January 8, 2019
Soul Tending ~ Sermon for December 23, 2018
On this fourth Sunday of Advent we lit the candle of Love.
Our New Testament reading this morning is Mary’s prayer or song of praise known as the Magnificat.
How fitting that we would hear these words of profound love, trust and hope on this Sunday.
Listen to Mary’s joy and share it as your own.
Hear now a reading from the gospel of Luke 1:39-55.
Here ends thereading of God’s holy word. May God add to our hearing and understanding, God’s blessings. Amen.
Please pray with me.
O Shepherd of Israel, you gently support the one who is with child and call forth the Lamb who dances in the womb. Stir our hearts to recognize Christ’s coming, as Elizabeth recognized his presence in Mary’s radiant obedience to your desire, and open our souls to receive the one who came to love your flock.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
How is your soul today?
Is this something that you think about once in a while? Ever?
Your soul is what connects you to God.
Your soul is the spark of divinity with which you were created.
That spark can stay a tiny ember throughout your life or you can consciously fan it and feed it until it is a warm glow inside of you, a light that shines from within.
Your soul is all inside.
Outward demonstrations of piety and righteousness do not feed the soul.
Your soul is the place where you meet God.
There is no one else there.
On this fourth Sunday of Advent, when the waiting is almost over, we turn inward.
Our examination of our lives and our commitment to Christ is near complete.
The Christ child is ready to be born, to break into our lives and to radiate hope, peace, joy and love throughout the world.
The question is whether we are ready to receive this amazing gift.
Is there room in our hearts for the Christ child to find a place?
God created us out of love and it is our calling in life to share that love with others in a way that is genuine and sincere.
Gift-giving should be an act of love, not a transaction motivated by expected reciprocity.
We visit the Christmas story each year to be reminded of the acts of kindness that welcomed our Savior into the world.
We are also reminded of some of the not-so-kind actions that surrounded Christ’s birth.
I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about the various ways we demonstrate our love of God in the world.
The Christian Action committee received a gracious thank you note from Women’s Support Services for our generosity that I want to share with you, because it is addressed to you.
Women’s Support Services were the beneficiaries of one of our giving trees this year.
Many of the requests were for gas and gift cards, rather than specific presents.
I hope that your motivation for participating in this gift-giving effort was motivated by love.
Here’s the note:
I just finished sorting and tallying the gifts from Salisbury Church so I can give them to program staff for distribution.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude for your church’s generosity and thoughtfulness.
In the past six months, Women’s Support Services has sheltered more than in any previous entire year.
This has included three mothers and their combined 5 kids, all under the age of 8, as well as multiple individuals, both male and female.
Several have remained with us for over a month.
All of these families have been fleeing difficult, scary, and painful situations, in which people they loved, and often still care about, have hurt them deeply.
Sometimes they have their own cars, sometimes not.
Sometimes they have been able to pull together a bag of clothing and toiletries, but usually not in any thoughtful and prepared way.
Sometimes they have some limited financial resources, but most of them have been in transition, have no supports, and are looking for work.
We have no “stand-alone” shelter, with staffing and storage for extras.
What we do have is a desire to extend generosity and hospitality to every client who crosses our doorstep, respecting their dignity and autonomy in their own lives.
We work to provide them resources to meet their immediate, basic needs –and then the ability to be clean and comfortable for however many days or weeks they are with us.
The gift cards for food, gas, toiletries, and the cash for other client needs – they don’t sound “sexy or exciting” – but they made me cry.
We can now give every client who comes to us immediate help – and the amazing gift of control as they seek to prioritize needs and care for their families.
This morning, as I was sorting the gifts, our Adult Advocate was on the phone with our current shelter client, who has two children under 5 and a bag of dirty clothing from the weekend.
Detergent – right here – perfect!
It is truly the little things which make people’s lives easier, and we are so grateful to your partnership this holiday season.
Please pass on to everyone at Salisbury congregational a huge
THANK you, THANK you, THANK you!
Virginia Gold, LCSW
WSS Program Manager
Small acts of kindness that nourish the soul.
Also, this past week, our church made a commitment to help the AlGhanemfamily secure housing in Salisbury.
You will remember the AlGhanems, the family who immigrated to Salisbury after fleeing the civil war in Syria and spending several years in refugee camps, with their six, now seven children in 2017.
The children have been flouring in school. Macmoud, the father has been working full-time at Harney Teas in Millerton for over a year.
Macmoud has gotten a driver’s license and Alia, the mom, has been working hard to learn English.
Kathy Mera and Joanne Taber, from our church, have been working with this family providing support, education, transportation and love.
The family’s housing situation was not working out and Kathy, along with Leo and Judy Gafney and other community volunteers were able to secure a commitment from a local homeowner to lease a house to the AlGhanems.
The family will pay the same rent they were paying in the past and we will work with other churches and community organizations to subsidize the rent.
All I could think of all week as this plan came to fruition is “There is room in this inn for a holy family.”
My friends, Mary’s words of praise and thanksgiving as she recognizes that she has been blessed by God, are words that should be on our lips as well.
Our lives have been equally blessed by God.
In this advent season let our souls magnify the Lord;
Let our spirits rejoice in God our savior;
Let us acknowledge the great things God has done and give thanks that God is with us from one generation to the next.
I want to close with a poem by Ann Weems.
Kneeling in Bethlehem
If there is no cross in the manger, there is no Christmas.
If the Babe doesn’t become the Adult, there is no Bethlehem star.
If there is no commitment in us, there are no Wise Men searching.
If we offer no cup of cold water,
there is no gold, no frankincense, no myrrh.
If there is no praising God’s name, there are no angels singing.
If there is no spirit of alleluia, there are no shepherds watching.
If there is no standing up, no speaking out, no risk, there is no Herod, no flight into Egypt.
If there is no room in our inn,
then “Merry Christmas” mocks the Christ Child, and the Holy Family is just a holiday card,
and God will loathe our feasts and festivals.
If there is no forgiveness in us, there is no cause for celebration.
If Christmas is not now,
if Christ is not born into the everyday present, then what is all the noise about?
Let us pray.
Holy one of Advent,
Gracious one of Christmas,
We invite your presence among us on this Sunday of Love.
We celebrate the love you have shown to us and the many ways we endeavor to show our love of you.
Help us, we pray, to be generous people; compassionate people; kind people.
O God, you sent us your son to show us how to manifest your love in the world.
Let us model our lives after Christ, always looking at others with through a lens of love.
Hear our prayers this day for those whom we love.
For those who are sick, we pray for healing.
For those who mourn, we pray for comfort.
For those who feel lonely, sad or forgotten this Christmas let our prayers and our love warm their hearts.
O God, we turn to you, in the sacred silence of this Meetinghouse with the prayers of our hearts….Amen.