Tom Ruimerman once more produced the grand finale to the Pizza Night season. (People always look awkward eating..my apologies)..but there were 4 tables of happy eaters.Many thanks to Julie Flanders for fetching pizza from Rocco’s in her nifty red insulated bag for the past many Tuesdays.
Onward to 5:30 pm Tuesday “Community Suppers”. From soup to Leg of Lamb…
Today’s reading from the Holy Scriptures tells of the unjust Judge. As the Parable goes there was a judge who answered only to himself, couldn’t give a rip about spiritual things and worst still did not care one hoot about or for the poor widow. Mosaic Law prescribed that the husband’s immediate family and the community of faith were primarily responsible for widows. This notion would not have been lost on Jesus’ audience that she had no one – family or faith community. The point is there was only one person on earth who could help her — the judge. The parable suggests that if even this notorious unjust Judge ended up giving the woman justice how much more would God the merciful do for those who keep asking. Remember that our God is God even of the unjust Judge and God can change the minds and attitudes of the unjust in our world.
The widow knew that this Judge was her only earthly hope, so she prattled on and on, daily waiting for the judge to arrive at his office in the morning, daily being the last face he saw as he left for his comfortable home in the evening. Her persistence in prayerfully dealing with the unjust Judge won in the end, he gave her justice. The point Jesus made was, “we must prayerfully persevere in dealing with the ungodly world and in the end we will come to know God’s justice.”
What a powerful word this is for us in a society that wants everything to come our way easily. At the first inkling of things not going our way we throw in the towel. We do not want to hear any other view but our own. We lock ourselves in silos and thus there is no cross fertilizing of ideas and actions, no holy conversations and God directed comprises. The result is that we grow progressively impoverished in character and spirituality. This is how it is in politics and this is how it is in the many church. The parable speaks loudly to us, it is time to prayerfully persevere.
Faith, patience, hope and openness be yours!
Ernest Belisle (Pastor)
This introduction to the worship service gives a broad outline of the sermon themes.
Chilmark Community Church
9 Menemsha Crossroad, Chilmark, MA
Sunday, September 22, 2019
The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Worship Service of Praise & Thanksgiving
Rev. Ernest Belisle, Pastor
Thought for the week:
“We live in a cheating culture, one that encourages us to focus on earthly wealth, short-term profits and worldly commissions.” What about you?
(Homiletics 9-19-04) 2
A Special WELCOME to
Chilmark Community Church!
We trust that you will be inspired by this morning’s worship service and pray that it will bring you some amount of spiritual renewal. Today’s Lectionary Reading (St. Luke 16), “the parable of the shrewd manager” (vv. 1-8a) is associated with present material wealth and future relationships (vv. 10-13).
Was the manager dishonest? At first glance it sounds like he was a card-carrying member of the cheating culture – he was charged with squandering his master’s property, and was given his marching orders – “You’re fired!”
“What will I do,” the so call shady manager asked himself, “now that my master is firing me?” He came up with a plan. In order to guarantee that he would have a safe place to land after his present job, he summoned the master’s debtors and gave them some wonderfully deep discounts. To one who owed 100 jugs of oil, he said “make that just 50.” To the other who owed 100 containers of wheat, he said, “You’re in luck – your bill is now 80!” The whole thing sounds pretty unethical and it seems as if he were running the risk of being thrown in the slammer for stealing. But the master’s reaction sounds rather odd. The master “commended the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly,” which is an unlikely response from a man who has just lost fifty jugs of olive oil and twenty containers of wheat. The Liars’ Club
The parable teaches that the shrewd manager (steward) was willing to sacrifice short-term earnings for long-term security. Many Bible scholars believe that the manager was simply cutting out his own commission. The hundred jugs of olive oil could be broken down into fifty for the master, and fifty for the manager. 3
That explains why the master (God) was not angry. The manager was simply eliminating his own commission, knowing that he would benefit long-term from having a place to stay once he was out of work. At this level the parable is about “make friends for the future”(Luke 16:9). Its focus is on preparing for the next life after the present which was swiftly coming to an end. It is more about securing heavenly riches than about enjoying earthly gain.
May God bless you richly as we worship together!
