Peace be with you

Readings: Act 4:32-35 and John 20:19-31

Sunday, April 11

By Rev. Marguerite Sheehan


There is so much going on in both of these readings today and so much going on in our lives that it is hard to find a starting place for reflection. . .until we stop and listen to what Jesus says three times: “Peace be with you. Peace be with you. Peace be with you.”

Thank you, Jesus, for being the peace that surpasses all understanding. Thank you for guarding and strengthening our hearts and being with us even when we are less than peaceful.


The disciples were less than peaceful. In fact, they were scared to death. Jesus had just been crucified. Word was out that he had resurrected and was on the loose. His closest friends were afraid that the regime that killed Jesus would come after them. All of them except Thomas were huddled behind closed doors. We don’t know why Thomas was not there the first time. Maybe he was a bit braver than the others and was walking around on the streets. Maybe he was huddled at home. So much we don’t know.


We don’t know the depths of each other’s lives. Some of us are still closed up at home during this pandemic. Some of us are venturing out with cautions after getting vaccinated. In our Easter sunrise service we offered prayers of lament for those who died from the virus and prayers of hope for the vaccines becoming more available. Outdoors in the field, with joy at seeing each other making us giddy, a Spirit rose up in us and for us. We wanted to reach out a hand or give a kiss of peace, but we did not, because we are still rightfully cautious as the disciples were in that upper room. None of us would have been shocked if Jesus himself stood eight feet apart from us and gave a blessing:

“Peace be with you. Peace be with you. Peace be with you.”


Today we received two post-resurrection stories. First, Jesus bringing peace to his frightened friends in the early days of their grief. And second, the Holy Spirit arriving in a radical experience of a small group of people deciding that they had more than enough to give it away to those in need.

The story from Acts recounts how months after Jesus came and left followers continued to gather  bear witness as to how their faith had grown exponentially. The Spirit that had been breathed on them when Jesus showed up was acting like yeast. Listen again: “They held everything in common. . .there were no needy persons among them. . .those who owned property sold it and brought the proceeds and placed it under the care of the Apostles where it was distributed to anyone who was in need. All that they had they gave to those in need.”


Talk about a resurrection story! A band of fearful people giving all they had to help the world, not holding on to their treasures “for a rainy day” or for their own children or grandchildren, but giving it to those in front of them who were in need.


It has been said that the “sell it and give it away” attitude and practice of the early Christian communities was what drew people to the faith. The idea that Jesus had been resurrected was doubted by many strangers — as Thomas doubted at first what his friends had told him — but the resurrected community was and is a living example that cannot be restrained. It attracted many people and troubled others.


Believing in a resurrected Lord is not a safety net. It was not with the Roman Empire watching and it should not be now. It should be labeled “live this way at your own risk.” Resurrection living should make us tremble. It should make us act like Thomas — running toward, not away, from the wounds of the world.

Here is the resurrection truth. Our old ways of being church died with COVID-19. And yet here we are in our second year of worshipping virtually and serving outside. We are attracting people in our town and at a distance including many of you who give your all because you see that what you are giving is being given out. Feeding the hungry and caring for those in need. Keeping our worship services going and reaching out to more people on YouTube and Falls Cable and our Web site. Keeping our building in good shape not in anticipation of the “good old days” coming back, but for the day that we return inside as a transformed congregation that has learned to live fully outside and inside our doors.


I spoke with a friend this week who participates in our church via our YouTube service. We agreed that the cross finished something in a profound way. It is a full stop and yet the story is not over because of what came and is coming next.


Today’s Gospel ends with a little message that tells me that Eastertide and our Easter community will continue: “Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in this disciples presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll.”


My faith tells me that Spirit is continuing to breathe around the world and in our towns and in our congregation. The peace that Jesus brings is guiding our hearts and minds and decisions. Who will we be in the future? What will our church look like? If the past and the present have anything to say about the future, we will be a generous and trusting, risking and spirited community of faith, commissioned to bring peace and love and hope into the world.

Amen

Text...

Divine Interruptions

Readings: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and John 20: 1-18)

Easter Sunday - April 4, 2015

By Rev. Marguerite Sheehan

The Easter Story, from the Gospel writers right to today, is a living story about God’s Spirit that will not stay put; even death cannot hold it down. Resurrection activates whenever one of us talks about it, lives into it, or shows us where it is appearing. As one poet said, now is the time to practice resurrection.


