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

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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

Sermon- Sun. 3.13.16

Many of us are affected by our senses (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, to name a few) and the memories they bring back to us. I learned that smells can take me back in time. If I smell Walmart’s fresh bread baking and their rotisserie chickens roasting, I want to buy them. Food smells remind me of comfort foods. I’ve learned to shop later in the day.
There are other smells that connect to memory. I learned, while driving the Turnpike to Philadelphia, not to leave the car vent open between the Quakertown and Lansdale exits. There are miles and miles of chicken farms there and they spread the manure on the fields. After closing the car vent and wiping my eyes, I drove for fifteen miles until that smell disappeared.
Last week brought a new memory to me. Driving home from Ohio, I found dairy farms along Route 80, before you get to Williamsport. Those farmers spread cow manure on the fields. I grew up cleaning stables on a dairy farm, so it wasn’t so offensive. To me, it smelled like spring was here.
Our senses often connect with memories we’ve had in the past. From time to time, I smell the soft musk perfume my grandmother wore and it reminds me of Nanny, who died years ago. Or I’ll notice the mingled smell of dirt, sweat and fresh air-a reminder of my childhood, my own children’s past and the fact that spring is coming again.
Stories are always tied to our memories. Today, I want to take you away from thinking of the past and the present and take you into the vision of the future God shows to God’s people. We people of God, God’s creation, need to start living there on a permanent basis and we can do that when reading the words that God spoke through the prophet in the first lesson.
The prophets give us the beginning and middle of stories, but then they point us to what is the ending for us humans-to the place of freedom, hope and love that God always offers. While our lives end, God is eternal. God is always making all things new and keeps telling us to look ahead and see the plans God has for us. There is so much more to come!
God’s new plan today in the book of Isaiah reminds us of God’s agreement with God’s people in the past. Their religious heritage, called the festival of Passover, was freedom that God gave them. This was when God lead them out of slavery in Egypt, through the Red Sea, with Moses leading them. Their past years in slavery are remembered each year, as the story is passed from generation to generation. The story is shared to remember how God heard their cries, cared for them and set them free. As God speaks in this first lesson, they aren’t free. God’s plan will set them free again.
Using the familiar story of the journey through the Red Sea and across the desert wilderness, God tells the people that once again, God will make this miracle happen. They will be set free and will travel in safety across the desert, protected, because God has not forgotten them.
Can you not see, do you not perceive it, the prophet asks. Do not remember the past, look to the future, to the new thing I am doing. If God has provided in the past, don’t you think God will keep the promises made to us for the future? We can ask ourselves the same question. Do we trust that God keeps and cares for us today? Or have we abandoned the hope God has given us and try to live our lives apart from God?
Our gospel lesson takes us to the simple home of Jesus’ friends- Mary, Martha and Lazarus-and to the dinner party that Jesus attends with his disciples. Jesus is the guest of honor because he raised Lazarus from the dead just a few days earlier and his friends want to thank him. They’ve been friends for a long time and they believe he is the son of God, not because they saw him raise Lazarus from the dead, but because they’re friends-they know each other very, very well. And while they don’t like what Jesus has said will happen soon, as friends, they honor and support him.
This home in Bethany holds many memories of their times together; the smells of cooking are a result of the dinner they share at this moment. But the smells and memory of death are still with them; Lazarus was in the tomb four days before Jesus raised him.
This is no simple dinner party here; it’s a heartbreaking memory of the past and a hope against all hope for a future. As they come together, Mary uses an expensive jar of perfume to wash Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair. The memories within these walls are mixed with the perfume fragrance and it’s a sacred moment, when time stands still.
No words need to be spoken, because everyone understands what’s happening. This perfume is used to anoint bodies for burial, after the person had died. But in a moment of love, intimacy and extravagance, Mary pours it on Jesus now, as a seal upon the relationship they’ve shared. Even at his death, just days away, Mary will be faithful. She will continue the work that Jesus began.
All of the disciples have seen the miracles that Jesus can do, but they also know Jesus’ plans for the future. They know he’ll go to Jerusalem, where he will face beating, crucifixion and death. Now, Jesus is with them as they share this meal together. As all of these memories swirl in their minds, the smell of the perfume lifts their spirits. No words are necessary.
But you know how it is, in these special moments, sacred, holy and united with God, someone has to speak. Someone always has to say something or needs to bring attention to their own importance. Judas, the treasurer, breaks in to complain about the waste. Judas can only see as far as his own greed and this perfume would have put some money in his pocket. But Jesus stops him with the reminder that this anointing is for his burial. This anointing is Mary’s goodbye to her best friend. It’s a sign of her devotion and her discipleship. Mary will carry on the work that Jesus began. Judas will die as the cheater he has chosen to be.
It’s difficult to tell this story of Jesus, to stress how important the events of the coming weeks will be. If we are the disciples we claim to be, we are called to follow Jesus’ example-he came to show us what God is like. He came to remind us that we are beloved people of God, called into action for the sake of Christ.
While we are the hands of Jesus, our hands will never bear Jesus’ scars. While we can show the heart of God’s love, we will never know God’s heartbreak at loving a creation that does not love back. We have the privilege of a special, precious memory. That memory is that God’s words of love are written on our hearts, we are empowered through the Holy Spirit and we are marked with the cross of Christ forever. Amen.

Rev. Dawn Richie