SERMONS

Thanksgiving, and the entrance into the Advent and Christmas season (starting next week already!) can be full of joy, but it can also be a lonely and challenging time for many.

Some years ago, when a woman named Wanda Dench was trying to reach her grandson, to invite him to Thanksgiving at her house, she accidentally texted a stranger named Jamal Hinton instead. When the truth of what had happened became clear to Wanda and Jamal, and it furthermore became clear that Jamal had no place to go or be on Thanksgiving, they agreed that Jamal should join Wanda and her husband Lonnie for the home-cooked meal being prepared. Six years later, their tradition of gathering together on Thanksgiving is still going strong.

Truth, alongside a little courage and healthy risk-taking set the stage for these strangers to build new relationships and a new tradition that has deepened their respective lives. Truth.

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What really matters? With what should we be preoccupying ourselves? What really matters in this life and beyond?

This passage of Mark’s gospel that we heard today was either written just before or just after the Jewish-Roman war of 66-70 CE, in which the Temple at Jerusalem was destroyed. Which means that the stones that Jesus and the disciples are looking at in today’s story are just about to be thrown down, or have just been thrown down. Which means that at least part of the gospel message for those who first heard these words from Mark, and for us who hear them today, is to remember that even when the places and things of our lives and this world are destroyed or being destroyed, that is not the end of the story. Difficult and challenging and full grief, yes. But not the end of the story.

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I can see them in my mind’s eye. Connie, Doris, Lyn, and Judy, who when I was a teenager and frankly not always happy to be at church, always greeted me with a hug and a smile. And there was Erwin, a curmudgeonly yet kind old man, who taught us all how to be acolytes, and was always there before everyone else on Sunday morning. Helen Mayer, who made the best fudge I have ever tasted and always gave me a taste of it! And Pete, who traveled with my dad and me in tow into that mysterious place called the boiler room, forever working to keep the heat and hot water going in the sanctuary and building next door.

Saints who welcomed this pimply teenager and loved me unconditionally and made sure I knew that I mattered. I don’t know that I consciously realized and acknowledged the welcome and love they gave to me then, but I certainly see it now. And I definitely did not see their work or the work of countless others in that faith community called church as work of the resurrection then. But I certainly see it now.

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Scientists working in the deep sea off the coast of New Zealand have found three types of sharks that glow in the dark. They are fairly sure that they developed the capacity to glow in the dark because of where they lived, which makes sense since they live in the deep, dark sea.

Tonight, October 31st, All Hallow’s Eve – more commonly known as Halloween – many people will light candles in pumpkins. A light in the darkness of a different sort, and in the secular arena a night on which we see scary costumes contrasted with light and airy costumes; walks through the cold and dreary night contrasted with sweets and delights shared in abundance.

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There are different forms of healing, and the deepest forms of healing may not always be the ones we think that we are looking for.

There is physical healing – like Bartimaeus who calls out to Jesus in today’s gospel reading, asking for his sight to be restored. This might be what most people think of when they think of healing, and in desperation and need we have probably found ourselves asking for God’s help to heal ourselves or the ones we love. And because the nature of healing lies in the realm of mystery, sometimes physical healing comes, and sometimes it doesn’t, in ways that can deeply frustrate, and anger and confuse us.

Then there’s healing of mind, and heart, and soul. Healing for grief and anger. Healing from despair or abuse. These, too, lie somewhat in the realm of mystery, in that even with wonderful therapists and supportive family and friends healing sometimes comes, or sometimes takes years or an entire lifetime, or sometimes manages to elude those seeking that healing altogether. That healing of all that needs healing does not always take place reminds us that this side of heaven, we exist in a broken world, where the light of Christ, perfect though it is, can only break in imperfectly upon our lives and our needs. The resurrecting work of the cross, including healing, will not be seen in its fullness until all things reconciled to Christ at the end of time.

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