Mark 11.1-11; Matthew 21.1-11
Plymouth Congregational, United Church of Christ
The Reverend Jane Anne Ferguson
When Jesus and his followers approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives. Jesus gave two disciples a task, 2saying to them, "Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'Its master needs it, and he will send it back right away.'" 4They went and found a colt tied to a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. 5Some people standing around said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?"6They told them just what Jesus said, and they left them alone. 7They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes upon it, and he sat on it. 8Many people spread out their clothes on the road while others spread branches cut from the fields. 9Those in front of him and those following were shouting, "Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest!"11Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. After he looked around at everything, because it was already late in the evening, he returned to Bethany with the Twelve.
Bible, Common English. CEB Common English Bible with Apocrypha - eBook [ePub] (Kindle Locations 39636-39644). Common English Bible. Kindle Edition.
I begin today with a story about standing in line at the grocery store, a mundane, routine, probably recent, event for all of us. But no matter how routine grocery shopping may be, it has taken on palpable and deeply poignant resonances for us in the aftermath of the King Sooper shooting in Boulder this week. When I was the interim pastor at Community UCC in Boulder in 2013-2014, I lived part of the week at a parishioner’s house nearby that King Soopers and shopped at that store. Community UCC is just up Table Mesa Road from the King Sooper’s shopping center. As I share my brief grocery store story with you today, I am sensitive to where our minds may go with just the mention of grocery stores. And as I begin this sermon, my heart is breaking and praying for the people of Boulder, particularly those in the Table Mesa and Broadway neighborhood, for Community UCC, as well as for our country which urgently needs to change the use and role of guns in social structure.
Some of you may remember, as I do, the spring of 1999…all the dire predictions beginning to be made about the Millennium, what would happen on December 31 as we turned the time corner into a new century. I was still living in Connecticut that spring, anticipating the move to Colorado in July. I was a full-time Divinity school student and full-time mom. As I stood in line at the grocery store one day with a cart full of supplies for the week, a tabloid headline caught my eye. I make it a practice to avoid the tabloids, hoping in a ridiculously self-righteous way that if I don’t even acknowledge them in the grocery store line, I am contributing to the downfall and bankruptcy of the tabloid industry. You can see how well that has worked! But this one jumped out at me – “Millennium Predictions! - Jesus May Have Already Returned!”
“Yeah, right,” I thought, “I wonder who he is this time? How will we recognize him? Why has he come now?” Just then it was my turn to dump my groceries on the conveyer belt and I forgot my theological musings, paid for the groceries and headed off into my day. But I think of that “prediction” each year at Palm Sunday – “Jesus May Have Already Returned!” If he has, where is he present? How will we know him? What is he up to?
The Palm Sunday story tells us each year in the story of Jesus’ unusual entry into Jerusalem that he is coming! His reputation as teacher, healer, prophetic activist precedes him and as he enters the city gate riding on the colt or donkey, depending on which gospel account you are reading, he is proclaimed by his followers as prophet and king. Or perhaps, by some in the crowd, he is seen as a radical and dangerous fool.
Let’s picture the scene…The city of Jerusalem is swelling with tourists and visitors coming the Passover Festival. (Remember the crush of crowds before social distancing?) They are filling the market at the gate where the road from Bethany and the Mount of Olives comes into the city. Passover begins in three days…people are shopping and preparing…picture the grocery store on the day before Thanksgiving – or just before our recent snowstorm.
Suddenly down the road from Bethany marches this rag tag army of joy, a procession of people singing and shouting at the top of their lungs. It’s a joyful, non-violent protest scene! People are strewing palm branches and cloaks across the road in front of a guy riding on a colt, or a small horse, or maybe it’s a donkey – who can tell from this distance? They are shouting and singing…. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Blessings on the coming of the kingdom of our ancestor, King David! Blessings on the Son of David! Hosanna, Hosanna!” What is this all about?
