Category Archives: SERMONS, WORSHIP, MEDITATIONS

May 26 Blessing of the Fleet/Memorial Day

DSCF0325 vicky and armenBlessing of the Fleet

May 26,2019

Memorial Day Weekend

Menemsha Harbor

Chilmark Community Church

Rev. Vicky Hanjian

This is perhaps the 3rd time I have been involved with a service of Blessing The Fleet. Each time I prepare for this ritual, I become aware of the gift of grace of living in an environment where we are surrounded and embraced and occasionally battered by the sea. And I am quite mindful that a service like this could not happen in Montana or Nebraska or Arizona with quite the same meaning or sense of immediacy.

Being a landlubber at heart, I am quite content to just stand in the sand or on the jetty – maybe get my feet wet – – and marvel at the ever changing and beautiful and sometimes challenging and frightening mystery of the ocean. But I am also blessed to live surrounded by so many people who love to be in and on the water – – who may even have a bit of the briny deep running in their veins. And it is for these human beings and their various vessels that we offer our prayers and blessings this morning. The love of the oceans, the need to never be far from the water, the joy and adventure of being out of sight of the land are all so old in us. Whether we draw on the ancient witness of the early chapters of the book of Genesis or we defer to the science of evolution – -or whether we harmonize them in our understanding – -the ocean seems to be where it all began.

So – we gather to bless the fleet. It might be well to pause for a moment and ask ourselves why we do this? What good does it do to leave our comfort zones early on a Sunday morning to come to the water’s edge – to spend some time together in the wind and fog and the dampness and go through this ritual that happens on the sea coast and at river edge harbors at different times of the year all around the world?

Do we bless the fleet because that’s something we’re supposed to do? Because it has become something habitual we do every year? Or does it have meaning beyond tradition? What does it mean when we bless something anyway? What are we doing when we invoke God’s blessing on someone or something?

Hear these words from the Book of Genesis: Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.

These verses tell us what blessing is about. Most obviously, blessing is the opposite of cursing. While cursing someone or something invokes energies and emotions that separate people from one another, blessing sets in motion the energy of relationship. Blessing puts in place the foundation upon which love and concern, friendship and compassion can be built.

Abraham and his clan traveled on land. The tempests and storms they faced had more to do with encountering other people, other clans, strangers, and potential enemies, than they did with encountering storms or enemies on the seas. Still – -the challenge of blessing fell upon him and his family. Essentially, God said “ I will bless you….so that you will be a blessing.

So the act of blessing is a divine and human thing. We receive the blessing of God so that we might become a source of blessing for others – – a force for good, a force for healing, a force for reconciliation and well being.

On this Memorial Day weekend, we honor and remember lives spent and lost in the service of protecting all that we are privileged to enjoy in this country. We also take time to remember all the ways we are served and blessed by the women and men who spend much of their lives on the water. On this occasion of blessing the myriad vessels that sail in our waters, it is well for us to remember the power that we have to unleash goodness – to affect relationships in a positive way – to create a more harmonious and loving world.

To invoke a blessing is essentially an act of gratitude. When we bless it is hard to carry forward grudging or negative feelings toward the object of our blessing. To bless opens the way for the flow of lovingkindness, compassion, hospitality and grace. In the ancient story, our ancestors are called not only to bless – – but to BE a blessing. The very way they carry themselves in the world is to BE a blessing.

So why do we bless the fleet? Surely to invite the safety and well being of all who make their living on the water; definitely to honor all who serve to protect our shores and our air space; and certainly to care for all who find rest and relaxation and re-creation on the water.

But invoking blessing does more than that. When we bless, we open channels of grace – – we become channels of grace – -and our own lives become larger and more generous. We actually are on the way to becoming the blessing we are called to be in our own persons.

So may we offer our prayers and our songs together this morning in the service of the ancient affirmation that we are indeed blessed in order to be a blessing to others and may grace flow in abundance toward all whom we bless this day.

DSCF0333coast guard and piperJamie Douglas, bag pipe with Coast Guard .

Prodigal Parent

synonyms for “Prodigal”..generous, lavish, liberal, unstinting,unsparing , bountiful… Also , as with the ” prodigal son”  ..wastefully extravagant.

Rev. Charlotte shared this poem written by her friend,..Maren Tirabassi

Prayer for a parent when a prodigal departs
(Somehow, I thought I knew all the turns and twists of this parable, but God always has one more perspective to teach me Luke 15)

God, help me love
this one who is walking away —
without imagining the worse,
anticipating a sweet, “I told you so,”
or curling up tight
around my own hurt feelings.

