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Welcome to First Parish- no matter where you are

Please look at the insert this morning, apart of the Stewardship Committees good work, they also encourage you to read the brochures in the pews.

Birth of Grandbaby to Charlotte Kearns daughter Bryn

Nominating Committee- Gail

Drive Through Nativity- Thom

Next Sunday- Senior High Will Meet Downstairs on Sunday AM

Wreaths & Greens

Thanksgiving Altar- see notes

Pastoral Prayer

Holy and Gracious God

We give you thanks for the gift of life

for the gift of your Son

for the gift of the Holy Spirit

Lead us through the trials

the suffering and sorrow

the challenges and struggles

the tired times and dark places

Be with those who weep

or cannot sleep

who have no peace

who seek release

Lead us

with grace

with love

with peace

Fill us

with hope

with patience

with stamina

Transform us

in your image

in your Son

in your Name

Transform us

to grow

to understand

to see

Transform us

that we

can be

made whole

And in wholeness

may we

be

the hands and heart of Christ.

Amen.

Hosea 11.1-9, Mark 10.13-14 “Kinder Than Is Necessary”

I remember hearing the mean words for the first time. I was out with my family at a big-box home improvement store, while my parents decided on which light fixture to purchase. In stores it wasn’t uncommon for kids to wander up to stare at my mother. She was tall, curly haired, and had big blue eyes. The biggest most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen. I remember seeing kids take a double look; turn to their siblings, point, and whisper. And sometimes we would even hear their comments out loud, “Hey Big Bird.” My heart would start pumping and I would imagine throwing up my fists and taking them on. My mother would often tell them they were rude to stare, she was used to people staring at her and the teacher in her would turn the behavior into a teachable moment. You see my mother has hyperthyroidism and her eyes protruded more than the average person.
There was something about these uncomfortable public encounters that taught me at the young age about the need for kindness. Even as a small child, I was deeply in tune, and I knew how exhausting these trips were on my mother because she was feeling constantly evaluated, objectified, and labeled by many as a monster.

One thing I was sure about, I didn’t want to treat another human in this way, no matter how much they differed from the norm, or how strange I might find them.

But kindness is hard to live into all the time, isn’t it? For most of us it is only by the grace of God that we are truly able to rise out of our egos and live into God’s grace. It’s much easier to continue the internal monologue where we pick everybody apart, noticing what we think is wrong with them, and how others don’t measure up.

I believe authentic kindness is possible only through the willingness to accept the outpouring of the love of God.

And this is where our scripture finds us this week. The prophet Hosea poetically depicts the people of Israel as the son who has rebelliously disobeyed their parent, by worshipping other God’s. The image invoked is of the parent who tirelessly works to keep their child safe, protecting them from danger, tenderly raising their child and providing them with all kindness, and yet in spite of this loving kindness is rejected again and again by the child. We see the more Israel is called by God, the more they refuse and become unable to see God’s movement towards them. Verse 3 says, “I took them up into my arms, but they did not know that I healed them.”

In Michael J Chan’s commentary on Hosea he describes sin as “the inability to see one’s redeemer as anything other than an enemy!” [Come back to this at the end]

We sense in Hosea 11.5, that God has reached the end of the rope, and metaphorically steps out of the way, allowing the nations that seem to have been held supernaturally at bay by a protective father God, to step in and war breaks out within this fragile nation. “My people are bent on turning away from me.”

Then God asks a series of questions, revealing a rare glimpse of God’s emotional turmoil, and God’s frustration and anger have hit new levels. Now according to Deuteronomic law, both parents could condemn a stubborn rebellious son before the elders of the city, whereupon he would be stoned to death. Parents of teenagers are all listening now.  

But, I imagine there are many of us quite uncomfortable with scripture that portrays God as wrathful; we are far more drawn to the God who only verses before was tender and loving.

