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Annual Conference Report Sermon

Sermon June 28, 2015 Annual Conference Reflections     Rev. June Fothergill   Mark 5: 21-43 I always come back from Annual Conference with lots of brochures and papers about the work of the church in the world and resources for my work as a church leader.  This year, for some reason, I came back with less stuff.  Maybe I was too busy handing out my own stuff- I had booth in the information fair about the Intercultural Competency training team and program I have been a part of recently.  Of course this year, with less stuff, maybe I will actually use the stuff I got? That’s the thing about Annual Conference; it is the place where we all try to tell each other our stories of ministry and share resources, make connections and network with one another. It’s also a time for some of us who have been in the conference awhile, to renew and sustain relationships that matter to our lives and ministry.  I had a friend by the name of Carol Colley, who later changed  her name to Carol Youngbird- Holt who was the first Native American person ordained in our conference.    Sadly she died several years ago of complications from the flu.   I missed her at Conference this year, especially.  I had  made a point of having a meal with her every year, to build and keep our relationship over time and distance. So at the heart of Annual Conference and our life as a church are our relationships with one another and with Christ.  Together we hold one another to Christ’s calling and grace in our lives. Together we support one another through the difficult places in our faith/life journey.  Together we try to follow Jesus.  This year at Annual Conference we tried to follow Jesus down a path that was new and rocky for us.  I found reflecting upon this story of Jesus in Mark and my experience  at Annual Conference this year to add meaning to each.   I found  some connections between this story in Mark and my experience at Annual Conference: First of all, the theme of this year’s Annual Conference was Restoring the Sacred Circle.  One of the ways we sought to do this was to bring to the forefront people who have been often forgotten.  I noticed that in doing this, we were following Jesus.  In this story, Jesus stops to establish a relationship with a woman who was bleeding, a forgotten, put down person.  At Annual Conference this year we brought to the forefront our Native American brothers and sisters who have often been in the background, not on the stage, whose wisdom...

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David and Goliath

Sermon   June 21, 2015 I Samuel 17  Facing Goliath I always hate to hear of another gun-welding killer of innocent people somewhere.  What a shock it was this week to hear it took place at a Bible study at a church in Charleston South Carolina and that the young man who did it had been telling his friends he wanted to hurt people and start a “race war”.   Once again we see the tragic power of racial hatred.  That young man somehow thought it was all right to kill a group of people just because they were African American.  I’d rather start my sermon with a joke, but this morning I start with this story of hatred and violence.   For a church to lose its leaders in this way. For a young man to learn such hatred. For the continuing struggle for us all to live together in peace and dignity.  We think it only happens somewhere else. Yet, in our own town we have had people place flyers on cars in from of one of our schools espousing fear and hatred for those who are not white. We have had a school shooting in one of our own high schools.  We know tragically that such violence is possible. The story of David and Goliath this morning invited me to wonder- what are the Goliaths we face today?   No one faces a 7 foot Philistine warrior.  But what are the problems that seem impossible, the conflicts that seem intractable?  What fearsome realities do we face?    I have named the problem of racism and violence in our culture already. What others do you face today? Not enough shelter and low income housing Disability and illness Poverty Diseases like cancer and malaria What is the Goliath that threatens to immobilize you? To leave you shaken and afraid? As we name these things- is it a downer?  Are you feeling some sadness and frustration right now?  Well, surely that is how the army of Israel felt too. They had been trying to defeat the Philistines ever since  Saul became king- that was why they had wanted a king- remember?  To fight their battles and protect them from their enemies like all the other peoples around them did.  But then one day all the Philistines has to do is send out a big tall warrior with lots of armor and even more bravado.  And Saul can’t find one man to fight him. For 40 days he taunts them and everyone cowers in fear.  Even promises of honor and the hand of the kings daughter don’t  inspire the Israelite fighters.  Demoralized. Afraid. Frustrated. Cowed.  Immobilized.   They can’t seem to...

