Live In The Light

Hi Friends!  I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.  For the fifth year in a row, we trotted for Bella at the turkey trot in Pawtucket, RI.  It was extra special this year, because she had been admitted to Hasbro Children’s Hospital the night before.

Here is my sermon from last weekend.  I talked about living in God’s light and, the funny thing about this sermon was that it was POURING when I arrived at church that morning, but when church was over, the sun was coming out!  I guess when you preach on light, light shine!

Enjoy!

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
November 19, 2017

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Live In The Light

Does anybody else end up in a funk this time of year?

I blame Daylight Saving Time. Even though I am always grateful for the extra hour on that one Sunday morning when we turn the clocks back, there is something just so abrupt about the whole thing.

Granted, in the days and weeks leading up to it, the days are already getting shorter, but it is a gradual shift. Once we fall back, all of a sudden it is like … ugh … now it is dark when I pick the baby up from daycare.

And then I start to countdown to the winter solstice when the days will at least start to get a little bit longer again and I realize … ugh … well, that is still a month away.

So my solution this year has been to pull out some of my Christmas decorations a wee bit early. Nothing major – just some lights, tabletop pieces and of course, Christmas music.

I justify this in two ways:

  1. I am a pastor and I need to plan for Advent and Christmas. What better way to get into the spirit of the season than to surround myself with visual reminders of that season?
  1. We need light. This time of year, us New Englanders physically need light, because the days are getting shorter and shorter. We need light to give us energy, to lift our spirits and to illuminate a sometimes-dark world. When the days are as short as they are this time of year, sometimes that light can come from something as simple as Christmas décor.

Even more than that, I would argue that, as Christians, we need the physical and tangible presence of light to remind us that God’s light always shines; that we live in this light and that this light lives in us.

In this morning’s scripture reading, the Thessalonians are reminded that they are, “not in darkness … [but they] are all children of light.” I was drawn to this passage, especially in light of the darkness this time of year, because it reminds me that we are part of the light we need in our lives and in the world. Light shines because it shines through us. When the world seems dark, we have to shine light into it.

This letter is the first of two letters written to the church in Thessalonica. The first letter, which this morning’s reading is from, is said to have been authored by three men, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, though most scholars believe Paul had the biggest hand in writing it. This is one of Paul’s earliest letters and it is addressed to Gentile Christians who had left their pagan gods and practices for this emerging Christian movement.

One of the frequently mentioned topics in this letter is that of the end time. There was a growing concern as to what was going to happen to Christians who died before Christ’s return and Paul addresses this in the passage we just heard.

Now concerning the times and the seasons … you do not need to have anything written you. For you, yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

In other words, we do not have a clue when Jesus is coming back.

But, in the meantime, Paul assures the Thessalonians that they do not have to be afraid; that, no matter what, they will not be left in the dark. “You are all children of light and children of the day,” Paul writes. “We belong to the day … God has destined us for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul does not want the Christians in Thessalonica to live in the dark, worrying about the fate of their salvation. Instead, he wants them to live into the grace of their lives now, in confident hope that God is constantly drawing them into the light.

Far too often, our world is often filled with uncertainty, but Paul’s words remind us that, in the midst of this, God’s light is always certain and we are living in that light. Paul is not reprimanding the Thessalonians for living in the dark; he is assuring them that they are already living in the light. He is encouraging them to keep doing what they are already doing.

And today, as we read these words, we, too, are reminded that we live in the light. We are encouraged to keep doing what we are already doing to illuminate this world.

Thanksgiving is four days away. I encourage you this year, in addition to giving thanks, to also think about the ways you see light shining in your life and in the world. Because if you look around and really try to notice it, I think you will find that God’s light really does shine, even in the darkest of places.

Even though the days are getting shorter, I have seen a lot of light lately.

I saw light when the water pump died at the parsonage this week and Ray quickly called multiple companies after hours to get someone out to fix it as soon as possible, because it reminded me that the Trustees care about where my family and I live and that everything is working properly (or, at least, on its way to working properly).

I saw light when I dropped the baby off at daycare on Wednesday and I could hear the older kids shouting, “Harrison’s here!” before I even had him out the car, because it reassured me that when I am away from him at work, he is still well cared for and cherished.