In Jesus’ day it was traditional for pilgrims coming to the Passover Festival in Jerusalem to greet one another with words from Psalm 118, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” But what is all the Hosanna about? And hailing this one as coming in the name of King David? That is dangerous talk…could be seen by the Romans, who are the conquering rulers of Israel and Judea, as seditious talk! Can you imagine the crowds’ whispers? “What are they saying? The coming kingdom of our ancestor David? This scruffy guy on the donkey? A Son of David? Yeah, right….” Some think he is the anointed One come to lead our people…” “Don’t let the Romans hear you say that! Who is this guy anyway?” “It’s the prophet, Jesus of Nazareth.” “Who?” “You know the prophet, the teacher, the healer, Jesus of Nazareth.” “Oh, Nazareth, right….nothing good ever came out of Nazareth!’ “But didn’t you hear? Last week in Jericho, he healed a blind man! I’ve heard he’s healed lepers and raised a man from the dead. And the stories he tells….well, you double over in laughter and then he hits you with the real punchline….about God’s love and forgiveness and inclusion of all people…women and children and blind men and cripples….I’m telling you, I think he could be the real deal!” “Oh, go on! He’s just another itinerant, radical rabbi…playing on the hopes of poor and ignorant people. You don’t really think he amounts to much do you?” “I don’t know….maybe…”
That’s the scene at the city gate, in the marketplace and the streets as Jesus returns to Jerusalem for Passover. Some are hailing him as the anointed one, a king in the line of David, sent to save the people. Some as a prophet, healer, teacher, man of God. Some as fool.
We don’t trust king figures hear in America. Kings are figureheads with no real power. Hopefully we have learned not to trust political figures that want to act like kings, obscuring justice in the process. And prophets? They are a bit sketchy as well, if we see them merely as fortune tellers predicting futures that are either too dire or too rosy. We have a bad habit of assassinating social justice prophets like Abe Lincoln, MLK, Jr., Malcolm X, Bobby Kennedy. We may see them as wise in their moral vision, but are they foolish in their radical, risk-taking methods of proclamation? Wise fools? We won’t follow kings, we are iffy about prophets turning the tables on the status quo. We certainly don’t want to follow fools!
Starting with the earliest gospel writer, Mark, Jesus is seen as prophet and king and this is at the heart of the matter in the gospels for God’s good news of liberating love. To understand Jesus as king and prophet, is to understand how him as Anointed One, the Christ. In the 21st century, we like our leaders, our saviors, new and improved with ideas and solutions never heard before. The people of the first century who first heard the stories of Jesus liked their saviors old and unchanging because that is how you could tell a true savior from a false one. A true savior fulfilled the prophecies of old.
Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey because that is how the ancient kings, the ones anointed by God, like David, always rode into the Jerusalem. They came to bring God’s peace, not to bring the oppression of control and domination like the Romans who came riding on warhorses. And the crowds spread branches and cloaks because that is what you do for kings in the line of David, a king who was not raised in a palace and educated by the state…but raised instead with the poor, the regular people. Those who claim Jesus as king are tax collectors and blind beggars, lame men and cast-off women and children, lepers. He is a king and a prophet who tells stories about God’s realm being like mustard seeds and yeast. He hangs out with fishermen as some of his closest friends. When asked about his “state policy”, he say, “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant…Let the children come to me, for you must become like a child to truly enter the kingdom of God…Love God with all your heart and soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” This is how Jesus has earned his acclamations as a king and social justice prophet.
Is Jesus a fool, as well? If so, he was a fool for love who told stories and turned tables that upended the status quo so that all would receive the love and justice of God. In the events of his last week, we see him open himself so fully to the power of God’s love that he walks straight into the face of pain, humiliation and death in order that the world, that we, might know that God is with those who suffer, who are oppressed and those who are dying. In speaking of Jesus, the apostle Paul reminds us that “God’s foolishness is wiser than our wisdom and God’s weakness more powerful than our power.”
So, here we stand at the beginning of a fateful week. The tumult at the city gate is growing louder and stronger, spreading through the marketplace, public places of influence and power, to the temple itself. People in high positions are asking questions. “Who is this man?” Others are shouting praise. By the end of the week the voices will swell to a conflicting crescendo. Shouts of anger will triumph over shouts of joy. Prophets are rarely welcomed in the own neighborhoods. Many will decide this is not the savior king or prophet they thought they wanted and stand staring skeptically at a mocking headline on a cross that says, “The King of the Jews.” “Some king! He’s a fool! Can’t even save himself!” “Can’t or won’t,” we might ask ourselves.
Jesus returns again and again, each year in the stories Holy Week. His presence is palpable. And it is palpable in the world around us. In Asian Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter protests and vigils. At the southern border of our country where unaccompanied immigrant minors searching for new life are held in detention. In hospital rooms where people struggle to breathe, to live, and others struggle to care for them. And yes, in grocery stores and schools and movie theaters and places of everyday business where gun violence erupts and interrupts peaceful life. Wherever there is pain, suffering, oppression, death, Jesus returns to us again and again. Another question for us, “How will we receive him?”
Hosanna. Blessed is the One who comes in the name of God!
©The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson, 2021 and beyond. May be reprinted with permission only.
Associate Minister Jane Anne Ferguson is a writer, storyteller, and contributor to Feasting on the Word, a popular biblical commentary. Learn more about Jane Anne here.
The Rev. Hal Chorpenning,
Plymouth Congregational UCC
Fort Collins, Colorado
Our Sunday Forum Ministry Team had a great one-liner: “Haven’t we been doing Lent for a year now? I’m tired of giving stuff up!” And if you read my Tuesday reflection, you got my take on Lent: Maybe in this pandemic year, don’t give anything up for Lent. Perhaps there are even a few things that you can shift to build back some of your deepest yearnings, whether that’s calling a friend, writing a letter, using our Lenten devotional booklet…Find something that is life-giving and restorative.
This has been a year of monumental changes for all of us, and many of us resist change not because we are curmudgeons —but I know there are a few of us who self-identify that way — but because we often equate change with loss. About 15 years ago when we were renovating the sanctuary, some of our members thought of changes in this space as loss… “My children were baptized in front of that altar,” “That railing was a memorial gift,” “We like having the choir sit off-stage behind a wall.” But there were also comment and actions that looked at the transformation of the sanctuary more positively. “We like the new acoustics,” “We appreciate being wheelchair accessible,” “We enjoy the new organ.”
The past year has been one of nearly perpetual change for us, moving our meetings to Zoom, pastoral care appointments outdoors, the sleepout vigil over FM radio in our parking lot, and numerous changes in the way we broadcast our worship. (I can tell you that this one feels especially chaotic to the staff right now!) One of the serious advantages of the pandemic is that no one can say, “We’ve always done it this way!” because none of us has ever done it this way before.
One of the advantages for our Strategic Planning Team is that in some ways, we have a nearly blank slate for some big, hairy, audacious goals, based on what we’ve heard from you all in focus groups. But instead of thinking about loss, try to think about change that is positive. You can see that right now if you try…what have we changed during the pandemic that we’ll keep around? Streaming services for one, so that if you’re not feeling well or you’re out of town (or across the world, like someone watching right now), you can still be part of Plymouth’s worship. Meetings by Zoom allow folks who don’t like to drive at night, or who live far from the church, to participate in meetings. (And some of you are probably wearing pajama bottoms and a nice, presentable shirt in those Zoom meetings!) We can preserve some of the changes we’ve made.
William Sloane Coffin, the great sr. minister of the Riverside Church in New York, once said, “Most church boats don’t like to be rocked; they prefer to lie at anchor rather than go places in stormy seas. [And God knows we’ve been in some stormy seas this year!] But that’s because we Christians view the Church as the object of our love instead of the subject and instrument of God’s [love]. Faith cannot be passive; it has to go forth – to assault the conscience, excite the imagination.
What have you learned as part of this church as we’ve sailed through stormy seas over the past year? Maybe you learned that the building is great, but it isn’t the church. Perhaps you’ve discovered just how important fellowship with other folks here is to you. Maybe you’ve learned how to be connected to God in ways you hadn’t expected. What have you learned as we’ve sailed the stormy seas?
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The Transfiguration is a rather odd story, isn’t it. And I’m not entirely sure why it is an annual celebration. I mean, we don’t have an annual celebration of the Beatitudes, which present Jesus’ message in concise form, so why the Transfiguration? Maybe because it is a story of the miraculous? I sometimes irreverently refer to our observation of the Transfiguration as “Shiny Jesus Sunday,” but I think there is more to the story than just Jesus’ aura.
This is an earlier painting, completed in 1311, still in the style of a Byzantine icon, by Duccio, and it was originally in the cathedral in Siena…and somehow it ended up in the National Gallery in London. It is splendid, but it has none of the movement of Raphael’s famous Transfiguration, which is in the Vatican Museum. Raphael’s Jesus is airborne…which doesn’t actually happen in any of the gospel accounts, and it always made me wonder if Raphael decided to add a touch of the Ascension onto his canvas. In any case, this enormous, magnificent painting helps us to know how important the story was during the Renaissance in Italy.
But why should the Transfiguration be important to us? That’s the $64,000 question. What if we started by taking a look at the term, itself. “Transfiguration,” isn’t a word we use in our everyday discussions to describe a change of appearance or a change in the state of being. Transfiguration has two Latin roots, trans (across) and figuratio (form or shape)…but the Bible wasn’t written in Latin, so I went back to the original Greek of Mark’s gospel, and the word used is one that we are more apt to use today than “Transfiguration.” It’s the verb form of metamorphosis meta- means beyond and morphe means shape.
If we think about Jesus having a metamorphosis on the mountaintop, perhaps that is reason to think that it was an important experience in who he was becoming. We often think of metamorphosis in biological terms: a tadpole losing its tail and growing arms and becoming a frog…a caterpillar weaving a chrysalis around itself, growing colorful wings in the darkness of the cocoon and emerging as beautiful butterfly. In this story, something happened to Jesus when the cloud descended over him. He emerged as a different person, or perhaps he emerged as a person who was even more authentically himself and who he was meant to be. It is also the second time God makes an appearance with Jesus and tells his followers, “This is my son, the Beloved, listen to him,” just as he appeared at Jesus baptism.
I wonder if this pandemic is our chrysalis time, a space when we are being changed in ways of which we are not yet aware. So, what about you? Have you ever had a big change in your life that has left you profoundly transformed? I know some women have been changed by the experience of childbirth. Others of us have been metamorphosed by getting sober. Some of us have experienced laying on of hands in an ordination service and been changed by the experience. In our mission statement here at Plymouth we talk about inviting, transforming, and sending, and that center element, transforming is a big piece of our spiritual journey. We aren’t supposed to begin our faith journey and finish it in the same place…that’s why it’s called a journey. Have you experienced a spiritual transformation? Has it happened just once, or has it occurred on multiple occasions? Some people speak of being born again and again and again… You may not hear the audible voice of God, but her presence does break into our lives, especially if we are listening for the still small voice.
Lent, which starts this Wednesday, is a time when you are invited to pay attention to God’s presence in your life. And so, as we journey through this long season of pandemic, I invite you to look not just for things to comfort yourself, but also for things that have shifted, and to try and embrace them.
I’m no Pollyanna, and I know that sometimes changes in our lives leave us with scars, physical, mental, and spiritual. You may have experienced the metamorphosis of a cancer journey that left you with bodily scars and may have robbed you of different abilities. You may have gone through the grief associated with the tragic loss of a loved one. You may have been told by a church you grew up in that your sexual orientation or gender identity was sinful. There are any number of hurts that we absorb as a part of our life histories, and as my colleagues have spoken of healing the past two Sundays, I encourage you to look for the love of God to know that scars are part of you, part of your history, part of yourself.
In Japanese tradition, when a precious ceramic vessel breaks, it is not discarded, but rather handled with reverence. In a process called kintsugi, the crack is not hidden, but rather filled with gold, so that the repair glints in the light and takes on a beauty all its own. My prayer for you is that whatever seems broken within you will be filled with the golden presence of God.[end Japanese bowl] And may all of your metamorphoses become a part not just of who you are, but of who God is calling you to become.
© 2021 Hal Chorpenning, all rights reserved. Please contact hal at plymouthucc.org for permission to reprint, which will typically be granted for non-profit uses.
 Wm. Sloane Coffin, Credo, )Lexington: Westminster John Knox, 2004), pp. 140-141.
The Rev. Hal Chorpenning has been Plymouth's senior minister since 2002. Before that, he was associate conference minister with the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. A grant from the Lilly Endowment enabled him to study Celtic Christianity in the UK and Ireland. Prior to ordained ministry, Hal had a business in corporate communications. Read more about Hal.
The Rev. Jake Miles Joseph
Plymouth Congregational Church
Fort Collins, Colorado
Mr. Rodgers once said, “Love is at the root of everything. Love and the lack of it.” He also once said to a friend of his, Fort Collins’ very own Rev. Rich Thompson, “If you cannot be near the ones your love, then love the ones you are near.”
Today, I am preaching my final sermon as a minister of this church, and so the advice of Mr. Rodgers is resonating especially strongly with me in this time of goodbyes. You have shared with me a love that will never let me go. I will no longer be near, but our ministry together will continue throughout my callings and ministries to come—however many God allows me.
For those of you who do not know, I wandered into this church as a recently-out gay evangelical high school student. I now leave you as clergy and member some sixteen years later, as a seasoned young minister: ordained, married, trained, and hopeful for the Church and the future. I will no longer be near this church that I have loved, but I promise to share the love I have learned here, as Mr. Rodgers suggests, with those whom I will be near in my ministries to come.
