Stephentown Federated Church




Pastor's Sermons

Sermon for April 17, 2011 - Two for the Price of One!

Last Wednesday, I had the honor of celebrating Eucharist with a loving, searching group of friends. I had decided to discuss the same Gospel (the raising of Lazarus) with them as I had preached on the previous Sunday, so did not post that sermon. Since some of them read these sermons, I wanted it to be fresh for them. I wanted to hear what the group said, and learn more (as I always do.)

I was not disappointed. At SFC, the focus was on Jesus' command to Lazarus' community to "unbind him." We talked about how God provides love and grace through the community, and it is in that milieu that we are healed and set free. We each took a strip of cloth, wrapped it around our hands and named it. Some named the bond "fear." Some named it "anger," etc. Then, as a Sign of Peace, we went to each other, said "You are free!" and unwound the cloth a bit. By the end, the bonds were loosed.

With the intentional community, the discussion centered a lot around institutional church and the uncomfortable restrictions which that creates. However, the people quickly began to speak of the loving bond they have with one another. We talked about "good" bonds as well as harmful ones. It became clear that this community takes its calling seriously and to heart, and that they provide a constant and holy, freeing Presence for one another.

So the lesson is: If something binding us makes us feel un-free, then the community as Body of Christ can free us. If a bond brings us closer to God's love, then it is a holy bond.

I feel blessed that every time I teach, I learn much more.

This week at SFC, we celebrated Palm/Passion Sunday in word, music and dance. We heard stories from the Passion of the Christ which centered on the emotions of the Passion. The elation of the people, heralding Jesus as the Messiah, the fear of Judas and the High Priest, the conflicted feelings of Pilate and his wife, wanting to trust intuition, of the women at the cross and the women of Jerusalam who were weeping.

All reacted to their emotions, and in many cases fear won, as with Peter and the other disciples running away. For others, their love won out, as the women and Joseph of Arimathea. What made the difference?

Grace, certainly. Also, acknowledging their pain, being with it and holding fast to the promise of more, of new life, carried them through.

We were blessed to have Chris and Ruth with us from Journey Dance, and they expressed wordlessly, beautifully, the "Passion of the Mother".... the agony of Mary and the other women who suffered with Jesus, and were brought to the exultation of Easter. Later, after a time of breakfast and fellowship, Chris and Ruth held a complimentary class for a group who stayed to experience a new way of Body Prayer. We were blessed by it all. (And I thank my steadfast friend Robert Sykes, who funded this gorgeous experience for us.)

Well, I guess this is not really a sermon.... it is simply witness to the exquisite grace, blessing, healing, creativity and wisdom that is held in the hearts of our communities. As we walk with one another through pain, joy, death and resurrection, we can say as one: "Alleluia!

A blessed Holy Week to you all. Susan