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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“Sermon on the Mount” Book Study

Amelia is leading a Women’s Book Study on Sermon on the Mount by AJ Levine – During Lent, taking a closer look at the Sermon on the Mount is a beneficial way of remembering what Jesus came to teach us. “Reading [the Sermon on the Mount] with Amy Jill Levine has been a born-again experience, renewing my faith that scripture always has more to reveal to me…” Barbara Brown Taylor

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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A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Sunday, December 19, 2021

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

There are many things that I am proud of when I say that I am from Tennessee. I know there are great people and places in every corner of this earth, but home is home and your people are your people. One of the Nashvillians I am proudest of is Episcopal priest, Becca Stevens, who runs Thistle Farms. She founded Thistle Farms to address the needs of women who are survivors of addiction, trafficking and prostitution. The two-year residential program helps women create new lives through counseling, education and job training. Their motto is Love Heals, and it has been at Thistle Farms for the more than 20 years. And Thistle Farms has grown to serve women around the US and abroad.

Stevens travels frequently and she brings with her women who are about to graduate at Thistle Farms. Their stories are powerful and humbling. Stevens tells of one woman she was traveling with, a survivor of abuse and life on the streets. The woman was so anxious about giving her speech to the group they were visiting she rewrote it multiple times as she was on the plane and in the hotel the night before the event.

The following morning, when Stevens and the woman arrived at the community to speak, Stevens got up and said, “This is making me nervous. I think it will go much better for her and for us if we just go ahead, cut to the chase, and give her a standing ovation now.” Of course, the group complied, and the woman began weeping as did the audience and Stevens says “it was a big love fest without any words.” The woman’s witness to the healing power of love, without one single word being said was enough.

This story reminds me of today’s Gospel reading. A preemptive ovation and witness to what God’s love can do.

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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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