Sermon — July 7, 2019

By Rev. Sandi Anthony

Galatians 6:1-18 — My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5For all must carry their own loads. 6Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher. 7Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. 10So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

11See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.  17From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.  18May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters.  Amen.

Sermon: Practical Advice

I grew up in a family, particularly my mother’s side of the family, where boundaries were not respected.   I remember many family arguments that mostly ensued after my father passed away and my mom began dating again.  My mother’s parents and siblings, good country people that they were, were especially disapproving of the man who would become my stepfather—mostly because he was not like them. First of all, he was from the city, and city people in their minds were all suspect.  Second, he was Catholic, and my mother’s family was Protestant; Catholics were “other” and they were suspect.  Third, he presented himself as ultra-confident, and self-confidence was never something this family encouraged or respected.  Also, on some level my mother’s siblings and parents assessed and intuited that he would not be good to my brother, sister, and me.

Anyway, soon after my mom and he became a couple, I remember first my grandparents coming over to the house and confronting my mother—screaming at her that she did not know what she was doing, that she should have no business “with a man like that.”  When she didn’t listen to them, my aunt and uncle (her brother and sister) in rapid succession came storming over, “telling my mother off,” and getting in her face about her relationship with him.  At one point, my uncle came over when my stepfather was there and the two nearly got into a fist fight. The result of all of this?  My mother, who stated that no one could never properly understand her circumstances, having been left a widow with three young children to care for, ended her relationship with her siblings and parents.  She married him, and she tried to keep us kids away from her side of the family, citing their arrogance, ignorance, and threat.  I remember my mom hiding us all upstairs once when she saw my grandparent’s car coming up the driveway.  My mother went to her grave having never spoken to her sister again (though she had made amends of a sort with her parents and brother).  Her family’s confrontation style, however well-meaning in their own minds, absolutely did not work—relationships were destroyed.  Pride reared its ugly head on both sides—in my mother and in her family of origin.  We kids went on to suffer what her family had feared—and had failed to prevent in their bombast.

I don’t mean to bend your ear today about the dysfunction of my childhood, but I do want to illustrate a point that the Apostle Paul makes about dealing with someone’s transgression, perceived or actual.  He states up front in our passage today that that person is to be restored in a spirit of gentleness, “gentleness” being the operative word.  Because here’s the thing:  We cannot control the lives of others.  Anyone who has ever been a parent knows this.  Anyone who has ever tried to intervene in the life of a loved one knows this.  We can actually do very little to influence someone’s life in a positive direction without their own cooperation.  You who have tried to care for ailing or wayward relatives and friends know this.  We can easily become obsessed over what others do or don’t do.  We can easily become tempted to just storm in and take over, telling them how something is to be done or what should or shouldn’t be done.  But here’s the thing, none of us have especially clear vision regarding other people because we have logs in our own eyes.  Jesus reminds us of this when he says “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”  The prophets remind us of this when they tell us that “judgment begins with “the household of God.”  Judgment begins, in other words, at home, with us, because we all have logs in our own eyes.  We all perceive the world with our own baggage and self-interest.  Jesus never said to storm in and take over and tell others what to do or what not to do.

In our passage today, Paul spends the bulk of time talking about matters concerning the ones doing the restoring of transgressors.  After exhorting the Galatians to restore transgressors in a spirit of gentleness, he focuses on the very ones doing the restoring—not the actual transgressors in this context—and he exhorts them how to be.  Not only are they to be gentle, but the restorers are to be aware of their own propensity to be tempted, self-absorbed, superior, stingy, deceived and prideful.  He exhorts them to work for the good of all and especially for the family of faith.  In effect, he calls them beyond their own egos to that which makes for unity.  The simple message may be to restore others with gentleness and acute self-awareness.

