July 31, 2022 Sermon

  • August 2, 2022

Rev. Kelly Ann Donahue’s sermon on July 31, 2022 during our shared service with TriCon Church.

Teach Us How to Pray

  • July 24, 2022

A sermon on the Lord’s Prayer, as found in Luke 11:1-4.

The One Thing You Need

  • July 19, 2022

Some of you may have heard this story before. Maybe you have a few opinions about it, or reservations. Whether it’s familiar or not, let’s review.

Jesus enters the home of two sisters: Mary and Martha.  Martha, who offered Jesus hospitality, goes about the work of making him comfortable.  Maybe she is cleaning or making up a bed.  Maybe she is gathering eggs, filleting fish, kneading dough. Any of us who have served as a host can imagine some of the tasks that might keep her busy making things ready for an unexpected guest. 

Whatever Martha is doing, it is a burden to her. She complains to Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” For during all this time when Martha’s been hurrying and worrying and working, Mary has been sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to what he has to say.

Jesus says: “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.”

I wish I could question Jesus about this story.  First, is it every really helpful to compare someone to their sibling?  We do enough of that already by ourselves.  No need for Jesus to pile on.

More importantly, in that culture, women were expected to finish cooking before sitting and talking with a guest; to do otherwise would be disrespect. So isn’t it rather harsh to critique Martha for doing what everyone in her culture would expect her to do?

Also, let’s hear it for the Marthas in the world – the ones who do what needs to be done.  Where would we be, in our homes and at our dinner parties and in our church communities, without some Marthas willing to do those things that are necessary to meet our needs and keep us comfortable, often without thanks or respect?

I have some questions for Jesus. Though I should also give him credit. By accepting Mary’s presence at his feet, and praising her choice, Jesus makes it clear that women are welcome to be disciples, and to spend their time and energy learning. This was nothing less than revolutionary in that time and place.

Still, I wish he had gone further. If there’s work that needs to be done, he could have suggested that it be shared among everyone there, men and messiahs included.  Too often, women are told to relax and yet still expected to accomplish an extraordinary array of tasks.  It’s hard to stop stressing when no one else is prepared to take over your work, and folks are likely to blame you when everything falls apart.

I resist Jesus’ words in this story. And I also recognize that there is wisdom in them.

Because no matter how long our to-do list; what expectations and demands are within us, and around us, we all still need to stop sometimes.  And we are the only ones who can decide to stop.  We are the only ones who can decide to put aside everything else to be still long enough to notice.  To notice that God is in our midst and that God’s incredible creation is all around us.  To notice that our life is a miracle, and that it is full of miracles.  To notice that regardless of the constraints we face, we still have an amazing amount of agency in the way in which we live.  To notice that we must change some things to live the kind of life we were intended for, and that we must change some things so that everyone else can, too.

What are some practices, some times and places, that help you to stop —  to put down whatever you usually do, to make way for something even more important?

Jesus says to us: I know. You have many things to do.  Many of them feel important.  Many of them are important. Do not allow these many things to cause you such worry and distraction that you forget to give your heart to what is most important. You might call it God, Jesus, or Spirit; love, wonder or joy; meaning or compassion.  Whatever you call it, don’t do without it. Don’t allow anything to take it away from you.

Read the poem Welcome Morning by Anne Sexton. Used with permission.

Bind All Our Wounds Again

  • July 11, 2022

Rev. Christine Hribar preached on the Good Samaritan story that calls us to love even those whose names we can’t bear to say.  We took a look at the story and then parsed a hymn from the New Century Hymnal with a dire title, but well worth singing: “From the Crush of Wealth and Power.” Click the link above to listen to Christine’s sermon; the text is below.

Bind All Our Wounds Again

Today we’ll look at the Good Samaritan Story—a beloved story that asks hard, hard questions about our inner work and our outer work.  The passage includes a story within a story. 

It begins, a lawyer trying to trap Jesus.  He stands and asks a question:  how do I attain eternal life.   Jesus answers with a question, “What does the law say?” A good question for a lawyer.  The lawyer states:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  But he asks, who is my neighbor?  This is the crux of the story, yes?  And Jesus answers, not with a statement, but with a story. Let’s take a look.

