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Annual Conference 2019 Sermon

Sermon    June 23, 2019  Scripture: Luke 8: 26-39       When Andra and I talked about our report about Annual Conference, she asked me to give some history.   So, I want to give you a little background.  The General Conference of our denomination meets every four years to adopt and revise the Book of Discipline which is the regulations and official stances of our denomination.   General Conference is made up of delegates elected by the different Annual Conferences based upon their membership. In 2020 our Conference will have two voting delegates.   In the 1970’s for the first time words were added to our Book of Disciple by General Conference that stated that the practice of homosexuality was incompatible to Christian teachings.    Our Bishop Elaine was a youth observer at one of those General Conferences and remembers that there was debate about whether the Bible actually condemns the homosexual relationships we know today.  So it was decided to say incompatible with Christian teachings because, as Albert Outler  the professor of Wesley studies who proposed the language suggested  Christian teachings do change over time.    But since that time the language of our Discipline has become rather set in stone.  Attempts at each General Conference since then to change, modify or overturn this language and the language that prohibits ordination and marriage of GLBTQ persons have not succeeded.           Some Annual Conferences over the years have decided to adopt different understandings of Christian tradition and teachings and include the experiences and ministries of LGBTQ persons. Our Annual Conference has been part of that movement for a long time.  I can remember many heartfelt discussions and sharing around the topic over my 30 + years.    Other Conferences in the Western Jurisdiction have also taken this stance. The movement in our denomination has been called the Reconciling Movement.  Many local churches across the country and in our conference have decided to become Reconciling Congregations who are open to full inclusion of GLBTQ persons in their ministries and practices.           At the 2016 General Conference in Portland the conference decided to ask the Council of Bishops to come up with a plan for how the church could best work through this controversial issue.  The proposal was to hold a special General Conference in 2019 to look just at the issue of human sexuality and the inclusion or not of the LGBTQ community in the life of our denomination.       There was a Commission on the Way Forward made up of a wide range of points of view and perspectives who worked on some plans to present to this Conference.  One of our clergy members Donna Pritchard worked long hours on this...

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Lifting Up Body and Spirit Sermons

Sermon  February 3, 2019   “ Ministry Sunday” by Rev. June Fothergill    Matt. 25: 31-46; Mark 6: 31-44     Since we already talked some about hips, I had forgotten that I am in good company with my hip troubles.        One of the highlights of the past year for me was our banner project.   I love it when we do something at our church which brings together people from different worlds.  In this case we had teens from A3 and Springfield schools, members of Rotary and their families and folks from our church working together with a young artist who lives part of the time in Costa Rica.   The most obvious outcome of our collaboration was the mural which is now gracing the back of our education wing.  Yet, other outcomes and relationships are still unknown.  Will the high school artists remember the experience and have a soft spot in their hearts for the church?  Will our mural inspire our neighbors?  It is good to look at how God transforms lives through our ministries but much of the outcomes we have to place in God’s hands.     Jesus told his disciples not to worry about outcomes but to pay attention to the needs of people and how they can meet them.  He told them when they realized the crowd was hungry-  You feed them.  He told the tale of the last judgment when those who cared for the poor and outcast were actually offering care to him.  He realized that meeting human needs was part of building his kingdom.  He wanted to empower his disciples to do this and continues to empower us even today.  We  experience this every week when by the gift of God we always gather enough food to fed those who come in need.  Sometimes we only find out much later the impact of our ministries.        Recently we made a connection with the Youth Transition Program at the Springfield schools because the woman in charge of the program is an alumni of Ebbert’s youth programs.  She thought of us when looking for a good place for her developmentally different students to get work experience.  She apparently learned about how to care for all people as a youth in our church.   We see the impact of our past youth ministry today in her vocation and renewed connection with us.      I have found that we at Ebbert as fairly typical of our generations and culture in that we don’t easily talk about things like “ transformation,” or  ‘impact.”   Because we don’t tend to talk about dramatic transformations,  we may wonder what the Spirit is doing in our midst.  I think...

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Exploring Mark 10 sermons Oct 2018

Oct 7  -Mark  10:1-16    Oct 14- Mark 10: 17-31 Sermon  October 7, 2018  “ View of the Child”  Rev. June Fothergill Scripture: Mark  10:1-16 Tony attended a men’s prayer breakfast and heard a visiting psychologist speak on the topic of showing appreciation to the important people in one’s life.  He decided to start with his wife.  So that night after work he bought a dozen long stemmed roses, a box of chocolates and a pair of earrings.  He chortled with self satisfaction as he contemplated surprising his wife, showing how much he appreciated her. He stood at the front door with the roses in his right hand ,the gaily wrapped box of candy under his arm and an open jewelry box displaying the earrings in his left hand. With an elbow he rang the doorbell. His wife came to the door, opened it and stared at him for a long minute. Suddenly she burst into tears. “  Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” asked the bewildered husband. “  It’s been the worst day of my life, “ she answered. “ First Jimmy tried to flush his diaper down the toilet. Then Eric melted his plastic airplane in the oven. Then the dishwasher got clogged and overflowed all over the kitchen floor. Then Brittany came home from school with a note from the teacher saying that she beat up a boy in her class. And now you come home drunk.”  Pp. 93-4 An Encyclopedia of Humor ed. Lowell D. Streiker Everyday relationships are tough! Yet they are the fabric of our lives.  Jesus understood this.  When Jesus wandered as an itinerate preacher and teacher, he didn’t have much normal family life and he suggested that most important for his followers was to be faithful to God, not to family ties. Yet, the gospel of Mark, the first one to write down his story, shows him concerned about marriage and children. One of the big controversies of Jesus day was how to be a faithful person and deal with the reality of divorce.  Even as far back as Moses’ day divorce was part of the life of the community.  Deuteronomy 24: 1-4  in the torah gives a way for men to divorce their wives. Ever since the rabbis and commentators had been discussing how best to do this and what the rules about it ought to be. There were several schools of thought in Jesus day, so the local Pharisees asked him what he thought, to test where he stood on the question.  Mark reports that Jesus turned the question back to them- what did Moses say. Then he invites them to look a little deeper not at...