And yet, God’s anger is short lived, even though the legal right would be to have God’s son stoned to death we see in the scripture God’s compassion returns to the people of Israel, the thought of God’s people being desolated invokes God’s loving kindness. The scripture doesn’t say that Israel changes their behavior; instead the scripture demonstrates God is changed.

Thankfully, we see a shift in God and in verse 9 God says, “I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not destroy Ephraim.”

Theologian Walter Brueggemann argues that God in loving-kindness action takes on the divine judgment intended for Israel into God’s own self, offering us the model of pure sacrificial love. This is the loving kindness that Christ demonstrates in the Gospels, when he urges the disciples to let the little children unto him, and when he meets us at the cross.

Chesed which is the Hebrew word for loving kindness, is the special relationship with God with human kind and the people of Israel, the God who never let anger triumph over loving kindness. In Jewish ethics the vision of the ideal life is where chesed is freely given to all God and neighbor.

As many of you know the York community has recently read the book Wonder by R J Palacio, if you haven’t read the book yet it is fantastic. I read the book to my girls right after we moved to York. The book describes the 5th grade boy August Pullman who begins private prep school after being homeschooled for years, cloistered by his family from the gawking, intruding gaze of those who found in his facial deformity a true test of their kindness. The book gives a unique perspective of the story through the lens of not only the protagonist Auggie, but also his family members and peers. Auggie’s physical disability brings out the worst in most people, many would prefer that he not even attend their school, and only a few rise to the challenge of welcoming him fully, seeing him as more than an assignment and embracing him with dignity and fully as friend.

In the final chapters of Wonder, after Auggie has been there entire school year, and the students and the teachers have clearly been changed by getting to know Auggie. The story concludes at the Beecher Prep Middle School Graduation ceremony where presentations are awarded to students with the strongest and most distinguished academic performance. Mr. Tushman giving his concluding speech reads from J.M. Barrie’s The Little White Bird “Shall we make a new rule of life…always try to be a little kinder than is necessary?” Mr Tushman continues in his own words “What a marvelous line, isn’t it? Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed. Why I love that line, reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just he capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.” He then pulls another book out Under the Eye of the Clock, by Christopher Nolan, the book describes a young man who faces enormous challenges, and then someone in his class chooses to help him, “It was in moments such as these that Joseph recognized the face of God in human form.” Mr. Tushman sees that Auggie’s presence in the community has inspired his classmates to live into new versions of themselves. Auggie’s co
Recognizing the face of God in human form sounds like Chesed, loving kindness.
If God has offers us loving kindness, why do we struggle to return loving kindness to our neighbors?

But Pastor Rachel, it’s just not that easy is it! We are so much more practiced at unkindness. The choice to live out kindness isn’t easy, especially to the folks who have hurt us or we feel wronged by. In this story we are the rebellious son in Hosea, the people of Israel, who receive God’s love and then actively reject God, and we do this of each other. But kinder than is necessary means choosing chesed, choosing to live out loving kindness, even when it is most difficult.

In this season of abundance and stewardship, perhaps the greatest way that we can accept God’s loving kindness for us, is by living it out with each other, and perhaps others will see the face of God in human form.” First Parish is My Church. Amen.

God has made us stewards of the rich resources that were given in Creation

            and are given anew each day.

            On this day, we give our offerings and our pledges

            for the church’s mission and ministries throughout the year to come. 

            Give, knowing that all that we have has come from God

            who will continue to provide. 

            Pledge, knowing that there is much still to be done

            as witnesses to God’s goodness. 

            Let us put our hearts into our offerings as signs of our trust and faithfulness.

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer of Dedication

            We lift up these offerings

            as a sign of our gratitude for your love and care, O God. 

            We pledge ourselves, time, talent, and treasure. 

            We pray that we may follow

            in the spirit of the poor woman who gave her all without hesitation. 

            We dedicate our lives to you

            and seek to grow in our faithfulness to your Word.

Benediction

The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen.