Sacred Space – Advent 3

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

First Reading   Isaiah 35: 1-10 (NRSVUE)

Reader: The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and shouting.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!  Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf shall be opened;

then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp;
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for Gods people;
no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.

No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Second Reading   Luke 1: 46b-55 (NRSVUE)|
Reader:  And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant.
Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

indeed, his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
and lifted the lowly.

he has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.

He has come to the aid of his child Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Advent 3: Sacred Space
11 December 2022
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
Luke 1: 46b-55

The pregnancy of Mary is connected to the promise of justice and joy in the readings this week. Mary’s womb becomes a sacred space for the gestation of grace that moves into, and is transforming, the world. We will ponder the spaces we inhabit at home, work, and community, asking whether they are feeding, nurturing, and reflecting the freedom and joy that is so desperately needed.

When my daughter and I were in seminary in the early 80s I was the music director at Watertown UMC.  Nicole was in elementary school, and she was Mary in the Nativity pageant one year.  The unique costume for Mary is the blue head scarf.  While purple for Royalty and repentance  has been the color of Advent and Lent traditionally.  In some churches Advent has been changed to the blue of Mary. One of those churches was Franklin where I served before retiring in 2018 and my worship director made me this blue stole.

The Sarum Rite was the original basis for the liturgy of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and where blue was used for the color of Advent.  It was often specified that it be an indigo to represent the darkness before the birth.  Early art shows church leaders in ornately decorated blue robes.  Shades of blue symbolize royalty, the coming of the King, hope, the night sky before the dawn, the sea before creation, and Mary.  Remember early dyes were made from nature.  Some historians suggest that northern European dyes were made from berries that produced blue while southern Europe was able to make purple dyes.

Tradition puts the rose-colored candle in the Advent wreath—not to symbolize Mary, but to reflect the lessening emphasis on penitence, the nearing of the end of the fast, the pending birth, and the second coming. Rose or pink represents joy.  The 3rd Sunday in Advent marks the halfway point, and we are allowed to be excited for the coming event.  In the Roman Catholic tradition, it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin for “rejoice.”  It takes its name from one of the traditional readings from Philippians which begins, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

Justice – depicted as a blindfolded woman is cause to rejoice and so the symbols and the colors of the day come together during the 3rd week of Advent.  Making a place for the growth of justice and joy–deep and abiding goodness–is the archetypal feminine divine presence in this Advent faith story.

Mary so completely embodies the victims of her age –a member of a conquered people, caught up in a census to extract tribute for the invading culture rather than a safety net or representation for the impoverished and disinherited.  Mary was not a “person” in the legal sense.  She was dependent on the promises of her God and the largess of her husband.

Mary’s Magnificat is a staple of Advent, often on this third Sunday in which we highlight joy. The song is a “power ballad” in the terminology of musical theater. Power ballads are songs in shows that hold so much emotion, and can fill the theater with amazing energy, bringing the joyful, now-convicted audience to their feet. They are often found just before intermission or at the end of the show. I would say that Mary’s power ballad is the former, coming before the birth, sung with a full belly pregnant with possibility. She “brings it,” as we say, and her “yes” to providing a Sacred Place for the holy inspires us to our own “yes” to adore, create, and nurture places where goodness is born.

Mary magnifies the Lord, proclaiming God’s greatness and rejoicing in God as Savior. She begins with God’s actions in her own life, for in choosing her to be the mother of the Messiah, the Mighty One has indeed “done great things for” her. Now she recognizes with awe that all generations will call her blessed.

In our culture #blessed has become a meme, and “feeling blessed” makes regular appearances in Facebook posts. People tweet images or post pictures of themselves enjoying a delicious meal or an exotic vacation or a shopping spree at their favorite store. “Blessed” has come to mean living a life of privilege and comfort. Using the term has become a way of celebrating those moments when everything is going well and all seems right with the world — or at least one’s own little corner of it.

The blessedness that Mary celebrates stands in stark contrast to our culture’s attitude. By our standards she does not look at all blessed. As she will soon learn from Simeon if she hasn’t perceived it already, being the mother of the messiah is scarcely an unmixed blessing. She will bear the unspeakable grief of watching as her son is rejected, shamed, and crucified: “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel … and a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34–35). Despite all this, Mary praises God for honoring her.

Mary sings about the God who saves not just souls, but embodied people. The God she celebrates is not content merely to point people toward heaven; God’s redemptive work begins here on earth. God fills the hungry not only with hope, but with food. Rather than being satisfied with comforting the lowly, Mary’s Lord lifts them up, granting them dignity and honor, a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation. At the same time, God shows strength by disrupting the world’s power structures, dethroning rulers, and humbling the mighty.

Both in Mary’s song and in Jesus’ ministry we see the God who loves us as we are but does not leave us as we are.  He heals the lepers and unites them with their community.   Zacchaeus, especially, shows us God’s saving love in action. Jesus brings Zacchaeus down from his wealth and up from his shame as a tax collector. In the process he frees him. Salvation has come to his house (Luke 19:9).

Mary’s song magnifies the Savior who loves the whole world with a love that makes creation whole. God’s saving judgment is for all of us, bringing us down from the pride that fills us with ourselves until we can’t see either God or neighbor, bringing us up from the shame that distorts our worldview and convinces us that no one — not even God — could love us. The mother of the Messiah has experienced God’s blessing. She is not #blessed. Her blessing, like ours, is a cross-shaped blessing,

This week’s focus on Sacred Places points us to the places within ourselves as well as places in our homes and organizations, not to mention Mother Earth as needing our recognition of sacrality and justice.  Concern for the planet and for our social fabric.  This is not so much about gender, but about the capacity to create something and to nurture it to fullness.