As we explore our Scripture, let us start with prayer. O God, grant us wisdom and understanding of this text, and may the words of my mouth and our collective meditations be good in your sight. Amen.
J’étais très jeune quand j’avais mon premier coup de coeur. I was very young when I first fell
in love. It is a love that has never since let me go. It is a love that has taught me everything I know. It is a love that will keep all of you and my Plymouth years with me always.
As early as I can remember, I have been in love with and infatuated by words and their power. It was this love of words that sustained me through the tortured years of mastering French verbs and syntaxes. It was that love that threw me into theological studies and seminary. It is with words, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—One God and Mother of us all,” that we are Baptized into Christian Faith. It is with the words, “eat this bread and take this cup,” that we are sustained in our faith. It is words that have truly Ordained me to this work of walking with and being with you, called by the words of pastor, minister, and reverend. I love and fear words!
But it isn’t just the words in and of themselves for their own sake that I love. It is what we do with them. Words communicate, can build up, move, and shape history on their own, but they only truly find their power when words join their forces together in story. If words are the rivers (the sources/ springs) of meaning, then stories are the churning oceans of the Spiritual, Ritual, and purpose our lives.
Today, I want to share a Word with you as I leave you—a final benediction formed at the spring testimony.
As I have often preached about, I attended seminary in the Deep South in the woodlands of North Georgia. It is land where there are even more storytellers than there are pine trees. Even more than out here in the West where we have the history of campfire storytelling, story is what holds Southern Christianity and identity together. Story and testimony are at the core of community more than history (New England Christianity) or common love of the landscape (Colorado Christianity). In Southern Christianity, where I was shaped into a minister (might I add with some significant kicking and screaming from yours truly), personal stories are also how you show your love and express your faith. Story is what makes us human. All creates communicate in some form, but only we tell stories.
In that context, where story is the heart of being Christian, there is a different way to talk about what we might call a “sermon” or “homily.” Instead of calling it a sermon, they call it a Word or a Good Word. Preach us a Good Word today, Pastor! So today, on my last Sunday in this pulpit, I don’t want to preach at you, to meditate you to sleep, or offer some highfalutin homily, but I want to share a simple Good Word with you about the power you have had bringing this Scripture to life in my ministry and life.
Turning now… The Word Jesus shares with us this morning in Mark 12: 28-34 is Love.
He is asked, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself'—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
This is my favorite passage in all of Scripture. I value it for its simplicity, its necessity, and relevance for today. I don’t care what religion you are. I don’t care if you don’t have a religion at all. No matter who you are or what you call yourself, the idea that we are called to love our neighbors reigns supreme today and always in every culture and every corner of this world. The difference in how we treat each other and, in our politics can all be cured by the power of the Word…love. It is such a simple message, yet it is forever aspirational in nature. It forever requires our daily repeating. Our word of the day every day is love.
Today in the Gospel of Mark we have Jesus’ benediction. This is the end of his teachings as he turns towards the cross. Throughout the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has been saying this all along—through different stories and metaphors he has tried to communicate his purpose. Finally, right as he is about to face the proceedings that will lead to his end (he is already in Jerusalem when our story today takes place), as he finishes his ministry here in Chapter 12 of Mark, he says it plainly for once. There is no commandment greater than these—nor patriotism, nor purity, nor progressive politics, nor recognitions, nor fame, nor the amount of your pledge… no… your story is love of neighbor and of God. Period.
You all have shared so much love with me in my time at Plymouth. From being a 15-year-old lost high schooler wondering around these pews through college, seminary, ordination, and ministry—you have been love.
As a person of words and language, the way I have most received your love is in your sharing of stories. I spoke about this at the start of my sermon, and I want to come back to it now. I love words for their meaning, but it is in your stories that I have found your love for me as your pastor. It is love manifested as trust.
You have shared stories about your deepest fears, secrets, hopes, dreams, lost dreams, dead relatives long ago and yesterday, new born babies, hospitalizations, insecurities, theological question, justice innovations, funny times, etc. We have laughed, cried, and sat in silence.
There is a story told in speechlessness as well, isn’t there?
