Sermons

All sermons preached by Rev Fanny Belanger can be found on her blog:

http://fifth.belanger.fr/

Rev Belanger is always happy to explain and discuss her reflections on the Gospel, please don’t hesitate to send your comments!

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Sunday, December 1st, 2019 – Sermon by Rev Joan Crittenden

This morning marks our annual reminder as we begin the Advent season: “Be prepared!”  

Preparation always kicks off the season of Advent within Christianity . . . we hear the scripture readings of the Old and New Testaments telling us to be prepared . . . be prepared for the coming of the Lord . . . be prepared for the new kingdom . . . and, be prepared because no one knows when or where any of this is going to take place.  Christianity has been hearing this message for over two thousand years, and this morning we hear it one more time.

     Who among us, upon hearing such news, would not like to know when this so-called “end time” is going to come?  The disciples certainly wanted to know— “Hey, Jesus . . . give us some signs so we can be ready!”  And, Jesus more than willing gave them some signs . . . wars and conflicts . . . natural disasters . . . false prophets . . . false words . . . false promises . . . strife . . . poverty . . . homelessness . . . despair.  Then he tells them that these “signs” will be present in any and every generation . . . so, be prepared.  Be prepared because “no one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

     The bottom line is . . . no one knows.  No one knows when the end will come, and the new will begin . . . no one!  We know the signs, but the signs have been there forever.  We have heard these words every year as we enter the season of Advent . . . but, nothing has changed.  It is like a continual game of the boy crying wolf and no one believing him any longer.  Nothing ever changes . . . so, why bust a butt being prepared?

     I think that is what has happened with those of us who follow Jesus . . . we have lost the sense of expectation and urgency in our journeys of faith.  We are just cruising along, letting life happen, and not preparing for something that can happen at any moment.  We are not being “alert”.  And, probably with good reason.  The signs of the end have always been there . . . they don’t even phase us anymore.  It is business as usual.  Yet, Jesus keeps showing up every year with the same old message . . . be prepared!

     And are we? Being prepared?

Many would shake their heads “yes” and think to themselves, “Of course I am. I have purchased all the Christmas gifts, baked, wrapped and frozen all of the Christmas goodies, gotten boxes filled and ready to send to families afar, put up the decorations and even have all the Christmas cards ready to mail!

Phew….

But we miss the point, as advent is about so much more than the commercialism of Christmas today. It is not only the anticipation of Christ’s coming as the infant Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem we celebrate, but also the advent of His return.

The “signs” of the end are all around us.  If you were to take this morning’s newspaper and read it from front to back, you would probably find just about every “sign” of the end that Jesus spoke about.  They are all there . . . every day.   But, are we ready?  Are we prepared?  Are we going about the work that God expects us to do? 

     I believe that from the very beginning, Jesus knew how things were going to turn out in his ministry and life. Yet, He didn’t hole up in some cave and wait it out. Instead, he kept on doing what it was that God expected him to do . . . he kept on preaching, teaching, healing, and performing miracles.  He kept trying to bring God’s kingdom to the people . . . especially those who were at the bottom of the heap.  

This was his way of preparing himself for the end as he knew it would be.  This was his “way” of being ready . . . dealing with what was there.  Jesus knew that there was nothing that He could do about yesterday—it was gone; there was nothing he could do about tomorrow—it had not happened; all he could deal with was the present moment – loving God completely and loving others. He was being a “alert” to God’s presence in the world around him and doing what he could to fulfill that promise.

      So it is with us, as the followers of Jesus.  We are to be prepared.  We are to be prepared by being a “alert” . . . alert to the presence of God around us in the world that we live in.  

And it is all around us; however, the question becomes, how do we respond to the signs of war and conflict?  How do we respond to the natural disasters that shake the world and inflict so much damage upon so many?  How do we respond to strife and discord?  How do we respond to the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the sick and dying?  How do we respond to those who are lost, forgotten, and unwanted?  How do we respond to the presence of a suffering God who desires nothing more than a relationship—an intimate relationship with each of us.

How do we do this?

We do this by being aware of God’s presence in the world around us . . . more of us being active in relating to that presence that we encounter on a daily basis . . . more of us looking less for “signs” and embracing the work that needs to be done now in bringing God’s kingdom into reality.  

     So, as we begin the Advent season, we are reminded once again, that we are to be prepared – not in the sense of our busyness, buying, baking, cooking, wrapping, planning – but in prayer and introspection as we celebrate His birth and await His coming again.

Your heart is where Christ wishes to dwell, and Advent is the perfect time to make room in it for His presence. If your heart is filled with unforgiveness, jealousy, hate, greed…it has no room for Christ.

