Sermons

Sermons (194)

A note about Pastor Anne's sermons: when she preaches from a manuscript, her sermons can be found on her website: 

 

https://www.ofgoodcourage.org/sermons

 

The Rev. Anne K. Ellsworth
Interim Rector
Church of The Transfiguration
514 S. Mountain Rd
Mesa, Arizona 85208
480-986-1145

No written sermon today, however it can be viewed/listened to via the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SG87D7yQTI

 

On this first Sunday of Christmas, we celebrate with a liturgy of "Lessons and Carols." Weaving scripture and carols together, Lessons and Carols is a beloved tradition that emerged out of King's College at the end of the first World War. The main theme of Lessons and Carols  is the development of the loving purposes of God, seen through the windows and words of the Bible. Between each bible lesson is sung a beloved carol from our hymnal. May you each be blessed by the telling and singing of the promise of God's salvation.  

Rev Anne Ellsworth

 

The Rev. Anne K. Ellsworth

Advent 4, Year C

Transfiguration

 

Good Morning.

 

This morning we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Advent, the last Sunday before Christmas.

 

Over the past month the light on the Advent wreath has grown brighter, symbolizing our drawing nearer to the Mystery of Christmas.

 

As the light grows brighter each Sunday, we continue to wait and watch for the dawning of God’s love made flesh in Jesus.

 

In our collect this morning we ask God to purify our conscience so that we might have a heart like a mansion in which the love of Christ may dwell—

 

“Purify Our Conscience

 

Our conscience is our inner-knowing—it is our ability to distinguish the best ways to live. To, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, do good and avoid evil.

 

But we aren’t born with a fully formed conscience in place ready to do good and avoid evil.

 

A purified conscience takes shape over our lifetimes and in community.

 

Our conscience is formed by what we read and watch. What we listen to and who we are friends with.

 

A broader understanding of the word Conscience can be derived from the Latin Conscientia meaning:

 

A joint knowledge of something, a knowing of a thing together with another person…a sense of right and wrong.”

 

It is akin to the word consensus.

 

Our conscience is ultimately our own, but it is developed over time by the traditions and narratives and experiences that shape our lives.

 

A uniquely Christian conscience is informed primarily by the life and teaching of Jesus and the traditions and practices of the Christian community.

 

The Love of God—as it is revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth—the baby born in Bethlehem--is the foundation of Christian knowing.

Christian faith formation—learning and telling the story of Jesus through word and practice—is how a Christian conscience is formed. It is how we, as Christians, begin to be able to fundamentally orient ourselves towards God, Jesus, and the Good:

 

Symbols like

Our advent wreath

The nativity scene

Bread and Wine

Stories from scripture and our hymns

The lives of the Saints

Candles and Icons and Sacred Art

All these things shape our collective moral imagination to be in the image of God’s love—in the image of Jesus.

When we spend time with God’s word and image and story, we become more and more inclined towards God. More inclined—capable, even—in doing good and avoiding evil.

We develop a conscience that aligns with God’s vision for the world on earth as it is in Heaven.

This is a primary purpose of our shared prayers together, to shape our beliefs and responses to the world around us.

For example, in this parish, we pray morning prayer together once a week and Compline five times a week.

In fact, Christians all over the world pray the offices of the church: morning, noon, evening, and night prayers at the designated times. So that even when we are praying alone, we are praying together. Our collective knowing—our collective conscience shaped by scripture and prayer over centuries.
Compline, or night prayer, is my favorite office to pray. It is sometimes called the “milk and cookies” office because it is a comforting ritual before bed. It “completes” our day.

My favorite compline prayer reads:

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless 

the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the 
joyous; and all for your love's sake.”

This prayer reflects the essence of a Christian conscience: mindful of God’s presence in our lives, the sacredness of life, the need for rest and protection, and genuine concern for those who suffer.

The words and ideas and images we consume shape our conscience. Our prayer shapes our knowing and informs our conscience.

Again, from our collect this morning:

“Purify our Conscience Lord, so that our hearts expand and become spacious and gracious dwelling place for Jesus.”