Let’s look at what was going on in the book of Galatians.  Paul addressed this letter to Gentile churches he established during his first missionary journey.  He likely penned the letter from Ephesus around AD 55.  Galatia included the region of Ankara, Turkey—what we today call Central Anatolia.  In this letter, Paul takes on a group that is troubling the Galatian church.  This group, Jewish Christians who have invaded the Galatian church, were insisting that the Galatians had to be circumcised and keep the law.  They wanted the people to have an identity marked by Jewish rites and practices, namely outward symbols.  Paul’s Letter to the Galatians aims to counter the Jewish Christians’ claims.  Paul effectivity writes that the people needed to have their identity in Jesus, which makes them a new creation.  One great Lutheran preacher, Rev. Dr. Ed Marquart likens this last chapter of Galatians to a “Dear Abby” column.  He says that Paul anticipates the problems of the Galatian people and in chapter 6 writes to give them friendly advice, practical advice for everyday living.  The earlier chapters of Galatians “articulate his theological doctrines; [but] in the last chapter, [Chapter 6, Paul] briefly spell[s] out the practical consequences of his doctrines…Paul deals with practical, everyday concerns and questions that the people were asking” (www.sermonsfromseattle.com/galatians).

Many of us still struggle with this today: How do we confront?  How do we run interventions when needed?  The social mores of our time say “don’t get involved,” but what about when a situation hits close to home and we see someone about to get hurt—like my mother’s family had once foreseen?  And Paul counsels, “If you do speak to others, be very gentle [—avoid bombast].  If you do speak to others, be humble and not self-righteous, being very aware that you too fall short of the glory of God and succumb to temptations.  If you do speak to others, it takes maturity to gently reprove another person.  It takes a combination of kindness, love and insight blended with wisdom, to speak a wise correcting word to a friend or relative” (www.sermonsfromseattle.com/galatians). Because Paul goes on to caution, “You reap what you sow.”  If we sow of the flesh and act out our natural tendencies, we may reap corruption—and people will get hurt; if we sow of the spirit of God, we will reap the God’s blessings.  That’s good, practical advice.       

So, what does it look like when we run interventions wisely with the purest of intentions and self-awareness?  Let me tell you about the other side of my family to illustrate—my biological father’s side and how they dealt with this turbulent period of my childhood and with my mother, after my father (their sibling) had died and when my mother started dating.  I think they were just as concerned as my mother’s side of the family about what she might be getting into, but they were gentle, helpful, and supportive.  They realized that they could not tell my mother what to do.  They asked gentle, pastoral questions: “How do you think this will affect the kids?”  And they listened to her answers.  She said, “I can’t do this on my own; I need someone.”  And they said, “Louise, we will always be here for you and your kids.”  And they were.  They took my brother camping with their sons.  They had us over for sleepovers and listened to us when we hurt and never spread gossip through the community.  They came to all of our graduations and weddings and events.  They helped us pick up all the pieces and stood with us in the muck.  And those pieces and that muck made me into the person I am today, because none of us gets through this life unscathed.  None of us grow and are transformed into God’s image without struggle.  But we do need people to ask gentle questions and to walk with us, wise and spiritually-mature people, who never force their (very limited) understanding of God’s will upon anyone.    

I want to end today with some more sage words from, who?  The Apostle Paul?  The Rev. Dr. Ed Marquart?  Richard Rohr?  No, this time from Audrey Hepburn.  Her words concern beauty, restoration, renewal, reclamation and redemption: She writes,

“For attractive lips…Speak with words of kindness.

For lovely eyes…Seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure…Share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair…Let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise…Walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.”

Ah, the ministry of gentle presence trumps bombast any day in my book.  Amen.

SERMON – June 30, 2019

I’D RATHER SEE A SERMON THAN HEAR ONE ANY DAY

James 1: 17-27

The best expression of faith is SEEN RATHER THAN SPOKEN St. Francis said: “Preach the good news; and if necessary, use words.”

Text:  James 1:26   Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. 27 Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.  