It is in doing God’s will in every opportunity that arises that is the preparation Jesus is speaking. That is the only way we can be prepared.  All that any of us can do is to do God’s will here and now; love without ceasing; care without boundaries, listen with love and live in Christ’s image.

      So, let us heed this call to preparation once again.  Let us prepare ourselves for the moment.  Let us embrace the present.  

There is no gift waiting for us at the end of the four weeks of Advent . . . the gift has been given.  Let us embrace the gift and begin living in preparation for what is now and is to come . . . God’s presence calling out to us to love.  To love God . . . to love one another . . . to love all of God’s family.  

There is plenty to do – plenty to love right now.

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Sunday, November 24, 2019 – Stewardship by Mr Bob Lau

Good morning,

Just when you thought that the Stewardship Campaign was over and it was safe to come to church, your Treasure has a few words to say.

The other day when I was opening the Red Collection Bag to start the deposit process, for Sunday’s donations, a single penny dropped out of the bag. That penny reminded me of the story where Jesus was watching the crowds putting their money into the Temple Treasury; and, a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. I could only assume that a Child put the penny into the offering Plate. That penny carried the same respect in the deposit process as would a one-hundred-dollar bill. Think how much that penny meant to that child, or to the family of the child. That penny was given to the glory of God to help us with our finances. At the same time, it was helping the child to grow spiritually by making a connection to God through giving.

Maybe it’s time to improve on our spiritual growth by making a reconnection to God through increased giving. You might be asking yourself what is he talking about. We have air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, toilet paper in the restrooms and we eat really well during coffee hour. So, where’s the problem? What you do not hear about is the extra contributions a few people are making above their pledges that helps pay for all that. Would you be surprised if I told you that: a parishioner has paid, in addition to their pledge, for all the toilet paper, hand soaps, paper towels, hand towels and trash can liners used here at Christ church, for the past 9 years and on top of all that has paid for the Parking Lot improvement? Or that a parishioner donates extra towards our Country Property Fees, and another donates to Bridging the GAP each week? Let’s not forget the few who donate extra to the Fuel Fund, Insurance Fund, Scholarship Fund, and the paper products, food, and coffee for coffee hour. And, if it wasn’t for the volunteers working hard in the Thrift Store to raise money for the church, we would have closed our door years ago.

As Treasurer it seems that our employees and contractors are happy, our creditors not so. Our parishioners seem to be happy, our treasurers not so. Each month we pay our employees and contractors first and then with the money left over we pay our creditors. This seems to be the new norm for churches now days.

The question is, how do we support a church with a $100,000 plus budget that used to have hundreds of parishioners and now only has 65 men, women, and children in the congregation? I do not know the answer. What I do know is that the average pledge each year is flat lined or going down while our expenses such as water, electricity, paper, insurance, etc. continue to rise.

Everyone’s contribution is important to the success of our church. And as Treasurer I would like to thank you for your continued support. I read that “stewardship is not a fund-raising, it’s a basic discipleship. But in a similar sense, each believer must come to understand that giving is not just about “doing their duty.” Giving is actually a deeply personal indicator of our spiritual maturity as well as out love for God.” With that being said, I ask that you think about reconnecting to GOD through your improved giving. And, although appreciated, try to think higher than that penny.

God Bless you, and thank you for your time.

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Sunday, October 27, 2019 – Sermon by Mr Quentin Banks

LUKE 18:9-14. THE CONTEXT

This morning’s Gospel reading from Luke follows several related incidents. In this part of the story, Jesus is teaching his disciples about humility by using a parable of a Pharisee and a tax collector.

Jesus was always trying to get across to his followers to leave their arrogance at the door and to walk humbly before God.

The Pharisee was a member of the religious elite who valued his position in the community and generally looked down upon folks who did not have his level of education.

When he was in the synagogue and prayed, he thanked God about himself. He thanked God that he was not like robbers, evildoers or tax collectors.

He proclaimed in his prayer that he fasted twice a week and that he donated a tenth of all that he received.

The tax collector, who was standing at a distance could not even look up to heaven. He beat his breast in supplication and asked God to have mercy on him…a sinner.

The conclusion of Jesus was that the tax collector would be looked upon favorably by God because he had humbled himself as opposed to the Pharisee who bragged to God about how pious he is.

We have heard in previous lessons about how the disciples tried to compete with each other to be the first among equals. In the Gospel of Mark, James and John, the sons of Zebedee asked Jesus to let them sit at his right hand and left hand when he came into glory.