A man lies badly injured on a road.  We know this road from Jerusalem to Jericho was dangerous—a road with rocky outcroppings on the side.  I recently head Rob Bell speak about the road also being quite narrow.  So there’s a joke built in:  when the priest and the Levite passed by, and these were the two bound to uphold the law, expected to do what was right, they couldn’t really pass to the other side of the road.  Both Jesus and the lawyer would have known this.  The road would have been too narrow.  To step by,  they probably had to almost step over the man who was injured.  Not a savory image of those whom you’d expect to do what was right.

And it’s the Samaritan who helps, The Samaritan, the one least expected to do kindness.  The one hated and ostracized does what’s right.  The Samaritan’s generosity is overflowing and unexpected.  And it’s also so painful for the lawyer to hear.  What struck me recently, was that when Jesus then asks the lawyer who was the neighbor (and it’s clear the neighbor is the Samaritan) the lawyer doesn’t say Samaritan.  He says the neighbor is “the one who showed mercy.”  The lawyer can’t bear to speak the name.  “The one who showed mercy,” is as much as he can answer.  He can’t even bear the word Samaritan on his lips.

I wonder if there are groups or people whose names you have trouble saying.  I wonder if there are events that you have trouble talking about.  I pose this question because I do.  During and after certain elections there are names I can’t bear to say.   And Jesus told this story on purpose, knowing that Samaritans were just the people that the lawyer would dislike the most.  And it was the Samaritan that Jesus called a neighbor.  A Samaritan whom Jesus proclaimed the lawyer should, following the laws, love.  Loving our neighbor isn’t always easy.

I know this church practices loving neighbors.  In church we train our hearts to open to the excluded and marginalized.  As a church, we commit to being anti-racist, we commit to loving people of all abilities, we open our arms to the poor and disenfranchised.  And this is all good.  This is the work of the church.

But the story of the Good Samaritan calls us to more.  Our neighbors are also the ones who infuriate us.  Our neighbors are also the ones who set our teeth on edge, and, at least for me, this is often because we see them as not being neighborly to others.  We see actions and rulings that don’t care for the vulnerable, that don’t love the poor that ostracize the marginalized.  Anger can be good—it can urge us into much needed action, it can be good, but anger is not the end.  Because what Jesus calls us to is love.  And only in moving through our anger, our inability to speak a name, can we come to a place of love. 

Loving your neighbor isn’t easy.  And that’s why we need the church to practice, to remind one another, to stay focused on loving our neighbors, all our neighbors, and to discern how that love calls us into action.

In a moment we’ll sing hymn #552 from the New Century Hymnal.  It’s likely unfamiliar and its title is a little dire: “From the Crush of Wealth and Power.”  I want to spend the end of this sermon looking at the words, because I find the way it unpacks today’s scripture fascinating.  I also hope a little time with the text will prepare us to sing.

In the first verse, the song places us in the position of the injured person.  It’s us who ask the spirit to bind our wounds.  We are each “pleading with a poignant call, bind all my wounds again.”  We’re the ones needing tending and we don’t have it yet.  No help is here, yet.  We call and we wait. 

In the second stanza two, we’re now in the shoes (sandals) of the Samaritan, looking towards someone in pain.  Seeing the tending that’s needed, we’re still wary.  But, what I love, is that it’s not just the other person who’s in need.  We see someone badly hurt and remember our own pain.  Listen: “Even now our hearts are wary of the friend we need so much.  When I see the pain you carry shall I with a gentle touch, bind all your wounds again?”  It ends with a question mark. 

Then, we come into where we’re heading, the work we do together as a community, as church: “When our love for one another makes our burdens light to bear, find the sister and the brother, hungry for the feast we share; bind all their wounds again.”  This is what we’re call to do—to cross to those who seem so other; and together, we’re made whole.

And finally, a reminder: “Every time our spirits languish, terrified to draw too near, may we know each other’s anguish and, with love that casts out fear, bind all our wounds again.”  The fear is on both sides.  The need is on both sides.

The stanzas go:

Bind all my wounds again. 

Bind all your wounds again.

Bind all their wounds again.

Bind all our wounds again.

Because in tending one another, we’re made whole. 

