shares a breakfast of fresh fish with them over the open fire and Jesus once again begins an intimate conversation with Peter. Peter, do you love me, Jesus asks. Yes, Lord, Peter responds, you know I love you. Then feed my lambs. Peter, do you love me, Jesus asks. Yes, Lord, you know that I love you, Peter says. Tend my sheep. Peter, do you love me? Lord, you know everything! You know that I love you. Feed my sheep. With these words, Peter the fisherman becomes Peter the apostle, the follower of Christ. Although he denied his discipleship out of fear for his life, he would one day give his life for the Lord who died to redeem him.
Jesus gives to us grace upon grace; free gifts of love, family, relationship, life, breath, the freedom to open our arms wide to embrace the God who will make us the whole person we were created to be. These are gifts from our Lord, who was with God the Creator, from the beginning of time. We have come full circle as we finish this last chapter from John’s gospel. But we await the day when Jesus returns to live with us and we live in the second glorious coming and experience our resurrection from the dead. Amen.

Rev. Dawn Richie

Holy Thursday Sermon- 3.24.16

3.24.16-Holy Thursday sermon-Jesus shares one last meal with his disciples-So when Jesus shared the Last Supper with you tonight. How close were you standing to Jesus?
Some disciples, who had been following John the Baptist, were standing close enough to Jesus at his baptism to change direction. Maybe it was the dove descending from heaven-maybe it was Jesus himself-maybe they actually heard the rumble of thunder as the voice of God pronouncing God’s pleasure with Jesus’ actions. You must listen and be prepared to hear God’s quiet voice. It will point you in the direction you should go.
While some of Jesus’ disciples had followed John, Jesus went to the seaside to call some of his own. Were you standing close enough to hear the conversation between him and the fishermen-the call to follow, the promise that they’d now be fishing for people? In overhearing these words, did you want to drop your nets and follow, too? What stopped you from following? Why are you waiting along the sidelines?
While Jesus and twelve disciples traveled throughout Galilee and into Judea as far as Jerusalem, the crowds followed, went home, followed and went home. While they crushed in around Jesus to hear what he was saying, they also came looking for what he could give them. Healing, acceptance, bread, fish-Jesus even promised them living water, but they didn’t understand.
Everybody came for something. Some came for the superficial and turned to run home when the going got tough or they felt threatened or they were asked to join Jesus’ disciples. But the word disciples comes from the word discipline, which means a routine and a commitment of time. This teaching is too hard, they grumbled, turned around and went home.
When Jesus turned to look back, the crowds had disappeared and once again, he was left with only twelve following him. Will you go away also, Jesus asked. But Peter came up with the answer Jesus was looking for. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe you are the Holy One of Israel.” And in all honesty, this is what the disciples believed, although they had a terrible time acting as though they believed it.
Where were you sitting at the table during the supper, crowded in around Jesus or lounging along the outside edges? Were you sitting close enough that you were the first stunned disciple to see Jesus start washing your feet? Did you pull away or did you watch quietly?
I think when it comes to Jesus it’s better to watch and listen to him explain why he’s doing something than to put up a big protest. Sometimes our mouths make promises we can’t keep. And other times, our ignorance separates us from the God who loves us more than anyone ever could.
Were you sitting close enough to see Jesus hand Judas the bread of betrayal? Before Jesus said it, did you have any idea what Judas had been doing behind your back? Or did you just keep your mouth shut and watch what had been happening, thinking it was none of your business.The_Last_Supper_(1886),_by_Fritz_von_Uhde
If you have been sitting on the sidelines, watching what’s been going on, maybe it’s time you realize that the story I’m telling you is a timeless story for the past, present and future. The question remains; how close are you standing to Jesus?
Jesus offered the laying on of hands for healing and forgiveness like we offered tonight. You can’t be healed unless you are also forgiven; when this happens, God heals all the broken pieces and makes us whole again. It’s why baptism is for the forgiveness of sins. Sometimes, we receive forgiveness from other people. Sometimes, this means being able to forgive yourself. Either way, it’s important.
In a while, we’ll celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion, remembering the smells of food and wine that lingered at the last supper in the upper room. Every disciple, including Judas, ate bread at Jesus’ table. Every disciple had his feet washed by their rabbi, their teacher and master. This should have been a symbol of unity between them as Jesus lead them into Jerusalem, but shortly after the whole group starts to unravel. As much as they want to stay, they’re afraid of what’s coming next. Judas stood up and left, the first of the disciples to turn away and leave Jesus this night. Later, Peter would deny Jesus and they would scatter, running for their lives in fear and terror. In the end, the only man to enter Jerusalem would be Jesus, goaded on by soldiers, pushed by the crowds demanding his life. In the end, only Jesus would hang on a cross. And in spite of this seemingly sorrowful end of life, it was the only way that new, eternal, kingdom life could begin.
So how close are you to Jesus today? Are you standing in the shadow of the Holy Spirit at his baptism? Are you resting against him as you share one last meal around the common table? Are you letting him wash your feet when everything in you is saying you should be washing his instead? Are you standing in solidarity, at the foot of his cross so he doesn’t die alone? Are you standing close enough to understand and feel the cost salvation? Amen.

