Be Part Of The Mystery

Ack!  I need to get in the habit of posting these sermons on Sunday night because once I get into the office on Tuesday, I hit the ground running and don’t have time to sit down and get it done.  I had a really busy week, both at home and at church (which is made obvious by the fact that you can hear Harrison shrieking in my intro to this week’s podcast).  I know life is just full of seasons, so I am trying to dance with the crazy instead of just looking to get past it.

Here is last week’s sermon!  It is the call story of Philip and Nathanael from the Gospel of John.  I actually kind of preached on star words again.  If I remember correctly, I did this last year – I preached on star words the week we handed them out and then talked about them again the following week in case people weren’t in church the week before (also giving those folks a chance to get star words the following week!).  I’m not sure I actually meant to do it again, but it worked!

Here’s my sermon!  Enjoy …


Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
January 14, 2018

John 1:43-51

Be Part Of The Mystery

Has anyone else’s star word been put to the test already?

My star word for 2018 is cheerfulness. And, I have to admit that, as Bruce and I were playing a game of childcare Tetris on Thursday afternoon (daycare was closed, Bruce was working and had wrestling practice, I had out-of-town meetings and my mom – who was planning on coming out to help us – was sick), I was having a hard time finding the cheer in cheerfulness.

Bruce and I were going back and forth by text and, as my stress level started to build, I look at my star word, tacked on my bulletin board next to my desk, practically mocking me. I texted Bruce and said: “By the way. I’m being cheerful.”

To which he replied, “That makes one of us.”

I am sure at that point, he was debating the irony of his star word for 2018: Serenity.

Here is the thing about star words – other than the choice to participate and choose a word in the first place, we really do not get much of a choice in what we will receive.

I was reading a blog post this week and the blogger was talking about her “word of the year.” Every year, in lieu of resolutions, she chooses one word to focus on. By doing this, she can apply her word to different areas of her life (rather than declaring a resolution, which kind of narrows your focus to one thing).

My initial thought when I read her post was that her word of the year is kind of like our star words. But then I realized there is one major difference. This blogger gets to choose her word of the year; our star words, for all intents and purpose, choose us.

The challenge – but also the grace – in participating in star words is that we do not get to choose them. Rather, we move forward in trust; trusting that our words have been chosen for us for a specific purpose, trusting that God will illuminate the journey that is in front of us and trusting that our minds and our hearts will be opened to receive wisdom and guidance.

Like I said, when it comes to star words, the only real choice we have is whether or not to take one in the first place.

Which is why this morning’s scripture stands in stark contrast to last week’s Star Sunday; because this week is all about making a choice. This week we talk about making a choice to follow Christ; making a choice to be a disciple and to strengthen both our faith and the Christian faith.

Because when it comes to our faith, we still have to take that first step; we must be active participants in this journey.

This morning’s scripture reading comes from the gospel according to John, which is, by far, the most mystical of the four gospels. The gospels are the first four books in the New Testament; they tell the story of Jesus. And whereas Matthew, Mark and Luke – which are known as the “Synoptic Gospels” – focus on the life of Jesus the man, the Gospel of John really points to the divinity of Jesus the Christ.

The Gospel of John begins with those well-known words:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us.

There is deep theological depth to this gospel that sheds light on the mystery of Christ. Through some of the flashier miraculous stories that we only see in this gospel – turning water into wine, the resurrection of Lazarus – we are reminded that there are no limitations to the life changing power that Christ holds. Through Christ, all things are possible, even if we do not necessarily understand how it all works.

The tone of the Gospel of John ties in nicely with last week’s Star Sunday. There is, after all, a holy mystery to these stars. We are reminded as we receive and follow our stars that there are no limitations to the ways and places Christ can show up in our midst.

And yet, this morning’s scripture teaches us that even in the middle of the mystery that is the grace of Jesus Christ, there is still a choice; there is a call to action. We must choose to follow Christ.

The story we just heard comes from the very beginning of John. John begins with that theological discourse on the word becoming flesh and then introduces John the Baptist. Then Jesus enters and begins to call his disciples. In this passage Jesus called Philip and Nathanael.

There are three key phrases that jumped out to me when I read this story.

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee.
He found Philip and said to him, Follow me.
Philip said to [Nathanael], “Come and see.”

In a gospel that is filled with the mystery and wonder of our faith, there is still action required. Jesus decided to go to Galilee, Philip followed Jesus and Nathanael came and saw for himself.

This reminds me that in our lives and in our faith, there, too, is a call to action: We have to follow Christ.

This – the Christian faith, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the life changing truth that love will always prevail over hatred and evil no matter what is happening in the world – only works if we choose to follow Christ.