I saw light when I heard a knock on my office window on Thursday morning and looked up and saw Deb Burns and Liam Ware waving to me while they were out for a walk, because it made me think about how special it is for a child to know they are loved by the people around them beyond their parents.

I see light every time I talked to a member of the music committee or the choir and witness them working tirelessly to keep our music strong throughout this transition in Music Directors, because their efforts have helped to create worship that is meaningful, relevant and accessible to all.

Friends, there is a lot of uncertainty in this world, but this letter reminds us that we can be tangible signs of grace in the midst of that uncertainty. This letter calls the Thessalonians to, “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” In other words, it is through our faith and our commitment to the Gospel that we recognize and create a light that can illuminate even the darkest of places. It is through our trust in God that we are assured of our protection and the promise that we are never alone.

The world needs light; sunlight AND Sonlight. I believe our faith calls us to turn on those lights; not only to shine God’s light into the world, but also to recognize when others are shining it for us and to live in that light.

Paul said, “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” He said this because he already saw the church doing what God was calling them to do: Shining light in the world, illuminating one another’s journeys, offering strength and encouragement and practicing resurrection in their midst.

And so this morning, I say these same words to you: Encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Indeed, you are doing just this.

Rehoboth Congregational Church, our church in the village: This week I will give thanks for you! I will give thanks for the ways you illuminate my life, even when the sun sets at 4:30 in the afternoon. I will give thanks for the ways that, together, we live out God’s call to love one another, proclaim the Gospel and serve the community. I will give thanks for our worship, for our outreach and for our fellowship.

So if you find yourself in a similar funk this time of you, I would encourage you to do several things.

  1. Pull out some Christmas decorations and let yourself get swept away by the magic of the twinkling light.
  1. Open your eyes and be transformed by the ways that other people are shining light around you.
  1. Remember that, as a child of God, you live in the light. And you can take that light and let it shine for all the world to see.

Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Preaching in Pumps Podcast Artwork

Letting Go Of The Urgency Of The Season

My voice is back!  Mostly.  I still have that lounge-singer thing going for me.  But that didn’t stop me from standing behind the pulpit with a lot to say! :) Here is this morning’s sermon.  This will be it until Christmas Eve – next week is our Christmas Cantata!

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
December 14, 2014

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Letting Go Of The Urgency Of The Season

Christmas only comes once a year.

I know, I know. Profound statements from the pulpit this morning.

Christmas only comes once a year. It is full of magic, beauty, joy and love. Traditions burst through the routines of our everyday lives. Parties and gatherings put us in the holiday spirit and give us time with our family members and our friends. Decorations light up our homes, bringing awe and wonder to our guests and neighbors.

Of course, because Christmas only comes once a year, there is a sense of urgency to all of the magic, beauty, joy and love. We feel pressured to make sure we squeeze in all of our traditions and work tirelessly to make sure they are perfect. Parties and gatherings fill up our already busy schedules, leaving us feeling exhausted, stressed and sometimes even slightly annoyed at those well-intentioned family members and friends. Magazines and pinterest boards full of exquisitely decorated homes start to give us an inferiority complex when we begin our own decorating.

Boy, that sense of urgency really seems to cut the merry out of our Merry Christmas, doesn’t it?

In this morning’s reading from the New Testament, Paul addresses the church in Thessalonica. This is one of the earliest of Paul’s letters, written not long after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

This should have been a time of great celebration and joy. After all, they had just witnessed a miracle, a moment in time that changed the world forever.

But the Thessalonians, too, felt a sense of urgency among them. They believed in the great mystery of our faith that Christ had died, that Christ had risen and that Christ would come again. But they also believed the second coming of Christ was imminent; not only did they believe that this would happen in their lifetime, but they believed that it would happen in the time and space that they were living in.

There was a sense of urgency; there was a sense of urgency for them, as individual believers and there was a sense of urgency for their community of faith. If Christ was coming, they wanted to – and needed to – be ready.

So here was the question at hand: How were the Thessalonians supposed to let go of their sense of urgency that they felt concerning the return of Christ and just live into the moment that they were experiencing then?

Today the question at hand is this: How are we supposed to let go of our sense of urgency during this Christmas season and just live into the moment that we are experiencing now?