Prayer creates in us spacious and gracious hearts with plenty good room for Jesus to be born. To take refuge. To live.

Prayers shape our thoughts and our actions. Our thoughts shape our beliefs and our actions shape our relationships with God and one another. Our relationships in this faith community, but also in our nation and in our world.

“Purify our conscious—” our collect this morning reads, “prepare in us a mansion for Jesus to dwell—”

Prepare in us a mansion—

A spacious, welcoming, place for Jesus to rest and live and grow and be alive—

A mansion—like the womb of Mary that expands to carry the growing life of Jesus inside her—

A mansion—like Cathedrals that tell the story of Jesus through art and song and worship—incense and candlelight

Spacious like our liturgical tradition that allows for varied cultures, languages, and customs; art and music; scripture and bread and wine to form our moral imaginations and incline us evermore to a life rooted in Jesus.

A life oriented towards the Good and away from Evil.

Purify our conscience Lord, make us worthy of the name Christian, teach us in all ways to do

good, to avoid evil, and to make evermore room for the light of Christ to dwell in us.

 

The Rev. Anne K. Ellsworth

Advent 3, Year C

Church of the Transfiguration

On this Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday—Rejoice Sunday—we remember the gift of Joy we have in Jesus.

And on this morning of Joy and Rejoicing I want to name something at the start: For many of us, This isn’t the Hap-Happiest-Season-Of-All---

The Holiday Season—Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s—can feel very complicated.

It can become a very busy and stressful season as we navigate all kinds of expectations from ourselves and our families and friends—

It can also be a season of profound sadness, of feeling blue—feelings that are amplified in contrast to the insistence that we haul out the holly and be of good cheer.

This time of year can be a season of real suffering for many of us for all kinds of different reasons.

And as Christians, I don’t believe we can talk about Joy without first acknowledging the reality of suffering.

There is not a single person in church this morning or who is watching on-line who is not suffering in some way—

And while each of us suffers in our own way--none of us are exempt from suffering. There is no way around it—to be alive is to know suffering.

Still, we Rejoice on this Gaudete Sunday anyway.

We rejoice with the hope that joy will make a home in our hearts—our sometimes heavy, weary, gloomy hearts.

Our collect this morning reads:

"Stir Up Thy Power
And With Great Might Come Among Us
We Are Hindered by Our Sins
Your Grace and Mercy is Bountiful"
  

“Stir Up Thy Power,” we pray

God’s power is bountiful

full of grace and mercy

It is
Liberating
Embodied
Human and Divine 

Stir Up Thy Power, O God Come among us because we are hindered—"

Hindered by our sin by our suffering
Hindered by what we cannot see

by what we do not understand
 
Hindered
Because we are afraid—

And still, we are called rejoice anyway—

To rejoice is not the same as to be Merry and Bright--
It isn’t the sugary sweetness of the Holiday Season. 
It is not happiness, exactly—It is Joy.

And Joy is not predicated on happiness. 

Joy can be with us even as we suffer. And are sad. Or melancholy. 
To rejoice in God doesn’t require us to have a holly jolly Christmas. 
We can rejoice in God our savior even when it doesn’t feel like the most wonderful time of the year. 

Stir Up your Power, God, We are hindered—by our sadness and loss. Hindered by our humanity. Our fears. 

Hindered by darkness.

When I think about God stirring up God’s power and coming among us in great might I think of Mary, the mother of God.

In the Gospel of Luke Mary announces her pregnancy to her sister Elizabeth this way: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior—"


I wonder if Mary prayed to God to stir up power within her so that her spirit might rejoice in

God, her Savior.

Mary a poor, unmarried, pregnant young woman living in the Roman Empire—and yet, Mary rejoices anyway.
 
Mary, in her rejoicing proclaims the power of God to be the power that 
         

Casts down the mighty from their thrones
         Scatters the proud and lifts up the lowly
         Fills the hungry and sends the rich away empty
 
We have no idea if she is happy. Or Merry. Or Bright. 
But She is Rejoicing in God, her Savior.

