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Matthew 1:18-24

Way In

Christmas spending

In America

National Retail Federation

Expects sales in November and December to rise 3.8% to a record $469.1 billion

Last year spending went up 5.2% during the holiday season, putting both years above the 2.6% average increase over the past 10 years.

And that’s just in the US

We’re probably the highest

But we’re not the only country spending money at Christmas

I guess there are folks out there working hard to “keep Christ in Christmas”

But somebody sure is spending a lot of money

After all, Christmas is …

Christmas is…December 25 is …what?

Matthew’s gospel says that King Herod the Great died right after the birth of Christ

Herod the Great died in 4BC, right after he ordered the “slaughter of the innocents.” That is to say, all of the 2-year-old boys, because he was after the King of the Jews

So we can say, in the context of historical reference that Jesus Christ was born between the 6th and 4th years BC.

But the church didn’t celebrate the Nativity of Christ for another 300 years

Hippolytus of Rome (170-235 AD)

Without going into all of his studies and theories

Known for producing a chronicle of the world

Set the birth of Christ on December 25

Saturnalia

Ancient Roman festival honoring the god, Saturn

Agricultural god over the Golden Age

When people enjoyed and shared the earth’s bounty

Without labor, sort of an egalitarian utopia

Celebrations of the feast reflected that age

Well-established festival by C. 2nd AD

Festivities took place from December 17

As the days shortened, to the shortest day of the year (solstice) – there was great celebration after that, when the days began to get longer

This was the celebration of the victory of day over night

The festival:

great feasts, even masters provided feasts for their servants

Time off from work

Lots of candles to celebrate light

As the Roman Empire became increasingly Christian (official religion under Emperor Constantine in C. 4 a.d.) …

the chronicles of the church placing Jesus’ birth in December coincided with and were influenced by the festival of Saturnalia

and the celebrations of Christmastide – Advent, Nativity, Epiphany – emerged

fast-forward to the 20th century

time doesn’t permit a full exposition of the history of Santa Claus

But I will suggest to you a evolving image through the syncretism of

The benevolent St. Nicholas

The poetry of The Night Before Christmas

And commercial development of the persona in Coca Cola ads

Brings us the “jolly old elf” we see everywhere today

Even kneeling at the manger in many crèches

Don’t get me started on that…

So now is the season – a full realization of the syncretism of church and culture

The birth of Jesus, the visit of Santa Claus, and Americans spending over $400 bil.

Despite the commercial excess of spending and promotion

Messiah – God among us – changes everything

The God of all creation has come among us

Jesus Christ, the Light of the World has shown us how to live

Full of grace and truth

To bring about the Kingdom of God

Prophesied by Isaiah

Mary exalted in the Magnificat

Jesus preached, his first sermon at Nazareth

Tell The Story

Read gospel again

See for yourself how this challenges cultural norms, Mary and Joseph’s relationship – which is, in the end, strengthened

How the birth of Jesus changes everything

So What?

Moving from cynicism about the commercialization of Christmas

Remembering what is true about the coming of Messiah

Hear these words from Fr. Daniel Berrigan

Testimony: The Word Made Flesh, by Daniel Berrigan, S.J. Orbis Books, 2004.

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.

So let it be with us.  Amen.

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<letter sent to the congregation in November>

Dear Friends,

I am writing you with some news I prefer to deliver in person.  Since that’s not possible, this letter will have to do. After much discernment, I have decided not to renew the Stated Supply agreement for another year.  I want you to know that I love the people of the Yellow Springs church and in the community.  You have been very good to me and my family.  You are kind and good people with a terrific sense of humor.  You are committed to living out God’s love in the community, always looking for ways the church can connect.

The match here between the congregation and pastor is a good one.  Our view of life and the work of the church are compatible and I have enjoyed being around you at church, in your homes and in the community.  A pastor is fortunate to enjoy such a good relationship with their church.

My decision has to do with distance.  The drive I make three days a week from Piqua to Yellow Springs is about 92 miles round trip.  The work here is good but the time and distance make for a difficult part-time arrangement.  I feel rooted neither in Piqua nor Yellow Springs.  I was surely aware of these challenges when I accepted your call, and I believe we gave it our best efforts this year.

