Category Archives: guest preachers

THE BREAD ALSO RISES by Rev. Dr.Rebecca Pugh

The Bread Also Rises

A Sermon For The Chilmark Community Church

Rev. Dr. Rebecca Pugh, Clergy

August 5, 2012

 

Children’s Sermon:

 

We are going to be reading John’s Gospel: the story of a time when the people followed Jesus, asking him to whip up more miracles for them. He has already turned the loaves and fishes into a feast for 5,000, and they want him to do it again. But he says, watch yourselves; be careful; keep track of your hungers and see them for what they are.

 

I have a story for you, told to me by a member of our church in Ipswich this week. It seems that a lady had a parakeet, and it died. She took it to the vet, and the vet, without needing much analysis, told her that the parakeet was indeed dead, and she should bury it. But she said, “No, it’s been my pet for a long time. I really like it. Can’t you do anything?” And the vet said, “No, not now; it’s dead.” But the lady begged him for more work to be done on the parakeet. So the vet finally agreed. He opened the door to the back room, and a technician came out, with a silver tabby cat on a leash. The cat walked up to the parakeet, sniffed it, pushed it to the other end of the desk, and then walked away. Then, out of the same back room door, another technician came out, with a Labrador retriever on a leash. The Labrador bounded up to the parakeet, sniffed its feet, sniffed its head, and then lay down and panted. The vet turned back to the lady. “Sorry lady. Your bird is dead.” “Ok,” she said. “How much do I owe you?” “Five hundred dollars.” “Five hundred dollars to tell me that my bird is dead?” “Well,” said the vet, “It was going to be fifty for the office visit. But with the cat scan and the lab report, it’s five hundred.”

 

Sometimes we start with a simple problem, and we make it really complicated. Like the lady with the dead bird, sometimes we do not need a lot of help to understand a situation, but we want it to stay complicated, so we go looking in strange places. This is a similar situation to what Jesus is talking about in John’s Gospel. Sometimes we get all mixed up, he says. Sometimes we feel sad, but we think we are hungry. Sometimes we feel lonely, but we think we are thirsty. It gets all jumbled in our brains, and we go out looking for the wrong cures, when the answer is straightforward. What we really want is comfort, and love, and food in our body just when it’s hungry.

 

Sermon for All Ages:

 

John 6: 25 ff

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberius came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set the seal.

 

This is a sermon about hope. I would like to thank your minister Arlene for inviting me to fill in for her while she is away. It is an honor to be here.

 

The Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch (1450 – 1516) has a painting hanging in the Prado in Madrid called “seven deadly sins” and he depicts a man, sitting in a tidy room, on a chair with a pillow in his painting segment called “sloth”. He has a fire in the fireplace, a dog at his feet, music playing outside his window, even a nun, coming to his doorstep to pray the Rosary with him. But he sleeps. He has 100 beautiful things waiting. But he sleeps and waits. Alas, he is sleeping still, 500 years later.

 

Sometimes I think we get stuck waiting for happiness, or fullness, and we do not realize the joy that is around us. We can get so distracted that we miss our chance to be free.

 

In a similar way, in Dante’s Inferno, the people who suffer from spiritual hunger are depicted by Dante as stuck under the surface of a large stinking swamp. They explain, “We were sad in the sweet air which the sun made cheerful, for within us was morose smoke.”1

 

Jesus says, as John’s Gospel remembers it, “Don’t do that. Don’t get stuck in appetites or moods or resentments. Don’t look in all the wrong places for joy. Rather, look right where you are. You don’t need new possessions, new purchases, and new foods. All you need, to borrow Dante’s words, is the sweet air, which the sun made cheerful.

 

The context of this verse is this: Jesus has fed the 5,000, and the people are looking for more. They realize that he is a man of miracles, and they follow him tenaciously. Jesus, then, as John presents him, draws a line for them. Be careful, John describes Jesus saying. Don’t mix up your belly and your brain. Don’t mix up your short-term longing with your long-term trust.

 

John’s Gospel is rich with these distinctions between the material body and the spiritual plane. John presents Jesus as the holy golden man, never hungry after the resurrection as he is in Luke’s Gospel, never crying in fear or pain on the cross as he is in Matthew’s Gospel, but rather so pure and powerful that he needs nothing, transcends everything, and perfectly manages his life. John even quotes Jesus from the cross as saying, ‘It is accomplished’, his salvation is worked out, rather than the “why have you forsaken me” that we hear from the other Gospel writers.