Let me to paint encouragement
across my worried face,
wave even when no one looks back,
send letters and emails
that don’t ask pointed questions,
keep tears out of my texts,
and whine out of my heart.

Let me set aside the robe, ring, shoes
and celebration dinner menu
to be prepared
whether the return is in triumph,
or disillusion and shame.

Welcoming is not something
that happens at the last moment.
Getting my love ready
for that road dust kicked up in the distance
may be the most important
work in my life.

I may never know what is going on
between here and a pig farm.

It’s not really my business,
and if it helps for the story to be told,
it will help more
if I never repeat it.

God, help me love these children
out the door,
love them while they are missing,
love them maybe home again,

because I know what it is
to be loved.

Bishop’s March 1 message

March 1, 2019

Beloved in Christ:

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of God’s call: “Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast …” —  Joel 2:16

In other words, gather everyone.

“A 2016 study from the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute found that 39 percent of young adults (ages 18 to 29) are ‘religious unaffiliated.’ That has nearly quadrupled since 1986, when only 10 percent of young adults identified that way.” (USA Today, Feb. 28, 2019)

Though there are many reasons for the increase in the number of young adults who are staying away from the church, J.J. Warren, who many of you likely saw speaking so passionately on the floor of General Conference, traveled with me with on a Mission of Peace journey years ago. I think his words give insight into what young people in the church are seeking:

“For me and the younger generation that is the church now among you, and who want to be the church together with you for the future as well, we desire a church that seeks the justice of God.” (If interested, please see here for a video of J.J. Warren’s full speech)

Let us begin our Lenten journey, earnest in our desire to be God’s prayer, to gather all the children of God, and to surrender ourselves to be transformed through love.

Let us take time to write in our Lenten journals each day, to compose our own prayers for justice, and to examine how our actions give witness to God’s justice.

Let us pray that we will become what the prophet Joel calls, an “assembly of God,” and a community that is the Sermon on the Mount.

As a conference may we pray this prayer together every day during Lent:

God,
remind me again today that
you are Love;
that Loving is always expressed in action
not beliefs.

Remind me again today
that your love was made visible
in creation,
in Jesus,
in the Church, the body of Christ.

Remind me again today
that it is through love, not
right vs wrong,
good vs evil, that
we are saved.

Remind me again today that you
gather us all,
love us all,
sanctify us all,
call us all, 
to be one —
in Christ,
with each other,
in ministry to
all the world.

Prema and I wish you and your loved ones a blessed Lenten season.

in Christ’s love,

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar

“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

“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.”

“The View From Mt. Nebo” 6/25/17

“The View From Mt. Nebo”

Deuteronomy 33:48 – 50; 34:1-10

June 25, 2017

Chilmark Community Church

Rev. Vicky Hanjian

Quite a few years ago now,  on one of our trips to Israel, we landed first in Jordan, on the eastern side of the Jordan River. One of the stops early in our trip was a visit to Mt. Nebo.  It was late in the afternoon and we were facing into the setting sun at the northern end of the Dead Sea – looking out over the view that Moses must have seen as he reached the end of his journeys with the Israelites.  We looked out over rugged hills and valleys toward the land that Israel was about to enter.  The sunlight was reflecting off the water in the distance.  The air was chilly and quiet.  It was a profound moment that stays in my memory – – standing in the  spot where tradition says Moses looked over into the land that had been promised – coming to terms with knowing that he would not accompany his people as they crossed over.

There are lots of reasons buried in the scriptures for why Moses didn’t ever get to the Promised Land.  The predominant one is that he had displeased God by striking a rock to get water for the thirsty tribes in the wilderness when God had instructed  him merely to speak to the rock.  Other stories speak of Moses’ advanced age – he was 120 years old – that he was tired after 40 years sojourning with the people and didn’t have the energy required to  guide them through their conquest of  Canaan.  Still other stories suggest that it took the entire 40 years for the first generation of slaves to die off so that the next generation would no longer think and feel like slaves, but would take responsibility for themselves as free agents under God. For this they needed the leadership of someone younger who had transcended the slave mentality. 

The story is a poignant one.  It comes at the end of  Deuteronomy which is attributed to Moses as his farewell address to Israel.  Deuteronomy rehearses the entire saga of the 40 years of wandering.  No wonder it sounds familiar and repetitious in so many places.  It was calculated to remind the people of where they had been – where they were going – – and who it was that would always lead them – regardless of who the person was at the head of the line.