During my time of discernment, I received a call from the director of the YMCA in Piqua.  I had not applied for the job, but the Director said my name came up in their search for a Director for the Youth Center.  I have accepted this position to begin working full-time in January.  This is a good opportunity that permits my family to remain in Piqua and, for the first time in our marriage, to worship together and be rooted in the same church and community.  I will be involved in some teaching and possibly preaching on occasion at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Piqua but not engaged in full-time parish ministry.

The Session has already begun the process of securing temporary pastoral leadership following my departure.  This leadership in the near term will permit the Session to engage in the search for a longer term pastoral relationship.

In closing, I want to thank you for your friendship, and for welcoming my pastoral ministry among you.  I treasure the year we spent together and I will never forget you.  I am sorry we will not have more time together, but this church will carry on.  As the Apostle Paul wrote, “I thank God every time I remember you.  In my prayers for all of you, I pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this, that the One who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Please keep me in your prayers, as you will be in mine.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Joe

Philippians 2:1-13

  1. Way In

    Reading Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi

    Got me thinking about the perfect church

    Did some “serious” research

    I Googled “perfect church”

    What I found about the perfect church

    85,200,000 hits

    Serious and humorous

    Some churches that believe they have achieved the perfect church

    Atlanta, GA perfectcurch.org

    Founded in 1957 and, “the message went from the pulpit to the radio airwaves, from television to newspapers and worldwide magazines.”

    Another perfect church – perfectchurch.com

    Hard to tell where it is, lists “family” in Hawaii, Illinois, Texas, and South Carolina

    Some make fun of the notion of a perfect church

    Looking for a cool church

    with authentic, non-judgmental members

    convicted to serving God with the right mixture of tradition and cutting-edge

    People forgive each other and love children (even welcome children)

    Enthusiastic and energetic preacher

    Makes the Bible come alive

    Tells great stories, inspirational

    Preaches just long enough

    Works with kids and spends all their time with shut-ins

    Makes 15 visits every day and is always at the office when needed

    Church is neither liberal nor conservative, but just the right mix of both for the full truth

    Worship is a smooth and seamless flow of beautiful hymns everybody knows, with prayers and liturgy that make us weep every week

    Also among those 82.5 million hits (didn’t go past 1st page) was a poem

    If you should find
    the perfect church
    without fault or smear,
    Please, don’t join that church,
    you’d spoil the atmosphere.

    If you should find the perfect church
    where all anxieties cease,
    Then pass it by lest joining it
    you mar the masterpiece.

    If you should find the perfect church,
    then don’t you ever dare
    To tread upon such holy ground
    you’d be a misfit there.

    But since no perfect church exists…
    made of imperfect men and women,
    Then let’s cease looking for that church,
    and love the one we’re in.

    Of course it’s not a perfect church,
    that’s simple to discern,
    But you and I and all of us
    could cause the tide to turn.

    So let’s keep working in our church
    until the resurrection,
    And then we each will join God’s church
    without an imperfection.

    Bridge

    Paul started the church at Philippi

    wrote the church this letter from prison

    “I thank God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.”

    Not a perfect church, Paul wrote to encourage them anyway

    Church is the people

    No perfect people

    So, no perfect church

    but here’s what the church can do

  2. Tell the Story

    “Make my joy complete”

    You don’t have to be Christ (we can’t)

    but be filled with love, compassion, and sympathy

    don’t worry so much about WWJD

    rather, let us commit to DWJD – Do What Jesus Did

    welcome the stranger

    seek out the outcast, the ones that don’t seem to fit in

    visit the sick, even the ones in jail

    feed the hungry, clothe the naked

    Do What Jesus Did

    Notice how he walked through the community

    Taking time to get to know people

    Inviting them to come and follow him

    …to come – taste and see – that God is good

    “be of the same mind,” the church can strive to be like Christ, a living reminder. How?

