content top

September 2020 Sermons

Sermon  September 6 2020   “ And what of death?”  by Rev. June Fothergill Scripture: Exodus 12: 1-14; romans 13: 8-14; Matthew 18: 15-20      Not too long ago Jim and I watched again the movie “ Hannah and Her Sisters.”  In it, Woody Allen plays a character who has become obsessed with his own death.  He is terrified and anxious about not being anymore.   He goes to his Jewish parents for advice but they don’t see the issue.  He tries a Catholic priest and comes away with a pile of reading but that’s not for him. He even talks with the Hari Krishna but can’t imagine wearing an orange robe and hanging out at the airport.  Discouraged and still in terror, he goes to the movies.  As he watches an old Marx brothers which makes his laugh, he has a revelation that he needs to turn away from his anxiety and search for “ answers” and embrace life with all its mystery and maybes and laughter.  I admit it, his antics made me laugh.   Most of us face the reality of death at some point in our lives.  And Woody Allen, although exaggerating, is right, it is a fearsome thing.  We do shrink before the mystery of death.  This is only natural.  So what of death?  What place does it have in our lives, our theology , our faith?  I cannot answer all those questions in one sermon. I ‘m really not sure I can answer them any better than a Marx Brothers movie.  Yet, the reason I bring up the topic at all, is the impact of this passage from Exodus.  Let’s look at it together.     When reading again this passage in Exodus, I got a bit of that terror at or at least the solemnity of death. I had always thought of the first born- when I thought about them at all, as children- terrible enough certainly.  But this time I realized- I am a first born.  I would have been dead.  It was a little like when after 9/11 I realized that that many dead, would be everyone in the town I lived in at the time would have died! We do not usually keep thoughts about death in the forefront of our minds. As Woody Allen showed it is not a healthy way to live, obsessed with death.  Yet, death and transformation are at the heart of our faith and our deepest questions.   The passage from Exodus depicts a liturgy, an important ritual of the Israelite life and faith.  According to the commentators it is made up of materials from many centuries of Israel’s worship and faith.  ...

Read More

August 2020 Sermons

Sermon August 23, 2020 “Kindness” by Rev. June Fothergill Exodus 1:8-2:10 Romans 12: 1-8    Once when Lowell was babysitting, his six-year-old grandson refused to eat anything set before him. In exasperation Lowell asked, “ Jonathan, you tell me you don’t like beef, you don’t like chicken, your don’t like fish, you don’t like fruit, you don’t like vegetables, you don’t like milk and you8 don’t like juice. Tell me, what do you like?”  Turning his innocent blue eyes on me he answered, “I like you, Grandpa.” (p. 152 An Encyclopedia of Humor, Lowell D. Streiker, ed.)    Such a kind word can go far, can it not?  I think that most of us would agree that treating others with kindness is a good idea.  We long for a more civil society and for less conflict and anger in our political discourse.  Yet, what if what is happening makes us angry? What if we feel strongly about different issues we face in society?  What do we do with those strong emotions?  Can we be kind and also be real?     In Romans 12  Paul suggests that we do not need to be conformed to this world but can be transformed by the “ renewing of your minds so that you may discern what is the will of God- what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (12:2)   So Paul thinks that we can figure this all out!   But then, before we get too self- assured, he adds in vs 3. “ For by the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think of yourselves more highly than you out to think but to think with sober judgement each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”    I think what Paul telling his folks and us, is that we need each other.  I need that Facebook friend who has the opposite response to the political convention than I do.  We need the ones who challenge our thinking and help keep us humble. We learn how to be kind by listening to the needs and perspectives of those around us.  We learn God’s will by our willingness to be transformed by God through the process.      I think that the stories of the Hebrew women in Exodus 1 help us in this learning process. They show us women who are not just nice ladies, not just kind persons but also women who have the courage to resist oppression and evil.  Their stories give us a deeper understanding of what God calls us to do and be.       So, what was happening in Egypt?   The powerful – the king of...