I think it is a great story for guiding us as we contemplate a change of leadership, both for us and for all of you.  We get into murky waters if we take every word and story of the Bible literally.  But if we can let the wisdom in the stories inform us we may be on more solid ground.  And the wisdom here is that the people of God are always in the process of becoming – – because we follow a God who is always in the process of becoming.  We are not a static people and God is not a static God.  This always takes some getting used to because for many of us, we grew up thinking that either God was immutable and unchanging – and therefore somewhat dependable and predictable, on the one hand, or we were taught that God was malleable and that our prayers could change God in some way – – sort of like with my childhood prayers  that God would make the sun shine on the day of  my class trip.  But it turns out that God is none of that.   

Rather God is a God of relationship and becoming – and we are invited along for the ride.

So – -here we are, on our own Mt Nebo of sorts.  As your pastors we can stand on the peak and kind of look over Jordan with you to envision something of the future as 

you move forward under new leadership.  But envisioning and predicting with accuracy are two very different things.  So we all are living with a measure of uncertainty.   We will descend the mountain on our side to see what future awaits us there while you will move on into the future that awaits on your side of the mountain.

Because, as science tells us, we cannot predict the future any more than about  a few fractions of a second ahead of us,  we are now drawn, or maybe pushed or pulled, to a moment of absolute trust and faith in this God who prefers relationship  with us – who prefers the process of becoming something new with us rather than some static and predictable outcome. 

This is challenging.   And it is apt to be uncomfortable.  With our ancestors, about to come under the leadership of Joshua, Moses’ successor, we may be asking “What will we do without the person we have trusted to guide us?”  “How can we be sure this is the right leader?”  “What will be expected of us?”  “Moses loved us and stayed with us through thick and thin – what if Joshua loses patience? What if Joshua doesn’t love us?”   

I think we can intuit from the text that these are the murmurings of the people as they realized that Moses would  be stepping down.   In Deuteronomy 31, the people are fearful of what they will encounter in the way of enemies as they cross over the Jordan.  Moses reassures them with these words: the Lord himself will cross over before you. The Lord will give [your enemies] over to you and you shall deal with them in full accord with the command I have given you…Be strong and bold, have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God

who goes with you; God will not fail you or forsake you.

Moses doesn’t only reassure the people, he also reassures Joshua: Then Moses summoned Joshua before the people and said to them in the sight of all Israel: “Be strong and bold, for you are the one who will go with this people into the land…It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not fail nor forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.

If we fast forward several generations to the days immediately following the resurrection of Jesus, we hear the same affirmation of the God Who Goes Before.

Near the end of Matthew’s Gospel we hear a messenger telling the women at the tomb: Jesus has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him. This is my message for you.” (Matthew 28:7)

They begin running to deliver the message and they encounter Jesus in his Risen Nature who tells them: Do not be afraid. Tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me. Matthew 28:10).

Galilee is where it all began – the business of preaching God’s love, feeding the hungry, tending to the needs of the poor, healing the sick, learning the skills of forgiveness and reconciliation, seeking justice for the poor and downtrodden. 

In a sense, the crucifixion is a Mt. Nebo for Jesus and his followers.   It is in crucifixion and resurrection that the relationship between Jesus and the disciples  changes.  Jesus is gone from their physical presence – no longer to be depended upon for doing the feeding, the healing, the forgiving, the teaching that he had always done with them.

A new relationship is now there to be explored – learning how to trust that what has been begun on one side of the cross will continue in another form on the other side of the cross.

So – here we are – all of us facing an ending together – wondering what will happen on the other side of tomorrow.  We are also together hearing the assurances -whether we think  in terms of crossing Jordan into a  strange land under new  leadership or in terms of life on the other side of the cross – we can affirm with faith that we belong to a God who goes ahead of us – a dynamic God who seems to become evermore trustworthy the more we are able to offer our trust.   In the process, we become the people God chooses every day to be the people who will make the crossing and buy into the adventure. 

So – as we come to a time of ending a way of being together, may we know without a doubt  that even as we say farewell today to this particular way of being together that we have enjoyed, God is bringing something new into being.   