    Do not operate out of selfish ambition or deceit

    Don’t do it for what you can get out of it

    Look upon others before yourself

    Not your interests but the interest of others

    God is in Christ, Jesus is Lord, but this is his lordship:

    emptied himself, poured out for others, a servant

    humble and obedient before God, even to death on a cross

    This is the one we call “Lord” and “King”

    “Therefore …”

    the church’s job is to work out your (pl.) own salvation

    for God is at work in you

    to work for his pleasure

    “Obey God as you have always obeyed me”

    “Make my joy complete”

    As it does for God

  3. So What?

    God never requires us to be the perfect church

    Just like god doesn’t care if we can all sing as beautifully as others

    A beautiful singing voice is a true gift – one to be enjoyed

    But that never means that those of us who have just a regular singing voice are left out

    The Bible says only to “make a joyful noise.”

    (again) God never requires us to be the perfect church

    given the candidates for membership and leadership; regular imperfect people, and pastors, this is not possible.

    God knows that

    Jesus did say something about being perfect – twice in the gospels, both in Matthew

    Mat. 6:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    “therefore” means we have to look at what he said before, which is:

    “love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you”

    Mat. 19:21, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor … then come, follow me.”

    These 2 ways of perfection aren’t a trap Jesus sets for us – they are ideals

    But his best disciples never had to do these things

    Followers of Jesus don’t have to be perfect

    “love your enemies”

    We know what that means

    We can understand the attitude

    We feel Jesus on this, but we can’t be perfect

    How do we know who all our enemies are?

    Some may be obvious, but there may be some we don’t even know about

    Sell everything you own and give the money to the poor

    Everything? Yes, everything. Jesus is plain on that.

    But the 12 never had to do this to be disciples

    Peter never had to do this to be the Rock Jesus built the church on

    But we know what Jesus means

    We know that he wants us to have the attitude of compassion, reconciliation, and forgiveness

    Perfect? We don’t need to be heroes – perfect saints

    Just follow in his ways

    What God wants

    to do his will, be the living reminder of Christ, the Body of Christ

    be like Christ, be of the same mind

    he is Lord, and poured himself out for the sake of others

    “Work out your own salvation”

    Does not mean we can save ourselves, or can earn it

    That is the work of God in Jesus Christ

    “Work it out” is to be responsible for living as if we are his followers, working out our living after the example of Christ

    work it out “with fear and trembling”

    doesn’t mean to live as if we’re scared to death of God

    but to remember that we do stand accountable before God

    the fear and trembling comes from respect and honor – awe, not fear of God’s reprimand

    trust in God, he hasn’t poured out himself in Christ as a living example of love and commitment, trying to have us live cowering in fear

    rather empowered us in his example to live as the beloved community

    Our lives, as the people of God, have been transformed by the image of Christ.

    The church, acting as the body of Christ, is called and sent to complete the ministry he began

    To unite all people as the kingdom of heaven

    What about us?

    We see the example given to us, and have heard the command of Christ to go and be the church, spreading the good news

    There is no perfect church, so don’t waste your time looking for it

    This will never be the perfect church

    But if you’re committed to it being your church, anyway

    Trust that by grace, we may be perfected, getting better all the time … a perfecting church

    What it means to be a “perfecting church”

    Following the living example of Christ

    Humility, seeking the welfare of others

    Imagine the community built around everybody looking about for everybody else

    Don’t look for the church that has it all worked out, look for

    Dreamers

    People who welcome kids

    People who make mistakes

    People who enjoy being together – in fellowship

    People who don’t mind working for a living

    People who turn up with the best they have to offer Jesus, for his church, and for his sake

    I had an image of that as you were greeting your new pastor

    Before I met all of you, in the warm reception I got from the PNC

    Then as I met more and more of you

    Hearing how you prepared for me

    Panting our rooms in the manse

    Providing the goodies I mentioned last week

    The continued warm welcome with meals and snacks

    Hearing your stories, getting to know you

    “It’s a little thing” you may say – “it’s just how we treat each other.”

    But it’s a beautiful thing to experience

    You know what I mean

    You’ve been cared for when you were sick or in need of support

    Pastoral care or a call from a concerned member of the church family

    To me, it’s more than just a little thing, more than just “the way we do it.”