And in her rejoicing she is part of God’s plan for salvation and mercy and grace. 

And in our rejoicing we, too, become part of God’s plan for salvation and mercy and grace.

To proclaim Joy like Mary is not to deny the reality of our suffering.


To proclaim Joy like Mary is to acknowledge the power and the promise of God who shall come to us despite our suffering: God with Us. Emmanuel. The word of God made flesh.
 
Stir up thy power, Lord, and with Great might come among us. 

So that we can truly rejoice and celebrate the mystery of Christmas, Emmanuel, God With Us.

Amen.

 

 

The Rev. Anne K. Ellsworth

December 5, 2021

Advent 2, Year C

Church of the Transfiguration, Mesa

 

Good Morning,

 

On this second Sunday of Advent we remember the gift of Peace we have with and in Christ.

 

Peace is part of the mystery of Christmas. And Advent is the season we prepare our hearts to welcome the mystery of Christmas.

 

We are preparing our hearts for the Prince of Peace.

 

A baby born to Mary and Joseph who will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7).

There is a way many of us teach the mystery of Christmas to children using Godly Play. And it is told this way:

The King who was coming is still coming. This is full of mystery.

A mystery is hard to enter sometimes. That is why this time of Advent is so important.

Sometimes people can walk right through a mystery and not even know it is there. People become busy.

Maybe they don’t know how to prepare for the mystery of Christmas. Or, maybe they just forgot.

The Church learned a long time ago that people need a way to get ready to enter or even come close to a mystery like Christmas.

Christmas is such a great Mystery that it takes four weeks to get ready.

During this time, we are all on the way to Bethlehem. We are all making the journey. We are all getting ready to enter the Mystery of Christmas,

 

to make the journey that was not just back then but is also now.

And so, this morning, on the second Sunday of Advent, we light the candle of hope and the candle of peace.

This week, we remember the gift of Peace we have in Christ.

Peace is part of the mystery of Christmas. It is a gift that we must be prepared for and must work for.

When I think about the gift of peace, particularly in the context of Advent and Christmas, I immediately think of St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Francis is probably one of the best known—and best loved Saints in the Christian tradition.

There is a prayer, attributed to St. Francis, in our Book of Common Prayer. Prayer no. 62:

“Lord Make me an Instrument of Your Peace,

Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon…where there is despair, hope; where there is sadness, joy.”

St. Francis, a man born of means and prestige and who enjoyed a reckless and wild youth as well as a prominent military career—put down his sword and renounced his family’s wealth in order to follow the way of peace, the way of Christ.

The spirituality and theology of St. Francis is rooted in the Incarnation of Christ. Emmanuel. God with Us. The word made flesh. The baby Jesus born of Mary and Joseph: Fully Human and Fully Divine. The Prince of Peace.

In many ways, St. Francis is an Advent saint. One who helps us prepare to enter the mystery of Christmas.

****

Consider the manger scene that so many of us know by heart and display during Advent and through the Christmas season. Barnyard animals, hay, Mary and Joseph with the shepherds and the wisemen all gazing in awe at the sweet baby Jesus—sleeping away in the manger.

This scene captures the incarnation of God as a newborn baby. Anyone who knows the work of caring for a newborn also immediately knows the peace Mary and Joseph must be feeling as they gaze at their sleeping baby.

When we see a creche, we immediately know the story that is being told. The birth of Jesus.

But we haven’t always had the creche with us to help prepare for the mystery of Christmas.

Francis loved Jesus—the fleshy, human, God-Among-Us-Born as an Infant-Jesus and it is this love that inspired the first manger scene on a Christmas Eve in 1223--

As Francis prepared to celebrate Christmas Eve mass in a small mountain side village,

he longed to help people enter the mystery of Christmas in a new way--to make the mystery of Christmas—of Emmanuel—of God with Us—come alive for those who came to Christmas Eve mass.

The love Francis had for the Baby Jesus, the tender incarnation of God, gave birth to the manger scene.

