May We All

Hello and happy (almost) Thanksgiving!

I know I went a little radio silent on here, but I decided not to post my post-election sermon last week.  I wrestled with the decision for a couple of days.  I preached a message that my congregation needed to hear and was ready to receive, but emotions were just running so high at that point that I didn’t want to create another virtual space that was open for an emotionally-charged political debate.

Ugh, truth?  I think I was just scared.  I know fear is a horrible place to lead from, but that’s where I was.  One of my clergy friends shared with me last week that one of her parishioners commented that the pulpit seemed like a “lonely and vulnerable place” the Sunday after the election and, I have to say, it was.

So – that’s that.  Here is this week’s sermon!

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MANovember 20, 2016

Colossians 1:11-20

May We All

For some reason this morning’s scripture reminded me of the song, “May We All,” by Florida Georgia Line featuring Tim McGraw. For those of you who do not share my enthusiasm for country music, the basic premise of the song is rooted in the hope the songwriter has that people will have the opportunity to experience the simple pleasures of life in a small town that he had. Each verse starts by saying, “May we all,” and those sentences are finished with snippets of the songwriter’s childhood.

Of course, most of the lyrics to the song are not at all relevant to what this letter is actually saying. “May we all get to grow up in our red white and blue little town, get a one star hand me down Ford to try to fix up” – these were not the things that the folks in Colossae were really concerned with.

That being said, the connection (or lack there of) between this song and scripture made me think about what was at the heart of the messages that both the songwriter of this song and the author of this letter were trying to convey. What were their hopes for their intended audiences?

Hit with an annoying case of writer’s block Friday afternoon, I did what I always do: I went for run. While I was running, I listened to this song on repeat, hoping it might help. And while the only thing it really did was get the song stuck in my head for the rest of the day, it did make me think about what I do, as a preacher. What is at the heart of the messages that I share with you all? What is my hope for you all?

The Letter to the Colossians was written during the late first century to a church in Asia Minor that was founded by a member of the Pauline mission. The church was struggling with other religious authorities trying to come in and sway the Colossians in their beliefs. This letter was written as a way to refute those other authorities and to focus the church back on the heart of the Gospel message.

This letter reminds the people reading that their strength and power come from one place, from God, who was enabling them to emerge from the darkness that the world often is filled with and be united as one body, the church. It is a prayer that they all will feel God’s power in their lives, not be tempted by other authorities and find reconciliation with God so that peace can prevail on earth.

I know that the challenges we face today are a little bit different than the ones this church was facing in the first century, but also I feel that the heart of the message – the hope the author had for this church – is still bold and powerfully true today.

Many of you know that social media has always fascinated me. As a church, we have an active Facebook page that we use to promote our programs and share our ministries. It has been vital in so many ways as it has grown over the past five years. But I know that, like anything, social media has its pros and cons. For example, I read an article the other day calling out Mark Zuckerberg – the founder of Facebook – for not doing enough to block “fake news” from being shared on Facebook during the election.

Here’s the issue: Anyone can publish anything on the Internet and people can take is as fact. The problem with this election was that news stories containing false information were being posted to Facebook and people were sharing and commenting as if they were fact. The concern was that by the time Election Day rolled around, people on all sides were misinformed and some people feel it is Facebook’s responsibility to do a better job of filtering out the “fake news.”

I am not sure I really have an opinion on this one way or the other, but, this article did get me thinking: Where do we turn to for our information, for our inspiration? Where does our authority come from? Or, perhaps the harder question is, where should we turn to for our information, for our inspiration? Where should our authority come from?

As a church, we do not have the same struggles that the Colossians did; we are not a new church facing religious authorities trying to sway us in another direction. But we do live in a culture that is becoming increasingly secular as the years go on. We live in a society filled with so much noise from different people and places and every day that it gets harder and harder to filter it. We live in a culture where God’s voice, scripture and Christian traditions are often quieted in favor of what is trendy and popular at the moment.

Back in the spring, I preached a sermon about how I thought we all needed to spend more time reading the bible and less time in the noise of the world. I called myself to task because I knew I was just as guilty as anyone else of mindlessly reading whatever I happened to find on the Internet that day. I pledged that day to do better.

And I did.

For awhile.

I was actually doing really well when I was in Hungary and I had turned off the data on my phone.

But I have to admit, lately I find myself falling back into some of those habits. And the more I get sucked into the chaos of what exists in the Internet, the media and the culture we live in, the easier it is for me to forget the Goods News that is God’s love.

And it is good news.