God has never been satisfied with a static and comfortable people.  God  seems to enjoy life with us – always unfolding -always changing – always in process.  Indeed even Jesus made his most significant encounters and teachings while he was on the move – – on the road .   So we are invited once again to move on, to sojourn, to live always in a state of being temporary.   One of the first books I read in seminary was a book titled “The Journey is Home” by Nelle Morton.   The title says it all .  We live and move and have our being in a God on the move.  God is the Journey.  And the Journey is, indeed our home.  May God bless us all on the way.  AMEN

“Witness, Presence,Unconditional Love” 6/18/17

Witness, Presence, Unconditional Love

Exodus 3:1-15

Romans 8:38-39

Chilmark Community Church

June 18, 2017

Rev. Vicky Hanjian

Perhaps about 15 years ago, after the birth of our grandson, our second grandchild, I had the experience of feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the love I felt for  the two beautiful young souls who were being entrusted to their parents and to us for as long as we would have time to be in their lives.  I hardly knew what to do with the feelings I had;  what to do with the awareness of what an incredible privilege and responsibility came with being a conscious grandparent.  So – I prayed for some guiding wisdom for how to go about the awesome task of loving these two precious beings and for how to be a strong and positive influence in their lives.   In the deep silence of prayer, I heard “You are to be a Witness, a Presence, and Unconditional Love.”

15 years later, I am still challenged with what these words mean, but I took this  wisdom as my marching orders for grand-parenting.  It turns out that they were marching orders for my life as well as they have continued to echo in my spirit over the years that I have been a grandmother.   You are to be a Witness, a Presence, and Unconditional Love.

On reflection, I think these orders are why I dearly love this story of Moses and his first encounter with God.  Moses is so like us in so many ways – he works hard at his daily tasks of caring for his father-in-law’s flocks; he is curious about the world around him; he is in awe and trembling of the power of the Holy One;  he is really uncertain about what God is asking him to do – – and yet, he says “Here I am!”

The story up to this point has Moses first persecuted by Pharoah under the decree that all the Hebrew baby boys are to be killed as soon as they are born.  He is saved at birth by two subversive midwives, rescued from the waters of the Nile by the Pharoah’s daughter (who is a bit of a subversive in her own father’s court), raised in Pharoah’s palace. He is witness to an overseer abusing a Hebrew slave. He kills and buries the overseer. He is seen and accused of murder – runs for his life – and ends up in Midian, tending the flocks of Jethro and marrying Jethro’s daughter.

It is in his quiet time in the hills with the flocks  that Moses encounters the God of his ancestors.  We don’t know anything about Moses’ relationship with this god up to this point.  Moses was raised as an Egyptian after all, without any connection to the god of the Hebrews.

But in this brief part of the story, we learn a lot about this god and how this god  will be with those who listen and follow.

So, for a few moments, we might let our imaginations take over, and imagine Moses in the rugged mountains of Midian, keeping an eye on his father-in-law’s flocks – – maybe a herd of goats and a flock of sheep.  The location is Mt. Horeb.

And there is a little bit of dramatic foreshadowing in the name of the mountain.  Mt. Horeb means Mountain of God.    It is sometimes used interchangeably with Mt. Sinai – the place of divine revelation. Moses experiences a revelation from God on Mt. Horeb and will be there with the people at the big one on Mt. Sinai.

I rather suspect that on the Mountain of God, just about anything can happen – and indeed it does.  A messenger, an angel of God, appears in the midst of a bush that is in blazes – but does not burn up.   In his curiosity, Moses takes a closer look to see why the bush has not burned up.  As he does so,  he hears the voice of God calling to him by name – “Moses!  Moses!”    

Moses answers with words  that appear many times across both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.  Moses answers the voice of God , saying “Hineini” – – here I am!

And a  pattern for life is set in motion.  God calls Moses by name – Moses responds: “here I am” – – and God goes to work.

Moses has a lot of reservations, however.  He is not completely sold on the idea of working with God. He is modest to a fault.  He confesses that he stutters and can’t really be a public speaker and tries to convince God that someone else would do a better job. But the story isn’t just about Moses.  It is more about God at this point – about God revealing the Divine Self to Moses.

And here is how God does it:  God says to Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people…I have heard their cry . . . I know their suffering . . . I have come down to deliver them from slavery . . .  .I will bring them to a good land . . . .

In this small part of the grand saga that will follow, we learn that it is in the nature of God to witness what is going on in creation – – and it is in the nature of God to be an active presence in the midst of creation.    A third clue to the nature of God  in these few verses is not quite as obvious – and that is in the line where God says “I am the God of your ancestors, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

We learn from this that God is a God of unconditional love who cares for humankind from generation to generation – – whether we human beings measure up to our divine calling or not.  We find this theme of steady, unconditional love in Paul’s reflections in Romans 8:38 – where he writes: ‘I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God.”

The sacred texts tell us something of the nature of God – as Witness to our lives  and to what we both enjoy and endure, as Presence in our lives and in the world, and as the source of Unconditional Love.