With permission from the Pope (so as to be taken seriously and not appear to be making fun of the Nativity story), Francis moved the mass outside, gathered animals nearby, oxen and sheep, added hay, and laid an infant child in the manger so that the people of God “could gain a fresh sense of wonder about the mystery of Christmas.”

The creche helps us prepare to enter the mystery of the incarnation.

And eight-hundred years later the symbol of the creche remains one of the most popular ways we prepare to enter the mystery of Christmas.

 

Peace is a gift from God through Christ that we must prepare our hearts to receive—so that we might become instruments of God’s peace.

“Lord, Make me an Instrument of your Peace.”

And I wonder, what does preparing our hearts for peace look like here, today, at the Church of the Transfiguration?

I believe it looks like many things:

The weaving of plastic bags into sleeping mats for those who have nowhere to lay their head at night. A modern-day manger: the incarnation of Christ in those experiencing homelessness.

What does peacemaking look like here, today at Transfiguration?

Peace looks like a crazy chile farm. Restoring and caring for God’s creation in the planting of native crops. Restoring relationship with Indigenous communities whose water supply has been diverted and diminished over many decades.

Preparing and working for the gift of peace at Transfiguration looks like the care and keeping of this sacred worship space by our altar guild and volunteers and Junior Warden—because it is here that pray with one another: “Forgive Us, Help Us, make us instruments of your peace.” And it here that we offer one another—and receive from one another—a sign of Christ’s peace.

 Peace sounds like our choir who faithfully lift-up their voices on Sunday mornings to help us praise God in song.

I invite all of us to reflect on where and how we see the work of peace around us.

There are many, many incarnations of the peace of Christ at work here in this community. Not just these that I’ve named.

And so, let us continue to prepare our hearts for the mystery of Christmas.

Let us give thanks to God for the gift of peace given to us through Jesus.  

May we continue to prepare our hearts for Emmanuel, God with us, by working for Christ’s peace in our relationships with one another, in our communities and in our world. “Lord, make us an instrument of your peace.” We ask this in the name of the baby born in Bethlehem, Jesus our Lord.  Amen. 

 

The Rev. Anne K. Ellsworth

Advent 1, Year C

November 28, 2021

Church of the Transfiguration

 

Good Morning.

It is a good and joyful thing to be with you here, this morning, on the First Sunday of Advent.

Advent is the beginning—

Advent marks the arrival of a new liturgical year--

We change liturgical colors from the green of Ordinary time and the white of Christ the King to the Blue of Advent—

Blue is the color of getting ready---

It is the color of the sky just before dawn

Blue is also the color of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

It is the color of expectation and of waiting—

Advent is a season of holy preparation for something divine

Something mysterious

And transformative
Something promised yet unknown--

Advent is the season of getting ready for the arrival of something promised long ago by the prophets of Israel, propehets like Jeremiah who we hear this morning, all spoke of the coming of Christ, of how a savior would be born, a king in the line of David.

They spoke of how this King would rule the world wisely and bless all nations.  

Advent is the season of waiting for the fulfillment of this promise.

I wonder what this could really mean for us here, now, today as Christians living in 2021, two thousand years after the birth of Jesus the Christ.

The Advent wreath is an important part of our preparations.

There is one here in our sanctuary and many of us light an advent wreath at home, too.

There is one candle for each Sunday in Advent—and there are always four Sundays of Advent in the church year—three blue candles and one pink candle.

Some add a fifth candle—a white candle in the center—to mark the arrival of Christmas.

Blue is the color of getting ready, pink is the color of Joy—the third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday—Joy Sunday—and white is the color of celebration and feasting.

With each week the light of the advent wreath grows brighter—

—and as the light of the wreath grows brighter, we grow closer to the arrival of the mystery of Christmas.

The mystery of the word made flesh—

The mystery of the birth of a king—

A king unlike any the world has ever known or expected—

A king with no wealth or status or privilege—no army or castle—

As the liturgical year begins again, we, too, begin a new year of preparing our hearts for the coming of God in new and unexpected ways—

And I wonder—

Can we pretend to forget everything we think we know about Jesus and God and Shepherds and Angels and Stars—

About Mary and Joseph and Bethlehem. About the Magi and their gifts?

