One of the greatest skills to develop in our spiritual maturity is deepening the experience and practice of empathy in our lives. Catholic writer Henry Nouwen wrote in his book on Solitude, “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” Our scripture portion from the Gospel of Mark illustrates the complete opposite, where power politics put into action a brutal and shocking plan of revenge. Join us as we wrestle with these two competing visions of how to use our influence in the world.
This Sunday, we continue our summer theme of gratitude looking at Mark 5:22-43 and the interweaving of two critical healing stories in Jesus' earthly ministry. Each story speaks of the tension between waiting and deliverance as we seek to practice our faith with both persistence and patience. We will also celebrate communion in each service. May our gathering renew our purpose and commitment as God's people: learning in grace, serving in love, waiting in hope and welcoming in joy all that God has in store for us.
Our summer theme of gratitude continues this Sunday as we ponder the challenge of thankfulness during difficult and stressful times. Looking at the story of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4:35 and following, we too will seek after his presence during the troubles and disruptions of our lives. We will also incorporate our strong advocacy for the full and equal welcome and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in the 11 a.m. service in preparation for Pride on June 30th. When things grow difficult and appear ominous may we seek and discover the peace of Christ who guides us through the storm.
All great things start out small. An idea, a piece of fruit, or a human being all begin as minuscule constructions of what they will eventually produce. The sermon by Dr. Mark Johnson underscores the giving of thanks. What often is viewed as a small and seemingly insignificant gesture, can be the beginning of something great, with power not in the mere thought to offer thanks, but in the tangible act of literally doing it. This week, we hear again Jesus teaching about the mustard seed. Our hope lies not only in the big things, but in all the small steps we take along the way.
This Sunday, we continue our reflections upon the importance of gratitude as we listen anew to this peculiar story from our Gospel lesson. Amazingly, while Jesus is going about doing good, he is actually accused of being an agent, not of goodness but of evil. Even during the earthly ministry of our LORD, things got all twisted around. Doing good and trying to be good in the midst of the doing of it has never been easy. Jesus faced many of the same obstacles that still challenge us today. This Sunday, we question the foundation upon which we are building our lives. Is the expression of our lives rooted in generosity, kindness, gratitude or love? Or are there weeds in the garden of our soul, weeds of jealously, fear and division? Take another step with us this summer on the gratitude journey.
We kicked off the summer with an emphasis on deepening the practice gratitude into our lives. This sermon by Dr. Mark Johnson encourages this path toward grace and gratitude lived in thankful participation and relationship with God's eternal love expressed as the One who gives, sustains and redeems our lives.