Whose Voices Do You Listen To? part 1

A gift of COVIDtide: you can attend church after church after church through the means of online services. I do realize that, puzzlingly, this is not everyone’s cup of tea, and, it’s true, you can’t be physically present in the church buildings. But then again, you also can’t exhaust yourself driving, trying to arrive in time, and anxiously searching for a parking spot if you go to an urban location.

Because the digital effusion of COVIDtide makes it possible, I decided to visit the Episcopal and ELCA Lutheran churches in the towns along route 117, eight in all. Those are the two denominations I know best.

If you have rarely been to church, or never, or have only been to one denomination, you might reasonably ask

What goes on in those different places, anyway?

What do the people talk about?

Do they all say the same thing, in the same way?

So I’ve assembled the materials needed for an experiment for you:  if you don’t see yourself attending all of these complete online services one by one, which would take about 8 hours, how about listening to just the sermons, which will take you, oh, an hour and a half, an hour and three quarters, tops? You might be surprised. You might find that they are the food of life.

Seriously. What voices do you listen to in the rest of your life, anyway? Have you taken an inventory recently? What do those voices tell you? Do they care about you, or do they just want something from you?

I’m giving you links, below, to all the services. They are all for Sunday, May 24, and their sermons refer to the story in the Book of Acts of Jesus’ leaving the earth for good, until He come again, that is, and also to a prayer that Jesus prays in the Gospel of St. John. The story in Acts is pretty straightforward. To me, the passage in John seems harder to relate to: it’s long and verbose and for the longest time I didn’t get John at all and quite frankly it’s likely to be either surprising or confusing to you if you’ve never come across it before. I’m hesitating – oh heck, here are both passages. Dive in!

Acts 1:6-14

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

John 17:1-11

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

All of the sermons preached in Leominster, Sudbury, Concord, Lincoln, Weston, and Waltham are the products of responsible, skillful work. Several stand out as food for my mind and spirit; you, friend, will find the ones that speak most powerfully to you. Remember that clergy are always preaching to a particular community and particular circumstances, so there will be obvious differences in emphasis even though the Bible readings are the same.

Now sit yourself down and listen to these sermons! It will be so interesting for you to discover the differences among them!  From west to east on Massachusetts route 117, Episcopal preachers and Lutheran preachers: represent!

O God I don’t understand You very much. It means everything to me that Your servants believe in You.

June 6, 2020 COVID-19 Infections and Deaths

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