    It’s like little glimpses of the kingdom of God

    A peek at the perfecting church, the one that’s getting better all the time

    So let’s pay attention to that – perfecting – getting better all the time.

    Pay attention to what it’s like to experience god’s love in the love we know in each other

    This is the church God is calling us to be

    Standing with and for each other – in prayer and presence together

    Enjoying being together

    Sharing our stories, our hospitality, our lives

    Now we know what makes God happy

    Keep this text before us >

    Not perfect, but perfecting – getting better all the time

    Be the church, the living reminder of Christ

    Like the beloved church at Philippi that Paul writes to

    Make my joy complete

    Be of the same mind

    Having the same love

    Being in full accord, and one mind

    Getting better all the time

So may it be with us. Amen

Exodus 16:2-15

  1. Way In

    When people start to worry about scarcity, they get anxious – there’s not going to be enough

    Examples

    Time

    People get anxious when they’re afraid that, “time’s running out”

    You’re going to miss your ride, not get your grass cut, not get your project or homework finished …

    Starting your summer reading list at the end of August

    Everyone here seems well-organized and planned

    But maybe you’ve had this experience, if even just a few times – “time’s running out!”

    In which case you’ve had a taste of the anxiety from running out of time

    Or maybe you’re like the expression, “if it wasn’t for the last minute, I’d never get anything done.”

    In which case, you’re well acquainted with this anxiety

    In fact, they say that people like us, I mean, people like that
    thrive off of the anxiety

    Food, especially candy

    Trick or Treat season is coming up, extra candy rows set up at the store

    we can’t buy too early at my house, or it will be gone by 10/31

    but you know about how you keep on going, one more house, one more stop

    just to be sure you get enough goodies

    real emergencies – storms, hurricanes, tornadoes

    see how groceries, gasoline, ice, etc. are stock-piled

    Bridge

    This is scarcity, “there’s not going to be enough,” people get a little panicky,

    Hoarding

    Storing it up, “just in case”

    Biblical narrative, up until now, had been the story of abundance

    God created the world

    Called it “good, very good.”

    Made plants, and animals, fish, and birds, and humans

    Saying, “be fruitful and multiply”

    God created the universe and everything in it

    Celebrated in the overflowing abundance

    God blessed Abraham and Sarah

    Blessed them to be a blessing

    Their descendants are numbered more than grains of sand on the beach or stars in the heavens

    Later in Genesis, as a great famine spread, Pharaoh took over the food supply with an iron fist. He did this to keep control over the food supply

    He made the situation worse, the hungry suffered

    Scarcity introduced into the culture of abundance in God

    Today’s reading is a story of humankind’s struggle between the history of God’s generosity and the human myth of scarcity (Brueggeman)

    God promises to provide enough of everything we need, but we insist on acting as if there will never be enough.

  2. Tell the Story

    Today we find the people of Israel, not long after God delivered them from slavery in Egypt – they are grumbling

    There wasn’t enough to eat

    At least they had food in Egypt

    Why did Moses and Aaron bring them out to the wilderness to starve to death?

    God’s promise

    I will rain bread from heaven

    Each day the people shall gather what they need for that day

    This will be a test, “whether they follow my instruction or not”

    On the eve of the Sabbath, they will gather twice as much; so they will not have to labor after food on the sabbath.

    Moses and Aaron told the Israelites what God said

    Tonight you will know that it was God who delivered you

    And in the morning you will see God’s glory

    These things God will do because he has heard your complaints

    There will be meat to eat in the evening and bread in the morning

    Meat and bread

    In the evening, quails came into the camp

    They were all over the place

    This was food God had not even said much to Moses about

    In the morning, bread covered the ground

    The people asked, “what is it?”

    Which, in Hebrew, is
    !m’ (((mannah)

    How to get your bread – your “what is it?”

    Gather as much as you need for today, about an omer per each person in your family (about 6.5 pints)

    This was new food for them, a new dining experience

    Bread from heaven, to them it was manna – “What is it?

