Sermon Preached on August 16, 2015

What do you think of when I say the word time?

 

Wish I had more, “Time is of the essence”, a watch perhaps, ain’t got nothing but time, there isn’t enough time in a day, there’s always tomorrow. Or Are you thinking about the beautiful grandfather clock you have or a loved one had that takes you to memories of time past as you remember the chimes on the hour? Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon Preached on 08/09/2015

There are references to Moses in our passages about the bread of life and I am  messages from Jesus. Tied together with the manna and bread, bread continues to be a staple product in many homes even today. On our time, we find less home baked bread and more than 60 varieties or brands of bread in our grocery stores. 

 

Bread as we talked about last week can be used for anything from sandwiches and casseroles to a side dish to many meals. Our scripture today leads us further into the conversation with Jesus as he shares in depth just what it means to believe that he is the bread of life. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon Preached on 08/02/2015

In the Gospel of John we began last week focusing on what Jesus can do far beyond a human king – like walking on water and leading the disciples to safety for instance,

We are today hearing more of Jesus teachings. For generations ancestors shared the stories of the likes of Moses who led people out of Egypt and called upon God to give them manna and now there is Jesus feeding the multitudes. Read the rest of this entry »

July 26, 2015

Last week our Gospel reading was from the book of Mark focusing on Jesus and the Disciples traveling, Jesus Compassion and his teaching. We focused on the kind of leader Jesus is. In today’s Gospel of John we see an extension of this using less in the form of words and more in the form of actions or situations. Over the next few weeks we will be concentrating on the bread of life provided in detail in the Gospel of John.

 The writer of John provides a little more detail on feeding the five thousand and Jesus walking on water to the disciples in the boat – in the middle of a storm. The feeding of the five thousand is written in all 4 Gospels of the New testament 6 times which makes me think it is a pretty important story. I invite you to check out all six over the coming weeks. Read the rest of this entry »

July 19, 2015 Sermon

A June 2012 article in The New York Times apparently struck a nerve for many people. The article received over 800 comments and was often quoted and retweeted. The following quote captures the essence of the author’s analysis of what he calls “the busy trap.”

 

If you live in America in the 21st century, you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.” Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon July 12, 2015

 Hamilton Park United Church of Christ

7-12-2015

Melissa Burkhart, Sabbatical Interim

Where do we fit in? I mean how are we inspired, or bothered, nudged by the world? 

Life seems a constant faith and faithful living struggle.

 Power is the status quo whether by position or perception, unless holding the power gets us in trouble with those greater than us, or the divine. Take Adam and Eve for instance, Adam pointed the finger at Eve.

 Herod couldn’t disappoint his daughter. He must stand by his word even if he doesn’t believe it. Pilot succumbs to the crowds when Jesus is sentenced to death. Rulers/kings in the ancient world were always surmising the rising stars wondering – who was going to take their places. Sometimes even letting others know the place of power they had. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon July 5, 2015

Hamilton Park United Church of Christ

Sermon June 5, 2015

Melissa Burkhart, Sabbatical Interim

 

Leaving home envelops a mixed bag of feelings for all involved. Should we view this from the parent and child perspective, we nurture our children, feed and teach them, supporting our children in all they; do guiding them to go out in the world on their own.

For some of us, the thought of leaving home can be unnerving. I have never done this before! Who will cook? How will I manage my money, my time? Before long we realize we are capable and soar through life learning who we are as individuals. For some the gentle prodding to push forward helps us realize capabilities of more than we thought. Growth and change happens. There is joy in learning about oneself and our capabilities.

There is pride in knowing first that I am capable of caring for myself, yet in the same way, my gifts are not equal to everyone else. I am truly dependent on others who have strengths different than I do. For example, some of us have what is known as a green thumb and others like me have a thumb that is better at helping my fingers to pick up the harvest verses the planting and tending. Therefore dependent on the local grocer. Living on our own exposes our weaknesses too. All have strengths and weaknesses and there can be joy in the learning. This is similar to homecomings. Homecomings can be both delightful and tricky. The prodigal son was not good at financial matters or money in general. He came home realizing that and wanted to rebuild what he had lost in a safe place, the home of his parents. Looking deeper into the story of the prodigal son we read a combination of mixed feelings. First regarding the younger sons choices, and his fathers desire to throw him a party to celebrate the return.  The way the older son reacts to the homecoming is a less than flattering welcome.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus has come home. The homecoming he receives is not a party, rather scripture tells us, and people took offense to him. No hospitality. For Jesus, he is proclaiming the good news with passion that is not well received in his hometown, he is remembered as Jesus, the carpenter, one who works with his hands. Sometimes when we come home after being out on our own, change occurs. There are certain expectations when one returns home. Our family may be a little older and all is well with an expectation that we are the same person we were when we left.