From Psalm 15:  What is it that God delights seeing in us? “That we walk straight, act right, and tell the truth. God says, “Keep your word even when it costs you; make an honest living, never take or make a bribe.  There is no regret in people who live like this.”

Christianity is a faith that has a bias. That bias is in favor of the poor.  Neglecting the poor was done by those who looked good in public and in private totally ignored the poor.   The Pharisees were big on RULES while allowing CRUELTY AND NEGLECT OF THE POOR to exist in front of them. Jesus called them on it. Jesus bent the rules to accommodate the poor.  So did Queen Victoria on one occasion.  There was a diplomatic reception in London. The guest of honor was an African chieftain of no wealth and no understanding for the English traditions. Finger bowls were on the table for use of washing one’s fingers. The African Chieftain picked his up and drank the whole thing. Five hundred guests were horrified. The chieftain put his bowl down. Queen Victoria silently took her finger bowl in her two hands, lifted it, and drank its contents! And so did 500 guests. Victoria changed the rules of hospitality to include a man from a great distance to be included in their circle of hospitality and joyous celebration. 

Jesus broke rules in his culture: he healed on the Sabbath; he worked on the Sabbath; he ate with sinners and unclean people; Jesus was an “against the rules” guy. Why? BEHIND THESE RULES PEOPLE NEGLECTED THE POOR which he has a bias for.  Jesus broke many rules IN ORDER TO SERVE THE NEEDS OF THE LAST, LEAST AND LOST BEFORE HIM. 

Mother Theresa said: “there are no big deals anymore; just small things to be done with great love.” Also she said, “Don’t think you will change the world with your small acts of kindness, and IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT YOU DO THEM.”

Helen Keller: “I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

James reminds us that true religion includes being slow to speak and quick to listen and slow to anger. Being doers of the word and not merely hearers. All Godly work must begin with holy silence like the Native Americans. “Silence was meaningful with the (Native people) like the Lakota. Their granting a space of silence before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regardful of the rule that “thought comes before speech.” And in the midst of sorrow, sickness, death, or misfortune of any kind, and in the presence of the notable and great, silence was the mark of respect. More powerful than words was silence with the Lakota.”

LET US BEGIN WITH SILENCE THEN ACT ON THE THINGS FROM OUR TEXT:  TO FEED ALL GOD’S CHILDREN; HOUSE ALL IN DIGNITY; CARE FOR ALL IN THEIR ILLNESS. James says: those who serve and fight for these causes are truly religious in the best sense of the word.  Amen.

THE UNTETHERED SOUL

Notes from a Sermon by Dr. Richard A. Wing

June 16, 2019

THE UNTETHERED SOUL – John 6: 56-69

We cannot learn our true purpose and meaning in life by focusing on ourselves.

The great gift of the Christian faith is that we are rescued from our self-obsession and our self-preoccupation.

Michael Singer wrote in his book from which I took the sermon title, THE UNTETHERED SOUL: ”Your inner growth is completely dependent upon the realization that the only way to find peace and contentment is to STOP THINKING ABOUT YOURSELF.”

AA Members are clear that the aim of the program is to move from the mind that serves itself to the mind that serves others.

The Gospel of John says, “Many of (the disciples of Jesus) turned away and no longer accompanied him.” Jesus cut through all of the fear that Peter had and said to him:  “Do you also want to leave?”

People tell me at the door of the church: “I come her for advice on my personal problems; to get perspective; get encouragement.” Today we discover that the purpose of church, the source of the gospel, the reason why we’re here is Jesus, the one who has words of eternal life and constant encouragement. 