I think this message to the Colossians is important, now more than ever. We need to remember that our authority should come from God. We need to keep God at the center of our lives, our relationships our conversations. We need to go back to Jesus’ life and model our choices around the teachings in the Gospel.

It is an honor and a privilege to wake up every morning and do this job. To walk with people during the most heartbreaking and joy-filled moments of their lives is to see grace, to shine light and to know that God’s love is real.

And I think that starts to get at the heart of what I want to share with you all, week after week. That is my hope for you all. I pray that you will all bear witness to this grace, light and love in your lives, that you will have the strength to quiet the noise of the world and listen to God’s voice speaking to you. I pray that you will know that you are blessed and loved child of God, created, redeemed and sustained in God’s image.

So may we all: May we all be made strong by the radical and life-changing message of the Gospel. May we all feel God’s strength and guidance we face each day. May we all find grace, shine light and show love. May we all look to God for authority in our lives, knowing that God’s work is ever-present and ever powerful in our lives. May we all be united as one Body, one Church.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Fight For Each Other

This time last week I had just joined these two in marriage!

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It is such an honor to preside over weddings – and such a privilege when they are my friends!  Bruce and Brian grew up together and his brother and I went to college together so I met him when he was in high school.  I have been SO excited for this wedding ever since Brian called back in December and asked me if I would preside.

Here is the homily that I preached during the service.  I have used pieces of it before, but I really liked how it came together.  Every time I preach at weddings I actually feel like I am affirming my own marriage vows.

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Speaking of … this was the first wedding that we have been to where we haven’t gotten kicked off the dance floor with the “under-5-years-of-marriage-couples”!  Love him.

I have been working like a maniac all week and I am back behind the pulpit tomorrow!  Tomorrow is our last 9 am summer worship – next weekend is Rally Day.  We move worship back to 10 am, the choir is back and Church School starts up for the year.  Transitions are always tough, but I cannot wait to see what the fall season brings!

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Colossians 3:12-17
Rev. Sarah Weaver

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Fight For Each Other

The scripture that we just heard comes from the Book of Colossians, a letter written by the apostle Paul to a Gentile church in Asia Minor. The Colossian people were dealing with a controversy that had developed stemming from a debate about Christ. The question at hand was this: Did Christ’s life, death and resurrection liberate believers and give them direct access or God or did believers still need to rely on religious authorities, rituals and traditions in order to have access to God?

So why are we reading this at a wedding? This debate was about Christ, not about marriage. Paul’s response – the passage we heard – pointed to his own views on Christ and on the growing Christian church, not on weddings and marriages.

But as much as this debate was about Christ, at the core of the dispute was a realistic picture of human beings just trying to learn how to live with one another. It touches on the innate humanness of who we are – individual people trying to live with one another despite the differences that sometimes threaten to divide us.

This passage is perfect to read at a wedding, because it talks about love, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience – all of the beautiful and magnificent parts of marriage.

But it also reminds us of the reason that we need those things. It gently exposes the reality that life may not always be easy. Paul said that being in community comes with challenges. Well, life – and marriage – comes with challenges. Relationships are not always easy. There will be grievances, as the scripture says, along the way; there will be disagreements, frustrations and hard times.

But we will get through those times, Paul assures us. You will get through those times. Your faith will strengthen you and strengthen your relationship. God’s grace will bind you together in love.

“Bear with one other,” Paul says. In other words, cling on to one another in the difficult times. Know that forgiveness will come in time; know that the cloaks of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are not ones that you have to find, but ones that you already wear, ones that God has already draped you with. Love is at the center of who you are – and love is the stronghold that will hold you together over time. “Above all,” Paul firmly reminds us, “clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

This can be easier said than done. Because in the heat of an argument or a financial struggle or a challenging ailment, sometimes it is easier to put up barriers that protect us rather than to clothe ourselves in a love that leaves us vulnerable.

But Paul then says, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”

Jeniece and Brian – let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. When you are angry, seek to be kind. When you are sad, seek comfort from one another. When you are joyful, share your joy together. Pray together. Worship, serve and learn together. Laugh with each other – and at each other. Do not be afraid to fight with each other – but more than that, always fight for each other. These are the things that will root your marriage in the foundation of faith. These are the things that will set your marriage apart from others. You were called to one another and today you are affirming that call. Be thankful for the journeys that have brought you each here today – and with great anticipation and hope, be thankful for the journey that you will now take together.

As you say your vows today, words that were once simply written on paper will take on a new meaning. As the words leave your lips, touch the ears of those who are here to witness and extend out into the world, may your dreams be uncovered, may your visions be extended and may your lives be strengthened as you are united as one.

