Being Comfortably Uncomfortable

The totally ironic thing about this sermon is that I posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook today from communion this week – we served it by intinction because we forgot to order those little cups last month – and there is currently a conversation happening about whether or not people are comfortable with intinction! I thought that was neat timing – it’s easier said than done to be comfortably uncomfortable!

If you listen to the audio, you’ll hear Harrison saying “hi” in my intro 😉 – I shouldn’t record these intros right before he needs to go to bed!

I am taking the next two weeks off from preaching.  Children’s Day is this weekend so I’m not preaching and then the next week I’m on vacation.  I’ll probably be on instagram cleaning and painting my new house so look for me over there (@revsarahweaver).

Enjoy …

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
June 3, 2018

Mark 2:23-3:6

Being Comfortably Uncomfortable

I went to Carters a few weeks ago to buy Harrison clothes because he was starting to grow out of all the stuff in his dresser and when I came home I explained to Bruce that some of the stuff I bought was daycare appropriate and some of it was specifically for church (because y’all know how much I love to dress him for church). A few days later, Bruce told me he could not find a pair of shorts for Harrison to wear to daycare, that the only clothes left in the bag of new clothes were church clothes. So I went to look and I found a pair of shorts that could have gone either way – they were khaki, but they had an elastic waist and tie instead of a button and zipper. I came out of Harrison’s room and said, “You know what, Harrison, you can wear these to daycare. You shouldn’t wear pants with an elastic waist to church anyway, because those are comfy clothes and you should always be a little bit uncomfortable at church.”

Of course, I was talking about putting on your Sunday clothes and looking sharp, but at soon at the words came out of my mouth, I knew I was on to something deeper and more profound. Because as much as the church is a safe place where we can all come and worship and connect to God in a way that makes us feel secure and protected, I think it should also be a place where, at times, we find ourselves feeling a little bit uncomfortable.

To be clear, I am not talking about being physically unsafe or harassed in any way, shape or form. But I AM talking about each and every one of us stretching the dimensions of what we think church is and what church should be.

This morning’s scripture reading comes from the Gospel of Mark, chapters two and three, so we are still fairly early on in Jesus’ ministry, but he is already starting to stir up some trouble. In this story, it is the Sabbath and yet, the disciples are plucking up heads of grain.

Remember, it is Jewish custom that during that time of Sabbath – from sunset on Friday through Saturday – no work be done. The Pharisees objected to Jesus, saying:

Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?[1]

Jesus did not respond to this objection by slapping the disciples’ wrists and making them stop. He did not say to the Pharisees, “Oh shoot, you know what, I totally lost track of the days, don’t worry, this will never happen again!”

No; first of all, Jesus schooled the Pharisees in Hebrew scripture. He said (and I am paraphrasing here), “Come on, guys, don’t you remember what happened to David?”

Here is what Jesus was talking about: King David – who you may remember slayed Goliath when he was a young boy with a couple of stones and a sling shot – entered a temple as an adult and asked the priest if he could have some bread for his army. The priest said all he had was the Bread of the Presence, meaning holy bread, and that the men could only have it if they were considered clean and pure. David said they were, the priest gave him the bread and David went on his way.

Now – were the men actually clean and pure? Probably not. But they were hungry. And David found them something to eat.

Jesus talked about David because he was trying to point out that sometimes what someone needs is more important than holding onto a tradition; that sometimes God is calling us to do a new thing and that we should not cling so tightly to our own religious customs that we cannot see what God is doing in our midst today.

But then Jesus took it one step further. The disciples had already violated the Sabbath laws when they were picking grain, but then Jesus, himself, violated those same laws when he walked into a synagogue and cured a man with a paralyzed hand.

Do you think that made the Pharisees a little bit uncomfortable? I think so. This passage ends by saying:

The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against [Jesus], how to destroy him.[2]

People do not like to be uncomfortable. They like to know what is coming next. They like their traditions to be predictable and their spaces to look or feel a certain way.

