Resisting Evil

I’ll be honest, I’m having a hard time sharing this one.  As a preacher, I feel so vulnerable the week following a shooting.  I don’t think there is a “right” thing to say.  I try to tread carefully and that may or may not be the right thing to do, either.  I don’t want to stir up a debate, but I also don’t want anyone to think that I’m afraid to speak hard truths, either.  I want to pray for the victims of this shooting, but I also know that, like so many others have said, thoughts and prayers are just not enough anymore.

Ugh.  It’s so hard.  I spoke a truth that I think my people needed to hear and could take with them and apply to their lives.  Hopefully that was enough.  I pray that God will continue to work out the details and I will be obedient in my preaching.  Because it’s not easy!

So here is my sermon.  Lent 1, Jesus in the wilderness, the weekend after a shooting in our country.


Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
February 18, 2018

Mark 1:9-15

Resisting Evil

I never used to talk about evil before.

Truth be told, I kind of doubted its existence. It is not that I thought bad things did not happen, but I always attributed them to being human and living in an imperfect world. Part of me thought fire and brimstone pastors talked about evil as a scare tactic and people used evil to excuse their bad behavior.

But I think, even more than that, I did not want to believe that there was someone working against God. I did not want to believe that there was something in this world that was more powerful than God’s love. I did not want to believe that, as human beings, we were being pulled towards evil.

I still don’t.

But I have gotten into this heartbreaking habit of ascending to the pulpit and struggling to find adequate words to speak following a mass shooting in our country. Unimaginable losses keep happening and they are not the result of tragic accidents or natural disasters. They are very much human – and very much evil.

This morning is the first Sunday of Lent, which is a 40-day season leading up to Easter. This time frame evokes the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, the story we heard in this morning’s scripture reading from the gospel of Mark. After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, the Spirit drove him out to the wilderness.

[Jesus] was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

I preach on this story every year on the first Sunday of Lent. And I think part of me has always glossed over the Satan part and focused on the wilderness part. I much prefer the narrative of the angels waiting on Jesus than the one of him being with the wild beasts.

But I think, more and more, in today’s culture, in the church and especially in light of what happened this week in Florida, we need to start talking about evil. Because it is real; it is part of our narrative. And it is hurting us in unspeakable ways.

Jesus, himself, was not immune from the evil that exists in the world. He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness for 40 days; this was an evil that was trying to work against God, an evil that was trying to be more powerful than God’s love, an evil that Jesus was being pulled towards.

We face this kind of evil in our lives today.

A community in Florida was devastated by this kind of evil on Wednesday.

The question, of course, is, what do we do about it? How do we move from the wild beasts that surround us to the angels who await us?

People have wrestled with this question all week. And I hate to disappoint anyone who was hoping I would say something prophetic this morning, I do not have an answer to it, either. The issue of gun violence is very complicated and polarizing in our country right now. I do not know what the solution is and I certainly am not going to stir up a debate this morning.

But I do know this: The Church has, within its capacity, the ability to change people’s lives. And I believe that, if we truly want to make a difference in our country and in the world – if we want to resist the evil that is pulling us and the people around us away from God – we need to start right here in our own community.

We can make a difference in the lives of people who are being pulled towards evil.

Jesus’ time in the wilderness reminds us that, every day, we, too, are being pulled towards an evil trying to work against God, trying to be more powerful than God’s love. And I believe, as a church, we have pull people away from that evil; we have to remind people of what it means to stand in the glory of God’s grace and be a tangible expression of the power of God’s love.

I know the issues at play here, particularly the ones surrounding gun control, are much more complex than this, but those are not issues I can necessarily fix from the pulpit. But what I can do from the pulpit is remind us all – myself included – that we, as a church, have the capacity to change someone’s life. We can be the Body of Christ to someone who desperately needs support. We can show people what it means to love and to be loved. We can teach our children the difference between right and wrong. As hard as someone might be pulled away from us towards evil, we can pull them back towards grace even harder. We can shine light into someone’s world when it is dark. We can show outward and tangible signs of God’s love, a love that is real, a love that always wins and a love that reminds us that resurrection is possible.