I have come to realize, as a young minister, that this is how you all have shown me love. This is how you have lived into The First Commandment message of Jesus from our Scripture today. I will be leaving Plymouth as your minister and fellow member this week, but the love you have shown me through trusting me with your stories will last a lifetime. The Word you have shared with me is love, and that love in our pastoral relationship has manifested in the stories you have shared with me. Your stories, not church politics, have ordained me to ministry and send me now to Second Call in Connecticut. The robes, stoles, and titles have never interested me in this work. You could take them all away, and I would be more than good with that. What has ordained me to this work is your stories. I promise now as I leave you to keep them safe in my heart and forever in my prayers as I ponder your Gospel.
In January I preached a sermon about clergy being like curators of art galleries or museums, and while that is still true, a new metaphor has taken hold of my imagination this week. I have started to think of the role of a minister as being a lot like being a safe container. Sure, I have to be open and receptive to the different ways you all communicate, but the most important part of my job (more than party planning or preaching or emailing)… the most sacred thing about being a minister is receiving your words… your stories and remembering them and holding them safe. My job is to let you know that you are not alone in the echo chamber of your own storybook. You have shown your love for me as your pastor by sharing those intimate and precious stories with me, and I show that love back by remembering them and holding onto them forever in my heart.
My Metaphor today is that of the Minister as a Treasure Chest. In the tales and stories about pirates and buried treasure, the box itself is never of much value save for the fact that it is filled with riches. Likewise, what good is a minister without stories? What value is a pastor who hasn’t learned to cherish and keep safe the Words of her or his parish? The Word we share, the Love we manifest as congregation and clergy has been to be in dialogue. It is a conversation that never ends even though I won’t be here any more as I ponder your stories.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I shall love your stories as my own and protect them and take them with me always. As a treasure chest is made whole and real by the value of its contents, so I have been made a real minister by my time with you.
In closing, as a lover of words, I thought a bit about what words for goodbye mean in French and English. In French, the quotidian way to say goodbye is with “au revoir” meaning till we see each other again. But when you say a long-term goodbye without a known conclusion in this lifetime—you mark it by saying Adieu. Adieu means "to God I give you, to God I leave you, and with God’s love I enfold you." Adieu.
In English, we say goodbye. Anyone know where this comes from? Goodbye comes from an old English contraction for “God be with ye.” Moreover, students of language say that goodbye is the response line of the one being sent away. The who sends or isn’t leaving would say “farewell,” and the one leaving would reply with “goodbye.”
“Farewell,” one would offer—have a good journey ahead.
“Goodbye,” would be the reply—God be with you.
This time of saying goodbye is a dialogue. As the history of the phrase “goodbye” shows, it is two sided, and we need each other to truly say farewell/goodbye well.
Today I wanted to share a simple Word with you. That word is love. Some of you I may never see again but know that I will never forget you. Your stories will always be in my heart.
So, as Mr. Rodgers said, at the end of his final episode, and I paraphrase, “I like you just the way you are, and I am so grateful to you for bringing healing to so many different neighborhoods… it is such a good feeling to know we are friends. Goodbye for now.”
Adieu, Plymouth. Farewell, and May God be with you. Amen.
God of the ages, God of many names,
God found both in the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and the depths of Long Island Sound…
God, I call upon you to be with this congregation of your people.
Bring them comfort in their times of wariness—for their strength is needed.
Bring them leaders of wisdom and confidence—for this church is a beacon in this community.
Bring them courage in times of pain—for you are in all things.
O God, I give you thanks for their radical hospitality
that not only helped me find a home in Christianity
but has allowed me to share that story with others.
I give you thanks for their generosity that is manifested today
in their ministry with Habitat for Humanity, FFH, and other endeavors.
I give you thanks for their patience,
especially with their clergy as we don’t always get everything right the first time.
For their immigrant welcoming work—help them to continue to accompany.
For their Open and Affirming work for the LGBTQ community—help them to continue to learn.
For their Peace with Justice stance—help them to stay in solidarity
especially with Israel and Palestinian issues.
We, O God, give you thanks for each other and each person’s stories.
May this church always be a safe container for this sharing, listening, and caring.
We now listen to all of our voices as we together tell the story of hope
through the ancient words of the Lord’s Prayer beginning with, “Our Father…”
The Rev. Jake Miles Joseph ("just Jake") came to Plymouth in 2014 having served in the national setting of the UCC on the board of Justice & Witness Ministries, the Coalition for LGBT Concerns, and the Chairperson of the Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries (CYYAM). Jake has a passion for ecumenical work and has worked in a wide variety of churches and traditions. As of August 2019, he serves First Congregational Church of Guilford, Connecticut.