In this letter, Paul encourages the Thessalonians to let go of the sense of urgency that they were feeling and to live faithfully into the moment. He tells them to rejoice and give thanks always, to pray unceasingly and to cling tight to the good news of Jesus Christ and of the fact that they are redeemed and sustained by a God who loves us.

He also urged them to hold on to what the prophets said so long ago, to look to scripture for encouragement and help in our lives.

So let us look at what the prophets say.

This morning’s reading from the Old Testament comes from the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah was speaking to the very broken nation of Israel; to people who had been oppressed, whose temple had been destroyed and who were struggling economically. There was a sense of urgency in their lives as well; there was a sense of urgency to restore their nations and to deliver their people.

But Isaiah assured them that God was very much active and alive and present in their lives. He proclaimed that God had sent him to bring good news to the nation of Israel, to tell them that change was on the horizon. He prophesied that he was called by God to heal the sick, to ensure dignity for the oppressed and to release those being held captive. He told the Israelites that better times were coming, that their temple was going to be rebuilt and that justice was going to prevail. He promised that God was going to be faithful to the covenant that he made, not just to the people of Israel living then, but also to the generations upon generations that were still to come.

And God was not a distant God, either. The fact that Isaiah was actively prophesying throughout the nation proved that God was with them, that God heard their cries and that God was fighting for them and with them. Isaiah’s presence made confident the truth that God’s promises were not empty, but real and alive in their lives. His prophesies encouraged the Israelites to remember that even though there was a sense of urgency in their lives at that moment, that something powerful was still happening in their midst; and they needed to believe the promises of God – and live into that moment.

God’s promises are still true for us today. Yes, there is a sense of urgency among us during this Christmas season, but we, too, have to believe that something powerful is still happening in our midst and hold onto the promises of God and live into these moments.

The question at hand was: How are we supposed to let go of our sense of urgency during this Christmas season and just live into the moment that we are experiencing now?

This morning, I am going to share with you a groundbreaking discovery.

Are you ready?

Christmas will still come even if the season leading up to it is not COMPLETELY full of magic, beauty, joy and love.

Earth shattering, right? Here’s another one …

The meaning of Christmas will still be the same even if you are not able to carry out all of your traditions exactly perfectly.

I know – crazy, right?

You will still be able to come to church on Christmas Eve and open presents with your children on Christmas morning even if you did not make it to every party and gathering that you were invited to.

And Christians around the world will still celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th even if your decorations would not land a photo of your house on the front cover of a magazine.

There is a sense of urgency to the Christmas season, but we have to remember that the urgency that we feel is something that WE have created in our lives. That sense of urgency is not something that God brought to us; God brought to us – in the form of a baby boy born in a manger – a savior.

And that is what we are called to remember that this holiday season.

At the core of who we are as Christians, that is all that we are called to do.

It is entirely too easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season so that we are not actually able to experience the season. In fact, it is entirely too easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season so we forget what it is we are actually celebrating.

We are celebrating the moment in time when God broke through the imperfections of our humanity and sent to earth a savior whose life, death and resurrection would change the world. We are giving thanks to God for the humble ministry of a man that generations of people would follow and look to for guidance in their own lives. We are – sometimes against all odds – trusting in that bold promise that God will never abandon us.

We have to let go of the rest of it.

Paul told the Thessalonians to, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This holiday season, I encourage you to do the same. We are re-experiencing something that is so much more powerful traditions or parties or decorations. We need to rejoice and give thanks for the way that God came into our life and pray that God to continues to reveal himself and guide us in our lives. If we do that, the rest of that “stuff” – the stuff that is generally causing us stress during the holidays – will fall into place. In fact, I think a new kind of magic, beauty, joy and love might emerge as well.

This is not just a promise that I am making today, this is an ancient promise that Isaiah made thousands of years ago.

You know, in many ways, we are not that different from the Israelites crying out for the nation to be restored. On a day when we remember the lives of 20 beautiful little children and six staff members killed in Sandy Hook, CT two years ago, we are blinded by the devastating reality that we, too, are living in a broken world. We, too, are calling for our people to be delivered, for our world to be restored.