You never know what someone might be going through, whether they are a child, a youth or an adult. You never know when they might be on the brink of making a decision that could devastate their lives and the lives of others. So we have to live our lives as a bold witness to God’s love so that others can experience that love. We have to be the church, believing that we could be the difference someone needs; that we are meeting people in their times of desperate need and that we are bringing them out of the wilderness.

A few weeks ago, the children of our Church School made valentines for people in the community whom members of our church identified as someone who could use a pick me up. They send almost 50 cards. On Tuesday morning, we received a note in the office that said:

Thank you for the Valentine card.
I hope all veterans get one.
It meant a lot to me.
My late wife was a Sunday School teacher there,
before we were married sixty eight years ago.
Again, thanks a lot.
Fred Quint (age 91)

This is what it means to be the church; to teach our children how to show compassion and to reach out to someone and meet them in their time of need, let them know, in no uncertain terms, that they are loved, they are cherished and they are not alone.

It starts with us, right here in our community. We can make a difference.

By now most of you have heard that Earl Goff has entered hospice and is being cared for at home. As a longtime member of the choir, Earl attended Thursday night choir rehearsals faithfully for the past 60+ years. So this past Thursday, the choir brought their rehearsal to him. About 20 of us piled into the Goff’s living room and, together with Earl’s family, we sang. We sang old classics and new favorites. We sang loudly when the spirit moved and quietly when Earl needed a rest. We used the music of Amazing Grace, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, I Love to Tell The Story, Hear I Am, Lord and many more to touch us in our sadness. We sang the Navy hymn and Earl beamed with pride. We took turns crying. Earl sang along when he could. We joined hands, like we do at the end of worship every week, closed with prayer and then the Goffs brought out cake and ice cream (I joked with Bruce last night that you can’t have church without fellowship after!).

This is what it means to be the church; to show up and love people, as hard as we can. And we do this because we know that it can and will make a difference.

It starts with us, right here in our community. We can make a difference.

I am taking an online course through the Center for Progressive Renewal right now called, Preaching Lent and in the opening webinar this week, Brian McLaren, who is a pastor and author in the emerging church movement, said that, as preachers, we need to intentionally define Lent this year. Lent is not about penance, but about purpose; the purpose of being a disciple.

What is the purpose of being a disciple of Jesus Christ?

I would argue that, right now, in this generation, the purpose is great. The world needs to hear the Good News of God’s love. People need to be pulled away from evil and guided out of the wilderness. They need to see God’s light illuminating a dark world. They need to be reminded that there are angels waiting for them.

As a church, we have been called for such a time as this.

As we enter into this Lenten season, I encourage you to think about the ways that you can resist evil in this world. Ask yourself, how can you make a difference in someone’s life? How can you meet someone in the desert? What is something tangible – even if it something small – you can do to express God’s love? In this church? In the community? For your family and your friends?

I really do believe we can change the world.

Blessings on your Lenten season. May it be filled with purpose, discipleship and a love that overcomes evil. And may you change someone’s life.

Thanks be to God!



Transforming The Way You See The World

And now in the category of “better late than never,” here is my sermon from LAST Sunday, Transfiguration Sunday.  We had a Mardi Gras Sunday at the church that day (check out the pictures on our Facebook page!) and I talked in my sermon about the Transfiguration reminds us that our lives truly can be transformed by our faith.  I hope yours is, as well!

Here’s the sermon.  Enjoy …


Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
February 11, 2018

Mark 9:2-9

Transforming The Way You See The World

The story of the transfiguration is one that always brings up a lot of good memories for me. I candidated at this church on Transfiguration Sunday seven years ago. Easter was late that year, so Transfiguration Sunday was the first weekend in March, which just happened to be the weekend of our annual Spaghetti Supper and Dessert Auction.

That Saturday, after a meet and greet with the congregation in the morning, everyone piled into Fellowship Hall for the supper. I remember walking into the hall that night and feeling like it was SO big. I might as well have been walking into Fenway Park that night; it was packed and just felt huge.

At the time, the task ahead seemed so daunting. There were so many people! How was I ever going to learn everyone’s names, I wondered to myself? Where was I even going to start? What if this church needed more than I had the capacity to give?