Rev. Dawn Richie

Good Friday Sermon- 3.25.16

3.25.16-Good Friday sermon– Last night, on Maundy Thursday, Jesus gave the disciples a new command. Judas betrayed Jesus. And Jesus predicted what Peter would do before he ever did it.
It’s not like Jesus didn’t try to include the disciples in everything he was doing. Jesus told them what would happen and the group was terrified. They ran away and watched him die on the cross from a distance.
The problem between Jesus and the disciples was the same problem God had with Adam and Eve. God gave humans the freedom to choose what they would do, even if the decisions were bad. Isn’t this how most parents raise their children? We can love them beyond reason, we can instruct and guide them, but they grow away from us and make their own decisions. Maybe our influence helps, sometimes it seems controlling, but the love is always there. Regardless of bad behavior, unconditional love never ends.
God had this wonderful plan that God and the people would live forever in the Garden of Eden. It was perfect! Shouldn’t an unconditional love hold you fast to the one who loves you? It doesn’t. Adam and Eve made a different decision. They had the will to choose to follow God or to unfollow God. This decision is our choice between heaven, which is our experience in God’s presence, or hell, the experience we have when rejecting God’s presence. There’s more than enough hell on earth going on; we need to set our sights higher than the gutter and street level.
God calls us to a higher level of thinking, past self centeredness and selfishness. We need to not only think well of other people, but we are called to help them when they need help. Our example was Jesus-he washed his disciples feet last night. He showed what it is to serve and to be a servant. But everybody wants to be the boss. You know how that goes.
So tonight, we hear the story of the suffering servant from Psalm 22 and the crucifixion story from John. Every year, we hear the same story, but from a different gospel. Not a lot changes, there’s a different detail here, a new detail there. But the story remains the same. Unfortunately, so do we.

Crucifixion-3-Crosses

Unless we can make the connection between Jesus’ death on the cross with God’s plan for salvation, we’re missing the whole story of God’s love in Christ.
In the Old Testament, God made one covenant after another, to cover the ever growing number of sins with which God’s people offended God. Sin, repent, return-sin, repent, return-it was the same pattern for 5000 years.
In the time between the Old Testament and the New Testament, God was silent. For 400 years, God said nothing. What’s the point in talking when no one is listening? The time passed, the roar subsided, the people returned to God-older, wiser and scarred with experience.
As we look beyond crucifixion today, hoping against hope, we remember just how silent it became on that hill. Once the crowds were gone, three crosses, some soldiers and disciples remained. The show appeared to be over and everyone went home. But the ground around Jerusalem shook with an earthquake. The seamless temple curtain was torn in half from top to bottom. When Jesus said the words, It is finished, God stepped into our world through that curtain and took the world in God’s hands, to love them back to life again. Amen.

Rev. Dawn Richie