Winthrop Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
No matter who you are. No matter where you are on life's journey. You are welcome here.
In the beginning when God created* the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God* swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth,to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind* in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,* and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
So God created humankind* in his image,
in the image of God he created them;*
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
Genesis 1:1-2:4- And It Was Good
I find it a little tricky to preach the creation stories from Genesis. Not because I find them to be particularly difficult passages to interpret or because I find these stories particularly troublesome on their own. No, I find them a little tricky to preach about because the these two stories, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-4, are often at the center of some very contentious arguments about religion, Christianity in particular, and science, and their relationship in the American context. So often, in our broader context, when we hear anything about ancient creation stories, we are asked to make a choice between two positions: believing the stories literally, thereby proving ourselves to be faithful, or trusting the work of the scientists who offer up different data describing the creation of the universe and then dismissing the ancient stories as foolish tales of the uneducated.
While there are many other options for navigating the relationship between scientific ways of knowing and religious ways of knowing, the mainstream conversation rarely varies from these two poles, literal religion/ignorance of science or all science/no respect for religion. Too often, the opinions expressed in pulpits fall into the literal religion/ignorance of science camp... a camp that leads us into ignoring immanent climate catastrophes and lack of empathy for people who do not share our belief structures. My hope today is to offer up another option for reading these stories, an option that doesn't ask the reader ignore knowledge gained since these stories were first written down 5,000 years ago or ignore the value of a religious reading of creation. There is a way forward that goes somewhere through the middle of these poles, a way that leads towards complex beauty, truth, and purpose. It is not the only way to read these stories in light of two traditions, but it is one way.
One of the virtues to being married to a scientist is that you get to learn more about how science works. Here's something about science that Tasha has helped me realize. Science is intentionally and indelibly quantifiable. It is rooted in numbers and tests and proofs. The goal, in much of science anyway, it to be able to describe an idea, test that idea to see if its true, and have others be able to repeat your process of testing for themselves, getting the same results you did, thereby proving the idea's truth. While I have learned that there are certainly aspects of some scientific disciplines that are less experimental and linear than the process I just described, in general, this is a general description of how the scientific method works.
I've also learned that science is a collaborative effort where multiple scientists work for many years to repeat and refine their information. And, controversial ideas, like evolution and climate change, are the ideas that get tested the most. There is a continual push for more concrete evidence and more clear description of process. New information is taken in, added to the process, and tested to see how it changes what they know. The strongest ideas that survive the most scrutiny become scientific theory. When an idea has earned the designation of theory, it has been rigorously and repeatedly tested, and supported by the strongest, most quantifiable evidence. Evolution and human-cause climate change are two ideas that have earned the designation of theory.
This process of doing science gets us safe medicine and safe food. It gets us cars that work properly and buildings that withstand storms. It helps us describe the world around us in both intimate, anatomical, and subatomic detail and in large, complex, interconnected systems. I find this way of knowing to be awe-inspiring and often beautiful. But, this is not the only way of knowing. There are other, still very true ways to describe creation beyond the numbers of bones in our bodies, species in oceans, or stars in universe. Our religious faith, our scriptures and rituals, our testimonies and songs, are part of another other way of knowing.
If we demand a way to understand the world that is solely empirical, as science seeks to be, religion (not just ours, but most of them) will fall short. Religion was never intended to be quantifiable the way science is. Religion functions according to a different standard. Where science is mathematical, religion is metaphorical. And, metaphors are tools for connection. Metaphors are inherently relational attempts to communicate what we don’t know by comparing it to what we do know. Take the words of William Shakespeare in Sonnet 18: "Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?/ Thou art more lovely and more temperate." Shakespeare used a metaphor to communicate something about an emotion and connection he was creating. We may not know the woman he is describing, but we have likely experiences a summer day. Now, if you heard that poem and began making an empirical list comparing a human to a 24 hour span of time (Human temperature- 98.6 degrees, summer day: 70 degrees. Human- has limbs, day- is a period of time and therefore has no limbs. Human: eats lunch, day- is a period of time, does not ingest food), you would be fundamentally misunderstanding what Shakespeare was trying to communicate. You'd be misunderstanding a metaphor.