Way back in the 1st chapter of Genesis, we have the beautiful story of the creation of humankind – and the divine intention behind the beginnings of humanity: Genesis 1:26 and 27: “Then God said ‘Let us make humankind in our image and according to our likeness…..so God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God, God created them, male and female God created them.”

And here’s where the rubber hits the road for us here, now, today.  If we trust the intention of our sacred texts, we can affirm together that we, each one of us, and all of us together, are created in the Divine Image and Likeness of God.  That’s the beginning of the story.  As the story unfolds, more and more of the nature of God is revealed – – and we therefore get to know more and more about what it means to be created in the Divine Image.  We know that God is creative.  We know that God seeks human companionship.  We know that God shapes the lives of people who respond to God.

In this vignette from the grand story of Moses and the Exodus, we learn about some of the more subtle attributes of God – namely that God is a Witness, a Presence, and is Unconditional Love.  We kind of expect all that of God – no surprises there – – however – – being created in the image of God, these attributes belong to us as well.

These attributes lead us to a high calling in our life together as a community of the faithful, and in our life in the world beyond the walls of this sanctuary.  The good news is that we are already familiar with these attributes.  Indeed we practice them every day  when we witness, we notice, we observe, we see.   We witness one another’s lives in the joys and the sorrows, the challenges and celebrations, the fears and concerns, the illnesses and the healing that we go through together as a body.  We witness the effect that life has on each other – and we learn empathy and compassion. This witnessing is what makes a church family hold together at the center.  It is also what makes us more effective as we take our caring into the world.

When we are present to one another, we become Presence – Some times we are called upon to take action – to make a phone call in one another’s behalf, to check in when we haven’t seen each other for several weeks,  to attend to one another when one of us is suffering.  Sometimes we are called upon to  be present to one another in profound grief when there are simply no words to be said. As Paul writes, “we weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.”  We each have the capacity to be a presence in each other’s lives – whether through actual physical hands on help or through prayer, or through words of encouragement or comfort or celebration.  Being a Presence means saying “Hineini” – – here I am – – my spirit and my energy are available to you – – I am part of your life.  Being a Presence means being a little bit of God available to the life of another person. 

And then there is the call to be Unconditional Love.  We know from the long saga of God’s journey with Israel that God does not give up when the going gets tough.  The scriptures are full of reasons why God could have just thrown up the proverbial divine hands and walked away in frustration and disgust – – but that never happened – – because the love of the Holy One for all of creation does not depend upon how faithful we are,  or how good or cooperative or thoughtful or sensitive or caring or patient with each other we happen to be.  Unconditional Love is just that – it unaffected by the conditions of our lives.    Being created in the Divine Image, we have the capacity to love one another in the same way, through thick and thin – – even when we aren’t sure we like each other very much – even when we disagree about how things ought to be done, even when we hurt one another’s feelings.  Being Unconditional Love means being in our holy center where we do not get shaken by the dramas and ups and downs of our daily interactions – it means being Love even when we don’t feel particularly loving.

The older I get, the more I am convinced that life together in a church community is a kind of  practice room where we get to hear the wisdom for living that comes from our sacred texts -and we get to practice it with each other.  When we are able to witness one another’s lives and to be truly present with each other, when we are able to hone our skills at being Unconditional Love – when we practice enough together to become skilled at these attributes, we are trained and strengthened for our role in the world beyond.

Jesus came among us to show us what the master of these attributes might look like.  He Witnessed every part of human life as he lived it among us.  He was and is a Presence with a capital “P” in the lives of those who elect to follow him.   And he became the visible form of Unconditional Love on the cross as he offered forgiveness even to those who were in the process of extinguishing his life.

“You are to be a Witness, a Presence, and Unconditional Love” – these are profound marching orders for our life together in community as we head into the future.  May we be faithful in our practice together so that we may be a Witness, a Presence and Unconditional Love in a world that sorely needs us in its midst.  AMEN

“Call the Midwife” 6/11/17

“Call The MIdwife”

Isaiah 66: 7-9

Psalm 22:3-5; 9-10

Romans 8:19-27

June 10, 2017

Chilmark Community Church

Rev. Vicky Hanjian

One of my favorite programs is the PBS series “Call The Midwife”.   The drama is great. Every week there is the promise of a tension filled labor and delivery and the miracle of a live birth right in front of my eyes.   We witness the personal dramas of the nursing sisters and the midwives  as they  carry out their mission to provide safe childbirth in the poorest sections of town.  We are also included in the  significant issues of health care, racism, social justice, ethical dilemmas, internal conflicts in the midwifing community.  As each season unfolds, we watch the evolution of maternal and child health care as the show progresses through the 50s and early 60s.

