“As I have Loved You” May 6,2018

  • “…as I have loved you.”

      John 15:9-17          

    Chilmark Community Church

    May 6, 2018

    Rev. Vicky Hanjian

    Sometimes it is just good to sit with a Bible passage for awhile and watch what begins to percolate just by virtue of re-reading the words.  I think  the adult study group does this occasionally when they use a method of meditation on the scriptures called “lectio divina” – the practice of reading the same text multiple times, perhaps in different voices and allowing time for silence and reflection and insight between readings.  That’s what I ended up doing as I prepared to write today’s thoughts. 

    As I read today’s verses, I found that with repeated readings my attention  kept coming back to the same phrase again and again:  …”as I have loved you.”     They are the second half of Jesus’ commandment: “Love one another – – as I have loved you.”   And I began to ask the question “How did Jesus love his disciples?”   What were the ways in which he loved them that he wanted them to emulate in their love for one another?  And what guidance do Jesus’ ways of loving his disciples give to us as we try to love one another as he loves us?   As I read the familiar stories over again, I was impressed by how down to earth and practical the ways are in which Jesus demonstrated what he meant by wanting us to love each other as he loves us.  Nothing fancy or unobtainable.

    One of the first things I came across was an impressive  bit of the wisdom he imparted to them along the dusty roads of Galilee:  Don’t make a big show of your religious piety in front of other people to impress them. Given who he was and who he would become, this was a very loving bit of guidance for his friends.  He seemed to want them to know that being pious in front of other people isn’t always the best way of being loving toward them.  This was a simple but profound example of his way of loving his friends.  It seems like he was saying it is far more important to simply be with others in a kind and compassionate way rather than trying to “save their souls,”  that sometimes religious piety can really get in the way of being  loving toward other human beings.

    Jesus taught his disciples to pray – again, not in a terribly pious way – just a simple instruction: “When you pray, pray this way:  Our Father who is in heaven, holy is your name…..  And in the process of teaching them to pray, he taught them about forgiveness…..that it is our responsibility to be forgiving – – to wrestle with what it means to forgive when we have been transgressed upon and to realize that we too need to be forgiven – repeatedly and often.  I hadn’t thought about it before, but this was an incredibly loving thing to do – to teach his friends about the centrality of forgiveness in loving as he did.  It is a way in which we have experienced his loving us down through the centuries.  It is a way in which we are to love each other as he loves us.

    Jesus taught his followers about priorities – not to worry about whether they had the right clothes to wear or whether they would have enough to eat and drink. On Thursday, I was walking with my rabbi buddy, Lori Shaller.  Our conversation went to the vacation Armen and I are anticipating – – thinking about what to pack and what to leave behind and the inconvenience of having to make do with less in order to avoid paying for checked luggage and so forth.  Suddenly we realized that we were only trying to solve a very 1st world problem in our conversation in a world where so many human beings cannot even dream of a vacation much less worry about what to take and what to leave behind.  Even today, this simple teaching may help us to set our own priorities as we find our way through modern concerns about the distribution of wealth and about our food and energy consumption in a world where people pack everything they own in a blanket to flee to a place of safety – not knowing where their next meal will come from.

    Jesus taught his friends that worrying about anything was wasted energy.  A corollary teaching might be that if you are worried or anxious about anything in life, take a small bit of action in the direction of the source of the anxiety and watch what happens when you begin to take charge.  Being able to convey this truth to one another in any kind of crisis or anticipated crisis is a gift of love.  Perhaps it helped to assuage the anguish and fear the disciples felt as they mourned their dearest friend’s death on the cross.  In their fear and anxiety about the future, Jesus gave them word to do.  In the process of taking action, they became courageous – – able to do more than they ever thought they could.    What a powerful way of loving his friends.

    Beyond practical wisdom for every day, Jesus also loved his disciples by taking care of himself.  They witnessed him withdrawing from the hurly-burly of life that surrounded him to rest and to pray.  They witnessed him returning to the work strengthened and rested from time spent alone with God.

    What a gift of love he gave them in that alone – modeling for them the way to nurture their relationship with God as a way of sustaining themselves through whatever life would throw at them.   When we care for our own spiritual nurture, we give a loving gift to all with whom we have relationship.

    If that were not enough, Jesus prayed for his beloved friends in the most magnificent prayer that we find in the later chapters of John’s gospel.  Just before he died Jesus prayed for his friends this way:   Father,  I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Protect the ones you have given me in your name – that they may be one as you and I are one – -so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.”