This weeks Mark story is in contrast to last week when Jesus was walking to the home of Jarius’ among the crowds. People trusted in his words so much that a woman touched his garment as he passed by and in light of her faith, he healed her. This man was known and sought after for sharing his passion. This was not type of reception in this story. Mark writes he could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few people and heal them. 

 

Our Markan gospel shifts then to Jesus sending out the twelve disciples as guests that I find requires a lot of faith. Going with a friend or partner to new places with no money or food and without an extra coat is an understanding by disciples to rely on the hospitality of others. Prayer trust and faith in a cause greater than oneself is needed as the disciples went out preaching and sharing the gospel. Their strengths at this time may have been many, however the focus was on teaching the gospel while depending on others for hospitality and food. 

Let’s stop here for a moment and process this, Have you ever had someone offer to help you and because you didn’t want to impose or possibly seem weak, you decline? Quite possibly we may find we are in need of the helpful response. We remain in control of our system and find it difficult to hand something’s over. Giving up control is difficult and being a recipient of hospitality requires just that. A giving up of control. Being taken care of or providing hospitality thou is following Christ’s example.

I wonder how the disciples felt about this new expected dependency. They were evangelizing, anointing the sick and healing people.  Having a place to rest one’s head at night and food to nourish the body is necessary for continued work and good health. Did they experience the implications of inhospitable people?  Jesus provided provisions for them to shake the dust off their feet when in unwelcomed company but it takes courage to make the journey in the first place. There was trust and hope in sharing the good news for the future. God called many to spread the Good news through out the Bible some like we heard in Ezekiel this morning sent out traveling to places of rebellious people.

Ones weakness may be another’s strength and by going out in pairs, it is quite possible that the disciples complimented each other. Through a trusted companionship the disciples are speaking about God and showing their faith through their actions as well as in word. Whatever the case, there is more potential together sharing our strengths while working on individual weaknesses. In the workplace, working together in community, in our jobs and in our homes we find this effective today. I may be better at cleanup and my spouse at cooking. However great our gifts are, we individually are not good at everything. Great blessings can be in abundance when we are open to the hospitality of others.

Recently, someone shared that there are places in New England where during foliage in the fall there are no rooms available within a state. Travelers driving through Vermont without prior sleeping arrangements may have nowhere to stay. There are locals who open their homes last minute during this season to those passing through. Authentic spiritual experiences come during the least expected moments and ministry. This was no different. The experiences that deepen our faith call us to a greater dependence on God. Independence is good, and we need others for many reasons in order to survive. Our mountain top experiences, times when we feel closest to God are experiences that we own. When one experiences closeness to God, a desire for more is created. 

There is something though to the rejection of being tired and wanting a place to lay your head and hearing no! Shaking the dust off ones feet and trying not to take the rejection personally wanes as one simply wants to rest, eat and be warm. To be vulnerable takes great courage. To face the risk of the unknown and the inevitability of change in one’s life and do so freely is a challenge for any of us. Open minds for learning, trust and faith in God are necessary as is making connections through relationships. This requires introverts to be stretched from their comfort zone. The more an individual is stretched, the more one can share and express divine moments in their life encouraging others for Christ.

The Mark scripture does not give us details on the journey the disciples took including how they were received and fed. Guest requires hosts and hosts can only share the gift of hospitality with what is within the host’s capabilities. By being the guest humility is part of the package. The guest has a need and the host is the one who has something the guest needs. Humility is the recognition that while what I have to offer is limited, I recognize that even as a generous host, I do not have everything the guest might need or everything I need myself.

Abraham and Sara were awaiting their promise from God and guests that arrive at their tent. Abraham gives them a morsel of food and drink and a place to rest. We read that Abraham and Sara made it seem effortless to provide for their guests. By rushing to make a meal without boasting, they demonstrate the willingness to put others before themselves – to focus on the guests and emphasis their importance. The image of seeing themselves as servants to their guests is much different than trying to out do our company as they offer new ideas.

