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Easter Sermons 2017

Easter Sermon 2017   Rev. June Fothergill One Easter I had the great idea of having helium balloons that we would all release inside during the Easter service.  Then I had the additional “ great idea” of attaching paper butterflies to the bottom of each balloon’s string.  I could just picture all the butterflies soaring over our heads. So in the smallest of the two churches, Canyonville, I grabbed the strings of the balloons and proceeded to hand them out as we proclaimed over and over Christ is Risen.  Only trouble was, I couldn’t do it at all.  The butterflies and strings were all tangled up!  The congregation was patient as we finally untangled all the balloons.  What a mess. Balloons, butterflies, brass, music, flowers- Easter invites us to celebrate.  My favorite is the sunrise service, I don’t think I have missed one in over 30 years.  If my church didn’t have one I either started one or found a local ecumenical one.  I figured if those women could get up early on Easter morning , so could I.  I especially love it when the service starts in the darkness and  we experience the light slowly dawning.  I admit it, I rarely see a sunrise, but on Easter I cherish them.  All these rituals and symbols have meaning for me=- perhaps for you too.  Good symbols and stories do not carry just one meaning- which is why they last. Yet, sometimes it is good to look more closely at that the stories tell us and what the symbols can mean. For example, in more than 30 years of preaching Easter sermons, I have never really seriously considered the question of the cloths left in the tomb that John talks about in this passage in John 20.  This year those cloths have intrigued me, partly because of a prose poem written by Anne Copeland.   In it she tells the story of a lace collar given to her by her mother as they made the transition from a home to a smaller assisted living situation.   Anne reflects upon the importance of cloth and clothing to her mother and wonders about its importance as a symbol.  She wonders whether Peter took with him one of the Linen cloths from the tomb and who it was who won the gamble for Jesus seamless garment at the cross.  She asks “ to whom did those fibers speak? What , if anything did they say?”  ( p. 45  “ Lace Collar”  in Willow Springs January 1998) John gives us much detail about these cloths:  they were linen, the ones for the head were rolled up in a place by themselves.  Both...

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Lent 2017 Sermons

Sermon  March 5, 2017  Lent 1  “ Temptation”   Rev. June Fothergill Genesis 2-3,  Matthew 4 Jim Grant in Reader’s Digest told about an overweight businessman decided it was time to shed some excess pounds. He took his new diet seriously, even changing his driving route to avoid his favorite bakery. One morning however he showed up at work with a gigantic coffee cake.  Everyone in the office scolded him, but his smile remained nonetheless. “ This is a special coffee cake” he explained.  ” I accidently drove by the bakery this morning and there in the window was a host of goodies. I felt it was no accident, so I prayed, ‘ Lord if you want me to have one of those delicious coffee cakes, let there be  parking spot open right in front. ‘  and  sure enough the 8th time around the block , there it was!”  ( Lee, Griess, Taking the Risk Our of Dying, CSS Publishing co., 1997   esermons.com 2/27/2004) Ahh temptation.      Yet, temptations remind us that we have choices.   J Barrie Shepherd in his poem, “Testing”  expresses this: The meaning  of a wilderness is not, in point of fact immediately evident, at least to most who trudge the daily adamant of pain or merely mediocre times because they must. The presence of A tempter with bright offers, tantalizing choices to be made, might even seem to bear a sweet relief from forty days of sheer  oblivion. Lead us , Lord into temptation for a change, please. And grant us just a passing whiff of evil before nightfall.   ( The Christian Century February 26, 1986)   In the Genesis creation stories God made us with the ability and opportunity for choices.  This is part of what it means to be a human being made in God’s image.   Yet, it doesn’t take much looking around to realize that we are not too good at making choices.  In fact, one of the hardest things to do is to be truthful with ourselves and to see clearly our choices.   We get trapped into addictions and rationalizations.   Paul experienced this and put it well, “ I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want but I do the very thing I hate.”  ( Rom 7: 15)   Paul calls what is at work inside of him, which keeps him from making good choices,  “ sin that dwells within me.” The Genesis story and Paul both show us a truth about our human lives- we experience alienation from our true selves and God.    The classical way of saying this is that we are “ fallen”.   Our ability to make choices...

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Extravagant Generosity Sermons