    Some who probably couldn’t eat a full omer, some might have eaten a little more

    Maybe finishing up what was on somebody else’s plate

    But the commandment was to take what you need for today

    Don’t take more for tomorrow – God will provide then, too

    You don’t need to store anything up

    But trust in God to provide

    In fact, the scriptures tell us that whatever was left aside for tomorrow was spoiled by the next day

    God’s provision was enough

    And God would always provide

    God’s message, “Just take what you need for today, I will provide what you need each and every day”

    God even provided for the Sabbath

    On the day before, the people were able to gather extra

    So they could rest on the Sabbath day

    But stockpiling in the other days, just to have extra was punished

    Still, some saved some over for tomorrow, in case God forgot

    And what they saved was spoiled the next day

  3. So What?

    God provides enough for us every day

    “give us this day our daily bread”

    Yet, over the ages, we have not always trusted in God’s provision

    We tend to store up God’s bounty

    Although it’s reasonable for a people to store food and provisions aside

    As in storing food up before the harsh winter when harvesting isn’t possible

    There are ways like this that are consistent with God’s commandment to the people

    There’s a difference in taking in what we need for our family

    And storing some away as we need it

    One of the Hebrew people’s need was to minimize what they had to carry

    They were always on the move, during the wilderness times

    So they also trusted in God to be there when they needed God – to provide for them as they travelled

    Food is an example …

    others

    We must use God’s gifts as God instructs us

    there is enough for everybody,

    but there will be those who take extra rather than trust God for their share, in case God forgets them tomorrow

    What does this mean for us today?

    God has always promised to remember us and not leave us alone

    God already had a plan to feed the Israelites while they were in the desert.

    It had already occurred to God that his people would need to eat while they were in the wilderness 40 years

    God was patient with the people’s grumbling, and told Moses to go ahead and tell them how the food would come

    The manna came every day

    God’s promise is fresh and new each day

    And there will be enough

    The test of faith is, will we trust in God to provide?

    We are not altogether unlike the people in the wilderness. There is a teaching that, “If you ask anybody in the church whether they believe that God is the only God, the Creator of the Universe, they will surely answer ‘Of course he is! Everybody knows that!’ But if you ask them if they trust in God alone to provide everything they need, they may be taken a little aback, ‘Sure, but I have something saved up just in case.’

    Belief and trust go together. Faith is believing in something you can’t see.

    The one who believes completely, trusts completely. But when belief is a little short, so is trust – and faith

    So when we believe, that is when we trust in God, we may gather in a day’s portion every day and not worry about tomorrow.

    Heard a story about a relief truck that arrived in MS after Katrina

    giving out hot dogs

    they had enough to give everybody all they wanted that day

    the people were taking what they needed right then – there was not stockpiling.

    Surely there were some greedy

    But most wanted to be sure everybody got something to eat

    Will we trust in God to provide? Or will we fall under the myth of scarcity?

    Do we take all we can get today, because there might not be enough tomorrow?

    Do we take what we need, but resent those who got what they need, too – even the ones we think don’t deserve it?

    Do we take extra and store it away, even when we can hear the cries of those who are going without? For this is what spoils our hoarded away portion.

    What is it? !m’ That’s what the Israelites called the bread from heaven.

    What is it for us?

    Is it money, power, privilege, status, etc.?

    That is for each of us to decide.

    The lesson is, will we take extra just in case God forgets, or will we trust that God will provide the amount we need … every day, and not second-guess God about tomorrow.

So may it be with us. Amen.

First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs

Rev. Joe Hinds

Matthew 18:21-35

  1. Way In

    Where were you at this moment a decade ago?

    Where were you? Who was with you?

    … when you first heard the news

    8:46am when AA11 crashed into the North Tower of the WTC in NYC

    9:03am when UA175 crashed into the South Tower

    9:37am when AA77 crashed into the Pentagon

    10:03am when UA93 crashed into a field in western Pennsylvania

    Where? (anybody share?)

