(Note on Sermons: Associate Pastor Jenn DiFrancesco preaches from notes so where there are gaps in dates, most likely it is a Sunday on which she preached.)
As a graduate of a number of fairly, well, prestigious institutions of higher education, I’m pretty sensitive to this myself. I remember the first public sermon I ever preached, back in the church I was raised, I think it was in 1983. I still have a copy of it. I thought I had done pretty well, touched all the bases; had the sermon make some sense. All I remember from it, really, is that, in greeting folks at the door, a fairly grumpy guy said to me; “Y’know, I didn’t come here to be lectured to….” Ouch.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our…
Mark 9:38-50 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because…
The fact is that people want more than just to see the Christ, but also to somehow reflect in their own lives the truth and goodness of the Messiah. (Don’t you think?)
The resurrection doesn’t happen for its own sake. God has a message in the resurrection for each of us, and all of us… and it has been so since the beginning….
Think of all the ways you hear sounds of salvation in your life. What do they sound like? … from the drip, drip, drip of baptismal waters rolling off a babies’ forehead at the font; to — what? the squeal of a baby- their first laugh…. Maybe its the ‘thank you- bless you” that you hear from the fellow on the street corner who asks you for change/ always… and you give it to him. Or, maybe its the sound of a church organ, playing “A Mighty Fortress”- or, the piano- warming up for the doxology… or?? (name some…. Sounds in your life… that speak to you of salvation, a heavenly healing…)
Jesus’ foundational identity, reclaimed in prayer, moved him away from the crowds that sought him. He was better able to recharge his batteries, as it were, on his own. No, that’s not quite right. Jesus was better able– like all of us, to tap into God’s graciousness in solitude and serenity rather than in the midst of the maddening, demanding crowd. It is a gift that is necessary for all of us, and a gift that we too often dismiss, to our own detriment.
There is an old Cherokee story about a grandfather who is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he says to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil –filled with anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, inferiority, false pride, superiority, ego. The other wolf is good – full of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, faith. The same fight is going on- inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thinks about this for a minute and then asks his grandfather, “Well, which wolf will win?” The old Chief simply replies, “The one you feed.”
As part of this years’ Summer Sermon series, I’ve been doing a little background work. This past week I’ve spent some time in conversation with two different addiction counselors; one a private clinical counselor, the other who now heads a pretty good sized recovery center in the county. With both of them, we talked about 12-Step Programs, their strengths and weaknesses, and what about them that makes them work. They both agreed, independently, that they don’t know what it is that ‘clicks’ with people, how it is that recovery truly begins. They acknowledged the reality of relapse; but also again, independently, used the same three words that are part of Step 7, and that all nearly universally come into play when recovery takes place and holds fast. These three words are the focus of our message for today… HUMBLY. ASK. GOD.
Well, in some ways, this is what Step Six is — a break from our working at it, a respite from our efforts- a release from what it is that is pulling us down. As Rohr puts it, the process is in it’s very nature paradoxical and in some ways unnatural; for us to ‘get out of the way and let the soul take its natural course.’ While it is very hard to do, at the same time, the reality of paradoxes is more common, at least in our religious lives, than we normally acknowledge. We say that Jesus is human and divine at the same time. We speak of communion as Jesus’ body & blood, sealed in the bread and the cup. We speak of God as Father, and Mother – and yet have never seen nor touched this origin of our birth.