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June 17 Sermon

“Alert But Not Anxious”                                                                                              Exodus 4:10-17
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                   Matthew 6:25-34
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
June 17, 2018

The late Rev. Peter Gomes was a highly respected preacher who served at Harvard’s Memorial Church. He writes about a time that he preached on today’s gospel passage at an exclusive girls’ school in New York City. He thought that Jesus’ words about not worrying would help in a place filled with anxiety and achievement. The sermon seemed to go well, he thought, which is usually the first sign that a mess is on the way. Indeed, it was. Gomes continues the story:

“At the reception, the father of one of the girls came up to me with fire in his  eyes and ice in his voice, and told me that what I had said was a lot of  nonsense. I replied that I hadn’t said it, that Jesus had. ‘It’s still nonsense,’   he said, not easily dissuaded by an appeal to scripture. ‘It was anxiety that  got my daughter into this school, it was anxiety that kept her here, it was           anxiety that got her into Yale, it will be anxiety that will keep her there, and  it will be anxiety that will get her a good job. You’re selling nonsense.’”[1]

My first reaction when hearing this story is to be mad at that man, angry at him for celebrating anxiety, angry at him for encouraging his daughter’s anxiety. It is people like him, I think with anger, that contribute to the mental health crisis that is just under the surface in society. Continue reading

June 10 Sermon

“There Is Enough. Really.”                                                                                          Exodus 16:1-30
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                         Mark 6:34-44
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
June 10, 2018

We humans seem to have to basic understandings of the past and the people who lived there. One is to imagine that the past was so much better than today. The people were better, stronger, more faithful. The world was a better place. Life was just more simple. The other is to imagine that the past was just horrible, that the people were stupid and silly, that life was misery and thank God that we people today are much more intelligent and sophisticated than people back then.

Think of those two understandings as a pair of glasses: everything you see is filtered through them. If you believe the past was a better place than the present, you’ll find evidence to support that believe. If you believe it was worse, you’ll do the same. You’ll see what you expect to see. We all do it.

Let’s take this morning’s story from Exodus as an example:

If you believe the past was a better place, chances are you’ll hear a story about God providing food to the people in their time of need. “Back then, people were just closer to God. There were more miracles. God directly provided all that food, enough for everyone. They even were provided enough to rest one day a week! It’s too bad we don’t have miracles like that today.”

If you believe the past was a worst place, you’ll probably hear a story about God’s people complaining over and over again and never getting anything right. “How could they be so silly when they were literally getting food from heaven? How could they complain so much when God had just freed them from Egypt? Those people were just whiners and complainers. If God provided for me like that in my life, I’d be grateful and I’d do as God asked.”

As it turns out, though, the past was not really better or worse than today. It was different. There were things that people way back then did better than we do today, and there are things that we do better than they do. People in the past were people like we are today – they loved and laughed and cried and struggled, they experienced moments of total joy and freedom, and moments of utter pain and desolation. All of us throughout the ages have tried to make the best of our circumstances, to squeeze out a life that matters, keeping our tents in good enough shape to withstand the changing weather. Continue reading