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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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Sharing with Others Sermon

Sharing with Others   by Rev. June Fothergill July 17, 2016 Luke  12: 13-21;  Acts 2: 43-47; 4:32-35 ( Mark 8:35)   Eric Law in his book called Holy Currencies: 6 Blessings for Sustainable Ministries tells the story of dinner at his home growing up.  “ When I was a child my family always had guest for dinner. On any given day, there might be 12 10 15 people at the dinner table. Dinner was a time of joyful sharing gof food and stories.  I thought we were quite wealthy , feeding so many people every night.  Only when I was older , while talking to my mother about the good old days did I find out that we were not rich at all . My mother told me that some days when only had three dollars to feed 15 people. How could that be? I did not remember a day when there was not enough food.”   Eric learned that his mom was a very savy shopper and cook, but he thinks it is more than that, “ Not only was everyone around the table filled every night; there were always leftovers.  I believe the way we dealt with the leftovers at the dinner table is indicative of how this miracle of doing ‘more with less” was accomplished. Toward the end of dinner there was always something left on a place in the middle of the table, Everyone would be staring at it, especially when it was a piece of meat… But no one would make a move to take it. Then someone would say, “ Why don’t you take it Grandma? You are the oldest.” But my grandma would say, “ NO I’ve been eating this stuff all my life. Give it it the little eone. He’s the youngest and needs the nourishment to grow up to be big and strong.” Now all eyes were on mem, who was the youngest. But I who also learned this ritual would say, “ No not me. I am completely full because I have the smallest stomach. Give it to my older brother. He has an examination at school tomorrow, He needs it so he can do well.”   … And so it went , each person would find an excuse not to take the leftover piece of food and instead offered it to each other, and “affirmed each other’s worthiness in the family.  AS a result the leftover would remain left over and be transformed into a new dish the next day.” ( p. 14-15  Eric Law, Holy Currencies, Chalice Press, St Louis, 2013) The lesson Eric learned from these dinner table experiences was a spirituality that...

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War and Peace Sermon

Sermon  War and Peace by  Rev. June Fothergill    July 10, 2016 Scriptures:  Ecclesiastes 3:1-13; Isaiah 9:2-7; Matthew 5: 9, 45-47; Romans 12: 14-20 I found some letters and prayers to God the other day written by children.  One said, “ Dear God, I bet it is very hard for you love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it.”    Another was heard to pray, “ And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.” Today I want to talk with you about the big issue of War and Peace. Yet, the children remind me that it all starts right here where we are and how we decide to deal with the trash people put in our baskets!   The ancient philosopher of Ecclesiastes looked out at the world and realized that there was a time for  everything.   There was a time for hate and a time for love; a time for war and a time for peace.   After that now famous passage,  he goes on to talk about God’s gift to humanity- that all people eat and drink and take pleasure in their toil. Ultimately, in life with all its complexity, it’s time for everything-  God wants to offer us the gift of a community where people find what they need: food, drink, and joy.  That sounds to me like a time of peace Ecclesiastes also points to the reality that in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament there is a conversation going on about the nature of God.  Is God someone who calls for violence and war or a is God one who offers ways of peace?   Many of us have heard about the stories of war in the OT- Joshua at Jericho, the bloody battles to protect and conquer the land, the fights to overcome oppression.   Yet, there are also stories of God offering alternatives to war:  Abram and his nephew Lot separating their operations rather than fight ( Gen 13); Isaac moving on and digging new wells rather than fight over old ones. (  Gen. 26: 12-22)  Elisha ‘s dealings with King Aram’s attempt to fight the King of Israel.   ( 2 Kings 6)   The Israelite king wanted to massacre the Aramean force but Elisha told him instead to prepare food and drink for the Arameans.   The passage concludes, “ And the Arameans no longer came raiding into the land of Israel.”  ( 2 kings 6: :23) In his article about Jesus and the Old Testament, J Denny Weaver points out that there was an ongoing conversation in the tradition- is...

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Discipleship Sermon

Discipleship Sermon    Rev. June Fothergill    July 3, 2016 Robert Fulghum shares the true story of a man named Larry Walter. At 33 years of age Larry decided he wanted to see his neighborhood from a different perspective. So he went to the Army Navy store and purchased  45 weather balloons. That afternoon he strapped himself into a sawn chair to which several of his friend tied the hone helium filled balloons. He took along a six pack, a peanut butter sandwich and a BB gun- figuring he could shot the balloon one at a time when he was ready to land.  Larry thought the balloons would lift him about a 100 feet but when he was cut look the chair soared 10,000 feet- smack into the middle of the air traffic pattern from the LA airport. He was too frightened to shoot any of the balloons and stayed in the chair for more than 2 hours, causing air flight delays.  After he was safely back on the ground and cited by the police reporters asked him three questions “ Were you scared?”  Yes Would you do it again?  No Why did you do it?  “ Because Larry said, You can’t just sit there.  ( Dr. Andrew Wolfe,  Look Before You Leap) What an adventure!  It all started with me this week when I remembered the words my father preached one time that I actually remembered- that following Jesus is an adventure.  So my translation for the word discipleship this morning is the word  All.   Christian Discipleship means to me that we give our all in all to the Adventure with  Jesus Christ Learning from Jesus Christ Leadership of  Jesus Christ Adventure.   Clearly  the persons who chose to follow Jesus in the gospel readings we heard today went on an adventure.  They all chose to leave behind their livelihoods and follow Jesus around Palestine.   If that’s not an adventure, I don’t know what is.  Also, they were later sent out by Jesus two by two to do what he did: to heal people and talk about God.  These folks were not seminary trained professionals. They were ordinary fishermen and tax collectors.  Yet, following Jesus changed their lives all around.  They were now healers and preachers.  Not only that!  To call following Jesus an adventure implies that it will not be easy.   Jesus later told them that to follow him would mean sacrifice- to take up a cross ( an instrument of pain and suffering).  And then at the end of Matthew Jesus tells them to  go out into all the world to continue his work.   Do you see that I mean about the first folks...

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