 

I have been working with a manuscript from Krister Stendahl, who was the Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm in the 1980’s and spent every summer right across the bay here on Nantucket, who talks about the Jesus of John’s Gospel. According to John, Jesus is powerful beyond measure. He’s not afraid of anything. He’s never tempted. He never asks for help. He never blows up or knocks over a table. The Jesus of John’s Gospel, in other words, is far away from the human man that we find in the other gospels. He’s powerful and strong and shielded, by his holiness, from the mutability of human emotion.

 

And so it is no wonder that John describes Jesus here, reminding the people to turn away from the perishable thoughts and hungers, and towards the imperishable. The Jesus of John’s Gospel is great at that model of aiming for perfection, without coddling the human frailty. He wants us to be great at turning toward the joy.

 

In this perfection that John’s Gospel points us to try for, Jesus says there are really two kinds of food: the kind that perishes, that is the sort that nourishes our bodies. And there is the kind that doesn’t perish. That is the sort that nourishes our souls. He says sometimes, we go looking for the perishable foods, even when it’s our souls that are hungry. Be careful about that, he says. Keep a good boundary. Know when your body is hungry, and know what the other signals come from, and mean.

 

Sometimes we get mixed up, we feel hungry when we are really sad; we feel thirsty when we are tired. And we make bad decisions.

 

I titled this sermon, “The Bread Also Rises”, thinking of Ernest Hemmingway’s novel, “The Sun Also Rises”; a good Paris novel to consider while your minister is away in Paris. Hemmingway writes his novel beginning in the gay city of France, and then moving to the bull fights in Spain. The characters are unhappy. Jake Barnes longs for love, and can’t have it. His body is injured in the war, and though he can do sports and many things, he cannot physically love another person. Brett Ashley, on the other hand, has so much physical love that she is cynical from it, and also unhappy. The two of them long for each other, but live isolated. Hemmingway borrows a passage from Ecclesiastes to title his book: “The earth abiedeth forever; the sun also ariseth, and goeth down, and hasteneth to the place where he arose”. Hemmingway told his publisher that he intended the novel to be about the earth abiding forever. The characters are lonely, but not lost. They are hungry, but they yet have a chance at fullness.

 

It is like the figures from Dante’s inferno: the sweet air is just above them, and they can’t quite smell it, because of the filmy swamp surface that they are just beneath. But they remember the sweet air. They long to have just one day again, up there breathing in the sunlight.

 

It is like the man in the Bosch painting: he is sound asleep, even though there are many happy things waiting to cheer him if he would just wake up: a fire, a dog, music, even a friend with whom to pray.

 

In other words, you may not need a cat scan, a lab report, but a simple turning toward joy. In that sense we may find that the bread, though it falls some of the time, also rises up to cheer us. And that rising bread takes forms ordinary and extraordinary; forms we might never expect.

 

In conclusion, I would like to sing a song that our youth group at home is fond of. Sometimes they sing it for the church. It is called, “Now I walk in Beauty”, and it is a song from the Native American community.

 

Now I walk in Beauty.

Beauty is before me.

Beauty is behind me, above, and below me.

 

Thanks be to God.

1 Described by Norris, Kathleen. “Plain Old Sloth”. Christian Century, January 11, 2003.

Fond Farewell for now from Helen

Early last Sunday,  while Arlene was busy preparing for the service at Chilmark,  (one which would feature the Jim Thoma Spirituals Choir), I was boarding the seven a.m.  ferry to Woods Hole.  It was a beautiful morning.  The heat that had assaulted the preceding days with ninety degree temperatures had broken.  When the boat began to pull out of the slip,  I stood against against the rails of the outer-deck, grateful for the sense of tranquility that graced my departure. Leaving this island is never easy.   As i gazed fondly at the wooden boats moored in the harbor, and then lifted my eyes to behold  the steeples rising above the treetops, I could not help but think about how much my life has been transformed by this mystical and enchanted landscape. How many gifts it has to offer.  How many secrets it is waiting to disclose.  Secrets that are necessary for our personal evolution.     (And to think i only came here for a weekend – twenty five years ago – to see a fellow i had a crush on  perform in a Shakespeare play. It was a production of Twelfth Night in the ampitheater.  i had never been to the island before, and arrived in black fishnets and a black sequin beret, expecting to hail a cab to the ampitheater, which i presumed to be a large colleseum like construct with vendors selling penants, bags of granola, and theatrical souvenirs… i never got the guy.  In fact, he never even noticed me among the six or seven in the audience.   But I was offered an even more remarkable  relationship with the island itself.  With Martha.  What a romance.  As we all know, she is a temptress, a narcissist, bewitching, beguiling, and capable of casting spells.   If Martha  wants you, she doesn’t let you go.  As long as you worship and adore her, she will always find you a couch to sleep on, and a reason for you to stay on).    With that in mind,  i must now have Faith, and Trust,  that even the ostensibly bad things that happen on the Vineyard  – such as this recent mishap – are likewise part of a greater plan – one designed for the ultimate benefit of all, however that might make itself manifest  – and despite the need for massive dosages of ibuprophin.   The island seems to dispatch many fairies, woodland nymphs, and benevolent spirits, to bless our lives and perform its magic,  but it likewise seems to have an inexhaustible supply at its command of various nebishes, jinksters and pranksters to execute its more fiendish mischief.

