Redefined

Hello!  It is so wonderful to be back after a week away.  I have to say, I’m kind of digging this whole more-official-podcast thing that I’ve got going on.  I am hoping that my dad might have some time now that his musical has closed (hi, Dad!) to create some theme music for me.  Right now I record Jordan or the choir if something sounds like it could work (although I love listening to them sing/play so I’m okay with that, too!).

Here is this morning’s sermon.  We are halfway through our sermon series, Boot Camp for the Soul.  Today’s theme is redefined.  Enjoy!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
March 26, 2017

1 Samuel 16:1-15
John 9:1-41

Redefined (Sermon Series: Boot Camp For The Soul)

When I was in college, I dyed my hair brown.

This change elicited a whole slew of responses, which ranged everywhere from, “Oh my gosh, this highlights your face and matches your eyebrows and it is absolutely perfect!” to my boss at the time, who said, “Well, this is about the dumbest thing you could have possibly done.”

I did not really have a good reason for doing this; I just sort of needed a change. I felt like I needed to speak to whatever quarter-life crisis I was going through at the time. I think, in a way, I was trying to redefine a piece of who I was (albeit a cosmetic one).

This morning we are on week four of our Lenten sermon series, Boot Camp for the Soul and this morning the theme is, redefined.

We just heard two scripture readings, the story of the anointing of King David in 1 Samuel and the story of the blind man who gained his sight in the gospel of John.

These stories are both captivating narratives about men whose lives were redefined in powerful and God-sized ways. These stories bear witness to the great possibilities God can achieve in our lives if we have faith and allow ourselves to be who God is calling us to be. These stories allow us to believe transformation is possible in our lives; they help us grab ahold of the hope that we can shed pieces of who and what defines us now and boldly claim a new identity.

Take David, for example. Samuel had traveled to Bethlehem to anoint a new king; God told Samuel to invite Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice where one of them would be anointed. But David, himself, was not even part of this sacrifice at first. He was the youngest of Jesse’s sons and had been given the task of keeping the sheep, so that was what he was doing. It was not until Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” that Jesse even mentioned David; and even then, Samuel was the one who had to say, “Send and bring him.”[1] And in the moment that followed, David was redefined.

The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.[2]

Who would have ever thought the youngest of Jesse’s sons – that small, rosy-cheeked shepherd boy – would have been the one anointed king?

God’s imagination is quite something sometimes, is it not?

God said to Samuel, “for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”[3] God looked into David’s heart and did not see a meek and mild boy; he saw a king.

In the same way, Jesus’ disciples looked at the blind man and saw a sinner. “Rabbi,” they said to Jesus, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”[4] The disciples only saw this man’s outer appearance; they only saw a sinner.

But Jesus saw that something greater was at work within this man; Jesus saw that, “he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”[5] Jesus spat on the ground, made mud that he wiped onto the blind man’s eyes and told man to wash it off in the pool of Siloam.[6]

And in that moment, a change happened. The blind man was refined. The man was no longer blind; he was transformed and given a new definition in life. He shed the identity of a sinner and humbly asked Jesus to help him believe in the Son of Man.

Again, I say: God’s imagination is quite something, is it not?

A small and inexperienced shepherd boy was anointed king. A man who was blind his entire life could suddenly see clearly. Transformation is not only possible with God; it is spectacularly probable. It happened extraordinarily in the lives of these two men.

And it can happen in our lives, as well.

In both of these scriptures, there is a poignant emphasis on what we see on the outside versus what God can see on the inside. God did not see a young boy or a blind man, God saw a king and a man who could not only see, but also reveal God’s works within him. God saw the potential, power and presence of these two men long before anybody else did.

This makes me wonder: What does God sees in us, as well?

So often, we look in the mirror and see who we are, who we have been up until this point in our lives and who other people want us to be. But how often do we look into our own hearts, as God looked into David’s, and see the great potential of who God is calling us to be? How often do we, like the blind man, see the way God’s works can be revealed in us?

We have to open our eyes to see this potential. We have to believe in God’s transformative power. We have to believe that we, too, can be redefined.

Sometimes I get nervous when I start preaching about personal change, because I would never want someone to think they are not good enough or worthy of God’s love just the way they are. You are enough; your faith is enough.

In fact, I think that is what these stories are trying to teach us.

The potential to be redefined by God – to be changed, to be transformed – is within all of us. We are already not only who God created us to be, but also who God is calling us to be. Our faith is full of stories of individual men and women who sought wholeness and were redefined by God’s love and grace.