Though we cannot presume that hospitality is limitless it doesn’t seem the disciples would have overstayed their welcome.  Jesus had a particular job for them to do and they were to stay until their work was done. It is necessary to recognize that providing hospitality with humility is done with a sense of ones limitations while noticing the limits of all involved. It is the generosity in sharing the strengths we do have with others around us.

Jesus has a particular job for Christians today. Hospitality and humility while contained can be well received.  In order for us to grow in our faith and nurture deeper relationships in Christ, we are called to step outside our comfort zone, outside our church and share in love. God’s love!

Even though rejection is real, in the end. Love wins. May your faith in God sustain you, may you find peace and comfort serving others while accepting others help and hospitality with joy.

Amen.  

 

 

 

 

 

June 21, 2015 Sermon

Sermon:  Mark 4:26-31

Dance in the Hurricane

Thursday night the African American Episcopal Church in Lebanon had a vigil to pray for and with their sister congregation, Mother Emmanuel. A colleague and fellow UCC pastor went to the vigil both to find a space and place to share her own grief and to offer support to a community reeling from the surreal reality of the week. This pastor is not new to being in difficult situations. She’s not new to standing up and speaking out in places that might put her in danger. She’s not new to knowing that following Jesus can and does include risk. However, she had a new experience Thursday night. During a time where all gathered were invited to speak, A young white male stood in the back and said these simple words:

I was hoping that I would find a gathering like this tonight.

Chills ran down this pastor’s spine.

FEAR

FEAR followed by a barrage of what ifs

Could be’s

And back up plans

She shared with me it was her first time she truly tasted lethal fear. Lethal fear in a place where you should never have that feeling. Lethal fear that now seems reasonable after the massacre in the South Carolina AME Church.

 

It turns out that her fear was not founded. This young white man was looking for a community to grieve and lament with. This young white man was upset about the shootings. It might have been otherwise.

 

Fear can fuel otherwise.

 

Fear is a powerful emotion: it quickens the heart; heightens the senses.

Fear transforms the body. In a life or death moment, it gifts us with super human strength. It is a very real and necessary emotion for survival.

 

Over the course of a lifetime, living in a sea of fear corrodes the body. It chisels away at the immune system, strains the cardiovascular system, and eats away at energy and vitality. Fear, though necessary in some moments, can take the human out of humanity. If unchecked, fear can divide people from themselves, their families, friends, and faith.

 

Fear is a potent feeling that when worshiped leaves little room for

Rational thought

Love of neighbor

The bigger picture

Hope for a different tomorrow

God.

 

Fear convinces us that we are in our boat alone.

We need to take care of it ourselves.

Anything different from us or our plans is to be tamed, controlled, condemned—and in some cases even killed.

 

But fear–life or death, lethal fear is indeed potent.

 

It is that kind of fear that Mark first writes about in today’s Gospel passage. The disciples in the boat weren’t just afraid. They weren’t just unsure. They feared for their very lives.

 

They disciples ask Jesus–

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

That’s fear.

Life or death.

Lethal fear.

 

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

 

I imagine in addition to being afraid; they were angry. After all, it was Jesus who told them to get in the boat. It was Jesus who decided to take a siesta below board. With Jesus in the boat, they shouldn’t have had to worry about storms anyway, should they? That’s what having Jesus in your boat means, right? A map to sail a smooth course. A guarantee to glide to the other side without storms. I know I have heard a lot of Christians talking about the power of having Jesus with them.

The power of Jesus to Save. Rescue. Fix. Cure.

Except in this story, Jesus is in the boat—and they sail into a storm.

Except that following Jesus—for the disciples and for us—often means sailing into the hurricane rather than away from it.

Except for some people the storms don’t seem to stop, and their ship really does go down.

 

Storms happen–with or without Jesus in your boat.

 

In this case, the disciples don’t even ask Jesus to calm the storm. They ask if he cares what’s happening to them. From his apathy below the deck, it can seem like he doesn’t. I don’t know that I believe Jesus doesn’t care, but I can understand how the fear of the moment would lead the disciples to believe this. I also know that Jesus’ snarky questions to the disciples –Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?–

might make me feel a little mad.

 

Really? Jesus? Really?

The boat was literally being swamped.

I imagine the disciples thinking

OF COURSE WE WERE AFRAID?!?

