Worship

St. John's weekly communion service is held Sundays at 10AM, and are live-streamed on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/StJohnEpiWestwood

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Sermons

 

MOTHER’S DAY SERMON from Acts 9: 36-43 – MOTHERS and WOMEN

 

Who was Tabitha, how did God use her to His purpose, and why is she such a good example for women?

There are few personal details about Tabitha. The Bible does not state whether she was single, married or widowed, rich or poor, or whether she had children; nor does the Bible mention her genealogy. However, one verse reveals some important information about Tabitha: “At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.” To paraphrase, Tabitha was a Christian woman, or female pupil, who was thoroughly full of many good deeds and also charitable works for the poor, for whom she had active compassion and tender mercy. And, she personally performed  these charitable deeds.

Tabitha was well known by the widows for whom she sewed tunics and garments.  In those days, ordering and purchasing materials, cutting, assembling, fitting, altering and sewing garments, cloaks and robes by hand were tedious and labor intensive endeavors. She willingly gave of her time and effort to help others. It takes a very emotionally, physically and spiritually strong woman to consistently and personally see to the needs of others.

In the early years of my priesthood, I served in a marginalized community where there was a high level of poverty. I heard of individual women who were baking bread, handing out soup and clothing to the needy. I established this group and many women of the church to join, calling them the “Dorcus Ladies.” The group still exists today, and I was invited to meet with some of them in my recent trip to Cape Town. We are Blessed to have “Dorcus Ladies” here at St. John’s. 

What can Christian women learn from Tabitha’s example? Tabitha served the needs of the widows by sewing garments for them. She was especially compassionate and tender to their needs and actively and personally served them and others. Her example is an inspiration to women today to endeavor to serve others by whatever talents God has blessed them with, whether as a seamstress, or one who arranges flowers, is talented in gardening, baking, cooking, music, caring for the sick or teaching children. And, since Tabitha’s good works were known in Joppa, especially among the widows, God used her notoriety and the event of her death and restoration to life as a means for preaching the gospel and calling many others.

Was she a “woman after God’s own heart?” Although the Bible does not use those exact words, this is definitely one case wherein the power of an example definitely shows that she was a caring person, a potential “mother.”

Throughout the Bible, you can find a variety of women who dealt with motherhood’s struggles. When you engage people with those stories, you’ll find many women (and men) who can relate. Moms can identify with them through their own struggles, and for those who need to be reconciled with parents or forgive mothers who have passed, it’s an opportunity to see challenges from another perspective.

The Bible talks frequently about the fatherhood of God, but scripture also describes God in ways consistent with motherhood, too. Matthew 23:37 - Jesus uses the metaphor of a mother hen to express the relationship he longs to have with his children. This is a touching moment when the best analogy at his disposal is one of a mother’s care.

 

Mother’s Day gives you a great opportunity to talk about some of God’s more feminine characteristics. You’ll find a variety of biblical passages to help you through a sermon like this:

God cares for his people like an eagle hovering over her young (Deuteronomy 32:11)

Learning from the mother of Jesus as she watches her son get crucified (Jn. 19:25-27) and in that moment her grief mingles with her lack of understanding regarding God’s plan.

Mary gives firsthand account of the truth that motherhood isn’t for the weak. She also provides us with many helpful lessons, such as the need to trust that God’s plan is greater than any potential you see in your children right now.

 

Thank you to all mothers and women of our parish, for your love and example through the years. We salute you. AMEN.

SERMON ON THE OLD TESTAMENT LESSON OF EXODUS 14

Sunday, April 24, 2022

The long walk to freedom, to paraphrase Nelson Mandela, is frequently difficult and almost always confusing.

The redemption of the Israelites from Egypt may seem straightforward as we read it, but the human experience as presented in the narrative was deeply confusing. Considering the experience of the Israelites helps provide solace and empathy for so many of us on our own messy and confusing journeys.

As the Israelites camped by the sea (Exodus 14:2), they had not just been freed from slavery, but God had disposed the Egyptians to pay reparations for the Israelites’ forced labor (Exodus 11:2-3, 12:35-36). The Israelites had both freedom and wealth and were on their way to the promised land. Imagine their shock and bitter disappointment when they “lifted up their eyes and behold: the Egyptians were marching after them!” (Exodus 14:10). From freedom to a near-certain death was a tragic reversal. It is no wonder that the Israelites cried out to God in fear (Exodus 14:10). The King of Egypt had reversed his previous decision about letting the Israelites go once he received the news that they had actually left (Exodus 14:5). He readied all his chariots to surround the people and bring them back (Exodus 14:5).

The Israelites, meanwhile, were convinced that Pharaoh had set out to exterminate them. They told Moses that it would have been better for them to grow old in slavery and be buried in Egyptian graves rather than to die that day in the wilderness (Exodus 14:11-12). Moses, their great leader, told the people that they need only stand still, however, and see the saving work that God would do on their behalf (Exodus 14:13-14).

The movie – Exodus; from God and Kings really dramatized this historical narrative. God reversed the seemingly wise guidance of Moses. “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the people to move forward” (Exodus 14:15). God had heard enough crying out (Exodus 2:23, 14:10). God did not want the people to stand still and watch, as Moses had said. Instead the people were to move forward into an uncertain future!

  

Imagine how confused the people would have felt. They were free and rich, only to be threatened again by the same violent system that they thought they had left behind forever. Their leader told them to stand still and watch how God would free them again. Moments later, however, they were told to march toward an unseparated sea. The reversal from certain freedom to certain death had been sudden and shocking. The people must have been crushed with despair.

The Israelites proceeded through the sea at night, with the water piled up as walls to their right and left. The only source of light was a giant pillar of fire behind them. Again, consider the human experience of the narrative: to their right and left walls of watery death, behind them the holy fire that they had counted on to lead them, and in front of them only uncertainty and their own shadows. As we walk along the uncertain path of this life, God’s leading can be deeply confusing. Make no mistake, God calls us all to freedom from sin and death, including freedom from structural sin, like the Egyptian slavery. But sometimes the path is confusing, and our act of faithfulness is to stop standing still and crying out and instead to move forward into what the LORD is doing.

God wants us to go forward like that: Forward as a community, as families, as friends, and as a church. God wants us to go forward, and this Scripture in Exodus shows us reasons why we can and must go forward. God will always give His people the protection we need. Well, do we still get sick? Yes. Do we still get old? Yes. Do we still have financial problems? -- Sometimes. Do we still have family problems? -- Sometimes. But there is a difference when we believe, even when we don't see the difference. Our teachings and preaching through Lent and Easter have been consistent in moving us forward. AMEN
 

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