Hello and Happy New Year!
My dad called me at one point over Christmas and said, “Are you ever going to update your blog?” I had the best of intentions, but I just couldn’t get myself to sit down and do it. We had a lot going on at church and at home and any form of organization that I may have cultivated last year flew out the window.
I have a lot of things that I really do want to post about – Advent and Christmas ideas, Christmas Eve sermon, altars – but the biggest news around Rehoboth is that last week Bruce and I announced to the church that I am pregnant with our first child, a baby boy, due June 1st! So things have definitely been a little bit hectic in our world (though not as hectic as they are going to be, I’m sure!).
In the meantime, here is Sunday’s sermon! A friend of mine has done “Star Words” with her congregation for several years now and I thought I would try it at RCC this year. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go (and then when it dumped 12″ of snow the night before and we only had 40 people in church I was even less sure!) but everyone who was in church LOVED it. I love getting “Star Stories” already and I’m just making sure as I see people throughout the week (and next weekend) that everyone is able to get a star.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
January 8, 2017
Our 2017 Star Words
I do not know if any of you know this about me, but I like things done a certain way.
I prefer to think of myself as “detail oriented,” but I would be willing to bet that my husband, friends and the people I work with on a regular basis might use the phrase, “control freak” instead.
For example, last week I was setting up for our New Year’s Day Worship Brunch when I decided I wanted to use my black tablecloths with a gold runner for the buffet table. Beautiful, right? The only problem was that I only had two black tablecloths and I knew we would need three.
Which is how Bruce and I found ourselves at Target at 8:30 PM on New Year’s Eve, dressed up from dinner, in search of a black tablecloth.
Since, unfortunately, we could not find one, I stood in Fellowship Hall on New Year’s morning, staring at the three tables, two beautifully covered in black tablecloths and one just mocking me.
So I took it down. The food will just have to fit onto two tables, I thought to myself.
About an hour later, as people was piling in and the two tables were quickly filling up with food, Ray Medeiros said to me, in his usual, helpful manner, “I’m just going to set up another table in case the food doesn’t fit.” I instantly replied, “You can’t do that – I only have two black tablecloths.”
I think he thought I was kidding.
I was not kidding.
So fast-forward to this week: A few years ago, a friend of mine told me about something she did with their church on Epiphany, which is the January 6th celebration of the arrival of the Wise Men. They handed out paper stars to everyone in the congregation; each star had a word on it (for the most part, all different words) and that became your word for the year. She said she encouraged her congregation to reflect on their “star words” throughout the year and be intentional about living into them and allowing those words to be a transformative part of their lives throughout the year.
Knowing how many people in our congregation were ready to get a fresh start this year, I thought we would have a “Star Sunday” of our own at RCC this year. So I had my friend email me the file with all of the stars on them and cut them out, little by little, throughout the week.
As I cut out each star, I looked at the words and thought about what each of these words would mean to me if I picked it as my “star word,” how I would live into them with intention.
And then I started thinking, “I kind of wish I could choose my own word.”
Which, you know, is really not the point of the whole exercise.
This morning we remember the story of Jesus’ baptism; when Jesus went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John and the heavens were opened and the Spirit of God descended down, saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about my own baptism. I was at my grandmother’s funeral, sitting in the same church where my grandfather baptized me 30 years ago. At the time, he baptized me into the faith and family of the Christian Church; there was great joy, hope and expectation that morning – not only for me, but also for our whole family.
No one knew that my grandfather would die less than a year later; that our family and his congregation would face an unexpected and heavy loss. There were things that happened that we could not control.
But see here is the thing about the living waters of baptism; they often give us a heartbreaking victory over the uncertainty of our world. Because despite the loss we have all felt over the past 30 years, we have still uncovered an immeasurable amount of grace along our journeys. We have felt joy, shown love, learned invaluable lessons and strengthened our faith.
We are not in control; some days this is more blaringly obvious than others. But even in the midst of this uncertainty, God’s love remains steadfast. The waters of baptism that pour over all us in our own baptisms are living waters; they continue to heal us, transform us, unite us and make us whole.
In remembering Jesus’ baptism and also our own, we are affirming the bold and life changing truth that these waters are ever living, ever flowing and ever life-changing; that no matter what happens in our lives, we are constantly being swept up in the current of grace and carried to safety in God’s arms.
The stars that we will receive today remind us that the Wise Men from the East went on an uncertain journey of their own to Bethlehem. They followed a star to bring gifts to Jesus, to worship him and to (without fully understanding it at the time) write their own chapter of this Christian story. They did not return to Herod as they had been instructed, but instead put their faith and trust in God and allowed themselves to be transformed. They did not get to choose their own star; instead, God called them to step outside of their comfort zones and live into the promise of God’s love, light and grace.
And so today, as we receive stars of our own, we do the same. We let go of our fear, of our need to control, of our uncertainty and of our pain and we grab hold of God’s presence in our lives as tightly as we can. We allow the waters of baptism to, once again, wash over us like the healing rain of reconciliation and redemption. We look at the word that we have chosen not as a random word chosen out of a basket, but as our star word for the year, a word and idea that God wanted us live into with intention in 2017.
May these stars guide us in the days, weeks and months to come. May the words we have chosen be our guiding lights in a dark sky, illuminating our journey and reassuring us that God is always with us. And may we live into them with intention; strengthening our faith, changing lives and uncovering grace along the way.
Thanks be to God!