It Is Good For Us To Be Here

Hi friends!  I am a little bit behind in posting (what else is new) but we have had a tough couple of weeks at the church and spend a lot of time just loving my people and walking through that with them.

Here is my sermon from March 3rd – Transfiguration Sunday!  It was Mardi Gras Sunday at RCC and we had a blast!  I just got the photos back so I’ll post more about it later.

Enjoy!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
March 3, 2019

Mark 9:2-13

It Is Good For Us To Be Here

Friends, it has not been an easy week.

On Wednesday morning, Mark “Zippy” Johnson – son of Bob, brother of Rob – passed away after a six-month battle with cancer. This has been a very difficult year for the Johnson family; this loss comes six months after the loss of their mom, Phyllis, who passed away in August.

And on Wednesday evening, Lou Peranzi – husband of Kim, father of Nick, Catie and John – passed away after valiantly fighting cancer for two years.  Lou was a devoted member of the Rehoboth Congregational Church.  He donated his time, both to the church and also to the mission work that happened outside of our doors.  He was the fearless leader of Lou’s Crew, the kitchen crew that, year after year, joyfully cooked and served the Turkey Supper at our annual bazaar.  Marj Morrell messaged me from Florida on Friday morning and said, “To know Lou was to love him; he had a way of making every contact he made feel special and cared for.  He was a gift to all of us.”

It did not feel right to stand up here and preach this morning, business as usual; because it is not business as usual.  Right now, in this moment, our church – our village – is feeling the pain of these losses.  We are feeling the true depths of our brokenness as human beings.

And yet, it is because of our brokenness that we need to gather in the first place.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday, which is the Sunday before Lent begins, which is the 40-day season before Easter.  It is on this Sunday that we tell the story of Jesus’ transfiguration; where he brings Peter, James and John up on a high mountain and transforms before their very eyes.  Scripture tells us in this story that Jesus’ clothes become a dazzling white and the prophets Elijah and Moses appear next to Jesus, talking to him. Then a cloud moves over them and from that cloud a voice says, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

It is in this transfiguration story that we see not only who Jesus is, but also who Jesus has the capacity to be.

This year, I have been struck by Peter’s words after Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus.

Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.

I think these words are especially poignant for us, today, as we gather for worship – as we gather as the village, as the Church, as the Body of Christ.  It is good for us to be here.

I was trying to figure out why Peter says this and the best I can come up is that is was customary, in adherence with Greek traditions, to build a shrine on the site of the epiphany of a deity.  So when Peter says, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,” he means that it is good that they are there so they can build shrines for all three of them.

But, of course, it is not about building shrines; it is about listening to Jesus, it is about learning from Jesus and it is about living out Jesus’ Gospel so that his message of redemption might be passed on from generation to generation.

It was good for Peter, James and John to be on that mountain; to bear witness to the power of Jesus’ transformation in the world. And it is good for us today to be here today; to bear witness to the power Jesus’ transformation in our world, in our lives, in our community.

It is good for us to be here today.  It is good for us to be here so that we can share in one another’s grief; so that we can weep with one another, carry one another’s sorrow and know that we are not alone.  It is good for us to be here so that we can hug one another and look one another in the eyes and see just how real love is.

It is good for us to be here so that we can gather around a table – a communion table and a potluck Mardi Gras table – and break bread together.  It is good for us to be here so that we can sing songs that will fill this sanctuary with joy and praise, even in the midst of heartache.  It is good for us to be here so that we can pray boldly and know that God hears those prayers.

It is good for us to be so that we can be the church that we are and also dream about the church that we have the capacity to be. It is good for us to be here so that we can proclaim a message of love and inclusivity, so that we can create a church that is meaningful, relevant and accessible to all.  It is good for us to be here so that we can proclaim a Gospel of healing to a world that is very much broken.  It is good for us to be here so that we can do church together.

It is good for us to be here so that we, too, can bear witness to the ways not only that Christ can be transformed, but that we can be transformed in Christ.

Today is Mardi Gras Sunday.  Mardi Gras is actually on Tuesday; Lent begins on Wednesday, Ash Wednesday.  And I would encourage you this Lenten season to, like Peter, James and John, “be here”.  To bear witness to the presence of Christ in every part of your life.  To show up so that you can ask questions and deepen your faith.  To see the presence of Christ in others and make sure that others can see the presence of Christ in you.  To help others in their times of need.  To help heal our broken world.  To know that we are not alone on this journey.

It is good for us to be here.

