God truly does provide! Our Saviour is blessed to be able to offer a “Virtual Church” experience during the stay-at-home order issued previously. This is a way for us to come together in worship while remaining safe and healthy at home.
Sunday 10:00 am Worship Service
Virtual Coffee Hour (Zoom, 11:15 am)
After service, tune in to be strengthened by fellowship and conversation with one another. “Zoom” with us!
or call from any phone: (646) 876-9923 and enter Meeting ID 732 534 989.
Mothers (and All of Us) Know the Way
Sermon for 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A; May 10, 2020
Introit-Psalm 98; Acts 7:55-60; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14
Our Saviour Lutheran Church of Warrenton, Virginia; The Reverend Terri Luper Church
To all those celebrating this national holiday for peace today, Happy Mother’s Day! I know that it is a challenging day for some, those grieving, those separated now, those who cannot be mothers and want to be, those just tired of hearing others talk about it. Therefore, please know that you are heard and accompanied in your pain or in your joy, whichever it is for you.
As I prepared to preach today, looked up some mom stories in Reader’s Digest and came up with a theme: Mothers Know the Way.
For instance, some mothers know the best path to friendship, like Abigail Wortman’s mom:
On the first day of first grade, I stood by the front door with butterflies in my stomach. I voiced my biggest concern to my mother: “How will I make friends?” Crouching in front of me, she handed me advice I carry with me to this day: “Be Switzerland.” Be friends with everyone. Treat everyone equally and fairly. … On [my first day after graduation], I know I will whisper two words to myself: “Be Switzerland.”[i]
Other mothers know the way to make even a dull or stressful task fun. Robin Hynes said this:
My mom had a great sense of humor and a knack for making everything fun. … As a kid, I remember her giggling while paying bills. What was so funny about bill paying? She would put humorous notes in the reference section of the check: For the electric bill, she might put “You light up my life,” and for the mortgage she’d write “Four shingles closer to owning it all.”[ii]
And that image of shingles leads to a second theme for today—homes. Elfie Schmid knows the way to a better community for all is to help people stay in their homes. Elfie is a mother herself, a member here at Our Saviour Lutheran Church, and the executive director of a local organization called People Helping People. This charity helps our neighbors in Fauquier County by paying the electric bill or rent, helping them find food, services, or doing whatever they can to keep people from falling through the financial cracks. Needless to say, they have been busy these past couple of months! However, she feels it is much too important not to help.
“We must work together, as a community, each doing our part. And this is the part we can do, so I do it.”
Yes, Elfie knows the way to make the world a better place. As I asked her why she does it, why she is so passionate about helping others in need, she looked way back in her personal history. She is a child of war. She remembers having no roof over their heads, and how she had to beg for food for her family. She knows how to be without. Her family walked from East Germany to the West, seven weeks until they got to the Americans, her parents with four children in tow, her father injured in the war, her brother with a broken arm. She was five or six years old and not the youngest. (Just two days ago we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, and it is good to hear stories that remind us of those days and work toward a world where we do not need war at all.)
“I always thanked God for food every night before bed. Even on those days when we did not get any food to eat. I knew to rely on God who would push people to help us the next day.”
And they did, for Elfie Schmid is tenacious! Even when her sisters came home empty handed, she always came home with food for the family. “The farmers always gave me milk for the baby, eggs for the family. I guess that’s why my mom always sent me out to beg—I was the most successful!” (This comes as no surprise to those of us who have heard her impassioned pleas for People Helping People. Mrs. Schmid gets the job done!)
Elfie is indeed a mother—a woman—who knows the Way. Her job—her passion—is preparing the way, the homes for others. She uses the community to keep people in their homes. And so, she is part of the Jesus Way. The Way is an old name for the church, the first followers of Jesus out spreading the news of God’s love. That name came in part from our Gospel reading from John today. As he is preparing to say goodbye, as he is preparing to go to the Cross, Jesus tells the disciples words we need to hear still today:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”
Where are you going? How do we know the way to follow you? His friends ask. And he answers,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
We know the Father because we know Jesus, and, he said, if we don’t believe the words, we can believe the works, works we get to be a part of by his power. Jesus is the Way. And the Jesus Way includes a home.
This passage is so special and familiar to so many Christians. I remember the old King James Version best, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” We love the thought of Jesus preparing a beautiful home, with a room for each of us, waiting for us in heaven. But is he only prepping a heavenly home? No. We are not supposed to wait for a home someday. Jesus is the Way to life NOW. He is preparing that home for us now. Yes, a spiritual home, like the one built by studying the Word, growing in faith, and gathering as a community, but also a physical home, built by human hands doing God’s work—homes filled with love, right here, right now.
Yes, the Jesus Way includes lots of hands here on earth, doing God’s work to prepare homes for people and keep them in them. God uses People Helping People and Elfie Schmid, as well as all the community agencies who work together.
I was talking with the executive director of one of those agencies, Fauquier Habitat for Humanity. Darryl Neher shared how now, at this time, unlike possibly any other, our home is “everything.” Not only is it the place we raise our families, but it is our place of work, it is our entertainment, it is where we find our safety, it is our communication hub to the world. Through modern miracles like Facebook Live it is where we worship (hi everyone!). He mused about the work that Habitat for Humanity does:
“Imagine not having a home. Not just the physical structure of a house, but a safe, decent place to live in. In a period like now, what would your choices be?”
“Without internet access, how can you go to school? If you don’t have connectivity, how do you do telemedicine? If your home is substandard, how are you healthy? If you are making a choice between paying rent and buying food, how do you eat? Our home is the basis of our infrastructure of life – now more than ever. The physical structure of the home is where we find hope. And I am so honored, so fortunate, to be a part of that mission of hope, preparing those homes for people to buy, to live in, to thrive.”
Yes, Elfie and Darryl are part of the Jesus Way. And so are you. As you pray, remember those charities that are helping their neighbors. If you are fortunate enough to have a roof over your head and food and connectivity, consider donating to these charities that help others prepare the way. Jesus has taken care of the hard part—he came to live and work among us, to teach us the Way, to forgive us and give us life. And then he allows us to help others! Together, we are all doing God’s Work with Our Hands, through the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Friday, May 8, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The United Nations commemorates this day as the Time of Remembrance and Reconciliation for Those Who Lost Their Lives during the Second World War
Let us pray:
Eternal God, we give thanks for all those who have shown the greatest love by laying down their lives for others. We especially thank you for those in our military throughout history who have sacrificed their lives for their fellow citizens and for us who came after. We remember also all those civilians who have died in war and conflict throughout the world. On this day, we remember especially all those who lost their lives during the Second World War. Help us to be worthy of their legacy, and keep us mindful of their sacrifice and service, that in all things we may live our lives in praise and thanksgiving to you; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.[iii]
[i] TWO SIMPLE WORDS https://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/mothers-day-short-stories/ by Abigail Wortman, West Long Branch, New Jersey
[ii] A STAND-UP WOMAN https://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/mothers-day-short-stories/ by Robin Hynes, Slingerland, New York
[iii] Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship Prayer Book for the Armed Services (Augsburg Fortress, 2013), p. 65.