Fast forward to a few weeks ago; I was setting up for our monthly Taizé worship. I walked into Fellowship Hall, this time empty, dark and quiet, and I thought to myself, well it does not seem so big anymore.

It is amazing how, over time, God changes the way we see things.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday before the season of Lent begins. The Transfiguration is about a moment in time when God changed the way people – ordinary people – saw something.

Or more specifically, God changed the way they saw someone: Jesus.

We heard the story out of the Gospel of Mark this morning. Leading up to this, Jesus was traveling, performing signs and inviting people into his ministry. While in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus foretold his death and resurrection and then told the crowd that had gathered around him and his disciples that if they wanted to be one of Jesus’ followers, they needed to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him.

Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James and John to the top of a high mountain and he was transformed, right before their very eyes. His clothes were a dazzling white and he was not alone. He stood alongside side Elijah, a 9th century BCE prophet that can be found in 1 Kings and 2 Kings, and Moses, a prophet who led the Israelite slaves out of Egypt in the Book of Exodus. A cloud came over them and Peter, James and John heard God’s voice saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Then suddenly, Elijah and Moses were gone; and it was just Jesus standing there.


What an incredible moment that must have been for Peter, James and John; where God changed the way they saw Jesus, showed them the undeniable divinity of Christ and demonstrated the power of God’s love in this world.

Up until this point, they all knew there was something special about Jesus. How could they not? When John baptized him, God spoke from heaven and said, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus then cast out evil spirits, healed the sick, spoke in parables, fed thousands of people with mere morsels of food and walked on water.

But, in this moment, they saw him differently. They understood the Gospel and what it meant for their lives on another level. Their lives would never be the same.

How, in your life, does God make you see things differently? How does God help you understand the Gospel and what it means for your life on another level? How is your life changed?

Perhaps it is in how you spend your time and money, who you interact with or what you say and do. Maybe it has to do with the career path you have chosen or the values you instill in your family. Maybe it means making different priorities than those around you. Perhaps God will open your eyes to see the needs of others more prominently than your own wants. Or maybe God is simply working on you, as an individual, reminding you that you are loved, you are cherished and you are made whole.

The freedom in having faith comes from letting our lives be defined, not by the earthly stuff, but by the grace God gives to us. If we allow God to, God can transform the world we are living in.

And the crazy thing is, the world, itself, might not change. But we, ourselves will change. The way we view the world and the way we live in the world most certainly will change when God gets involved.

The Transfiguration reminds us that God-sized transformations are happening all around us. Sometimes they can be found in the small things in life and sometimes it is in the big things in life. But in order to see them, we need to follow Jesus up that mountain, we need to open our eyes to witness the presence of God and we need to believe that what we are seeing is real and true.

As much fun as Mardi Gras is, it is not just about having an excuse to throw a party in church; it is about marking the end of one season and the beginning of another.

Lent begins on Wednesday. This season leads us on a journey where we experience the story that defines our faith. Resurrection is the reason that we gather; from this comes the radical truth that death did not and does not have the final word. It is because of this story that people can discover hope, find strength, extend forgiveness, show compassion and uncover grace. Sometimes this goes against all logic and reason, but, as Christians, we know that love always wins and we live our lives bearing witness to this great testimony.

We see things differently.

Certainly, this does challenge us at times. It is hard to look beyond our earthly lives and see the glory God is shining upon us. But this story reminds us that God is always with us, constantly transforming the pieces of our lives, whether we are on the top of a high mountain or down here, just doing day-to-day life. God is helping us to see things differently.

I see the church much differently now than I did seven years ago on that cold March night in a crowded Fellowship Hall. The task no longer seems daunting, per say; but enriching, grace inspiring and, quite frankly, a lot of fun. I see breakfast and suppers, community events and completed mission projects. I see confirmation classes, bible studies, hospital visits and board meetings. I see a church filled with people who are not only willing to go along with my crazy ideas (like Mardi Gras Sunday), but who usually show up with food, as well. I see a church not only with a rich history that I was able to learn about, but also a vibrant present and a hopeful future I am apart of. I not only know people’s names, but I know their stories, as well.

