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Sermon October 23 The gift of rain

Sermon  Oct 23, 2016     “The Gift of Rain” by June Fothergill     Joel 2: 23-32 What comes to mind when you think of rain? I remember an old joke about the farming community that was in a drought. They decided to have a worship service in the little church to pray for rain.  When everyone had gathered, the pastor got up and looked around.  “ Well, folks.” He said, “  I know you’re here to pray but where is your faith?  Haven’t you forgotten something?”   Then a child spoke up, “ Yeah, where’s all the umbrellas?” I grew up in Idaho and served my first church on the east side of the mountains. Over there rain is scarce and therefore usually really appreciated.  It took two years of rainfall to raise one crop of wheat on a piece of land.  From what I know of the area of the world the prophet Joel lived in, it was also a dry place.  The book of Joel tells of a terrible locust deluge that wiped out all the crops.  I can imagine that this was made worse by a drought.  The people had been through a terrible ordeal.  The sky blackened by insects that ate every living plant.  The land parched and dry.  Themselves on the edge of starvation. What was to become of them?   Joel’s word to them is- come together to worship, to turn back to God in repentance.  Remember  God not just by rending your garments but also your hearts. Many of us in this election season have felt at the very least uneasy with the harsh rhetoric and accusations.  We are growing tired and discouraged with the lack of civility and real addressing of the issues and concerns of our nation.   There is posturing, but  little  listening with compassion.    There is blaming,  but little looking at the common needs we share.  What could it mean to stop blaming  and to begin to deeply listen.  What would it mean to stop assuming the “ badness” of another and instead look for the “humanness “ of each other?   We do not have to be manipulated by media circuses or radio commentators or protests.  We can choose to look at the candidates and the issues from our own values and perspectives and to recognize that all of us fall short of the glory of God and all of us have gifts and needs to offer the world. I will make my own decision about who to vote for based upon my values and what I know about theirs. But I refuse to demonize either one of them or especially  anyone who votes for either one.   I...

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Sermon October 30 Branches of Compassion

Sermon October 30, 2016   Luke 19: 1-10    Branches of Compassion by Rev. June Fothergill Rolfe Barnard tells a story about a fellow preacher  named Johnny Hilyard who was quite short.  At a conference one time he got up and said, “ Zacchaeus was short in stature and so am I.  Zacchaeus  was up a tree and so am I.  And Zacchaeus skinnied down and sat down. And he sat down.” Have you ever climbed a tree?  The last time I remember doing so was when I was in High School at Lebanon Oregon. The Methodist church was a couple blocks from the school. In front of it at that time was a large Oak tree with a branch I could reach.  I remember running away from school at lunch time and climbing up that tree.  It was fun to be there and look down on any one passing by. To hang out with a tree. Was I looking for Jesus?  Well, maybe!  Climbing a tree at lunch time is a pretty strange thing to do for a high school student. So I can imagine Zacchaeus. It’s not do easy to scramble up a tree.  You’re likely to get a little sappy!     So,  What do we know about him?   He was a  Citizen of Jericho, a Chief Tax collector,  Rich. He seemed to be a go getter- top of his field.  Yet, he was not liked.  In fact, like most tax collectors in those times, he was despised as someone who collaborated with the Roman oppressors.  He was rich so he didn’t follow John the Baptist’s directions to tax collectors- only collect the amount ascribed to you.   So he was rich but unrespected.  Rich but lonely- not invited to be part of the welcome team for Jesus visit.  Oh and he’s short, so short he can’t even see Jesus coming for the crowds. So what does he do?  What’s he got to lose – only his dignity!  He climbs up a Sycamore tree.  My neighbor in Boise has Sycamore trees and they have nice big leaves.   Z could hide up there and view everything below. He’d get to see Jesus!   A grown man, a rich man up a tree! It’s a funny picture.  Luke is just possibly making a little fun of Zacchaeus. But then Jesus does what Jesus does.  He notices the lost and the outcast.  He sees Zacchaeus in the tree, knows and calls him by name.    Jesus has a good network of tax collectors, he could have heard about Zaccheus from Levi or Simon the leper or one of the many tax collectors he has stayed with over the years of his...

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Sermon Oct. 16 Growing through the Cracks

