Pentecost 25 – Baptism, End of World War I, Heifer Project

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Title:Pentecost 25 – Baptism, End of World War I, Heifer Project

 Pentecost 25, Nov. 11 2018 (full size gallery)

A diverse Sunday – A remembrance at the end of World War I, a baptism, the beginning of the Heifer Project. And a beautiful fall day with a bite in the air and leaves crunching under your feet. We had 49 on hand for this Sunday.

We tolled our Meneely Bell bell and sang “God of our Fathers” at the beginning of the service as the war ended at 11am, on Nov 1918 exactly a 100 years earlier. The belfry was restored in 2010.

Tragically on that last day of the war along the Meuse River the war kept ongoing even hours before the armistice was set to begin and there were 11000 casualties. 23-year-old American private named Henry Gunther was single-handedly charging an enemy machine gun nest and was the last to die a minute before 11am.

World War I was called the “Great War”. It was known as the “War to End all Wars” but didn’t and succeeding wars were worse so that “Great” is a misnomer. WWI  casualties were 40 million and WWII was 50% higher.  People did not all die the bullet but other horrors – gas and pneumonia. People suffered at home not knowing their fate of their loved ones.  Here is an appropriate prayer

Jesus, remember them when you come into your kingdom.

“Father of all, remember your mercy, and look with your healing love on all your people, living and departed. On this day we especially ask that you would hold for ever all who suffered during the First World War, those who returned scarred by warfare, those who waited anxiously at home, and those who returned wounded, and disillusioned; those who mourned, and those communities that were diminished and suffered loss. Remember too those who acted with kindly compassion, those who bravely risked their own lives for their comrades, and those who in the aftermath of war, worked tirelessly for a more peaceful world. And as you remember them, remember us, O Lord; grant us peace in our time and a longing for the day when people of every language, race, and nation will be brought into the unity of Christ’s kingdom. This we ask in the name of the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

We held the Baptism Everett Huffman, the son of Andrew and Felicia Huffman.  It represents the time when God adopts us as His children and we become part of the church. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit in baptism, one is born anew and is fully initiated into the Body of Christ, the Church. We have an  entire baptism page with other thoughts.

We also began the Heifer Project  as part of the Season of Giving. Heifer is all about ending hunger and poverty.  They work in agricultural economies worldwide. “We teach people how to use environmentally-friendly farming methods, create and operate businesses, and support their communities with their knowledge” They help find access to markets and work with women to develop leadership skills. Melanie Kapinos from that organization brought giving Banks and calendars to have fun giving over the next month filling their banks while helping their programs. We received our first box today.

The sermon was unique. “And today is all about being all in. So, with the help of your imaginations, I want to check in with several people who are all in.” During the sermon Catherine used props and dressed as the widow of Zarephath, scribes 2,000 year ago, the Widows Mite, her grandfather William Delbridge a veteran of World War I, and Don West founder of the Heifer Project. She also acknowledged the Huffmans for having their son baptized. Fianlly, “Jesus, From Before Time and Forever”. “Jesus, Son of God, lived and died as one of us. Jesus brought the kingdom of God near by caring for the sick, the demon possessed, the hungry, those whose souls were empty and longed to be filled. He wanted the people to remember his Father was full of compassion, mercy and love, so they could love God and one another as God loves each one of us, mercifully, and without exception.”

Today’s readings challenge us to offer everything to God and to celebrate the fact that God similarly offers everything to us. In the story of Elijah and the widow, from 1 Kings (Track 2), God honors the sacrifice and faith of the woman with abundant oil and flour. The author of Hebrews assures us that Christ not only came to remove sin, but now, in God’s presence, intercedes on our behalf. In today’s gospel, Jesus praises the generous devotion of a homeless, penniless woman.

The reading from Elijah concert concerns a prophet addressed the northern kingdom, Israel, in the middle of the ninth century BCE and challenged those who worshipped Canaanite divinities. Today’s story demonstrates God’s special care for the prophet. Through divine guidance, Elijah finds a woman of faith, as evidenced by her obedience to the prophet. Though she is not an Israelite, and therefore not a member of the covenant people, she receives the benefits of the covenant through her faith. She becomes a living rebuke to the faithless Israelites, and she receives the commendation of Jesus.

The psalm calls for an unwavering trust in the Lord’s goodness, power and sovereign reign in the midst of outwardly dark and painful conditions. As the psalmist in this reading exhorts himself, he exhorts his readers to praise God with their whole beings.

The readings from Hebrews superiority of Jesus’ sacrificial work to that of the Jewish high priest’s. Jesus’ work excels the other work by where, when and how it takes place. It is presented in the presence of God, not in an earthly temple. It is not made repeatedly but “once for all at the end of the age” (v. 26). His offering is definitive and unique, as final as death. And his offering is himself, not the “blood of goats and calves” (9:12). His continuing work is not a continual self-offering but the continual representation of and intercession for humanity.

This reading from the Gospel ends the series of Jerusalem controversy stories that conclude Jesus’ public teaching. Although Jesus related positively to some scribes or scripture scholars, today’s sayings indicate his inevitable breach with their general approach. This reaction was especially significant in the light of the clash of the early Church with a Judaism grown defensive after the fall of the temple. Hypocrisy and oppression among the scribes will “receive the greater condemnation” (v. 40) since they should know better.

The sayings are linked to the story following—that of the widow and her gift—by the word widow (vv. 40, 42). Her self-giving is also a comment on the self-serving of the scribes. The widow gives out of her need rather than out of her surplus, offering her emptiness to God—an emptiness that indicates her capacity to be filled.

At the time Jesus leveled his criticism, the scribes, because of their reputation for piety, administered the estates of widows. Their compensation was a percentage of the assets, which led to widespread abuse and embezzlement. Rather than the traditional protection Elijah extended to the widow and orphan, the system exploited them. Theologian Ched Myers concludes in Binding the Strong Man, “The temple has robbed this woman of her very means of livelihood…As if in disgust, Jesus ‘exits’ the temple—for the final time.”