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Sermon for 17th Sunday after Pentecost 2022

Kit Brinson – Grace

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4 Psalm 37:1-10 2 Timothy 1:1-14 Luke 17:5-10

When the usher came forward to bring the offering, the priest whispered to him, “there is a man asleep in the back pew. Please wake him up.” The usher replied, “No way. You put him to sleep. Youwake him up.”

However the psalmist, David spoke the truth when he said, “Take delight in the Lord and he shall give you your heart’s desire.” We hear the overriding theme to trust in the Lord and wait patiently for God to act. No matter how much we have, it will fade and vanish like the grass that withers and dies. Those who follow God will have far greater treasures in heaven. David calls us to take delight in the Lord and to commit everything we have and do to God. But how do we do this?

To delight in someone means to experience great pleasure and joy in their presence. This happens only when we know that person well. So, to delight in the Lord, we must know God better. Knowledge of God’s great love for us will give us delight. To commit ourselves to the Lord means entrusting everything – our lives, our families, our jobs, our possessions – to God’s control and guidance. To commit ourselves to the Lord means to trust in God, believing that God can care for us better than we can care for ourselves. We should be willing to wait patiently for God to work out what is best for us. Remember that during this time of transition!

Several years ago, a friend prayed for me, asking God to give me my heart’s desire. It was at that moment I realized that I had no idea what that was – my heart’s desire. So, my prayer began that God would reveal my heart’s desire. That turned out to be serving God more in the church. It is an example of being careful what you pray for, because the answer for me was to serve in ordained ministry. The desires of my heart….

As we end our pastoral relationship, I am filled with joy in all that we have accomplished together and sad for those things yet to be done. The desires of my heart…. When I came to Grace, it seemed the church was more interested in writing a check to help some project rather than getting their hands dirty. I am a very hands-on pastor. I know that seeing someone’s plight hand-to-hand and heart-to-heart makes it real, creates compassion and connection. So, we began our Hands and Feet Projects that helped folks clean up and repair their homes. The desires of my heart…

Sunday Coffee time has grown from a few hanging out for a few minutes with maybe something to eat and drink to an organized team of kitchen volunteers. Volunteers who feed our bodies and touch our souls with their kindness and hospitality. Christian fellowship is what binds us together. To hear what’s going on in our lives, so our prayers can be more specific and intentional. Fellowship builds and strengthens our community of faith. The desires of my heart…

I worked in the school system for thirty years and knew of some of the needs in the areas I have lived. In talking with school folks here, we targeted Ruskin Elementary as a school in need of Sacks for Saturday. The Sacks Program provides food on the weekend when the children don’t get the breakfast and lunch that the school provides. We began by helping ten children. After a year or so when increased to twenty children. We also grew to offer Christmas dinner and stockings of love to our twenty children and their siblings. It is a time of great joy and commitment. To see the school personnel response to our gestures of love and support connected us to Jesus’ feeding the hungry. The desires of my heart…

You may have noticed my joy in serving and giving to others. It is that joy that resonates from our hearts, hearts touched by the love of Jesus and a desire to spread that love. When my sister had conflicts with others, she would repeatedly say, “I’m not going to let them steal my joy.” It is a wonderful example of how Jesus responded. Hold onto your joy in Jesus. So, the Vestry agreed that we would have The Holy Ghost Weenie Roast to acknowledge our loved ones we have lost and to celebrate the community gathered in colorful costumes and broad smiles. It has been a wonderful time to invite others to experience our liturgy and our hospitality. To share hotdogs, bratwurst and s’mores around a fire pit and to share our lives. The desires of my heart…

As I began to visit folks and hear their stories, I was touched by the number of folks who had lost loved ones. Barbara Brown Taylor says that we are really all one story. When we connect heart to heart, we can hear similar events, similar losses. We began a thirteen-week program called GriefShare, which touches on several aspects of grief. The evening begins with a shared meal, prepared by church volunteers, who sometimes stay and eat with us. Then we watch a DVD that covers one aspect of grief. After the DVD, we share what was meaningful to us and how it connected with our own experience of grief. It has helped me to continue to process the death of my three siblings. It has helped many in our Grace family and community. God wants healing and wholeness for all of us. The desires of my heart…

I lived through the 1980’s - the years of big hair and hairspray that created the hole in the ozone layer. During those days, we frequently said, “Bigger hair, closer to God!” Well, I continue that idea with my many hats. I can’t pull off the teased and sprayed hair of the 80’s, but I can connect with God with humility and humor with my bodacious hats. It can be a reminder to all of us that what we think – good or bad – connects and reflects our relationship with God. And….. I think God has a sense of humor and perhaps enjoys the hats as much as I do. The desires of my heart…

A while back, trying to get back into the routine of walking Zebi in the neighborhood. Her walking on the leash is getting better, but it has a long way to go. She is fine as long as there are no other dogs, no squirrels, no birds, no butterflies, no people, no distractions. On one stretch of the walk, we encountered a man walking two elderly greyhounds. The dogs were walking slowly, gingerly and the man was as patient and loving as he could be. It humbled me to see his devotion to their comfort, their joy in sharing the outing together. That is what the Blessing of the Animals offers to our church family and the community. It reminds me that I need to be more like the person my dog thinks that I am… The desires of my heart…