How does it feel to imagine coming to this season as if we truly do not know what we are preparing for—

How can we experience this Advent with a beginner’s mind--marked by curiosity and openness—questions and not answers—

And, while it is the beginning of a new liturgical year—and we begin preparations for the mystery of Christmas—

It is also the beginning of a new year in the life of the community of the Church of the Transfiguration.

We are getting ready, together, for the arrival of a new rector.

And, while I promise you the new rector is NOT the second coming of Christ, preparing for the arrival of a new rector IS ADVENT work—

We are preparing for something and someone still unknown—

The alchemy of calling a new rector is a mystery. And it takes time.

The primary work of an Interim Rector, my vocation, is to prepare the Parish for the arrival of the new Rector.

Our time together is a season of preparation in the life of this faith community.

In our time together, God will reveal truth and wisdom to us in our shared discernment, prayer, and preparation.

You have called me as your Interim Rector and I am so grateful to be with you during this season of getting ready.

Not only just this specific liturgical season of Advent—but this season of preparation for the arrival of your new Rector.

Any of us who have prepared a dinner for a guest, prepared a home for a child, or prepared for a journey, knows this: preparation—waiting—watching—is not static work. We are not in a holding pattern.

It may feel still at times. Or slow. We may feel anxious at times. We may become impatient and want what we want when we want it.

But, God takes the time God takes.

As it is with the Prophets and the Holy Family and the Shepherds and the Magi: Ours is to remain faithful to the task at hand--to wait on God. To watch for God. And to prepare our hearts and this parish home for the presence of God in one another, and in the calling of a new rector.

And so, in hopeful anticipation, let us begin the start of this new year together.