Many familiar faces at the reading of the new script of 1854 (no longer an opera). Front and center was Pastor Ernest Belisle as Frederick Douglas. The Slave Song Choir with Chilmark members Corrie Stone and Lorna Andrade. Lorna also was instrumental in the entire production. Claire Ganz played a child. Phil Dietterick accompanied the choir and played a great introduction on the organ. Joe Keinan ( a sailor) and Kate Taylor (a women’s suffragette) each sang an unaccompanied solo.
Subject: Interesting quote from “God Moments: A Year in the Word”
Greetings! – I’m reading “God Moments: A Year in the Word” by The writers of Encouraging.com and wanted to share this quote with you.
“July 1 Who is the Boss of You? There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.—1 Corinthians 8:6b
I have a nephew named Austin. He has always seemed like a little man instead of a little boy. His mannerisms are far more adult than childlike. Of twelve grandchildren in our family, Austin is the tenth. When we gathered as a family, the girls made great babysitters as the adults visited and prepared food. Later, the older boys began to also look after the younger ones. Out of the twelve grandchildren, nine of them were older than Austin and had at one time or another tried to exercise some authority over him. One day he came into the kitchen with a very disgruntled look on his face and announced to his mother and aunts, “I’m tired of everybody being the boss of me.” We all looked at him as he pointed to his chest with his forefinger and said, “I want to be the boss of me!” This makes for a fun story, but isn’t it a picture of how we can be as Christians sometimes? We accept Jesus as Savior. We say we want Him to be Lord of our lives. But so often we don’t let Him be Lord. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). It’s not a popular line of thinking today, nor very politically correct, to submit to authority of any kind. The concept of independence, doing your own thing, coloring outside the lines, seems to have taken over. But scripture teaches that it is good and necessary to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ. It brings order and protection. Most of all, it brings God’s richest blessings. Who is in control of your life…your work…your schedule…your priorities…your family…your decisions? Who is the boss of you?”
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Blessings upon your day!
“There be giants in the land…”
Chilmark Community Church
June 30, 2019
Perception is a really curious human phenomenon. There is the old cliché observation that if four people witness an automobile accident, there will be four different descriptions of what happened – each person believing that they saw accurately. Moses sent 12 men, representing each of the 12 tribes out into Canaan to scout out the land and bring back a report about what they found.
They were supposed observe whether the land was good, what kind of people lived there, whether there were settlements? Or were there armed fortresses? Moses asked them to bring back some produce so he could see what the land produced – whether it was fertile or not. It is clear that this was not an espionage assignment – too many men were going and Moses would not have risked losing so many leaders in a spy operation. It seemed like a prudent thing to do – to scout things out before making a huge leap into the unknown.
The men returned with mixed perceptions about what they saw.
The majority report, on their return, was full of dire warnings – “Yes – – the land IS flowing with milk and honey and look at the fruit we brought back – – it takes two men to carry the bunches of grapes we found. BUT the people who live there are strong and the towns are big and fortified – and we saw giants there.”
Their report instilled fear in the people when they heard it -and they took up their 40 year long chant – “we would have been better off back in Egypt” – -“it would be better for us if we had died there or at least if we had died in the wilderness.” It seemed as though they had learned nothing from their 40 years of sojourning with God and Moses. At the slightest provocation, their fear took over and they yearned for the security of the good old days which weren’t that great, but which were familiar and predictable.
As a church community, Chilmark Community Church is on the brink of yet another “crossing into Canaan ” – – into a land that God will show you on the other side of July 1st. Next week, you will welcome a new pastor who will lead you in new and unfamiliar ways. Most likely you will spend a period of time adjusting to one another, discovering which expectations are realistic and which ones need to be moderated. There may well be a lot of mixed perceptions as part of your conversations as you begin a new life with a new minister.
I have no doubt that you will be the welcoming congregation you have always been as you and Ernest Belisle find your way together into being God’s people in a new land of relationships.
But that does not make the transition easy. There seems to be an unspoken, unwritten expectation, I think, that churches will be able to weather the anxiety and stress of changes in leadership gracefully and without a lot of questions about what comes next. In the Methodist tradition, congregations are asked to place a lot of trust in the “scouting party” – the SPRC – and in the District Superintendent. It is actually quite natural to wonder about the giants in the land.
Among the men who returned from the scouting party there was also a minority report from Caleb and Joshua – they stood up in the community and said -“Hey -wait a minute – -“The land through which we passed to scout, the land is very, very good. “If the Lord favors us, He will bring us to this land and give it to us, a land that is flowing with milk and honey. And there is this curious admonition:
“…. do not rebel against the Lord… do not fear the people of the land, for they are our bread, their shade has turned from them and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.