We talk about things done and left undone in our weekly corporate confession. What is left undone? I have hoped and prayed about increasing our interaction and fellowship with our community – specifically the Ware Hotel and Bunn Building. So maybe some folks can begin praying and visualizing what that might look like. I know First Baptist has a Bible Study on Thursdays with the Ware Hotel and gives Christmas gifts to the children. There are so many more possibilities for our interaction and connection with our neighbors. The desires of our hearts…

I have prayed about Grace becoming a little, no really, a lot more financially stable. The Stewardship Campaign begins on October 16th, but I can’t resist saying a little about my giving. Years ago, I realized my connection to my giving and God’s giving to me. After my divorce, I struggled with my finances. I had lived in a two-jobs-experience. Pairing down made me examine my giving to the church. The stewardship folks say that when you give more, you get more. Who believes that foolishness? I do. I lived it as I maneuvered my new single life of one income. I often say, “God honors the intentions of our hearts.” And I also say, “God doesn’t like cocky.” It is important how we approach changes in our lives, in our giving. It is important to know where our gifts come from – where our strength comes from – where our future comes from – God - not ourselves. The desires of our hearts…

We offer many opportunities to grow in faith and fellowship here at Grace. Those offerings will continue during this transition period. The Vestry lead by Brandy Holland and Ken Taft are committed to build on what we have created and to make it stronger and perhaps different to include more folks and more possibilities. They have my full faith and my commitment to pray for Grace’s future – a future filled with hope and promise. God is full of Grace and the final work of Grace Church is to make us more gracious, too. The desires of our hearts…

You, as members of Grace Church, are in this together. The process will be made apparent to you when The Canon Rev. Loren Lasch visits next Sunday. Remember that you are challenged to expand the Kingdom of God by your words and ways of being a community with each other. That doesn’t mean that you have to be cookie cutter Christians, all on the same page on every issue. It means that you respect each other’s ideas and ideals. There are times when you can “agree to disagree” and move forward with love and appreciation of each other’s gifts. During this time of transition, you need to and must stay connected to each other – physically, emotionally, spiritually and cognitively. I encourage the Vestry to openly and continually communicate and church members to ask questions! The desires of our hearts…

Elizabeth shares her story of working as a physician on an Indian reservation. She was asked to see an elderly woman and her daughter. The older woman was far into her nineties, tiny and dry, her hair dressed in the traditional way. She had many significant health issues that had not been adequately treated. For the past few years, she had lived with her daughter who could provide care for her. During the first meeting, the daughter did most of the talking. The old woman watched and listened.

Elizabeth saw them together every other week for more than two years. During that time, she dealt with a variety of health issues. She connected them with social services to help meet some of their needs. Finally at 96, the old woman died. In reviewing her thick file, Elizabeth was proud of the way she had handled the complex case.

Several months later, she received a call from a researcher who wanted to talk with her. He was writing a book on the American Indian medicine traditions and was especially interested in the great medicine woman who had received the lineage and kept alive the ancient ways of healing. Only a few were still living. When he located the family of one of them, they suggested he contact Elizabeth. They told him that she was a physician and had cared for their mother. Elizabeth said, “I think of all those months sitting with her, shuffling papers, tracking lab tests and knowing what she knew. She wondered what had been going through the old woman’s mind. What she would have given for even one hour with her now, to ask her so many unanswered questions, to have her perspective on suffering or loss or illness or death. Or simply to have her blessing.” She wondered how many opportunities she had missed - how many times wisdom had passed her by because she was distracted by the task at hand. The desires of our hearts…

I have heard it said that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, just obedient. How do we live our lives as followers of Jesus? How do we step up, step out in faith? If I knew the answers to these questions, I could make the talk show circuit. The answers may be different for each of us. The answers come from spending time with God. The answers come when we quiet our minds and our bodies and get in touch with God, God’s desire for us and the desires of our hearts. The answers are there. The time we spend on forming the questions is as important as the answers. God wants us to grow in relationship with God. God wants our whole hearts, our souls, our minds, our all.

How can we grow in faith, grow in our relationship with God? See and experience God. Serve with joy! Sign up and show up with the anticipation of being blessed for your efforts! No matter what task we involve ourselves in, it can be a great blessing if done with the joy of the Lord. Do everything with the knowledge that we are working for Jesus and not for ourselves! Invest in the lives of others! Look for ways to be a blessing in the church, to your family, to your neighbors, and to those who are less fortunate. See every encounter as an opportunity from God to grow our faith, to stretch our hearts and to expand our perspective. The desires of our hearts…

Our hearts desire…God’s desire for our healing and wholeness. May we experience in our own lives what it is to know our heart’s desire and to invite God into living it out. Stewardship of our heart’s desire is like prayer. It adds so much meaning and value to our lives. If our lives could speak, what would we reflect of our heart’s desire? What must we do? Amen.

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