We do this in the church all the time. We worship a certain way, we arrange our flowers a certain way, we set up our sanctuary and our narthex a certain way and we do not want those things to change. We have the same events, year after year. We have traditions that we hold fast to. We often do not want to try something new because sometimes it is hard to picture something that we have never done before. Many of us are accustomed to the way we do church here that we cannot imagine doing church any other way.

But guess what? Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. He broke tradition; he did something that had never been done before, something that made the Pharisees uncomfortable.

And in the end, a man was healed. Shouldn’t that have been the goal all along?

God’s grace is kind of a funny thing sometimes.

My point is this: It is okay to be a little bit uncomfortable sometimes. It is okay to try something new. It is okay to do something that has never been done before, even if that means stepping onto a path that has never been traveled on. It is okay to walk away, even if it is just for a moment, from the rituals and traditions that we do by rote and see what else God is calling us to do in this moment.

Friends, I have talked a lot about doing church lately. And sometimes doing church means being comfortably uncomfortable. It means being willing to compromise so that everyone feels like their voice has been heard and that their opinion is valued. It means not immediately dismissing something just because it is different and actively listening to new ideas. It means healing someone on the Sabbath because they are sick and serving someone holy bread because they are hungry. It means listening to God’s still speaking voice guiding us along a journey that is filled with a grace and love that will exceed even our wildest imaginations.

So do not be afraid to be comfortably uncomfortable. Push your boundaries. Stretch yourself. Try something new. And be amazed at God’s potential within our community. As a church, we can and will do great things.

And we may find that, along the way, people will be healed, people will be fed and people will be made whole.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

[1] Mark 2:24, NRSV
[2] Mark 3:6, NRSV

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You’ve Heard The Story. Keep Writing It.

Hi friends!  Happy Easter!  I hope you all have a wonderful and joyous resurrection celebration.  We were busy and blessed at the church.  There was a lot going on, but I felt like we had something for everyone on different walks of life.

Here is my sermon – short and sweet!  This story speaks for itself.

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 1, 2018

Mark 16:1-8

You’ve Heard The Story. Keep Writing It.

My uncle went to mass on Easter one year and the priest got up for his homily, paused and said, “You’ve heard the story. Think about it.”

And then he sat down.

Every year on Easter morning, I am tempted to do the same thing. After all, this story kind of speaks for itself. The tomb was empty! Death did not win! God’s love was victorious over the grave. It is because of this story that we gather in the first place; that we believe in the mystery, but also the grace of resurrection.

This story is, perhaps, one of the greatest ever told.

And yet, the account of the Jesus’ resurrection that we just heard from the Gospel of Mark has got to be the most anticlimactic of the four Gospels.

The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels; it is thought to have been written first and also used as a spine for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke as they were written. The original resurrection narrative in Mark is the shortest and least-involved of the four Gospels. It ends where this morning’s reading ended, which, when you read it, is kind of abrupt:

So [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.[1]

That’s it.

Jesus did not actually appear to anyone in this narrative. The women did not run with great joy to tell the disciples that the tomb was empty and Jesus had risen. Jesus did not walk along the road to Emmaus or break bread with his disciples when they arrived or show them the marks on his hands and in his side. The disciples were not commissioned. Jesus did not ascend into heaven. This narrative ends with three women fleeing the empty tomb, terrified.

In a way, this story seems unfinished.

Eventually – in the late second century – a longer ending was added to the Gospel of Mark. It is more conclusive; in line with the resurrection narratives of the other three Gospels, the longer ending wraps up the story in a neater bow. Rather than the women fleeing the tomb in fear and not telling anyone what happened, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and the disciples and then ascends to heaven.[2]

I think, more often than not, most of us prefer to have the story end this way (which is probably why the longer ending was added in the first place). There is closure; there are not as many unanswered questions.

Which begs the question: What if this ending was never added? What if this story – the story we just heard read this morning, abrupt ending and all – was our only account of Jesus’ resurrection? Would the Easter story feel unfinished? Would the Christian story feel unfinished?

But here’s the thing: The Christian story is unfinished. And I do not say this in a bad way, either. I say this in a God-sized, grace-filled, possibilities-are-endless kind of way.