 

This last week at Arlenes was really restorative.  In many ways – like the love and concern i received from various parisioners at the church, it defies my ability to articulate – and truly remains one of the gifts disclosed by the disastor.  Sometimes things need to be cracked – if not broken – for the light to get in.  And i am humbled, for,  despite  whatever intelligence i might portend, i am utterly mystified by the power of the love, the understand and the compassion i was given – which helped heal and transform my body and spirit, on a cellular level.   The nurturing, acceptance, and support i received still stupified and causes me to stop in my tracks.

 

I do know that i am no longer the battered, bedraggled and bruised scruff muffin that relocated to Arlene’s a week ago.  i was shaken and rattled – both on a physical and emotional level – which many of you bore witness to, and helped me through.  God has a remarkable sense of synchronicity – and it seemed as if you were dispatched into my life at various junctures throughout this debacle.  Running into Ann Dietrich at the Post Office, or Julie at The Chilmark Community Center, for example, at times when i was “on the verge” of breaking.  Or Ted and Judy while I endeavoring to pound out the notes to a song I had orginally intended to play at the service – though the accident prevented me. “In the Arms of The Angel.”

 

Now, enriched by the acceptance, love, and support I received,  I must dwell in the hope that my body continues to heal and mend so that i am as good as new.  I am not sure if that’s how it can be at my age,  but let’s see…let’s hope…let’s pray.  With God, all things are possible.  And may I continue to remember the healing love from Laurie and Don and Pam and Clark and Judy and Ted and Julie and Arlene and Dr. Lorna, and Ann and Virginia,  when i return to the city – May the memory provide as much of a sanctuary that heals and gives strength,  as was lavished upon me since the accident occurred.

 

I am especially grateful for this last weekend.  I had only intended to stay “a few days”  at Arlene’s and certainly did not want to violate any boundaries in that regard, or overstay my welcome.  At the outset i thought i would leave midweek, though as Wednesday, then Thursday approached, I was still a wreck inside,  frazzled.  i was afraid that a if i head back to New York and something  bad happpened,  anything – the slightest inconvenience, it could make me snap. lose it.  go beserk –  in a way that would only hurt myself.  That’s what people who are by themselves do in the city:  they hurl themselves in front of garbage trucks, or busses, or on the tracks of an oncoming subway train. Sometimes it just gets to be too much.   I guess the word for me mid week was fragile.  i never really left Arlene’s side; i was like a baby duck, in that regard.  Despite my vehement independence, I guess can sometimes be very self adhesive.  Or let’s say i made pretend to leave her side,  but was always on the radar screen.  i seldom ventured out, and don’t know that i have ever spent that much time in doors.  i guess its what i needed. Arlene’s place offers a home for the intellect, for the artist, for the stomach, and for the weary.   The heat wave – proved a blessing, for it not only dissuaded me from leaving at the end of the week (tempertatures in the city hovered around one hundred and ten degrees), but it  aslo persuaded me during these final days, to get into the water.   I took the bus to ocean park,  both friday and again saturday.  While elsewhere others sweltered,  i stood in the cool turquoise waters of the Nantucket Sound.    The water is shallow so the sun beats down and heats it to a merciful temperature.  It felt good,  and once my body was tempered, i sat down, near waters edge so that I was submerged. i did hand exercizes in hope of improving mobitlity and range of motion.   i was grateful to have found my way back to the gifts of the island – in terms of the sky, the sea, the sands, the sun.  I have to be reminded that what the island offers (and what i return for) has a far greater power than whatever destructive forces were at work when the accident occurred – and it is that relationship – the one with the island, that i must take care of and hold central.  That is the one that nurtures. enkindles.  affirms the existence of the soul and its need for a relationship with God –  an unspoken trust demonstrated, likewise in the relationships i have developed with the parishioners at the church.  It is not about class, politics, economic standing, or some imaginary – illusory stratasphere of importance.  The transluscent aqua waters of Ocean Park were there for me – much more so than Lucy Vincent.  Those things are always tricky.  Especially in the summer.