    Jesus loved his friends by being present with them when they were grieving.  He understood the disappointment and pain and anger of  Mary and Martha when their brother died and Jesus wasn’t right there.  He cried with them and he loved them through their anguish – and then he celebrated with them in their joy when Lazarus rejoined them in life.

    Jesus loved his disciples by loving their families too – attending to Peter’s mother-in-law when she was sick.  He tended to his dear friend, John, by placing John together with Mary at the foot of the cross so that they could comfort and care for each other at his death, so they could become family for each other.

    Jesus’ love was the kind that called the disciples to be bigger and better than they thought they could be.  It was the kind of love that directed them down off the mountain top to do the work of healing and forgiveness when they would have preferred to stay on the mountain surrounded by light and the presence of God.  Think of the joy and satisfaction they would have missed if they had simply stayed in the high spiritual ethers.  Jesus loved them enough to send them to work in the world -bringing compassion and healing and wisdom to others.

    And then there were the times when he did his best to let them see who he really was – – his most authentic God given self.  He gave them  teachings designed to awaken their highest consciousness about God, about him and about themselves, pleading with them to find strength in his love for them so they would be able to offer that strength to others – -abide in me – – let my words and my wisdom abide in you – – when it comes to things of the spirit – ask me and I will be with you to give you what you need.  Jesus loved them most passionately when he tried to share with them  his deepest connectedness with God.

    There were the practical things that Jesus did to show his disciples how much he loved them too.  He shared his power.  He entrusted his disciples with the power to heal, to transmit the teachings and the wisdom by which he lived his own life.  He served them – he washed their feet.  He fed them with the most basic symbols of life – bread and wine.

    And then – – – he commanded them to take all the love he gave them, all the ways in which he showed them love – – he commanded them to “love each other as I have loved you.”

    So – I take all this to mean that if we are to love one another as Jesus has loved us, we are simply to follow the ways in which he shows us love.

    We pray together and alone for one another.  It’s what he did.

    We offer lovingkindness and forgiveness to one another.  It’s what he did.

    We bring our energies of healing and compassion to each other when there is death or illness.  As a community we call each other to be our highest and best selves as we live out our various callings in the world.

    We study and worship together to bring out in each other and in ourselves the wisdom and Christ consciousness of Jesus  We share power and responsibility for the work of the church as we move forward.

    And we feed and nourish one another and the community through table fellowship and the sharing of bread and cup.

    Part of these final gatherings with the disciples was to prepare them for life together without Jesus’ physical presence among them – and after he commanded them to love one another as he has loved them, he laid a big truth on them: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  In the context of the gospel story, we know that he was preparing to die – – and that his death would be to their benefit in some way.   But the verse confronts us with a conundrum because for centuries, people who have decided to follow the Jesus way of living have struggled with how  literally this wisdom is to be taken.

    When I look at all the other ways love is demonstrated by Jesus, they seem to have one strong thread in common.  In every instance, Jesus sets his own needs and even his own reputation aside to meet the demands of the situation.  If we were to use modern parlance, we could say that he set his own ego aside in service to the “other” – – whoever that ”other” might be – a much maligned tax collector, a woman with a bleeding disorder, a man with severe mental distress, a group of lepers, a woman with a dicey sexual history.

    Even while he was living, he laid down his life in the service of others.   And he did this without fear of becoming an “easy touch” for people who might want to take advantage of him.  He simply let go of his expectations of others and loved them.

    Very few of us will ever be confronted with having to put ourselves between a moving bus and a potential victim and literally lay down our lives for another person.  That is not what Jesus meant.  He meant that we are each called to learn how to give our attention and our energies and our love  so fully in the service of life that it might be considered that we are laying down our lives for our friends.

    This is how we are to love one another as he loved us – by getting ourselves out of the way and letting the loving power of Christ move through us abundantly and generously – with gratitude and joy.  Because, that is the whole point of the entire endeavor – that we might live in joy – complete, abundant, life sustaining, joy.

    So -let’s hear the words one more time as we prepare to celebrate that final bit of loving that Jesus imparted to his friends as he prepared them to  eat and drink together:

    As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

    12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants[a] any longer, because the servant[b] does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

    John 15:9-17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

  • Pastoral Prayer and Benediction   May 6, 2018

    Adapted from  a prayer by John Phillip Newell in SOUNDS OF THE ETERNAL A Celtic Psalter   New Beginnings  San Antonio, Texas  2012  p. 52-53

    A Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

    That from our depth new life emerges

    thanks be to you , O God.

    That through our body

    and the bodies of men and women everywhere

    heaven’s creativity is born on earth,

    children of eternity are conceived in time

    and ever lasting bonds of tenderness

    are forged amidst the hardness of life’s struggles,

    thanks be to you.

