A Sermon Preached 9/4/22
Rev. Nancy Duncan, based inspired by 1 Peter
To the People of the Broad Bay Church.
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus, the one who healed the sick and outcast, called women and men on the margins to service, and who showed us the way of love.
Over and over again, you, the people of small churches are faithful and creative in your service to God. I see God in you in the ways in which you care for one another. In the ways in which you accept people as they are while also setting boundaries and expectations which bring out the best in people.
I am heartened by the inclusion I see as you bring children, elders, people with dementia, visitors, into the work and mission of the church. You embody the belief that every voice matters. Each expression of faith brings into view a more expansive vision of the grace of God.
I am excited by the vulnerability you demonstrate, particularly as you share the worries on your mind thus breaking down stigma about mental illness, dementia, suicide, domestic violence, family conflict, or addiction.
I worry as well. I am not proud of the worry for worry strikes me as unfaithful. But Churches, including this our own are shrinking as we struggle to find our voices and meaning.
So what now? It is the story of our faith that will sustain you on the journey. We are people of hope: a rainbow in the midst of environmental destruction. We’ve survived plagues. Jacob found a way forward after stealing his brother’s birthright. When a crowd gathered, Jesus fed them with a few loaves and fishes. And there was enough.
It was people on the margins who Jesus chose as his friends and followers including a despised tax collector and a disgraced woman getting water from the well in the heat of the day. He brought healing to lepers and an unclean and bleeding woman.
Lean into the stories of faith. Our people, your people, have been where we are before. Lean into the Biblical accounts, not because they are the only truth, but because they are a sacred guide. The Bible is not a book to be decoded with one set of correct interpretations, but a story to be engaged. The Bible is packed with accounts of people in dire situations who find a way, and who experience the power of God in all kinds of scrapes. And it ends and begins with an empty tomb.
Let’s tell and live the stories of Jesus. Let’s share our faith, not because everyone has to believe what we believe to be Godly people, but because there is power and comfort in our tradition and our practices. There is strength in prayer and community.
Our people have been working for justice, from those following Moses out of slavery to Jesus stopping the stoning of a women caught in adultery. We work for justice with a rainbow flying outside, with school supplies for children, with food in the help yourself shelf, and with concern about racial minorities.
Creativity is part of your DNA as a church, a reflection of the one who created us. From the confirmation banner crafted under the leadership of Evelyn Clowes to the art of Anne Morlan to the new entry way envisioned by the Building Committee with help from Barba and Wheelock, you embrace the creative spirit.
The church is not this building or these rituals, important as they are.
The church is wherever rest, sanctuary, or healing are found. Church can be a sunset, a mountain top, a well, a garden, a table, a river, or the sea.
The church is where people are fed with loaves and fishes or bread and wine.
The church is where tears are wiped away, where relationships are healed and where the kingdom of God, the kingdom of justice and mercy takes root.
The Bible is a road map, or perhaps a series of bread crumps in how to build loving and hospitable communities. The author of ! Peter was all about bringing hope. About generations working together. About hospitality.
You, the people of the Broad Bay Church are charged with bringing hope.
Remember your covenant, your vision statement.
Remember the accounts of so very many people in the Bible and in our tradition. Sarah and Abraham, Ruth and Nami, David the author of the Psalms, Paul and Sias in jail, the woman at the well, the good Samaritan, the widow and her mite, the prodigal son, and the forgiving father.
These stories of our faith and have power. They bind us together.
I don’t know what the future will hold. The format for church will likely shift but God’s spirit will continue to hold us together, bringing us to places of grace and mercy and peace.