Archive for August, 2012

What a Covenant

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Rev. Marie Bacchiocchi

August 26, 2012

Listen to Sermon

Biblical Testimonies:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 – The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,* says the Lord. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Romans 12:3-8 – For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

A Cup of Ice

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

August 19, 2012

Listen to Sermon

Contemporary Testimony: an excerpt from Take This Bread: The spiritual memoir of a twenty-first century Christian by Sara Miles

What I heard, and continue to hear, is a voice that can crack religious and political convictions open, that advocates for the least qualified, least official, least likely. It [Christianity] proclaims against reason that the hungry will be fed, that those cast down will be raised up, and that all things, including my own failures, are being made new. It offers food without exception to the worthy and unworthy, the screwed-up and pious, and then commands everyone to do the same. It doesn’t promise to solve or erase suffering but to transform it, pledging that by loving one another, even through pain, we will find more life. And it insists that by opening ourselves to strangers, the despised or frightening or unintelligible other, we will see more and more of the holy, since, without exception, all people are one body: God’s.

Biblical Testimony: Matthew 10:40-42 ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

Leaving Our Boats

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

August 12, 2012

Contemporary Testimony: Blessing the Nets found at the Painted Prayerbook by Jan Richardson

You could cast it in your sleep,
its familiar arc embedded in your muscle memory
after months, years, a lifetime
of gathering in what you thought would sustain you forever.

You would not have imagined it would be so easy to cast aside,
would never have believed the immediacy with which your hands
could release their familiar grip, could let it go,
could let it simply continue its arcing path away from you.

But when the call came you did not hesitate,
did not pause, did not delay to follow,

as if your body had suddenly remembered the final curve of the arc,

as if the release begun in your hands
now passed through you entirely
and you let go of everything

to cast yourself with abandon upon the waiting world.

Biblical Testimony: Matthew 4:18-25

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

23 Jesus* went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news* of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. 24So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. 25And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

Leaving Our Boats: I preached on the calling of the disciples back in January.  It rolled around in lectionary right on time.  After Jesus baptism and then his temptation in the wilderness, the first thing he does is organize his posse.  I suggested back in January that what Simon peter, Andrew, James and John did was extraordinary, even crazy.  That I’d be hard pressed to walk away from everything unless I fell in love.  Head-over-heals, one hundred percent in love.  Love will make you do crazy things!  Even letting go of everything to cast yourself with abandon upon the waiting world.

This love that caused the new disciples to cast themselves with abandon upon the waiting world has much to teach us.  These disciples who cast themselves with abandon on the waiting world have much to teach us.

I’d like to suggest this morning that we  need to cast ourselves with abandon on the waiting world.  We need to take our hospitality out of our churches and into the world. It’s not enough to sit here week after week and wait for people to find us. The world has a deep need for the kind of love and healing that so many of us find here.  We like the disciples need to leave the safety of our boats, drop everything and start a new adventure of radical hospitality.
The late theologian and writer Letty Russell presents her understanding of the spiritual practice of hospitality and the need for the Christian community to reframe it.  Here’s an excerpt from Just Hospitality: God’s Welcome in a World of Difference:

My experience as an outsider within has led me to focus on a theology of hospitality that emphasizes the calling of the church as a witness to God’s intention to mend the creation by bringing about a world of justice, peace, and integrity of the natural world. There are a lot of ‘missing persons’ in our world today whose situation of poverty, injustice, and suffering makes God weep. These missing persons are not strangers to God, for God already has reached out to care for them. Yet they are strangers in the world who need to know God cares through the witness of a church that practices a ministry of hospitality and justice on their behalf.

“What do we mean by hospitality?

Hospitality is the practice of God’s welcome by reaching across difference to participate in God’s actions bringing justice and healing to our world in crisis. Hospitality can be understood as solidarity with strangers, a mutual relationship of care and trust in which we share in the struggle for empowerment, dignity, and fullness of life. The word for hospitality in the Greek New Testament is phil-o-xenia, love of the stranger. Its opposite is xenophobia, hatred of the stranger. The ministry of the church is to be partners with strangers, to welcome those whom Jesus welcomed, and thus learn to be a community in which people are made one  in spite of their different classes, religious backgrounds, genders, races, and ethnic groups. It is a gift that transcends real differences through participation in the mission and ministry of the church on behalf of healing the brokenness of the world.

The disciples this morning remind us that this task is difficult if we remain safely in the boat.  Sometimes we must cast ourselves with abandon on the waiting world.  Because we never know what will happen when we do.  We might just fall in love again.

Several years ago I cast myself with abandon at the cradle of humanity, the birth place of evolution, the Garden of Eden.