Some of the scenes that have the greatest drama value are of the progress of labor at the point when the midwife is called.  The tension in the room builds as the mother reaches the transition phase of labor.   Much fun has been made of this phase of labor in situation comedies over the years. Stereotypically, transition is the time when the mother is near exhaustion with the labor. She is anxious. She is sure she will not ever deliver this child.  At times she says “I will not do this.  I want to go home!”  In really high drama, the mother wants nothing to do with the father who caused it all and just sits there not knowing what to do now. “Get him out of here!”  In reality, the transition is the last phase of labor, is fairly short compared to the earlier phases, and transition signals that birth is near.

Transition is just plain hard work.  The labor and delivery room are an apt metaphor for what happens when any life transition is set in motion. 

On the one hand, there is hope and expectation for whatever the new thing is that will come into being at the end of the process – but on the other hand – there is tension and anxiety – and a yearning for things to just go back to the way they were before the labor ever began. 

As a faith community, we are in transition.  The metaphors of labor and delivery are helpful for thinking about the work we will do together between now and July 1 when a new phase of life begins for our faith community.  It is a good  time to call upon the midwife!

The scriptures are full of midwifing images of God.  Isaiah offers one that speaks to the life and history of Israel.  After a number of verses addressing the suffering of Israel, Isaiah shifts to prophecies about Israel’s restoration and re-birth and describes the ease with which new birth takes place: “My holy city is like a woman who suddenly gives birth to a child without ever going into labor.  Has anyone ever seen or heard of such a thing? Has a nation ever been born in a day? Zion will not have to suffer long, before the nation is born. Do not think that I will bring my people to the point of birth and not let them be born.” The Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 66:7-9)

I take from these prophetic images that  God is involved with the life of Israel from the moment of conception – and there is never a time when God is not part of the process – continually working with Israel in order to bring about a satisfactory birth.  Even before the labor begins, the birth is already assured – because God has been in the picture, attending to the pregnancy all along. This is an image of God we can trust as we make our own transition.

In Psalm 22 the psalmist affirms Israel’s trust in a midwife-ing God: “… you are enthroned as the Holy One, the one whom Israel praises. Our ancestors put their trust in you;  they trusted you, and you saved them. They called to you and escaped from danger;  they trusted you and were not disappointed. It was you who brought me safely through birth, and when I was a baby, you kept me safe. I have relied on you since the day I was born,  and you have always been my God. (Psalm 22:3-5;9-10)

From the psalmist we can take assurance that as we move through  a time of transition to new pastoral leadership,  there is a Holy Presence in attendance – like a midwife – monitoring and guiding us toward a healthy delivery if you will.  It is the intention of the Holy One that we will be well and there will be a healthy outcome.  God will midwife this beloved church community into a healthy life on the other side of the transition

Even so, transition is not without its stress.  Transition is hard work.  In a normal labor, the contractions come more frequently and are much stronger.  Both mother and midwife are intensely engaged and focused. 

Life is full of transitions.  We might even say life IS transition because life is in a continual flow of change.  The death of a loved one sets in motion a life transition as those who mourn move into a new way of being in the absence of the loved one.  Transition  is vividly apparent  at this time of year as our kids of various ages prepare for their graduations and the inevitable transition to different schools, whether to high school or college.   Weddings signal a major transition from life as single persons to life in committed relationship.  June signifies the transition to the summer season when life changes for all of us as we anticipate what  we will need to navigate between now and the end of August.  The arrival of a new pastor precipitates a time of transition.  Transitions are stressful.

So, we must acknowledge that we are in a transition phase.  And just as with a pregnancy and labor and delivery, even though we knew it was coming, it is still a bit jarring to know that we are here – that the transition phase has begun and that something new is about to be born.

As we move through this time together, there has been an increase of attention needed in order to make the transition a smooth  one.  This engages all of us at one time or another at a variety of levels.  The SPRC has had more communication flying back and forth. A few unscheduled meetings had to 

be added to already full life schedules.  Contractual expectations between the congregation and the new pastor need to be stated and clarified.    The trustees have the parsonage preparation on their agenda.  Files in the office need to be current.  Anxieties need to be addressed.  A grieving process is in motion as we begin to mourn the passing of the way things have been.  Transitions are hard work.  Giving birth is called “labor” for a reason.

