Esther 7

Mark 9: 38-50

            Who are you? No, who are you really? How do you want people to remember you? Do you define yourself by your age? By your accomplishments? By your family? By significant experiences in your life? At one point, I came to recognize that from the time we get working papers, until we die, we describe ourselves in 1-3 page Resumes, as Pastors a 14 page PIF. Then because our family have to pay per letter, they reduce who we are to an obituary; lifted up verbally in a 30 to 60 minute memorial. After which, our entire existence, who we are, is reduced to “The Dash” between our date of birth/death on headstones, a begat in Genealogies. 

When our youngest son was on the Wrestling Team, I remember Coach Dick Campbell and Coach Tim Green describing that who you are is part of “This Team,” within the church we call that “The Body of Christ.” They described that in wrestling you can get points for showing up, for taking someone else down, for breaking a hold, for a pin, but the most points are awarded for a Reversal, when you surprise everyone, because you had been held down in a hold and you reversed everything. Being true to who we are when life reverses is what our readings are about.

Read more: "Who Are You?" September 30, 2018

Psalm 31: 10-31

Mark 9: 30-37

A close friend described to me the other day, that all other people ever see of us is this little bit. We live in fear, hiding what is really going on behind 4 letter words like: FINE, OKAY, GOOD. We encounter so many people every day, if we actually knew what each were thinking, the fears of one another, if we did not have filters on what we see and what we hear, we would be overwhelmed. So we witness and know only this little bit about our families, colleagues, neighbors, friends. In a world where there are cameras on computers, in elevators, in traffic lights, we try in vain to control what others know about us. Christianity is unique from other religions, which focus on Atonement, Morality, Reincarnation; Christianity’s goal in this life and in life ever-lasting is Absolute Communion, not simply the elements of Bread and Wine, but letting down our guard, openly sharing our thoughts and desires, trusting we will be accepted and loved. We seek forgiveness, we confess our sins, in order that we not inflict our imperfections and dirt on one another. But to be one with God, in harmony with life and everyone in it, what greater goal could there be?

A year ago, our Wednesday evening Bible Study group read the book of Proverbs. The difficulty is that this is not a narrative like the Torah and Gospels, not the Visions of a Prophet, not a Letter from an old friend. Proverbs are just that, very brief wisdom sayings, that offer meaning to life. We imagined the thousands of years of life farming, where you would take one proverb as you went out into the world for the day, and repeat it over and over, working on that thought like a prayer all day long.

There is also a tradition that the Book of Proverbs are the teachings of a royal couple, a King and Queen to their child coming of age, imparting wisdom about God and Life; Here, about what he should look for in a partner.

A difficulty of language, is that in Hebrew the word for WOMAN is the word WIFE because every Wife happens to be a WOMAN, but not every woman is a wife.  Orthodox Judaism requires that you are Jewish only if your mother was Jewish. Religion is not something in your DNA, but imparted in small doses in the foods we eat, the songs we sing, the prayers we learn, the stories we were taught before anything else. I had a friend who was an old Rabbi, who described that every Sabbath beginning at sundown Friday, the woman of the house lit the candles and served a sacred meal, during which the family pray to recall that God is God, not us. God is the maker of the Universe, and Ultimate ruler of our lives. And in recognition of the woman of the house, the father at the table, recites Proverb 31, ending by speaking directly to his wife in thanksgiving for her, and to do so every week.

While this little Gem is among the best known of all proverbs, what intrigues me in this, is that the Woman is far more than a Stepford Wife on Steroids. Proverbs 31 does not mention her looks. Is she comely, voluptuous, what my father used to call Zoftik, does she have the Piercing eyes of Rachel or the Soft eyes of Leah, blonde, brunet, redhead, young or seasoned? Instead, the reader describes her character, this is a woman who can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan! However, an unexpected quality of her is what in Hebrew is named “CHAYIL”, some translate this as VALIANT, some as FAITHFULLY HONEST, some as COURAGEOUS, when the literal Hebrew meaning is: POSSESSING The STRENGTH OF A WARRIOR. But what sets her apart from all others and makes her who she is, is that she knows and fears only one thing: the Lord.