It is not enough to simply believe in the Gospel; we have to live it out, as well.

I was scrolling through Facebook yesterday and saw a post from a friend of mine that referenced her and her husband’s decision not to raise their children religious. Against my better judgment, I clicked on the post and read the comments.

Here’s the thing: Nothing about the original post or the comments were terribly offensive. In fact, in today’s political and social climate, I would qualify this particular post as lighthearted and polite.

However – it did make me kind of sad. Because I do not think there is anything wrong with raising your children religious.

In fact, I think it can be pretty life changing.

I get it; there are a lot of parts of the Christian faith that are pretty unbelievable. In fact, many of them actually occur in John’s gospel. But I believe in the midst of something that is pretty mysterious and hard to fathom, there is a call: A call to live your life a certain way, to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and to work hard to make this world a better place.

When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he is not just asking Nathanael and Philip to chase him around Galilee. With this call, Jesus is inviting them into the heart of the Gospel; he is asking them to do more than simply believe in this holy mystery, but also to be active participants as this mystery unfolds here on earth. He is calling them to love God and love one another. He is calling them to break bread with both their friends and their enemies. He is calling them to reach out to the poor and the sick and the marginalized. He is calling them to extend hospitality to all people and to put the needs of others before their own. He is calling them to show kindness and compassion. He is calling them to shine light into a sometimes-dark world and to demonstrate decency, courage and hope.

This is believable. This is Gospel.   This is the kind of world – albeit “religious” – I want to raise my child in.

But this requires action. This requires us to follow Jesus; to go and see for ourselves what it means for the God’s grace to prevail.

Let’s face it: I am preaching to the choir here, because it is 20° outside, the Patriots played last night and you all still made it to church this morning.

However, this text boldly calls us to dig a little deeper and re-make that commitment to follow Christ and this morning, I encourage you to heed that call; to think about the ways in which you can engage and strengthen your faith. Set some goals for yourself this year and believe that God needs you to help write this Christian story.

You know that expression, “Don’t let life pass you by?” I think this scripture is reminding us not to let our faith pass us by. We must be active participants. We must choose to be part of the mystery.

Perhaps I did not get to choose cheerfulness as my star word this year (though, for the record, I thought this would be an easy one). But I believe every day God is calling me to action; I choose to follow my star, to seek wisdom from my star word even in those moments when the mystery does not seem so much holy as it does chaotic.

So decide, follow, go and see for yourself. Be part of the mystery. And may you not only find grace, but help to create it here on earth, as well.

Thanks be to God!

A Shepherd In Our Lives Today

Hi Everyone!

Sorry for the delay in posting this week.  The church hosted a baby shower for Bruce and me after worship on Sunday and we spent a lot of the day organizing everything!  We were truly overwhelmed and humbled by everyone’s generosity.

There were heavy shepherding themes this week – both the 23rd psalm and the parable of Jesus as the Good Shepherd were included in the lectionary.  I preached on them both and talked about what it means to ground our lives in the teachings of the Gospel and truly allow that to shepherd us every day.



Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
May 7, 2017

Psalm 23
John 10:1-10

A Shepherd In Our Lives Today

In 2007, my mom was invited to introduce Lynn Redgrave when she gave her keynote address at a plenary session at General Synod, which is the biennial meeting of the United Church of Christ. Lynn had attended our church in Kent, CT for years; she began attending when she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. In a book she later co-authored with her daughter, she talked about the impact the church and her faith had on her during the dark days of her treatments. She reflected on this during her speech to the synod that July day; and in closing she said she was going to share one of her favorite scriptures. She read the 23rd psalm.

Now, I have to be honest: Part of me always thought Psalm 23 was something of a cliché. Nothing against it or anything, but it just seemed to get used over and over and over again and, with 149 other psalms in the book, part of me always wondered why people kept going back to that one.

But then I heard Lynn read it.

And I was captivated.

Granted, some of my captivation might have been her British accent, but when I heard her read those words, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” (Psalm 23:4) I started to cry.

Because I knew she had walked through that valley.

And, even more than that, I knew there were thousands of people in the Hartford Civic Center that day listening to her speak that had also walked through that valley. Some people might have even been walking through it then.

And they needed to hear those words: “For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

Because, friends, when we are walking through those dark valleys, we need to know that God is with us. We need to know that we are protected. We need to know that we are not walking alone.

And that is exactly what this psalm promises us. It assures us that God’s presence in our lives is steadfast, never-ending and life-giving.