The goal of metaphors, religious and otherwise, is to strengthen our relationships with the world around us by helping us understand something more about one another's experience in this world. These relationships can't be built solely on quantifiable data. Emotion, intuition, and our lived experiences are hard to quantify but are utterly necessary when building community. Our relationships help us create value systems that, in turn, come back and shape our interactions with one another. I once heard it put this way by a pastor named Ellen Cooper-Davis: “Religion, at its heart, is an exploration and a practice of encountering the unseen. It is a realm of poetry, metaphor, music, art, silence, connection. How would one gauge such things objectively and empirically?” No, our faith is solidly the realm of the subjective and the experiential. It may be measurable, but only by stirring in the heart and turnings in our stomach. And that it where we find the truth of our faith.
There are these posters I've seen that say, "Science can tell you how to clone a tyrannosaurus rex. Humanities can tell you why this might be a bad idea." I think we might apply a similar process of thinking to the creation stories of Genesis. Science will tell us the nuts and bolts of creation. The stories of our faith will give us insight into the purpose of creation. Let's return to the reading in Genesis, not as a math problem to be solved, but as a poem that teaches us something about how we are connected to all of creation. Can you imagine a picture of creation that is more deeply and beautifully connected that this ancient story? We have a description of God, surrounded by beautiful, deep, dark, unformed potential, something like the rich black loam we all fold into our gardens in hopes of improving our harvest. God looks at the depth that is all around and says, I can make something with this.
After brooding over the deep, like a hen hatching eggs, creation breaks out all over the place. First, light and darkness solidify. Then a space is made for the earth, and water and land crash and splash up from the depths. Trees and bushes and flowers and weeds of all kind push up through the soil, their brightness amplified by the stars, moon, and sun that have emerged in the sky. All manner of creature begins to wiggle, waddle, sliver, prance, and fly their way through the air and water and across the now solid land. These creatures begin to connect and multiply and fill all of creation. And, God said "Let's make one more kind, a two-legged kind, that will be in our image... will be creative and powerful like us, and let's give it a job, to watch over all the rest that has been made. We'll call them humans. They can watch over the world with us." And, God makes the humans and tells them to take care of the place. It's pretty special. Then God rested.
At every step long the way, God delights in God's work, exclaiming, "It is good." Maybe your recognize that impulse. I bet you know what it's like to look at your handiwork and say, "It is good." You know when you've knitted a fine sweater. There are no skips in the stitches or holes in the pattern. The cables all line up and the sleeves are the same length. Maybe this impulse to declare our creation to be good is a little part of the image of God that still resides in us, helping us to remember the beauty in hard work well done. I think that maybe this is the purpose of this scriptural account of creation, to remind us to look at the goodness in creation and see ourselves working to maintain it.
We need to be reminded that this whole world is connected and created, all called good and hatched by the same brooding God. We were made to be creative and protective, just like God was. We need to use that inheritance to watch over the rest of creation, and tend to it as we think God must have once tended to it. It's like we've inherited a garden, and it's our turn to take up the watering can and pruning fork to make sure it stays as good and beautiful and beloved as it started. We can rest sometimes like God did, but, we shouldn't forget that we are here for a purpose. Our ancestors left us this story to remind us of that purpose. And, I pray we don't forget it.
Pastor Chrissy consulted the following words when writing this sermon:
Walter Bouzard: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3300
Kathryn Schifferdecker: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2328
The text of Sonnet 18: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/shall-i-compare-thee-summers-day-sonnet-18
Ellen Cooper-Davis: https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/ask-a-unitarian-universalist-response
Our Sermon from June 4th, 2016
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Sharing the Spirit: Acts 2:1-21
I always like a story with a good ruckus. Our reading for today, the day we call Pentecost, is certainly a reading with a ruckus. We made a pretty good ruckus while Connie read it, didn't we? (for those of you who weren't here, we acted out the parts of the story as our layreader read it) I mean, you heard the story. It seems only fair that we did. And, our ruckus pales in comparison to the one in the story. Let's walk through the story again to remind ourselves how wild it is. About 120 of Jesus' followers are gathered in one place in Jerusalem. It is the time of year when they celebrated Shavuot, or Pentecost, a festival that follows 40 days after Pentecost. These 120 folks were all smooshed together and a terrible wind kicked up. Now, we made kind of a fun wind sound. After all, we've heard this story before. We know that something good is going to come from the wind. So, we played with it a little, using balloons and quarters to whoosh around. It is wise for us to remember that the wind described here probably wasn't all that fun. If we were in a room, say, like this sanctuary, and a forceful, violent wind suddenly blew open our doors and rattled these stained glass windows and made our papers fly everywhere, we'd more likely be frightened than amused. These disciples, all 120 of them, are probably more frightened than amused by what is happening.