Sermon   October 16, 2016 Luke 18: 1-8;   Jeremiah 31: 31-34 “Growing Through the Cracks” by Rev. June Fothergill       I remember walking around the Sunnyside Neighborhood in Portland one day. It was a normal gloomy day and I was feeling gloomy. The neighborhood was poor, slumlords wouldn’t keep up the housing, elders had no way to get to the grocery store, the church was dwindling.  I was walking around the neighborhood trying to figure out what I was to do.  Then I saw it-  a lovely dandylion growing out of the crack in the sidewalk.  I laughed.  Life just wouldn’t give up!  And neither would I. As I said a couple weeks ago Jeremiah the prophet was the master of the prophetic act sign: a potter at his wheel, buying a field, a bowl of fruit.   In this passage he refers to the central symbol of the people’s faith- the covenant between God and the people of Abraham.  The covenant was continued when  God  liberated the people from slavery and gave them a way of life and a land. The people in Jeremiah’s day were on the brink of disaster because they had turned away from the covenant God relationship.  They had tried to find security in military alliances, in temples, in rituals, in kingdom power.  They had forgotten the ways of justice and right relationships that God had given to them in the covenant at Mt Sinai- the law or teachings that were to help them become truly God’s people.  So their world was falling around them stone by stone crack by crack. The pot made by the potter was being shattered to pieces. In the midst of all the trouble and tribulation Jeremiah hears a word from God that gave them and everyone ever since  a new  way of understanding this covenant with God.  This is what I am doing, God says, “ This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days. I will put the law within them and I will write it on their hearts and I will be their God and they shall be my people” ( vs. 33) The seed of covenant that  God had planted in the past, with Abraham and his family and then with Moses and the former slaves- now that seed will grow out of the cracks and sprout in people’s hearts. It will take root and grow.   In the midst of this the harshest of times, when all seemed lost-  God is doing a new thing!   What was external, will become internal. What was rules and rituals will become heart felt prayers, what was...

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Sermon Sept. 25, 2016 Jeremiah’s Field

Jeremiah 32: 1-2, 6-15  Why Buy a Field? By Rev. June Fothergill Ok, I want to start with a joke that has nothing to do with the topic for today, only because it tickles me.  I hope you will enjoy it too.   A customer of Green’s Gourmet Grocery marveled at the proprietor’s quick wit and intelligence. “ Tell me, Green what makes you so smart?” “ I wouldn’t share my secret with just anyone,” Green replied, lowering his voice, “ but since you’re a good faithful customer, I’ll tell you. Fish heads.  You eat enough of them you’ll be positively brilliant.” “ You sell them here?” the customer asked “ Only $4 a piece.”  Green answered. The customer buys three. A week later he’s back in the store complaining that the fish heads were disgusting and he isn’t any smarter.  “ You didn’t eat enough,” says Green. The customer goes home with 20 more fish heads. Two weeks later, he’s back and this time he’s really angry. “ Hey Green,” he says,” You’re selling me fish heads for $4 apiece when I can buy a whole fish for $2. You’re ripping me off!” “ You see,” says Green, “ You’re smarter all ready.” I laugh because that customer could have been me!  Laughter and tears are both essential to our emotional and physical health!   I think that Jeremiah knew that.  He was a master the symbolic action. He lived in a time of great turmoil and suffering for his people  and sometimes God’s word seemed to him like fire in his bones.  Yet he also could have words and actions of hope for a better future. What was happening in Jeremiah’s day?    Jeremiah had told the King that he should surrender to the Babylon forces which were at the gate. For this treasonous word, he was confined to the court under guard.  He describes the situation in a prayer to  God,  ( 32: 24)” See the siege ramps have been cast up against the city to take it and the city faced with sword, famine and pestilence has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it.” The siege of the Babylonian forces had taken a toll. The countryside was already devastated: crops burned, villages looted, famine and disease killing the young and the old.  Lamentations describes the horror of the city under siege, “All her people groan as they search for bread; they trade their treasures for food to revive their strength. “ ( Lam 1: 11a)  Everything is falling apart all around them!  And there is nothing Jeremiah can do to stop it! Yet, in the midst of...

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Sermon Oct. 2, 2016 The Mustard Seed

Luke 17: 1-10  “ The Mustard Seed” by Rev. June Fothergill I have always loved World Communion Sunday and not just because I get to share my international doll collection!   I love the picture of the diverse and varied people of the world gathering today around the communion table of Christ.   My relationship with Christ Jesus has given me a vision of a world where differences of culture and language are celebrated because our oneness comes from our common worth.  Jesus didn’t teach that we all have to be the same but that we are invited to form a community of grace that is inclusive of the diversity of our human family.  He showed us this by living, eating with and teaching those who others had outcast.   As followers of this Jesus we are always figuring out how to live together lovingly in the midst of our diversity.   I think that in the passage we read today,  Jesus is inviting us to form an alternative community, a way of living together based upon grace- a flow of truth telling, repentance and forgiveness. First of all Jesus said straight up- “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come.”    Now Jesus doesn’t say we will stumble!  But we all know the truth. We do stumble in our lives.   There are times when we say the thing we wish we hadn’t, when we neglect to love, when we respond in greed or selfishness, when we let our fear rule or our prejudices judge.   We all stumble sometimes. Yet interesting to me is that Jesus doesn’t seem too worried about our individual stumbles in this passage.  Rather he quickly goes on to show great concern for the possibility of us causing others to stumble!    This passage is not so much about our individual morality but the kind of community Jesus wants us to build together.  Make sure you don’t cause others, especially the vulnerable to stumble!  Jesus is warning us that our choices impact not just ourselves but our community.  What do the youth and children learn from us by our actions and words?  What does the unbelieving world think of the church?  Have we caused people to stumble, to turn away from faith and Christ? I remember the conversation I had with a young man in Canyonville about why he no longer attended a church.  He had experienced the community of church as a place of power plays and hurt feelings.   He wasn’t too sure he wanted to try it again.  It made me sad.  Did someone need a millstone?    I am sure that Jesus does not mean for us to go out and find some millstones.  No,...

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