    It’s likely that you will never forget where you were on 9/10/01

    Like the day MLK or JFK were shot

    Or the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon

    Today is a day for remembering, and honoring memories

    A day we remember how our hearts were broken

    We reach out in our own ways to those who lost family, friends, colleagues

    And in our shared humanity, each of us lost somebody that day

    We honor the heroes

    …the ones who were inside of burning and crashing buildings, and led others out

    …and the ones who ran into the burning and crashing buildings

    To rescue survivors, care for the injured, and tend to the dead

    There are so many stories of 9/11

    The airwaves and print media are full of them

    especially a decade later

    If I didn’t know better, I would think today’s gospel lection from Matthew was contrived

    To bring a gospel lesson of forgiveness on the 10th anniversary of 9/11?

    Really? That’s just too churchy.

    But it’s not contrived, I do know better

    The lectionary we follow (3-year cycle of Sunday scripture lessons)

    First set out in 1969, and revised in 1994.

    Hasn’t been changed since then

    So today’s gospel lesson may be ironic, but not contrived

  2. Tell the Story

    The disciple, Peter, asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a person

    As many as 7 times?

    Jesus answered, not 7, but 70

    And he told a parable

    Beginning as most parables do, “The kingdom of heaven is like…”

    A king wishing to settle his accounts with his slaves

    One owed him 10,000 talents

    This debtor didn’t have the money to repay the debt

    So the king sold the slave, his family, and their possessions

    To bring an amount that would pay the debt

    The slave pleaded for patience to give him time to repay

    The king released him and forgave the debt

    Then that same slave went to someone who owed him 100 denarii

    Seized him by the throat and demanded to be paid

    When this debtor pleaded for patience until he could repay

    The slave refused and threw him in prison

    When the king heard what happened he called for his slave

    Admonished him for not extending the same mercy he received

    The king handed over the slave to be tortured until he paid the full debt

    Let this be a lesson, Jesus said

    God will do the same to you

    If you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart

  3. So What?

    Jesus tells us to forgive

    Expanding on our most gracious offering of 7 times ten times

    Not 7 but 70

    Then he tells a parable comparing the kingdom of heaven to a king

    I wish I could ask Jesus about this

    About the king whose first response is to sell the slave away to get his money

    Then, after great pleading, releases the debtor

    But then, after the same slaves acts without mercy towards his own debtor

    The king is full of anger and hands his slave over to be tortured

    As a preacher in CO says, that’s about 76 forgivenesses short of what Jesus teaches

    Kazy and I have been talking about preaching on 9/11 – a Decade later

    Today’s reading begins with the phrase, “Then Peter came and said to him (Jesus).”

    Which begs the question, “what were they talking about before?”

    Before today’s reading Jesus was talking to the disciples about how to respond when someone sins against you

    “point out the fault when the two of you are alone,” he says

    If they listen to you, then you have the chance for reconciliation

    If they don’t listen to you, take 1 or 2 others along with you

    If they still don’t listen, bring it before the whole community

    If they still won’t listen, let that one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector

    In other words, let them be

    For whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven

    And whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven

    Let it go. Move on. Don’t let the transgression bind you up. Life is too short

    Then Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive

    Not 7 but 70

    Greek word we translate into English as “forgive” is

    avfi,hmi (aphiemi)

    Commonly translated in English as “forgive”

    Also has another nuance: leave, leave behind, release

    The same word appears …

    “Immediately they left their nets and followed him (Jesus)” MT 4:20

    “Leave your gift there before the altar” MT5:24

    When Jesus healed a woman, “he touched her hand and the fever left her.” MT8:15

    When Jesus stumped the religious officials, “they were amazed; and they left home and went away” MT22:22

    In the garden at Gethsemane, Jesus left the disciples to go away and pray MT26:44

    Today, a decade later, as I read Matthew

    I can’t tell you that I am at a place of forgiveness

    Not for the people that organized and carried out such unspeakable evil

    What about the nuance of release? What about that?

    In any case, to forgive, is not always the same as pretend it never happened

    There may be consequences

    There may be hurts that can’t be healed

    Can I choose to release, and not be bound?

