January 21, 2020
  • 4:15 pm معايدة صاحب الغبطةيوحنا العاشر بطريرك أنطاكية وسائر المشرقميلاد ٢٠١٩
  • 4:14 pm True Word of Life Church “LIVE” Worship
  • 4:14 pm World Famous Foot Model Sasha Soles Foot Worship
Worship on October 20th 2019

Friends listen to these words The spirit and the bride say come let everyone who hears say come and let everyone who is thirsty come let Anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift? So we come to worship this God and what would it be like to receive the water of life this day? Grace and peace to you and our Lord Jesus Christ and in God our Creator It is God who welcomes us here as we gather to worship and who invites us to draw near to the heart of Christ God welcomes us no matter who we are How we have found our way here this morning or wherever we are and our faith journey Our understanding that is that in God’s love it is simple Absolutely. Everyone is welcome Please join me in prayer Holy God speak to us what has been from the beginning That with open hearts. We may understand an Understanding we may believe in Believing we may follow the way of your Living Word Christ our Lord. Amen Listen now for the word of God These are the words of the letter that the Prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles into the priests the prophets and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken from into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon Thus says the Lord of hosts the God of Israel in all the exhales Whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon Build houses and live into them plant gardens in eat what they produce Take wives and have sons and daughters Take wives for your sons and give your daughters into marriage that they may bear sons and daughters multiply there do not decrease but seek the welfare of the city where I’ve sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its back have For in its welfare. You will find your welfare And now from the Gospel of Luke on the way to Jerusalem. Jesus was going through a region between Samaria and Galilee As he entered a village ten lepers approached him keeping the distance They called out saying Jesus master have mercy on us when he saw them He said to them go and show yourself to the priests and they went and they were made clean Then one of them when he saw he that he was healed turned back praising God with a loud voice He prostrated himself at Jesus feet and thanked him and he was a Samaritan Then Jesus s were not ten made clean, but the other nine Where are they was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this one foreign foreigner Then he said to him get up and go on your way Your faith has made you well, this is the word of the Lord. Oh Good morning, Westminster. I Bring you greetings from Hope Church in Holland, Michigan today a Congregation that I think is a bit of a kindred spirit to you all here It’s a joy to finally meet all of you It feels a little bit like that experience of finally meeting someone that mutual friends have been singing the praises about for many years and Some of the things I have heard about this place is that you are a community that is deeply committed To being a part of the justice of the city I’ve also heard that you are a place that bears witness to the inclusive love of God for all of God’s people and That this is a place that makes space for people to ask hard questions about this Christian tradition that we share all The while seeking to follow after God in the way of Jesus, so it’s lovely to finally meet you all Earlier this summer as pastor Jen made reference. I had the blessing to spend a little bit of time with your staff. I designed some Conversations for them to engage with each other that are the kind of conversations that all of us need to have in times of transition a Time to come to terms with the past perhaps to wrestle with each other around different perspectives about that past and Then to turn attention toward the future and to name some norms. That might be important about living into this day and this time Now to tell you that as I walked away from the very first of those conversations I was blown away By the way that your staff showed up for these conversations particularly by the trust that they placed in me as someone who – most of them was a perfect stranger and For the honesty and the vulnerability that they brought to those conversations I felt grateful as I got to bear witness to this group who was willing to really roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of stuarti their communal life together as I say this is the ongoing work that all of us need to do as we live life in community But let me be clear the need to examine your communal life To bring some attention to its quality To the bolstering of its health is not something unique to you here at Westminster Church the moment that you widen the focus and Begin to look at the community of life here for instance in this city of Grand Rapids or in this state that we both share or in this nation where we live or to this world that we share you see how utterly urgent it is that we tend and Bolster the health and well-being of our communal life When you look at that wider picture, you see not just the urgency of this task But at times what can feel like the futility of this task? now for those of us who read from the lectionary We have been on a rather rocky road through the end of the summer and the beginning of this fall we have heard some very strong words of prophetic warning most recently from jeremiah and equally fierce words from our lord coming to us from the Gospel of Luke and even if you haven’t tracked all the passages because I know you’ve had a lot of guest preachers some may or may not follow the lectionaries I happen to see That you had the opportunity To hear from the Reverend Jennifer Harvey a couple of weeks ago and I trust that she brought some prophetic fire to you When she shared with you her book from a while ago dear white Christian slayed me when I first read it as I was beginning to Grapple with my own white privilege and trying to get more serious about the work of racial equity in our community so whether it’s from the Scriptures themselves or whether it’s from Examination of the state of our world it is clear that we are being pulled into Some very difficult and heavy territory about how we live together how we steward our communal life So here’s the way I’d like to frame the question for us as we look at these circles church life political life perhaps even personal life when so much is broken and has been for so long and when the causes of those problems are so complicated and Deeply entrenched Where can we find hope? What should we do? And is there any hope of healing? That’s the question before God’s people in this passage from Jeremiah today Everything that they know is gone if their city has been destroyed Their homes are long gone. They are now living in a foreign land and Jeremiah finally in this twenty ninth chapter rights to them a tender word Not a strong and harsh word of critique but a tender word That is meant to shift them from the trauma of their past toward a hope for their future and His word to them is this Your healing will come from your investment in your community They will find healing as they put down roots in this place as they build houses and live in them as they reconnect with the earth and the rhythms of sustenance as they plant gardens and eat the fruit from it and as they give themselves again to the joy of love and family life they are to take wives and husbands and have sons and daughters and Give their children again in