Every summer I look to do something fun with my sermons. I usually follow the Revised Common Lectionary for most of the year. The lectionary provides me a schedule of preaching. It helps with Lent, Pentecost and Advent. The passages chosen help us get ready for the big holidays. But in the summer it’s fun to get away from it. The summer is a laid back time of year and the schedule opens up. Why not do something different?
I thought I would look at our soul sisters in the Bible. They are definitely a motley crew. Their world is a male dominated one. The odds are stacked against them, culturally speaking. But it doesn’t stop them from doing some amazing things. Their lower status in society doesn’t prevent God from seeing them and using them. Their stories are interesting and inspiring for men, women, youth and children alike.
We’ll hear from the usual suspects: Sarah, Mary and Ruth. We’ll also hear from Hagar, a slave girl that Sarah and Abraham push away from their household. God remembers Hagar and assists her. We’ll hear from Lydia, a woman coming into the faith who opens her house to the apostle Paul. We’ll hear from Bathsheba, one of King David’s wives, who tries to get her son Solomon on the throne. We’ll hear from Deborah, one of the judges who saves Israel from the enemy.
We’ll focus on the women of the Bible throughout the months of June and July. We’ll have eight stories to hear. But they aren’t the only women in the Bible. There are plenty of others that we won’t mention. Who’s your favorite heroine of the Bible? How have the women of the Bible inspired your faith? How have the women of this congregation inspired your faith?
Summer is here. May our faith grow during this season.
It’s that time of year to plan our gardens. We decide how much we’re going to plant, whether it is flowers or produce, and we decide where it’s all going to go. We get the beds ready to plant. We fertilize, compost and water our beds for preparation. Then we go ahead and plant the seeds. And with great hope and excitement, we wait for something to sprout.
Around here at the church we’ve been doing the same thing. We’ve been planting seeds lately. In January, we packed up over 10,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger. That food has been sent to the Dominican Republic. And since this has been a mission project of ours for quite some time, the deacon board decided to make it official. Rise Against Hunger is a part of the mission of the church. So, we will fundraise off and on throughout the year to pay for the meals.
And so we have. A few weeks ago we held a spaghetti dinner at the church and raised over nine hundred dollars for Rise Against Hunger. That’s enough money to pay for January’s meals and also put some money aside for next year. We are sowing seeds for future missions and also feeding hungry people.
In April we supported Ryan Antonio and the Juvenile Diabetes Walk at Albemarle High School. Ryan and his family raised over nine thousand dollars for Juvenile Diabetes Research. The walk itself raised over fifty four thousand dollars. And there will be enough interest for a Juvenile Diabetes walk next year to raise more money.
This small congregation has done great things this year already. And it’s only May. What other seeds can we plant? What kinds of things are growing in our garden?
Lately I’ve taken to walking the Monticello Trail. I can’t resist it. There are beautiful trees, the sweet smell of flowers, and the sound of water running in the creeks. The beautiful weather is good for the soul. It reminds us that winter doesn’t last forever. Spring finally arrives. It’s also a good reminder about Sabbath keeping.
Remembering the Sabbath goes all the way back to the wilderness days. The people have been saved from slavery in Egypt. No more working all day, every day, without end. No more working for someone else. No more working without pay. And no more beatings and abuse from the Egyptians. And when they finally walk through the Red Sea and into the wilderness, God wants to set up some ground rules.
The Ten Commandments come pretty early in their wilderness days. And one of those commandments is Sabbath Keeping. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God: you shall not work. God took a day off after creating everything in six days. The Israelites are supposed to do the same when they leave Egypt.
God gives this command to protect the people. Working everyday is what they did as slaves. They aren’t slaves anymore. They are God’s people and they will work six days and enjoy the seventh day. The sabbath is for rest, for enjoyment, and for recreation. Life isn’t all about work. God wanted to teach his people this as they begun their new lives after being in Egypt.
God gives us this command too. We are all supposed to take a Sabbath. We are supposed to take one day a week off every week. It’s so we don’t become slaves to our work. It’s so we can enjoy our lives. It’s a day to remember that we are God’s people.
So, that feeling of Spring fever? Maybe it’s our innate sense of Sabbath keeping. We should go out, take a walk, enjoy the weather, and remember we are God’s people. We should embrace it.
St. Patrick is known for many things. He is known for driving all the snakes out of Ireland. He is known for teaching people about the Trinity using a Shamrock. And if you are really up on your St. Patrick lore you might know that he was originally sold into slavery in Ireland, escaped and came back to share the gospel with his former captors. That particular story is moving and full of meaning. A former slave preaching the good news of Jesus to his former captors? Priceless.
As Christianity spreads throughout Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the surrounding islands the faith begins to take a different flavor than it does in other parts of Europe. Celtic Christianity is born. In the Celtic Tradition the church is ruled by monastic leaders, not bishops. Monasteries are started and become prominent in everyday life. The people brush up against the monks all the time.
