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Last Sunday's Sermon

Image result for jesus nazareth cliff

The readings

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
The Gospel
Luke 4:21-30

In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus read from the book of the prophet Isaiah, and began to say, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" He said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Doctor, cure yourself!' And you will say, 'Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'" And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed
through the midst of them and went on his way.

The Sermon

OK, so they tried to run Jesus out of town and not just any town, his home town. Have you ever had something like that happen to you. I don't mean people attempting to push you over a cliff. I mean people getting angry and saying things about you because you maybe did the difficult thing and exposed the truth? Think about it and while you are thinking I will share with you a personal experience.

When Sherry and I lived in Wyoming we belonged to an Episcopal church that had a minister who decided he did not like the bishop and he was going to leave the Episcopal church and align himself with an Anglican diocese headquarted in Rwanda on the continent of Africa. In addition, he decided to attempt to take our congregation with him.

He was doing all of this secretly. I knew something was up but I wasn't sure what. This priest made a mistake in confiding his plan with Sherry and he stressed that she was not to tell me. It took almost no time for Sherry to share with me his plan. I immediately took action and confronted the priest. He denied everything and fortunately a parishioner who was present during our conversation came to me afterward and told me the priest had been untruthful to me. I immediately called our bishop and shared with him what I knew.

To make a long story short, there was a group within the church who would have pushed me off a cliff if they could have. I slept well knowing that I was on the side of truth and I had done what needed to be done. Exposing the truth can be a difficult thing. There are all kinds of incidents in our history where people spoke for what was right when it was an uncomfortable thing to do. The bishop who ordained the first female Episcopal priests came under much criticism for his effort. Rosa Parks new she had every right to sit wherever she wanted on that bus. She was tired and she knew she was on the side of truth. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold new he was being true to his faith when he ordained Gene Robinson the first gay bishop in the United States. What many people do not know is that both Griswold and Robinson werewearing bullet proof vests during the ordination.

So often, telling the truth is really showing your love for a belief and for others. Love is important. Paul tells us in first Corinthians: “Love is patient, love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.”

I showed my love for my church family when I exposed the truth. Rosa Parks showed her love for humanity when she stood up for herself. Frank Griswold expressed his love for his faith by ordaining Gene Robinson.

In closing, I am compelled to say be strong. Do what is right and speak the truth. Show your love.

Last Sunday's Sermon & Readings

Image result for jesus reading the torah

The New Testament

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.

The Gospel

Luke 4:14-21

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

The Sermon

Luke tells us that Jesus has returned from the desert and he is now preaching from town to town and eventually he gets to his home town of Nazareth. It is here that he finally makes the statement that confirms him as the one they all have been waiting for. He says that he is the anointed one. The Holy Spirit is upon him and that scripture has been fulfilled. I can just imagine the shock that must have gone through all of those gathered.

Yes, they were all waiting for the messiah, the one who would overthrow the Romans and return the chosen people of God to greatness. But, this was Jesus, son of Joseph. He is a carpenter's son. They know him. They know his pedigree. How can this be? Next week the gospel lesson will continue and you will hear that things go badly for him in Nazareth.

But let me return to this reading. Jesus does not talk about overthrowing anyone. He says he has good news for the poor, the sick and the blind. These are the ones who are living on the edge of Jewish society.

That message has really not changed today. We still have people who are living on the edge. Right here in Chariton we have people who are disabled and poor. So what are we to do as Christians? It is great that we gather as Christians. We study scripture. We do all these things.

We must never forget that Jesus expects more of us. Jesus expects action. We are told in first Corinthians that we are the body of Christ. One of my favorite parts from this reading is when Paul writes, “in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-- Jews and Greeks, slave or free-- and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” We all come from God and we are the body of Christ. All of us have different personalities and characteristics. I appear to be different from you and you are all different from each other. And yet we are of one Spirit.

This is the time of year when we gather for the annual meeting. We reflect on the last year. We look at the budget and we plan for the next year. We talk about the needs of the church building, the grounds and a lot of other stuff. We must also keep in mind that the church is the people and not the building, the grounds and the stuff.

We are Christ's hands and feet and we, like him are to be here for the poor, the homeless and all of God's creation. One of the questions in our bible study asked us to look at this statement in a metaphorical sense as well. We all know people who may have lots of money and yet are poor in other ways including spiritually. As far as blindness goes, there are many times that I have been blind to what was happening. When you think of people's needs in both a spiritual and physical sense you cast a very wide net. It sounds like a very big job and it is. But remember, we are not alone. May God be with you.

Fr. Fred

Water to Wine: Last Sunday's Sermon

The Readings

Old Testament
Isaiah 62:1-5

For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest,

until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.

The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;

and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;

but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;

for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.

For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your builder marry you,

and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

The Psalm
Psalm 36:5-10

Dixit injustus

5 Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, *
and your faithfulness to the clouds.

6 Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep; *
you save both man and beast, O Lord.

7 How priceless is your love, O God! *
your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.

8 They feast upon the abundance of your house; *
you give them drink from the river of your delights.

9 For with you is the well of life, *
and in your light we see light.

10 Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you, *
and your favor to those who are true of heart.
The New Testament
1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Let Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

The Gospel
John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The Sermon

Second Sunday after Epiphany

Sometimes when I look at the readings for the coming Sunday I just have to scratch my head and wonder where the connections are between them. Today is an easy one. Isaiah says, “for as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you. And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

Marriages are about deepening a relationship and Isaiah reminds us that we are married to our God and it is something to rejoice.

Of course, in this gospel reading from John there is a problem at the wedding feast at which Jesus, his mother and the disciples are attending. They are running out of wine. Today, it would be no big deal. We would just go to Hy-Vee and get more. That would not have been the case two thousand years ago. It would have been a major source of embarrassment to the groom and his family. Shame and honor were very important in this culture two thousand years ago.

Mary hears about the problem and knows how it can be fixed. She tells Jesus. Jesus says woman it is not my time but Mary knows her son. She tells the wine steward to do whatever Jesus says and the rest is history.

So, Jesus' first recorded miracle it to change water into wine. It wasn't to heal the sick, raise the dead or walk on water. It was to make sure the family of the couple getting married did not lose face. What I like about this story is the humanity of it. It says a lot about the relationship between Jesus and his mother, Mary. Still, by some measures this is a small miracle.

At bible study last Tuesday we talked about miracles. We especially talked about small miracles. There are so many things that happen in our lives that I suppose could be coincidence but there are too many of them for me to just consider them to be random.

All of the coincidences that fell into place for Sherry and myself in order for us to move here are one example. Another example was mentioned at bible study last Tuesday. One of the participants in our bible study group related this story. A neighbor was backing out of her drive and bottomed out her car on a snow drift. Four guys in a truck happened to be driving by at the same time. They stopped, got out of their truck and made short work of the lady's problem. I believe these small miracles are an example of some divine dance that God has set in motion.

Let me just say a few words about Paul's letter to the Corinthians. We all have gifts. God given gifts. You all know what you do best and I believe it is our responsibility to make the good use of whatever talents we have. Our Shrove Tuesday pancake supper is coming up and those of you who are good at flipping pancakes will use that talent for the greater glory of God. Our Girl Scouts will use their talents for serving customers. We all are exhausted when it is over and the end result is that we have raised money for the food bank.

I thank God for all of you and your gifts.