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Mother’s Day 2017

Sermon May 14, 21017  Risky Hospitality   by Rev. June Fothergill  Acts 17: 1-15 A man’s wife was in labor with their first child and suddenly she began to shout, “ Shouldn’t, couldn’t , wouldn’t ,didn’t , can’t”  He asked the nurse what was wrong with her. The nurse said, “ She’s having contractions.” It being Mother’s Day and all,  I was thinking about being a mother  and the process of welcoming a new baby.  It’s exciting and fulfilling but there is also an underlining risk- will I be up to it? What sort of person will he/she be?    Any act of hospitality- welcoming a new person into your sphere involves stretching our hearts and minds. It can involve risks.    I think of Jason and those women of high standing who not only welcomed Paul and Silas but welcomed the word about Jesus and became believers.  They welcomed a new person with a new perspective into their lives.  And it changed even disrupted their lives. How do you deal with disruption in your life?  Are you one that is good at going with the flow?  Or are you more apt to get distressed and worried about things?   Or maybe you’re one who plans and anticipates possible pit falls and “be ready” is your motto.  Or maybe you’re someone who runs away and hides at the first hint of trouble or the one who stands up and fights.   Maybe some of us have done all those things at different points of our lives depending upon the situation.    One of the things we learn as we read the book of Acts is that the early church was not immune to disruption and troubles, internal and external.   The coming of Jesus the Christ has brought something new and life giving to the world- but the world has not always been able or ready to receive it.  And even among the disciples themselves the way forward wasn’t always agreed. Yet this story of disruption and conflict is also a story of growth.  The community of believers grew in numbers and places. It grew in faith and  commitment.  It grew beyond its own comfort zones to reach a wider world with the good news of  Jesus Christ and his love and grace.   Choosing to be a believer and a disciple meant a new spiritual relationship and hope but also it could shake up your life! For example,  Jason.   Imagine what it might have been like to invite someone to your home and then to have the local authorities arrest you for harboring that person.  I would be scared and shocked. Even though they were soon released,  Jason and the other...

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Sermon ” Spirit Prep”

Sermon   May 28, 2017 “ Spirit Prep” by  Rev. June Fothergill   Scriptures:   Acts 1: 1-14 One time when I was in High School as friend of mine moved away.  I missed her very much.  In her new home she got involved in a charismatic church  which taught that to receive the Holy Spirit was to speak in tongues.  She sent me a very earnest letter explaining all this and how important it was.  She gave me a prayer and Bible reading process that was  supposed to open me to this gift of the Spirit.  I was very curious and trusted my friend and her faith, so I went somewhere by myself to pray about it as she had suggested.    I prayed the right prayers and did what she suggested  but nothing happened.  I did not receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.   The experience left me confused and a little sad. I had really wanted it to “ work.” Since then I have learned and experienced that God pours out the gifts of the Holy Spirit  in many different ways.  There is not just one gift of the Holy Spirit but many.   One college town pastor helped me identify that for me a gift of the Spirit can be an unexpected insight into a problem or concern.  The Spirit helps me reframe  the situation and see God’s possibilities in a new way.    I have also known some people who have the gift of healing touch.  Others had a gift for compassion for others or for discerning wisdom or  speaking truth.    The Holy Spirit is the work of God’s presence and power in our lives in so many ways.   How do we open ourselves to  its presence and power?    Can we get ready for the Holy Spirit?  Do Spirit Prep? Well ,  I think the first answer is no.   We do not control God’s  Holy  Spirit, so  we cannot say or do a formula that will bring it down to us.   That was the trouble with my friend’s letter.    The Holy Spirit is not a force we control or can manipulate with our formulas or prayers.   The Holy Spirit is the powerful, free presence of  God.  It’s not about our control of it but our openness to it.  That is why the disciples were asked by Jesus to wait and pray.  That is why he warned them that only God knows  the timing of the Kingdom of God.  And  I think that is why he reassures them over and over  of the promise of the Spirit and its power. So why even be concerned about it.  If God will pour out the Holy Spirit who...

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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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Prison Ministry Sermon

Sermon   August 28, 2016 Prison Ministry    Matthew 25: 31-40   The words of Matthew 25 about visiting the prisoners have challenged me throughout my ministry.  I have made various stabs at prison ministry:  a jail class in seminary, almost doing a CPE at Vacaville Prison  ( I chickened out)  and numerous visits over the years to persons I knew in prison or jail and recently being a mentor for Sponsors.   One of the things the jail chaplain who taught my seminary class said has stuck with me.  “  You are not bring Christ and the church to the prison. Christ and the church are already there.  Just look for them.”    All across the country there are jail and prison ministries doing just that.   This morning I invite you to look with me at two aspects of ministry with prisoners.  One is a personal level, one is societal. 1.  On the personal level, each of us, if we so choose can make a difference in a prisoner’s life.    One the things that prisons and jails do is to separate persons from the rest of society in ways that often dehumanize them.   Spoon Jackson, who was incarcerated at age 20 for life without parole has written, “ No cage, physical, mental or spiritual can be my home.”  For him letters were so very important,   “Letters were like blood veins or lifelines: I lived through them and only ate and slept in prison.”  (p. 79  By Heart Poetry, Prison and Two Lives by Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson , New village Press, Oakland, CA , 2010) Writing letters, visiting when possible someone in prison helps them to know that they are still human beings and that someone cares about them.   These personal connections are a way of being in ministry, sharing the love of Christ. Spoon Jackson is also a poet and writes about the importance of relationships: “ For self rehabilitation or any kind of restorative work to succeed there must be constant contact and exchange with the public, people of all ages, colors, and cultures. There must be continuous dialog and programs that put mirrors up to everyone’s faces not just the prisoners.”  ( p. 86) Because incarceration is a traumatic experience, there is always need for ministries which foster relationship,  healing and hope during and after the experience. There is also another reason to make personal connections.  Prisons and jails tend to want to keep regular citizens out.  Yet, it is important for us to stay aware of what is happening in our prisons and jails.  Even when they are sometimes contracted out to private industries, they are still part of our public criminal...

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