Rohr says that “creation is the First Bible, and it existed for 13.7 billion years before the second Bible was written” (page 12, Universal Christ). I invite us to look closely at their surroundings and to see the sacred reflected there. Rohr’s theology is a form of panentheism. This is different from pantheism in that he does not say all things are God. But God is in all things. This is a really important distinction!

[All of creation] is Real Presence.” We could call it the primordial Christification” or anointing of the universe at Creation. This is not pantheism (God is everything), but panentheism (God is in everything!). Such a central message of cosmic incarnation was never seriously taught in the Western, overly individualistic church, except by a few like Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), and Bonaventure (1221-1274). It was much more common in the Eastern Church, especially in early scholars and mystics like Maximus the Confessor, Gregory of Nyssa, and Symeon the New Theologian.

Inspired by the more contemporary mystic scientist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Franciscan sister and scientist Ilia Delio writes: “Christ invests himself organically within all creation, immersing himself in things, in the heart of matter, and thus unifying the world. The universe is physically impregnated to the very core of its matter by the influence of his superhuman nature. Everything is physically ‘Christified,’ gathered up by the incarnate Word as nourishment that assimilates, transforms, and divinizes. [Ilia Delio,

The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Orbis Books: 2013), 2] the 14th century German mystic Meister Eckhart asked a rather provocative question for his time when he wrote what is the good of Mary giving birth to the son of God all those years ago if I do not give birth to God today. We are all mothers of God he writes, or God is always needing to be born. we are all mothers of God where God is always needing to be born more recently grace Jansen wrote in her book Becoming Divine that maybe we should think about shifting our focus in our theology from being preoccupied with violence and sacrifice and death and built upon mortality and instead be preoccupied with birth and the wonder and the hope and possibility that comes with that. She asked a similar question what Christianity would look like if the focus were birth not death, human flourishing not suffering, and this world not the next.

Advent is a time for pondering those kinds of questions as you and I prepare for Jesus to be born anew in our hearts.  Can we make Mary’s song our song and live like we believe that God can turn the world around? are we willing to partner with God to help that happen?  Are we willing to walk away empty so that the hungry may be filled and you and focus on birthing God into the world each day by the choices that we make?

I believe the answer to all those questions is yes but like Mary we must have courage we must have the confidence of our faith my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his the name.

Perhaps the shiny decorations on our Christmas tree will remind us that the universe is physically impregnated to the very core of its matter. It is anointed from its beginning “Christified.” May our community and its surroundings shine with the reflection of the sacred, and may our own eyes be anointed to see it.

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

 

Sacred Time – Advent 2

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

First Reading – Romans 13: 11-14 (The Message)

Reader: Make sure that you dont get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We cant afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Dont loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

Second Reading – Matthew 24: 36-44 (NRSVUE)

Reader:
But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so, too, will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken, and one will be left. Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

 

Sacred Time
27 November 2022
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
Mathew 24:36-44, Romans 13:11-14

What is time?  According to Einstein, Time is the 4th dimension.  To describe anything you need a location in space [length, width, height] or [latitude, longitude and altitude] and in time.  With these 4 pieces of information, we can identify an “Event.”  Jesus was born [became incarnate: i.e. human] in Bethlehem when a star appeared in the sky ….  An event!  We are a little unsure about the date, but the Magi understood they had to get moving if they were to be part of the Christ “event”.   

Human beings can only occupy one location at any time.  Jesus was completely human – for 33 years our Biblical account never says that he was seen in 2 places at the same moment.  However, Jesus was completely divine and has been present throughout time beginning with creation and will be in time until the end of time!  Christ Jesus is present with us even now.  Time is an interesting concept.

What will you do with time this week?

Yesterday at 2:50 I ran up the stairs here at church and my Fitbit digital watch was doing the jig on my wrist to signify it had recorded 10,000 steps!  I had been using time since 8 in the morning to get here and prepare the sanctuary for our worship event!

The busy-ness of the holiday season can overrun the sense of the sacred. Will you be BUSY this week…. The irony is that setting apart time for connection with the sacred gets pushed aside in order to create the trappings of what is supposed to be the season of celebrating the incarnation of the Holy!

Advent as a liturgical season has taken on the concept of “waiting” as a predominant theological idea. It is as if we get to the first Sunday of Advent and all of a sudden, we are back to a time when Jesus is not present “yet.”

This Advent we will journey toward Christmas by emphasizing the gift of being awake to the “now” … the gift of sacred time with God, with each other, and with those in need of Hope.

“Sacred” means “set apart” Thus “Sacred time” is time “set apart” for our relationship with God: the one who is “omni-temporal”.

Before the Christ “event” in Jerusalem… God’s people awaited the establishment of the Kingdom – they got bored, they misunderstood, they chose lesser Gods – so Jesus – the “Christ event” was God’s act of reconciliation – a wake-up call, an invitation to continue to be creators in relationship with God.  God who was in creation from the beginning of time poured God-self into Jesus to rescue creation.

Richard Rohr, in a work called The Universal Christ invites us to see the unique “Christ event” as the fullness of everything, always and already present.  Into this “Christ-soaked” world Jesus was born.