In the late 1960s Hugh Prather wrote a book entitled NOTES TO MYSELF, which was published in 1970. He has many years later written a better book: NOTES TO MY SPIRITUAL SELF. He says, “Certainly we have all learned much since those days of self-examination, self-fulfillment, self-expression, and numerous other focuses on (me and my needs). It was a time when even the word “selfishness” went from a negative to a positive. As a society, we still are cleaning up many loose ends from that period.” We used to quote, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself, and complained that we were never taught how to love ourselves. Small groups taught: “You have to give to yourself before you will have anything to give to others” and “You can’t make someone else happy; you can only make yourself happy.” Ironically, it is now two thousand years since Jesus said, “Who is greater, the one at the table or the one who serves? Surely, you think it is the one at the table. Yet here I am among you as one who serves.”

What resulted was a culture of narcissism that we are a part of right now.

Protestant Reformer Martin Luther defined sin as “the heart curved in on itself.”

Bill Coffin: “The smallest package in the world is a human being wrapped up in themselves.” 

People inside and outside the church say “Jesus saved me from my sins.” Actually, Jesus came to SAVE YOU FROM YOURSELF. To love as God loves is the secret to life and the pathway to true happiness.

So, you who call yourselves by the name of Jesus, “do you want to leave?” For myself, I stand with Peter and say: “No, because only you Jesus, have the words of eternal life.”

Rabbi Kagin, leader in the Jewish world, 1838 – 1933) was asked about his impact and how he made a difference. He answered, “I set out to try to change the world, but I failed. So, I decided to scale back my efforts and only try to influence the Jewish community of Poland, but I failed there, too. So, I targeted the community in my hometown of Radin, but achieved no greater success. Then I gave all my effort to changing my own family, and failed at that as well. Finally, I decide to change myself, and that’s how I had such an impact on the Jewish world.” 

Your mission, should you decide to accept it: to go from this place and imitate the spirit of Jesus in service to others; that will change and transform you, and in turn transform the lives of those around you.  THESE WORDS ARE TRUTHWORTHY; THESE WORDS ARE TRUE. Amen

58 This is the Bread from heaven. Your ancestors ate bread and later died. Whoever eats this Bread will live always.”

John 6:59   (Jesus) said these things while teaching in the meeting place in Capernaum.

John 6:60   Many among his disciples heard this and said, “This is tough teaching, too tough to swallow.”

John 6:61   Jesus sensed that his disciples were having a hard time with this and said, “Does this throw you completely? 62 What would happen if you saw the Son of Man ascending to where he came from? 63 The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don’t make anything happen. Every word I’ve spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making. 64 But some of you are resisting, refusing to have any part in this.” (Jesus knew from the start that some weren’t going to risk themselves with him. He knew also who would betray him.)

John 6:66   After this a lot of his disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with him. 67 Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance: “Do you also want to leave?”

John 6:68   Peter replied, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. 69 We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.”  THE MESSAGE

Cleaning House

Dear CCOV Family and Friends,

Here we are almost at the end of Lent, and I find myself wondering, how is this church season going for you?  Did any of you adopt a Lenten discipline this year or adopt Sandi’s “helpful household hint” (and her own 2019 Lenten discipline) of going through closets and donating to charity things no longer used or worn anymore?  I challenged myself to find one article of clothing for each of Lent’s forty days but ended doubling that so far.  I’ve made three trips to Goodwill and will make one more before Easter.  My closets look great and I don’t miss anything!

One of the greatest themes of the Christian life is that we are blessed in order to bless.  We are healed in order to heal.  We are restored in order to restore.  In fact, Jesus’ miracles in the gospels follow this pattern.  The multiplication of the fishes and the loaves made sure everyone ate.  When Jesus’ healed the bleeding woman, he ended her isolation and she was restored to community.  When Jesus opened the eyes of two blind men, they went out and spread the news about him.  When we are gifted with abundance, it is for sharing.  Some even rise to the highest challenge of giving sacrificially.

Two Sundays ago a woman came by the church during early-morning choir practice.  She was in tears and on the way to visit her father, who was suffering from cancer.  She needed gas money.  I was so heartened to see choir members who had cash in their pockets give to her.  One hugged her and comforted her because she too knew what it was like to battle cancer.  What joy it is to belong to such a deeply Christian family marked by generosity!