When the other ten disciples found out about their request, they became indignant.

Jesus called them together by explaining those that rule over the Gentiles (like Caesar) lord it over them and their high officials exercised authority over the people they were assigned to govern.

He reminded and admonished his disciples that the disciple that wanted to become great among his fellows must first be the servant, and whoever wanted to be first must be the slave of all.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

When I was an Army officer on Active Duty, I was working an assignment in an office building at Bailey’s Crossroads. I worked for an Army agency responsible for transporting military personnel and equipment to where needed.

I was pretty full of myself back then. I was a Major and in my mid 30’s and had achieved a measure of success thus far in my career. I had completed the Army’s Command and General Staff College and felt that I was at the top of my game.

I was presented with a problem…the Russians and their allies in the Warsaw Pact were gathering intelligence through their fleet of commercial ships.

These ships would dock and unload their cargo near some of our most sensitive military port facilities. They were so bold that their personnel actually stood on the sterns of their ships and filmed the loading and unloading of military supplies and equipment.

If a ship bound for Germany for an annual exercise was loading their equipment, the Russians would know which unit’s equipment was being transported as well as the unit’s capabilities based upon the type of equipment being loaded.

My job was to come up with a plan to deny them that intelligence. By doing some research, I learned that there was a multi-governmental committee called the “Port Security Committee.” Membership consisted by the US Navy, the US Coast Guard, the US State Department and the US Department of Commerce. The Army was represented by the Army Security Agency, also called the ASA.

The plan involved notifying the ASA whenever we were notified of military movement of people or equipment. They would pass that information to the committee where the US Coast Guard would take the responsibility to restrict access to the commercial ports during military load outs.

For a while, this plan was working…the Russians and their friends were not getting the intelligence they need to monitor our activities.

About this time, I was notified that I had made the Lieutenant Colonel’s promotion list.

Meanwhile, another problem arose pertaining to the communist ships and American ports…the Coast Guard Captain of the Port had restricted the New York-New Jersey Port complex off limits to Warsaw Pact shipping for 30-days.

That meant that Russian, Polish, Czech, Estonian, Ukraine, Lithuanian, East German, Bulgarian, Hungarian, and Romanian ship were prevented from landing their cargos in New York or New Jersey for 30 days.

Those countries protested to the State Department, the Longshoreman’s Union complained to the Commerce Department. The Captain of the Port blamed The Coast Guard for the task and the Coast Guard blamed the ASA and the ASA blamed me…

Meanwhile, I was ordered to report to the Pentagon to be interviewed by Pete Williams, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. A vacancy had occurred in his office and the person who had left the position was supposed to be the new Military Assistant to the Under Secretary of the Army.

However, he was not allowed to report to the new job until his replacement was in place. I was interviewed by Williams and returned to my job at Bailey’s Crossroads and 30 minutes later discovered that I had won the job.

However, they were expecting me to report for the new job the next morning. My current boss was out of town, I had no orders and I knew that I could not leave my command in the lurch…so I stalled.

Finally, the officer that I was replacing encouraged his new boss to summon me to the Pentagon to explain why I could not report to my new job.

I was summoned to the Pentagon to appear before the Honorable John Shannon, Under Secretary of the Army.

After a preliminary greeting, he got right to the point of the meeting…what was it that I did that was so important that was preventing me from reporting to my new assignment?

I explained my duties with the Army’s Military Traffic Management Command and the problem with the Coast Guard and the ports of New York & New Jersey.

He told me, “If you died tomorrow, we would replace you.”

I have never felt so small at any time in my Army career.

He asked when I was planning to report and I told him the day after Christmas, which was about a week and a half away…so that became my reporting date.

Jesus struggled with his prideful Disciples right up to the night before he was crucified.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus and his disciples were celebrating Passover…while the meal was being served, Jesus stripped himself of his outer garments, wrapped a towel around his waist and brought out a bowl of water and towels and began to wash the feet of his disciples.

Peter and the others protested, but Jesus was firm in his insistence that he be allowed to wash their feet…reminding them that he who wishes to be first must first be a servant before he can be served.

We celebrate this on Maundy Thursday…the day (or evening) before Good Friday.

That lesson has even shown up in 20th Century entertainment. The former television show “Fung Fu” depicted many universal lessons of morality and behavior.

The quote that always stuck with me came from Master Khan, the Shaolin temple leader who taught the young Kwai Chang Kane, “Remember always that a wise man walks with his head bowed; humble like the dust.”

May we be humble before our creator, as we accept the many tasks that he assigns to us in this life.

AMEN.

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