A Sermon Preached By
The Rev. Philip W. Stowell
November 14, 2021


      There once was a married couple, who after many  years of preparation, were flying in a small plane across the Pacific Ocean. Owing to a mishap in their calculation, the plane began to run out of gas. They saw an uninhabited island, and in the good providence of God, they were able to land the plane on the island. There they were, stranded and wondering if they ever would be rescued. They began to share with one another some of the things they had done of late. The woman turned to her husband and said, “One of the things that I did just before we left was to  make a very substantial gift to the church.” Her husband said, “Oh, really? Did you send them cash or did you make a pledge?”She replied, “I made a pledge.” “Magnificent!” said her husband. “Now I know that we’ll be found!”
      I should probably tell you that this story just proves why it is important for each and every one of us to make a pledge to the Church of the Transfiguration  next week on Stewardship Sunday, because if we ever get lost on a desert island or anywhere else for that matter, our parish will most certainly come looking for us so that we can honor our financial commitment to the parish. But that would be very poor stewardship theology, and it would be far from the truth. This is what some of my former parishioners commonly referred to as the “money sermon,” and I know that it makes some of you uneasy to hear someone speak about money from the pulpit every year. However, at the outset, I want to assure you of several things.
      First of all, we come here in a spirit of freedom and trust.  You and I are asked to make our pledges to the mission and ministry of this parish in good faith, realizing that sometimes our lives do change, and that we cannot always honor our commitment. Nor do we make our pledges out of a superstitious fear that God will then never let any harm or evil, like getting stranded on a desert island, ever befall us.  Many years ago, Fritz Kunkel wrote a commentary on Matthew’s gospel from a psychological point of view. When he came to that passage in which Jesus says, “Give to the emperor the things that are the  emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” he had this to say: “Jesus’ answer turns out to be not an answer, but a question. What is God’s? Is not everything God’s?  We are forced to make decisions well beyond our capacities. Jesus helps us by not helping us. He calls us to take steps to be independent, judging between   emperor and God.” We have a sacred freedom given to us by God.  Whatever we choose to give to the “emperor,” to our own secular concerns, we give in light of our deepest responsibility and obligation to the one who has given us everything.
      Secondly, the Church exists to absolve people of their guilt, not to make them feel guilty. No one here, especially me, wants to do anything to make you or anyone else in this parish feel guilty about the financial commitment that you will make here next week. Remember that you do not have to answer to the clergy, the Vestry, the Stewardship Committee, or  the congregation. You and I are creatures who possess a freedom of will and mind given to us by God, our creator. The financial commitments we decide to make are made in the quietude of our souls with our heavenly Father.
        And thirdly, if you doubt whether the giving of our money is a matter of spiritual or theological concern,  consider the witness of Jesus himself. He never hesitated to talk about the subject of money. More than one-third of all his parables focused on the relationship between a person and his money. There was the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Or the story of the rich farmer who built larger and larger barns, but whose soul was unexpectedly required of him.  Or how about the parable of the talents, in which everything the servants possess was given to them by a generous and demanding ruler? On one occasion Jesus held up as a model for living a poor widow, who had almost nothing, but who put in the temple coffers all that she had. On another occasion, Jesus called upon his disciples to give away one coat if they had two and saw someone in need. And the list goes on and on.
      Very simply stated, Jesus knew that the real key to a person’s character, the key to what a person is  really like, lies in how that person uses his or her possessions. Or, to state it another way, the chief sacrament of our souls, the clearest outward and visible sign of our inward and spiritual lives, are our possessions.  The primary values of our lives, the things we really value and cherish the most, will be reflected in  the way we use our possessions. We need only open our checkbooks for supporting evidence. Jesus said it very clearly: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Where we put our treasure is where our hearts will rest. It is as simple as that!
      The approach to Christian stewardship which makes the most sense to me, and the one which I have  advocated over the years, is that of proportionate giving. It is nothing new! Proportionate giving begins with a sense of gratitude for what we have been given, rather than a sense of guilt or obligation over the necessity of supporting the institution. A number of years ago, I came across a quote from a well-known preacher, John Claypool. I used it in the funeral homily for our son seven years ago.  I’m going to mention it here because I think it is worth your hearing. Claypool was an Episcopal priest when he died in 2005. His daughter had died of acute lymphatic  leukemia at the age of 10. After her death he wrote the following: “It came to me that Laura Lou had always been a gift. I had never deserved her for a single day. That I had gotten to be with her for a single hour was incredible, incredible good fortune. I realized that I could spend the rest of my life being angry that she had lived for so short a time, that so much of her promise in history was not fulfilled. Or I could spend the rest of my life being grateful that she had ever been born at all. I could glory in the fact that we did have the years that we had together. I decided to take the road of gratitude out of the valley of sorrow.”  He concluded, “Life is a gift, birth is windfall, and all is grace.” I would suggest to you this morning that the road of gratitude is the best and only way for us to view this mortal existence of ours and all that goes with it.  Life is a  gift, birth is windfall, and  all is grace.  Like John Claypool, our gratitude needs to be expressed. In spite of all that is going on around us in this world, and in our lives, we need to stand up and give thanks with our whole heart and mind and substance, hard as that may be at times. For we are reminded by the cross of Jesus Christ that  God uses all things, the best and the worst, the  weak as well as the strong, to accomplish his purpose, and to bring us closer to him.  Be thankful for the fact that your life is a gift.