 

It can be easy for us as 21st century people to forget that we know what the disciples are just beginning to figure out.

Jesus is not your ordinary rabbi. Jesus is the incarnation. God with us.

In this story, they witness Jesus’ authority over the wind and the rain. His authority is beyond our wildest imaginings and how he chooses to execute his power confounds and confuses.

 

With Jesus the disciples may enter storms, but it will be possible to find a peace. In the midst of the turmoil, there is a deeper peace that can be found. What we know, that the disciples don’t, is that this storm is just the beginning. It is a simple foreshadowing of what is to come. For they will follow Jesus to the end. The disciples will witness his death, and their faith will be further tested. The disciples will see what seems to be the storm conquering. But what the disciples discover, and we proclaim as the Good News is that even death does not have the last word.

We know that after crucifixion comes resurrection.

We worship a God that not only knows what it is to sail in the storm but also to go down with it.

Our God also knows what it is to be raised from this drowning.

That is the promise of our faith.

 

It can be easy to loose sight of this when fear looms large.

Let’s face it

Fear looms large right now.

We live in a culture of fear. A simple glimpse at the news is enough to make anyone paranoid about any other. See a person in a hijab. Sure enough that is a possible terrorist. See a person of color. They are taking over “our” country and a threat to the USA. See a Mexican immigrant—they want to sell drugs or take “your” job. See a police officer—they just want to brutalize people. The gospel of fear will convince you that anyone and everyone that is the least bit different from you is suspect. Go on high alert and be ready to tame, control, contain…and in some cases kill.

 

As Christians, we are not called to preach or practice the gospel of fear. We are to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

 

In a week like this, what could that possibly be?

 

Friends, this week we need to remember that the nine women and men gunned down in South Carolina are our sisters and brothers in faith. We are part of one body. And when one part hurts–ALL hurt. When one part suffers–ALL suffer. When one part is targeted or terrorized–WE all are.

 

Friends, the women and men who were murdered at Emmanuel AME are our sisters and brothers

Our mothers and fathers

Our daughters and sons.

They have perished at hands of senseless violence

Like too many of our sisters and brothers of color.

It is just one more story in a long litany of stories of violence, murder, and betrayal.

 

Do we not care that they are perishing?

 

I can understand if our sisters and brothers of color would ask us the same question that the disciples asked Jesus.

 

Do we not care that they are perishing?

 

I don’t know about you, but I know I care.

My guess and hope is that you care too.

That you care more than you know or realize.

Perhaps you too have been mired in fear

Fear of losing

Fear of risk

Fear of change

Fear of not knowing what to say or what to do

Fear of doing something wrong

For doing nothing is better than doing something wrong.

 

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase or seen the hashtag

#blacklivesmatter

I believe that hashtag is a way of asking us that question

Do you not care that we are perishing?

There has been a bit of pushback against this phrase. Most notably a counter statement that proclaims

#alllivesmatter.

To that I say, of course all lives matter!

We might do a good job of saying that

But sisters and brothers in Christ,

We had better start practicing it.

 

We can no longer afford to live in the paralysis of our fear. We are already in the storm. What matters now is how we choose to sail through it knowing that we have Jesus in the boat with us, knowing that we are not the authority over the wind and the rain, but we follow the One who does.

 

I was reminded of the importance of choosing how we sail shortly after I heard the news reports about the shooting in Charleston.

I heard a song on the radio called “The Eye” and the refrain continues to haunt me. Brandi Carlisle sings, You can dance in a hurricane

But only if you’re standing in the eye.

 

We may be in a hurricane. But I believe that our faith will lead us to the eye and keep us in the eye. Sisters and brothers from the eye we can accomplish most anything:

We can find the courage to ask for and truly listen to stories of people of color.

We can find voice to speak up, and when we see something, say something. And say it again And again, and again. Until change begins.

We can find the strength to take a stand against hate.

We can find the theological conviction to name the sins of racism and bigotry. We can name terrorism for what it is. Even when—especially when—it happens on our own soil by one of our own against one of our own.

 

Most importantly, we can find the audacity to dance. When terror strikes at the heart, we might be tempted to turn in, lock our doors, and say a prayer that it is not us or in our house. We might be tempted to turn away the other. This is the time to do just the opposite. It is time to fling our doors wide open. To take to the streets and sing the Good News at the top of our lungs. It is time to dance in the eye of the hurricane.

