A Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, September 18, 2022

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

Is your halo getting a little snug?
That is what my mother would ask me when I was getting a little too big for my britches, Is your halo getting a little snug? This question was brought out when I was behaving with some kind of remarkable lack of humility.

As an only child and grandchild for 12 years in a close knit family it was easy to feel spectacularly special. And the fact that I remember this saying clearly should give you some indication of just how often I needed a course correction.

I can still feel the sting of being called out for my arrogance. And truthfully there have been many times past my childhood when my mother should have marched up to me and asked the question again.

Being called out when you are well aware you are in the wrong hurts. But being called out when you are thinking you are good enough or being pretty darn good maybe even spectacularly good, that leaves a mark.

And often that was and is the job of the prophets. To leave a mark. To speak in such a way that gets people’s attention. Prophets go far beyond my mother’s gentle corrective question and they can throw gut punches. But prophets in their attempts to land words that alarm us are not trying to harm God’s people, they are trying to gather God’s people back to the life giving ways that God wants us to live.

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A Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, July 17, 2022

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

I recently read a beautiful essay by writer Sean Dietrich about Tennessee. Dietrich describes the hospitality of the state I call home with humor and fondness. I consider this remarkable because he lives in Florida and Tennesseans are not known for much kind talk about Florida, especially during football season. In response to a stranger telling him how he’d moved to Tennessee from New York years ago because Tennessee was home to the nicest people, Dietrich says…
He’s right. I’ve only been in Tennessee for 24 hours. But so far, two waitresses have called me “sugar,” three people have held the door for me, and one guy on the street was thoughtful enough to sincerely try to save my soul from everlasting damnation.

My guess is that each of you carry stories and memories of the place you grew up calling home. And that although I am terribly partial to my place I know that there are many places in this world that are beautiful and full of kind people who offer hospitality to strangers and friends alike. But I hold one top spot for my home. Our biscuits. I will fight you about biscuits because they make those best in Tennessee.

Offering hospitality is at the heart of today’s readings. We all have ideas about how to be hospitable to others, how to greet and welcome people into our homes, into our communities. Hospitality is described as an art. The span of the concept of hospitality can range from the way a table is set and what food is served to accounting for the feelings and needs of each guest.

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A Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 15, 2022

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

This is a season full of graduation speeches. So many parting last words are offered to young people to send them off into their newest academic pursuit or off into the world at large. I’m sure you’ve been to your fair share of these speeches. You may also have had more heart felt kitchen table conversations with beloved young ones as they were setting off themselves.

The night before I left for school my parents awkwardly tried to tell me everything that they thought I needed to know. Don’t walk alone at night. Make new friends. Lock your door. Don’t take a drink at a party if you didn’t see who poured it. Challenge yourself. Don’t see a bad grade as a failure but a chance to try again. You know. Good stuff. My dad closed the whole session out by saying while looking not at me but at his shoes that naked was nobody’s best state. Parting words indeed.

There are so many things to tell people as they set off on new journeys. And they range from specifics to broad brushstroke ideas of how to live in this life.

Today’s readings are leading us up to the end of Eastertide. Pentecost comes in two more weeks and the church and all of us followers of Jesus are launched into a new reality. And there is an urgency in the tone of both of the readings from today. There are things we need to know.

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A Sermon for Maundy Thursday

Thursday, April 14, 2022

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

Texie Laing, a dear five year old member of this congregation, has single handedly made this year’s celebration of Lent a better one for me. This is not because she said something particularly sparkling or insightful or I saw her engage in some amazing act of kindness. Although she is sparkling, insightful and kind to be sure.

Texie has made Lent better for me because of her willingness to struggle. I like people who are honest about their struggles. In a culture of toxic positivity that I all too often participate in, being real about what hurts and confounds us is a gift.

Texie arrived in children’s chapel a few weeks ago with a furrowed brough. I wasn’t sure why. But, everybody is allowed furrowed brough days and I thought this might just be one of those days for Texie. David was telling the story of Moses and the burning bush to the children that morning. At some point I looked over and Texie had covered her ears with her hands. I wondered if it was David’s deep, booming voice that was causing her alarm, but he really wasn’t being that loud. But again, Texie is five, it was a furrowed brow day already, and I just assumed that was the problem.

It turns out that on the way to church that morning, Texie’s older brother Bo, had explained exactly what happened to Jesus, the part that happens on Good Friday. And that had sent Texie into a tailspin. By the time David got the part about Moses MURDERING AN EGPTIAN in his story Texie had enough of the awfulness for one day.

Throughout the rest of Lent I have watched Texie struggle with the story of Easter. And I love her for the honesty of her struggle.

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A Sermon for the First Sunday after the Epiphany

Sunday, January 9, 2022

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

I ran across a poem recently. Poems I particularly admire are written with an economy of words. The barest number of words can be used to evoke a universe of thoughts and feelings. I want to be clear I came to appreciate poetry later in life. Not long ago at all really. Maybe it’s because I have realized that I myself use way too many words that I have come to this appreciation.

This poem, by Maggie Smith, struck me when I saw it on New Year’s Day.

The rain is a broken piano, playing the same note over and over.
My five-year-old said that. Already she knows loving the world means loving the wobbles you can’t shim, the creaks you can’t oil silent – the jerry rigged parts, MacGyvered with twine and chewing gum.
Let me love the cold rain’s plinking. Let me love the world the way I love my young son, not only when he cups my face in his sticky hands, but when, roughhousing, he accidentally splits my lip.
Let me love the world like a mother. Let me be tender when it lets me down.
Let me listen to the rain’s one note and hear a beginner’s song.
Maggie Smith

There is so much I love about this poem. I understand the imagery because it is true for me too.

I particularly love her description of getting walloped by a child. I’ve had my own lip split open more than once by the ginormous head of a kid. Maybe you have too. It’s an out of body experience. Because your brain’s fight or flight mode is triggered when you receive a blow like that. And here you are holding this fragile creature who has effectively just punched you. All the tenderness and love you have for the little boxer you are holding in your arms meets with the rage you instinctively feel. It’s an odd sensation. Because love washes that adrenaline fueled rage away. Maybe not instantly, but pretty darn quickly. And you gaze at your own prize fighter with adoration with a sense of I love you no matter what.

As I read this poem, the beginner’s song the poet refers to, the song that plinks down steadily, in one note, that I heard is I love you, no matter what.

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