Recent Sermons

We are blessed

Feb. 2, 2020  

Rev. Marguerite Sheehan 

We are still in the church season of Epiphany, the season that is often called the time of awakening or enlightenment about who Jesus is and who we are as created beings. During this season I have been experiencing some of that awakening. 

It started a week ago on Wednesday evening when I went to Temple Israel in Greenfield for a program on the spiritual dimensions of climate care. The program was enlightening and I thought I could wait to share what touched my soul with you later this winter and spring. I thought I could put it to rest for a while.  

Then came this past Thursday morning, the day that I settle myself in my office space in the back of the parsonage to pray on and compose my Sunday messages. Before sitting to write I took up my spot in the bay window and sat with my morning coffee, soaking up the sunshine, watching the goldfinches gather at the bird feeder and marveling at the bluest of skies. Then, out of the blue, so to speak, in came a pair of bluebirds. They sat on the bird house — the one that every year gets taken over by sparrows — and they looked directly at me as if asking, “Will the house be available this spring?” Then I said out loud, “Bluebirds! Wow, they are so beautiful. Well, I better get to my desk to write.” 

I better walk away from all this glory. Go into a room where I purposely close the curtains to keep focused. Leave this beautiful God-given scene and get to work. 

I put my coffee cup in the sink and looked out the kitchen window and I saw the bluebirds fly over the parsonage to the top of the church, preening themselves on the cross. I could not stop laughing. I thought, “Whoever said God does not have a sense of humor? Whoever said Jesus got his sermon inspiration while sitting at a desk with the curtains closed?” 

Jesus got his inspiration smack-dab in the world of scripture and humans and bluebirds and seeds and bread and local and global suffering. 

 “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains; the demonic, the people with epilepsy, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. And when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

I have never had the privilege to travel to Jerusalem. What I know from my friend Linda, who has been there, is that there really is a mountain where Jesus is to have climbed up to teach. It is called the Mount of Beatitude. Mount of Blessing. 

Linda says that when you walk, as Jesus walked, up this mountain (that is more of a tall hill than a steep mountain) you can get tired. You might then sit on the grass and look out to contemplate the Sea of Galilee stretching out before you. 

If you know anything about the past and present midEast, or anything about the broken-hearted crowds and our climate crises, or anything about your own poor-in-spirit-soul, you just might weep with joy when you imagine Jesus sitting down on the grass to teach a message of peace and justice and consolation to the sick, the sad people in the broken and often paralyzed Creation. 

Here is my confession. 

I used to think, even just a couple of days ago, that when bluebirds flock to my house it was okay to close the curtains and turn my back against the beauty of the earth and the sky. 

I used to act like the suffering of Creation and the suffering of humans are two different realms without a ladder of hope going between them even when I knew that Jesus came to this very Earth to remind us otherwise. 

I used to imagine the crowds that gathered on the mountain and the crowds that gather in our own congregations and communities were a world apart.  

I am just now really waking up to the heart of Jesus, who goes up an ordinary mountain and sits down and looks with compassion on the people and the sea; the broken and the hungry, the ravaged and the hopeful. When he looks and names us – because that really is what a blessing is, to look and to name with love – he is teaching what we need to hear. All of Creation is suffering and blessed. 

The bluebirds do fly up to the cross. We are all, humans and non-humans, broken and blessed with a love we cannot grasp and yet grasps us fully. 

Here is a blessing for you. It comes from one of my favorite pastors, Methodist minister Rev. Stephen Garness- Holmes. You have a copy in your bulletins, if you want to read along, or maybe you want to close your eyes. Maybe you will hear yourself and the whole of Creation being addressed. I hope so. Dearly Beloved, Grace and Peace to you.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the realm of God.” — Matthew 5.3

God, may I be an empty vessel for you.
Bless my willingness to have nothing to offer
except your presence in me,
and my trust in your grace in this world.

Bless my willingness to mourn for my losses,
to weep with those who suffer,
to lament the brokenness of the world.
I trust and await your consolation.

Give me courage to be powerless, to be inadequate,
to be weak, to depend on you,
and trust that in my emptiness
your grace is infinite and miraculous.

Give me faith to work for justice,
to be a peacemaker amidst hate and anger,
to bear your spirit into fearful places,
for I am your child, your Beloved.

Trusting that the kingdom and the power and the glory
are yours and not mine, I yield everything to you.
Surrendering all and seeking the lowest place,
I will be an empty vessel for your grace.

