A Sermon for Holy Saturday, Easter Vigil

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

I speak to you in the name of the Good Shepherd whose great love brings us over into new life.

I fainted at the first Easter Vigil service I attended. This would in any circumstance be a problem, but I was also acolyting and holding a torch. My friend, Patrick, and I were standing on either side of the priest as he read by candlelight these stories of our faith we have just heard told by some of our parishioners. I locked my knees at some point. That was my mistake. Thankfully the whole thing wasn’t too dramatic, and no hair was burned. And thankfully this memory has not colored my love for this service.

This ancient service is so beautiful. In the early church this is the night that those who wished to become Christians were baptized. There are several more readings that can be included in this service, each of them telling of God’s saving love for humanity and all of creation. And although we are experiencing this service differently tonight these stories of our faith stand firm and solid and true. Their truth has knees that do not lock. The truth they tell has spoken to many generations of believers before us who relied upon God’s never-failing love. They spoke to the believers in times of want and in times of plenty. And they speak to us.

Tonight, I find myself hearing to these stories with a “listening heart” as my younger learners and I would say. Although I don’t think I had fully recognized it, I had become agile at least attempting to avoid the fragility and tenuousness of this life through the notions of invincibility and self-sufficiency. But, in these last few weeks as the world has so rapidly changed around us, my heart too has had to change.

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A Reflection for Noonday Prayer

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

This is a poem by Friar Richard Hendrick a Franciscan Friar living in Ireland.

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.

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A Sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

Yesterday morning, while scrolling through all the smattering of news I can access on my phone, I came upon something worth stopping for.
The story of Dan Peterson and Norah Wood. You may know it.

Dan Peterson was shopping at the local Publix in Norcross, Georgia. Mr. Peterson was, as he told it, pretty severely depressed. He had just lost his wife of many years and I can only imagine what an incredibly lonely task it was to be out shopping for just himself.

Norah Wood was at the grocery store too with her mom. She was four years old and getting a ride in one of those big carts. Norah was in her cart not feeling particularly lonely at all. In fact, when you watch the security video of what follows, you see she is perfectly filled up.

Norah waved at Dan as their carts passed. She called out to him, “Hey Old Person”. The three of them were strangers to one another. But that didn’t stop Norah. Dan paused kind of dumbstruck. Next she asked for a hug. “Absolutely” said Dan. Norah asked for her mama to take a picture of them together.

Then Dan said, to Norah and her mom, “You don’t know. This is the first time for quite a while that I’ve been this happy.” And hearing him recount the story you realize just how much Norah was a blessing to Dan.

The story went viral and got picked up for national news. Thousands of letters of encouragement came flooding into Dan’s mailbox. It is a story that just felt good.

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A Sermon for the Second Sunday after Christmas

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

I heard that last Sunday while I was away, Bob Hetherington laid down a challenge for me in his sermon. He mentioned the part of today’s story from the Flight into Egypt that has been omitted by the lectionary. It’s the story of the Massacre of the Innocents. It is only three verses that have been picked out. And they are three of the most brutal verses contained in our story of God’s love.

I’ve heard of other sermon challenges, like giving someone a crazy word or phrase to figure out how to incorporate into the sermon like aluminum siding or castor oil. This one is harder. But in my time with Bob Hetherington I have learned to listen to his words carefully because his wisdom is Spirit-led and powerful. So here I go.

In the start of today’s story, Joseph has been warned in a dream to get Mary and Jesus out of Bethlehem. Herod was searching for them and they were in grave danger. It’s unclear exactly how long they had been in Bethlehem when they leave. But Joseph acts and is ready to care for his family.

Now here is where the part that’s left out in today’s Gospel reading falls. It fits in just after the gospel cites the prophet Hosea’s words, “Out of Egypt I have called my son”.

Verses 16-18 of the 2nd Chapter of Matthew read…
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all the region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
Wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
She refused to be consoled,
Because they were no more.”

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A Sermon for the Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

Recently, a friend who clearly knows me well sent me this quote…

Some parents run a tight ship. I run a pirate ship. There is some swearing, some drinking, and a touch of mutiny.

I run a house with two teenagers.  I identify.  But I imagine that God belly laughs at this just as much as I do.  We humans are a regular goat rodeo on a good day.  Wrangling us into some kind of order?  I cannot even fathom.  Thank goodness God is merciful.  In my home we’ve gone from chore charts to texting chores and reminders as one of the ways I try to impose some order on our days. I keep a family calendar with the ridiculous number of activities and events all logged in.  It is a moving target.  Often I miss things and am unaware of something I was supposed to know or do.  Getting my arms and my head around the daily life we lead is near impossible.

One of the things that I cherish about our way of worship is the liturgical year, the order we try to impose so we can pay attention to the life of Jesus.  That may sound horribly dry and boring.  But it’s true.  I love this way of ordering our days so we know what we are supposed to be doing when we show up.  But it also much more than that, it is a perpetual way to show up and meet Jesus again anew.

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