Sermons by “Rev’d Dr. Anita Louise Schell”
Saying Good bye and Thank you
You will show me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy,and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.
Jesus tells us again and again, and particularly in today’s Gospel, that his is the way of life, and embrace it we must if we are to be followers of Christ. There is no time to delay; there is no time for hesitation, no time for despair, no time looking back to our past mistakes and failure of nerve. It is time to go all the way in this life of discipleship and to know its costs – which thankfully for us, do not usually mean our lives as in the case of martyrdom. This call does mean making Jesus our top priority. It does mean asking ourselves every day: “What would Jesus have me do?” When we do this, and embrace Jesus’ life as our own, those fruits of the Spirit that Paul enumerates in today’s Epistle just seem to kick into place. We have more than enough to join this ministry of joy and love. And we always have one another.
A Forward Day by Day quotation of a few years ago still hits me like a 2 x 4 with its compelling wisdom. It reads, “A sign of God’s will is that we will be led where we did not plan to go. When I look back on those events,” the article continues, “I see God’s hand in them. When I was able to put my trust in God, I was led where I did not plan to go but where I definitely needed to be. Thanks be to God!” How true this has been for me!
I never expected to serve at Emanuel; I had other plans. God took care of that, and what a blessing you have been in my life – and in Steve’s.
You have asked what you can do for me – so here goes – Come to church – EVERY SUNDAY. We need to worship and pray together and practice doing that. We are always in rehearsal. I totally understand about other commitments. Make church the top priority along with your family and friends. I have attempted to do this my entire life – not just the over half of it I have been a priest.
We come to church to practice being Christians – to pray, serve and love one another. Thank you for the fabulous nine years that I have practiced being a Christian, a follower of Jesus, with you! How I will miss all of you. I love you Emmanuel, Newport. You are forever in my heart.
It’s the small words that count most: in today’s Epistle, Paul tells the Jerusalem Christians that their welcome does not go far enough. The Gentiles do not have to subscribe to all the Jewish regulations, he insists. What these Gentiles have to do is be baptized and proclaim Jesus as Lord.
Sometimes Paul gets carried away. In this case, he presses his point by telling his Jewish colleagues that all the old categories they had followed all their lives are too confining. What follows is absolutely radical. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ.” They note his emphasis on all.
One preaching professor reads this Galatians passage and observes that the hardest words to learn in any language are never the long words but the short words. The Galatians have no trouble pronouncing the long, ponderous words: circumcision, for one. But they stumbled over three short words: faith, grace, baptism, and especially, “all.”
“All” is very hard for the people in Galatia to follow. All is at the heart of the teachings of Jesus – all are welcome at the table, all are forgiven, all can be cured. It is about taking that first step, as the man possessed with the demon in today’s Gospel knew so very well, taking the step towards health and wholeness. All are welcome at the Lord’s table at Emmanuel Church.
Trinity Sunday: It’s complicated….
Today is Trinity Sunday, the only Sunday specifically dedicated to a Christian teaching or doctrine. This annual commemoration gives us the opportunity to explore the mystery of God and how Christians from the earliest centuries sought to understand God and Jesus’ relationship to God. It gives us the opportunity to explore the different strands of our relationships to God, as the earliest Christians did. By the time the Nicene Creed was penned in the fourth century, the doctrine of the Trinity had come into focus as describing 1 God in 3 parts – as Creator, as Savior and Sustainer.
The Trinity doctrine is a simple and complicated formula: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is no formula to be memorized for yet another examination (as I did when I was confirmed in 1970). This is a formula we carry with us on all our journeys.
There are 3 major feast days in the Church year: Christmas, Easter and PENTECOST.
Pentecost is probably the least known and celebrated. Unlike Christmas there’s no baby in the manger, no angels, no crèche scene and tableau with the Holy Family. Unlike Easter there is no empty tomb, no Holy Week story of drama to precede it and no women. Instead, we have tongues of flame on the 12 disciples’ heads. It’s all about the Spirit in the tongues of fire and what happens next.
