Friday, September 28, 2012

Keep the Lid On

Sunday, September 30, 2012
Proper 21B
Psalm 19:14
Prop: A Jar of Glitter

Good morning, everyone!  I have something pretty to show you this morning.  It's an old-fashioned jar of glitter.  Isn't it pretty?  This is the kind of glitter people used before
there were glitter glue or glitter pens.  Let me pour a little in my hand, and you can see how much it sparkles in the light.  Look at that!  Glitter gives pictures you color and arts and crafts projects extra pizazz, doesn't it? 

With this glitter, you put plain white glue where you want the sparkles, sprinkle the glitter on the glue, then shake off the extra.  Even if you put newspaper on the table, with all the sprinkling and the shaking, the glitter gets everywhere--on your clothes, on the floor, sometimes even in your hair!  In fact, once you take this glitter out of the jar, it is impossible to get it all back into the jar again.  (Put glitter back in the jar.)  See that?  Some stuck to my hand and a little fell on the floor.  I'll have to vacuum that up later.

Words are a lot like glitter.  Once we say them, we cannot unsay them.  We cannot "put them back in the jar," as if they've never been said.  If we say something mean to another person, we can apologize.  We can say, "I'm sorry," or "I was only kidding."  We can try to make up for our unkind words by being extra nice to the person, but we can never unsay them.  Those unkind words may be remembered for a long, long time.

The Bible talks about how damaging our words can be, and how important it is to tame our tongues so that words that we will regret saying never get said at all.  For example, let's say you're in Sunday School, and the teacher asks a boy named Billy a question about the story, and Billy gives a wrong answer.  The first thought that pops into Suzie's mind may be, "That was a really stupid answer, Billy!"  Should Suzie say that out loud for Billy and everyone else to hear?  Is that an important thing for others to know--that Suzie thinks Billy's answer is stupid?  Is it helpful?  Is it kind?  No, no, no, right?  So that is one thought that should never be said out loud--it should be kept in the jar.

The Bible teaches us that not only our words, but our thoughts as well should all be acceptable to God.  This is a challenging idea--one that most of us work on our whole lives.

King David talks about this idea in one of the Psalms he wrote.  I'd like us to say that Psalm together as our prayer this morning.  Please repeat after me.

Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock
and my redeemer.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Top of the Hill

King of the Hill
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Proper 20B
Mark 9:30-37

Good morning, boys & girls!  There is an old-fashioned game called King of the Hill.  Maybe you've played it before.  One person, the king or queen, stands at the top of a hill.  All of the other players wait all around the bottom of the hill.  At the word "Go!" all of the players at the bottom of the hill start working their way to the top.  Whoever is able to push the king off the top of the hill and takes his or her place first wins the game and is king or queen for the next round.

One day, Jesus and his disciples were walking through Galilee.  They stopped at Capernaum and went to a friend's house.  Once there, Jesus asked his friends what they were arguing about on the road.  Now, the disciples were embarrassed to answer, because they had been bickering about which of them was the greatest.  They knew Jesus wouldn't like them discussing such a selfish topic.  They didn't tell him, but still Jesus knew what the subject of their argument was.  He told them,  “'So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.'

36-37" He put a child in the middle of the room. Then, cradling the little one in his arms, he said, “Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me, and far more than me—God who sent me.'"  The Message

In other words, those who fight and claw their way to to the top, pushing others out of the way so that they can be in first position will be last in the Kingdom of God.  God rewards those who care about and take care of others, especially others who need help the most.

Let's pray.  Dear God, thank-you for giving us people in our lives to take care of us.  May we also show your love by being kind and helpful to others.  In Jesus' name, Amen

Friday, September 7, 2012

Following the Way

Following The Way
Ordinary 23B
Mark 7:31-37

Good morning, everyone!  (I hope you all enjoyed your summer vacation!)  Today, I want to tell you a story about a group of people from Pennsylvania.  Each year, they take a week of their vacation time and travel 3,450 miles to San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  They don't go to Honduras to relax on the beach or pleasure camp in the mountains.  They go to Honduras to help other people.

These dedicated volunteers have named their group Operation Honduras.  Their first trip was fifteen years ago, in 1997, before any of you were born.  They flew to San Pedro Sula and fixed up the kitchen at the Emmanuel Children's Home--a home for children without parents.

The Operation Honduras volunteers put new ceilings, walls and doors in the home.  They built two bathrooms and showers.  And in the kitchen, where there was just a dirt floor, they poured a clean, new concrete floor. 

While they were there, Jim, the leader of Operation Honduras, asked the director of the home if there were any children who had medical needs that weren't being met.  The director introduced Jim to Brenda, an 8-year-old girl who couldn't hear.

Brenda was given a hearing test, and two hearing aids were made for her so that she could hear!  Brenda was the first patient tested and fitted for hearing aids by Operation Honduras volunteers.  The next year, the group returned to build more renovations at Emmanuel, and there were 10 children waiting for them--all needing hearing aids with no way to pay for them.

To date, now 15 years later, Operation Honduras, with the help of the Starkey Foundation, has tested and fitted 5,106 children with hearing aids in Honduras.  All of these children have been given the gift of hearing because a few people in Pennsylvania love Jesus and believe that as His followers, it is their job to help others.  They give their time, their money, their talent and their love to the children of Honduras.  And they feel blessed for the priviledge.

One time, Jesus was traveling in a region called Decapolis.  People brought a deaf man--a man who couldn't hear--to him and begged for his help.  Long story short, Jesus healed the man and the man and his friends were astonished!

Jesus calls all Christians to carry on his work of caring for people.  There are many ways to do this.  Some people travel the world, providing hearing aids to those who need but cannot afford them.  Some people donate money and supplies that help make that work possible.  All of us can choose to be friendly and kind to people we meet who may be differently abled.  Maybe you know someone who has trouble hearing, or seeing, or walking.  Maybe you know someone who has special challenges that make daily living more difficult than most.  These folks don't need to be stared at or teased or ignored.  They need friendship and love, just like the rest of us.  We can do that, right?  We can make it our mission to be friends.  Good.

Let's Pray.  Dear God, we thank you for the dedication and work of the Operation Honduras volunteers and so many like them throughout the Church.  Help us to do what we can to continue Christ's mission of loving care and friendship.  Amen.

Operation Honduras and the Starkey Foundation only donate hearing aids where follow-up care, such as battery replacement and needed therapies are available.  Please check out their website for further information.