Calm in the Storm

 Preparing to preach on this ancient text had me pondering the power of fear, and the grip of safety, and our constant invitation to be rooted in the deep peace of God.

May God bless you with the peace the world cannot give, so that you might go about your life with courage, clarity and an open heart!

Giulianna+

Mark 4:35-41 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

 Jacopo Tintoretto had his imagination captured by Jesus's power over the chaos of a stormy sea in the 1570s. He created this beauty that now hangs in the National Gallery of Art in DC.

Jacopo Tintoretto had his imagination captured by Jesus's power over the chaos of a stormy sea in the 1570s. He created this beauty that now hangs in the National Gallery of Art in DC.

Gifts of Prayer: Love, Joy, Gratitude

This Mother's Day, we heard Jesus' beautiful goodbye prayer from John's Gospel (John 17: 6-19). Jesus showed us how to pray and even prays for us constantly.

Mother's Day is a great day to focus on prayer-- to lift up our mothers and pray for all who provide nurture to others. We give thanks for the beloved daughters of God-- many of whom were the very first people to pray for us. While we give thanks for mothers, however, the great love we celebrate is the perfect love God has for all of us.

It has been said that prayer is love. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give our mothers, and the whole world, is simply that gift Jesus gives us so freely: prayer.

What's love got to do with it?

The readings we were appointed for this morning got me thinking about what motivates our actions.

In John, Chapter 15, Jesus said to his disciples:

As the Father has love me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love... This is my commandment, that you would have one another as I have loved you.

What motivates you to do the things you do? It is love? Obligation? A desire to "be good"?

Below is a sermon about this theme and this lovely old prayer that strikes me as being beautifully tied together.

Grace and Peace,

Giulianna+

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Peace, Joy, and Understanding: A Sermon on the Gifts of the Risen Christ

It is a joy to preach the Good News of Easter!

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Below is the passage from Luke's Gospel we read in church today and my sermon. In my sermon, you will hear lots about this Gospel, as well as this fantastic quote by the spiritual writer and teacher Marianne Williamson:

Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things actually are.

My prayer this morning is that we will be open to receive the gifts of peace, joy, and understanding that the Risen Christ is offering to us today!

In Peace,

Giulianna+

Luke 24:36b-48
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence. 44 Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
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Lest we fall into despair, God gives us Good Friday...

On Good Friday, we read the Passion Narrative in John's Gospel and we knelt in prayer and repentance. Below is my sermon from the noonday service. Regardless of where you may be during these final holy days, I pray that you find time to contemplate and marvel in the perfect love of God as it has been made known to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

- Giulianna+

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Holy Week is Here!

Happy, Holy Maundy Thursday!

I'm feeling blessed to walk through our holiest of weeks again with this church family that is always up for a new challenge. Who knew we had so many people able to use their hands to express their faith?!..

Below is an image from our Intergenerational Sunday School held on Palm Sunday. This evening, we will gather to recall the last night Jesus spent with his disciples before he went to his death. We will worship together at 5:30pm. Tomorrow, Good Friday, we will worship at noon. And Easter Sunday will begin with an egg hunt and coffee hour at 10:00am, followed by a festive Eucharist at 11am. 

Giulianna+

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Jesus Gives Light to our Way

The last Sunday before Lent begins, we always hear the story of the transfiguration of Jesus. This story is the one where, out of the blue, Jesus shone brightly while he and a few of his disciples were up on the mountain.

Jesus' mysterious transfiguration was a moment of clarity that broke into the dullness and shadows of regular life. In my sermon today, I pondered transfiguration moments and considered how they shed light on our path.

Our destiny is glory, but our path to get there is full of shadows. Thanks be to God, the same God who was transfigured on the mountain also walks into the valley with his disciples...

May the light of Christ be our comfort and our guide!

Giulianna+

PS- the sermon is below... forward over the first 3 minutes to get right to the sermon

 

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Silence: Waiting for God's Word

Silence is hard to find, especially in December. One of the reasons I love Advent is because it encourages us to carve out time to be quiet so that we might listen as we wait for Christ to come among us.

I have been using Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book God is in the Manger: Reflection on Advent and Christmas for my own prayer thus far this Advent. The devotional for today struck me as particularly helpful, so I recorded a bit of it to share with you... it is a reflection for the 6th Day of Advent.

This is just a 3 minute clip... perhaps you will want to use it as an introduction into a time of holy silence. If so, I encourage you to set a timer on your phone so you can give yourself permission to take 3...or 5.. or 30 minutes to simply rest in the quiet of peace.

Giulianna+

The First Sunday of Advent

Advent is here! May this season of holy waiting and anticipation be one of peace for you and those you love. Below is my sermon from the first Sunday of Advent, and also the Gospel from the 13th Chapter of Mark.

May the Sun of Righteousness scatter the darkness from before your path,

Giulianna+

 Mark 13:24-37  Jesus said, “In those days, after that suffering,the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.  “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Mark 13:24-37

Jesus said, “In those days, after that suffering,the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

The Gift of Gratitude

Even as the world seems to tell us that we need to buy more, and more, and more in order to be content and prepared for Christmas, this Thursday in late November tries to interrupt the action by reminding us where true joy can be found.

Thanksgiving draws our attention to gratitude. Having a single day when the whole nation is encouraged to pause to simply say "thank you" is a wonderful gift. Social scientists, after-all, tell us that joyful people are grateful people. Joyful people are folks who make counting their blessings a regular practice in their lives. 

Gratitude is simple. Gratitude is about pausing long enough to give thanks for the abundance that is already in our lives. When we are giving thanks, we are no longer striving. When we are giving thanks, we are not longer thinking about what else we are hungry for. When we are giving thanks, we can rest in the goodness of what already is. 

Thanksgiving is best when we celebrate the day simply-- with people we love-- mindful of the abundant blessings we already enjoy. If we want joy, let us begin here. Counting blessings. It is that simple.

This will be the form of my own prayers leading up to Thanksgiving, and I encourage you to do the same. While we often find counting blessings to be easy, we do have help. The ancient prayers of the church can help us find the words to pray when we are feeling a little low on inspiration. Below is a prayer that has fixed my sight toward gratitude over and over again, particularly at times in my life when my glass has been a little half-full. Found on page 836 in the Book of Common Prayer, The General Thanksgiving summaries the fullness of gratitude people of faith share.... even in the hard times of life. 

I am grateful for you, friends! And I pray your week is one of joy, and rest, and abundance. 

Giulianna+

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The General Thanksgiving
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

 

The Grace to Perservere

I wouldn't be surprised if attendance was a little lower this Sunday morning in lots of churches. Just a week ago, the largest mass shooting to take place in a church in United States took place in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I suspect that lots of Christians did not come to church this morning out of fear... or sadness... or despair. 

I'll be honest you. Both the events of our world, and this morning's readings, caused me to really wrestle with hope this week. And yet-- in my wrestling this week, hope surfaced again-- this time, my turning point came in the form of a wonderfully surprising dream! 

I pass this sermon along to you. I hope and pray it provides you with a little encouragement. The readings the Revised Common Lectionary provided for us were Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Matthew 25: 1-13. (Please accept my apology that I call the community "South Sutherland" rather than "Sutherland Spring" a few times)!

May God bless you with the grace to persevere today... To be salt... To be light. And to be not afraid.

Giulianna+

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