Perhaps what we really wait for is ourselves–to fully know the presence of the sacred reflected in everything and in us. So in a sense, we can say that we “wait,” but the waiting is an active revealing if we will only say yes to the invitation to an “archetypal spiritual journey” into the idea that we are all “en Cristo,” moving from what we thought we always knew to what we now fully recognize (page 40, Universal Christ).

The time of reflection/contemplation at the beginning of each worship experience this year may feel welcome for some and a bit fidgety for others.  Sometimes we feel discomfort when we slow down or try to relax, empty, and just “be.” We more easily translate being “awake” as doing something. What if “attentiveness” and “keeping awake” was less about hyper-vigilance and more about allowing a non-anxious stance for this season where awe and wonder take the lead? A time in which our attentiveness is geared to recognizing the reflected light of Christ (“the day is near”)?

In this time before Christmas, we are not “waiting” for Jesus, but we are practicing “attentiveness” to the Holy reflected in the people and nature around us.  We can let things be mysterious, we can wonder, we can open our hearts to Christ present in our lifetime.  This Sunday we celebration Jesus: The Hope of the World.  As mystics have known in every faith practice: contemplation allows us to approach the “Sacred”.

The scriptures for this week can conjure up anxiety or confident hope.  Perhaps you were aware of the “Left Behind” series from the 1990s and early 21st Century [1995-2007] that focuses on the Matthew passages at v.39 and following… This apocalyptical, doomsday drama can cloud the confidence that is described beautifully in Rohr’s Advent reflections:

The theological virtue of hope is the patient and trustful willingness to live without closure, without resolution, and still be content and even happy because our Satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves.”  [repeat]

How will we engage the idea that all of time is “pregnant” and full of the possibility for reflecting the sacred?

We must stop in a moment and notice it- time is “pregnant” and full of the possibility for reflecting the sacred.

What does it mean to be pregnant:  to be full of possibilities.
Sacred time is full of possibilities that we haven’t seen ….

We can Marvel at something.
Take a deep breath. Light a candle. Listen to favorite music.

Speak of the deepest things we know with a friend.
“Spend” a bit of time to make life better for someone or some place. Any of these activities are the way we turn what is often a busy season into a journey toward deeper connection to the universal Christ. 

Rohr reminds us, we are never actually separated from the presence of God–from the sacred–except in our mind’s incessant activity.

“I have never been separated from God, nor can I be, except in my mind.” (Page 44, The Universal Christ)

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

 

Sacred Time

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

First Reading – Romans 13: 11-14 (The Message)

Reader: Make sure that you dont get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We cant afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Dont loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

Second Reading – Matthew 24: 36-44 (NRSVUE)


Reader: But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so, too, will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken, and one will be left. Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

 

Sacred Time
27 November 2022
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
Mathew 24:36-44, Romans 13:11-14

 

What is time?  According to Einstein, Time is the 4th dimension.  To describe anything you need a location in space [length, width, height] or [latitude, longitude and altitude] and in time.  With these 4 pieces of information, we can identify an “Event.”  Jesus was born [became incarnate: i.e. human] in Bethlehem when a star appeared in the sky ….  An event!  We are a little unsure about the date, but the Magi understood they had to get moving if they were to be part of the Christ “event”.   

Human beings can only occupy one location at any time.  Jesus was completely human – for 33 years our Biblical account never says that he was seen in 2 places at the same moment.  However, Jesus was completely divine and has been present throughout time beginning with creation and will be in time until the end of time!  Christ Jesus is present with us even now.  Time is an interesting concept.

What will you do with time this week?

Yesterday at 2:50 I ran up the stairs here at church and my Fitbit digital watch was doing the jig on my wrist to signify it had recorded 10,000 steps!  I had been using time since 8 in the morning to get here and prepare the sanctuary for our worship event!

The busy-ness of the holiday season can overrun the sense of the sacred. Will you be BUSY this week…. The irony is that setting apart time for connection with the sacred gets pushed aside in order to create the trappings of what is supposed to be the season of celebrating the incarnation of the Holy!

Advent as a liturgical season has taken on the concept of “waiting” as a predominant theological idea. It is as if we get to the first Sunday of Advent and all of a sudden, we are back to a time when Jesus is not present “yet.”

This Advent we will journey toward Christmas by emphasizing the gift of being awake to the “now” … the gift of sacred time with God, with each other, and with those in need of Hope.

“Sacred” means “set apart” Thus “Sacred time” is time “set apart” for our relationship with God: the one who is “omni-temporal”.

Before the Christ “event” in Jerusalem… God’s people awaited the establishment of the Kingdom – they got bored, they misunderstood, they chose lesser Gods – so Jesus – the “Christ event” was God’s act of reconciliation – a wake-up call, an invitation to continue to be creators in relationship with God.  God who was in creation from the beginning of time poured God-self into Jesus to rescue creation.

Richard Rohr, in a work called The Universal Christ invites us to see the unique “Christ event” as the fullness of everything, always and already present.  Into this “Christ-soaked” world Jesus was born.

Perhaps what we really wait for is ourselves–to fully know the presence of the sacred reflected in everything and in us. So in a sense, we can say that we “wait,” but the waiting is an active revealing if we will only say yes to the invitation to an “archetypal spiritual journey” into the idea that we are all “en Cristo,” moving from what we thought we always knew to what we now fully recognize (page 40, Universal Christ).

The time of reflection/contemplation at the beginning of each worship experience this year may feel welcome for some and a bit fidgety for others.  Sometimes we feel discomfort when we slow down or try to relax, empty, and just “be.” We more easily translate being “awake” as doing something. What if “attentiveness” and “keeping awake” was less about hyper-vigilance and more about allowing a non-anxious stance for this season where awe and wonder take the lead? A time in which our attentiveness is geared to recognizing the reflected light of Christ (“the day is near”)?