The Christian story is still being written because we are still writing this story – in the lives we are living, in the stories we are telling. The Christian story did not end with Jesus’ death; it began with his resurrection, when people experienced the Risen Christ.

And friends, that is very much still happening today. Like the women who went to the tomb and saw that the stone had already been rolled away, we, too, experience the Risen Christ in our own lives. Sometimes we experience the Risen Christ is big ways; in those life-changing, conversion-like experiences. But very often we experience the Risen Christ in the ordinary moments of our lives; when we show compassion, kindness and love; when we feel the strength of the faith of a church community, just like this one, living out Christ’s call to serve; when we gather around a table with our family and friends and break bread together.

Perhaps the ending to this resurrection narrative was so abrupt because it was never meant to be the ending; the story was supposed to continue, not only in the lives of Jesus’ disciples and the earliest Christians, but also in our lives, today. We are supposed to be writing this Christian story as we live our lives today.

Friends, if you take one thing out of this service, let it be this: You are still writing this story. The life you lead, the choices you make, the Good News you proclaim – all of this continues the narrative God started the moment the women approached that tomb and found the stone had already been rolled away, the moment they realized the prophecy had been fulfilled, the moment the bold and radical truth was proclaimed that God could do the impossible and that love would win over and over and over again.

The narrative is not anticlimactic. It just wasn’t finished.

It still isn’t

So … You’ve heard the story. Keep writing it.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

[1] Mark 16:8, NRSV
[2] Mark 16:9-20 {The Longer Ending Of Mark}

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Be Present In The Moment

Hi Friends!

This was one of those sermons where I had outlined something completely different, but when I sat down to write it, I just went in a completely different direction – but then everyone walked out of church and said to me, “You have no idea how badly I needed to hear that sermon today!”

Such a God thing.

Anyway, here is my sermon from yesterday.  I am wishing you many many blessings on your Holy Week!  We have worship service on Thursday evening and a potluck and round table discussion on Friday evening.  Our Easter Egg Hunt is on Saturday morning and then on Easter Sunday we have two services – a sunrise service at 6AM at the Anawan Club (13 Gorham Street, Rehoboth) and our intergenerational service at 10AM at RCC.  If you are in the area, please join us!  We would love to experience the resurrection with you.

Blessings, friends … <3

Holy Week 2018 Cover Photo

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
March 25, 2018

Mark 11:1-11

Be Present In The Moment

So let me ask you this: In the midst of all this pomp and circumstance, do you think there was a part of Jesus that was rolling his eyes on his way into Jerusalem because his disciples just were not getting it?

Today is Palm Sunday, a day when we remember the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey; where we, like those who gathered along the road Jesus was traveling on that day, wave palm branches and shout, Hosanna! Today we welcome Christ into our own midst, into our own lives as we prepare to, once again, to hear the story of his death and resurrection.

The Palm Sunday narrative happened towards the end of Jesus’ life and ministry. At this point he had foretold his death and resurrection, not one, not two, but three times.

And yet, the disciples just did not get it. They did not understand what was about to happen. They were not prepared for it.

I don’t know why the disciples did not take Jesus more seriously. If someone says something is going to happen, it usually does, right? That would be like if an entire state prepared for a giant nor’easter the weathermen said was coming and then they only got a dusting.

Oh wait. That did happen this week.

Here’s the thing, though: Jesus was a little bit more accurate than the weathermen were this week. As people living on this side of the resurrection, we know how this story ends; we know what is about to happen. On Thursday night, we will hear the Passion Narrative read. Jesus will die on the cross.

And then we will wait.

We will wait for Easter morning.

Holy Week has always felt a little bit like an emotional rollercoaster for me. You go from the high of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem down to the low of the crucifixion and then back up to the high of the empty tomb.

And then, in the midst of what is going on in church and within the church year, life happens. Sometimes we are surrounded by great joy in the middle of the Easter Triduum, which is that three-day period between Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday. So we have to balance that joy with the grief of what we are experiencing in our faith as we await Christ’s resurrection. And sometimes, in a more heartbreaking turn of events, we experience pain and sadness in our own lives during the Easter celebration and we have to balance that sorrow with the hope of resurrection.