Pentecost is just as exciting as Christmas and Easter in its own way, including it being (unofficial and not entirely accurate) the birthday of the church.
You’ll know that it is a big deal at Emmanuel – look for the color red, balloons, and an Emmanuel photo taken at the end of the 10 am service. (Many thanks to Kim Robey for taking the photo!) Don’t miss the activities, all signs of the Spirit alive and well at Emmanuel.
Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that this is a “new” commandment. How is this so? There is nothing to suggest that love was absent from the disciples’ lives in the tradition of their Judaism. Was it new in that the disciples were entering a new time of life in the world? Was it new in that only now had Jesus begun to talk this way to them? Or perhaps the nature of their love for one another was to be new? Certainly, Jesus tells them that they are to love as he had loved them. How do we do this?View Sermon
The Second Sunday of Easter is always the Sunday of Thomas “the twin,” sometimes called “doubting Thomas” – which I think is unfair to Thomas. It is also the Sunday when we recall that Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” Jesus tells his disciples, not once, not twice, but three times, “Peace be with you.” The last time they were together, Jesus told his disciples that, regardless of what they were threatened with in this world, they would share in his peace. But saying it had not made it so.
Today, this Second Sunday in Easter, we find ourselves again in John’s Gospel where we are told that the disciples are gathered in a room late on Easter Sunday, and the mood is bleak. Every plan and hope for the future rested with Jesus, and now he is dead. There are incredible stories of a resurrection, but the disciples remain unconvinced. How can it be?
Then, without warning, Jesus appears in their midst. “Peace be with you,” he says, and he shows them his hands… Where do you find yourself in this story?
In today’s Gospel this fifth Sunday in Lent, Jesus tells Judas that Mary bought the perfume to keep for the day of his burial. But rather than save it for that day, she uses it when he’s still alive and well.
What exactly is the rush? Mary needs to wait only a few more days to fulfill her original intention. But something in her can’t wait. She anoints Jesus’ feet–not for burial, but for his short, walk toward death. As one writer asked, “What do we do when time grows short?”
Mary offers us an answer. Her response embodies the advice given by writer, Annie Dillard. “Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place . . . give it, give it all, give it now.” It’s advice for life as much as for writing. This seems to be the reason for Jesus’ blunt response about the poor always being with us. The point is not to be resigned and complacent; it is to be present to what each moment requires. What this moment requires of Mary is an act of reckless anointing. What does this moment require of you?
The story of Moses and the burning bush in the Hebrew Scriptures is the most detailed account of a divine call in Scripture, and one known by people all around the world, portrayed so powerfully in movies like “The 10 Commandments” but also in the Disney film, “Prince of Egypt.”
In the dramatic story of the burning bush – it needs no special affects but gets plenty of them in both films – we see the four-fold pattern of commission, objection, reassurance and sign, as Moses is called to be God’s agent in the liberation of Israel.
Both passages from the New Testament today offer stern wake up calls as well, important to the communities to which they were addressed. In his first letter to the people of Corinth, Paul issues a warning: just because the community in Corinth has experienced God’s grace, just because its members have been chosen to become the body of Christ, does not make them immune to God’s displeasure. No one is, so to speak, “above the law.”
Today’s Gospel recounts the story of a number of people from Galilee being brutally slaughtered by Pontius Pilate’s soldiers while they were presenting their sacrifices. In this horrific act, the blood of the victims was mingled with that of the sacrificial animals. Jesus responds by asking if they thought these Galileans were “worse sinners than all other Galileans” because they suffered in this way.
In both cases, the disasters occurred suddenly and without warning, and the victims had no chance to repent. What is the message here? Life is precarious; repentance cannot be delayed, or as one writer puts it, “Mercy has an expiration date. Don’t put off repentance?.”
As Moses, Paul and Jesus knew, encountering God takes time, wonder, openness, prayer, contemplation, but first and foremost, simply our ready selves. As human beings, made in the image of God, we are programmed to be generous with our time and with one another, ready to see the goodness in one other, quick to forgive, as God is slow to anger and of great kindness. How do you encounter God?