Ed Pierce introduced us to Kathleen Dorr who preached in June.
“You Are Cordially Invited”
Rev. Armen Hanjian
Chilmark Community Church
November 1, 2015
This will be a good sermon because I am dealing with an area in which I am quite an expert – that of making excuses. It would have been a great sermon – – but I was pretty busy this week.
The Bible is a great book in many ways, particularly so in describing life. In Genesis, old Adam says, “Eve made me do it.” Eve says “The serpent made me do it.” And millions say “The devil made me do it.”
Recall the rich young ruler who was invited to follow Jesus. He could have been a part of the greatest adventure in history, but he made an excuse and went away sorrowful.
Once Jesus asked aloud:”…to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates, ‘We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
Here, Jesus describes John the Baptist’s ministry and his own in vivid contrast. “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say ‘he has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard.’” John’s ministry was stern like a funeral; Jesus’ ministry was joyous, like a wedding. The people Jesus was addressing didn’t follow either one. They were playing the game of religion in their own way and like irritable children, refused to play any game but the one they knew best: “I’m doing my religious thing so don’t mix me up with what God expects of me!”
The place in the Bible that makes most clear our inclination to excuse ourselves from God’s service is today’s parable of the rejected invitation.
A great banquet is planned. Matthew’s gospel refers in this parable to a king throwing a sumptuous wedding reception for his son – – not sandwiches and punch as we had at our reception, but the whole works. Lo and behold, the people who were invited chose not to come to the joyous feast.
Jesus was always drawing parallels. If there was a fishing boat around, he would say “I will make you fishers of people.” If someone pointed to the harvests, he would say “The fields are white with harvest but the laborers are few.” In Luke’s parable our vision is raised from this banquet and human hospitality to God’s hospitality with the implied question “Will you be there at God’s home?”
This invitation went to the most likely, the so-called “friends of the family.” This likely refers to “religious people.” How nice. Mr. and Mrs. So and So request the honor of your company. Mr. and Mrs. Thus and thus regret that they will be unable to be present.
Sometimes we invite because we have to. Sometimes we don’t go because we don’t want to. But certainly no one would decline an invitation to God’s banquet in heaven. Yet the folly is in this story: “Please present my regrets to the Lord of Heaven and Earth. I can’t come.”
Why did the guests refuse the summons to the feast? Why do people refuse Jesus’ summons to the joyful life? It is not because people are outright wicked. Rather it is because they are absorbed – – -absorbed in their own things.
All three men in the parable who sent their regrets probably repeated their excuses so many times that they thought their reasons were valid. The banquet might be dull and my own affairs seem to promise more happiness. Things are finally going better for me so don’t distract me with other affairs.
Let’s look at the specific excuses they give. They symbolize the successful secular society. “I have bought a piece of land and I must go and look it over.” This can represent our possessions and investments. Certainly we need land to live on and homes to live in and so on, but is that reason enough to ignore the God who made us when God calls us to God’s priorities?
The second excuse avoids the invitation by saying: “I have bought five yoke of oxen and I am on my way to try them out.” This can represent our attempts at maintaining our self-esteem. “World, look at my car, my house, my creations, my crafts, the power I wield.” God know, we need to build up our reserves of self esteem, but these are dead ends that lead to idolatry rather than life when leaned upon.
The third avoids the invitation by announcing, “I have just gotten married and for that reason I cannot come.” At best, the spouse and family represent our human centered comfort and at worst our cult of exploitive sex. God knows that we need to give attention to family and that sexual realtionships can be among the most beautiful channels of love. But even good things, when over emphasized, can lead to an unbalanced life which can lead to death.
Perhaps these are not our excuses for being slow in responding or for not responding at all to God, but our excuses are not so very different. Do any of these sound familiar? “We unfortunately had parents who were too strict – -or too lax – -or too distant — or too affectionate. Our parents conditioned us. “ “We were born during a difficult period that emphasized materialism and drugs and fear of war.” “We were too rich – – or too poor” “What we are is simply a product of our environment and our heredity.” “God made us this way.” “What ever will be will be.” “I don’t pretend to be religious.”
Our excuses are endless. The one that bugs me the most is when someone puts a label on something and thinks he or she has thereby dealt with the matter: “maladjusted and introverted” instead of dishonest and self-centered; “a spasm of re-adolescence” instead of adultery and so on.
One need only listen to conversations on the boat or in line at the post office to know what has absorbed our minds and hearts. The concerns are with boats and houses and sports and vacations. Any one who talks about human destiny or the claims of Jesus is thought of as odd; it makes others shuffle with discomfort. When death or sickness comes, we are tongue-tied because we are used to more trivial topics like the weather or the traffic. When a crisis has passed we return to casual speech with great relief.
