Sunday 6-26-16

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!

What do you need to follow God's will for your life, and how is God calling you today?

Joan Chittister said, "Prophets are those who take life as it is and expand it. They refuse to shrink a vision of tomorrow to the boundaries of yesterday."

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Every calling is great when greatly pursued."

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

Jesus said, And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

Who are your modern-day models of apostles and prophets? Are they your parents? Your spouse? Your family? Your teacher? Your priest? Your supervisor at work? Your children? When I was first attending Al-anon recovery groups back in the late 70’s, one of the suggestions was to find somebody who has what you want, and ask that person to become your sponsor. Meet with that person and find out what their habits of prayer are, or their patterns of living throughout the day. All the little things that they do to make them have the qualities that you admire in them – eat, exercise, read, pray, make contact with others or find quiet alone time to journal or meditate. Then, look at what parts of those patterns you can do for yourself and do that.

It’s maybe a little overly simplistic, but whenever I have found myself in a new task, or a new chore; or maybe living in a new place, or with a new roommate, I look for the people in my life whom I admire and who have walked that path and then ask them how they got through it and became the person they are now… sometimes, today, I find folks with whom to pray, or exchange wisdom readings. Sometimes I simply do my best to make friends with a person who had experience that I want to get so that I can then give it away to another person… just as I have received that gift of having a companion along the way, I want to be a companion on the way for others. There are a few things that I have to be very careful of as I travel this road in faith.

What do you need to follow God's will for your life, and how is God calling you today?

 Br. Curtis Almquist was quoted this week speaking about being a witness. He said, “If my motive for witnessing to others about the One God is in the hope of saving them from the fires of hell, I have already passed judgment on them and done exactly what we have been commended by Jesus not to do: not to judge. What we as Christians witness to is the love of God, without strings. The love of God, shone into our hearts, which we reflect like a mirror outward.” [-Br. Curtis Almquist] It is so important to try my hardest to identify with another person and not to compare myself to them. If I can always keep that in mind, I will be safe from judging another. Instead, I will hold that other person in God’s light. If I can always keep that in mind, I will find myself to have a very skilled listening ear indeed when it is my turn to be called to hear testimony, which is also often framed as a confession. If I can keep this in mind, I will be able to hear God’s voice of love through another person to help me grow and change rather than be stuck in the same stuck place in my spiritual journey.

What do you need to follow God's will for your life, and how is God calling you today?

          I have been thinking about my mom, which is no great surprise I suppose, and I have been thinking about how much richness she has given me throughout my lifetime. That richness was not always offered to me as money rather what my mom offered to me most often was simple spiritual truth about how to travel along the way.

For example, when I was experiencing my first crisis of faith and questioning God’s existence and taking my existential questions to an obnoxious level, mom said, “Jennie, if you can’t believe, you can believe that I believe, and let that be enough for now.” I not only received her love but I also learned by her example how to become the person that someone else might need along their spiritual path. Mom shared about how I can grow in the love of God. The most important lesson is to always, always ALWAYS practice gratitude. Say thank you. Keep it simple, but always say thank you to God; to ones who have said or done something for me, to someone who has written something I’ve read that helped; to one who I have helped, and to one who has helped me, say thank you and BE GRATEFUL. Even those people with whom I struggle or have come to hate. To this lesson I say, “Thank you God and thank you mom.”

          What do you need to follow God's will for your life, and how is God calling you today?

Kate and I in our conversation this week have this to say about today’s Hebrew Scripture reading, that Elijah and Elisha were working in difficult times for Israel, for the northern kingdom, long about nine centuries before Jesus. The Omri dynasty was not a stellar time for God's people up north. It required many prophets, not just Elijah or Elisha. However, it wasn't only the worship of false gods that got the Omri dynasty into trouble with Yahweh, because the kings of Israel often proved Lord Acton's saying, many centuries later, about power corrupting, and absolute power corrupting absolutely.

As Elijah prepares for the end of his work, and Elisha prepares to succeed him, it's hard to know what's going on in their hearts. Perhaps Elijah is having a hard time accepting the end, or Elisha as his successor. Perhaps Elisha is afraid, and knows that he will need a double share of the spirit that has filled Elijah in his ministry. And so this little story tells us about many signs, dramatic ones like chariots of fire and horses of fire, but also quiet ones, like the assurance that settled on Elisha's heart as the mantle of authority was placed in his hands, and he set out, back across the river, responding to the call of God, and confident of God's guidance and strength along the way. [Kate Huey]

What do you need to follow God's will for your life, and how is God calling you today?

On Thursday of this past week, Richard Rohr offered this message in his daily meditation: In order for this alternative consciousness to become your primary way of thinking, you have to experience something that forces either/or thinking to fall apart. Perhaps you hate homosexuality and then you meet a real, wonderful homosexual. Or your son comes home and tells you he is getting a divorce. Or you meet a Muslim who is more loving than most of your Christian friends. Your first reaction is a struggle: "What do I do now? I don't like this. I can't deal with this. I want to go back to my familiar and habitual world." You know your lesbian daughter is good and you love her and don't want to reject her. So you ask your minister, "What will I do?" Inside such "liminal space" is where real change happens, when spiritual progress happens. It might be called growing up. [Richard Rohr]

What do you need to follow God's will for your life, and how is God calling you today?

My sponsor, Joan Chittister, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Eleanor Roosevelt, the people of Al-anon recovery groups, Br. Curtis Almquist, my mom, my friend Kate, Richard Rohr, the members of the LGBTQ community, Jesus, the first disciples of Jesus, the AT Thru hikers who stayed with us this week, my dog, my brothers, the Frasers and family of Bruce Ward, Flora Meyer and Tom Brown, Ed and Joyce Childs, Jean and John Lawe, Candy Miller, Les Gibbs, and most especially, the new comers I get to meet today for the first or second time… Each and every one of these people, and many more than that, I need all of these people in order to follow God’s will for my life. Having the wisdom, love and support of people in my life is what makes me a very rich woman. Living in a community of people who sing, pray, write, give, work, play, rest, cook, feed, teach me all that we are and do together is how God is calling me today. People who are simply companions along the way no matter who they are and what they do, they are what I need to follow God’s will for my life.

What do you need to follow God's will for your life, and how is God calling you today?

Let us pray. O God, you set us free in Jesus Christ with a power greater than all that would keep us captive. Grant that we might live gracefully in our freedom without selfishness or arrogance, and through love become slaves to the freedom of the gospel for the sake of your reign. Amen.