The next part of the story probably only adds to their confusion. You see, they didn't have little sticks with ribbon and neat little paper birds floating around to remind them of the Holy Spirit. In this telling of the story, the people thought they saw fire... inside the room... in the air... leaping across their bodies. They knew the ancient stories. Fire in unexpected or strange places is often a sign of God in their religious tradition. God once spoke to Moses through a burning bush. Their people once followed a pillar of fire through the desert, trusting that God was leading the way. This fire was different. As the wind whipped around them and they saw something that looked like fire, but the fire wasn't outside of them, directing them away. It was on top of them, maybe even inside of them, filling them up with the presence of God through the Holy Spirit. That Holy Spirit was about to spill out and do something none of them had expected... As if they expected any of what was going on around them.
We should remember that these 120 people are Galileans. In their everyday life, they likely spoke Aramaic or Greek. They probably understood a little Hebrew for religious purposes. They might know a smattering of Latin. This story tells us that they began to speak so much more. A crowd of people who had gathered to celebrate the festival, crowded around the group of Galileans when they heard their tumult. We don't know exactly who was in the crowd, whether is was Jewish immigrants from across the Mediterranean who had settled in Jerusalem or Jewish pilgrims who had traveled to the city for religious observance. Whomever it was, they suddenly realized they were hearing speech in their own mother tongues. More than a dozen regions are named, and people from each place understood the words the disciples were saying. And, they were astonished... the confused and surprised and suspicious kind of astonished. Some even wondered if they were just hearing the almost coherent ramblings of a bunch of morning drunks.
Isn't this an arresting image of the church: people from wide ranges of ethnicities, genders, social classes, and ages, all hearing something new and moving about God in a language that they could understand. Even if they didn't understand how it was happening (and it's pretty clear, no one understood how it was happening, at that moment), they heard and could understand something new about God. God had made sure that each one of them could hear something familiar, even as they would miles and miles away from home. It doesn't appear that they were comforted by this, in fact, scripture says that they were pretty perplexed by the whole thing. And, yet, it seems like this situation is just exactly what God intends. At least that's how Peter understands what's going on.
In a manner similar to the time when Jesus rooted his own ministry in the works of the prophet Isaiah at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, here in Acts, the sequel to Luke, Peter understands this Pentecost moment as an expression of the work of the prophet Joel. He explains to the bewildered crowd that they will know that God has come close to them when the differences within humanity are no longer excuses for humans to avoid coming together in community. God will empower all kinds of people. Peter said that God will allow people of all genders to prophecy, erasing the notion at women were not able to speak through the Holy Spirit. Peter said that youth will not be seen as incompatible with wisdom and agedness will be linked with creativity. The enslaved with share a place of righteousness with the free and they will speak truth to all.
It is through this rich, boundary-pushing community that humanity most clearly speaks of the fullness of God. It is as if the amazing differences present in the people give them access to different aspects of God. Different and varied life experiences help people understand God in different ways. This sets a foundation for us to understand our differences in life experience and religious experience as a gift from God, and as an asset to our faith. Without these varying testimonies of God, our faith becomes static and closed-off, just the opposite of this wild, diverse community presented in this part of Acts. This diverse testimony is what allows faith in Jesus to spread, first through a diverse diaspora of Jews, and then through Gentile communities. And, the Holy Spirit sets the whole thing in motion right here, by making sure everyone could hear a word of God that moved them and inspired them to live differently.
