Sunday, 30 September 2018
Amy L. Na
Art and bacon
Esther 7.1So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. 2 On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” 3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. 4 For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.” 5 Then King Ahasuerus ( aa, hash, yoo, er, uhs) said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?” 6 Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.
Mark 9.38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
James 5.13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.
19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Good morning again to you all.
I’d like to offer a special welcome to all the visitors here. I bet you’re wondering how I know who is visiting– well, some of the visitors today are members of my family. You see, I grew up down the street, Neshaminy-Warwick was my home church. I am the oldest of 5 and 2 of my sisters and my parents live in Chalfont and another sister lives in Doylestown. So, being here is new and at the same time, a little bit like coming home. My children have only ever visited Bucks County, and 2/ 3 are here this morning- surely visiting.
I just want to say a few things. First of all- I talk fast. And I’m nervous. And when I’m nervous, I talk faster.
Sometimes I talk fast and loud. That’s when I’m excited. And today- I’m excited and nervous- about this new beginning for us all.
So, we have all of the above factors involved in today’s service- so bear with me, please. And thank you.
Thank you for a beautiful new kitchen.
Thank you for calling me to serve as your supply pastor.
Thank you for the wonderful church bells that ring- sometimes 3x a day.
Thank you for the opportunity and the privilege of leading worship today.
I suspect that there is much to discover about each other and we have time. Before long, we’ll know who’s who and what’s what. For now, let’s continue to worship God by delving into his holy word.
I’m a lectionary preacher- mostly. Sometimes I deviate, but for today, I’d like us to consider the beautiful and varied texts for God’s people on the 30th of September.
We have a selection from the book of Esther. One of two books named for women in the Bible. Esther’s is a great story about loyalty and location- that is being in the right place at the right time.
Esther’s story is …familiar? She is chosen to be the new queen because of her beauty. Once the kingdom is her home, her uncle nags her to speak up for the Jews, their people, mainly because the king’s primary servant is opposed to Jews and he’s always looking for a way to get rid of them. There is a complicated protocol to appear before the king- even for the queen. Uncle Mordecai pleads with Esther to speak to her husband.
In today’s selected text, Esther appeals to her new husband, the king, on behalf of the Jewish people. The king’s right-hand-man, Haaman, is trying to rid the kingdom of them. But Esther intercedes for her people and the king spares the Jews and punishes Haaman instead.
Esther was loyal at an inconvenient time and being the queen didn’t hurt her people’s cause. But she still had to DO something. She had to speak up. She had to speak out. She had to get out of her comfort zone -all for the purposes of helping someone else and in order to do the right thing.
Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone, and I out of mine. We could fail. Or we could succeed. We may not know what can happen, or what we can accomplish or achieve — if we don’t ask. If we don’t risk the unknown, if we don’t try– we may never know what could happen.
When I studied about Esther this week- I thought of you and me.
Esther reminds us to be courageous.
And how we’re courageous and speaking out- with hope to each other.
You’re saying, hey, come and be part of Ivyland Church.
And I’m saying, hi, I’d like to be part of Ivyland Church.
Courage all around.
The text from Mark, our gospel lesson, is complicated and part of a complicated chapter of conversations between Jesus and his disciples. Today’s text comes from the same chapter where Mark records Jesus’ transfiguration, where Jesus foretells of his upcoming death and resurrection, where the disciples debate who exactly is the greatest and today’s text that begins with the disciples telling on some do-gooder in the community who has exercised a demon in Jesus’ name.
Commentators and Bible scholars offer a wide variety of explanations when explaining the significance of this text. Perhaps the most important take-away for us this morning is the notion of more than one kind of disciple doing good in Jesus’ name.
That’s the way it is, isn’t it, in this life of faith of ours? We often think that our way of service, our way of doing things is THE way, the only way, the gospel wayof God. And yet, that’s not always true.
There are many who do good in Jesus’ name with whom we might disagree on many things- politics and social issues, personal taste and assorted preferences. And yet, we can, each of us, in our own way, do some good for the kingdom.