A very good friend of my family has been valiantly fighting cancer for the past two years and she got some bad news this week. Tuesday afternoon she went in for surgery and while she was in surgery, I went to pick up Harrison from daycare. He fell asleep on the way home and took his car seat out of the car, I noticed he was clutching his Peter bunny blanket that she gave him, which is very similar to the blue bunny blanket she gave me when I was a baby that I carried around for most of my childhood.

And in that moment, I was really struck by how hard it is to sometimes to experience the paradoxes of life. Because I looked at my sweet baby boy and I felt such joy and gratitude, but saw that bunny and was reminded of that sadness that is also very much present in a different part of my life right now.

I know I am not the only one that feels that juxtaposition. Those highs are high and, for that, I am always so grateful, but sometimes those lows just feel so low. In life and in faith, these paradoxes are hard to reconcile. This week, as we go from the high of Palm Sunday to the low of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday once again to the high of Easter Sunday, we will have to reconcile that paradox.

As your pastor, I’m sure I am supposed to have some great wisdom about how to do this, but the truth is, I am still trying to figure it out myself.

But here is the conclusion I came to this week: We have to live in each moment. When we are experiencing joy and triumph and resurrection, we need to allow ourselves to feel that joy, feel that triumph and feel that resurrection. And when we are experiencing grief and pain and sadness, it is just as okay to feel that grief, feel that pain and feel that sadness.

This is something that Jesus, himself, demonstrated. To the very end, he was fully present in each and every moment. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fully present in that moment; seeing those palm branches waving, hearing those shouts of, Hosanna! He did not pause and tell people, again, what was going to happen to him or beg them to follow him and somehow put a stop to it. He experienced the triumph of that moment.

Later this week, we will remember the Feast of the Passover. And in this moment, Jesus gathered with his disciples, men he knew were going to deny him, betray him and abandon him. But he did not cast them out, he did not punish them; he sat around a table and shared a meal with them. Fully present in that moment, he broke bread, he poured wine and he told they could always remember him when they did the same. He experienced the friendship of that moment.

When Jesus was eventually put to death on the cross, even though he knew that death would not have the final word, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and experienced the pain of that crucifixion.

I have always been struck by Jesus’ obedience throughout this narrative, but I realized this week, as I was thinking about the emotional rollercoaster Jesus must have experienced in his final moments, how remarkable it was that Jesus remained present in each moment as it was happening.

This is a really powerful lesson for all of us to hold onto as we struggle in our own lives to find a way to balance the highs and lows. As we experience the triumph of this Palm Sunday, but then the sorrow of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday later this week, but then also the joy of Easter Sunday next weekend, we will be reminded that God is present in all of those moments; that through Christ’s active presence in each moment, God was faithful and through our own active presence in each of the moments of our lives, God will be faithful to us, as well.

If you are experiencing pain or sorrow in your life right now, if you are anxious about something, if you are grieving or if you are feeling fear, first of all, know that – here, at this church – you are loved, you are being prayed for and you are not alone. But I also hope that, with God’s help, you will be able to experience the triumph of Palm Sunday this morning and the victory of Easter next weekend. Because this is the Good News that brings us new life; these are the moments that remind us, that even in the darkest of places, light will always shine.

And I hope you consider joining us this week, on Thursday evening for our Maundy Thursday Worship & Service of Tenebrae where we will share communion and then remember the last moments of Jesus’ life as the Passion Narrative is read and then Friday evening for our Good Friday Potluck Dinner and Round Table Discussion, where we will remember Christ as we break bread together and discuss his life, death and resurrection.

I know that sometimes this story can be a hard one to hear.

But it is also such an important story; not only to tell, but also to experience.

Together, we will journey through the emotional rollercoaster that is Holy Week. And as we journey through Holy Week together, we will be reminded that we are the Body of Christ, that we enact our faith through this church and that as we experience the highs and lows of life, we are not alone.

We are never alone.

So do not be afraid to be present in every moment in your life. Feel gratitude in the highs, cling tightly to your faith in the lows and know that as you hold those paradoxes in balance, God is faithful.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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