Our misguided emphasis on the things that absorb us is not harmless. That way of life can lead to tragedy. That way can lead to broken relationships.
The parable insists that God’s plan will not be thwarted. God graciously invites, but God does not force. If you will not come, God will invite others. When “nice” people beg off, then God goes to those who are considered to be the wreckage of society And if the church becomes too comfortable and self-righteous and deaf to God’s invitation, then God may well take up some secular movement and use it to fulfill God’s glad purpose.
What then must we do? Can we respond to the invitation? Can we change? We keep thinking we are pretty much set, now that we are the age that we are. But don’t be fooled. Each of us is still growing –or slipping. We move subtly, often quietly. The slopes are gentle and easy. We compare ourselves with others rather than with Jesus. It is like riding in a car at 55 miles per hour and being oblivious to the fact that we are pat of a larger system in which the earth rotates at the equator ¼ mile per second while revolving around the sun at some 20 miles per second. At the same time the sun with its planetary companions including the earth orbits the center of the Milky Way galaxy at an estimated speed of 200 miles per second. The sooner we realize that this is God’s world and that it is God’s will that is primary, the better it will be for all of us.
Yes, heredity and environment do affect us all, but they are never the final word. There is our free choice. The boy from a broken family does well. The family that has every right to produce criminals creates leading citizens. If there is a secret, it seems to be that if a person sees someone she wants to be like, she can break away from the powers that mold her. This is why the church holds before the people the person of Jesus Christ.
There is a proverb that the furniture store favors: “Home comes first.” It is nearly true and thus tragically false. For a home trying to feed itself is like a man trying to feed on his own body. It is a cannibalism that succeeds at first but finally yields to the law of diminishing returns. How can we be loyal to family and do our duty to God? How can we be loyal to our nation and differ with it when it is going astray? There are conflicting loyalties wherever we turn.
The only answer I have found is to have one over arching loyalty to the hierarchy of our loyalties. Jesus alone is worthy of such a place. He who said, “He who loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” knew that putting Christ and his kingdom first would be the way one could best love his family.
When we look to Christ, then we love as he loved. Our love does not depend on how others behave. Thus, we put a stop to our “there are hypocrites in the church” excuse.
Once Christ is made primary in our lives, then we must get busy prioritizing. There is no end to our responsibilities – – so many people to help by our visits, so many causes that would benefit from our time and talent and resources. What is one to do? We can write down and then pick out the priorities. Which will do the most good for the most people for the longest amount of time? We can keep testing our actions by the fruit they produce. Not that we always have to be successful; we need primarily to be concerned with being obedient to God. Through the years, God has proved the abundant fruit-bearing capabilities of those who have trusted in their God.
When we prioritize, this will put an end to our excuses that we do not have enough money or we do not have enough time.
We should look to Christ, we should prioritize, and finally, we should relate to Christ’s people. That will speak to our excuse that we are tired. Every person gets tired while depending on his or her own strength alone. But where Christ’s people are gathered, Christ is present with the resources of God.
It isn’t often verbalized, but many are paralyzed with the excuse of being afraid: fear of what people will say about us; they might hurt us or reject us. We don’t need more of that. Keeping close to Christ’s people can help overcome fear – Christ‘s love casts out fear.
To those who are not 100% sure about Jesus Christ and the Christian way, I say: relate to Christ’s people. The faith of others will encourage us to act on whatever faith we do have.
Look to Christ. Prioritize. Relate to Christ’s people.
THE WEDDING BANQUET
A certain man held a feast on his fine estate in town.
He laid a festive table, he wore a wedding gown.
He sent invitations to his neighbors far and wide,
But when the meal was ready, each of them replied:
I cannot come to the banquet, don’t trouble me now,
I have married a wife, I have bought me a cow.
I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum;
Pray hold me excused, I cannot come.
The Master rose up in anger, called his servants by name,
Said go into the town, fetch the blind and the lame.
Fetch the peasant and the pauper for this I have willed.
My table must be crowded, my table must be filled.
When all the poor had assembled, there was still room to spare,
So the master demanded: Go search everywhere,
To the highways and byways and force them to come in;
My table must be filled before the banquet can begin.
Now God has written a lesson for the rest of humankind;
If we’re slow in responding God may leave us behind.
God’s preparing a banquet for that great and glorious day.
When the Lord and Master calls, be certain not to say:
I cannot come to the banquet, don’t trouble me now,
I have married a wife, I have bought me a cow.