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday and hearing Pastor Dick preach Part III of his sermon series, “Seeking a Better Way to be Christian, from Lost to Found” (Jonah 3:1-2; Matthew 4:18-22).  The following week I will be in the pulpit for Palm Sunday.  The scripture will be Luke 19:28-40.  In the meantime, prayers for the remainder of a meaningful Lent!  It’s not too late to clean house and give, whatever that may look like for you.

Peace,

Pastor Sandi

Jill Marderness will be our guest soloist on Sunday, November 4th

Jill’s musical journey spans over 30 years with Quintessence Chamber
Ensemble and Michigan’s Bay View Music Festival plus concerto performances
with orchestras across the country. She performed with Chamber Music
Sedona and Red Rocks Music Festival, for children at Matsumoto Gakuen in
Tokyo, Japan and as orchestral musician with Flint Symphony, Duluth
Symphony, Colorado Philharmonic and more. Her awards include Silver Medal
of the Minnesota Orchestra Young Artist Competition presented by Neville
Marriner and both Fischoff Competition Best Wind Group prize and Munich
Competition semi-finalist selection with Quintessence.

Renowned as an artist teacher, Ms. Marderness addressed “The Performer as
Educator” at Chamber Music America and Music Educators National
Conferences. She taught on the faculties of Saint Cloud State University,
Interlochen Center for the Arts, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, Grand Canyon
University and for 25 years Arts in Education Roster Artist with the
Arizona Commission on the Arts. At Bay View Music Festival she is resident
bassoonist, private teacher and ensemble coach for college students from
across the nation plus Youth Music Coordinator overseeing the Music &
Munchies family concerts plus Behind the Scenes and Rising Stars Recital
for the Bay View Association summer community.

Ms. Marderness joined Arizona Opera Orchestra as second bassoon in 2000
and is regularly engaged by the Phoenix Symphony, Tucson Symphony and
Arizona Musicfest Festival Orchestra. She is Co-Founder and Director of
Operations for Scottsdale Neighborhood Arts Place and resides in
Scottsdale with her husband Fred Marderness, percussionist with the
Phoenix Symphony.

Tuesday, October 24th, at 4PM, UMOM visit

We always need and welcome 7-8 individuals to serve dinner at this United Methodist Outreach Ministry (UMOM) event (Serving dinner to the homeless).

Families with teenagers 14 years old or older are welcome to join us. We always have fun when we go and there are many learning and teaching opportunities after being at UMOM. We leave CCOV at 4PM and are usually back around 7:30 PM.

This is your invitation to live and love as our faith calls us to do.

Plan to meet at CCOV and then carpool to Halle Women’s Center, 3424 East Van Buren.

MARVELOUS BROADWAY LIVE!

calendarOn Friday, July 22, all are invited to a wonderful production of MARVELOUS BROADWAY LIVE! featuring some of the most talented kids in the area and led by our own Larry Loeber as Music Director and Tina Khalil as Director/Choreographer. It’s our yearly tribute to the music of Broadway featuring some exciting new songs from today’s Broadway hits. If you haven’t seen one of our shows before, you will be amazed by the talent of our performers who put the show together in only 9 days.

The Music Theater Camp Performances are at 1:30PM & 7PM in our sanctuary. All are welcome.

Music Theater Camp Performances

movieOn Friday, July 1, all are invited to a wonderful production of THE FRANKENSTEIN FOLLIES featuring some of the most talented kids in the area and led by our own Larry Loeber as Music Director and Tina Khalil as Director/Choreographer. It’s Hallowe’en in July! Dress up in your favorite costume to enter the spooky and scary world of Funkytown! If you haven’t seen one of our shows before, you will be amazed by the talent of our performers who put the show together in only 9 days.

The Music Theater Camp Performances are at 1:30PM & 7PM in our sanctuary. All are welcome.