marriage His word is that you will find life again as you knit yourselves together in community And this invitation to start over which was a profound starting over for them in Babylon But anytime that you turn the page to a new chapter there is always a feeling that the task before you is a bit daunting, but Jeremiah I think is holding out hope for us that it can also be quite energizing as We do this work of grief Looking to the past the work that we all have to do at any time of transition eventually our focus begins to shift to the future and What Jeremiah knew was that giving themselves to the energy of creation? so what was going to pull them toward new life and The last word that he gives to them in this passage. It’s absolutely essential and It has to do with how they would relate to the people who had destroyed their way of life the contest between Babylon and Israel was over Babylon one and Now they were living in the land of their enemies Would they hold on to that rivalry? Praying for their demise rooting for their destruction hoping for a chance to turn the tables Do you think about our national political life? Does this sound familiar in any way? But to that question of will you hold on to that rivalry, will you pray for their demise Will you look for the chance to turn the tables? Jeremiah’s word is very clear and very strong know The energy of recreation demands that they seek the welfare of the whole Pray to the Lord on its behalf for its welfare. You will find your welfare And I suppose this could be seen as just some good pragmatic advice. I just along the lines of rising tide lifts all ships But I think that Jeremiah is lifting up a value from the gospel that is much more powerful than that Which is that our lives are interconnected whether we feel those bonds of connection or not and when we intentionally strengthen those bonds especially across differences That is when we experience healing The gospel from Luke today gives to us a very visual expression of this truth And I think about what precisely needed healing in the story of the ten lepers Find myself naming far more than the medical condition of these ten men who? encountered Jesus on the road to Jerusalem And when they call out to Jesus for mercy He sends them off to show themselves to the priests. I always thought what an odd instruction Why could he not just in that moment provide for their healing and if he had to send them to anyone why the priests? until we consider the social isolation that They had endured they were together at the edges of the community because the priests had sent them there the priests were the Gatekeepers determining who was clean and unclean worthy and unworthy of the priests who had set them to the side in this way Something that we have to be honest about that religious communities continue to do to this day There’s no coincidence that it’s on their way to the priests on their way to reclaiming their place in the community That they look down and see that these sores were gone These sores that were the source of their alienation and shame had suddenly cleared up Community and healing are deeply connected All 10 of them were made clean But only one of them is said by Jesus to have been made well and it is that one Samaritan Jesus does this over and over again in his storytelling the hero of the story is the one they least suspect the foreigner, right? He is the one who turns back to give thanks and from this simple expression of gratitude Jesus deduces that it’s this man’s fate That has made him. Well, not the curing of the leprosy that happened for all of them But the faith of this man that has made him well and it was a faith that led him to express gratitude Which brings me back to the question with which we began when so much is broken and has been for so long and When the problem is so complicated and so Deeply entrenched Where can we find hope what should we do? And is there any hope of healing? When I listen to these two texts in light of that Question, I see some beginning first steps emerging healing and community Are deeply relating so anything that we can do to? Strengthen the bonds of communal life is going to point us in the direction Toward healing Anytime that we can take someone who has been hurting left on the margins and give to them even the smallest experience of inclusion and community Then we will be taking some steps in the direction we want to go and Friday afternoon a member of our congregation sent to me a blog That began with a quote by Podrick of Touma I never know if I’m saying his name right – some of you know him He’s the leader of the corrymeela community in Northern Ireland. I love the way that that community is described as a soft place for hard conversations a Place where hostility is met with humility and hospitality. I Love that vision for communal life. I think I might take it up for our congregation Maybe you might take it up for yours a soft place to have hard conversations But here is the quote from Podrick He said we need ways of navigating our differences that deepen our curiosity Deepen our friendship Deepen our capacity to disagree and Deepen the argument of being alive This is what we need. This is what will save us. This is the work of peace this is the work of imagination and As we take up this work together The energy and the spirit that will take us down the road according to Jesus its gratitude Noticing those little gifts along the way and savoring them Taking the time to stop what we are doing when some blessing or gift comes our way to drop Everything and give to that moment our full attention. I Say this not just out of a sense of how piety works about how gratitude and spiritual life works Niro scientists are teaching us that this is the only way to let the gifts and the blessings and the joys of life have an enduring impact on our brains and our being Probably out of our evolutionary biology the negative stuff is what sticks the positive stuff floats by You want to hold on to the gifts? you must take time to savor them and to give to them your full attention and If there is a person which there usually is on the other side of that gift or blessing part of the word to us today is to drop what we are doing to turn around and track back if Necessary in order to speak our words of gratitude to each other And we can lean into community in these ways when we can let gratitude be the energy that fuels us there really is hope and healing for this world in which we live and It helps tremendously To know that we do not walk alone that the Spirit of God accompanies us That you can as Westminster church walk together on this journey And to know that there are many many other communities that do the same. I Hope that you will from this day forward count Hope Church among those companions on the journey My prayer for all of us is that we might find that the life of faith and the building of community together Will indeed make us well and make us whole Thanks be to God amen And one of the great gifts of this call to community Is that even as we go from here? nourished and worship We go still held and part of this community who seeks to go out into the world in this very particular way So let us join together Go into the world in peace have courage Hold on to all that is good Return no one evil for evil strengthen the faint-hearted support the weak Help the suffering honor all people Love and serve the Lord rejoicing power and As you go the Lord bless you and keep you the Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you The light of the Lord’s countenance be lifted upon you and give you peace amen

Otis Rodgers