This morning’s Gospel reading comes from the Gospel according to John; this is where Jesus is identified as the Good Shepherd (we have all seen those artistic portrayals of Jesus holding his staff surrounded by sheep). But there is more to this parable than simply the image of Jesus and his flock. There is a call; a call to follow Jesus, to follow the shepherd who enters the sheepfold at the gate being held open by the gatekeeper.

Jesus says in this parable, “I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:7-9)

This morning we have two different, but equally compelling shepherding metaphors. And I think it is important to remember that when Jesus draws from this shepherding metaphor, he was speaking, in the flesh, to people who were very much alive and living in this human and imperfect world. The people Jesus was speaking to that day needed to know that God was not only with them in the valley of the shadow of death, but in their lives, as well.

And here, Jesus makes that promise. Jesus says that he is the shepherd; that people could follow him, in the flesh, and be safe and find pasture. Jesus says that we make a choice; we choose to follow Jesus or we choose to follow the thieves and the bandits and if we choose to follow Jesus, we will be kept safe and secure both in life and in death.

I believe those words, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,” ring true both when we are facing our own mortality and also when we are facing our own humanity.

It is not easy to live in this world sometimes; we all face difficult choices, heartbreaking realities and challenging situations. We walk through those dark valleys. But when we understand Jesus as the Good Shepherd, leading us into safe pasture, we know that it is possible to do the hard work that is required of us to travel this sometimes hard journey and live out our faith. We have the tools we need to help us; we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus may not be living in our flesh today, but we have the Good News that he proclaimed while he was living on this earth. If we ground our lives in his teachings, then the Good Shepherd is always with us.

Last week, when we were on the Road to Emmaus, I talked about the importance of the incarnational piece of our faith; that Jesus came into this world and lived as one of us, understanding our sufferings and our temptations. This morning, I remind you of this same incarnational power; God is not a distant God that is somehow shepherding from afar, but a God that is here with us, that walked along the journey we walk today and that has given us the beautiful gift of this faith to ground our lives in.

When I think of the image of Jesus being the Good Shepherd, I do not think it means we make the choice to follow him and then we’re done. Yes, the scripture says, “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved,” but it also continues on to say that when we enter the gate by Jesus, we will go out and find pasture, that we will continue follow Jesus and this Good News he taught throughout his lifetime.

Following Jesus is about more than simply proclaiming a belief in him; it is about putting those words into action. It is about being part of a church community, strengthening our faith and living out the Gospel in our day-to-day lives. We come to church not only to receive the comfort of God’s grace, but also the wisdom of God’s grace, as well.

And then we live out this wisdom, as best we can. We nurture our faith through growing our knowledge of the bible, actively participating in community life, giving back through missions and worshipping God, week after week. This is what sets the foundation for the lives we are living. This is how we are able to walk through those dark valleys – valleys that we will all walk through at some point or another – and know, without a doubt, that God is with us.

So friends, I invite you to take comfort in the words of this familiar psalm this morning. But remember there is still work to be done.

When we enter the sheepfold and follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we are doing so not only so that we might have eternal life, but also so that our lives here on earth might be made whole. Remember Jesus’ promise that when we follow him, when we weave the Gospel into the pieces of our lives, that we will not only have life, but that we will also have it abundantly.

And while it may not always be easy, if we do the hard work, surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives.

Thanks be to God!

Dead Ends

Hello!  I love having my little podcast schedule kind of of force me to get these sermons posted by Sunday night.  I was always so bad about it before.

We are on week 5 of the sermon series, Bootcamp for the Soul and this week the theme is Dead Ends.  I’m really enjoying the prompts for these sermons and I hope you all are enjoying them as well!

Enjoy …


Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 2, 2017

Ezekiel 37:1-14
John 11:1-45

Dead Ends (Sermon Series: Boot Camp For The Soul)

Over the past few months, several people have recommended to me the television show, Call the Midwife, which a BBC drama that premiered in 2012 and follows a community of midwives and nurses, half of whom are nuns, in East End London in the 1950’s. And while I am not entirely convinced it is a good idea for a pregnant woman to watch a show where the storyline frequently highlights varying degrees of pregnancy and delivery complications, curiosity got the better of me this week (and I do love British accents), so I watched the first few episodes.

There was an episode where a woman had fallen and suffered a concussion that caused her to go into pre-term labor. When she delivered, the baby was stillborn. The midwife tended to the woman while her husband and one of their other children wept at her bedside. The scene progressed quietly when all of a sudden a cry was heard. Against all odds, the baby was alive.

While I understand that this is a television show and anything can happen when producers and screenwriters are in charge of the storyline, as I watched this episode, I could not help but think about the fact that, in life, we never really know where grace might lie. This scene highlights, I think, the deep and profound theological truth that sometimes when all else seems lost, hope can still be found.