Sermon Preached on June 7, 2015

Impression is a complicated word.

An Artist makes impressions of objects with paper and a pencil or crayon revealing details. An impressionist painter shows his/her way of interpreting a scene, painting with unmixed primary colors in a certain way showing reflective light. Literary context in literature emphasizes mood and sensory impressions through words rather than recreating objective reality. 

A psychological impression is an event when we form a mental image of someone we encounter. I’m sure you are familiar with some of the many sayings about first impressions. “You will never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Or –“The strangest part about being famous is you don’t get to give first impressions anymore. Everyone already has an impression of you before you meet them.”

My impression of you may not be accurate if I am basing what I see, hear and feel about you on irrelevant criteria or heresay therefore inappropriately determining whether or not you are worthy of my time. Right or wrong we interpret others based on our own history and backstory, creating assumptions by we know to be true.

In our reading from 1st Samuel, Humanity called for a King and it was determined by Samuel that those calling for a human King were rejecting God. In the Gospel of Mark we see that God broke the boundaries between heaven and earth and through Jesus is bringing Gods kingdom to the people. There is a clear difference between earthy kings and scribes and this Jesus figure that is proclaiming a new and different approach. It is difficult for those in authority to perceive a positive impression since Jesus seems to be breaking all the rules.

The people who are born into priestly heritage are trying to discredit Jesus because we know in Old Testament times there were defined borders between the clean and unclean. Jesus seemed to be defying the hierarchy ranks of society and therefore was being discredited as evil. Their impression of Jesus was based on their personal knowledge and history. Impressions we know can change lives, at least the way we perceive our own and others.

This was the case of teenagers story I recently had the opportunity to hear.  What she spoke about was the impression she has on some others. It seemed there were certain actions, certain appropriate codes with which to engage this extended faith family. Much like the priests and scribes in ancient history. Respectful of their beliefs she was open to what was said.

As this artsy fourteen year old talked about her new understanding of what Christianity is to those by those she met – this gal relayed thoughts that it would be put it in a box tied neatly with a bow. This is her impression. To her this was troubling because she didn’t fit the standards. Her reaction was specifically – I know if I went on a missions trip with my church, though not old enough yet, “I bet those kids would accept me.”  Knowing because I have been there, my response was “Absolutely they would”.

In the times when the Old Testament stories were written there were also standards of the Temple and priests. If a person had a disease or was paralyzed we have learned they were considered unclean and not able to enter the Temple, some even the city. Rejected. In Biblical history there was a hierarchical understanding that priestly descendants had authority and therefore Jesus must have been teaching on evil authority because it was not what the chosen religious leaders were proclaiming.  This Jesus was choosing to heal on the Sabbath, eat with tax collectors and so on. Who is this person that is proclaiming what He is doing is the way of God?

I imagine that this young lady felt like Jesus did the day we read about in Mark where all were tightly closed in around Jesus. We have, as in the ancient history, set standards in our world that even in the most innocent of actions can show our prejudices and expectations upon first look.

I believe that there are clues through our Mark passages – people thought Jesus “crazy”. Crazy enough to go against all that religion meant to the world at large – this must be evil. Otherwise why would he be doing this? What we can see is that Jesus was teaching outside the boundaries of the Temple to bring God’s kingdom to the masses. Offering an alternative to those who had no other way of reconciling to be a part of the Kingdom. God’s kingdom.

Changing minds of those who were self minded as he ate and talked with them presented change. Good and positive change, opportunities for all. The association with those on the fringe was intended to give opportunity rather than be tainted. Jesus was not concerned that he would become unclean by spending time with others who didn’t meet the worlds standards, rather Jesus was focused on helping all people to become part of Gods family.

God preserves all in order for Gods blessings to be received. God gives all humanity the opportunity to be forgiven and receive life eternal. When the young lady I met kept hearing rejection she felt the message was clear. Listening to the heart of a teenager that longs to be accepted for who she is in the way God created her in today’s world is much how I imagine those living in the margins felt. Grateful that this Jesus would be accepting because he believes in them and in turn they believe in him.

That’s what Jesus did. He sat with, ate with spoke to and heard from others. Jesus refrained from assumptions or negative first impressions. He had the courage to push through all of the prejudice and greed to show others that what he had to offer was for real. God is here. Forgiveness is waiting for you. Everyone has the opportunity to repent of their sins and accept God. Those who do the will of God are my mother, brothers and sisters.