That is more or less what Jesus says to his disciples when they tattle-tale on some other local guy or girl. It’s okay, Jesus tells the disciples, if he is not against us, then she is for us. Even if someone gives you a cup of water because of me, that person is A-OK in my book, Jesus seems to say. He or she will not lose the rewards of the kingdom!
That’s a good reminder for us all- in this world of personal offenses and highly sensitive lines drawn in the political and social scenes that we frequent either on-line or in person.
The truth is– there are those among us and around us, here and outside, that do good, and they do good for the kingdom of God and in the name of Jesus Christ, and we may disagree with their politics, but when we read this text, we must recall their faith and how it’s acceptable to Jesus, the same God we serve.
Wherever we are, with all God’s children, let Jesus be a uniting– not a dividing factor – for us.
When I studied Mark this week, I thought of you and me.
Mark reminds us that despite our differences, we can work together for the kingdom.
And finally, the James’ text is worthy of a few more thoughts today. James as a NT book has long been criticized since Martin Luther days of being a book that focuses on works and not faith. Others have said that it is too much about personal responsibility.
At first glance, the James’ text is a laundry list of good things to do in church.
Yes, that’s true. But there are some particular bits of advice that are especially appropriate for us.
There is a beauty and a simplicity to James’ words. Chapter 5 is about community- it’s about life together. It’s a laundry list of suggestions and advice on how to be the people of God in the world.
Pray for each other.
Confess your sins.
Visit the sick.
Invite someone back who has strayed away from church.
Beautiful words, timely advice.
James doesn’t fool around or mince words. No sympathetic nods or clucking of the tongue over another’s troubles. James tells the church to get involved. Pray. Go visit. Be accountable. Invite them into conversation and even back into the fellowship.
When I studied James this week, I thought of you and me.
James reminds us to be intentional, to be thoughtful, careful, prayerful about our life together here in church.
These are a few “impressions” I had from the texts.
I’ve had some early “impressions” of Ivyland too!
Friends, when I arrived here in Ivyland a few weeks ago, I began to unpack my boxes and to explore the area.
One of the first things I noticed about the church- in every hall, in almost every room, there is art work. There are paint smocks hanging on hooks and all kinds of supplies. Some have names and prices, other pieces are just on display. Some of the subjects are missionaries, nature, landscapes, others are Amish.
There is something lovely and uplifting being surrounded by all these colors and intimate expressions of human experience in God’s world. The artists are courageous sharing themselves with any viewer.
I wander through the small space, packed with art and I marvel at the courage of the artists and the beauty of their sharing.
Many artists worked together to make beautiful hallways and this community comes together, with all its glorious, colorful variety to praise God.
And I’m thrilled to be part of it.
And then one Saturday, I came over, and the Fellowship Hall and the office and the hallway smelled like bacon. Glorious, healthy bacon. I couldn’t figure it out- until Connie, the flower lady, came to deliver the flowers and she told me, oh- it’s probably the men’s breakfast!
Aha! I’m sure it was. Let me tell you, I could not see the art that day, I could only smell the bacon!
Bacon is a family tradition in the Na household. How many slices, is the regular Saturday question. On the Saturdays when my husband isn’t here- he texts me and sends me pictures of bacon!!
So then, new Ivyland friends, what I’d like to say to you today is this-
You are courageous like Esther, and you’ve invited me in too.
You are open like Jesus wanted his disciples to be in Mark’s gospel. You are willing to work alongside another disciple whom you might discover has different opinions. And yet together, we might just be able to proclaim our Lord!
And finally, I can see that you- like I am- you are intentional. You do things with gusto- your art and your bacon echo throughout the halls and in every room.
So let’s be intentional about our Christian life- together!
Together, these gifts of art and bacon- and so much more- make up the Ivyland Presbyterian Church.
A place of courage.
A place where disciples of all stripes work side by side for the kingdom
A place were faithful life together is pursued in worship, in fellowship,
Whether we’re eating or painting, my prayer for us, in all our diversity, is that we pledge to worship God with our whole hearts.
May these scriptures change our lives, encourage our faith and bind us together in God’s kingdom. Amen.