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The Kingdom of God Sermon Sept 2018

Sermon  September 23, 2018    “ Vision of God’s Holy Mountain” by Rev. June Fothergill  Scripture:  Isaiah 65: 17-22 I have a Beetle Bailey cartoon on my home office wall.   Two soldiers are lying in their tents looking up at the stars.  One says, “  Someday we’ll be able to fly to all the stars.”  The other replies, “ And we’ll die from the hot gases of nuclear fusion.”   Then the first guy says, “ It should be against the law to destroy dreams with facts.” If we live long enough we realize that our dreams don’t often turn out as we dreamed them.    A lot of our lives are littered with lost and discarded dreams.  And when we are pushing 60 or 70 or 80 even 90- is there still place for dreams in our lives?  Maybe we need to just settle.  Dreams are for the young who don’t know any better.  And yet!  There is something about our scriptures and our faith that just can’t let go of us. There is a dream of God for the world bigger than our lives and efforts that continues to call to us all our lives.  As the prophet Joel and the book of Acts attest, when the Spirit comes, “ the young will see visions and your old share dream dreams.” What is this dream of God that compels us and calls to us throughout our whole lives of faith?  Jesus called it the Kingdom of God.  He declared in his life here on earth that people needed to repent and turn to this Kingdom of God coming into their midst.  He told stories about it. He lived it through acts of healing and justice.  He died and rose again to inspire and free us to continue on its journey. Yet, I remember one time as a teenager wondering what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God.  I read through the New Testament but frankly was just confused by the stories and metaphors and found few concrete examples.  I didn’t realize at the time that to understand what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God I needed to look to what had inspired him- the Hebrew Scriptures, especially the prophets.   Today we heard Jesus once again tell us- “Seek first the kingdom of God”.     I invite us to look at the passage from Isaiah 65, one Jesus surely knew by heart for insight about this  vision, this dream of the kingdom of God. One of the images for God’s kingdom that is common throughout Isaiah is that of the Holy Mountain or Mount Zion.   Around here many of us have climbed up the hills nearby...

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David Sermon Series August 2018

Three Part Sermon Series on the Story of David and Bathsheba,  2 Samuel 11-12:25; 1 Kings 1-2 Part 1:  King David in the Palace   Part 2:  Nathan’s Story    Part 3: What about Bathsheba? August 5, 2018   “ Part 1- King David in the Palace”  by Rev. June Fothergill Scripture:  2 Samuel 11: 1-15 Wow.  Can we be outraged?!  David, the hero of our Sunday School bible stories; that boy who trusted God and defeated the giant Goliath; David, the warrior who united the people and defeated the Philistine threat ; David, the one who God chose when he saw his heart as a young shepherd boy.  David, who mourned even those who had been his enemies, who loved Jonathan, who honored the anointed nature of King Saul, who was kind to Saul’s crippled grandson, who already had at least 4 wives and  6 sons.   David who has been given so much- God’s favor,  wives, children, a kingdom, adoring followers, faithful generals and fighting men, a beautiful house in his own town Jerusalem.  David, the greatest leader and beloved king. Yet, sitting in that beautiful house or palace, no longer out on the battlefield, David changed.  The David we see in this passage is a transformed person.  He is King now.  And being king means he can take what he wants!  Samuel long ago warned the people that the office of king would bring  oppression. That kings take what they want ( 1 Sam. 8:11-17). Biblical scholar,  Walter Brueggeman  points out that David just acts. He takes no time to consider, to ponder.  He sees the beautiful woman and wants her.   He asks who she is. And even when he discovers that she is the wife of one of his most loyal fighting men, likely a man who had been with him from the beginning of the journey to become king; a man whose house was next to his own;  a man who even now was out fighting David’s battles.  David doesn’t stop.  He wants and he had the power to take and he does.   There is no hint of conversation or affection or tenderness.   He gets her, he lays with her,  and sends her home.  He is the king.   Bathsheba says nothing. But then, we hear the last verb of the sequence-  she conceived. And we hear her voice for the first time. She sends word to David simply saying, “ I’m pregnant”.   Whoops.   His kingly power and control are shattered by such a simple reality.   He knows it is his ( for she had been purifying herself after her period) .   What will he do?  Well, he is the king after all. ...

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