On the Road Ahead – God is With Us

Preacher: 
Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

Proper 27 – Year C

November 10, 2019 – Stewardship Sunday

Job 19:23-27a;  Psalm 17:1-9;  2Thes 2:1-5,13-17;  Luke 20: 27-38

On the Road Ahead – God is With Us     

         When was the last time you went on a road trip?  I’d guess that most of us have been on a road trip or two.  The longest road trip I’ve ever taken was when I drove across country from Virginia to the Pacific Northwest and back again.  Heading out West I primarily took highway routes.  It was all new to me, so I took the most direct route. 

         Along the way I did get to see incredible views.  Wisconsin was probably my first state where I was truly surprised at what I saw.  The hillsides were the deepest green I had ever seen, and beautiful, little alpine villages were tucked up along those hillsides. I also remember standing at a gas station in North Dakota looking out over the land as I pumped gas. 

For as far as I could see, there were no buildings.  I had always lived in a city, so for me that was a first – not one building…just a large swath of land with a tree here and there.

         On my way back to Virginia, I took primarily back roads.  I wanted to see the communities around our country.  I drove over the Continental Divide two times.  That’s a lot of climbing for a vehicle hauling a trailer behind it.  On one of the days, I came around a curve and suddenly found myself in the midst of a herd of cattle and had real cowboys come riding up along side my vehicle.  That’s not something you see everyday.  On the border of Colorado, I ate the best cheeseburger I’ve ever had with some very nice folks  in possibly the smallest town I’ve ever seen.  I got to drive through miles and miles of huge, yellow sunflower fields as I came through Kansas, and in Kentucky I drove by pasture after pasture of horse farms that were breathtaking. 

         Towards the end of my trip, I was really ready to be done.  I was a bit tired and weary of being on the road.  The trip back to Virginia did take a bit longer by going a non-direct route, but I got to see sights and meet folks who I wouldn’t have, if I’d taken the highways again. 

         Long trips can do that, can’t they?  They can be both wonderful and tiring…both exhilarating and arduous.  In one of our New Testament readings today, we heard from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians.  Paul was writing to a community of Christians who were facing suffering and hardships.  They were tired of being faithful to God.  They were tired of waiting for Jesus’ return.  See, many folks thought that Jesus would return shortly after he had ascended to God.  They lived in preparation for his coming again, but he hadn’t returned yet.  Time stretched on - years and years passed, and these early Christians tried to stay faithful and ready, but they grew weary.   As with many long journeys some started to doubt as they grew weary, some started to say, the day of the Lord…Jesus’ return …has already occurred.  Some folks chose to stop working – to stop spreading the Good News – to caring for poor and hungry.  They were tired and worn down.

         In his letter, Paul speaks to the people in the midst of their anxiety and fatigue.  Paul calls the people to not live in that anxiety or to be “quickly shaken.” He reassures them of God’s presence in their lives.  He reminds them of the love and grace of God in Jesus Christ.   Paul encourages the Thessalonians to be hopeful and to use that hope to strengthen themselves.  The journey has been long!  Though you may grow weary and your faith in a loving and peaceful God may waver…hold tight, dear friends, for God is with us!

         Paul recognizes their suffering.  Paul knows their weariness.  AND he personally has experienced the loving grace of God through Jesus Christ.  From his experience…he knows how God’s love can sustain and carry us all…no matter where the journey takes us or how long we must travel. 

Though we may not know the road ahead – every curve…every vista…every bump – God is with us Paul teaches… God is with us…loving us, providing for us, and offering us hope.  Paul ends his letter encouraging them to find comfort and rest in the God, “who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope.”

         Today we celebrate the 16th birthday of All Souls Episcopal Church.  That’s a great good thing!!  We started this year – 2019 - hearing stories from our sixteen years.  We heard how a small group of folks gathered and talked about – dreamt about building a community together – one grounded in God’s love and grace.  THAT was the hope of those who began this journey. We heard  how that group  began to grow and how they built and created a “church” each Sunday from their belongings stored in a trailer…truly holy work!  We heard, through the laughter of their stories,  how dedicated they were - packing and unpacking their “church in a box” each week. 

         When the winds of change blew through their lives, they struggled and hurt.  What they had hoped for seemed to be slipping away.  How easy it would have been  to let frustration, weariness, and anger destroy this beautiful community.  And yet, they chose hope and resurrection.  They chose to rebuild and to cherish what they had.  They chose to laugh and to celebrate in God’s abundance.  Paul could have been writing that letter to them, the early folks of All Souls Episcopal Church.  Those early All Souls folks didn’t let our story end there.  They continued to dream – to create ways of sharing God’s love  with others.  They began to weave into our DNA the desire to serve and care for others, and the community grew stronger once again.

         We sit here today in large part to the work of those early Christians… the ones who Paul wrote to in Thessalonica and  the many who came before us throughout these two thousand years.  AND we also sit here together as a result of those who started All Souls Episcopal Church, and to those who kept this beautiful community going. Whether you’ve been here sixteen years or one day, WE are all part  of what makes this community wonderful. 

         Hear me…brothers and sisters…YOU are part of God’s gift  to the world and to us.  So keep coming – keep joining in activities – keep coming and being a part of our worship - keep showing up for our outreach projects and our gatherings together – because this is a community that truly loves God and freely shares that love with everyone!  This community of All Souls is a place where everyone belongs and  everyone can be fed. 

         Do we know where we are heading?  Not exactly.  It’s something we need to pray about and discern together, but for now…we keep worshiping together.  We keep praying together.  We keep reading scripture and talking about it together.  We keep rejoicing in God’s love through our singing and our laughing.  We keep loving one another and showing up for one another. 

Though we may not know the exact road ahead – the curves…the beautiful vistas…or even the potholes – GOD IS WITH US.  God is with us, and God loves us!  God continues to offer us hope and God continues to strengthen us for the good work ahead.

Happy Birthday great, good folks of All Souls!  Happy Birthday.  

Amen+

        

 

 

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