The truth is, we live in a broken world. As Christians, we believe Jesus came to this earth to intercede on behalf of our own brokenness. Part of our journey to the cross during the Lenten season is about reflecting on the enormity of what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection means to us today. Part of Lent means looking at our own brokenness and discerning how God’s works can be revealed in our earthly lives. It is okay to seek change – to crave God’s redefining presence in our lives – because that is all part of this journey we are one.

We are all a collaborative work in progress. The church is in the business of changing lives; one of the reasons we come to church is because as human beings, we want our lives to be changed. And I am not talking about cosmetic changes, like a new hairstyle (although, those can be quite liberating). I am talking about real, palpable, God-sized changes. I am talking about changes that strengthen our faith and feed our spirit. I am talking about changes that teach us about who we are and draw out our best pieces so we can be confident and faithful ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am talking about changes that make us better husbands and wives, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, bosses and coworkers, neighbors and friends. I am talking about changes that enable us to be the very best versions of ourselves.

We are halfway through the Lenten season. There are three more weeks until Easter; three more weeks until we are reminded that in death there is resurrection, in darkness there is light, in hatred there is love and in sorrow there is hope. In three weeks, we will stand in awe of the bold and redeeming truth that God gives us second chances and third chances and fourth chances (and 15th chances, if we need them!).

So now is the time. We may not be redefined in the grandiose ways King David and the blind man were, but we have to believe in that possibility. We have to believe that we can achieve our goals, strengthen our faith, better ourselves and maybe even try something new along the way.

Friends, in our brokenness, it is by the grace of God that we are made whole again. Seeking change in our lives – trying to redefine pieces of who we are – does not make who we are bad or not enough; in fact, I think it just brings more power to the Christian story. As we work on who we are and redefine ourselves, I believe grace gets more and more powerful.

So take this time to think about who you are. Look in the mirror and think not only about who you see, but also who God sees. And let yourself be redefined by God.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

[1] 1 Samuel 16:11, NRSV
[2] 1 Samuel 16:12-13, NRSV
[3] 1 Samuel 16:7, NRSV
[4] John 9:2, NRSV
[5] John 9:3, NRSV
[6] John 9:6-7, NRSV

Reset

Week two of our sermon series, Boot Camp for the Soul and today’s topic is, Reset.  I’m not preaching next Sunday, so there won’t be a post or podcast.  If you want to know what I’m up to, check out the Facebook page for my dad’s musical this week and next. 😉

Enjoy!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
March 12, 2017

Genesis 12:1-4a
John 3:1-17

Reset (Lenten Sermon Series: Boot Camp for the Soul)

Do you ever wish that you could just start over?

Yesterday morning, I was out running errands when I noticed my gaslight was on. I pulled into the gas station and popped the cover to the gas tank, all the while grumbling about the fact that it was 18° and, who wants to pump gas when it is that cold? It was not until I got out of my car and went to run my debit card that I noticed the cover to my gas tank was frozen shut. It did not matter how many times I pulled the little lever, the cover would not open. So I tried to use my debit card to jimmy it open and promptly cracked the card.

At that point, I just kind of sighed and wished I could have started the day over.

Jesus said that yes, in fact, we can start over. In our Gospel reading for this morning Jesus was talking with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Jesus told Nicodemus that, through God, it was possible to start over; that though we are all born of the flesh, we can be born of the spirit. And this spirit gives us a chance to seek redemption, to uncover grace and to start over in those moments in our lives when we need it most.

What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.[1]

Though I am not sure Jesus was talking about different better choices when it comes to what one might use to defrost a gas tank cover, I do believe that one of the foundational pieces of who we are a Christian is the beautiful and overwhelmingly remarkable truth that we can always start over.

This exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus is overflowing with what clergy nerds would refer to as eschatology. Eschatology is a doctrine that talks about the end of the world, the Second Coming and what happens to humans when their earthly lives come to a close. Jesus talks about what it means to be “born again” and is fairly straightforward in his dialogue with Nicodemus about what this means for people.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.[2]

Christians often use this scripture to answer questions such as, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” and, “How do you get into heaven?” And yet, I do not think Jesus was just talking about what happens after we die here. I do not think, as Christians, we are called to be changed by the Gospel only in our death; I believe we are called to be changed by the Gospel in our lives, as well.

Our reading from the Old Testament comes from the book of Genesis; it is the call of Abram. In this story, God told Abram to leave his home – his house, his people and the life he was accustomed to – and go to a place God would show him; it would be there where Abram would begin a new life.

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.[3]

Abram lived out the call to start over quite literally. His story reminds us that, good or bad, no matter how established, comfortable or settled we are into our own lives and routines, it is possible to do something different.

God makes the big changes in our lives possible; this was true for Abram and this is true for all of us. But in order for God to do this great work within us, we have to believe that we are worthy of starting over.