I am willing to die and be raised.  Amen.

Soon we will gather to communion and then for our annual meeting. After all that we will all walk out the door and greet the world that is waiting for us to look and bless and act for the beauty of the Earth. Now, let us be together. 



What is that Light?

Jan. 26, 2020

Rev. Marguerite Sheehan 

What a combination of readings we were given this morning. A Gospel message of the calling of the first disciples and a letter, a type of call in itself, from Paul to the people of Corinth who, it sounds like, are having a hard time remembering who called, never mind who baptized them. Jesus and Paul are calling out; saying, “Look over here! The Kingdom of heaven has come near.” 

What a wonderful way of saying the door is open, come on in. As near as a motley group of fishing brothers — and there must have been sisters, too — called to leave their boats and their family behind. As near as a specific place. In this Gospel story the place is Capernaum. For us it is Shelburne Falls. As near as our hearts and our minds, sitting in the shadow of death and despair as we experience our climate changing, and watch our President called for impeachment. Jesus says that even here, especially here, God is near. 

In our Listening to the Gospel group this week one of us said what she heard in the Gospel is that all of us are eternally called to seek and follow the light of God. Another heard that in order to “immediately” drop what is holding us back we need to practice listening to God’s word so we will recognize our calling. Someone else translated the word “repent” (as in “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near”) to “change your mind,” for God is on the loose!”And someone else noticed it was when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested that he hightailed it out of Nazareth and settled — if Jesus ever really — by the Sea of Galilee. Even Jesus needs to take time to withdraw and settle down when hearing bad news. 

In the silence between each reading we all listened to God’s call on us – what exactly is the Gospel inviting us to become? More courageous, or humble, or more joyous?  

Jesus said to the brothers, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” Being a disciple means trusting that God is using who you are and the skills that you have already accumulated in your life for another purpose. God is not doing this just for you as an individual. God is doing this with us collectively. The motley crowd, which is sometime just two or three of us, is being invited to follow Jesus into the world of people and all Creation. 

Have a look at our bulletin cover. See the boats left behind. And read the words below:

“Immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.” — Matthew 4:22.

"We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” — Madeleine L’Engle

How would you feel if you knew that all the time, not just one a good day, people are watching you and watching our church and noticing the light or the darkness that we are carrying? Not only that but wondering what is the source of that light or darkness?

I thought about this when I was volunteering this week at our Community Clothes Closet, which is first and foremost a church ministry. I watched men and women come into the closet – some hesitant and some full of confidence. I saw how our volunteers greeted the shoppers and I heard words of love being sent out: “Can I help you? That would look lovely on you. Thank you for your donation, I know that someone will need it.” 

One first-time shopper asked hesitantly, “What rules do you have here?” and burst into laughter when the answer came back: “Well, nothing. Take what you need.  No, you don’t need to fill out a form. No, we do not have a limit to how much you can take. Yes, you can volunteer if you would like. Would you like a bag for that?” 

Our Clothes Closet is a small operation in the basement of an old gymnasium. It can be cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Some days we have a ton to give out. Some days not so much. It is in some ways a social service. Helping people fish for clothes. In some ways we are doing something we already know how to do, which is fold and give away clothes. 

What makes the Clothes Closet a ministry of our church is that we have been called to do this for a different purpose. Keeping clothes out of landfills so our planet has a chance to breathe. On top of that, showing a light that is so lovely that people want to know the source of it. The Kingdom of heaven is very near when you hang out at the Community Clothes Closet, but let’s be clear here about who Jesus is and who we are. 

Jesus is the Christ Light. He is the one who is traveling about teaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. We are followers, following him and standing in his light and absorbing his love and radiating his compassion in a broken-hearted world which sometimes looks like a Community Clothes Closet. 

When we accept this is who we are, we are no longer people in search of something important to do. We are called to constantly become someone new. We are invited by God in Christ to become so strange that we make the people wonder not just, “What are the rules here?” but also, “What is that Light? What is going on there? Why do I feel so seen and loved?” 

If you have not volunteered at our Clothes Closet yet, it might seem foolish to you to spend a couple of hours a month in a dank basement of an old gymnasium. . .until you see there a light that is so lovely you want, with all  your hearts, to stand in that light. Talk with Sue Mead or Candace or Nancy or myself if you want to volunteer. Or just come and see.