    That in our soul

    and the soul of every human being

    sacred hopes are hidden,

    longings for what has never been are heard

    and visions for earth’s peace and

    prosperity are glimpsed,

    thanks be to you.

    For those who are near to us who are in turmoil this day

    and for every family in its brokenness,

    for the woundedness of our own life

    and for every living creature that is suffering,

    O God of all life , we pray.

    In the gift of this new day, in the gift of the present moment, in the gift of time and eternity intertwined, let us be grateful, let us be attentive, let us be open to what has never happened before. And may we dwell in your Presence in peace.   In Jesus name  we pray.

    Benediction  p. 77

    In the many details of this day

    let us be fully alive.

    In the handling of food

    and the sharing of drink. in the preparing of work

    and the uttering of words, in the meeting of friends

    and the intermingling of relationship

    Let us be alive to each instant, O God,

    let us be fully alive.

    May you go in peace and love and in the companionship of the Living Christ.  AMEN

Easter 2018

2567-1-1-1Easter sunrise 2018

Sunrise at Menemsha.

0401180628Some walked to Menemsha from the church.  Breakfast was served at the church between the sunrise service and the 9 a.m. service.

easter sanctuary 18

Different venues, same wonderful message.

A Saturday Afternoon fix

DSCF0006How lucky the church is to have this guy in the neighborhood.  He understands pipes and, with a little felt from the Sunday school room, can stop an annoying rattle when the low G vibrates a large case pipe.DSCF0008Bob Hungerford, our hero.  And Claire Ganz’s super extension step ladder.  Thank you both.

“When Values Go Down”, Rev. Armen Hanjian

Luke 12:13-21 WHEN VALUES GO DOWN    Jan.. 14, 2018

Rev. Armen Hanjian

When values go down – it’s unsettling.  It happened drastically to the man in Jesus’ parable who built bigger barns to hold his increased crops only to wake up one morning – dead.

What is the value of a glass of water?  Very little to the one who runs the faucet waiting for it to get cold. Life itself(big money) for the one lost in a desert.

Just because the value of a person is always high in God’s eyes, it may vary greatly for us as we look on another or we look at ourselves.

It is true that people go through changes as we age and our physical strength may lesson – understanding can be increasing.  But usually, our self worth shifts because of our attitude about our self and not because there has been some real external change.

Try this experiment.  Look someone in the eye and if you can honestly say it, say: “I love you.  I’ll gladly spend some of my life’s time and my energy to support you.”  You know what will happen; the person’s feelings of self worth will go up.

  

Self worth and happiness go hand in hand. Several years ago Henry Wallick made this comment:  “If wealth could buy happiness, Americans should be the happiest people on earth. In this winter of our discontent, it is obvious that wealth is failing us….We face a failure of money to do what it is supposed to do – satisfy wants.”

It is true, we feel some measure of happiness and security when stocks go up, when our property value goes up, when salary and savings go up.  However, the scripture and the wisdom people thru the ages warn us, that is not the bottom line.  The value we place on our physical self and even more so on our purposeful self are the significant factors.  Although, just being    is value enough from God’s perspective.

Physical selves.  Purposeful selves.  First, valuing our physical selves.  Do you see your body as a wonderful, valuable, awesome asset?  I doubt that many focus on that.  So many spend their time trying to change their body – being discontent with how it turned out.  I’m not just talking make up covering a pimple.

When the psalmist proclaims of God: “Wonderful Thou art and wonderful are thy works.”  The physical appearance is just a tiny aspect of our physical selves.

If you are an adult of average weight, here is what you accomplish in 24 hours:

Your heart beats 103,689 times.

Your blood travels 168,000,000 miles.

You breath 23,040 times.

You inhale 438 cubic feet of air.

You eat 3 1/4 pounds of food.

You drink 2.9quarts of liquids.

You lose 7/8 pound of waste.

You speak 4,800 words including some unnecessary ones.

You move 750 muscles.

You exercise  7,000,000brain cells.

The Psalm writers didn’t know these numbers and yet were aware more than most of us the awesome wonder of the workings of the body.

A scientist , having received a card which jokingly set the value of the elements of his body at 98 cents. Determined to calculate his value by evaluating the DNA structures and cells.  He came up with 6 billion dollars.  In fact, he said, the billions of libraries in each sell are worth that much.

In one of the cartoon episodes of Peanuts,  Snoopy the dog is watching the children and saying to himself: “I wonder why some of us were born dogs while others were born people.  Is it pure chance or what is it?  Somehow, the whole thing doesn’t seem very fair.”  Then as he walks away, he exclaims,  “Why should I have been the lucky one?”