And we also have to believe that it is never too late or too soon for a new beginning in our lives.

It is the second Sunday of Lent and we are in the middle of the Lenten sermon series, Boot Camp for the Soul. Last week we talked about the need for change and this week’s topic is, reset. I love this topic because I believe, as Christians, one of the most radical and redeeming truths of our faith is that we have the ability to reset ourselves when we feel like we are starting to drift, when we lose our way and when our faith starts to weaken. And this is not a once and done thing, this is something that can happen over and over and over again.

Someone once shared with me that the reason they love coming to church is because they feel like they get to hit the reset button every week, whether it be in worship, at bible study or through some sort of community activity. Coming to church not only holds us all accountable in our faith, but it also opens our eyes to the possibilities within our faith, as well. Just like God asked Abram to reset the course of his life and journey, God asks this of us, in our lives as well. God not only creates this space for us to hit the reset button, but God also asks us to hit it, as well. God wants us to be changed by our faith; God wants our lives to be transformed by the new beginnings that are always possible.

I do have to caution you, though, not to get caught up in the enormity of what we often read in scripture or the stories that have a tendency to make headlines. While I do believe the Gospel calls for radical change in our lives, this does not mean that we have to make massive changes, week after week. Jesus’ call to be born of the spirit does not mean we need to give ourselves spiritual whiplash, but instead seek spiritual wholeness.

I believe God makes the big changes in our lives possible, but I also believe God makes the small changes possible, as well and the small changes are just as important as the big ones. The important thing to remember is that the Gospel creates a sort of malleability within all of us and God is always at work within our lives and our faith; through the big changes, through the small changes and through all the weekly (and perhaps even daily) resets we need.

Last week, in our conversation about Boot Camp for the Soul, we talked about why people take part in various types of boot camps, one of those reasons being that they see a need for change in their lives and they are ready make that change. I encouraged you all to think about the need for change in your own lives and now this week, together, we hit that reset button, allow God to draw us back in and reorient ourselves with our faith. We think about who we are, who we want to be and who God is calling us to be. We look at the week ahead, full of possibilities and grace yet to be uncovered.

We use this Lenten season as an opportunity to think about what it will mean to experience resurrection on Easter morning and reset ourselves so we can make that happen.

So hit that reset button in your life; let yourself be born of the spirit – over and over and over again. As we journey towards the cross this Lenten season, let us remember that God loves us so much that God sent Jesus to this earth to live in our midst, to share in our suffering and to prove that resurrection is not only possible, but that it is all around us. We are all worthy, not just of God’s love and grace, but also of God’s second chances, as well.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

[1] John 3:6, NRSV
[2] John 3:16, NRSV
[3] Genesis 12:2, NRSV

Experiencing Resurrection In Not-So-Subtle Ways

It was nice to be back in the pulpit after a week off, even if I was a little under the weather and doing it with not much of a voice! Here is my sermon …

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 10, 2016

John 21:1-19

Experiencing Resurrection In Not-So-Subtle Ways

Bruce and I were in Connecticut last weekend and worshipped at my mom’s church; the church that I was raised in, the church that Bruce and I were married in and the church that I was ordained in.

With so much history between us, a visit to the First Congregational Church of Kent is never really a subtle thing for me. People are excited to see Bruce and me and we are always thrilled not only to see them, but also have the opportunity to worship with them.

That being said, I always hate when the excitement of a visit to my home church gets in the way of the actual worship that we are all there to do. And so, with that in mind, I suggested to Bruce that we grab a cup of coffee on our way to church that morning so we could sneak in after worship was already underway and not make a big scene.

We walked into church around 10:02 and I could hear announcements happening in the sanctuary. We snuck in the side door and said a quiet “hi” to the ushers in the back while we waited for my mom to finish. My plan, at that point, was to find a pew once everyone was standing for the first hymn.

Unfortunately, my plan came to a crashing halt when my mom stopped what she was doing to say, “And I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Rev. Sarah Weaver and Bruce! I’m sorry, I like to show you guys off.”

So much for being subtle.

Jesus was not exactly subtle when, after his resurrection, he appeared to the disciples on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias in this story from the Gospel of John. He not only yelled out to the disciples in their boat from the beach, but he also did something that I have learned in six years of marriage never to do – pointed out the fact that the guys had not caught any fish.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”[1]

And yet, insulting the disciples’ fishing skills was not the reason Jesus appeared to the disciples that morning. For all intents and purposes, Jesus appeared to the disciples that morning so he could welcome them into his midst, make them breakfast and share a meal with them.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread … Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”[2]

This story comes from the end of the Gospel of John, the very last chapter. This is the third and final time that Jesus appears to the disciples and when you read this story, there is something very familiar about it all. Jesus’ actions in these moments with the disciples remind us of stories from his life, poignant pieces of his ministry. When Jesus takes empty fishing nets and yet cooks an abundant breakfast of fish and bread for the disciples, we are reminded of the story of the loaves and the fishes. When Jesus says to one of his disciples, “Follow me,” we are brought back to the first chapter of the Gospel of John, where Jesus called his disciples into ministry with him and said those exact same words. Jesus asking Simon Peter, “Do you love me?” three times draws a striking resemblance to the Passion Narrative, where Simon Peter denied Jesus three times.