Blessings on your Lenten season.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Pray Boldly

We had such a special morning at RCC! I presided over a double baptism – a mother and son. It felt different to gather around the font with someone who was coming to it of their own free will.  Don’t get me wrong – I love infant baptisms, they are honestly one of my favorite things in the world to do.  But this was special and it felt like such a privilege to have the opportunity to preside over this moment.

If you are looking for the video I talk about in my sermon, you can find it here.

Enjoy!

***

Sarah Weaver

Rehoboth Congregational Church

Rehoboth, MA

February 24, 2019

 

Mark 10:46-52

 

Pray Boldly

My star word this year is affirmation.

When I first shared that, Deb Woodard reminded me of a video that went viral about ten years ago of an adorable curly-haired four-year-old girl standing on the counter in her bathroom, in her pajamas, looking in the mirror saying her daily affirmations.

My whole house is great!
I can do anything good!
I like my school!
I like my dad!
I like my mom!
I like my sister!
I like my hair!
I like my stuff!
I like my room!
I like my whole house!
I can do anything good!

Google, “Jessica’s Daily Affirmation” when you get home today, it will be well-worth the 49 seconds of your life.

So at first, I thought perhaps this year I could try to start the day with my own daily affirmations.

I love my family!
I love my church!
I love my house!
I can do anything!

Not a bad idea, right?

Then Dave DaSilva chimed in on the discussion about my star word and suggested that, perhaps, my word, affirmation, meant that other people were supposed to affirm the things I said.

So then I promptly asked him if he would make the King Cake again for Mardis Gras.

Which he really had no choice but to then affirm.

A few days later I was listening to a podcast; and the host was talking to her guest about how to be more confident and successful in business.  They were talking about the fact that if you set your goals in a tangible and public way – if you write them down and post them somewhere where you can see them, if you tell other people what they are, if you are bold in claiming your intentions and your gifts that are going to get you to them – that you have a better chance at being successful in reaching those goals.

The reason this whole conversation peeked my interest was because then the host said something to the effect of, “These affirmations of who we are and what we want to do are so important.”

And there was my star word, affirmation.

I think the point they were trying to make was that so often people shy away from setting goals in a tangible and public way because they are afraid of what might happen if they do not reach them. But if you want something – if you want to accomplish something, if you want to do something – you have to put it out there.  You have to be bold in your affirmations of who you are and who you want to be.

But that is scary, right?  Because what if you fall short?  What if you put something out there and it does not happen?

I was thinking about this discussion when I first looked at this week’s scripture reading, the healing of Bartimaeus, a blind man.  Y’all know I wrestle with these healing stories – there have been several of them in the Gospel of Mark and every time I have reflected on them I have either eluded to or begged the question, but what if healing does not happen?

We live in a world where the reality is that sometimes healing does not happen the way that we want it to.  Our own community is constantly wrestling with this. Our bodies are human and imperfect and they fail and there is an element of randomness in the world that is often unfair.

And I have to be honest:  Sometimes I have a hard time praying for the healing that I want, but know might not be possible, because I do not want to have to eventually wonder why my prayers were not answered.

In the same way that I sometimes have a hard time saying my goals out loud because I do not want to not reach my goals, I sometimes have a hard time praying for the really big, miraculous, seemingly-impossible stuff because I do not want my prayers to notbe answered.

I am a very practical person; and this means that sometimes it is challenging for me to be bold in my prayers.  I pray for wisdom, I pray for courage, I pray for comfort and I pray for grace in the midst of the struggle and a healing that surpasses understanding – but sometimes I have a hard time praying for that big miracle because, if it does not happen, I do not want to think that God was not listening.

In this morning’s scripture reading, Bartimaeus is bold in his prayers.

I love this story so much.  Jesus and his disciples are en route to Jerusalem and – even though the stakes are high and time is of the essence – there is still healing that needs to be done and we see it here, as Bartimaeus sits on the side of road and shouts out, “Jesus … have mercy on me!”

Bartimaeus is blind; he a beggar; he has no power or stature in society.  As he shouts for Jesus, people try to silence him.

And yet, that only makes him shout louder.

And when Jesus finally hears him and has the disciples call to him, Bartimaeus throws off his cloak, springs up, comes to Jesus and boldly asks, “My teacher, let me see again.”

Bartimaeus is bold in his prayers.  He does not care that he is an outcast and that people are trying to silence him.  He does not care that he is blind and that he is asking for a miracle that is nearly impossible to comprehend in our human world.  All he knows is that he is standing in the presence of Christ and that somehow, someway healing is possible.

We should all be so bold in our prayers.

Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’  The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again,’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’  Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:51-52, NRSV)

The skeptic in me wants to say, but what if healing is not possible?  But this story reminds us that, in faith, we are called to pray boldly anyway. Because you know those really big, miraculous, seemingly-impossible prayers?  Those are God-sized prayers.  Those are bold prayers.

We are called, even in the midst of our own struggles and adversities, to be bold in our prayers.  We are called to cry out to Jesus by name – and to cry even louder when others try to silence us.  We are called to throw off the cloaks that cover us and, with the same haste of Bartimaeus, spring up so that we can stand in Christ’s presence and ask to be healed.

We cannot hesitate.

We cannot be timid in what we are asking.

We cannot be afraid of what might happen if our prayers are not answered the way we want them to.

We have to be bold.

We have to affirm that we are worthy of what we are asking God to do in our lives.

Because we are worthy.  If there is one thing that this story teaches us – the story a man who has been cast out of society, yet is still worthy of having Jesus call him by name and heal him – it is that we, too, are worthy.

I would hate for any of us – whether it is out of fear or realism or skepticism – to miss out on the opportunity to have God transform our lives through the power of prayer.

The reality is, we do not know how our prayers are going to be answered.  We do not know if miracles are going to come in the way and form and timeline that we ask for.

But we have to be bold in asking.

This morning I empower you – I embolden you – to be like Bartimaeus and be bold in your prayers.  Do not be afraid to throw off your cloak, to spring up and to stand before Jesus in prayer.  Affirm not only who you are, but who you need God to be and what you need God to do in your life.  Do not let anything – or anyone – hold you back.  Give your prayers to God in the most vulnerable and real way.

Because you never know how God will take those prayers and transform your life.

What is something you have always been afraid to pray for?

Pray boldly for that.

What is something that you desperately what, but think is impossible?

Pray boldly for that.

What is something that has the capacity to change your life?

Pray boldly for that.

Be confident.

Be faithful.

Be bold.

And may we, like Bartimaeus after he receives his sight, follow Jesus on the way.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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Finding Greatness In Discipleship

Hi friends!  Here is my sermon from this morning.  If you are preaching on this text and looking for a children’s sermon, I had all the kids wear crowns and we talked about what we would do if we were kings and queens and princes and princesses and then I talked about how Jesus said if we want to be great that we first have to serve others.  I charged the kids (and later the adults) to do at least one thing to serve others this week.

Enjoy!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
February 17, 2019

Mark 10:32-45

Finding Greatness In Discipleship

Okay, guys I had a moment this week.

I was having lunch with a friend of mine at Patriot Place and when we walked out of the restaurant, she said that she was going to go to Bath and Body Works to buy some soap.  I told her I was going to go with her, because I wanted to smell the new aromatherapy scents, but that I was not going to buy anything because – between by house and my office – I currently have plenty of aromatherapy lotion options in my life.

See exhibit A.

And also – for those of you who are keeping track – I literally just last weekend, preached a sermon about the stuff in our lives and how perhaps maybe it might not be a bad thing to either weed out the stuff we have or think twice before we acquire more stuff.

Right?

This is what I said last week:

When we stop and ask ourselves if we really need either what we are thinking of purchasing or getting rid of, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to calibrate our priorities.

What really matters?

The stuff we have accumulated?  The stuff we want?  The stuff our consumerist society is telling us we need?  The stuff somebody else has that we are now coveting?

Or our relationship with God?  Our faith?  Our ability to serve others?  The kingdom of God that we have the capacity to create right here on earth?

So there I was at Bath and Body Works, meandering through the aromatherapy section.

And then the saleswoman came up to me:

Just so you know, all of the lotions in the aromatherapy line are $6 today.

$6.

Y’all, they are usually $13.50.

So let me tell you about the moment when I came very close to needing an extra long time of confession this morning.

I did not buy the lotion. And, if I am being very honest with you all, I did not buy the lotion not because I thought rationally about the fact that I already have five bottles of the stuff and should use those before I get more, but mostly because there was a little voice in my head that said, you know, you probably should not buy something you do not actually need four days after you told your congregation not to do the same thing.

And also three days before you have to face them again.

So I did not buy the lotion.

Even though I really wanted to.

Sometimes even the preacher misses her own point.

In this morning’s scripture reading from the Gospel of Mark, James and John – the sons of Zebedee – kind of miss the point as well.