The Hebrew is translated in a number of ways – the idea is that “these possible enemies are like our bread -we will consume them” In the desert regions where the story takes place shade was scarce and it was sought out as protection for both humans and animals in the heat of the day. Joshua and Caleb report that whatever protection the perceived enemies enjoyed has disappeared. Joshua and Caleb had a different perception of the possibilities in Canaan. They were ready to move forward into the land.
While some of the scouts felt like powerless grasshoppers in the face of the giants they perceived, Joshua and Caleb saw possibility in the place where God was leading them.
On the threshold of any transition, there may be appear to be giants in the land – – sometimes they come in the form of unvoiced anxieties that come with another substantial change in the life of the Chilmark Church.
And even though the report of your “scouting party” has come back in a pretty positive way, there may still be a chorus of anxious inner whispers that ask “How will things change?” “What will be different?” “What if we don’t get along?” “What if they don’t like the parsonage?” “What if the island is too rural?” “What if he picks hymns we don’t like?” “What if we don’t understand each other?” “What if he doesn’t love us?” “What if….? What If…?” “What if…” Giants in the land.
As we reflected on what a new appointment might mean for Ernest and his family, we thought that perhaps they might be having the same inner wonderings about the giants they might encounter when they get to the Vineyard – “Will we and the congregation be good working partners?” “Will the school system serve us well?” “What will it be like to adapt to living on an island?” “Can we afford to be there?” “Will our son make new friends?” “Will we be able to get the medical care we need in an emergency?” “And what about all those tick borne diseases?”
There were consequences for the Israelites who feared the giants in the land. In their fear, they demonstrated to God that they were simply not ready to take responsibility for their future yet. Their distorted perceptions of slavery were a safer bet. They did not get to enter the land. Those who were able to listen to Joshua and Caleb followed them and the adventure of the ages began as Israel established itself in the land.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary encountered the same fear of “giants in the land” at the empty tomb. With the crucifixion, they were plunged into a strange borderland without Jesus’ leadership and friendship to guide them and they were afraid. But they were not left to stay in their anxiety about what would come next. The minority report came in the words of the messenger at the tomb : He’s already gone on ahead of you – – go to Galilee and you will see him there – – they start to run in both fear and joy – – and Jesus greets them on the way.
So -perhaps that is what is in store for Chilmark Community Church -whether we use the metaphor of entering the promised land or running along the road to Galilee as a new ministry begins here – – in either or both stories, the truth is the same. When change is inevitable, it is the presence of God with us on the road into the new land that guides and protects and informs and keeps us whole.
Our prayer for you as you move forward is that you will be blessed with the knowledge and assurance that the Presence of God and the power of the Holy Spirit go before you and accompany you.
May you enter the land with excitement and joy as you greet your new pastor and knock out those pesky giants together. And, along the way, may you meet the Risen Christ and enjoy the power and the newness of what comes when you enter this new land with courage and optimism and trust. AMEN
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP
87, 128, 421 92362
Luke 14:25-33 Luke 9:57-62
The cost of discipleship. It cost Jesus. It cost the disciples. To be worth anything, it’s got to cost you.
To be a disciple, one who does the will of God, it cost Jesus a lot. It cost him what many might call the pleasures of life:
the comforts of marriage and a home, popularity, ridicule, death in the agony of hanging on a cross. It cost Jesus.
The cost of discipleship. It cost the disciples quite a bit too. Jesus said, “Follow me.” One man said I must bury my father, then I’ll follow. Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus was not interested in their excuses.
Do you suppose God is not interested in our excuses? We are asked for the supreme sacrifice – give up your ego and follow. Christ so emphasized this giving of all, that Bacon noted in his writing, “prosperity is the blessing of the Old testament; adversity is the blessing of the New.”
The principle obstacle to discipleship is concern with yourself – especially your comforts. As one person put it, “It’s natural to think habitually of ourselves, remembering others only when their inescapably confront us; Jesus is calling us to think habitually of others, and only occasionally remember ourselves.” (Interpreters Bible, Vol. 8,p170)
We all must face countless burdens in life, but that’s not what Jesus was referring to when he said, “If any want to be my followers, let them deny themselves and take up your cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) It’s not some calamity, loss of a loved one, shortcoming in our temperament; it’s not enduring the hardships that come our way. To take a cross is to volunteer, in spite of hardships. To carry someone else’s burden for Christ’s. It is deliberately choosing an action that could be evaded. To take up the cross is plain old fashioned self-denial.
