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Sermon on the Beatitudes Jan. 29, 2017

The Blessed Life  by Rev. June Fothergill    Matthew 5: 1-12 “Reported to be seen on  a sign outside a church in Houston Texas, “ The meek shall inherit the earth.” Underneath it a graffiti artist had scrawled “ But not the mineral rights.” P. 89  ( Encyclopedia of Humor, Lowell D. Streiker) When you hear the word Blessings what come to mind?  Maybe our families or our homes?  Living in a free country?    Friends?   If we are honest, I doubt if many of us would think first of things like mourning or persecution!    We live in a culture which values hard work and achievement and the fruits of our labors.  We expect progress and life to get better over time.  Success is important.  I know that I was proud of my good grades in school.  I liked the feeling of being successful.    But now at the closing end of my career, I face the reality that I serve in a declining denomination.   I haven’t had too much “success”   in terms of how we tend to evaluate it. Even here at Ebbert,  our average worship attendance has gone down by one rather than up.  Our income is smaller.  By the ways the world and even the institutional church measure “ success”  I’m in trouble.  Of course the numbers of people we feed each week has grown substantially, but there are few ways to report that in our statistics.   I can report that I have a little Bible study on Monday morning during our meal. Yet, how can I report how studying the scripture  with folks who are unhoused has changed in my heart?  How each Monday I am humbled and inspired? I think that in this passage we call the Beatitudes Jesus is giving us two kinds of encouragement.   He is showing us the way to the Blessed life in the Beloved community of God’s realm. 1. The word is one of encouragement to those who experience humility and hurt in their lives. I invite you to close your eyes and imagine these words as Jesus encouraging you in your life right now. He tells us that when we are poor in spirit. When we don’t have the answers, when we feel empty, even useless- we are blessed , the kingdom of heaven is ours! He tells us that when we are bereaved, when we have lost what matters to us, when we mourn. We are blessed- we will find comfort. He tells us that when we are meek. When we have no power in the political process, when our lives don’t seem to matter-  we  are blessed- we will inherit the earth. He tells...

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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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