        Adolphe Monod, a leading French Protestant pastor and preacher of the 19th century, who died in 1856, expressed it this way: “There is no portion of our time that is our time and the rest God’s; there is no portion of money that is our money and the rest God’s money. It is all His; He made it all, gives it all, and He has simply trusted it to us for His service.” This is the theme that runs throughout  both the Old and New Testaments: God’s ownership and our trusteeship. Whatever we possess: money, skills, opportunities, creative talents, education; brains with which to think, bodies with which to work, raw materials of the earth with which to create, life itself— all these we possess because we have been given them by God’s hand.  Our giving therefore, should be in thankful response to God for all the gifts he has given us.  It is the most direct way we have of expressing our thanksgiving. We give because we have been given to. If everyone gave for that reason alone, we would never have to worry about meeting a parish budget, and thereby supporting the mission and ministry which is the heart of what we do here in this parish. Our pledge to this parish is really a spiritual response to what we have already received.  Now, the exact  portion that we choose to return to God may amount to 3%, 5%, 10%, 15%, or more of our total taxable income. The Bible, by the way, is very clear about the tithe being 10%. If you haven’t done it already, find out what percentage you are giving to God now, and try to increase it for next year. If you are not accustomed to proportionate giving, a gradual increase each  year is the best way to begin, until you arrive at what you consider to be a reasonable proportion. Bear in mind, also, that giving to the church is different from charitable giving: one comes off the top, the other comes after we have taken care of our own necessities. Proportionate giving, then, as I see it, accomplishes two major goals. First, it allows our giving to rise out of our level of income. Secondly, it allows us to enter into a new relationship with our God. For the simple fact of the matter is that we cannot follow Him, and not have our lives change, too. It will affect our money. As someone once said, “You cannot join your life to the Lord, and keep your pocketbook to yourself.”
       At the risk of making all of this sound like an economic request to meet the needs of a parish budget, instead of the spiritual response which it really is, I want to emphasize a few of the statistics of our parish giving, which I think you need to be aware of each year from a practical point of view: Your 2022 pledge dollar will go directly toward supporting the many ongoing programs and ministries of the  Church of the Transfiguration, which are part of our operating budget. The areas covered in this approach include: outreach, Christian education, music, worship, fellowship, Diocesan support, administration, and property. What we do depends directly on the amount we  receive through your pledges and contributions. There is  no magic fund that spins off interest to cover any short-fall. There are no magic fairies either. This past year we had 70 households pledging about $173,000. So far, for 2022, we have $65,675 in pledged income. As you can see, we still have a long way to go. This will be an especially difficult year because without a rector, income traditionally declines until a new  rector is called. Why that is, I am not really sure, because one’s giving to the church should not be based on the how  much you love your rector. It is based instead on how thankful you are for all that life has given you, and your intention to share a portion of what God has given you with others through the ministry of the church. Now I understand that there are always some individuals who do not pledge, but who contribute in some  regular or identifiable fashion through the offering plate or various gifts throughout the year. That is all well and good; however, if everyone gave in this way, we would not be able to plan for the coming year or have a budget at all, and the church would probably come to a grinding halt. Now you know where we stand. There is always room for improvement.
     In his book, The Man Nobody Knows, Bruce Barton gives a description of the two seas in Palestine, the  Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea. One sea is fresh and clear and is filled with fish. Splashes of green adorn its banks. Trees abound and children play on its sandy beaches, beside the blue and clean waters. This is the Sea of Galilee. To the north, the Jordan River flows into it, and to the south, the Jordan River flows out of it. Farther to the south, there is another sea. The Jordan River flows into it also. It is called the Dead Sea. But here there is no splash of fish, no green abounding, no trees, and no children playing on its banks. The air hangs heavy over the sea and no one drinks of its acid-like water. And what is the difference between the two seas? The  Sea of Galilee receives, but does not keep the Jordan River; for every drop that flows in, another is given out. But the other sea is different than that. The Jordan River flows in, but it does not flow out; there are no springs flowing out either. Every drop
it gets, it keeps. The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. The other sea gives nothing, and it is dead.  Our lives, your life and mine, and our pledging, very much resemble those two seas. The parallels are
obvious.
      So, as you consider the pledge that you will make to the Church of the Transfiguration next week, if you  have not done so already, (and you can always revise your pledge), remember that you and I are called to be not just program and budget supporters, but rather the Lord is calling us to be Christian stewards. Consider proportionate giving, and how it enables us to make a conscientious and thankful return to God out of what we have been given. And then, finally, remember those two Palestinian seas. Like the Dead Sea, will we be stagnant and spiritually die? Or like the Sea of Galilee, will we give and live?     
                                                                                       Amen.

Fr Henry Way, our guest priest does not write his sermons.  But it can be viewed on YouTube at this link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocKWgYtWU40

 

Father Harry Way was our guest preacher today.  It was a wonderful homily, but it was not available in written format.  If you would like to listen to it, it's available via the YouTube link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLsTuaP8-54