May 272012
 

Today is Pentecost 2012, Evan’s baptism, and the Together Now capital campaign from the Diocese of Massachusetts.

The Rev. Martha Hubbard, Anna Blumenscheid, and Sue Blumenscheid worked together to preach this sermon.


 

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May 202012
 


 

The Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B              

The Rev. Martha L. Hubbard                                       

          Did you notice the person that connected our first reading to our Gospel reading this morning? In the reading from Acts, Peter names him, whereas in the Gospel Jesus only alludes to him. That person is Judas Iscariot.  Having Judas connect two of our readings this way gives us an opportunity to reflect on who he was and what he means to the Christian story. Sermons on the person of Judas are probably pretty rare, but I want to give it a try.

Let me begin by asking you this – do you know anyone named Judas? Probably not – not many people would knowingly name a son after someone who is commonly remembered as the ultimate of betrayers. Judas, the one who betrayed a close friend who it turned out was the Son of God. Not someone many would choose to make their child a namesake of.

In doing some reading to prepare for this sermon I discovered that the association of bad luck with the number 13 likely traces back to Judas. He is counted as the 13th person at the table during the last supper. So to the superstitious, the number 13 is considered very bad luck indeed – or at least that is what I read. But then I began to wonder what bad luch has to do with the story of Judas. What the New Testament reveals about Judas calls into question for me the pariah status that has been attached to Judas for centuries now.

In a sermon titled Washing the Feet of Judas,  Jon M. Walton, makes the point that in John’s Gospel, before he goes out into the night, to betray Jesus, Judas receives the same grace of feeding and washing from Jesus that the other 11 disciples do. This is not because Jesus did not know what Judas was about to do. Rather John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was quite aware that Judas was about to betray him, and Jesus even says so to all those gathered around the table with him. But rather than rebuke Judas, Jesus included him in all his actions of self-spending love that night – he washes Judas’ feet and feeds him on the bread of angels. If this is not evidence that God’s love doesn’t ever give up on anyone, I don’t know what is.

But Judas, does eat with them and then lift his heel against Jesus just as Jesus notes the sacred scriptures predict. In John’s Gospel, what then follows are 3 chapters of Jesus words to the 11 disciples who are left with him, and then one chapter of his words to God in prayer. It is from this final prayer chapter that our Gospel reading this morning is taken. And in it Judas is eluded to as the one who was lost to Jesus because he was so destined, that what the scriptures had said about Jesus might be fulfilled.

Whatever we think about why Jesus died – however we understand that theologically – we can, I think, recognize that what is going on here is forgiveness of great magnitude. As death is staring him in the face and he is feeling the burden of parting from those in the world who mean the most to him, Jesus prays out loud to God for them, and includes Judas, who he infers is lost to him in this world, but is not lost to God. The bottom line here for me is that Jesus does not blame Judas, and by so doing he does not allow much of a foothold for blame of Judas to take root among his disciples either.

I want to end by sharing a story that I was unable to find the original source for. The story goes like this:

It is said that when Leonardo da Vinci  was painting his masterpiece The Last Supper, he needed a sitter for the figure of Christ. In the end he found a chorister in one of the Churches in Rome, a man called Pietro Bandinelli, a man of fine character and fine features. He then looked for models for the disciples. Many years went by, gradually the picture progressed, more faces added, until only one remained – Judas Iscariot. Leonardo went into the backstreets of Rome, where finally he found a beggar on the streets with a face so villainous he shuddered everytime he looked at it.   But he paid the man who sat for the likeness. When he was finished, Leonardo asked his name – Pietro Bandinelli, he replied – many years ago I sat for your picture of Christ.

(taken from a sermon preached at the Mint Methodist Church, Exeter, UK, by the Minister, Rev Andrew Sails 26th March 2006 – www.themint.org.uk – but it appears in many places on the internet and the original source is unclear.)

May the face of Christ strengthen in us as we accept the grace of forgivness for the ways in which we resemble or brother Judas. In the name of Christ.  Amen.

 

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May 132012
 


The Sixth Sunday of Easter 2012,                                                

The Rev. Martha L. Hubbard                                          

Was anyone out there keeping track of how many times Jesus said the words loved and love in this Gospel passage?   It was 8 times that he said those two words. Then if we add the 5 occurrences of the word love in the second lesson from the first letter of John – that brings the count up to 13 – and we see that this day is fairly brimming with the love of God, flowing through the incarnate One, to his followers and into the world.

Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (John 15:9-17 NRSV)

In the context of our American culture, this is Mother’s Day, and when I think back to the genesis of love in my life I have to think of my parents, and on this day I give thanks in particular for my mother.  And now that I am a mother I have a new appreciation for my own mother.

In fact there are times now, as I interact with my children that I open my mouth to say something and I hear my mother’s words come out spoken in my voice.  At those moments, I kind of look around behind me, half expecting to find her standing there, like a ventriloquist, with me as her dummy.  But she is not there – in the flesh anyway.  Rather she is in here – in my heart – for better or for worse.  I say for better, or for worse because sometimes the words of hers that I now speak are ones I swore I would never repeat to my kids – words that fall short of what they need, and instead speak more about the pressures and stresses I am feeling.  And that is humbling, because now I am the imperfect human being speaking those words, and I have new compassion for my mother, and what she must have been going through when she spoke them to me all those years ago.

And then there are the shining moments, when I speak my mother’s words of wisdom to my children – tried and true messages that flow from her, through me, to my children – words which give me joy to be passing on to them.  And in those moments my mother’s words mother me again and I feel like we are sister mothers standing together gazing at the future living and breathing in the two small people who will be part of carrying our  family on.

What a gift those better and worse moments are.  Moments in which I am able to recognize both limitations and strengths in my mother and myself.  Moments to be able to treasure the complexity of who my mother was as a vehicle of God’s love in my young life, and who I am in my children’s lives. To see that my mother and I are like every other human being.  We are each of us, as Joan Baez once put it so eloquently: “…amazing grace… a precious jewel…special, miraculous, unrepeatable, fragile, fearful, tender, lost, sparkling ruby emerald jewel rainbow splendor person.” (Joan Baez)  This more complete vision of my mother has not come easily for me, as I am sure has been the case for many a daughter or son down through the ages – we all have to lay down the resentments of what we did not get that we wanted and sometimes needed from our mothers or fathers.  But once we have laid those burdens down and have found enough willingness to reach for this more complete vision of our mothers and fathers, we may marvel at the ways in which God has worked through their imperfections and defects, as well as through their strengths to enrich our lives in amazing ways.

And as that has been true in our families of origin, so it has been true in our families of faith that we call church.  Today’s Gospel reading testifies to this truth. Just think about that crew of disciples Jesus had gathered around that table the night before he went to the cross.  These words about love are part of his farewell discourse to them from John’s Gospel. It was true that these disciples had risked much by leaving all to follow him, but time was running out and they still did not show signs of really getting the message.  So he boiled it all down for them – he boiled it all down to love – letting God’s love flow through them.

And in that night he called those imperfect, often bumbling folk friends.  And in that night Jesus did not treat them as servants, who were in some way less than him.  He made it clear to them that they had all they needed to go out and do the loving he had been leading them to.  It wasn’t a matter of them perfecting a set of skills or getting some sort of advanced degree.  It was simply about living by the commandments he had put at the center of his life – commandments to love God and love neighbor with all they had in them.  He called them to abide in that love.  To stand in that love and view each other and the world from that center.  Then he let them go and gave them the best example he could of that kind of love – he laid his life down for them.  And in that he modeled the operating principle that would form the young church they would become – a church centered on self-giving love.

I had a priest friend in Europe who used to say to me, “If we can’t be church at home, we can’t really be church anywhere else either”.  And with those words she mothered me. And those words have stuck with me and come back to me, whenever the words that come out of my mouth at home either delight me or remind me of my need to be re-grounded in God’s love.  In this next span of time as we again celebrate mothering and fathering, let us pray for the love of God to flow through us in the many and varied relationships of our lives.  May the way we do church, not just in this building, but wherever we are, be a witness that God’s love can, and still does work miracles of healing.  And may that healing pour down upon us, ripple out from us, and reach those God would love through us.  My friends in Christ, let us go into the world as Gospel mammas and papas!  Let us go into the world as  “…amazing grace… precious jewels…special, miraculous, unrepeatable, fragile, fearful, tender, lost, sparkling ruby emerald jewel rainbow splendor persons.” (Joan Baez) Chosen, Imperfect and Blessed by God!  In Christ’s name!  Amen!

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May 122012
 

This eulogy and funeral sermon in memory of Donna Welch was offered by the Rev. Martha Hubbard and Donna’s daughter Amy Welch.


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 Eulogy and Funeral Sermon for Donna Welch  Posted by on Sat, 12-May-12 Sermons Comments Off on Eulogy and Funeral Sermon for Donna Welch