This truth is what strengthens the foundation of who we are as Christians; of who we are as people of the resurrection.

Our two scripture readings for this morning are stories of resurrection that, for all intents and purposes, are kind of unbelievable. We started in the Old Testament, in the book of Ezekiel. To be honest, we do not often end up in this book, as it is one that has perplexed theologians (and, quite frankly, me) for years. Ezekiel comes from a priestly lineage, but then becomes a prophet. Throughout the entire book he sees really strange things and then prophesies some dangerous messages.

Take the passage we just heard, for example. It was described in one commentary I read as, “one of the most imaginatively dramatic readings in all scripture.”[1] The prophet Ezekiel has a vision where he is brought into a valley of dry bones. God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones; he does this and hears a noise. The bones start rattling and come together; flesh grows on them and God breathes breath into them.

You can see why this one perplexes me.

But then we moved into the Gospel of John, which records the resurrection of a man named Lazarus. While I have spent much more time preaching out of this book of the bible, I have made it no secret that this story has always perplexed me, as well.

Lazarus has been dead for four days when Jesus arrive his village of Bethany. Martha tells Jesus he is too late, that the corpse is already starting to smell. But Jesus encourages her to believe, calls to Lazarus to come out and Lazarus walks out of the tomb.

These are not stories of miraculous healing, of being cured of some awful disease or even of a body dying for a few moments and then resuming its breath and heartbeat. These are stories of resurrection; stories where death seems to have the final word and God proves otherwise, stories where bones are dry and corpses have decayed and yet life is found. Here scripture teaches us of the bold and remarkable truth that when it comes to God, death does not have the final word.

Before Lazarus comes out of the tomb, Jesus says to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”[2] These stories – albeit strange – call us to believe. They call us to look beyond our human and earthly understandings of life and death and see the glory of God. They call us to expand our expectations of the capacity we have within ourselves for God’s work to be done.

And I think these stories call us not only to believe in their resurrection, but also to believe in our own personal resurrection, as well.

We are on week five of our Lenten sermon series, Boot Camp for the Soul and this morning our theme is, Dead Ends. While our scriptures address a much more literal understanding of a dead end, I think it is safe to say we have all kind of “been there” at some point in our lives, whether it be personally, professionally, relationally, medically, financially or in another way. We have all suffered heartbreaking losses, unspeakable tragedies and frustrating obstacles. We have all gotten to a point in our journeys where we feel as though we are not simply at a crossroads, but facing a dead end with nowhere left to go. These are the moments when all hope seems lost. The circumstances might be different for each of us, but the questions are the same: Where do we go from here? How do we go on?

These are not easy questions for us to think about; but the Lenten journey is not necessarily supposed to be an easy one, it is supposed to be a transformative one. Lent is about allowing ourselves to be the most broken and vulnerable version of ourselves – just as Jesus was on the cross – so that God can make us whole again. We face our dead ends without fear knowing that God is always capable of a new beginning.

We are people of the resurrection. The dead ends we face do not make us inadequate or unworthy of God’s grace; in fact, I think it is our brokenness that allows us to be more open to God’s grace.

These two scriptures – Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones and the resurrection of Lazarus – teach us that when all seems lost, God’s hope is still alive. Always! Death does not and will not have the final word.

I know this is hard to believe sometimes; there are in our earthly lives when it seems as though death, darkness, pain, anxiety, frustration, grief and suffering do have the final word.

In fact, many of us may be experiencing some of things right now.

But scripture teaches us that the dead ends we face here and now are not the end. From dry bones, came a body that new life was breathed into. From a decaying corpse came the resurrection of a man people were already mourning. And from the darkness of the challenges we face, light will shine.

What dead end are you facing at the moment? Where do you feel stuck? Are you grieving a loss? Trying to overcome a hurdle? Seeking a change to the course you are on?

This Lent – and this morning, especially – we are reminded that when God is involved, death never has the final word. Grief, sadness, frustration, struggles, anxiety, conflict and pain do not have the final word. God is stronger than all of them.

And God gives us that strength, as well.

We will find those moments of grace. We will find a renewed strength. We will experience resurrection. We will not be defined by the struggles of our earthly circumstances, but by the love of our resurrecting and redeeming God.

The dead ends we face will not be the end of our story. Our journey will continue.

So may resurrection be something that you not only find in scripture (or in British dramas). May you find, experience and be made whole by resurrection in your own lives, as well.

Thanks be to God!

[1] Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 2, page. 123
[2] John 11:40, NRSV