I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum;
Pray hold me excused, I cannot come.
“Helping, Fixing, Serving”
Chilmark Community Church
August 23, 2015
Rev. Vicky Hanjian
Many years ago my Sunday School teaching partner and I were preparing for our 4th grade class. That year we were blessed with 8 boys between the ages of 8 and 10. The lesson that morning had to do with the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. So we decided to invite the kids to have the experience of having their feet washed and then of washing each others’ feet. As the lesson progressed, we got to the point of filling a large basin with water and my partner asked who would like to be first?
Almost a though a secret signal had been given, 8 pairs of feet were withdrawn, pulled back under the chair rungs – – no willing volunteers. So my friend Ila and I were left with no alternative but to wash each other’s feet and demonstrate what the lesson was about.
We took a few minutes to do this and as we looked around the room, those little guys were paying attention! So we offered the invitation again. This time one or two feet were very tentatively extended beyond the rungs of the chairs. Then one pair of sneakers came off followed by a pair of socks – – and then another and another. One by one, the kids extended their feet to see what it would feel like to have their feet washed. Gradually, they experimented with washing each other’s feet with a lot of giggling and “oooooh phew!” By the end of the class we all had clean feet and we had all learned something about what it feels like to have someone kneel in front of us and serve us in a profoundly simple and symbolic act.
We have two very brief images of service in today’s text. Jesus has returned to Bethany for a visit at the home of his dear friends, Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. They have prepared a dinner party for him. The words of the story are sparse: “Martha served”………Mary took a pound of expensive perfumed ointment, cleansed Jesus’ feet and wiped them, not with a towel, but with her hair.
The images of the meal and the foot washing are repeated again in the later story of Jesus sharing his final meal with his friends – and washing their feet. In the later story it is Jesus who serves and washes.
Today’s story reaches the senses: the smell of lamb and grains roasting on the fire; the scent of perfume filling the house; the intimacy of Mary’s physical touch; the feel of soft hair. It’s a sensual story. It is also a story of contrasts. Death and life are present. Lazarus is newly restored, alive, from his tomb where Jesus was warned of the terrible stench he would encounter there. Jesus is on his way to his own tomb – fragrantly perfumed. Mary and Martha are extravagant in their meal preparations and the bathing of Jesus feet. Judas kind of sulks in the corner worrying about the expense.
There is a two-word sentence in the story that catches the eye: “Martha served.” Serving is what the sisters knew how to do.
A number of years ago, Naomi Remen authored an article in the Noetic Sciences Review titled “In The Service of Life”. She wrote: “In recent years, the question ‘how can I help?’ has become meaningful for many people. But perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the real question is not ‘How can I help’ but rather ‘How can I serve?’ There is a difference between helping and fixing and serving.
Richard Rohr, in his book “What the Mystics Know” writes: After decades of counseling, pastoring, and clumsy attempts at helping other people, I am coming to a not so obvious but compelling conclusion: Much of our helping is like hoping for first class accommodations on the Titanic. It feels good at the moment, but it is going nowhere. The big tear in the hull is not addressed, and we are surprised when people drown, complain, or resort to life boats. Most of the people I have tried to fix still need fixing. The situation changed, but the core was never touched.
Serving is different than helping. Remen suggests that people tend to feel a sense of inequality when they are helped. The helper may feel good, but the one who is helped may feel diminished in some way. We heard this message clearly a number of years ago when we spent some time on the Lakota Reservations in South Dakota. The tribes told stories about how they had been “helped” by the US government in the form of surplus food. They had been “helped” by missionaries who wanted to convert them to Christianity. They had been “helped” by well meaning groups who sent them boxes of used clothing. But through all this helping, their health, their spiritual traditions and their strength and dignity as a tribal people were all seriously diminished. The integrity and wholeness of tribal life was eroded by the help that was extended to them. To paraphrase Rohr, all that helping and fixing never reached the core. Life on the reservations changed, but the deepest core of life was never touched in a way that would have lead to wholeness in the relationship between the Lakota people the white population.
Service, on the other hand, is a relationship between equals. Helping incurs a subtle kind of indebtedness. Serving has a mutuality about it. There is no indebtedness. In a serving relationship, I am served just as much as the person I am serving. When I help, I have a feeling satisfaction that I have done something good. When I serve, I feel gratitude. These are two very different things.
Serving is also different from fixing. Fixing arises out of seeing the world or other persons as broken. Naomi Remen writes: “When I fix another person, I see them as broken and their brokenness requires me to act. When I fix, I do not see the wholeness in the other person or trust the integrity of the life in them. Fixing is a form of judgment about the brokenness of the other person.