In this time before Christmas, we are not “waiting” for Jesus, but we are practicing “attentiveness” to the Holy reflected in the people and nature around us.  We can let things be mysterious, we can wonder, we can open our hearts to Christ present in our lifetime.  This Sunday we celebration Jesus: The Hope of the World.  As mystics have known in every faith practice: contemplation allows us to approach the “Sacred”.

The scriptures for this week can conjure up anxiety or confident hope.  Perhaps you were aware of the “Left Behind” series from the 1990s and early 21st Century [1995-2007] that focuses on the Matthew passages at v.39 and following… This apocalyptical, doomsday drama can cloud the confidence that is described beautifully in Rohr’s Advent reflections:

The theological virtue of hope is the patient and trustful willingness to live without closure, without resolution, and still be content and even happy because our Satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves.”  [repeat]

How will we engage the idea that all of time is “pregnant” and full of the possibility for reflecting the sacred?

We must stop in a moment and notice it- time is “pregnant” and full of the possibility for reflecting the sacred.

What does it mean to be pregnant:  to be full of possibilities.
Sacred time is full of possibilities that we haven’t seen ….

We can Marvel at something.
Take a deep breath. Light a candle. Listen to favorite music.

Speak of the deepest things we know with a friend.
“Spend” a bit of time to make life better for someone or some place. Any of these activities are the way we turn what is often a busy season into a journey toward deeper connection to the universal Christ. 

Rohr reminds us, we are never actually separated from the presence of God–from the sacred–except in our mind’s incessant activity.

“I have never been separated from God, nor can I be, except in my mind.” (Page 44, The Universal Christ)

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

 

Standing at the Edge

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

Joel 2:23-32 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

23 O children of Zion, be glad,
    and rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given the early rain[a] for your vindication;
    he has poured down for you abundant rain,
    the early and the later rain, as before.
24 The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
    the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

25 I will repay you for the years
    that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
    my great army that I sent against you.

26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied
    and praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel
    and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

God’s Spirit Poured Out

28 [b]Then afterward     I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
    in those days I will pour out my spirit.

30 I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 32 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:16-18  New Revised Standard Version Updated Ed

16 At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luke 18:9-14 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other, for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

 

 Standing at the Edge
Joel 2:23-32; Psalm 65; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14

23 October 2022
The Rev Dr. Dianne ES Carpenter

 

A tourist came too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon, lost his footing and  plunged over the side, clawing and scratching to save himself. After he went out of sight and just before he fell into space, he encountered a scrubby bush which he desperately grabbed with both hands. Filled with terror, he called out toward heaven, “Is there anyone up there?”

A calm, powerful voice came out of the sky, “Yes, there is.”

The tourist pleaded, “Can you help me? Can you help me?”

The calm voice replied, “Yes, I can. What is your problem?”

“I fell over the cliff and am dangling in space holding to a bush that is about to let go. Please help me.”

“The voice from above said, “I’ll try. Do you believe?”

“Yes, yes, I believe.”

“Do you have faith?”

“Yes, yes. I have strong faith.”

The calm voice said, “Well, in that case, simply let loose of the bush and everything will turn out fine.”

There was a tense pause, then the tourist yelled, “Is there anyone else up there?”               

Here on Cape Cod it is very likely that you have stood at the edge of the water at the seashore on a summer day, at the very edge with the cold water before you and the hot sand behind you.  Or maybe you were on a roof or high river bank, right out at the very edge so that your toes hung out into space.  Standing on the edge gives life a whole new meaning.  You either desperately want the assurance of solid ground under your feet, or you have the impulse to charge into the unknown. 

Standing on the edge gives one a very important and different perspective on life.  A famous theologian of last century used to speak of finding truth at the boundaries where opposites meet.  The truth is found at the boundary of love and hate, of peace and war, of life and death. 

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul was “standing at the edge”—of life.  He is able to say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  What a good feeling!  Looking back, I’m OK.  And looking ahead, I’m OK.  “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the lord will award me…”  Paul is in prison about to be put to death, and he can say—“I’m OK, it’s OK.”

Most of us hope that we will be ready to let go when we come to the natural end of our lives.  But the edge is not a “natural” place.  Paul was in the grip of a political vise: to follow Caesar or God… to worship Caesar or the God who had approached him on the Damascus Road.   

We will all stand at the edge of life, some of us for a brief time and some for long years of physical and emotional illness.  Are you “standing at the edge “ today?  How does that feel?  Are you OK?

We might ask where our nation or our world is today.  Are we “at the edge” of extinction or renewal…. Are we OK?

We have choices: We can either desperately want the assurance of solid ground under our feet – which for many people means a revival of traditional realities- status quo, or we have the impulse to charge into the unknown possibilities of the future. 

The quote by Kurt Vonnegut Jr votes for creative possibilities:

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over.

Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

Possibilities for Environmental sustainability

Possibilities for social justice

Possibilities for Shalom: Peace with justice

But can we do that alone? 

 

The sense of standing at the edge, all alone comes to each of us in times of defenselessness.  Aloneness, in a world full of people, feels like being abandoned.  And at that moment, we pray for a sense of God with us.  We pray to be rescued.  Nothing is OK until God is with us.  Yet, many alone and struggling people are trying to get in touch with a sense of God’s presence.  They are immigrants fleeing dangerous regimes, they are people who are food insecure, and they are people who cannot afford housing.    It used to be that many joined churches to have that sense of God with them.

