Life in all its Fullness
May 10, 2020
Let us be as open vessels that God’s spirit may enter.The Community Gathers: Experience God’s presence in the assembly. Please greet one another with joy and welcome new friends into our community of love.
You are welcome here…come and worship!
Welcome: Rev. Paula Norbert
Responsive Call to Worship:
L: We gather together this morning to worship our loving, nurturing God,
All: Who, like a mother, knows us intimately and loves us unconditionally,
L: Who teaches us the way we should go, and comforts us in times of need.
All: Praise God, the Source and Sustainer of life.
Opening Hymn: Here In This Place
Invocation: In God our Mother: A Mother’s Day Prayer
Loving God, we give thanks today for mothers.
Thank you for mothers who gave birth to us,
and women who have treated us as their own children.
You teach us all how to be good mothers,
cherishing and protecting the children among us.
Help us mother lovingly, fairly, wisely and with great joy.
Help us raise our children to be the people they are born to be.
We need your comfort here today, God,
because some are missing mothers, some are missing children,
some are parted by distance or death.
We pray for those here whose mothers have disappointed them;
we ask for grace in relationships where there is pain and bitterness,
for healing in relationships where there is abuse and violence.
Help our congregation be a space where people can feel mothered,
their gifts and talents appreciated and nurtured.
Finally, we pray today for mothers around the world;
mothers who cannot feed their children,
mothers who are homeless or without a homeland;
mothers who must teach their children about danger and fear.
Help us create a world where mothers can raise their children in peace and plenty.
God of mothers, who created mothers, who came as a child and had a mother,
God our Mother, loving us with a sweeter and deeper love than we have ever known,
hear our prayer this day, Amen. Rev. Paula Norbert
Message for the children and the child in each of us Pastor Paula
Readings: Isaiah 43:1-3 and John 21:1-17 Rich Westley
Sermon: Life In All Its Fullness, Rev. Dr. Nancy Parent Bancroft
Prayers: Hush Now In Quiet Peace
We pray today for the family of Paul Schlaver after the loss of his uncle last week. We pray for Rita Koles, mother of Katie, who has been having some health challenges. We continue to pray for the friends and family of Tom Bancroft, Matt Poftak, and Vickie Breault, and especially for Nancy, Sheri and Gerry. We pray for the nurses and teachers among us and in our community. We pray in a special way for the sick and dying, the hungry and hopeless, for those who are worried about their economic circumstances and for all who are responding to those most in need.
Closing Hymn: Servant Song
You are people of the Resurrection! You know the powerful love of God! Go into God’s world proclaiming hope, peace, and joy, in the name of the Risen Lord. Amen.
Recessional: Go in Peace
Go in peace and the peace of God be with you this day.
Go in peace and the peace of God be with you always.
Celebrate and share the joy. Celebrate new life.
Go in peace and the peace of God be with you always.
(Our Mother’s Day Prayer from Rev. Carl Penner, a Mennonite Minister, LeadingWorship)
Our Readings For Today
Isaiah 43:1-3 Restoration and Protection Promised
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia[a] and Seba in exchange for you.
John 21:1-17 Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples
21 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin,[a] Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards[b] off.
9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
In today’s scripture story, we hear Jesus tell Peter (and the other disciples) to give something away.
Jesus tells Peter to “Feed my sheep.”
Now, you might think that Peter would have said, “But I don’t have any food to give away!”
But, we heard in the story that Jesus had already helped Peter receive food.
At the start of the story, Jesus helps Peter and the other disciples catch lots of fish (153 of them, the story tells us).
And then, the story says that Jesus made breakfast for Peter and the disciples.
So when Jesus tells Peter to “Feed my sheep,” he’s telling Peter to give to others something that Jesus first gave to Peter.
Now, when Jesus tells Peter to “Feed my sheep,” what he is REALLY telling Peter to do is to care for and love people.
And, for Peter to be able to care for and love people, what do you think Peter has to first receive from Jesus?
That’s right, Peter has to first receive the love Jesus offers to Peter.
SHARE the Good News
Just like Jesus told Peter to care for and love the people, so too, does Jesus tell us to love one another.
But, Jesus first offers that love to us, so that we then have it to share with others.
And this is the Good News for today: The way we love one another is by first receiving the love that Jesus offers to us…
Life in all its fullness
Rev. Dr. Nancy Parent Bancroft
Readings: Isaiah 43:1-3; John 21:1-17
May the words of my mouth and the openness of our minds and hearts bring us closer to you, Oh God.
This past February the New Yorker magazine published an article entitled, Richard Rohr Reorders the Universe. In it, Rohr refers to his most recent book, The Universal Christ, which came out last year, where he distinguishes between the Spirit of Christ and the historical Jesus. He believes that Christ—essentially, God’s love for the world, “has existed since the beginning of time and suffuses everything in creation, and has been present in all cultures and civilizations. This Cosmic Christ always was, became incarnate in time, and is still being revealed.” Jesus is an incarnation of that Spirit, and following him leads us to the Divine. In his own language Rohr explicates the words attributed to Jesus in John’s Gospel 12:45, “Anyone who sees me is seeing the one who sent me.” And in John, Chapter 10, Jesus gives his reason for having been sent, “I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.” Or in a translation that I prefer, “I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.” For me, this mission of Jesus, calling forth life in us in all its fullness, is also the mission of motherhood and the mission of every one of us.
