A sermon preached before the congregation at Hamilton Park UCC, Lancaster, PA on November 22, 2015 by Rev. Catherine M. Shiley
“Thy Kingdom Come” ~ John 18:33-37
Here’s a little “preaching secret” I’ll share with you … When I sit down to begin my sermon preparations each week, one of my favorite tasks is to go to the websites where different preachers weigh in with their commentary on the scriptures of the week.
Hands down, the best part of their writings involve stories – real-life stories from their own lives or others’ lives. These are stories that are in some way connected – in their minds, at least – with the scriptures of the day and they are often delightful – sometimes worth sharing, sometimes not.
Rev. Tripp Martin of Day 1 ministries tells the following story related to this morning’s Gospel reading … Read the rest of this entry »
A sermon preached before the congregation at Hamilton Park UCC, Lancaster, PA on November 15, 2015 by Rev. Catherine M. Shiley
“Holy Ground” ~ Mark 13:1-8; 1 Samuel 1:4-20
Please join me in a word of prayer … Loving God, your Word is a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love. Amen.
Over the course of the past two Sundays, we’ve taken a look at some scripture texts that are often used one way, when, in reality, something else was intended when they were written. Two weeks ago Ruth told her mother-in-law Naomi “wherever you go, I will go. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” The temptation to use this scripture in weddings is strong – if we forget that marriage is a two-way proposition, with both parties giving AND receiving, while Ruth’s offer puts her in the position of being the only one doing the giving in the relationship.
Last Sunday, we considered the widow who gave “all she had to live on” to the temple treasury. Again, we resisted the temptation to misuse this text as a lead-in for a sermon on stewardship, when our style of stewardship – be it a 10% tithe or something similar – comes nowhere close to giving our all. Instead, we considered this widow’s relationship to Jesus’s own all-encompassing gift.
Well, today is a different story! “What large stones and what large buildings!” There’s a stewardship sermon lurking there and it’s time for us to explore it. Think about it … We love bold. We love big. We love better. That’s the human motto, in every form, it seems. The bigger, the better. The disciples are no different than we are and we are no different than the disciples were back then. Read the rest of this entry »
A meditation preached before the congregation at Hamilton Park UCC, Lancaster, PA on November 8, 2015 by Rev. Catherine M. Shiley
“Better Off?” ~ Mark 12:38-44
Please join me in prayer ….. “Holy God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.”
“Everything she had.” That’s what she gave. Not a portion. Not a tithe. Not a percentage. The Greek is clear. She gave “all she had to live on.” Her whole living.
Her whole living? Is that even fathomable? None of us can give that to the church, or to anyone or to anything, for that matter. So we can’t reduce her donation to a percentage or a portion. We can’t rationalize her offering for the sake of dedication to a stewardship campaign, as we’re so often tempted to do with this story. Mark is telling us that she gave her whole life to God. If we turn this into a stewardship sermon, we have most certainly succeeded in undermining this widow’s gift.
Her whole life. Why would she do that? Out of obligation? Respect? Demand? Expectation? Religiosity? Piety? All of the above? She gave her whole life because there were no other options. She gave her whole life because that’s what was expected of her. She gave her whole life because her life literally depended on it. Caught in a system of quid pro quo, trapped in expectations that demanded more from her than she could practically give, knowing that her future depended on her present, she had to do what she did. She acted out of assumptions and assertions and assessments that located her, managed her, and determined her life. There was no other recourse than to give her whole life. Read the rest of this entry »
A sermon preached before the congregation at Hamilton Park UCC on November 1, 2015 by Rev. Catherine M. Shiley
“Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength” ~ Ruth 1:1-18, Mark 12:28-34
Please join me in a word of prayer … Eternal God, in the reading of the scripture, may your word be heard; in the meditations of our hearts, may your word be known; and in the faithfulness of our lives, may your word be shown. Amen.
In her commentary on this morning’s scriptures, the Rev. Anna Shirey asks …
“How many of you remember that children’s story about the little bunny who decides to run away? He tells his mother his plan, but she responds that wherever he goes she will follow. He says he’ll turn himself into a fish, a rock on the mountain, a crocus, a sailboat, and a number of other things to try to get away.
But his mother says she will turn herself into a fisherman, a mountain climber, a gardener, the wind (and other things) so she can find him. At the end of this conversation the little bunny says, “Shucks. I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.” To which his mother offers him a carrot.
Call me sentimental, but I’ve always loved this story of the rebellious child and the persistent mother. It provides us with a useful metaphor of the unfailing power of love – a love that refuses to give up, and even wrecks our best intentions to escape. It reminds me, frankly, of today’s reading from the Hebrew scriptures– the story of Ruth. Read the rest of this entry »
A sermon preached before the congregation at Hamilton Park UCC on October 18, 2015 by Rev. Catherine M. Shiley
“A Life of Service” ~ Job 38:1-7, 34-41
Please join me in a word of prayer … “Loving God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.”