    In terms of 9/11, to be bound is to fall into

    Jingoism, isolationism, hate, exceptionalism, closing down

    To be released is to carry on, to choose life

    To be released is to be free to love

    Yesterday may family participated in Cameron’s Smile 5K

    Started last year by a family from Kazy’s church

    Their 17-year old son died after a long illness at age 17

    Cameron had a big smile and a big heart

    Cameron had a wish to go to Disney World with his family

    His wish was granted by the Make a Wish Foundation

    Now the Cameron’s Smile 5K raises money for M.A.W.

    My son, Paul, and I were talking after the race

    “Daddy, I’m sad that Cameron died”

    “Me, too, son”

    As we talked we decided that it was good …

    …to be able to remember Cameron

    …and do something to help somebody else

    Maybe help another sick child’s wish happen

    I think we were talking about being released

    Pauly has been thinking a lot today – later he asked me what happened on 9/11

    We talked about that, too

    And it made him sad

    Then I remembered what Mr. Rogers said about when children saw scary things in the news

    “‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”

    As we talked more about the mean and scary things people did on 9/11 …

    …it was good to remember the heroes

    Firefighters, police officers, EMTs

    And many others who rescued people

    And think about what we could do to make the world better

    Alan Jackson, a singer from Georgia wrote a song about 9/11

    Asks “Where were you when the world stopped turning?”

    Sings about dealing with the tragedy

    Moving from shock, anger, sorrow, and fear

    To pride in the heroes

    Looking up to heaven and at yourself for what really matters

    Doing intentional acts of love

    The singer says he remembers a story from Sunday School

    Faith, hope, and love are good gifts from God

    And the greatest is love.

    May we remain convinced that love matters, that peace can prevail

    May we be released from bondage to the things that lock out love

    and freed to love

    It may sound simple – simplistic

    But love makes all the difference

    Call someone to tell them you love them

    Notice the sunset

    Speak to a stranger

    Reject violence – real and in movies and games

    Hold hands, give blood, cling to family and friends

    Share your food, open your home, make music

    Plant a garden, get to know a stranger

    Work for justice, volunteer

    Turn off the TV, cellphone, computer

    Sit on the porch, visit someone who’s sick

    Listen more

    Remember that everything is not about you

    We are freed – to remember – and to live, as if love makes all the difference

So let it be with us. Amen

  • Scary, mean things happen in the world
    • Tell somebody when you’re afraid
    • People will listen to you
    • Sometimes grownups are afraid or sad, too
  • There’s something I want you to know
    • Your family does all they can do to keep you safe
    • Your teachers, and people at your school do all they can do to keep you safe
    • In your community,
      • Firefighters, police officers, Ambulances/EMTs do all they can do to keep you safe
    • In your American, people on the ground, in the air, and at sea do all they can do to keep you safe
  • When you look around and see all the helpers you can know …
    • That even when mean or scary things happen
      • Most people love and care for each other
      • That’s why your parents help out
        • And others, people at church, at school, and in your neighborhood help out
    • God wants us to love each other and care for each other
      • Just like God loves and cares about each one of you
    • Because God created love
      • So that people care for each other
        • Even when other things are scary and mean
      • That’s how we make a difference in the world
        • And make things better
      • God loves you
        • Now look back there
          • See your family?
          • And all those other people?
          • They love you, too
          • So we can love God and love others, and love the world
            • And live as God wants us to live
            • Together: caring for each other
            • And remembering that God is love.

               

               

(When talking to children about scary things in the news, Mister Rogers says to look for the helpers)

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 7, 2011

First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs

Rev. Joe Hinds

Matthew 14:22-33

 

 