Today, we honor mothers. And we all know that motherhood is so much more than giving physical birth. Hopefully, looking at our own relationships with our mothers we can recognize examples of the many ways they tried to give us fulness of life – through support, encouragement, nurturing our bodies, minds and spirits, challenging us, educating us, correcting us, comforting us. Perhaps we can remember them paraphrasing the words of Isaiah that we heard this morning. How many mothers from time immemorial have said a version of those comforting words to their children? It’s okay. Don’t worry. You are mine and I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you. Everything’s going to be okay. I’m here. And hopefully, we can also remember in gratitude other women and men who have nurtured us; who have helped us develop into our best selves.
Most of you know that Tom and I were very close. I think that the main reason for this is that we both recognized that in major and in many small ways we helped each other experience fulness of life. Many of you were around when Tom told his story of recovery. In it he said that I and our newborn son were his motivation to work on his recovery a day at a time, applying the twelve steps in all of his affairs. Because of this, I believe that he achieved what Abraham Maslow called “self-actualization”, that level of psychological development where full personal potential is achieved. Tom lived life to the full and before he died he shared with me how much he loved me for supporting him on his journey and how grateful he was. He actually glowed when telling me, and I’ll always treasure that conversation.
What most of you don’t know is that when Tom and I first came together on May 5th, 1973, I had a very low self-image. I felt insecure, unattractive, and incompetent in so many ways. In time, because of Tom nurturing me in so many ways, I came to see myself through his eyes and began being comfortable in my own skin and brave enough to venture out and try new things. Tom supported me throughout our lives together in all my projects and goals. When both boys were attending expensive colleges Tom took on a part-time job so that I could cut back on what was a successful counseling practice, go back to school and change careers. A few years before Tom was planning to retire, I shared with him my desire to live on the coast in Southern Maine and design and aging friendly home for us. Tom would have been happy to continue living in central Maine, where our house was paid for. But as he had so many times, he became fully invested in my goal. And there was that morning, just a few years ago, when we sat in bed having our coffee together as we usually did, and I said to him, “I think I’m going to apply for the interim pastor position and Union Church. He took a sip of his coffee, turned to me and, with love in his eyes asked, “Do you remember that you were Catholic just five minutes ago?” Still he supported me in that endeavor. And wasn’t he the perfect pastor’s wife?
Through years of supporting, encouraging, affirming, comforting, challenging, forgiving and reassuring each other we helped each other experience life to the full. And I have heard from so many of you about how you have benefited. When we help another person towards self-actualization, not only that person, but everyone that person encounters benefits. The world becomes a better place.
Today’s gospel shows Jesus helping Peter live more fully. In this story Jesus creates an opportunity to heal the rift between himself and his dear friend Peter who had let him down when Jesus needed him most. Jesus knew that Peter was a blowhard and yet he saw enough leadership qualities in him to anoint him as head of what would be the early Christian community. But shortly before his death, when Peter boasted, “Even if everyone else abandons you, I won’t,” Jesus knowing Peter’s character doubted this would be the case. Still he had to have been deeply hurt by Peter’s denial. And when Peter realized what he’d done he was no doubt ashamed and remorseful. So Jesus builds a fire on the beach knowing that Peter and his companions will be coming ashore soon. When they arrive, Jesus asks them to contribute to the breakfast with some of the fish that they had just caught. You know the story. Jesus gives Peter the opportunity to make amends. But knowing that with Peter’s words can be cheap, he challenges him – “If indeed you love me, feed my sheep.” Jesus wants Peter to be more than the head of his church. Jesus wants him to continue his mission, to nurture others into living life to the full. And this is what all of the followers of Jesus are asked to do.
Since Tom’s death I have experienced countless acts of being fed. I’ve received numerous sympathy and “thinking of you” cards, emails, calls, gifts and offers of help. Carol Sherman has texted me every day asking how I am and what I’m up to. John and Jen Comeau took our dog for countless walks and cared for him when Tom was most sick and right after he died; a time when I could barely manage caring for myself. Through the love and concern expressed by so many, even in this time of isolation I have felt held and cared for. A helpless lamb, I have been fed.
We members of Union Church all treasure this aspect of our community. We are here for each other. We feed each other. We use our time and our own gifts to help each other to thrive, to experience fulness of life.
Let us be grateful for what we have in this community even when we can’t meet face to face for a whild. Let us be grateful for the people in our lives who have and who continue to feed us. And let us not let these dark days slow us down from doing what we can to help all we can experience fulness of life.
Erik Erikson in his theory of psychosocial development refers to the seventh of eight stages of personal growth as “Generativity versus Stagnation.” By generativity he means making our mark on the world by caring for others as well as creating and accomplishing things that make the world a better place. Stagnation refers to the failure to find a way to contribute. Stagnant individuals may feel disconnected or uninvolved with their community and with society as a whole. Those who are what he calls, “generative” or successful during this phase will feel that they are contributing to the world by being active in their home and community.
We all have the ability to be life-giving, nurturing, supportive, and encouraging. We can all help carry a load. There is a concept in ethics that says that if we can do good, we should. And in helping one person live fully, we help build the community.
I’d like to end by sharing another bit of wisdom from Richard Rohr. He says that true holiness and wholeness come when we allow ourselves to experience God’s love. Holiness is simply being connected to our Source. From such a place, our compassionate and generous response to suffering and need comes forth naturally.
For that reason he says, “It’s not what you do that makes you holy. It’s what you allow to be done to you that makes you holy.” So we feed others not so that we become holy, but so that others can experience the Divine through our actions. They become holy, connected to the Source through our feeding. We in turn, experience the Divine when we allow ourselves to be fed and in the process live more fully.
So today we give thanks for our mothers and for those who have and who continue to draw us into fulness of life. And we ask for the grace to be generative. Amen.