A Sermon for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, November 14, 2021

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

One year at Easter my father was given the job of saying the blessing before brunch. As I am sure many of you have experienced firsthand … by brunch on Easter there can be a couple of things happening.
Parents of young children are particularly tired because their children are either a. in a jelly bean induced hysteria or b. have already experienced the sugar crash and things are off the rails.
Grandparents can be simultaneously filled up by the presence of their children and grandchildren while also being extraordinarily annoyed by the mayhem.
The brunch host is exhausted and usually worried about a dish or two that did not come out as planned.
You know. Everybody is in a great mood by brunch on Easter.

My dad started in on the prayer as we were gathered around ham and biscuits and cheese grits. I knew things were going to go long when Daddy started all the way back at Creation, like it was the Easter Vigil. By the time he got to the morning of the resurrection, he started with the line “And thank God for the women”
To which my Aunt Elsie loudly replied. AMEN. And blessedly, there ended the blessing.

Thank God for the women. Amen.

In the last few weeks, the Old Testament readings have offered us glimpses of some powerful women. Esther and Ruth have both been in our lectionary readings and David and Harrison both have preached about them. And yes, dad was right. Thank God for Esther and Ruth and those women at the tomb and for the all the brave women of the Scriptures.

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A Sermon for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, October 3, 2021

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

“Good Lord, Amelia. This is biblical.” That was my aunt’s text to me.

It was a Sunday night, and I was sitting at the emergency vet with our then 12-year-old yellow lab, Ruth, and two very tearful children. An hour earlier we had all been sitting in the living room when she was suddenly unable to stand. If you are a dog person you know this is the stuff that strikes fear in your heart. My aunt is a dog person and I had texted her knowing that she’d understand.

The Sunday before had been begun a week of unbearable sadness. We were together in the same living room when I had to tell my children that their father had died. Ruth had dutifully nudged and loved on each one of us as we sat there together. And now we were tearfully nudging and loving on her. Willing this problem to be fixable. Praying that this would not be the night to say goodbye too.

Looking into the faces of my terrified children, running the scenarios of how this could all play out in my head, feeling the sorrow heap upon sorrow, it did feel a bit “biblical” as my aunt had suggested. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I got down and whispered into my sweet dog’s ear, “Not tonight. No ma’am. Not tonight.”

Of course, my aunt was referring to Job whose story we begin in the lectionary today. Job, the blameless and upright man who feared God, who suffered mightily in the course of his biblical narrative. He is a Scriptural symbol and even secular code word for suffering, and I would guess that we are all familiar enough with his story.

Thankfully Ruth pulled out of that night and bless her she’s still with us today. And I can say with certainty that we definitely don’t deserve her because she is as blameless and upright a creature in this Kingdom as Job.

Job loses everything, his family, his home, his livelihood as the story unfolds. Job’s suffering is deeply relatable to us all, whether we’d like to own up to it or not. Job did not escape tragedy and losses through his good behavior or even the goodness of his heart. There was no way for Job to manifest good fortune for himself by changing his attitude or meditating or giving money to some cause.

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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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