How we see ourselves affects our feelings about ourselves.  And whether or not we see ourselves as a real and significant part of God’s purpose also affects how we value ourselves. It is true for you and me and it is true for us as a church.

Carl Sandburg once said, “Nothing happens unless it is first a dream.”  We have to dream of great things if we are going to accomplish great things.  But the way to make a dream come true is to wake up.  Sandburg was touring Washington, D.C. with a friend.  As they passed by the National Archives building the friend noticed a line from Shakespeare –

“All the past is prologue.” He asked Sandburg, what that meant.  To which he replied, “That means you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

If you concluded the glory and climax of this church was when the building was built or when so and so was the minister here or when the addition was added or when the membership was at it’s peak, then I am asking you to look at the church and at yourself differently.  Believe and live out the belief that the best is yet to come.

Dream, share your dreams; let others be captured by your dreams then together let’s carry them out.  Jesus disciples were ready to include the whole world in their vision.

And if it is a challenging dream; if it is something God would surely bless, then stick with it even though there may be some negative signs from others early on. Note Lincoln’s road to the White House.

Failed in business in 1831.

Defeated for Legislature in1832.

Second failure in business in 1833.

Defeated for Speaker in 1838.

Defeated for Elector in 1840.

Defeated for Congress in 1843.

Defeated for Senate in 1848.

Defeated for Vice President in 1856.

Defeated for Senate in 1858.

Elected President in 1860.    Dreams take persistence!

When Howard University was celebrating their 250th anniversary, they choose to have a parade. First came the President of the University, then the 3 graduates who had become U.S presidents, then the faculty, then the seniors, the juniors the sophomores and the freshmen.

The freshmen, not to be degraded on the day of the parade, after each of the other groupings went by had a sign which read, “The purpose of the first 250 years was in preparation for us.”

Do you have that sense?  That the purpose of the first 220 years of this Chilmark Church, the first 2017 or so years of the Christian Church was in preparation for us.  Do you see yourselves as one of the foremost waves of God’s flowing purpose?

If you conclude: “I ain’t much of anything and I ain’t much good for anything,”  then you forget God doesn’t make junk.  It may be useful to keep in mind the sculptor Michael Angelo.  He was examining a block of stone which other sculptors had

discarded and was asked, “What do you see?”  He answered, “An angel, an angel!”

They who stay close to Jesus and to people of faith keep getting affirmed.  They keep being viewed as someone of value.

Then when you see  yourself as a potential blessing for God – you are then in a most appropriate place to be a blessing. Some action will follow.  Persons were made for action.

William James, in a lecture he gave years ago at Stamford University, called for a moral equivalent to war.  He saw clearly that war persists because people want action and it will end when we find decent causes to take it’s place.

I want to do one more thing be fore I conclude.  Because you are, each one, a person of value, I want to look each of you in the eye and I want to say this:” I love you. I will gladly spend some of my life’s time and  my energy to support you.!”

There may be value in saying we are not worthy to pick up the crumbs from under your table, but there is an appropriateness in saying  , “God, I am one of your people; feed me, bless me, use me to fulfill your vision for us human beings.”

Christmas Greens at Tuesday’s Supper

advice from the proThanks to Kim Cottrill for organizing and Linda Coutihno for cutting greens..A great time was had Tuesday at the Community supper.

ConcentrationLots of concentration while the meal went on..

Broderick BoysThe Broderick boys worked hard.

Supper and GreensEmily kept the food coming.

Kathy tooAdding the “bling”.DSCF0009Judy starts one.Judy is a pro.

Bananagrams with advisorsMeanwhile a game of bananagrams complete with expert advice.

finished greensSome finished products ready for giving to neighbors.

Offerings of Music and Light

2017 Music and Light signDecember 3/10/17  Sundays 5 p.m.  Free music and light.

December 3.. 60 or more people came to see and hear:

Symphonietta:sinphoniettaFlute:  Holly Wayman

Merrily Fenner and “Serendipity”

Aaron Jackson and The Baptist church band.

Harriet Ottesen

Jesse Keller and Leah Crosby

Adele Dreyer

Lia Kahlerlia 2017Followed by a reception fueled by Claire Ganz1203171654_resizedclaire and the coffe cups Dec. 10..ever more fabulous concert..

dec 17 phil dietterichPhil Dietterich on organ..

second try Chris CarrollChris Carroll and friends.  Not pictured: Jan Heyer – cello,  Armen Hanjian – musical saw, Avi Lev – Irish pipes, Lia Kahler – mezzo soprano, Sean McMahon – singer/songwriter, Atzic Marquez -violaatzik 2