But that is precisely why we have to cling tight to the promise of the Christmas story; that God’s light will not be overcome by the darkness of evil and that God will always dwell among us.

So let us give ourselves permission to let go of the “stuff.” Let us let go of the sense of urgency that this season brings, live into the moment that we are experiencing now and celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel – God with us.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Letting Go Of Our Dignity

This weekend our youth group participated in our area Homeless Awareness Weekend!  I didn’t preach long, but here are my thoughts for the day.  I will share the video I put together of the weekend in another post!

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth MA
November 16, 2014

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 5:13-16

Letting Go Of Our Dignity

The summer between my junior and senior years of college, my best friend and I spent six weeks driving cross-country. We were traveling with a purpose: Kari had traveled to South Africa the summer before and I had travelled to Honduras and our eyes had been opened to poverty, hunger and homelessness in the third world. We felt called to try to share our stories and to try to make a difference throughout the country. We spent nine months planning; we raised money and made arrangements with churches, ministries and food banks throughout the country; we put together a presentation based both on research and experience; we printed directions off the internet (this was pre-GPS days); and about a week after finals, we packed up her Toyota Camry with almost 200,000 miles on it and hit the road.

We thought we were hot stuff.

The truth was, we were young and naïve and ended up learning far more on that trip than we ever could have taught.

And those lessons started very quickly.

One of our first stops was New York City, where we had arranged to stay with a friend of mine while visiting a food bank (which we did) and attempting to get some airtime on the Today Show (which we did not).

There were a few oversights when it came to our planning in the big apple; none more glaring than the fact that my friend David only had one key to his apartment; so that when we left in the morning we would not be able to return until he got out of work much later that night.

Which would have been fine.

If it hadn’t poured first thing in the morning.

So there we were, in the middle of New York City, cold, wet, tired and cranky. We had no place to go and not a lot of money to do anything while we waited for our host to return to our shelter. We were carrying all of our stuff with us and our arms were starting to get tired.

Eventually we ended up at a Barnes & Noble. I thought this would be the perfect solution, because we could warm up while we read a good book and – in my mind – people would see us as two bright young college students, taking a stand and making a difference.

The reality was that people likely saw us as the two soaking wet young adults who the employees had to keep reminding not to fall asleep in the Sociology & Anthropology section.

What a truly humbling experience that was for us.

I have to be honest; we returned to my friend’s apartment with a little less dignity than we left with that morning.

If you look at the Gospel as whole, there is an underlying theme in everything that Jesus called us to do and that is to maintain human dignity. Jesus called us to feed the poor, to heal the sick, to embrace children, to sit around a table with both our friends and our enemies, to embrace people of all traditions and nationalities, to fight for the oppressed and to reach out to the marginalized. These are all different and unique things, but at the core of every single thing that Jesus called us to do was create a world where all people – every single person who is created and blessed by God – are able to feel and experience human dignity.

And despite the fact that Jesus called us to create a world where all people have dignity, Jesus died in one of the most undignified ways imaginable.

Jesus died a painful death on a cross, practically naked and in front of a large crowd of people. There is no dignity in that.

But I think that if Jesus allowed himself to be humbled in such a significant way, then surely we can open ourselves up to be humbled in our lives if it means that we are going to make a difference in the world.

It is not easy to do what these youth did this weekend. For the first time this year, I was able to spend time with them on Saturday during the day; I stood at busy intersections and panhandled for money. I stood in the cold, chased dollar bills down a windy street and dodged traffic to retrieve the 41 cents that had slipped from someone’s hand when a person rolled down their window to donate a big handful of change.

It was not easy.

It is not easy to spend two days outside, to brave the cold and wind, to ask strangers for money, to rely on a fire for warmth, to not get a shower, to use porta-potties that 150 other people are using and and to work all day without a break. I would be willing to bet that there were times when our youth participating in Homeless Awareness Weekend felt less than dignified.

But they chose to do this.

And they chose to do this because there are people out there that do not get a choice.

And that is what it means to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ: To give of oneself wholly and fully, to make personal sacrifices at the cost personal dignity and to allow ourselves to be humbled by an imperfect world that God is calling us to work in.

Thank you to everyone who participated this weekend. The rest of us have a lot to learn from you.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.