Sermons on hard times in life
We celebrate the nurturing love of all mothers, all who have mothered us, all who have mothered creatures and creation and even congregations. We celebrate their laying their lives down for new life, their self-sacrifice, their bond of love like no other that nothing can sever. We also celebrate Jesus’ mothering love today in asking God for humankind’s protection– it is as if he is standing at our bus stop on the first day of school watching us go forth on our own. Did he teach us enough? Will we remember? Will we be ok without him beside us? Will we find our way home?
We are celebrating the season of Easter, when our scriptures open up for us the many ways Jesus will continue to be revealed to us, through a new perspective on scripture, through the bread and the wine, through our love given and received. The scripture lessons during this season also present the framework for the way to be church. As our gospel story reveals to us today, Jesus, the grace of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, is the vine, that which connects us, that which gives us nourishment and life, that which draws us into one being, one Body of Christ. This connection can heal our soul and body, provide us hope in our times of darkness, reveal to us our belovedness, move us from despair to hopefulness, from fear to courage, from loathing to loving.
The holes in Jesus’ hands and the sword-inflicted wound in his side, from which blood and water flowed, showed Thomas that he is not asked to believe in a God whose new life in Jesus obliterated the worst of humanity, pushing aside the ugliness and violence , ignoring the places of pain or horror or absence, but rather to believe in a God who went into that brokenness and breathed the possibility of new life into all the shattered places, because that’s how the resurrection can make a difference to us.
So, come, you who have much faith and you who have little, you who have been here often and you who have not been for a long time, you who have tried to follow and you who have failed. Come, it is the Lord who invites you. On this Easter morning, this invitation to the Eucharistic prayer tells us that this altar where we will break bread together, belongs to God and not to any particular church. It speaks to…
The pilgrims on their ascent up the Mount of Olives reasonably thought power of might won, but we know differently, it is only and always the power of love which will win in the end.
Oh those Israelites. They were grumbling and mumbling their distaste with God’s plan. Their worn out bodies were wracked by the relentless heat of the day while the few blankets they had grabbed from their hurried escape from slavery were worn thin, nearly translucent. Every night, they had to huddle together, clasping the tattered material tightly around them to survive the frigid evenings. Their throats were parched, their stomachs empty, their legs ready to buckle and collapse, when from their…
The Rev. Barbara Hutchinson, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church “In those days”. In those days, when God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. “In those days” darkness covered the face of the deep, chaos abounded, and God intervened and said, “let there be light”. God continued creating and delighted with each step of creation…
There was another party going on in town that night. One where the rejected, the tired, the weary, the lonely, the ones who mourn, the poor in spirit, the meek, the peacemakers were gathered, where the healing love of Jesus flowed through and around them, where they anointed each other, maybe not with expensive oil, but with tears of joy, for Jesus was with them. The church shows up, our church shows up when we readily offer ourselves and our resources to each other, when we ask the question, “What do you need?” or “How can I support you in the cold dark night, where fear and trembling settle in upon your soul and weigh you down like a heavy down comforter, almost making it difficult to breath?” The church shows up, our church shows up, when we acknowledge our vulnerability before God and each other, or when we acknowledge that we can’t be prepared for everything, and instead chose to trust that it is Jesus who opens the door, invites us in, and prepares the feast.
“God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” A common saying. Perhaps you’ve heard it many times in your life, or have even spoken it yourself. It’s a saying I’ve always pushed back against from a place deep within my gut, not necessarily understanding why, until I studied theology, and then I knew why. My image of God doesn’t include someone sitting upon a throne in heaven, dolling out bad things to people at opportune times, with the purpose of disrupting or destroying their lives, always attentive to the balance of good and evil in their lives at any particular moment, so people can be just on the edge of the good— or worse yet, bringing on the bad thing in life to selected people at the worst possible moments of their lives, just when they are starting to turn things around, or when they are spiraling downward. My image of God is a flow of love, a source of desire for goodness for each part of the created world, a pull deep within each one of us for wholeness, and an inherent life-force reaching toward a rich and abundant life designed for everyone, lived within the healing embrace of Christ. So how would I, how do you, reconcile this image of a God who looks at us through eyes of love, with the God conjured up in this popular saying that seems to imply God is actively involved in bringing bad things into our lives?
Because Jesus stayed in the tomb, contained with the earth, with the massive round stone rolled across its entrance, Jesus sanctified, made holy, saturated with the presence of God, the darkened container he was put in, and therefore sanctified all the darkened containers we put ourselves into. But the point of the story of Jesus is that he didn’t stay there. And his resurrection invites and implores us not to stay there either. God’s mercy, love, and compassion draw us into these places of alienation and disconnect. We resist going there often, sometimes by saying, “We’ve always done it that way” as a reason not to move into that place of uncertainty, where the old begins to fade away before we can see the new. Or sometimes we resist the draw into exile because it’s easier to fortify the sides of our containers with bolstered arguments or fiery threats. But the pattern of faithful living, that paschal mystery we often speak of, moves us into a place of exile, of self-reflection, of noticing the places of disconnect between what God has asked of us and what we are doing, to the land, or in our lives, or in our relationship with God, for they are all connected, of acknowledging what we have done or left undone that has caused harm. But then the Spirit turns us again toward God, when God’s mercy, love, and compassion can strip from us all that we have falsely created, to return us to what God has created within and around us. If we listen closely enough, in these times of exile, which our own lives may be in now, or our country may be in right now, we can hear God’s voice saying, “Come and see, I am bringing you to a new way of experiencing me. Come and see.”
And yet, how can our compassionate hearts not meet these people in the complex layer that lies behind, or beneath, or alongside our rationality in these situations? How do our hearts not break for Hagar, cast out into the wilderness to watch her child die? How could I not have enfolded in my arms that young mother who was allowing a family to be born for others, but not for her. How can we pretend there are children in our societies who go unprotected due to the enslaved condition of their mothers? We can’t and we shouldn’t. We can’t and we shouldn’t dismiss the grief of anyone, whether there were actions or circumstances that should have foretold the impending despair.
Jesus had to make a very hard choice four days ago: he could have come to Bethany. He wanted to come, he wanted to heal his beloved Lazarus, he wanted to give this family who had taken him in as a brother the gift of health, but he chose the gift of delay, for now. With the death of Lazarus, he entered into grief in a way which means that he knows our depths of grief, and that means everything to us. It is what makes our tears and heartache holy, the fact that Jesus knows it too, and is inseparable from it.