Archives for September 2014
Text: Matthew 21:23-32
Upper west side balcony dwellers, I have a question for you this morning. That’s you, Pullen youth. Here’s the question: “Who do you listen to as a voice of authority?” Is it your parents? Teachers? Friends? Police? Youth Minister? Church? Another way for me to ask you this question is, “Who gets your attention when it comes to matters of importance?” For instance: everyone agrees that cheating on a test or graded assignment is wrong yet it happens constantly. Who in your life would you most listen to when it came to asking you not to cheat? Your parents? One of your friends? Laura? If someone you like or you are dating is not good for you, or a certain crowd of friends you’re hanging out with is changing you, and not for the better whose advice might you be willing to listen to? There’s a lot of pressure around body image for you guys—both for girls and boys—to be skinny and pretty and strong and handsome. Who are you listening to these days about body image? Your friends? Social media? TV ads?
I’ve been thinking about how many people you have in your lives who assume some kind of authority. For sure, your parents do. They hold quite a bit of authority over many areas of your life. When your curfew is, to some degree who your friends are, what kind of movies you see, and the list continues. Your teachers have a certain amount of authority when it comes to school work and what is required of you at school. Law enforcement has authority in your life—and I know for a fact some of you have tested that authority. I know your friends have some authority in your life—if for no other reason than you want to fit in and be liked. I would like to think that Laura and your church sometimes gets your attention on matters of importance but I don’t know if you see that as authority.
When I ask you who you listen to as a voice of authority, I’m wondering more about how you decide who you give authority to. What are the characteristics or what is the character of a person you deem to have the voice of authority? Is it that they have some kind of power over you? That they can punish you if you don’t do what they say? Or is it something else; like the way or manner in which they speak to you, or an experience that they have had that you value, or is it that their actions match their words.
Drawing from their experience in preparing for her mother’s death, Ginny Going and her husband Tom Henderson led a discussion on preparing for death during our Wednesday evening program this week. This is an important conversation as we prepare for both our own deaths, and walk with our loved ones as they navigate end-of-life care and decisions. Ginny and Tom shared how their experience was altered by their discovery of the book “It’s OK to Die.” The discussion sought to move us beyond the idea that wills, powers of attorney and medical directives are all we need to prepare for death. Ginny and Tom have made their presentation available for those who were not able to attend the discussion.
A sample chapter of the book referenced in the presentation, along with additional documents and information about preparing for death, is available at http://oktodie.com/
Text: Matthew 20:1-16
I begin my sermon this morning with words of deep appreciation. As most of you know, I have been a part of this community for over 22 years. Over those years, we have experienced together many life-changing and profound moments. Some of them have been in times of great loss and grief; and some have marked joyous occasions. I think about our community coming together around the events of 9/11. How on that day and in the immediate days following we sat together, cried together, supported one another, and called upon our faith for courage and understanding. I think about each time our community experiences the death of one of our beloved members. I am always moved by how we come together to offer our love and support for their families; and how we honor the lives of our friends through thoughtful and meaningful funeral liturgies. I shall never forget how our community came together to stand against Amendment One several years ago. The congregational meeting where we voted unanimously to take a stand against Amendment One and issued a statement for marriage equality will forever stand as a highlight in my ministry with you. The depth of appreciation and care I, along with so many in the LGBTQ community, felt that day still is overwhelming. The way this congregation has, on so many occasions, responded to the needs of our human family around the world has so often moved me to a more profound sense of faith, community, human respect, and love. Most recently, I am reminded of your response to the request of our friends in the Republic of Georgia for help in ministering to the Yezidi refugees. The list goes on and on—one act of caring and love after another in times of great distress and in times of great joy and celebration.
And yet, with so many moments to recall, these past fifteen days with our Cuban pilgrims has again deepened my appreciation for this community and the way you so graciously and magnanimously respond to friends and strangers alike. You, this congregation, in ways that are beyond what words can describe, made real to our Cuban sisters and brothers how Jesus taught us to live and be in the world. As I sat yesterday morning and listened as they reflected on their experience with us, I was filled once again with an exceedingly deep appreciation for this church. Your care, your love, your hospitality, your very presence offered a sincere witness to the love of God for Beny, Maria Victoria, Berta, Harry, Kenny, Ruben and Orestes. A witness that they will take back home to Matanzas, Cuba with them; an experience that demonstrated in great depth what it means to be a part of the family of God.
If you’re available and interested:
October 11: Habitat Work Day
November 2: Senior Adult/Young Adult Luncheon
December 16: Christmas Party – Emily & Megans!