The church was to be a microcosm – an inbreaking experience of the Kingdom of God…a safe place of creative possibilities.  The fulfillment of the promises in Joel this morning…

And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel
    and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

28 [b]Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
    in those days I will pour out my spirit.

However, the church has turned the Gospel message inside out and upside down at times in its theological history so that the church is deeply divided  — like the human race – But the missional edge is where we meet each other and actually follow God’s plan for Prophesy, dreams, and visions.

The gospel today says to us beware.  “Beware of approaching God like the Pharisees.‘’  Beware of the presumption of standing boldly in the presence of God and praying with yourself: “God, I thank you that I’m not like other people, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”  The gospel says to beware of being too sure of your righteousness because truth may be more evident when you are at the boundary of social acceptability.  This is not the threat “pride, cometh before a fall.”  This is a simple proclamation that pride, or certainty that we are right in the sight of God is sin.  Life is full of uncertainty and that’s OK.  But to uncritically say we ourselves are OK, that we stand in judgment of everyone who is aware of their own broken and fallen condition, is sin.

In a world where conformity is praised and earthly rewards like money and recognition are commonly accepted as signs of God’s favor, fewer and fewer people can live with uncertainty. 

Teen suicide and dependency on drugs and alcohol are signs that even tragic oblivion seems better than the uncertainty and feeling alone, “standing at the edge.”  A vision of what God wants us to be and how far we fall short may be clearer when we are alone, or we have nothing to lose and everything to lose, when we finally pray to God instead of to ourselves, we pray for strength to live with emotional and physical pain and uncertainty.

While most of us are comfortably situated within the mainstream of life with its not-so-major decisions, many individuals and eventually even we ourselves will come to a moment in which we are “standing at the edge.”  The prisoner about to face sentencing, the sinner who is humbled before God, and maybe even one of our neighbors or friends who is in the midst of a marriage crisis, sudden illness or loss of life have a lot to teach us when they are the most unacceptable to us.

This is the essence of the realization that, “There but for the grace of God go I.”  Without the realization of our common humanity and vulnerability, mainstream people cannot act with compassionate concern for others.  The tragedy of short memory, when we have struggled and lived through difficult times only to say, “I did it, so can they” is all too common today.  [crippling student loans]  True grace and true acceptance of the saving grace of God has a long memory which bears the fruit of compassion, while good fortune and cheap grace has little understanding and less fruits. 

Compassion costs, because at the very least it means grappling with the frustration and pain of standing at the edge with someone else, standing at the edge when we believe we are safe in the crowd.  The conviction of God’s way of peace and love costs even more, because we have to face uncertainty and setbacks at every step in a world ruled by fear.

God knows that if we can get beyond our own shortsightedness we will find Him ready to run this race we call life with us.  God also calls us to run with each other here in this church and this town– God calls us to run with people throughout the world, with immigrants and displaced persons.  But sometimes, too often, we get in each other’s way, rather than running with each other.  We condemn when we could encourage, we run ahead when we could have slowed our pace.

There are some in this room or just outside our doors who are standing on the edge, or have made only the beginning steps of feeling solid ground under their feet.  Maybe the solid ground has been a lifetime pursuit or maybe it is a great temporary desire after depression and loss. Someone here today or in the places we will go today and this week desperately needs the people in this room to be God with them.  The responsibility that people who are feeling OK have is the responsibility to join hands with those who sorrow.  The responsibility we have to each other is to build one another up, not to tear one another or anyone down.  If a juvenile Court offender was given alternative service in this place, could we encourage them to finish this task and move ahead, proclaiming we are with them as they attempt to move away from the edge where they are standing? 

If a single parent came here, sometimes afraid and sometimes angry at the difficulties and facing a world where they are pushed to the edge because they have not yet got both feet on the ground; if he or she came could we minister to that person?

At the November ballot box there will be questions concerning people and issues which will demand standing at the edge of our current comfort zone so that we can affirm that God’s vision is our vision and We are OK with that.

A builder works with God’s creation instead of thanking God that he or she is not like the rest of God’s creation.  Sometimes working with people is a slow business.  A priest or a pastor counsels people over months, not days.  A person who has made a wrong choice lives with the consequences for years.  God knew that working with people is a slow business God knew it as God, on a cross between two thieves.  But because God hung there for sinners who would not understand, because God was willing to stand at the edge of life itself, God showed us that there is a greater life through turning to him than through praying to ourselves. 

May the assurance of God’s presence be with you as you stand at the edge, today or tomorrow.  May you grasp the challenge to stand at the edge, to tarry with those who have no defense and have been abandoned.  And may we all see the Glory of the lord in the Kingdom come, together.

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

 

We will never forget

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

https://youtu.be/18oMVjb9zho   Jeremiah 29:1 New International Version

A Letter to the Exiles

29 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Jeremiah 29:4-7

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

2 Timothy 2:8-15 New International Version

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

11 Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,
    we will also live with him;
12 if we endure,
    we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
    he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot disown himself.

Dealing With False Teachers

14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

 

“We Will Never Forget”                    

 *Luke 17:11-19

Jesus Heals Ten Men with Leprosy

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

 

“We Will Never Forget”
*Luke 17:11-19
9 October 2022
The Rev Dr. Dianne ES Carpenter

 

Why do you suppose the Samaritan came back to thank Jesus? After all, Jesus hadn’t made a formal thank you part of the bargain. He simply told them to go and show themselves to the priests. The Samaritan’s nine partners, obviously, felt no need to return. Why the Samaritan?