Earlier this month, a gunman went on a shooting rampage at a community college in Oregon, millions of Syrian refugees fled a bloody civil war where thousands have been killed, and we were reminded again that there have been more gun deaths in the United States since 1968 than in all U.S. wars combined. These are some pretty sobering facts, to put it lightly.
But it is also statistically true that we are living in the most peaceful and least violent time in human history. Read the rest of this entry »
A meditation preached before the congregation at Hamilton Park UCC, Lancaster, PA on October 11, 2015 by Rev. Catherine M. Shiley
“True Comfort” ~ Mark 10:17-31
The tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel is one that’s often referred to as a lesson in stewardship. It’s not quite stewardship season in the church, but it’s coming up on us pretty quickly. Can we just admit that most of us aren’t very good at doing stewardship? I know that sounds like an awful thing for me to say, but hear me out.
First, by “us” I mean both pastors and everybody else. With regard to pastors, most of us are not all that wild about preaching stewardship. It makes us uncomfortable. It feels like a departure from simple proclamation of the “Good News.” We feel it puts our own giving under the spotlight. It feels self-serving in that our salaries come from the offerings of people we are encouraging to give. Read the rest of this entry »
A meditation preached before the congregation at Hamilton Park UCC, Lancaster, PA on September 27, 2015 by Rev. Catherine M. Shiley
“These Little Ones” ~ Mark 9:42-50
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.” Wow!
These are some of the harshest, most no-nonsense words we hear Jesus speak in the gospel accounts of his ministry. And they are followed by some even harsher words –
* if your hand causes you to stumble ….. cut it off!
* if your foot causes you to stumble ….. cut it off!
* if your eye causes you to stumble ….. pluck it out!
Again, wow! Is this what you signed up for when you joined the church? Because, frankly, I’m having second thoughts! Read the rest of this entry »
A meditation preached before the congregation at Hamilton Park UCC, Lancaster, PA on September 13, 2015 by Rev. Catherine M. Shiley
“Lives Lost in Service” ~ Mark 8:27-38
Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers ……”
Strange words to us, since being a follower is not something we typically encourage in our culture. I know of no college commencement speaker congratulating the graduates on becoming the “followers of tomorrow.” Nobody gives awards to recognize the contributions of community followers. Nobody frames their résumé to highlight where they exercised strong “followership” in their work. Nobody’s heart swells with pride when a teacher comes up to them and says, “You know, your child is a real follower.”
In fact, when “following” comes up at all, it’s usually negative. Don’t be a follower, be a leader. Don’t follow the crowd. Being a follower is weak and passive. It’s for people who can’t think or act for themselves. Being a follower is for losers. And so it goes. Read the rest of this entry »
A sermon preached before the congregation at Hamilton Park UCC, Lancaster, PA on September 6, 2015 by Rev. Catherine M. Shiley
“Stories of Love and Healing” ~ Mark 7:24-37
Please join me in a word of prayer … “Loving God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.”
Most folks who worship here regularly know that somewhere late in April I had a pretty significant arthritis flare up in my left knee. For a short time … and it was a very short time … I was able to limp along, pretending everything was just fine.
Sometime in May, however, I realized it would probably be wise to use a cane for support. By the time I began sabbatical on June 1st, I was in over my head with excruciating pain and actually willing to admit it.
So I did what we all do when we’re in over our heads … saw a doctor, who of course ordered physical therapy. I spent three mornings a week all summer at the physical therapist’s – first four weeks with the therapist and then – and still – in a program cleverly called the “medically adaptive gym”!
I’m afraid I’m in it for life! Several years ago, when I had my original bout with arthritis – in my ankle that time – I got to feeling better and simply stopped going to the therapy gym. That was good for a while but we see what happened, don’t we? Read the rest of this entry »
Roadblocks, Speed Bumps, and Rest Stops:
How God Is Still Speaking In My Life
By Deb Frailey
Medical professionals and counselors have described and advised that the grief process is represented as a wheel or circle. I can understand the concept but real life grief doesn’t fit into a circle for me. I can see their reasoning; a circle has no end and grief never completely goes away or ends. But if a circle has no ending then it has no beginning or starting point either (once it is formed). So this is where I cannot agree with the whole circle or wheel of grief…My grief had a definite starting point; a life changing moment which initially felt like a near-fatal wound followed by unanswered prayers and hopelessness. It was like my life as I knew it was struck by a wrecking ball and my grief journey over the last eight years has included learning how to pick up the pieces, the wreckage of my life, and figuring out how they fit back together. My life that was not ever going to be same. We lost our 5 year old son to a choking accident…when we hugged and kissed him goodbye on the morning of April 5th, 2007, as Peter and I left for an overnight fishing trip, it was the last time we would see his big brown eyes open, hear his voice, and see him smile. Read the rest of this entry »