Only God could have done this. Only God could have transformed our ministry together.

Today I wish you many blessings on your Lenten season. I hope our Mardi Gras celebration brings the changing seasons to the front burner in your life and reminds you to mark the beginning of Lent this week, on Ash Wednesday. I pray that, at some point during this Lenten season, your eyes, minds and hearts will be opened to the ways God is working in your life, to the ways God is transforming your life.

I want your lives to be changed by your faith. I want God to help you see the world differently.

So may you, like Peter, James and John, stand in awe in the presence of Christ. May you see the ancient scriptures come alive in your life as you seek to live out God’s word. May you feel and know that God is with you, in the extraordinary moments and in the ordinary ones. May God transform your life. And may you see the world differently.

Thanks be to God!

Take A Sip!

Hi Friends!

Not the Super Bowl outcome any of my church members were hoping for last night, but we are moving on and getting ready for Mardi Gras Sunday!  We’ve never done this before (at least not to the degree we are this year), so follow me on Instagram (@revsarahweaver) to see some behind the scenes this week!

I continued to preach through the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark this week.  I am having so much fun following this chronologically!  Part of me would love to go off lectionary sometime and preach through a Gospel in a more intentional way.  I love that the lectionary brings us through different parts of the bible, but this has also been a lot of fun.

There is a LOT going on in this morning’s passage.  My sermon could have gone in so many different directions.  I ended up focusing on Jesus retreating to a deserted place to pray.  I used the acronym, SIP – sabbath, intentional prayer – as an illustration.  So take a sip!

Enjoy …


Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
February 4, 2018

Mark 1:29-39

Take A Sip

On more than one occasion over the past eight months, I have been asked what has changed for me in ministry since having a baby. And the answer is, other than a flexible schedule, of course, my writing process.

My Saturday marathon writing days that I have relied on heavily since I was in college, for the most part, just do not work in this particular season of life that I am in. I have been trying to focus more of my office time during the week on writing, but sometimes that just does not work, either, in which case I end up doing a lot of writing at night after Harrison goes to bed.

This was the case last week, Friday evening. Bruce came home from wrestling practice and I was surrounded by notes and commentaries, staring at a blinking cursor, getting absolutely nowhere in my writing.

And here is the thing about sermon writing – the Sunday morning deadline is always looming. And that night I really did need to make some headway, because I did not have a lot of time the next day to write.

But it just was not working; and finally, I decided that I needed to rest. So I shut my computer, went downstairs and Bruce and I watched two episodes of The Crown. I knew my sermon would be there the next day.

Sometimes in life – both in work and at home – you need to walk away, take a break, rest and recharge. The same is true in our faith, as well. In fact, in this morning’s scripture, Jesus did just that.

Again, we pick up this morning where we left off last week. Over the past three weeks, we have been making our way through the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. Jesus hit the ground running in his ministry. He called his disciples, taught in the synagogue, cast out demons and now is healing the sick.

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.[1]

The news about Jesus starts to spread; people hear about what Jesus is doing and about the power that he has and they start to bring their loved ones to him so that he can heal them. Jesus is not simply healing the people in his direct vicinity; the gospel writer describes the, “whole city” gathering around the door of the house where Jesus is staying.[2]

Can you even imagine? An entire city of people coming to your house; asking you to heal them and cast out their demons? Honestly, on the days when I feel overwhelmed by life and motherhood and ministry, I often think, well at least there is not an entire city of people banging down my door, asking me to fix their problems.


Of course, Jesus does not miss a beat. He cures the sick, casts out the demons and everyone – even the demons – knows who Jesus is.

But then, what does Jesus do?

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.[3]

Jesus takes a break.

Jesus does not go and go and go and go; he pauses. He walks away. He retreats.

The cool thing about reading through these Marken passages chronologically over the past couple of weeks is that we know all that Jesus has going on. We know that he has been gathering his disciples, that his ministry started fast and strong and that the crowds following him are now growing at exponential rates.

And now he needs to rest.

This passage reminds us that we need to take Sabbath; every single one of us (even those of us that say we are too busy). Far too often we try to go and go and go and go without pausing, without walking away, without retreating. But in reading this passage we are reminded that Jesus, himself, needed Sabbath!