The cost is great. The rewards may be few, the road bumpy, but to those who persevere will find a life of meaning and joyous satisfaction. The Christian faith affirms that apart from Jesus Christ one cannot know this fullness of life. There are compensations, however even in this life which far out weigh any sufferings or renunciations we may be called upon to make.
Most people seem content to drift to and fro with the crowd. There is a saying: “Fools wander, wise men travel.” When you decide with your mind and heart where you want to go with your life, you also have to decide with your mind and heart what your willing to pay to get there. Christ asks for all of you. So when the preacher asks for more of your time or money or whatever, as god’s spokesperson, your being asked for more of you.
You who are parents – were you happy when your children were born? Vicky and I were deliriously happy seeing Clark and Adam born. Even with our insurance we knew we would have to struggle to meet expenses but we decided to keep them. We took Tim in as a foster child and when he was not adopted, we adopted him after a year.
For many years following they brought us indescribable happiness, but Clark, Adam and Tim never brought in a penny, but we kept them and any friends they gathered along the way.
Life you know, is never very certain. There is always the possibility that Clark, Adam or Tim might lose life in a war, or an accident or from an illness. Then we couldn’t keep that one any more and he wouldn’t cost us a cent. The dead never do.
And you know anything alive, whether it’s a child or a church is going to cost and cost. And when it stops costing, then it’s too late.
The cost of discipleship is high, but only those who are willing to make the investment will ever know burdens to be easy and life to be abundant.
In a moment of quiet, would you consider committing one more aspect of your life so that your discipleship would be more pleasing to God.
Figuring Out The Blueprint
Deuteronomy 4:9-14 Acts 2:1-21 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Chilmark Community Church
June 9, 2019
Rev. Vicky Hanjian
I love the story of Pentecost. What drama! The early band of followers of the Way all gathered together in one place 50 days after the resurrection when all heaven breaks loose with roaring wind and blazing flames – and a mixture of languages that everyone understood in their own tongue. And the Holy Spirit is poured out on all who are gathered – – and a new movement called the church is born. Among other things, the story gives us an image of a radical unity in the midst of incredible diversity – – people from the middle east -Parthians and Medes -Mesopotamians – -people from North Africa – Egypt and Libya – – people from Europe – represented by Rome – – mixed religions – – Jews and proselytes – – all hearing and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in their own way – in their own language – together in a united diversity.
The story is not unlike the traditions that have accrued around the giving of the law at Sinai. The text in Deuteronomy tells us that the revelation of God was given to all who were there -in all their diversity – and it was also given to all who were not there – -the multitudes of generations yet to come. The wisdom of the rabbis has long argued that all human beings who have ever been or ever will be were present at Sinai when the mount roared and blazed and the voice of God was heard. They also have argued that each person heard that revelation in words they could understand no matter how old or young they were or where they came from. The people of God were in a state of unity in their diversity as they received God’s revelation. This morning, members of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center are gathering at the beach to celebrate Shavuot – the giving of the law on Sinai . It is a big day of celebration for both traditions.
More than at any time in our history, it is important to pay attention to these stories of diverse peoples being together – receiving the divine revelation as one – living it in the world in a multitude of ways.
The day of Pentecost, the coming of the power of the Holy Spirit, formally introduces the complexity of the Trinity into the early church’s consciousness. In some sense, of course, the willingness of God to make Godself known in many ways has always been part of the process of revelation – fire and smoke, thundering mountains, a still small voice – – God has always chosen to reveal Godself in ways that would most readily get human attention.
With the day of Pentecost, the young church receives its own central form of revelation in tongues of fire and rushing wind and strange, multifluid languages that everyone can understand.
It seems to me that God wants everyone under the tent – regardless of where we come from, what language we speak, what color we are or whom we choose to love.
But, of course, being the human receivers of this revelation of unity, we have a hard time living it out in its fullness. We work quite hard at separating ourselves out by color, gender, religious belief, political preferences, and a myriad of other social constructs that prevent us from the knowledge that we are, indeed, one people in the sight of God. We seem to need to create an “other” in order to maintain our own identities – – and in the process we create a separation that God did not intend for God’s people.