May the love of God that passes all understanding bless you and keep you as you enter a new day striving to love your neighbor as yourself.  Let’s sing together this song we’ve considered:  #552 from the New Century Hymnal From the Crush of Wealth and Power.

Invited

  • July 5, 2022

Who invited you into the faith? And how can Christians be sure we’re inviting rather than imposing? A sermon on Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 for July 3rd, 2022.

A Hard and Marvelous Way

  • June 28, 2022

Is Jesus being a jerk? What’s the purpose of his hard words to long-time and new followers in Luke 9:51-62? A sermon from June 26, 2022.

2022 Institute of Theology and Disability

In 2019, with the support of the Dennis Lin Fund, I attended the Institute of Theology and Disability for the first time. I went with high hopes that learning from world-class scholars in the theology of disability and meeting my fellow practitioners of inclusive ministry would transform my thinking and my ministry. My expectations were more than met and I have spent the past three years integrating the knowledge, relationships, resources into my work. All of this is to say that the bar was set pretty high when I had the opportunity to attend the 2022 Institute in early June.

My experience this time was quite different but equally transformative. There were fewer people attending on-site but the speakers and worship leaders were more diverse this year. One of my favorite lectures was “Not Your Ritual Object: A Disabled Perspective in Inclusive Liturgy, Ritual and Spiritual Arts”, a talk by Rabbi Ruti Regan on the challenges of creating successful inclusive rituals. By describing common pitfalls like modifying received religious rituals so much that they lose their emotional impact for the community and become something to merely tolerate, Rabbi Ruti showed how some attempts at inclusive ritual can actually subvert the goal of integration and inclusion of people with disabilities. She underscored the importance creating liturgy that does not define people with disabilities solely by their needs or use disability as a spiritual metaphor but recognizes the experiences of people with disabilities as meaningful in and of themselves. Rabbi Ruti encouraged us to look carefully at the stories and practices that already exist within our religious traditions to find the places that lend themselves to inclusion such as the Jewish practice of repeated prayer bows and readings or the emphasis on divine embodiment during Advent in the Christian tradition. I could go on about the many insightful points made by Rabbi Ruti but I won’t for now.

Another thought-provoking lecture was “COVID-19 is Not Like the Measles: The Hidden Impacts of the Pandemic on the Lives of People with Disabilities” by John Swinton. His described the scarcity mindset many people and governments fell victim to during the pandemic, including those of us whose worldview is supposedly shaped by faith in a God who breaks down barriers and encourages love of neighbor. He pointed to hoarding behavior, the unequal distribution of vaccinations and the inflammation of xenophobic prejudice. At the same time, he also pointed to a heightened awareness of the human need for companionship and community and the increased access online platforms have provided for people with disabilities. He charged communities of faith to lead the way in prophetically reimagining the world helping communities to develop practices that encourage greater relational consciousness and remembering the marginalized.

That’s probably enough detail for now! If you’re interested other incredibly meaningful lectures and talks I attended were:

Beyond Saints and Superheroes: A Phenomenological Study of Spiritual Care Needs of Parents Raising Children with Disabilities by Laura MacGregor, Allen Jorgenson, Kayko Dreidger Hesslein and Roz Vincent Haven

Disability Ethics and Theology: A Symposium by Rosemaries Garland-Thompson, Brian Brock, Devan Stahl and Bill Gaventa

Grief, Loss and End of Life Issues with People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities by Bill Gaventa

LGBTQ Inclusion in Disability Work: A Conversation for Community and Allies by Allison Connelly Vetter and Rebekah Dyer

Rejoicing Through a Communion of Vulnerabilities by Adanna James

The Intersections of Black Liberation Theology and Disability Justice by Rev. Harold “Russell” Ewell II

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Continued Faith Engagement of People with I/DD After COVID-19 by Jasmine Duckworth and Chantal Hardwick

Encountering God in Stories and Silence

  • June 22, 2022

For deepening our thinking about Juneteenth, Joyce recommends this episode of Radio Boston. Click here for the book Joyce references in her sermon.

Freedom

  • June 14, 2022

A story about a holy jail break invites us to consider how God sets us free. A sermon for June 12th, 2022.

Celebrating Pride, Open & Affirming, and Susan!

We had a big celebration on June 12th at the end of our program year. Take a look!