Much like Jesus mother brothers and sisters, I imagine they were worried about him in all the blasphemy. Mark does not make it clear, however, I know that the young lady’s mother was worried for her babe. I see this passage to say that Jesus was teaching even in this moment. When we are sharing the love freely given through our commitment to God, our family continues to grow beyond our blood relatives. Who are your brothers and sisters? They are abundant any many around the world.

We are ministered to and minister to others daily. Our families, friends, coworkers, neighbors and even our communities gather together to fill a need, pray for healing, and build hope in the name of Jesus beyond the walls of this church community that we hold dear to our heart. We celebrate living out our covenant with God, the church and others sharing the Gospel, giving a helping hand and showing love, Gods Love.

Next week we have a group of work campers leaving for Staten Island to continue reconstruction work. Excited for these adults and youth reaching out to help others with no reward, continuing what Jesus began is a blessing to them as individuals, their families and the church they represent. We welcome new ways our congregation is able to reach out to the greater community and there’s more. You. Each of us as individuals has the capacity to take Jesus from this community, serving others with your words, actions and love. Jesus equipped his disciples to do what he could no longer do as the resurrected Christ as he was ascending to the father. 

Whether this teenager new it or not she was ministering to me through her story. I wanted to tell her you are beautiful and accepted for who you are. My part in that conversation was to truly listen. To hear her need for acceptance and how her story affects my own ministry ignited a passion inside me. Opening the door for conversation and actions that are reflective of God’s light begin with getting past my impressions of another and learning who they truly are.

Will everyone I meet become family? Well that is up to them. I am called to share the opportunity. It might mean that I am called crazy for sitting with someone that appears different, it might mean that people wonder why I spend so much time focusing on helping others. Let them wonder, when others see who you are in the Holy Spirit, they will begin to want what you have, the love of Jesus. Open the door for opportunity. Open the door for those who don’t know Christ or who have stepped away from their faith. Talk over coffee, invite them to church or an event pay it forward in a way that shows the authentic you. Those who do the will of God are Jesus adopted brothers and sister of faith. Take courage, God is with you.

 

Sermon Preached on June 14, 2015

Sermon Preached on June 14, 2015

 

Throughout your life, name the most influential person who helped to guide you on your faith journey.

The person that has influenced me the most to step out in faith is my dad. Both my parents I am lucky to say are faith influencers but it was the short conversations we would have about the Bible that helped develop my faith journey. This has been followed over the years by strong faithful people that I have both watched and learned who inspire me to step out of my comfort zone. When you get to a point of saying you are comfortable with the uncomfortable it seems a new level of confidence may have been reached. I will be working on that and other things for eternity.

Whether your answer was your parents, a Sunday school teacher, friend, coach or youth leader, we have times when we are called to reach out to another we may not expect. There are times when we feel the nudge of something unexplainable with words, maybe more a strong feeling to say, I am supposed to send this person a card today, I should call this person, or something random happens and we respond in kind for nothing more than because in the name of Jesus, we care. Maybe for you it was being put in a situation that was unexpected and you found a new gift or talent you didn’t realize you had.

Life happenings, insecurities, unsure of our own capabilities, or fear itself can draw us away from the seeds for growth that are planted in our lives. Surely you don’t mean me, says Abraham, a baby no way, old age… David a young shepherd, an unlikely choice among his many capable brothers, is anointed as the next king. These people didn’t wake up one morning and say this is what is going to happen today. But God knew them, God knew more about them than their looks or their ages, God knew their hearts and said, “You my child – I have called you to great things.”

There are many ways that we as individuals have learned about life. There are also many ways in which we encourage others. Elizabeth and Mary the mother of Jesus formed a bond while both pregnant with babies who would go on to influence the world for God.  They said yes to Gods direction and trusting in the call from God, they were filled with the courage and strength to pursue Gods’ will. However that didn’t mean that life was without trials and unrest.

Sometimes as in the story of Jonah and Ninevah, it takes some prodding for us to understand the importance of our task. Now is the time to stop pushing against the nudging from God. Setting the fear aside or better yet, pushing through the fear of what holds us back enables us to find a deeper connection to God. Sometimes as we see in the biblical stories I mentioned it’s the unknown, unlikely individuals sent to bring the good news to the masses.