It is almost as if these verses, this interaction between Jesus and the disciples, are a flashback to what had happened in the Gospel of John and in Jesus’ life and ministry; like when a musician runs offstage at the end of a show and then runs back on for an encore medley of the best songs of the night to give the audience just a little bit more. Here it is in living color: A not-so-subtle appearance of the resurrected Christ, showing off his best stuff, giving his audience just a little bit more.

Some scholars believe that these verses were not actually in the original version of the Gospel, that they were written by an anonymous author and added later as an epilogue. I have no idea whether that theory is true or not, but regardless, it kind of begs the question: What is the point? What is the point of Jesus, not simply appearing to the disciples, but reenacting pieces of his life? There are so many things that Jesus could do when he appears to the disciples. Why does he recreate things that have already happened?

Perhaps this was intentional. Perhaps this was meant to show us that Jesus’ grace and blessings were not just intended to be showered upon those in the past, those that lived and dwelled with Jesus, but also those in the present and future. Perhaps this was meant to assure us that the resurrected Christ appears to all of us – even those of us reading and believing 2,000 years later. Perhaps this was meant to open our eyes to the possibility that these stories are more than simply words on paper for us, that they actually do give us light, hope and meaning to our lives.

We are in the midst of the Easter season, which is the season between Easter Sunday and Pentecost; a season marked with white vestments and themes of resurrection and new life. We celebrate Easter as a season and not just as a one day holiday to remind us that the resurrection of Jesus was not something that happened once, but something that is continuously happening. The resurrection of Jesus is not something that happened simply for the disciples then, but also something that happens for us now. This scripture brings light to the mysterious, but amazing truth that Jesus’ life can be lived in all of us. We see the Risen Christ in our midst; we experience resurrection in our lives.

And there is nothing subtle about it.

If you really look for it, resurrection happens all around us. Resurrection happens when we find a community of faith that loves us, cares for us and supports us. Resurrection happens when we have the opportunity to worship in a way that is alive and vibrant and interesting. Resurrection happens when we see grace in unexpected ways and places.

Resurrection happens when light shines boldly in the midst of a dark place even when we have no idea where that light came from. Resurrection happens when we serve others and also allow others to serve us.

Resurrection happens when we read ancient words of scripture and find ways for them to be meaningful, relevant and accessible in our lives. Resurrection happens when we pray in big and daring and courage ways.

Resurrection happens when we learn something; when we learn something about ourselves, about our faith and about others. Resurrection happens when we make faith a priority in our lives, even if that means making sacrifices.

Resurrection happens when we learn how to care for ourselves; to quiet the noise in our lives so that we can finally hear God speaking to us. Resurrection happens when – against all odds – we see the face of Christ in others and let others see the face of Christ in us.

Resurrection happens when, like the disciples hauling in their nets full of fish and going ashore for an abundant meal, we recognize the Resurrected Christ in our midst.

The Resurrected Christ is not supposed to come into our lives in a subtle way. The Resurrected Christ is, in fact, supposed to come into our lives in a way that inspires us, teaches us, heals us and transforms us. The Resurrected Christ is supposed to come into our lives in a way that will change our lives; in a way that will take the pieces of us and find a way to make us whole. The Resurrected Christ is supposed to come into our lives in a way that will move us to go out into the world and make it a better place.

We need to open our eyes to the bold and radical truth that God’s work is not done yet, that these words of scripture are still speaking and that we are part of a story that is still being written.

So don’t be subtle. Don’t let your faith be subtle. Don’t let God’s work in your life be subtle. Let yourself be transformed by it all. Let you faith help you change the world and make it better. Don’t sell yourself short; do the impossible and see what it means to truly live out the gospel.

Just like Bruce and I were last weekend when we tried to sneak into church late and were anything but subtle, Jesus was anything but subtle when he appeared to the disciples on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias. But it was real, it was powerful and it was holy.

So may your moments with the Resurrected Christ be just as real, just as powerful and just as holy.

Thanks be to God!

Amen.

***

[1] John 21:4-5, NRSV
[2] John 21:9, 12, NRSV