In his daily meditations this week, Richard Rohr, referred to author and activist Adrienne Maree Brown who writes:
Separation weakens. It is the main way we are kept (and keep each other) in conditions of oppression. . . . Where we are born into privilege, we are charged with dismantling any myth of supremacy. Where we are born into struggle, we are charged with claiming our dignity, joy and liberation. . . . From that deep place of belonging to ourselves, we can understand that we are inherently worthy of each other. Even when we make mistakes, harm each other, lose our way, we are worthy.
In the same meditation last Monday, Rohr wrote: It seems every generation must be newly converted. While we seek to transform individual hearts and minds we must also work to create change throughout systems. Until a full vision of equity is realized, we must continue naming and resisting the ways in which so many people are excluded and oppressed.
With the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost comes the Holy and paradoxical vision of unity in diversity. God’s own self becomes the blueprint for how that looks. Three very different manifestations of the Holy One – – in traditional language -Father – Son – Holy Spirit -and yet the affirmation that there is only the One….. A challenging complexity for a monotheistic people. How can three be one? On the surface, unexamined, it seems an impossibility. The notion of three different ways of knowing God sparked one church council after another right through the 4th century in an attempt formulate what Christians should affirm as true – – councils that frequently resulted in excommunication and some times even death for those who could not align themselves with the conclusions of a particular body of church leaders. The Body of Christ that came into being with such color and drama and hope on Pentecost witnessed schism after schism. Indeed, 2000 years later we continue to live with that brokenness – witness the fracture in the United Methodist Church as Methodists are in conflict about how to live out the life of Christ in our midst – embracing our diversity – and facing the possibility of schism once again.
Again from Richard Rohr: I’m convinced that beneath the ugly manifestations of our present evils—political corruption, ecological devastation, warring against one another, hating each other based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality—the greatest dis-ease facing humanity right now is our profound and painful sense of disconnection. We feel disconnected from God, certainly, but also from ourselves, from each other, and from our world. Our sense of this fourfold isolation is plunging our species into increasingly destructive behavior and much mental illness.
The isolation of which Rohr speaks was part of the conversation last Sunday as more than a hundred Islanders gathered at the Hebrew Center to hear what gun violence is doing to our land and what we might do to heal it. A diverse group of people for sure, from across the spectrum of opinion – manifesting a remarkable unity around one of the most troubling public health issues we face in this country today.
Somewhere in one of his reflections, Rohr offered an image for understanding the Trinity as a metaphor for relationship – self emptying relationship. He described three buckets on a moving waterwheel. Each bucket fills and empties out, then swings back to be filled again. The Father empties into the Son, nothing held back. The Son empties into the Spirit, nothing held back. The Spirit empties into the Father, nothing held back. The reason they can empty themselves out is they know they will be filled again. They know that the center of the universe is infinite love.
So, in the notion of the Trinity, the blueprint for us as God’s people is an image of flowing interrelationship – one of allowing ourselves to be emptied in loving care and service to one another and the world in the confidence that we will be continually filled in order to continue the relationship – – and we are to sustain and maintain this relationship in our differences and our diversity.
From Richard Rohr again: With the endless diversity in creation, it is clear that God is not at all committed to uniformity but instead desires unity—which is the great work of the Spirit—diversity nurtured and nourished by love. Uniformity is mere conformity and obedience to law and custom; whereas spiritual unity is that very diversity embraced and protected by an infinitely generous love.
The gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost results in the “mad logic” of the Trinity and the Trinity is all about relationship and connection. We know the Trinity through experiencing the flow itself, which dissolves our sense of disconnection. God is not a being among other beings, but rather the Ground of Being itself which then flows through all beings.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians that “…the Lord is spirit, and where the spirit of the lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” What Paul was seeing – – and what we must struggle and learn to see, is that the gift of the Holy Spirit is one that guides us into understanding that we – – each one of us – – reflects the face of God – when the holy one “sees us” we are as reflection in a mirror. The “face” of God is as diverse as all creation. Showing itself in everything we see, in every relationship in which we engage.
It is taking a long time for the church -the body of Christ -to read and interpret the blueprint set forth in the Day of Pentecost -and to live it out. May we be blessed with strength and courage, and above all, with the unconditional love we need for one another and the world as we seek to create a world built on the Master Blueprint. AMENFigur