Who is king in your heart?

St Barnabas, Norwich VT

Sermon by Rev Jennie M Anderson

Lord, make us stewards of ourselves, that we may be servants of others. Take my words and speak through them, take our minds and think through them, take our hearts and set them on fire, for Jesus’ sake. Amen. Good morning! Welcome!

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. Col 1:11-13 …they crucified Jesus there with the criminals…Luke 23:33b. What is the power that helps you get through your day and the struggles of your life? Who is king in your heart?

Br. Curtis Almquist wrote about Compassion - If you know something about suffering in your own heart, and if you know something about judgmentalism – about your having a critical spirit – then you have almost all the grace of compassion. Because compassion at its core, is about suffering, suffering with another, com-passion, and that comes out of the conversion of our judgmentalism.

What is the power that helps you get through your day and the struggles of your life? Who is king in your heart?

The first thing I do during and after a crisis or after experiencing a shock is to pray. Then the second thing I do is to look to the arts and what is being created with wholeness, love and amazing vision. These past several weeks I have been privileged being up here in the Valley, to see amazing and beautiful nature, God’s own art there. Then, to see dance, photos, and drawings by the kids I help to care for and wonderful hopeful expressions. I got to hear music and so glad and grateful to not only hear music and song, but to be a part of creating it. Thank you especially for the privilege of attending the concert by the Dartmouth Handel Society, a Concert for Hope.

Another thing I do as I work through a period of tremendous change and uncertainty is to look to my faith. As I mentioned last week, I have been reading a lot these weeks since the election. I have been reading the messages of hope and love from a variety of Episcopal Bishops around the country and around the world. I have been reading the messages that come through the editorials in the Valley News. I have been reading works and words put out by my colleagues in faith, both in the Episcopal Church and other denominations and faiths. And I have been reading a lot about the continuing hope offered through the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which provide my theme of hope and wonder for Advent 2016 and Lent 2017. But I’ll get to that next week and beyond!

What is the message that has been coming to me in these various readings and conversations? The first message of wisdom that I have gotten right between the eyes is that we are called to own, express and make rituals for the grief and sorrow that we and our brothers and sisters are feeling. This is true for this time of year in general, late fall, lower light, impending holidays and especially for the added drama of this post-election time. Feel your sadness, sit with someone else who is confused, sorrowful or grief stricken. In our more public culture, we don’t “do” grief very well. We gloss over our grief and we twist our it up into our fears. This is something for which the church can offer solutions well. We of the church, have something to offer those of us who grieve. We have rituals, prayers, experience in witnessing, and simply a way to be together in times when it hurts that doesn’t add to the hurt and sometimes even offers a little bit of healing.

What is the power that helps you get through your day and the struggles of your life? Who is king in your heart?

The second message I have gotten these weeks is to look for wisdom in our scriptures. In this week’s letter from Paul to the community in Colossae my friend Kate says that the church in Colossae, and we today, are provided with a worldview [right here in today’s letter from Paul], a description of the cosmos from the smallest of things to the most incomprehensible, all taken up in God. The author of the Letter holds together the huge ideas of how the cosmos was created and how it then holds together with the everyday command to live as a community based on love. Perhaps that is the brilliance of this letter: it grounds our life together as a community of love in the power of Christ (hence, "Christ the King"). The expansiveness of this hymn encompasses much more than our individual lives, although we of course each have our place in God's creation. We may feel overwhelmed by insolvable problems: war, hunger, poverty, and damage to the environment, but here are the roots of Christian hope, for God in Christ is at work in the world, in the big picture of all creation, and in everything that affects us personally in our own little lives, as well. [The Rev. Kathryn Matthews (matthewsk@ucc.org) retired in July after serving as the dean of Amistad Chapel at the national offices of the United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio.]

What is the power that helps you get through your day and the struggles of your life? Who is king in your heart?

The third message is that we can look to wisdom from our identity as Episcopalians. The presiding bishop wrote that last week he shared what he prays was a reconciling post-election message to our church, reminding us that ‘we will all live together as fellow Americans, as citizens.’ He continues his message this week by saying, “Today I want to remind us that during moments of transition, during moments of tension, it is important to affirm our core identity and values as followers of Jesus in the Episcopal way.

Jesus once declared, in the language of the Hebrew prophets, that God’s “house shall be a house of prayer for all nations” (Mk 11:17). He invited and welcomed all who would follow saying, “come to me all who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens” (Mt. 11:28). We therefore assert and we believe that “the Episcopal Church welcomes you” – all of you, not as merely a church slogan, but as a reflection of what we believe Jesus teaches us and at the core of the movement he began in the first century. The Episcopal Church welcomes all. All of us!

As the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement today, we Episcopalians are committed, as our Prayer Book teaches to honor the covenant and promises we made in Holy Baptism: To proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; To seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves; to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.

As Christians, we believe that all humans are created in God’s image and equal before God – those who may be rejoicing as well as those who may be in sorrow. As a Church, seeking to follow the way of Jesus, who taught us, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mt. 22:39) and to “do to others as you would have them do to you” (Mt. 7:12), we maintain our longstanding commitment to support and welcome refugees and immigrants, and to stand with those who live in our midst without documentation.  We reaffirm that like all people, LGBT persons are entitled to full civil rights and protection under the law. We reaffirm and renew the principles of inclusion and the protection of the civil rights of all persons with disabilities. We commit to the honor and dignity of women and speak out against sexual or gender-based violence.  We express solidarity with and honor the Indigenous Peoples of the world. We affirm the right to freedom of religious expression and vibrant presence of different religious communities, especially our Muslim sisters and brothers. We acknowledge our responsibility in stewardship of creation and all that God has given into our hands. We do so because God is the Creator. We are all God’s children, created equally in God’s image. And if we are God’s children we are all brothers and sisters.

“The Episcopal Church Welcomes You,” is not just a slogan, it’s who we seek to be and the witness we seek to make, following the way of Jesus. [The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church]

What is the power that helps you get through your day and the struggles of your life? Who is king in your heart?

I invite you to take these three bits of wisdom into your heart with the chances and changes we are experiencing at this time with the Thanksgiving holiday we are about to celebrate to pray for all those we love and all those we hate589. Study the messages that are being offered by our fellow people of faith and wisdom. Look to the scriptures and read, mark and inwardly digest them. Look to our core identity, not only as loving human beings, but as Episcopalians who, taught by Christ, seek to love the world well. Remember your strength from Colossians. Remember your compassion as Brother Curtis invites us into a conversion of our judgmentalism. Remember that LOVE is the power that helps us through the day and with the struggles of our lives. Remember that Love is king in your heart. Flora has provided us with copies of a couple of prayers for Thanksgiving to take home and use at your holiday table. I want to close today’s message with one of them.

Let us pray. Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen (BCP 246).