And the people begin to pray all the time like the monks did. Celtic Christians are known for their prayers-prayers for everything-healing, their homes, birth, death, and journeys. A man named Alexander Carmichael begin traveled all over Ireland, Scotland, and Wales and recorded their prayers. He gathered them and published them in a book: The Carmina Gadelica.
Here’s one of their prayers for a journey. May it be a prayer for our journeys whether it is our Lenten spiritual journey or some other journey.
Prayer: The Pilgrims’ Abiding
God be with thee in every pass, Jesus be with thee on every hill. Spirit be with thee on every stream, headland and ridge and lawn.
Each sea and land, each moor and meadow, each lying down, each rising up, in the trough of the waves, on the crest of the billows, each step of the journey thou goest. Amen.
Two weeks ago we lost a dear friend, mom, grandmother, sister, friend and teacher. Ann Faris died at home peacefully and unexpectedly. She is dearly missed and fondly remembered.
Ann is originally from Durango, Colorado and migrated to Virginia after college. She became a teacher and taught at Red Hill Elementary School. She did her career at the school and she made a huge impact on the children and families of our community. After retirement she continued to go back to Red Hill to read stories and volunteer.
Ann is the wife of Bob Faris, of 50 years. She is the mother of Courtney and Christie. She’s the grandmother of Damon. She’s also part of our Mooreland Baptist Church family and she’s been a mother, sister, and grandmother to all of us. She had a habit of making everyone part of our family. Mooreland is part of Ann’s family and we are better for it.
Ann was such a big part of our community and church that I have so many pictures of her from the past few years. Here’s a few of them.
Ann loved the color teal and is wearing Teal in all of the these pictures. She will be remembered as someone who never met a stranger, who loved everyone, and who loved all the children in her life.
I love the Olympics. I like watching the Olympics more than watching other sports. I especially like the Winter Olympics because we get to see sports we don’t normally get to see. I love watching the bobsleds fly down the track. I love watching the ski jumpers fly through the air. I love watching speed skating to see who will win. I always wonder how the cross country skiers have the energy to keep going. The Olympics are so much fun.
At this point in our history it is such a relief to see people from around the world competing, celebrating and having a good time. We are in desperate need of good news. We need something to remind us that the world isn’t always so terrible. Instead of focusing on politics, poverty and instability, it’s fun to focus on who’s going to get the Gold Medal.
This year the Olympics are held in South Korea, which has political implications. Even at the Olympics we can’t completely get away from politics. But there’s something more to it than just politics. There’s a certain defiance about throwing the world’s biggest competition and party just 90 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone. It’s as if we are all thumbing our noses at the violence of the world and throwing a party instead.
I can’t help but relate that to our faith. The world has always had its downsides, to put it mildly. Humanity has a way of finding ourselves in holes that we have pull ourselves out of-wars, famine, poverty, prejudice, racism, and greed. But as Christians, we are supposed to serve our communities and make them better places. But we are also supposed to live abundant lives, even in the face of terrible things.
Jesus came to the world to save us, yes. Jesus also came to the world to bring us life-life abundant. So that means that we get to have fun even when things are tough. We get to laugh even when darkness surrounds us. We get to love our families and community, even when love is hard to find.
As Christians we have always been throwing a party in dangerous places. I think having the Olympics 90 miles from the Demilitarized Zone simply highlights this. Where will you find joy today? May we live our lives abundantly, even today when things seem uncertain.
On January 28th, Mooreland joined with Cove Presbyterian to pack 10,152 meals for Rise Against Hunger. Our meals are now on their way to the Dominican Republic. These meals feed hungry people who don’t always have enough to eat. And as the Church, we fed them. We do this because we are called to serve others. We do this because Jesus feeds us.
I can’t help but think about Jesus feeding the five thousand in Mark 6. Jesus has been teaching all day and the crowd is beginning to get hungry. They are too far away from their homes to get some food. They need to eat something. The disciples realize this and inform Jesus. Instead of sending the people away, Jesus tells the disciples to feed them.
They think it’s impossible. How on earth would they have enough money for that? It would take two hundred denarii. Jesus has a suggestion. Go see how many loaves you have. They go and check. We have five loaves and even two fish. It’s not much. But it turns out that it’s enough.
The crowd sits down and Jesus makes those five loaves and two fish go a long way. Jesus takes what’s available and multiplies it. And when we packed those meals a few weeks ago, Jesus did the same. Jesus took what each one of us could give and multiplied it. 10,152 times.
Sometimes it can feel as if the small church cannot do its part to serve the world. Well, that’s simply not true. When we gather together, combine our resources, and work together, we can do our part to serve the world. We did just that a few weeks ago, and Jesus multiplied our efforts.
May we remember this packing event when we feel like our little church isn’t doing enough. Especially when the problems of the world seem so big and daunting. Remember that we fed 10,152 people. Remember that we too have a role to play in bringing God’s love to this world.