Perhaps he had a mother who drummed into him the obligation to write thank-you notes for birthday and Christmas gifts. Some of us remember the experience. But, clearly, more was at stake in this story than demonstrating polite social etiquette. Why did the Samaritan return?

Part of the answer may be found in the identity of this healed man. He was a leper like the other nine. But alone among the 10, he was a Samaritan. As a leper, he was unclean ritually and, therefore, to be isolated, causing revulsion and fear. And as a Samaritan he would have been seen as a despised outsider to the more orthodox Jews of Galilee. Perhaps this Samaritan leper suffered more and thus his healing evoked a more profound gratitude.

 Among the many things this healing accomplished was the breaching of a formidable boundary and the movement from painful isolation to grateful intimacy. Maybe that’s why the Samaritan came back out of a yearning for intimacy with God, a sense that faith cannot simply mean the performance of rituals and practices but lures us into relationship with God that is intimate, humbling, healing, even dependent.  He would never forget that Jesus touched him …

Forgetfulness is the root of many evils.

Forgetting the many ways that we are not self-made

Forgetting the opportunities and privileges we enjoy

Forgetting that we generally reap what we sow.

Remembering is a uniquely human activity

Remembering people and events from long ago…

pondering the beginning and the choices we have made… and the  results of those choices, that is a human activity

Did the 9 lepers forget that Jesus had answered their entreaty: “Lord have pity on us”

At least the Samaritan could now return to people who might love him.  Other Samaritans…  The man had been in the company of strangers for quite a while.  How often have we found ourselves ostracized?  Perhaps never, since we have are people who, as a rule, are experience ourselves as being accepted in the places where we go.

Some have suggested that we often act as though we are entitled to the goodness that we receive.  Entitlement is the root of the evil of the day.  It is pride personified and an expression of self-righteousness.  If Jesus had not healed them, would they have spent the rest of the day denouncing him, forgetting Him…

Entitlement leads to the sense of distance and isolation so many feel. It is a deep self-centeredness that assumes everything is my right, my due, an attitude that replaces concern for the community with a preoccupation with my own needs. It enables me to maintain my distance in the illusion of absolute independence. Healed of illness, we wander off like the nine because, after all, we’re entitled to health.

Maybe Mom was onto something more important than just proper etiquette when she drummed into us the importance of writing thank-you notes..” It’s more than just a lack of civility and good manners that diminishes life today. It’s the failure to realize that we live in a profoundly interdependent world, that the strength of our communities and the health of our souls comes not as entitlement or right, but as gift.

And, yes, even sending a thank-you note, as mothers perhaps instinctively knew, is far more than social convention, but an awareness that the best gifts and thus much of the joy of life are not things we can give ourselves but come from beyond us as an alluring expression of love, even an invitation to love. Each thank you becomes a way to practice gratitude so that more and more our lives are weaned away from the myth of entitlement and the arrogance and isolation of independence. Each thank you becomes a way to practice gratitude so that more and more our lives are shaped by the truth of our belonging to others, even to Christ.

The healthiest people I know are not the ones who delight in being the proverbial self-made man or woman. The healthiest people I know are those whose lives express a deep gratitude for everything and everyone that has reached across a boundary and border to enrich and embrace them. For them, dependence is not the dirty word we have sometimes made of it, but merely the simple pattern and the plain truth about life.

Being a thankful person is understanding that in many ways we are a gifted people.  Gifted by a creator God who places unique potentials within each of us and who constantly calls on us to use those potentials for the furtherance of the Kingdom.

Lest we forget, those people who have gone before us and their contributions to our personal lives and the life of the world.  We often say: “We will never forget the bravery of firefighters, soldiers, and EMT’s who selflessly place themselves in the path of danger for the sake of others.”  “We will never forget the sacrifices of a parent or the devotion of a teacher.”  We will never forget…. Or will we?

The Gloucester fishermen who went to sea to bring home food and whale oil to light the dark nights.

The pioneers who went into uncharted territory to break a trail for others to follow. 

We say: We will never forget, and we erect monuments so others will not forget.  Memorials in our country’s capital and memorials along our highways where someone important to someone ended their life.

As we remember people and places and retell the story of what they meant to us, we honor them and say thank you.  But they are not here to hear us thank you.

And so we get to the impact of this passage, to be truly thankful, we need to so conform our lives to the image of Christ that we live our humble thanks.  For Jesus, humbled Himself even to death upon a cross so that the world might know of God’s love and forgiveness. 

With the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth, we have been reminded that she represented a historic reality that was a legacy to the resent age.  Recessional” is a poem by Rudyard Kipling, which he composed on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

The poem is a prayer. It describes two fates that befall even the most powerful people, armies and nations, and that threatened England at the time: passing out of existence and lapsing from Christian faith into profanity. The prayer entreats God to spare “us” (England) from these fates “lest we forget” the sacrifice of Christ.

Lest We Forget

The phrase “lest we forget” forms the refrain of “Recessional.” It introduces the reason for the entreaty expressed in the poem: that God might spare England from oblivion or profanity “lest we forget” the sacrifice of Christ (“Thine ancient sacrifice”).

The phrase later passed into common usage after World War I across the British Commonwealth especially, becoming linked with Remembrance Day observations; it came to be a plea not to forget past sacrifices, and was often found as the only wording on war memorials, or used as an epitaph.