What makes us think that we do not need it from time to time?

This passage has a lot to teach us about what it means to take care of ourselves when we have a lot going on. Sabbath is not just a concept that can be found in the bible, but it was an integral part of the creation of the Gospel. As Jesus began to write this Christian narrative, he certainly had a lot going on, but he took time; he made Sabbath a priority.

We should do the same.

“S” is for Sabbath.

(Remember that; it will come around again.)

But Sabbath, alone, is not enough. There has to be intentionality to it, as well.

Jesus did not stay at the house and say a little prayer when things quieted down. He left; he went to a deserted place and intentionally carved out that time. He created the Sabbath time that he so desperately needed and we have to do the same in our lives, as well.

True Sabbath is not an impromptu timeout; it is what happens when we intentionally step outside of the busyness of our everyday lives and seek strength, wisdom and energy from God.

Sabbath is something we do for ourselves; not for others. Jesus did not use this time as an opportunity to teach the disciples about prayer or to pray for everyone who had come for healing. Jesus used this time for himself. He went to a place where no one else was. This time was about him and God.

And, truth be told, this makes Sabbath all the more difficult. Because what I am saying is that it is not something that can just be worked into our daily schedule. We cannot multitask and sneak some Sabbath in while we are already doing something else.

We have to be intentional about creating opportunities for Sabbath. And if you think you do not have time, believe me, I understand. But Jesus did not have time; Jesus made time.

We should do the same.

“I” is for intentional.

Here is the unique thing about Sabbath: I do not think Sabbath and self-care are the same things. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that self-care is extraordinarily important, but I do think that sometimes we confuse the two.

For example: Last Friday night when I watched The Crown instead of writing my sermon – that was not Sabbath, that was self-care.

Here is what makes the difference:

In the morning, while it was still very dark, [Jesus] got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.[4]

The key phrase in all of this is, “there he prayed.” Jesus did not go to a desert place to take a nap or get a massage or go for a run; he went to a deserted place to pray.

I read a commentary this week that talked about just how important is it to note Jesus’ commitment to prayer, particularly as it comes through in this Gospel. It said:

For Mark, prayer is not peripheral to the identify of Jesus, and by implication, not peripheral for those who follow him.[5]

Which means prayer should not be peripheral to our identity, but very much a part of it.

And I know this is a tough one, because prayer is not necessarily something we are all automatically comfortable with. But there are a lot of opportunities – both here at the church and at home – where you can learn how to pray and get more comfortable with it.

Coming to worship on a Sunday morning is a great way to find time for prayer during the week because we have that time carved out in our service.

I am going to make a shameless plug for Taizé because we create a space that is conducive to prayer and then, again, carve out that time in our service.

You can also institute a daily quiet time at home (which, full disclosure, I tried to do last year and failed about nine days in – but you might have more luck than me!). There are daily devotionals that you can buy or download where a prayer is already written out for you and you can use that as a starting point in your prayer time.

Part of our call, as Christians, is to connect with God through prayer. This is something Jesus demonstrated over and over again.

We should do the same.

“P” is for prayer.

This morning I invite you to take a “sip” – Sabbath, intentional, prayer – and connect with God and see how your life might be transformed. I guarantee – and I do not guarantee things very often – that you will be stronger and calmer and feel more whole if you take a sip.

God cannot work within us if we do not create that space to allow God to come into our lives and our minds and our hearts.

Back to my Friday night binge-watching of The Crown: I think I got more accomplished in a shorter amount of time on Saturday because I took that time to rest on Friday.

The same is true for Sabbath. When we intentionally carve out time for prayer, it does not matter how stressed or busy we might be, amazing things will happen.

So take a sip!




And may you, like Christ, have the strength, endurance, wisdom and voice to proclaim the Good News of God’s love in this world.

Thanks be to God!

[1] Mark 1:29-31, NRSV
[2] Mark 1:32-34
[3] Mark 1:35, NRSV
[4] Mark 1:35, NRSV
[5] Charles, Gary W. Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 1, page 335 & 337 (Exegetical Perspective)

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