Now, for the sake of understanding the Gospel as a whole (since that is one of the reasons we are doing this Year of Mark), let us familiarize ourselves with who these men are.  They are disciples.  We are introduced to James and John very early on in the Gospel of Mar, in the first chapter.  They are fishermen-turned-disciples whom Jesus calls to follow him when they are fishing on the Sea of Galilee with their father, Zebedee in the first chapter of Mark.  Jesus later appoints them, in chapter three, alongside ten others, to proclaim the message and have the authority to cast out demons.

In addition to all of the miracles and healings and teachings that all of the disciples witness in the Gospel of Mark, James and John are two of the three disciples whom Jesus allows to enter with him into the house of the leader of the synagogue, where the man’s daughter is presumed to be dead, but is restored to life.  They are also two of the three disciples who bear witness to Jesus’ transfiguration, where he appears on a mountain with Elijah and Moses. We will hear that story in two weeks, on Mardi Gras.

So I guess you could say that these brothers kind of have a leg up (if you would call it that) going into this conversation with Jesus.  But here is where they miss the point.  For the third time, Jesus foretells his death and resurrection.  He tells the disciples that they are going to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man is going to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes and where he will be put to death and then three days later he will rise again.

And instead of asking, perhaps, how they can prepare themselves for this moment or what this might mean for this ministry they have been commissioned into, James and John say to Jesus, okay, well you just make sure that we are at your right and left hand, in all your glory.

So here you have Jesus saying, you guys need to pay attention, because your whole world is about to be turned upside down.  Then you have James and John saying, okay, well we want to make sure we are on top when all of that happens.

And honestly, I could criticize James and John for missing Jesus’ point that it is not about gaining power, but about Jesus’ ministry and this kingdom they are creating, but then I almost bought a sixth bottle of hand lotion that I did not need this week, so I think one moral of the story is that we all have moments in our faith journey where we miss the point.

So what is the point?

Jesus says this is not about power, but about discipleship; it is about service.

Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.  For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.  For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. Mark 10:43-45

For Jesus, the sense of urgency in these words comes from the fact that he knows what is going to happen in Jerusalem.  Later on, for the writers of the Gospel, the sense of urgency in these words came from the fact that Christians were facing persecution.  So you can see why it was so important that the disciples – and later on, the earliest Christians – to not miss the point that Christianity is about humble service and not about climbing to the top.  The stakes were really high; people’s lives were at stake.

I would argue that it is equally important for us today for us not to miss the point that Christianity is not about power and about trying to climb to the top and declare ourselves glorified; it is about humble servanthood.  It is about helping others.  It is about putting the needs of others before the wants and the desires of yourself. It is about being willing to get your hands dirty and do the hard work that Jesus says is required to be great.

It is hard, because we live in a country where, most of the time, we cannot even conceptualize our own privilege; and we are surrounded by this narrative of The American Dream and gaining more and climbing the ladder and that that is what it means to be great.

It is funny (well, not funny haha, but funny ironic) because this narrative even seeps into our church. How do we measure greatness in the church?  We quantify it with numbers:  Do we have more people in worship?  How many new members did we bring in?  How much money did we raise?

And Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant.”

Greatness is found in servanthood; it is found in service to God and in service to others.  Greatness is not found in how much money we have or how powerful we are or how important we think we are; greatness is found in what we are doing to help others and to make this world a better place. Greatness is found in what we are doing to spread the Gospel and to create the Kingdom of God here on earth. Greatness is found when we shine God’s light into the darkness of the world and when we share God’s love in real and tangible ways so that hate and evil do not win.  Greatness is found when we humble ourselves; when we become the hands and the feet and the face and the voice of Christ.

Not when we glorify ourselves.

I was working on my sermon on Friday and my sister texted me and told me there was an active shooter in Illinois, so I opened CNN to see if there were any updates and, I have to be honest, I got a lot more news than I wanted to know.

Our world is broken.

Our world so desperately needs the Gospel to not only be proclaimed, but to be acted out in real and profound and, yes, sometimes hard ways.

Into every generation, Christians are called to do just this.  We are called to do just this.  We are called to be servants, to enact the Gospel and to try to make this world a better place.

And are we always going to get it right the first time?  No, of course not.  Sometimes we will miss the point and have to be reminded and try again; the disciples did then and we will again, today.  But this is one of the reasons that we gather, as a community of faith; so that we can hold one another accountable.  This is why we do church.

So that we can try again. So we can strengthen our faith. So we can learn what it means to be Christ’s disciples.

This morning, I charge you with the same thing Jesus is charging the disciples with:  Go out and serve others.  Be in the presence of Christ by living out the Gospel and by making the world a better place.  Find greatness in discipleship.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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