The themes of the following sermons are: Feb. 5-  Generosity Flowing from the Heart Feb. 12- The Art of Loving Feb. 19- Vision for Our Church for the Coming Year Sermon Feb. 19, 2017  “ Bucket List”  by June Fothergill Have you ever seen the movie The Bucket List, with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson? Two terminally ill men develop a list of all the things they have always wanted to do. Then they help each other do those things. They face their task with a great sense of urgency. The movie invited us to wonder- what do we really want to do before we die? Today we will explore our bucket list for the church. This week’s card asked you to consider what you would most like to see happen in the church in the next year. Consider now what you would like to see happen in your life in that same time. In what ways do your passions for the church align with your personal desires? Today I will share my vision for the church in this coming year. In our text from Joel today I notice that the culmination of gifts from God to the people will be that all of them will receive God’s vision and word.  As 2:28-29 says “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old  shall dream dreams, and your young shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves in those days I will pour out my spirit.”   (NRSV)  This is an encouraging word for us.  It suggests that God’s Spirit, the source of God’s vision is not just for certain folks like the pastor.  It is for all the people.  I your pastor may articulate a vision I sense from God for us, but your ideas, your prayers, your input and passions are also important for the vision for our congregation.  Joel reminds us that we listen together for the word of the Spirit to give us vision and hope.   What has God inspired you to envision for the coming year?  The ideas I want to share with you today come from my attempt to pay attention to God and to you, this Insightful congregation.  I share them with an openness to our discernment together. Also, clearly Jesus had a vision for the Kingdom of God. He preached and taught about it all through his ministry.  Yet, he also noticed that sometimes his people had trouble catching on to it.  In the passage we read from Matthew 6, Jesus identifies some of the things that got in the way of his people catching the...

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Sermons January 2017

Welcome to the sermons from January 1- January 15, 2017  Enjoy! Sermon  January 1, 2017 John 1: 1-18; Galatians 4: 4-7  “ Being An Heir of Christ in this New Year”  by Rev. June Fothergill “We are no longer slaves, but children of God and therefore heirs.” – Paul in Galatians The attorney gathered the entire family for the reading of the will. Relatives came from near and far to see if they were included in the bequests. The lawyer somberly opened the will and began to read: To my cousin Ed, I leave my ranch. To my brother Jim, I leave my money market accounts. To my neighbor and good friend Fred, I leave my stocks. And finally to my cousin George who always sat around and never did anything but wanted to be remembered in my will I say, “ Hi George.”  ( p. 143 The Encyclopedia of Humor) This past week I spent time with my mother in her 80’s  and my mother in law in her 90’s. It’s good to spend time with them, to care for them, and to receive from them the wisdom and stories they had to share.    I think about what it means to be an heir.  In both cases it is less important what physical inheritance I might receive from them than the ethical inheritance. What are the values and ways of living that they hand down to me,  that I want to emulate and pass down to my children and others?  What did they inherit that they want to pass down to me and my family?  How do we help this sharing of stories and values happen?  How do we value each other in such a way that the stories get told and the values get shared?   These are the questions that concern me not just for my own family but for our churches and even our world.   What does it mean to be an heir. I think about all this also because of the reading from the letter of Paul to the Galatians we read this week.  Especially, “ We are no longer slaves but children of God and therefore heirs.” What does Paul mean and what does it mean for us today? Paul writes first of all that “ We are not longer slaves.”  This is crucial for his argument to the Galatians.  He is upset because some people have been teaching that in order to be right with God one needs first to be circumcised and adhere to other practices of the Jewish laws. To Paul this is a big mistake!    He doesn’t want them to get hung up on things...

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Anniversary Sermon December 18 2016

Sermon   “Serving Christ in this Very Place” by Rev. June Fothergill   December 18, 2016 Isaiah 7 ,   2 Chronicles 6:1,2,18-21,40-42; 7:1-4 ; Hebrews 10: 19-25 The little Kingdom of Judah was in trouble, surrounded by enemies on all sides.  The Bible says ( vs. 7:2) his heart shook like the trees of the forest shake before the wind.”    The King Ahaz, had heard a word from God to ask for a sign. But he said, “ I will not ask, I will not put the Lord to the test.”  But the prophet Isaiah saw his fearful heart.  “  Come on. “ He said, “ God asked you  to seek a sign. Can’t you just trust God and look for one?  So look the Lord is giving you a sign.  The young woman is with child and shall bear a son and shall name him  Immanuel- God with us.   For before this little one is weaned, this threat that so frightens you will be  gone. The sign God gave to the frightened king was a little baby-  someone to love and cherish, to care for with  curds and honey.  These were choice foods for a weaned child but hard to find in a city under siege.  God was telling King Ahaz that all would be well for this little child.   By the time the child was weaned, those who threatened Judah would be gone.    Centuries later, the first Christians, particularly the writer of Matthew’s gospel looked upon this promise of God in scripture and saw a parallel to what God was doing in Jesus and Mary.  God came to bring salvation through a little child- God with us.  A child needing our tender loving care.  Could it be that God continues to come to us as the vulnerable one who needs our love .   That opportunities for tender loving care still give our world hope in the midst of despair, pain and fear? The other night at the Egan Warming Center, I met a young woman who was frightened and cold.  It was her first time in such a place.  She didn’t want to talk with anyone.   I invited her to sit with me and introduced her to a couple of my friends also staying at the Center.    They reached out to her with gentle TLC and humor.  Before I left that night she was talking some with me.  Tonight the Egan Warming Center will open once again.  Folks  from all over the valley will come to show tender, loving care for the most vulnerable in our midst on a cold night.  Soon it will be our turn to host the Center, already several of...

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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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