The learning is not over just because we accept and follow the path we are called. Jesus took his disciples aside for further teaching when the parables he told required greater understanding. He shared, and repeated as often as needed for those following him to truly understand. It is a matter of trust. Trust in the fact that Jesus is caring about me, my future, wanting me to be the best faithful follower I can be but why? There are plenty of others out there who have far greater talent than I. But that is the point. There are others out there but God wants YOU. He wants you now.

God desires for you in your vocation, in your friendships, in your free time – whatever the calling, to be the voice of grace and love. The voice that when called listens and follows through.

Should you wonder why me, when no one around you seems to be acting faithfully – maybe that is the reason you are there, to be the Christlike person showing others the message of Jesus. We are all ministers of the Christian faith. And even thought we are one, God has a way of using the impossible to make all things possible.

Learning together, being in this space praising God we learn of Biblical times and situations and we learn new things as the world around us changes. As we change.

Agriculture was a prominent way of life that Ancient communities could relate to and planting seeds is a process. One must first till the soil, fertilize the soil, plant the seeds – most of the time in rows, specifically so far apart. Then comes the weeding and watering to ensure growth and production of the plants that grow from the planted seeds. Some plants require much work and watering for growth, others not as much and produce their own seeds that reproduce, however when neglected chaos happens. Weeds infest, or the plants wither and turn yellow, the fruit becomes diseased.

We are a lot like seeds. Our bodies are designed in a way that involves wonder and continues to grow and change over time. We become shelter for others just like the trees are shelter for the birds. The reality is that we also need work, taking care of ourselves both mind and body, finding ways in which be healthy and grow. As our families and friendships are nurtured, we branch out and share the fruits of the spirit, the Holy Spirit with others.  The need for relationships is at our core, both spiritually and figuratively.

The kingdom of God comes from God. As much as we may try to determine how we or others will grow, which of our seeds will provide rich fruit or fend off a drought, our human limitations keep the accuracy to a minimum.

 Jesus wanted to assure clarity for the disciples and those who were open to the Good news he was bringing then that is relevant today. He spent time teaching and reviewing the same concepts for his followers. Repetition is a good reminder especially in our busy world when so much happens in a day.

The ways in which we see God are not always through the big moments in our lives, rather quite often the small ones. Have you ever been prompted or not sure why you have the urge to do something for another only to find out later the timing was exactly right? How about a feeling or reoccurring thought that you should do something, or speak a certain message to others, maybe you put off sharing your gifts until one day you give in and you are affirmed? God pursues his people finding ways to reach us, even when we try to hide under that big sheltering tree.

God reaches us and we grow. Our trust in God’s will for our lives helps us to overcome fear. The fear that holds us back. The fear of judgment from the world. Putting our trust in God casts out fear. God wants you. Yes, you!  Through faith the size of a minute mustard seed, God will do great things when you believe.

Trusting in God, the words of Jesus sustain us and helps us to understand even our smallest task or gift is good enough for God. We do what we do because we are living out the faith we have in Jesus. It’s not about what you do.  You are enough. God’s grace is enough and God provides love that reaches the deepest part of us.

Be open to Gods calling for you, recognize the good seeds planted in your life, thank God, and pay it forward. God calls even the unsuspecting to do big things remember the young shepherd David and the person who influences you? Continue to listen for God’s call in your life. In all that you do continue to reach out and love one another with grace.

Step outside your comfort zone and trust Gods leadership. Go outside and share the gifts and talents you have been given. If others don’t seem to “see” initially, know a seed is planted. Time is needed for growth, and it is not always our job to cultivate the soil or tend to the watering, often it is just opening the door for God to do the work.

Sharing their gifts as ministers of Christ, our workcampers will experience many things. May we pray for growth to occur not only in the hearts and minds of the people our church friends reach for God, but growth in their personal lives as they experience God at work.

May we all humbly reach out to God for direction and guidance in the unfamiliar territory. May you also be open to the great things that God has in store for you and those you meet. Hold a door open, give a smile, pray for others, reach out to those on your heart. Share in love, pray often and trust in the Creator God.

As we look forward to the part of our service where we break bread together adopted children of God,  take a moment now to remind those sitting beside you of Christ’s love as you say “You are a child of God”.

While it is necessary for us to share the love of Christ, open yourself to the power of the Holy Spirit, that Christ may be seen through you to others.   

May it be so.

Amen.