God of our fathers, known of old—
Lord of our far-flung battle line—
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies—
The Captains and the Kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away—
On dune and headland sinks the fire—
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard—
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!
Amen.

 

The Samaritan turned back and acknowledged the great gift of healing and wholeness, and Jesus knew that for this one man, it was worth having healed the 10 because this one had his faith increased.  Furthermore, this one had come into a give and take relationship with Jesus, while the other 9 were only “takers”.

There is a flow of “give and take” in every good relationship.  As we see God’s goodness in our lives…can we say Thank-you – we will never forget you Lord?  You made something beautiful of my life.

When I gave a baby gift to a friend who is about my daughter’s age, I received a note that read, You are one of a small handful of women I think of when I think of motherhood. I was always so envious of your children. You loved folding your children’s clothes and were always quick to whip up a chocolate chip cookie or other delicious snack, and your face would light up in a specific way when you spoke of your children. Thank you for always welcoming me into your home and for your warm hugs. You have made a large impact on me and my hopes of my relationship with my daughter. I have three children who know I love them. But when someone outside of your family recognizes that love, it makes it tangible and extra meaningful. —Denise Lapp, Valencia, California

I got a letter from a former student. I had retired from Margate Ele­mentary School and moved, but somehow, he found my address. He thanked me for requiring him to read on Christmas, Sundays, and even his birthday because his ability to read manuals allowed him to be a Marine helicopter repairman. He is now a corporal and told me he was deployed. I volunteer with Operation Shoebox, and we sent goody bags for his unit. I got a big thank-you letter and a picture of the Marines in front of their helicopter. He told me that some of the Marines had tears in their eyes because they never even get a letter from home. —Alva Alexander, The Villages, Florida

My sister-in-law sent me a thank-you note after I took care of her dogs while she and my brother-in-law were away. She wrote the letter as if it were from the dogs themselves, to thank me for taking care of them, and even included their paw prints. —Jodi Lueschow, Cresco, Iowa

I received a message over Facebook from a woman who said I had written her a note when she was in sixth grade, telling her to smile, that she was beautiful, and things would get better. She told me she had been contemplating suicide that day and I had saved her life. Today she has a beautiful family and two children. Be kind to one another. —K. K., via rd.com

 

1 Church St, Harwich, MA 02645
508 432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

 

Hot-wired for Faith

Worship Time
10:00 AM
1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: 508-432-3734
harwichumc@gmail.com

2 Timothy 1:1-14
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,  1:2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.  1:3 I am grateful to God–whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did–when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.  1:4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.  1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.

1:6 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 1:7 for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.  1:8 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God,  1:9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 1:10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

1:11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, 1:12 and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.

1:13 Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  1:14 Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
FENCING IS A GAME OF LIVING CHESS

The word “fencing” comes from the verb “brandish” and this comes from the German verb” which means to repair or protect. 

Fencing, organized sport involving the use of a sword, foil, or sabre for attack and defense according to set movements and rules.

Although the use of swords dates to prehistoric times and swordplay to ancient civilizations, the organized sport of fencing began only at the end of the 19th century. It’s often called “physical chess” because of the similarity that each game affords only a few moves, especially few opening moves, but the first few moves can be arranged in a mind-boggling number of different combinations. Also, a good attack plan in either sport will be backed up by a second plan, in case the defender counters the first one, even a third or fourth. People who are good chess players, if physically fit, tend to make good fencers.

There are three different blades in fencing

Epee– target area is full body and no priority; a double hit gives points to both fencers or teams. Points are scored by hitting the opponent with the point of the blade.

Foil– target area is chest only and there is priority*. Points are scored by hitting the opponent with the point of the blade while having priority.

Sabre– target area is upper body and there is priority. Points are scored by hitting opponent with blade while having priority.

Lamentations 1:1-6 New International Version

[a]How deserted lies the city,     once so full of people!
How like a widow is she,     who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces     has now become a slave.

Bitterly she weeps at night,     tears are on her cheeks.
Among all her lovers    there is no one to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her;     they have become her enemies.

After affliction and harsh labor,     Judah has gone into exile.
She dwells among the nations;     she finds no resting place.
All who pursue her have overtaken her in the midst of her distress.

The roads to Zion mourn, for no one, comes to her appointed festivals.
All her gateways are desolate, her priests groan, her young women grieve,     and she is in bitter anguish.

Her foes have become her masters; her enemies are at ease.
The Lord has brought her grief because of her many sins.
Her children have gone into exile,  captive before the foe.

All the splendor has departed   from Daughter Zion.
Her princes are like deer  that find no pasture;
in weakness, they have fled before the pursuer.

Luke 17:5-10
17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

17:6 The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.  17:7 “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 17:8 Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 17:9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?

17:10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”

Hot-wired for Faith
2 October 2022
The Rev Dr. Dianne ES Carpenter

 

Fencing Coaches Choices

I once asked a great coach how he decided which weapon a student should fence. He replied, “On the first day, I tell him ‘keep me from hitting you with my straight arm’ and I extend my arm at them.” He then explained what the three types of students do. The first takes a step back out of range of the coach’s hand, he shall be a sabreur. The second slaps the coach’s hand out of the way before the coach can hit him, he shall be an epee fencer. The third lets the coach hit him and immediately turns to any bystanders and insists that the coach’s arm was bent. He shall be a foilist.

The Foil was used for resolving matters of honor.

The Sabre was used by the military.

The Epee was used for dueling – the fight to first blood.

You wake up in the morning feeling lousy.  You check your temperature.  That’s about all you can do at home.  To explore your medical condition further, you head to the doctor’s office.  And wait.