And may you heed the command of Christ – to love one another.

Thanks be to God, our creator, redeemer and sustainer, who gives us the power and strength to allow hope, peace, joy and love to prevail – today and every day of our lives.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Faith Without Control

I hope you all had a WONDERFUL Easter!  Here is yesterday’s sermon …

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 20, 2014

John 20:1-18
Colossians 3:1-4

Faith Without Control

The weather was absolutely beautiful last Saturday, wasn’t it? Sunny, blue skies and blissfully warm temperatures. I drove to church with my sunglasses on and my windows open. I wore flip flops! My friends and I pulled out their patio furniture and fired up the grill for the first time this year. Daffodils were starting to open around town. I vividly remember backing into my driveway, looking at my bright green lawn and thinking to myself how nice it was that spring was here and that we could finally say with absolute certainty that we were definitely, without a doubt, done with snow for the year.

So then it snowed on Tuesday night.

That was great.

As I sat in my car on Wednesday morning waiting for the half an inch of ice to melt off of my windshield because I was refusing to pull out my scraper out of sheer protest, I could not help but laugh.

Because if there is one thing a mid-April snowstorm will teach you it is that we really are not in control.

How fitting to be reminded of this four days before Easter. Because – let’s face it – the Easter story is also a great reminder to us that we really are not in control.

It is actually kind of difficult to preach on the Easter story, because it just sort of speaks for itself. The death and resurrection of Jesus is one of the single most powerful stories in the history of the world, certainly of our faith. Resurrection. Salvation. God’s grace unfolded in a completely miraculous, yet completely realistically spectacular way. It is truly remarkable.

But here is the thing about this story: No one – no human, anyway – could control the outcome of that first Easter. Not the people who betrayed Jesus. Not the people who put Jesus on trial and who mocked him. Not the people who crucified Jesus. No – they were not in control of that first Easter. Jesus rose from the dead! Proof to all of us that God was in control of that first Easter.

And over the past 2,000 years, that has never changed. God has always remained in control.

As we relive the Easter story, we are reminded that living a life of faith – believing in this Easter story, walking as a disciple of Christ and submitting yourself to the mystery of the resurrection – means letting go of control. It means letting go of control of the things that you understand and – perhaps more importantly – the things that you do not understand. It means letting go of the need to control the people around you. It means letting go of the question, “why?” and instead just focusing on the journey ahead. It means seeking out God instead of seeking out answers.

It means trusting that no matter what happens in this world and in your life – good or bad, joyful or heartbreaking – you are never alone. God is always with you.

This does not mean that bad things will not happen. In fact, as we remembered Jesus’ final days and death on the cross this past week, we were poignantly reminded of just how imperfect our world is. Bad things do happen – many of which we cannot control.

So I think we just have to stop trying. And I think that we have to believe that within the midst of the chaos and the confusion of life, God is working with us and within us.

The Christian Faith is not about rules and dogmas, it is about a moment in time when God stepped in and revealed his glory to us. It always has been and it always will be.

And I think that if we just try to let go of our control in our lives and in our faith, we may see God’s glory revealed to us in a new way.

You know, it is a good thing that humans were not in control of that first Easter. Because think about what might have happened if they were. Jesus would have remained in that tomb; he never would have risen to new life. We would have never been given proof that God’s love is stronger than human imperfection.

Let me put something on the table right now. I will never be able to explain the resurrection. I will never be able to show you proof that Jesus physically rose from the dead. But I believe that in some way, shape or form – some way, shape or form that is completely out of my control – it happened and it was real and the world changed because of it. I HAVE to believe that. Because without the resurrection, the crucifixion would have had the final word. Without God’s grace giving us new life, death would have had the final word. Without God’s love, hate would have the final word.

And that is not the world that I want to live in.

Not only did that mid-April snowstorm teach us that we really are not in control, but – for those of us who put away our plows and shovels and started planting things in our yard and garden – it also taught us that maybe – just maybe – we should stop trying to be in control as well.

When we embrace a faith without control, we are embracing a faith of resurrection, not crucifixion; we are embracing a faith of new life and not death; and we are embracing a faith of love and not hate.

Let us embrace that faith.

Let us allow God to open our eyes to see new things. Let us turn to God for comfort in our moments of fear, anger and sadness. Let us use God’s light to illuminate the path ahead of us.

On this beautiful Easter morning, as we remember a story that rocked a community, changed the world and gave new life to generations upon generations of believers, let us embrace a faith without control. Let us – in the infamous words of Elsa from Frozen – let it go and let God take care of the rest.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.