In an occasional episode of “Call The Midwife”, it is interesting to watch the shift in the behavior of the midwives as the transition phase begins.  Sometimes the midwives turn into cheer leaders – – “Come on – you can do it – breathe – push – One more good one and your baby will be here!!”   Midwife and mother become a team effort to get that baby into the world.   In other episodes, the midwife is the center of calm in the midst of the stormy emotions that often typify the transition phase when weariness and frustration and fear engulf the mother.  Calm reassurance becomes the midwife’s mode of operation in order to ease the mother into a successful delivery.

The prophetic understanding is that long before anything begins, God is there.  God witnesses and guides the process.  Isaiah intimates that because the Holy One is always a part of the process, that giving birth to new life begins long before the labor contractions start – -that all the work God does with us all along the way brings us to the point where we consciously begin to participate in the labor of birthing ourselves into the next chapter of life as a church family.

Sometimes transitions are challenging – in the birthing room a laboring mother can reach a point of exhaustion.  She may think she cannot see the birth through – it’s just too hard.  She may feel like she doesn’t have the  inner resources to get that baby into the world.  At times like this the midwife plays a critical role in supporting the mother, reassuring her, calming her – – reaching with her spirit into the mother’s anxiety.

Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome witnesses the way the Holy Spirit works as a midwife to bring our innermost longings to birth – and how important it is to the world – indeed, to all of creation that we trust in the power of God to attend to the safe birth and re-birth of the church: All of creation waits with eager longing for God to reveal the children of God.   For we know that up to the present time all of creation groans with pain, like the pain of childbirth.  But it is not just creation alone which groans; we who have the Spirit as the first of God’s gifts also groan within ourselves as we wait for God to make us God’s children and set our whole being free. For it was by hope that we were saved; but if we see what we hope for, then it is not really hope. For who of us hopes for something we see?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.    In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not even know how we ought to pray; the Spirit itself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express.  And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of God’s people and in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8:19-27)

The Holy Spirit becomes the midwife who assists us in bringing to birth the prayers, the  longings and hopes and desires that we may not be able to easily articulate without the assistance of the Holy Spirit in quiet prayer and discernment as we move along.  The Holy Spirit whom we celebrate on Pentecost is an invisible living reality in our midst who can be trusted, like a trusted midwife, to help us bring to birth a renewed life, a sense of adventure into a new unknown, a revitalized sense of who we are as a power for good in the community and in the world.

So as we move closer to the time of the end of our own transition phase, may we increasingly depend upon the wisdom and guidance and companionship and love of  the Great of Midwife – – and may we take our training from her as we learn to take our own place as midwives ourselves in a creation that waits on tiptoe, groaning in anticipation of our birth as Children of God.  14th Century mystic, Meister Eckhart wrote the “God never leaves the birthing room – her hands are always wet.”   May we enter into this transition with confidence knowing the midwife is on the way.   AMEN

“You Can Count On Him” 6/4/17

YOU CAN COUNT ON HIM

ACTS 9:10-31 CHILMARK COMMUNITY CHURCH JUNE 4, 2017

Rev. Armen Hanjian

What does one say to his congregation after years of connection and two years as a pastor here? After some thought I came to the conclusion my message should be simply this: Put your trust in Jesus. Base your whole life, your actions, your thoughts, your words, your relationships, your whole life around Jesus. You can trust your lives into his keeping. You can count on him.

It’s so hard to find people you can count on these days.” That is a statement I’ve often heard. The early church had people you could count on and this church has people you can count on.

Use your imagination for a moment and picture the walled city of Damascus. Paul is in the city, he who once persecuted the followers of Jesus, now made an about face and became a defender of the faith. His message was that Jesus was the hoped for Messiah. Some of the Jews were convinced Paul was right, some wondered, and some planned to take action to still this disruptive voice of Paul’s.

The friends of Paul sensed the danger and aided him in a night escape. Picture it. They put Paul in a basket and lowered him with a rope over the city wall and freed him to become the saint and missionary he became. We don’t know who they were up on that wall at the other end of that rope, but we know Paul could count on them.

What was the greatest thing about the early Christians? Not their wealth. Not their schooling. Not their social position. The greatest thing about the early Christians, the distinguishing characteristic was their fellowship. They were a brotherhood and a sisterhood who loved and trusted and served each other. “How these Christians love one another,” was the commentary made by the world in which they lived.

These Christians were like the ancient Teutonic tribe – they used to go into battle with the whole tribe roped together. When one member suffered all suffered, when one was victorious all rejoiced. Christianity was not launched by one St. Paul or by the twelve Disciples alone; it was launched and it has been sustained by a fellowship – persons who could count on each other.

