This coming Sunday is known as Worldwide Communion Sunday as we remember our sacred connection to Christian communities around the world and the call to be Christ in the midst of this beautiful and troubled world. In this context I will take note of the recent conversations here in Pittsfield about refugee resettlement of those fleeing from violence in the Middle East. Given the state of our world — and nation — right now, even talking about refugees coming here stirs up many, conflicted emotions. Jewish Family Services, who will guide the resettling of 10 to 12 families over the next year, answered some of the practical questions last Monday at the info session at the Berkshire Athenaeum — such as security, employment, housing, and language. More sessions will be held in upcoming months. The deeper, spiritual questions have to do with fear and faithfulness. Fear is an emotion that can signal us to be careful, cautious, and thoughtful. Fear can also get out of hand, like a raging fire, and cause us to do great harm to ourselves and others. Faithfulness enables us to have a larger perspective of trust and hope that can keep fear in check—be cautious, steady, and hopeful. I’ll have a story about an encounter in the North Woods of Maine that helped me understand how this balance works.
Our Scripture readings for Sunday also help us in this regard. In Luke 17:5-10 the disciples despair of ever having enough faith—are they begin paralyzed by fear? Jesus tells them that there is a seed of faith already residing within them. Their task is to live from that place and do what they are to do as faithful disciples. What does that mean for us? In Lamentations 1:1-6—a short book of 5 poems that is rarely read–the Jewish poet describes the destruction that has befallen the beloved city of Jerusalem. The anguish of these verses is powerfully expressed. Expressing our grief—and our fears—is important. And then they are to be lifted up to God in hope and faith. This is what the poet does. His deeper message is that the people had forgotten faith, allowed fear to run rampant, and then they made many poor decisions that, in part, led to the tragedy that befell Jerusalem. The poet wants the people to begin anew, express their pain, sorrow, grief, and fear and finally make wiser choices moving forward. We, too, need to hear such wisdom from an ancient poet. We’ll also share together Psalm 137 as our responsive reading which speaks of grief, love, and the risk of fear turning into hate and revenge. At the center of all these readings is Jesus’ clear word that a tiny seed of faith resides within us offering us a path forward when we remember to listen. Letting our fears be held in faith allows us “To Do What is Ours To Do”–which is my sermon title and the theme for this Worldwide Communion Sunday. Come help us discern our path into God’s holy future.
At 2 p.m. the Outdoor Cathedral that meets on the lawn of St. Joe’s Church will be holding baptisms for families that have been growing in faith over the past number of months. This will be a tender time. I will be there, along with Rev. Jenny Gregg who will be leading the service. I invite you to join us for a very special moment of faith and hope.
Keep in mind the Harvest Craft Fair will be held next Saturday, October 8. If you can help in any way it will be greatly appreciated. It’s an experiment having the Fair a month earlier than usual. We will have more crafters but we also need some new volunteers—some of our regular helpers are away. Let the church office know if you want to help. See you in church. Peace.