We traveled to Mbilini on red dirt roads.  Looking out the front widows we saw lush vegetation.   But it wasn’t green, it was red, coated with dirt.  Looking out the back window we saw only red dust, the vegetation invisible in its cloud.  The van filled with the same dust, even though the windows were closed, and it covered us.  The dust filled our nostrils and mouths.  It blanketed our clothes and our skin.  I thought of the words, “from dust we come, to dust we shall return.”  I was returning to the place where my ancestors began their evolution.  I was returning home.

We spilled from the vehicles welcomed home by Eve’s daughters.  Women, young and old, wrapped us in their arms.   Their voices filled the air with mysterious music.  Though the words were foreign, and the harmonies unfamiliar, the ancient ritual felt familiar.  Their welcome was unlike anything I have ever experienced.   They raised their hands above their heads and wiggled their fingers frantically.  Simultaneously, they wagged their tongues producing exotic calls.  They used their voices and their bodies to express their joy at our arrival.  Their enthusiasm filled my heart with longing and my eyes with tears.

We were moved by the women, their songs and celebration, their love and care.  Abandoning the vans, together we walked up the road, dust filling our shoes.  They held our hands, singing, welcoming, and leading us, a parade of strangers becoming friends.

We marched in an endless procession; scores of women welcoming twenty people.  We arrived at a small shamba.  There, waiting for us, were lawn chairs.  We took these places of honor as the women continued to sing, dance and drum for us.   Before long we were dancing with them.  The beat of the drums moved us.  The rhythms of the music rocked our souls.

We continued to celebrate with a feast.  Fruits and vegetables, stews and meats filled our bowls and our bellies.  Avocadoes, bananas, cassava, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, corn, arrow root, carrots, beans, lamb, beef, and goat fed the entire village.  No one was left unfed.  Everyone partook of Eden’s abundance.

The welcome I received in Mbilini is like none I have ever known.  The love was tangible.  The energy was electric.  The grace was God’s.  I believe that someday when I die and travel the road into the afterlife it will be covered in red dust.  The dust will fill my shoes and lungs.  Music will fill my ears, arms will embrace me and I will be home; home in Mbilini, home in heaven.   In our lives we are occasionally graced with moments of clarity.  For me, the women of Mbilini offered one of those rare moments.  It offered a glimpse into the Garden of Eden. It offered a look at what the future offers for people who learn to love one another.  They cast themselves with abandon at us and we cast ourselves with abandon at them.  Radical hospitality looks like love when the one’s passion and another need meet.

So fall in love, with the Jesus calling you away from your boat.  Fall in love the folks that Letty Russell talks about, the people living on the margin, fall in love with women and men who welcome you into community in new places, and then cast yourself with abandon on the waiting world.

Table Generosity

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

August 5, 2012

Listen to Sermon

Contemporary Testimony: from Grace at Table by Donna Schaper

Call me simple-minded. Call me a closet Christian…who is coming out, with vengeance towards none. Call me a person who has personally experienced the power of prayer, like when I had a mastectomy 11 years ago or got hit by a deer one year ago…Call me a foodie. Call me a multiplication table, and I don’t mean the math kind. I mean the kind that adds and forgets how to subtract, multiplies instead of dividing. Call me a persistent believer in spiritual solutions to material problems, particularly the one called hate-that-leads-to-hunger.

Biblical Testimony: Luke 9:10-17 from the Cotton Patch Gospels

Soon the disciples returned and described to him all that they had done. He took them and left privately for a city namedGriffin. The crowds found out about it, and followed him along the way. So he let them come to him and he was explaining to them the God Movement, and curing those who were sick. As the end of the day drew near, the Twelve said to him, “Dismiss the crowd, so they can go to the neighboring cafes and motels to find food and lodging, because there’s nothing around out here.” He said to them, “You all go ahead and feed them.” But they said, “Between all of us there’s no more than five boxes of crackers and two cans of sardines. Or do you mean that we should go and buy supplies for all this crowd?” (For there were about five thousand people.) “Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty,” he said to his students. They did this, and everybody sat down. He then asked for the five boxes of crackers and the two cans of sardines, and when he had given thanks, he opened them and gave them to the students to distribute to the crowd. All ate and had plenty, and there were twelve trays full, left uneaten.

Welcomed to Rest

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

July 29, 2012

Listen to Sermon

Contemporary Testimony: quote by Sister Joan D. Chittister
Hospitality means we take people into the space that is our lives and our minds and our hearts and our work and our efforts. Hospitality is the way we come out of ourselves. It is the first step towards dismantling the barriers of the world. Hospitality is the way we turn a prejudiced world around, one heart at a time.

Biblical Testimony: Luke 10:38-42
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” ‘But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”