Read More

July 2020 Sermons

Sermon July 26, 2020    “ Partnering with God” by Rev. June Fothergill Scriptures: Genesis 29: 15-30; Matthew 13: 31-33    Rev. Hector Hanks, chaplain at Mills Hospital was on his way home one evening. Near his house, he saw a group of little boys sitting in a circle with a dog in the middle. He asked them what they were doing with the dog. Little Joey Bateson said, “We ain’t doing nuthin to the dog, we’re just tellin lies, and the one that tells the biggest one gets to keep the dog.”  The chaplain told them, “I am shocked. When I was a little boy, I would never have even thought of telling a lie.”  Right away Joey said, “Give him the dog fellas.”  (p. 67 An Encyclopedia of Humor, ed. Lowell D. Streiker)        Given who we are, is it possible for human beings to be in partnership with God?  On the one hand of course not, God is much greater than any of us and we can never phantom the depths of God our creator.  Yet, on the other hand it seems that God partners with persons all the time: calling Abraham and Moses, converting Paul, etc.   Yet, there is no doubt when we look at the history of humans THINKING they are partnering with God that we often get it WRONG!  Great preachers of early American history included racist ideas about blacks in their writings and preaching, theologians and Sunday School teachers justified slavery, the infamous Inquisition killed faithful persons who disagreed with it.  Those folks were so sure that they were right!  They thought they had heard it all from God.  This history makes me hesitant to claim too much about my own ideas. Yet, I notice that one of the common elements of those who I consider “got it wrong” was a lack of humility.        To truly partner with God, I think we need to pay attention to what God requires.   That is why Micah’s statement still resonates- Do justice. Love kindness and WALK HUMBLY with God.       Let’s look at the stories from Jesus today.  In the first one, it is the mustard seed, one of the tiniest of all seeds that Jesus says is like the Kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God is like this tiny seed which surprisingly grows into a big tree/ bush.  Jesus sees the potential in the small, the humble, the easily discarded or disregarded.        And then look at the next story.  This time it is the humble, often disparaged leaven- that a woman mixes with flour- kneads-so that it spreads throughout the loaf which points to the kingdom...

Read More

June 2020 Sermons

Sermon June 7, 2020    “  A New Lens”    by Rev. June Fothergill Scriptures:  Genesis 1:1-2:4a, Matt. 28: 16-20    I celebrate zoom worship today!  I really like the cartoon of the woman in her pj’s and slippers walking down the aisle at a worship service.   It is good to laugh at ourselves, is it not? Like only last week I forgot what day it was- oh the confusion I can sow!   Yet this past couple weeks has also had its tough times. Besides the restrictions of dealing with a pandemic, we saw another killing of an African American man George Floyd by police and the protests and anger that ensued.  Today I want to talk with you about seeking a new lens for our ministries.   What do I mean by a lens?  Well, a lens is that we use to see our world and what we see guides our decisions.   I want to share a couple examples.     You may have noticed the quilt hanging behind me these past few weeks.  It is a quilt that my son Joe received when he worked at Suttle Lake UMC camp.  When I was a youth church camp gave me and many of my generation a new lens on the meaning of church.  At camp we had a new experience of Christian community that we didn’t get at home church or school.  This experience gave me a deep sense of belonging and an experience of truly being made in the image of God.   I and many others received a new lens for what church could be.     Another example for me is the experience of zoom worship.  I started out thinking that the lens of my computer screen was adequate.   Finally, I have realized that what I see on my screen is not nescessarily what others experience.    I have now a new zoom lens! ( tee hee)      This idea of changing lenses is one that we see many times in scripture.  In fact the Genesis poem of creation we read today is one of those times.         For the people of Israel this poem of creation gave them a new lens on the meaning of their lives and faith.  It connected them with all of the creation as a good work of God the Creator.  It told them that they – both male and female-were made in the image of God the creator and God saw and proclaimed that this was good!     This lens opened the door to new more equal relationships between men and women.  It provided a way to celebrate the connection between themselves and the rest of creation.  It was a poem that...

Read More

May 3 Sermon Dealing with Fear

Dealing with Our Fear by Rev. June Fothergill   May 3,2020 Scripture: Psalm 23     I found a Doonesbury cartoon the other day that made me laugh.  A couple is talking to their little boy. The father says, “  Alex, honey Mom and I have been talking and we’ve decided it’s time for us to start attending church as a family.”    Alex replies, “ Church? Church is boring!”  “ Well.” His dad replies, “ we thought you might say that. All kids think that….”  Alex, “ Didn’t you think church was boring when you were a kid?”  “ Well, sure  I hated going but church was good for me so my parents made me stick it out.  You may end up hating church, too but you have to come by that feeling honestly. You have to put in the pew time, like Mom and I did. “   “ Oh “ replies Alex,” What if I like it?”    “ Like it?” The father reacts fearfully, “ What do you mean?” his dad exclaims and his Mom adds soothingly, “ We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, honey.”  ( Gary Trudeau)                                   Ah.  I suspect that most of us have fears about our best laid plans.  In fact these last couple months have been all about changes of plans. Staying at home, social distancing, being careful about the virus has lead to much anxiety even fear in our lives.   Our best laid plans are in disarray.  Even in the best of times, many of have a niggling fear of the future, but when the future is so unclear as it is now- we may experience anxiety and fear.  So  today, as I listened  the ringing words of Psalm 23 and to  the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, I decided to face the issue of fear.   In fact on one of my walks I came up with the memory aid, FACE-for this sermon. F- is for facing our fears.  I think that we don’t need to be afraid or ashamed of our fear. Fear is a natural human emotion we all experience.  So I encourage you to stop fretting about having fear. Rather face it.  It is simply a part of you.     When we face something, then we can find ways to deal with it.    I remember when I was pregnant for the first time.  I had fears about this new experience.  For me, taking some quiet time to face those fears and then imagining the resources and persons I had in my life to deal with them helped me to relax and enjoy that special time.   There are lots of  realities in...

Read More
content top