About a month before my 24th birthday, I was starting my second year of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. I got sent to the next town over from mine to spend the night with a family there, to see whether I thought they would be a good host family for the new volunteer who was coming. They turned out to be really sweet, lovely people who welcomed me with open arms. Esmeralda, the mom, made a delicious meal for us, while her husband Manyango told me all about their community, Jánico. They were curious to get to know me as well – and when they found out that my birthday was less than a month away, they insisted that I come back and celebrate with them.
This past Saturday, I was sitting in a coffee shop working on my sermon for Sunday. I’m kind of a chatty person, as you’ve probably noticed, and easily distracted, and I ended up striking up a conversation with a woman sitting at a table near me. We’ll call her Danielle. It pretty quickly became clear to both Danielle and me that this was one of those conversations that God himself seemed to have arranged. Danielle had been looking for a new church home and was grateful to unexpectedly find herself in conversation with a pastor. And she shared with me some of the struggles that she has been facing recently.
She shared that her 23-year-old son – we’ll call him Tyson – is addicted to meth and that she and her husband had just taken him to a treatment center earlier that week. She talked about the pain she felt at seeing her son being slowly isolated from everyone else because of his addiction. She said that the other members of their family had already given up on Tyson – even his own father. He was angry at her for taking him to the treatment center, but she was worried that he was going to end up dead if he didn’t go. She talked about how hard it can be to love someone who is addicted, and how challenging it is to walk the line between loving someone and enabling them.
CN – anxiety, depression
Christians around the world began their observation of Lent yesterday on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a season of repentance and return to God. It’s a season in which we confess that we have not lived up to being the people God created, redeemed, and called us to be. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We have been neglectful in our care of creation. We have been selfish and have hardened our hearts to the suffering of the vulnerable around the world.
We read the words of the prophet Joel, who implored his people, “Return to the Lord your God, for God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” We are called to turn back to God with our whole heart, to experience God’s grace and love anew – not unlike the prodigal son returning home to his father’s joyous welcome.
Taste and see that the Lord is good! The psalmist exults in the graciousness and generosity of God. Today is the third of five Sundays that focus on the theme of the bread of life, as we continue our gospel journey through John 6. All of our texts for today are full of stories of the good gifts that God has given to God’s people. It’s a very bready Sunday!
This is a truly joyous festival day in our calendar. The work of this year’s harvest is over and now we can celebrate the bountiful, abundant gifts that God and the good earth have given us. Where I grew up in rural Nebraska, my little hometown was surrounded by a patchwork of of cornfields and soybeans and alfalfa, and around this time of year, the air was always filled with the warm, golden scent of freshly harvested crops. At my family’s house, this was always salsa-making season. Our garden produced fruits and vegetables by the bucket load, and our house would be filled with the aroma of roasting tomatoes, and freshly chopped onions and garlic, and spicy jalapeños. Continue reading “Sermon: Blessings of Thanksgiving”