This morning in our Easter sunrise service I preached a message that needed to be preached: Mary weeping and Jesus calling her by name as we are called by name, but that is not the only message we heard standing out there in the cold morning. We heard then and hear now that Mary Magdalene did not stay captive to her grief. She did not go home to nurse her wounds, which were plentiful. She did not weep throughout the day. Why? Because her grief was interrupted by angels.


When her grief was interrupted by the two angels, she heard Jesus call her “Mary” and then she recognized him and in turn called out to him, “My Rabbouni! My teacher! My love!”


The Easter story is not the first time we hear God interrupting humans. Abraham is interrupted in the nick of time as he is about to sacrifice his son Isaac. God interrupted the Pharaoh’s soldiers from pursing the Israelites. God interrupted the men who were intent on stoning the woman accused of adultery. God interrupted Lazarus when he was tucked away in his grave. Over and over God stops us in our tracks, as Paul was stopped in his tracks when he was persecuting Christians.

Step out of the Bible and you may hear God interrupting us in our families and neighborhoods and the world. In the witness of children to what we are doing with our environment. In people installing a free refrigerator on the main drag of our village. In the many people who are choosing to join our book groups focusing on racism. Small day-to-day interruptions that surprise us and comfort or challenge us.


Today’s Easter Sunday message tells me that divine interruptions save the world. That when denial is interrupted, we can see clearly. When violence is interrupted, peace blooms. When grief is interrupted, life resumes in a strange new form that in Jesus was resurrection. In Mary it was a call to preach, “I have seen the Lord!”


Life, the way we used to know it, was interrupted this year not by God, but by a powerful, worldwide virus that lead to sickness and sorrow and death by the millions. We who are gathering virtually all around the world are living testimony to the effects of a deadly pandemic.


Some people believe that this virus was God’s wrath on the world gone crazy, a strange but necessary corrective.


I am here today to say otherwise. Pandemics cause havoc and take lives. In Jesus time, the Roman Empire caused havoc and took lives, even Jesus’s life. God, on the other hand, is busy interrupting despair, power grabs, narrow vision, poor choices, and the limits of our imagination.

God’s angels (however you conceive of them) show up and interrupt when we are vulnerable and open, which often but not always happens in times of great grief or great joy. Maybe a birth (remember the angels singing “Gloria!”) Maybe a death. Maybe when we are locked out of our church building because of a virus and we see God in action in new ways, on the street.


The thing about the resurrection is that it didn’t happen for Jesus. Certainly, he had no need to come walking in the world again. Resurrection happened for us. The disciples Simon Peter and the one we think was John were content enough after seeing the empty tomb to go back  home to “life before Jesus.”


God in Christ interrupted us with the grace and courage we needed to wipe our tears and go forward into something we could not even imagine. It took Mary, whose faithful weeping and seeking kept her open, to turn the world’s great sadness into joy as she courageously preached a life-saving message.


Because Mary Magdalen’s grief was interrupted, she heard Jesus call her name and she preached, “I have seen the Lord.” Because of an interruption we are here this morning.


Jesus died. Some say for our sins. Some say because of our sins. Some say because the Empire could not tolerate his presence.


I hear today that Jesus died and resurrected to interrupt our old ways. To keep our hope alive. To give us a powerful experience of life unbound, the kind of life that makes you want to share it with the world.


Alleluia! Christ is Alive!

Amen

Christ the Lord is risen! Alleluia!
Welcome to this morning's Easter Sunday service. Please click below.

https://youtu.be/eCVQ8zwmz9Y

 

Holy Week is drawing to a close and we are looking forward to Easter Sunday with two worship services — sunrise outside on the lawn at 6:30 a.m. and our usual Sunday YouTube service — but we do not get to fully appreciate Easter without experiencing Good Friday. Below you will find three different online worship services. One is offered by our Music Director, Keith Rollinson. Through music and visuals he leads us in a contemplative service recorded in our sanctuary. https://youtu.be/oOKtssYFbjk

We are also offering a YouTube production of the St. John Passion with full orchestra and choir. There are two links for this. One is the video and the other is the words to read along.

Video: https://youtu.be/zMf9XDQBAaI

Words: http://www.emmanuelmusic.org/.../translation.../t_bwv245.htm

The last offering is a gift from the United Church of Christ entitled "The Seven Last Words of Lament."

https://vimeo.com/526335301

Blessings to all.

Trinity Church’s Good Friday video: https://youtu.be/oOKtssYFbjk

Bach's St. John Passion: https://youtu.be/zMf9XDQBAaI Words: http://www.emmanuelmusic.org/.../translation.../t_bwv245.htm

Seven Last Words service: https://vimeo.com/526335301

Another Pandemic Palm Sunday   

Readings: Philippians 2: 5-11 and Mark 11:1-11

March 28, 2021

By Rev. Marguerite Sheehan


I had a very odd experience this week when I was sitting on zoom with our Listening to the Gospel group. One of our members was talking about the images she often receives when hearing the story of Palm Sunday. She says she first tunes into the shouts of “Hosanna!” then the sound and smell, perhaps, of the branches laid down and visions of what must have been an overexcited colt (remember it had never been ridden), and the noises as the people got more and more worked up when Jesus rides down the dusty road.


As I imagined this vision of sound and smell and emotion, I sensed a quiet silence. As if the scene went on pause. The activity was not actually frozen, it just went deep — like the Spirit of God, hovering silently over the scene and holding it, and us, and Jesus.

I think my experience of hearing divine stillness within the chaos of the parade came to me because I was sensing how dangerous it was for Jesus to be riding into town with such fanfare.


Because we always hear scripture pared with our present-day lives, this week I have been seeing dreadful pictures of present-day violence all around the world and in our country, including the shootings in Atlanta and Denver. I needed silence to hold love in the face of tragedy.

I am glad all these images are pared this morning with the Lenten song that Brook sang. Hear the ancient words from the fourth-century monk Ephrem the Syrian:


O Lord and Master of my life
Keep me from indifference
Keep me from discouragement
Lust of power and idle chatter

Will you grant to me your servant
The spirit of wholeness of being
Humble mindedness
Patience and love.


O Lord and King of my life
Grant me grace to be aware
Of my sins and not to judge
My brother and my sister

For you are blessed
Now and forever
For you are blessed
Now and forever


Palm Sunday, the last Sunday in Lent, is about many things. One is that Jesus is not what we think he is. He never was and never will be because we are limited in our understanding of him and his mission. We think that when our religious ancestors called out “Hosanna!” they were shouting, “Hurrah! Here comes the King!” like the Beatles in our day sang, “Here comes the sun!”


Really, they were desperately shouting, “Save us!” from the Empire. From our restlessness. From acts of violence. Save us from being enthralled with the parade so we can hear God at work. Save us to prepare us for what is going to happen next.


What happens next in the story of Jesus is his betrayal, arrest, and horrific torture as Paul in his letter to the Philippians wrote, “When he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”


Which should silence us and cause everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth to bow.


This is our second Palm Sunday in the pandemic. It is the second year that we do not have a loud and boisterous and joy-filled Palm Sunday procession followed by a delicious brunch.


Our palms are blessed today because we need them as a symbol of who Jesus really is and what it meant for him and for us to be mortal beings. These palms will soon be taken out to a table on the street as a silent witness that we are here, praying for the world that is still experiencing violence and the virus and praying that we will be able to withstand whatever comes next.


Jesus needed a young colt and he needs us to be patient and outraged. To lay palms out on the street corner. To confess our temptation to disparage other people or ourselves. Our temptation is to act like we think that God is on our side, when really God has no need to take sides. God in Christ is bearing witness to everything we are doing and saving all of us.


The Palm Sunday gospel ends with Jesus leaving the street corner and going into the temple. Imagine him walking along Severance Street, stopping at the table, maybe taking a cross-shaped palm, and standing outside our church. No locked door can keep him out. He walks in alone. The disciples are waiting outside in the safety of the fresh air. He looks around at everything; the purple banners, the cross, the candles we already put out. It is late in the evening. He turns around and goes to the home of some friends and has dinner. This chapter is over.


Holy Week will continue this year at Trinity without our Maundy Thursday last supper service. It will continue without anyone seeing our altar stripped to bare wood. Good Friday will come. We will mourn lives lost again. And then will comes the deep silence of Holy Saturday.


I wonder if the silence I heard above the parade was that silence and a hint — just a hint — of sun rising on Easter morning. That is coming, too. Palm Sunday begins this week. Easter is coming.


But now we pray, Hosanna. Save us. Help us. Be with us. Wipe our tears. Teach us to listen to you.

Amen

We want to see Jesus

March 21, 2021

Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34 and John 12: 20-33

By Rev. Marguerite Sheehan

If you are anything like me, you have many Bibles around your house —or maybe these worship services are the only times you get to hear the Bible read. Either way it is fun for me to think not just about the texts but also the rest of what you might find when you start looking to and listening to the Bible.

In one of my Bibles I have photographs of my parents pasted in the covers so when I open the book, there they are. I also have snippets of texts that have spoken loudly to me printed in my scrawly script and slipped in the pages. I have poems that people have sent me and prayers given to me for encouragement. Some of my Bibles have footnotes helping illuminate what the words might be trying to say and some have reflections for meditation. You can spend a lot of time with the Bible, or a little time. If you really settle there for a long or short time, something is sure to speak to you.

This week while I was praying on today’s texts, I found one of those random pieces of paper stuck in one of my Bibles. It was a prayer that I think I wrote a few years ago. I say that I think I wrote it because it was in my handwriting but there was no author named, not even me. It spoke to me this week about our texts, Lent, what God wants from us — and what we want to give God. Here you go:

Take my reluctant heart, O God

and make it soil

that allows the Gospel

to create a harvest of good.

Teach me to recognize

and bear my cross for you.

Amen


When I re-read that prayer, it reconnected me to the prophet Jeremiah who, speaking for the Lord, promises to use our reluctant hearts for something good. Jeremiah says that God will put teachings within us and engrave those teachings on our hearts. God says, “Forget the tablets that broke the first time they were given. I am going to put them in you this time.” The instructions God puts on us become permanent, like internal tattoos.

If we look within our hearts, we see that we belong to God and are forgiven all our wrongdoing. All of it. It is good to know that we are forgiven. It is good for the world because this is the message we have to share. The Gospel can be distilled to this: You belong to God. You are loved and forgiven even before you err.

I love how God takes our reluctant hearts (not just the seats of our romantic or friendship love or our cardio systems) but our full selves, our souls, and God makes something beautiful by making us into a rich and dirty garden where the Gospel seed (also known as the Christ seed) will break open and take root and thrive. That is what God is doing to us right now — turning us into soil to welcome Christ.

Come with me now to today’s Gospel. Imagine a whole bunch of people in Jerusalem for a big religious feast. There are people here from all around the world. Even Greek people are here to worship. You’ve got to wonder why John bothered saying they were Greek. Sounds to me a lot like how we tend to describe people by their race or nationality. “My neighbors, the Cambodians. . .”

The word is out that Jesus is here, too. Some people seek Philip, who is one of Jesus’s disciples. They say the most simple thing they can to be sure he understands. “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Nothing more, nothing less.

Philip tells Andrew. Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. “These people want to see you,” and instead of saying, “bring them here,” Jesus talks about who he is. What it means for him and for any followers to die to their old selves. How troubled his soul is right now and what he knows about his destiny.

When I hear Jesus talk about his troubled soul, I think of how he came once to a pool of water where sick people were wading with hopes of being healed. The text says, “An angel of God would come to the pool from time to time to trouble the water; the first one to step into the water after it had been stirred up would be completely healed.”

God in Christ, in Spirit, in angels, in you, and in every way that God enters the world, troubles the water, making what Congressman John Lewis called “good trouble.” What troubles our souls is not something to run from but something to pay deep attention to. You want to see Jesus? See what troubles his soul. Do you still want to see him?

Jesus did not come to soothe our souls but to take our troubled hearts into God’s heart to make us soil, breaking up our old selves, softening and transforming us so we can recognize the cross and our sinful ways and forgiven selves, so that we can bear witness to God’s work. We will not have to say “know the Lord” because we will all know and be known.

Lent is a time to reluctantly approach the teachers, the texts, our neighbors, and our own selves and to admit that we really just want to see Jesus. We do not understand what seeing Jesus will do to or for us, but we know that we need to see him. We trust that God, who Jesus always directs us toward, will take our desires and bring forth good fruit. Remember in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God said, “It is good!” about all creation?

More than one year into this pandemic it can be hard, if not impossible, to imagine good fruit. Yet what we hear over and over is that God persists in doing the fruitful work of creation and healing and resurrection. Right now.

Thanks be to God who brought us out of the void and is still working with the soil of our lives. God is troubling and healing us and encouraging us to see Jesus.

Now is the time to receive the new covenant and the judgement of the world. Now is the time to see and be engraved with this phrase: “We want to see Jesus.”

Amen

 

TRINITY CHURCH 

INFORMATION ABOUT OUR CHURCH


OUR SERMONS



We publish Pastor Marguerite Sheehan's sermons online so it's easy for you stay connected. You can also watch our Sunday 10 a.m. service on Falls Cable Corporation TV channel 17. See the local listing for days and times.

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Here at Trinity Church we have some amazing outreach ministries in the community, including our free Friday Night Community Meal, free Community Clothes Closet at Cowell Gymnasium and more. We have seen God do some incredible things here and we'd love for you to be part of it. 

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