When I think of images of serving, one that comes to mind is hospice work. When a hospice worker receives an assignment, it is an assignment to serve. In the work of attending to the needs of the dying and to the needs of the family, a hospice worker cannot fix anything –nor can he or she really help. In hospice work there is no fixing or helping – – only service – – the service of wise and compassionate presence – – a service that addresses and acknowledges the strength and integrity of the family and the one who is dying. Hospice seeks to serve the wholeness in the life of the client and the family as death draws near.
The images of Jesus and his friends in the gospel are images of service. Mary breaks a flask of perfumed ointment to sooth and cleanse Jesus’ feet. She can fix nothing. Her act of service doesn’t help anything. Jesus already knows his end is imminent. Nothing can fix or help the outcome. There is a mystery in Mary’s service that recognizes the integrity and wholeness of Jesus, of work, of his purpose.
Judas, on the other hand, is a helper and a fixer – – sell the ointment – -help the poor. He has a somewhat self righteous tone about him and the little editorial comment suggests that his motives aren’t really all that pure.
Later on in John’s gospel Jesus is again in the company of friends. This time he is the one with the basin and towel. He extends to his friends the hospitality of serving them by preparing to wash their feet. He comes first to Peter – and Peter resists. He is incredulous at the idea of Jesus washing his feet and he refuses. Jesus responds to him: “unless I wash you, you have no part in me.” And Peter submits to being served by Jesus. Jesus doesn’t fix anything about Peter. We know this because of the way the story unfolds after Jesus is arrested. But Jesus sees something of the inherent worth – indeed the holiness – in Peter. Unless Peter allowed himself to be served by Jesus, Peter would not be able to live out a life of service.
Jesus aligned himself with the wholeness that he saw in each life he touched. He saw that wholeness in each human being waiting to be restored and he acted in service to that wholeness.
When we see this about Jesus, we can understand a little bit more about his willing attitude when Mary anointed his feet and Martha served him a meal. In the face of the unfixable that lay ahead of them all, it was incredibly important that Mary and Martha be able to serve by their devotion and their friendship and their presence in Jesus’ life. When this story is juxtaposed with the later story of Jesus washing his friends’ feet, we see that life in Christ is not so much a life of fixing and helping – – or of being fixed or helped. Rather life in Christ is a life of serving and being served.
Through his life and death and resurrection, Jesus serves us by recognizing the wholeness and the holiness that resides in each one of us. He does not relate to us as needy, or broken or weak. Rather he serves us by honoring our strength and calling forth the best from us. If his purpose were to help us or fix us, he would only make us weaker. But Jesus calls us from weakness to strength. His loving service to us empowers us – – makes us strong.
Martha served. Mary served. Jesus serves. After Jesus had washed his friends’ feet he said to them “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me teacher and Lord –and you are right for that is what I am. So – if I your Lord have washed your feet, you ought also to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
So – the subtle call seems clear. We are called to lives of serving and lives of being served. We all know something about what this means because we live in a community that does this as part of its way of being in the world. The story just helps us do the fine tuning so that we can be more effective. May we enter the coming week with our eyes and ears and hearts wide open to whatever our servant ministry calls us to do and be in the name of God. AMEN.
Please come welcome Kathleen Dorr on Sunday, 28th. The Rev. Kathleen Dorr, M.Div. has served the church and God’s people as an Episcopal priest for 20 years, most recently, in the Diocese of Connecticut. She was ordained in the Diocese of Long Island and has served across the nation. Kathleen enjoys her rest and relaxation on Island spending as much time as possible in Oak Bluffs enjoying friends, the water and the Island. Rev. Dorr has served at the Cathedral of St. Matthew, Dallas , TX., in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, as Interim Rector at Christ Church, Associate priest for Christ Church, New Haven, CT., Chaplain of the Episcopal Church at Yale, Interim Missioner at Eagle Butte Reservation working with the Sioux Nation on the reservation, following these ministries Kathleen trained to be a hospital chaplain at the University hospital in Greenville, N.C. and became a Hospice chaplain working in this area over the past few years. Kathleen is the mother of two sons Robert, a Major in the U.S. Army and soon the U.S. Attache to Lebanon, and Aaron who lives and works in the San Francisco area. Both sons are married and have blessed Kathleen with three young grandchildren. She is widowed and was married to the Rev. Lt. Col. Guy Dorr who, after an Army career, was also ordained in the church serving on Long Island and later in life with the Navajo Nation.
Her hobbies include scuba diving around the world, kayaking, hiking and traveling as often as possible.