Not anymore.  Healthy or sick, using wearable technology, now you can always know how your vital signs are doing.  Fitness experts are working on more practical applications of wearable technology. A medical “fanny pack” was tested in 1997 when a runner in the Boston Marathon raced from Hopkinton to the Prudential Building wearing a one-pound belt, loaded with an array of bundled health sensors. Researchers documented the heart rate, footsteps, GPS position, and body temperature of the athlete every second of the marathon, transmitting results to the internet for the whole world to read.

The whole concept of smart clothes may be traceable to the ancient art of fencing.  No fencer assumes the “en garde” position without wearing a lame [la-may] – the protective metallic vest used to detect valid touches in a fencing contest.  Since competitive fencers move too quickly for judges to catch every move, electronic scoring systems have long analyzed the moves for them.

It’s a point system now in case you are wondering whether  fencing is for you it’s also been suggested that fencing is a game of living chess so if you’re a chess player you probably would make a good fencer and you can start participating in this wonderful game fencing is an organized sport involving the sword and a set of movements and rules like chess how you choose your movements and how you obey the rules is also very important in how you play the game

It makes sense to guard one’s physical health. But what about our spiritual health?  Paul reminds us to “guard” our faith, but no wearable sensors have yet been created to monitor “how we are doing” spiritually.  No one is studying the technological means of measuring our rate of heartwarming actions, our footsteps along the right path, our positioning in God’s world, and the temperature of our passion for Christ.  Our spiritual vital signs cannot be easily Analyzed.

Yet contemporary scientists are trying, and the results make headlines.  Humans are hard-wired for God.  The field of neuro-theology promises to yield fascinating discoveries about connections between mystical experience and the human brain.

But Paul assumes the neuro-theological condition.  He argues that certain steps can be taken to move from a lame faith to a faith hard-wired for God [like the lame].  God has not given “us a spirit of cowardice [that’s lame], but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline [that’s lame’ vests of the digital age].

Power is a measure of an entity’s ability to control the environment around itself, including the behavior of other entities. The term authority is often used for power, perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to humans as social beings.

Love is the emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In a philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. In a religious context, love is not just a virtue, but the basis for all beings (“God is love”[2]), and the foundation for all divine law

Self-discipline refers to the training that one gives one’s self to accomplish a certain task or to adopt a particular pattern of behavior, even though one would really rather be doing something else. For example, denying oneself of an extravagant pleasure in order to accomplish a more demanding charitable deed. Thus, self-discipline is the assertion of willpower over more base desires, and is usually understood to be a synonym of ‘self control‘.

Nothing high-tech about the benefits of grace.  While we ooh and aah over the latest achievements of technology, first-century believers preferred the ancient over the novel.  In deference to the Romans who looked warily upon new and improved cults, Paul refers to the age-old faith of his ancestors and calls the grace of Jesus Christ a gift given “before the ages began.”

So if God remains unchanging and gracious, how do we check our notoriously human tendencies to wander and be less than gracious ourselves?  How do we guard the faith that our mothers and grandmothers taught us?  How do we detect glitches in our spiritual health?  Our tendency to carry bad spiritual habits and ignore vital signs of the soul remains as ancient as God’s grace.  What’s a neo-modern, technologically sophisticated Christian to do?

Paul offers a few suggestions.  The “gift of God” must be “rekindled” and Paul – ever helpful – declares himself to be just the right one to help.  In the laying on of his own hands, Paul offers support and encouragement to believers needing a sacred nudge.  Paul offers his services as a personal trainer, of sorts, throughout his letters.  The church at its best serves in this capacity too.  We offer personal training in the field of spiritual nurture.  We’ll coach you.  We’ll encourage you.  We’ll suggest a healthy diet of bread and wine, study and prayer.  We’ll teach you up to a point, but then you must be self-disciplined in your own personal training too.  We cannot run your spiritual life for you.

Sensors will not measure your pace, nor will microchip accelerometers analyze your performance.  We must depend upon more visceral signs to detect lame faith.  The 2 Paul mentions most prominently are “cowardice” and embarrassment.

Cowardice:  We’re not talking phobias.  The apostle could’ve used the Greek word phobos here, but he didn’t.  He is not making a comment on the claustrophobic, agoraphobic, or photophobic Christian. The word he does use [deilia] is never used in a positive sense.  It’s sheer fear and timidity.  No Christian possessed of this spirit will assume an en garde position to parry and thrust in the culture wars, the moral battles, and the spiritual struggles that one faces every day.

Embarrassment:  Cowardice is no doubt the product of embarrassment, mentioned twice in Paul’s words here.   Lame faith is a faith unwilling to suffer, unwilling to endure giggles, stares, rejection, ridicule or the like.  A lame’ faith [hard-wired to God] is powerful, loving & disciplined.  A lame faith is cowardly and red-faced.

It’s curious that while intellectuals will quite outspokenly reference pyramid power, or their chandlers or crystals, Christians often struggle to mumble that they believe Jesus is the Christ, the risen Son of the living God.  So what gives?  Are you more – or less- embarrassed to admit that your bodily functions are being monitored on an hourly basis by microsensors in your shorts, or that you’ve put your trust in God?  Lame or lame’?

Paul suggests that we “guard the good treasure” entrusted to us – not with fanny packs filled with radio transmitters – but with the hardwired, neuro-spiritual apparatus Paul calls the spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.  He thinks it’s enough to get us through the day.

He’s right.  En Garde.

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