I read an article this week where the author was critical of churches that talk a big game on Pentecost but doesn't continue this work of translation and diversification in our everyday lives. In fact, he wondered if too many folks avoided Pentecost situations, events where the Spirit could overflow and connect people across difference, in order to feel safe and stable in what they already knew. I can understand his critique. The chaos of new creation can seem scary and best avoided. As another scholar I read this week, Margaret Aymer, offered another way to understand our place in midst of change. She said, "in the midst of the chaos of Pentecost rests an anchor...." That anchor is the legacy and ministry of Jesus Christ and his first followers. We know that he continues to invite us to hear the Gospel through our own experience and listen to our neighbors interpret God through theirs. And, we know that this experience can be disconcerting and disruptive, like a wind whipping through a quiet room. But, we will be strengthen by the varieties of gifts people bring when they feel truly welcomed into Jesus' community. We can be empowered by the testimonies we have heard so that, we, too, dream dreams and serve our neighbors. The Spirit is always there, waiting to fill us up. May we be willing to be moved by what we learn from it.
Pastor Chrissy consulted the following resources while writing this sermon:
Billy Honor: https://www.onscripture.com/my-struggle-pentecost-church’s-vacation-home-not-its-residence
Margaret Aymer: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3282
Mitzi Smith: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=823
Would you like to hear a recording of a bunch of people speaking different languages and reading the story of Pentecost? Here's a great one: http://alivenow.upperroom.org/2011/06/06/pentecost/
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
All Means All: Matthew 28:16-20
The author of Matthew must not have realized that we later Christians would want to squeeze a whole season out of the story of Easter. They must not have realized that we'd want more than one Sunday with this amazing story... that we'd need several weeks to work through the Resurrection and how it will shape our actions in our contemporary setting. No. The author of Matthew must not have realized that because they didn't write much more for us to read about after the resurrection. In chapter 28, we go quickly from Mary Magdalene and the other Mary meeting the lightning angel and running into Jesus on the road (we read that on Easter) to a story we haven't read recently about the chief priests assuming that Jesus' disciples have taken his body to today's reading, the last time Jesus' eleven disciples see him in this book. All of this story happens within the first couple hours of the day.That's not much time between the Resurrection and the ascension. Some might say it's hard to fill out a whole Easter season with so few stories. At least this last story is a really interesting one. Trust me, we have plenty to talk about in just five verses.
First, we're reminded that when the disciples do what Jesus asks them, when they go up to the mountain in Galilee, there's only eleven of them. Judas is gone. When we are reminded that he is gone, we are reminded that not everyone will hear Jesus' good news with joy. Not everyone will respond to the Gospel by aligning themselves with God. Some will turn away. Some will choose to hurt the people who trust them. Jesus' way is not always easy. We are reminded of this in the very first line of today's reading. The difficulty continues into the second line. Jesus appears to the disciples, just as he has already appeared to the two Marys. They worship him. Some have doubts. The worship and the doubts are right next to one another. We learn that to follow Jesus is to both worship and have doubts. They aren't chastised for the doubts. The doubts are simply noted. To follow Jesus does not always mean you know exactly what to do or what to believe. Even when Jesus is right in front of your face, you still may have doubts. That doesn’t stop Jesus from giving all of them a job.
Throughout the book of Matthew, people have been struggling to understand how to fit Jesus into their lives as a teacher. Jesus was a simple man, a former refugee, knowledgeable in the law but likely lacking formal education. He was a carpenter's son, so he was probably trained in building, not in interpreting Scripture and the law. And, yet, he becomes a teacher... a wise teacher familiar with the law and confident in his understanding. Can you remember back to the Sermon on the Mount? If you need a short lesson in what the Gospel is about, you can go to chapters five, six, and seven of Matthew to read what this author believed was the core of Jesus' teaching. It would be helpful for us to remember the very last part of this portion of scripture. As Jesus finished preaching, the crowds were astounded. They had heard a powerful discourse on their religious tradition, but from a surprising source, a traveling preacher. They said that he preached as one having authority, as one who knew something deeper. He preached more deeply than their other leaders. This is why people believed him.