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Looking again at a little shepherd boy

Sermon June 14, 2015 1 Samuel 15:34- 16:13       “Looking again” by Rev. June Fothergill One nephew of a famous athlete, Deion Sanders’ was a little short on cash so he wrote his rich and famous uncle and asked for a short-term loan. The usually generous Sanders were annoyed that the young man would ask him for money considering that they had not seen one another for years. The multi- talented athlete wrote a chilly note to his nephew suggesting in blunt, simple terms that he earn the money through his own diligence.  The young man promptly sold the letter for a thousand dollars. (p. 233 An Encyclopedia of Humor, ed. Lowell D. Streiker) Now that’s seeing the potential in a situation!   A few years ago, I remember a training I attended about programs for youth.  They showed us how important it was to look at all the assets in a young person’s life  in order to understand which youths were at risk for problems and how to prevent them.  They had found that the more assets in a young person’s life the better the outcome for them. Assets were not just family, but positive relationships with teachers, after school programs, a job, church relationships, grandparents, etc.  Even children with terrible home lives, could make a go of it, if they had other assets in their lives.   In fact even just one person that a young person can rely upon for consistent unconditional love can make a big difference.  The power of one, we decided to call our campaign. What a difference it makes when looking at our community or another person or even ourselves, if we think in terms of assets.   Samuel was ready to give up on the search for a king among Jesse’s sons. He had been through all the potentials, the ones that seemed to have what was needed- 7 in all.   But God saw beyond the crowd there at the ceremony.  He saw a young boy left behind in the fields.  The youngest son, the boy, the left out one, the unexpected one.   HE saw the potential in this boy’s heart that no one else could see. And thus enters the stage of Biblical history- David, one of Israel’s most complex and beloved figures.   The king that would unite the tribes and bring them peace from their warring neighbors.  But that’s all yet to come.  Now we just have a small shepherd boy being anointed by Samuel under the radar, a small seed planted, potential only God can see. This passage invites us to think about how we see the world. 1.     We are challenged like Samuel to look beyond...

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Summer 2015 Sermons

Sermon  June 7, 2015   “ Listening” by Rev. June Fothergill 1 Samuel 8: 1-22 Clearly things are in crisis in Israel. Things had been going well under the stable and just judgeship of Samuel.  Samuel had been given to God  by his mother Hannah and then called by God as a youngster and served God and the people of Israel all his life.  Yet, things are changing.  At the outset of chapter 8 we learn that Samuel has grown old and he has set his sons as judges over Israel.  The problem is that his sons are not doing like their father.  The Bible narrator says they “ turned aside after gain they took bribes and perverted justice.” ( vs.3)    With this as the backdrop the elders of the tribes come to Samuel for a meeting.  They are the old guard, like Samuel , they have been around a long time.   It’s not unexpected that they might talk to Samuel about the corruption of his sons. But what is unexpected is the solution they have decided upon.  Don’t just appoint for us better judges, but appoint for us a king to govern us. A king!  Samuel is taken aback and displeased. Have they forgotten that their ancestors were oppressed by the kings of Egypt?   Have they forgotten how God had raised up leaders when they were needed, like himself?  That it was their relationship with God that was primary and made them a unique people?  A King! Samuel left them and went to a place to pray to God!  Surely God would give him wisdom to answer them.   Surely God wouldn’t want the people to go down that road!  God was their king and no other.  This Samuel believed with all his heart.  Yet, God’s response was not what he expected or wanted. “ Listen to them, “  God told him. “ It’s not about politics or social power, it’s not about you. It saddens me that  they are turning away from me, like they have throughout their history. “ Listen to them but also warn them about what a king will do to their lives and community. Let them make this decision with the consequences before them.  So Samuel gives them a run down of all the bad things a king will do.  He tells them that they are turning toward a system based upon taking, and taking and taking, rather than justice and sharing.  Oppressive centralized power rather than equals trusting in God.  They will be enslaved once again. It will not end well. The elders do not listen to Samuel’s warnings; they still want to have a king.  One who will...

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