A Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

The air finally got a little crisper this week and for the first time it felt like it might actually be fall. The cooler weather made it more palatable as I stood at the Lowe’s looking at the pumpkins and mums and large inflatable ghosts with Christmas wreaths and flashing trees just behind them.

We do this crazy mash of seasons from the start of October onward. It’s such a strange slide from the ghosts and goblins and gluttony of mini candy bars of Halloween, into this season where we are supposed to be grateful in the month of November while in actuality we are lavishly and frantically planning and spending away in preparation for Christmas, the commercial one, not the one we are truly called to celebrate.

In today’s reading, Jesus’ response to the Samaritan’s gratitude gave me pause. A chance to stop and think before the onslaught of the merged seasons begins to truly work on what being grateful looks like.

Gratitude is a commonly used word. We make lists of things we are grateful for and around this time of year we make our children do the same often making them write these “blessings” on construction paper tail feathers for their Thanksgiving turkey artwork. The word gratitude bears many different levels of meaning in our discourse. Some of it trite and cheap, some of it maudlin and dripping with something less than wholehearted sincerity, and some of it deep down to the bone.

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A Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

I recently heard the writer Kristen Schell speak at a conference.  She may not be on your radar, but I’m pretty sure if you heard her speak you would want to be her friend.

She wrote a book titled The Turquoise Table and she has sparked a quiet movement.  She may also likely be the topic of many a homeowner association meeting.  You see the book is based on Schell’s experiences after she placed a large picnic table painted a bright shade of turquoise in her front yard in Austin, TX.  She did it because she was pretty sure it was what God wanted her to do.  She had been rumbling with how to serve God.  But she was stuck.  She was a stay at home mom.  She felt a call to mission, but that did not seem a possibility for her with a large family rooted in Austin.  And then she had a picnic table delivered to her house for a backyard barbeque and she knew what she was supposed to do.

After the barbeque, she painted it a lovely shade of turquoise and put it smack in her front yard.  One morning she took her cup of coffee and her laptop out there and started working.  Pretty soon what she had hoped would happen did.  She started to meet her neighbors. At first it was a casual hello as someone walked by with the dog.  But in time her turquoise table became a meeting point for people in the neighborhood.  People started connecting.  They sat down together, really got to know each other. Everyone was welcome.  Real connections were formed.

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A Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

This week we celebrated our new sexton Tyrell’s birthday. For some reason while eating cake with the staff, I remembered my the cake from my 5th birthday. It was an ice cream hedgehog cake my mother made. Why a hedgehog birthday cake? It took me a minute but I remembered that I loved the book Miss Jaster’s Garden which featured a kind old lady and a hedgehog living in her garden. My sweet mother had not batted an eye when I asked for a hedgehog cake. It was a creation of chocolate, mocha and coffee ice cream layers with slivered almonds as the hedgehog’s prickles. I called her to talk about it and we laughed and remembered the story together. It is for certain the BEST birthday cake I’ve ever had. More than loving the book or hedgehogs or birthdays the thing that lay at the core of that memory was how much my mother loved and adored me. Stories can cut through to what is most true.

We come here today to remember our shared story of God’s love. Today we will welcome Libbie into this love story and we will honor our beloved Mike Koschak’s place in our story at St. Mary’s. This is one of the things I cherish most about being part of the church, this getting to share our stories together. To hold up what is most true together

Today’s lectionary offers us two of my favorite stories from scriptures. The stories of Sarah and Martha and Mary.

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A Sermon for the First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity.  This hymn known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate is one of my favorite hymns.  It probably falls into my top 10 list. I remember singing it in church as a kid and struggling to match the words to the notes.  That’s a generous statement which might lead you to think I read music. If you have stood anywhere near me while singing you know that is not the case.  I just know that the notes go up and down and I try to match my voice accordingly. But I sing this one out no matter what.

It is so solid and strong and sure.  The Trinity. The Three in One and One in Three.  The solid foundation of our faith. There is something about declaring the name of the Trinity that seems fixed as well.  Unmovable. And for certain, I through faith and experience I believe in the three persons of the Trinity and the unbreakable strength in that.  But I’ve also learned that the Trinity is anything but static; it is always on the move. Moving me. Moving others.

In the course of church history the doctrine of the Trinity has sparked controversy and debate and heresy and schisms and all kinds of messes.  To try to explain how three separate and distinct entities are one in the same can produce some consternation. But I am convinced that God is most interested in how I respond to the Trinity at work around me.  Accepting the mystery of the Trinity can be easier than seeing the work the Trinity calls me too. The strong name of the Trinity demands that I stop naval gazing and to look out see what our Triune God is up to in the world.  The Trinity in truth is simple, it’s just not easy.

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A Sermon for Maundy Thursday

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

I spent several years as the religion teacher at an Episcopal day school in Baton Rouge.  I taught about 300 students from PreK – 5th grade. They called me Church Lady and I loved it. I wish I had written down all the things they said and did, because there are some hysterical and profound stories.

One day I was teaching the story of the Good Shepherd to a group of Kindergartners.  I talked about how the Good Shepherd led his sheep to green pastures and cool still waters and through the dark rocky places.  I told them that the Good Shepherd knew all his sheep by name and if even one of them was missing he would go out to find them and bring them home.  I used big pieces of felt and small wooden sheep and shepherd to tell the story. At the end of the story,  Warren, a darling, precocious boy with strawberry blond curls and freckles all over his big moon face shook his head. He had the best gravelly little voice I had ever heard from a 5-year-old.

I don’t know Miss Amelia….”That Good Shepherd must have had some kind of good GPS system to not get lost out there.”

Warren, the son of an avid Louisiana outdoorsman, knew how easy it is to get lost travelling in the wilderness without some help.

David helped us start off this Lenten season by reminding us that God has a burning question for us all, and it has been his question since the garden….  Where are you? We humans have gotten very good at hiding. From God. From each other and from ourselves. And the call of Lent is to try to stop hiding so much and show up.  Not an easy task.

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