 

As I remained leaning against the ferry’s railings, felt the breeze through my hair,  and beheld the island, growing further in the distance, i was grateful for having been able to see the island in its greenery, so lush and verdant.   It was just enough.  Too much, and you have to deal with the summer people.  Clam bakes on the beach that I am not invited to.  Raw oysters.  Not that i ever liked clams, or oysters, for that matter.  The most they ever offered was the opportunity to use the word “unctuous.”  But the idea of not being invited…

 

Somehow being with arlene also refunded my sense of self respect.  she somehow recalibrated the barometer by which i measure my own self worth.   this morning when i boarded the ferry, i did not feel like a ruffian, or a waif, or a wayward derelict who once might have shown promise but somehow missed the mark.  i  went out on the deck, glanced at the white clapboard houses sprinkled along the starboard shores,  and  thought, “oh its chilly.  let me put on a my sweater.”  so clean.  so simple.  so lovely.

 

 

I am not sure why exposure to certain elements can make me feel so substandard.  ( Sometimes i get confused to see where others are in life and how they are living at my  age.  I can easily feel less than.  As if i missed the boat somewhere along the way.  Like i should run out this minute and get a pedicure and a designer dog).   Somehow, Arlene sets a good standard, a good meridian. It is not about occupying  some exalted realm of  superlatives, if that makes any sense.   It is about  Good.  Its  not about  the best.  It does not imply some vertically inclined hierarchy where the unfortunate are consigned to occupy some low level synonomous with shame.  It is not determining one’s sense of self worth and importance according to how many pair of Ugg boots one has or the type of cheese preferred with whatever sort of cracker. (Even though we all know extra sharp cheddar by far exceeds any competitor…) In Arlene’s world it is simply about goodness, which in itself is an absolute.   Like many of those i have encountered at the church,  who seem to appreciate who i am, (and don’t rub in what i am not), Arlene sees whatever inherent goodness there is – and seems to believe that  i am priceless “as is.”

 

Good is good enough…

 

i am in awe of the congregation that attends the white clapboard chapel at nine Menemsha Crossing.   Everyone figured so predominately in what was a very difficult and challenging experience, physically and emotionally.  Looking back, how much transpired in a few short weeks.   We lost phyllis.  The organ was delivered.  Billy arrived.  Helen hurt her hand.  Lobster rolls.  Ian helps with the blessing of the fleet.

 

We are the fleet.

 

I know that at the outset of this last visit had intended to play “In The Arms Of The Angel” at the worship service.  Instead, I feel like the accident delivered me into the arms of them.

 

God Bless…

 

Faith of a cancer patient

Shared by a woman fighting serious cancer.
In closing I want to share with you something I read from time to time.  It encourages me as I walk through this cancer journey.   I bet it will encourage you as well.
This is a list of statements written by Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer.  Say the word “Today” before each statement…
-I love the Lord my God with my whole heart, soul and mind(Mark 12:30)
-I walk by faith and not by sight.(2 Corinthians 5:7)
-The Lord is on my side.  I will not fear what man can do to me.(Psalm 118:6)
-I am competent not in my own abilities but because He has made me competent by His Spirit.(2 Corinthians 3:5-6)
-I abide in Christ, He abides in me, and I bear much fruit.(John 15:5)
-I have the mind of Christ, therefore I act in a way that is consistent with His actions. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
-He will never leave me nor will he forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5)
-I do not look with disdain upon my weaknesses.  I use them as an opportunity for God to display His powerful strength (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Rev. Richard Olson

(Click here to read bio.)
Richard Olson will be preaching on October 9.  He writes:
Sixteen years ago I moved to Edgartown with my beloved late wife Judith.  She came to serve as Social Worker at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.  I had recently retired as pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Worcester.  During my years here I have served on the boards of the Vineyard Nursing Assn and Havenside and also on the vestry of St. Andrew’s Church.
I was ordained into the Lutheran ministry in 1957 and served for 37 years in three successive national Lutheran churches, currently the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

July 3 Helen Stratford’s lyrics.

Helen wrote a poem/hymn verse for the day.

Helen sang the song below at the service this morning explaining, first explaining how she believed her music was a gift from God made evident first here on Martha’s  Vineyard.

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

 

 

Helen Stratford

Chilmark 2011

1

“Ann’s” Pumpkin Apple Soup

We asked Ann for her recipe after Tues night’s soup supper.  It was so good.

PUMPKIN APPLE SOUP

1 Tbsp. oil

1 med.onion, finely chopped

3 Granny Smith or tart apples, peeled and sliced

4 cups Libby’s complete pumpkin pie mix with seasonings,

(not plain canned pumpkin)

½ tsp. mace

6 cups chicken broth

Cook onion in oil until wilted. Add apples; cover and cook until tender. Stir in pumpkin pie mix, mace and chicken broth.

Cook for ten minutes, stirring to blend.