Throughout the Gospel, when he healed people, they recognized his authority. When his followers healed people, the people recognized his authority. When he stood toe to toe with the most powerful members of his community, challenging oppressive religious practices, he did so with a deep authority that people could readily identify, even if they could not explain from where it came. Here, in the third line of today's reading, we get a little more explanation of what that authority meant. He tells his followers that he has been granted all authority in heaven and on earth. Rome can't grant him this authority. His local community can't grant this authority. It comes from somewhere else... from something greater. Probably the Holy Spirit. And, this authority wasn't stingy. Jesus could share this authority with the people he loved. Wow! Only three lines in and Jesus is sharing the Holy Spirit.
He'd already had some practice doing this in other parts of the Gospel. Working through the same Holy Spirit as his did, they have already been preaching and healing in his name. But this work was mostly in the communities from which they hailed. Now, after the resurrection, Jesus saw much greater potential for their shared ministry. Even though he would no longer be with them, they should continue to do the Gospel, but no longer be limited to the communities of their origin. God's love and mercy should be shared much more broadly. In the fourth verse of our reading, Jesus gives his followers a job that will help make sure this movement doesn't stop with his death and resurrection. He tells them to spread his authority around. He tells them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in a formula that we still use today, and teaching them.
We should take a moment and be clear. Jesus never said to go coercing people into conversion. Somewhere along the line, that part got lost on some of his followers, and a lot of damage has been done under the auspices of making more disciples for Jesus. Jesus did not spend his time threatening people into conversion or destroying communities that didn't follow him. Whenever we Christians do those things, we're not following Christ, we're following our own ego and feelings of cultural superiority. When Jesus said to make disciples, baptize people, and teach them, he wanted his followers to teach others the things he had taught them. And what had Jesus taught them?
Remember what I said earlier about the Sermon on the Mount? How it's the core of the Gospel in the book of Matthew? I'm pretty sure the Sermon on the Mount is what Jesus wanted his followers to teach other people. Jesus wanted them to tell everyone that the poor and meek are particularly beloved by God, and those who hunger, for both food and righteousness, will be filled. Jesus wanted them to comfort the mournful and to be merciful. Jesus wanted them to embody purity in heart and become peacemakers in a culture too often bent on war. Jesus needed them to remember that being reviled and being persecuted weren't necessarily signs that their ministry was ineffective. In fact, if they preached the fullness of the Gospel, they would likely find themselves in conflict with the world. But, that was ok. Because they were the salt that preserved the taste of the Holy and the light that could not be extinguished by the powerful and the violent. Jesus' own authority came with his willingness to be loyal to God's mission, even through the humiliation of the cross. Jesus needed his followers to show others that power could come from mercy, and not always from destruction.
In the fifth verse (ok, the part of the fifth verse that wasn't about teaching), Jesus reminded his followers how they would be able to accomplish all of the tasks that he had set before them. We would do well to remember the beginning of Jesus' story as we read the end of this Gospel. When the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, asking him to be the father to his fiance's child, the angel said that the child would have a great purpose beyond simply being a part of their family. This child would serve humanity. This child would become a conduit through which people would encounter God. And, though they would name the child Jesus, he would be known to embody a different name, the name Emmanuel, which means, "God is with us." People would come to know and feel God's presence through their encounters with Jesus. In each healing, feeding, long conversation, and welcoming meal, people would learn that God was with them, just as Jesus was with them.
In Matthew, when Jesus needed to encourage and inspire his closest friends to continue their work, he called upon this part of his legacy. He told them, "Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Whenever, you feed the hungry, you are feeding me. When you visit the imprisoned, you are visiting me. Whenever you clothe the nake and care for the sick, you are tending to me. God is with you. The Holy Spirit will move through you. I am will you always. You do not do this work alone. And, that's the end... the last thing Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew. That's Jesus' last word. I am with you always. I must admit. That's a pretty strong ending. Maybe the author of Matthew knew what they were doing after all.
Pastor Chrissy consulted the following resources while writing this sermon:
Eric Barreto: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2422
I Love to Tell the Story: https://www.workingpreacher.org/narrative_podcast.aspx?podcast_id=613
Susan Hylen: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3268
Stanley Saunders: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2097
Fred Craddock, "What God Wants This Church to Do: Matthew 28:16-20," The Cherry Log Sermons (Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, 2001).
Pastor Chrissy is a native of East Tennessee. She and her wife moved to Maine from Illinois. She is a graduate of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University and Chicago Theological Seminary.