Read more: "Fear and Vulnerability" Sept 23 2018

2nd Samuel 9: 1-3

John 6: 1-21

            Several years ago there was a book about Simple Acts of Kindness. A week ago, we had the burial of a good friend up in Alexandria Bay. Although the family had been intentional that they wanted me to ride with them, at the appointed hour I was standing out in the Church Parking Lot, all alone. Realizing I kind of needed to be there for the burial to take place, I hopped into my Mini Cooper and drove the 2 ½ hours to Alex Bay. But when I typed into the GPS “Cemetery”, the technology claimed there was none. I phoned the Funeral Director, who laughed when he realized they forgot to pick me up; then directed that the Cemetery was actually on one of the Thousand Islands in Canada, and not only did I need $3 for the Bridge but they would not accept EZPass! I stopped into a Motor Court and described who I was and my problem to the 15 year old Desk Clerk, asking if she could give me a Cash Advance on my VISA Card. Instead, she opened her own purse gaving me 6 -$1 bills. A simple act of kindness. When I returned home, I sent her $12 in repayment.

This morning’s Scriptures are about more than a Simple Act of Kindness, Beyond our Conceiving, this is “Amazing Grace”, which is so much greater than our imagination, so great as to transform our lives and relationships!

You will recall that the First King of Israel was a Warrior named Saul, and Saul had a son named Jonathan. The Shepherd boy David who had killed the Philistine Goliath came to live in the palace as best friends with Jonathan. But Saul turned away from God, thinking only of his own power. Saul then tried to kill David who escaped, and the Nation entered into conflict as those who followed Saul fought against those who followed David. In the end, Saul and Jonathan were killed at a place called Jezreel, and David became King. The last many weeks we have read of King David taking Jerusalem as his Capital, building a Palace there, wanting to build a House for God, bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.

This morning, David the King demonstrates an act of Faith, a measure of Grace far beyond our concept of Kindness. As the King of Jerusalem, this act of grace demonstrates the grace of God for us. Realize that American heritage of succession is unique, for throughout history, when Kings arise, they not only kill their predecessor, they shame and destroy all those related to their opponent who might in a future day become a threat. BEHOLD, David was Living as King and asks if anyone remembers if Saul’s son Jonathan had children? Ziba the Servant describes that Jonathan did have a son named Mephibosheth and where he was hiding.

Years before, when the child was five years of age, word came that Saul and Jonathan were trapped and killed. In a rush to escape, the child’s Nurse bundled up the child, and tripped and fell, the nurse’s own body crushing the legs of the child. So now the child was a triple threat, he was the surviving descendant of a competitor; he was abandoned in hiding; and his legs were crushed. Imagine living 15 years in hiding, always in fear for your life, always in shame, staying out of the light… One day, you hear the trumpet blasts of an advancing guard of soldiers. On the horizon you see pennants, horses of the King, as they advance closer and closer. You have to get away, you have to hide, or be put to death. Suddenly there is a pounding on the door. You are dragged out from under your bed; dragged where you do not want to be found, brought to the King’s Palace. Brought inside, to the Court of the King, and made to prostrate yourself before the throne of the very One who took the place of your Father. The only words you can manage are to ask what the King desires with a Dead Dog? He has had everything taken away, living for years in shame and hiding.

Read more: July 29, 2018 "Grace Beyond Our Conceiving"

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The First Presbyterian Church of Skaneateles is the oldest congregation in the village. It was organized July 20, 1801, by the Rev. Aaron Bascom, who ...

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Presbyterian Church (USA)97 East Genesee Street
Skaneateles, NY 13152 / Directions
Phone: (315) 685-5048 / Email Us
Worship @ 9:30am every Sunday