  1. Way In

    My Experience

    Lifeguard Lessons: Alpine Camp, ca. 1972

    Had to find a big rock (ca. 20 lbs.) and bring it to the surface

    Very tired in the water, was afraid of drowning

    Drowning as a universal expression of helplessness

    we can all relate to fear of drowning

    going down for the last time

    “breathing” in lung-fulls of water

    Surprised to learn that many of the avid fishermen I met on Long Island, even the commercial fishermen; the ones who make their living from the heart of the sea

    were not swimmers

    some simply did not enjoy it after working all day on the water, there were others who never learned

    heard stories of falling overboard wearing heavy gear, waders filling with water

    Horrifying and touching story in the paper last week

    2 women caught in the undertow while swimming in Lake Ontario

    Literally did not believe they would make it out alive

    my own experience of Gardiner’s Bay in the boat in rough water

    You know what I mean. Open water, rough water, it’s a scary place to be

    Bridge

    Keep those in mind while we think about today’s lesson

  2. Tell the Story

    Context

    After Jesus heard of John the Baptist’s execution at the hands of Herod, he went away by boat to a quiet place.

    Sea of Galilee, Lake Gennesaret

    The crowds found Jesus

    he responded to their needs

    had compassion for them and cured their sick

    evening came, disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd away so they could buy themselves some food

    Jesus said to let them stay and give them something to eat

    A miraculous feeding

    Disciples could only find 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish

    Jesus blessed this much food, and told the disciples to start feeding the crowd

    By the time they were done everybody had enough to eat

    There were 5,000 men there, plus women and children who were not counted

    Today’s reading begins that same evening

    Dismissals after supper

    Jesus sent the disciples across the lake in the boat

    He stayed behind and dismissed the crowds

    Jesus went up the mountain (again) to pray

    Meanwhile that evening out on the boat

    Evening = not as late as night, prob. before 9 p.m.

    Boat was far from land

    Many stadia (stadi,ouj pollou.j)

    Stadium, Greek unit of measure

    about 200 meters, 650 ft.

    standard for a foot race in ancient Olympic event (stadium, name for arena)

    So the boat was far out, many stadia from land, “many” x 200 meters, and the wind was against the boat

    Boat was battered by the waves

    the storm lasted all night

    Jesus walks on the water

    Early the next morning, Jesus came walking up. On the water!

    Disciples’ reaction; terrified, thought he was a ghost, cried out in fear

    Jesus, “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.”

    Peter tries it

    “Lord if it’s you, get me out there on the water, too.”

    And Jesus said, “Come on out.”

    Peter started walking, but became afraid when the wind picked up

    Peter started to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me.”

    Jesus responds

    Immediately reached out his hand and caught Peter

    “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

    Jesus and Peter got back in the boat, then the wind stopped

    Everybody in the boat worshipped Jesus, saying, “Truly you are the son of God.”

  3. So What?

    The Big Idea

    The disciples recognized Jesus

    One who does miraculous things, like God does.

    As in walking on water

    When he said “It is I,” that is reminiscent of how God identified himself to Moses at the burning bush; “I am.”

    Peter speaks/acts on behalf of the others: represents their strengths and weaknesses

    Jesus said that Peter had “little faith.” This is not to say he had no faith, just not as much as he could have

    Yet this is Peter, the one upon whom Christ will build his church

    Jesus Christ, the one who gives us the assurance, even in times of great fear, that we are able to follow his ways as long as we rely on him.

    Conclusion

    Faith

    Peter had enough faith to step out of the boat in the first place

    His fear of the dangerous water overcame him, his calling out to Jesus saved him

    We need life preservers for the water

    Life jackets

    Lift us up, keep us from drowning

    Buoys

    Channel markers that show the way

    Lights

    Mark dangerous waters, rocks

    For us

    We have the faith to step out of the boat in the first place

    Yet, like Peter, our faith is still little

    And, like Peter, it is still enough to get us by for a moment

    But we need the help of Christ

    Who always reaches out to save us

    Faith is what we need for the long haul

    It took only the regular amount of faith for Peter to step out of the boat in the first place

    Yet he needed to reach out to Jesus for the journey the rest of the way

    When we decide to follow Jesus, to live as he teaches, to see him in others, and to be a living reminder of his ways of peace, community, and justice…

    We need to know his presence: seen/known in the church – the Body of Christ

    Charge: Let us be Christ for each other, supporting one another in his name along our journey of faith.

    We had enough to get us to step out of the boat in the first place

Let us look to him, finding him in others, being as Christ for others in our own journey.

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