Her off-island contact information is:
Arlene Bodge, 303 Brooksby Drive, Unit 218, Peabody, MA 01960. Her phone after May 1 will be 978-587-2699.
In addition to Pizza,
The menu will be bulgoGi.”(Beef), Jabchae (noodle), Rice and some korean snack.
April 1, 2014
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As we continue to journey in the Lenten season, particularly as we enter the Holy Week, I am sure that all of us reflect on many aspects of Jesus’s ministry and mission! Of course, each one of them is very important and vital.
One of the images I am reflecting on is Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that in my recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, someone presented me with a beautiful olive wood carving of Jesus washing the feet of a disciple. As I ponder on this image, one of the things that crosses my mind is Peter’s statement to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet” (John 13:6).
We may never know what prompted Peter to react in this way, or what was going on in his mind as Jesus approached to wash his feet. Perhaps this was a shock to Peter because in that culture washing one’s feet was not a task of a leader but of a subordinate.
Perhaps Peter was not able to understand and accept the symbolism of someone washing his feet.
Perhaps Peter was uncomfortable with someone touching his feet.
Perhaps Peter was not ready to be humbled by someone washing his feet.
But as one reflects upon this holy act on the part of Jesus, as one reflects upon the dialogue between Jesus and Peter around this issue, it becomes very clear that Christ is offering a model to all of his followers of His ministry and mission. Jesus makes it abundantly clear by saying, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord-and you are right, for that is what I am. So, if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:13-15).
May I prayerfully suggest you ponder this thought as we continue our journey as disciples of Jesus Christ? Where is God calling us to wash someone’s feet at this hour in our homes, neighborhoods, nation and world?
Today, the opportunity may not be there to necessarily physically touch someone’s feet and wash them … but what about spiritually, emotionally, and financially?
More importantly, how do we react or respond to this dialogue between Jesus and Peter, as we journey as disciples of Jesus in the twenty-first century? Perhaps one of the reasons Peter was reluctant to accept Christ’s offer was he believed doing so might be seen as a weakness or lack of leadership. A few years ago, a wise mentor reminded me that accepting someone’s help in our journey is not a weakness, but a strength indeed! Many a time we fail in our ministry because we are too confident of ourselves and we refuse to take someone else’s help.
As we journey as disciples of Jesus Christ, the context of our ministry is much different from years ago! As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are constantly pushed into the margins of our society, where the ministry of a towel and basin is a blessing! It is not a ministry where we have all the answers as individuals, but a ministry where we constantly need to hear one another, learn from one another, and understand one another. In that context our mentors and teachers might be fellow pilgrims who are younger or older than us, pilgrims who may have a different accent or different lifestyle, BUT they too are the children of God who have the same quest as ours.
May God grant you and me the wisdom, courage, peace, and direction filled with the love of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so that we may resemble our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our guru, who taught us the importance of the ministry of the towel and basin.
May the power and courage of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be our strength in the forthcoming Holy Week and always!
In Christ’s love,
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar
In Yonder Meadows
In these fields I’ve wandered, I’ve pondered, I have grown
And my heart grows fonder, with each pasture I have known
And in yonder woods, I have followed the mossy banks
Of a trickling brook where I’ve knelt down to give thanks
These fields taught me compassion They taught me to forgive
And with mercy unrationed They taught me how to live
As a soul that’s fallen I’ve pounded my fists and wept
God must have heard me calling – For something in my spirit leapt
There’s a fog rolls in Each evening from the coast
It creeps across the landscapes like a phantom or ghost
It rolls across the meadow, the sorrells and the dales
Continues to drift even as dawn lifts Like a burka or veil
Through the mist I’m running Heart pounding against my chest
To the spirit that is coming In whose presence I feel blessed
Yes Each moment hastens toward me Impatient to impart
All that my soul craves All that saves the wounded heart
With their verdant splendor
These fields taught me to believe
And persuaded me to surrender
In order that I might receive
No matter how far I wander
Or the qualities I lack
Or the years I have squandered
These fields, they always take me back
Mike Gilman from Aquinnah Baptist Church was our guest of honor as we celebrated Labor Day weekend at Chilmark Community Church.
We’re hoping Mike will return this winter for those of you who missed him.
Summer is winding down. We thanked Ann Deitrich for her labor running the Flea Market which ended yesterday. We had 10 kids in Sunday School with summer friends lingering and back to school kids returning.
We said goodbye to all the kids from Shirley, MA.
And goodbye to Noah, visiting his grand parents, Connie and Preston:
We had a lot to celebrate this morning with Ted Mayhew back with us. We’re keeping him in our prayers. Just 2 or 3 Lobster Roll Tuesdays to go.