Many of the friends of the Chilmark Community Church have recently said to Vicky and me, “Oh, you have done so much for this church.” Then they go on to say other kind things, but, you know, when you see a turtle on a stump, you know it didn’t get there by itself.

The richness of this church in the past year particularly, has been the fact that so many of us could count on each other. That faithfulness is like that which President Lincoln displayed when the fortunes of the Federal States were at their lowest in the Civil War. Lincoln was the target of all kinds of abuse. A friend said to him, “Why not resign and let them sink or swim?” To which Lincoln slowly replied, “ If I resign they perish.”

We care about one another, so we can count on one another. Sometimes this has meant work when we didn’t feel like work. The composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky one wrote this in his diary: Worked without any inspiration, but successfully.” Such fidelity to our life together out ranks inspiration among the marks of a Christian life.

The early Christian Church had people that could be counted on; this church has a growing number of people that can be counted on. The good news is that what they had and what we have is a Lord, a teacher, a leader, a friend, a Spirit that can be counted on.

I read of a poor women who earned her living by hard labor, but who was a joyous Christian. “Ah Nancy,” said a gloomy Christian lady to her one day, “It is well to be happy now; but suppose, for instance, you should have a spell of sickness, and be unable to work; or suppose your present employer should move away and no one should give you anything to do, or suppose….” “Stop!” cried Nancy. “I never suppose. The Lord is my Shepherd, and I shall not want. And you know dear, it is all those supposes that are making you so miserable. You had better give them all up and just trust the Lord.

Believers are always joyful, but who ever heard of a joyful supposer?”

Communion offers us the same chance to put our trust in another as did a guide in the Alps that saw this timid, fearful soul hesitate at a demanding point in the climb.

The guide bent down, braced himself and said, Take it!

That hand has never lost a man!”

My message to you is simply this: Put your trust in Jesus. You can count on him. That hand has never lost a man or a woman in 2000 years.

Blessing of the Fleet 5/28/17

BLESSING OF THE FLEET

Menemsha Harbor

Chilmark Community Church

May 28, 2017

Rev. Vicky Hanjian

This morning we have gathered for a blessing of the fleet. It might be good to pause for a moment and ask ourselves why do we do this? What good does it do to leave our comfort zones early on a Sunday morning to come to the water’s edge and go through this ritual that happens ot sea coast and river edge harbors at different times of the year all over the country.

Do we bless the fleet because that’s what we’re supposed to do? Because it has become something habitual that we do every year? Or does it have meaning beyond tradition? What does it mean when we bless something anyway? What does it mean when we invoke God’s blessing on someone or something?

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3 NRSV)

This reading from Genesis begins to tell us what blessing is about. Most obviously, blessing is the opposite of cursing. While cursing invokes energies and emotions that separate people from one another, blessing sets in motion the energy of relationship. Blessing puts in place the foundation upon which love and concern and friendship may be built.

Abraham and his clan traveled on land. The tempests and storms they faced had more to do with encountering other people, other clans, strangers, and potential enemies, than they did with encountering storms or enemies on the sea. Still, the challenge of blessing fell upon him and his family. Essentially, God said “I will bless you….so that you will be a blessing.”

So – the act of blessing is a divine and human thing. We receive the blessing of God so that we might also become a source of blessing for others – a force for good, a force for healing, a force for reconciliation and well being.

On this Memorial Day weekend we honor and remember lives spent and lost in the service of protecting all that we are privileged to enjoy in this country. We also take time to remember all the ways we are served and blessed by women and men who spend much of their lives on the water. On this occasion of blessing the myriad vessels that sail in our waters, it is well for us to remember the power that we have to unleash goodness – to affect relationships in a positive way – to create a more harmonious world.

To invoke a blessing is essentially an act of gratitude. When we bless, it is hard to carry forward grudging or negative feelings toward the object of our blessing. To bless opens the way for the flow of lovingkindness, compassion, hospitality and grace. In the ancient story, our ancestors are called not only to bless – – but also the BE a blessing. The very way that they carry themselves in the world is to BE a blessing.

So why do we bless the fleet? Surely to invite the safety and well being of all who make their living on the water; definitely to honor all who serve to protect our shores; and certainly to care for all who find rest and relaxation and re-creation on the water.

But invoking a blessing does more than that. When we bless, we open channels of grace – – we become channels of grace – – and our own lives become larger and more generous. We actually become a blessing in our own persons.

So may we offer our prayers and our songs together this morning in the service of an ancient affirmation that we are indeed blessed in order to be a blessing to others and may grace flow in abundance toward all whom we bless this day. AMEN