Rev. Martha Jacobs
The Planting of the Lord
Ps 126, Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Sunday, December 17, 2017
One week from tonight, we will once again marvel that God sent God’s Son to walk with us. To be like us. To go through the trials and tribulations that we experience in our lives. One of the things that this season reminds us of is that Jesus was like us. Jesus was not some far away, unreachable being. Jesus walked this earth. He would get disappointed with people, especially with his disciples when they didn’t understand what he was trying to teach them. He would be compassionate towards those who were struggling, those who were grieving, those who were treated as less than, including children and those who were ill in body or in mind.
I believe that one of the interpretations of this Isaiah reading during this time of Advent, is to remind us that we are called through God’s love for us, to be God’s hands and feet. God has planted within us the ability to be compassionate to those who we know and those we don’t know. What does it mean for God to plant things within us? What does it require of us?
We are called to remember that we are created in the image and likeness of Jesus, who opened himself up to the pain, the joys, the fears, the losses, the gifts of love and friendship that we too experience. So, we are also called to go out into our world and help to heal; help to bring healing to our broken world, not just in our community, but in the wider world.
And, so, we do that – through our benevolences – through the generosity of our food donations and financial donations to our Deacon’s Fund and various individuals and organizations in our world that we seek to help through Mission and Outreach’s financial distribution of our budgeted benevolences. This year, in addition to the amazing generosity of spirit we have shown in past years, we have provided hygiene kits to send to Church World Services to distribute after a disaster. We will bless these kits prior to the end of our service today.
We have also taken up special collections for Belia Cortes’ family in Puerto Rico, who were significantly impacted by Hurricane Maria, and for members of the First Congregational Church in Sonoma, California, who were affected by the wildfires. And, for the UCC Disaster Relief Fund following a season of hurricanes that seemed to never cease. We collected and sent shoes to help micro-entrepreneurs build their own businesses. Through purchasing cookies today, we are continuing to help our youth to raise the funds to travel to Florida to work in an area ravaged by hurricanes Irma and Matthew.
And, the funds from items purchased at our Holiday Bazaar that Ellen Lewis so lovingly oversees on our stage in Centennial Hall, will be going to Open Door. We helped more people than we know by giving away merchandise at our Barn Sale and Tag Sale. And, yes, we have even opened our doors and shared our physical space with the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Pleasantville Community Synagogue, the Upper Westchester Muslim Society and the Emergency Shelter Partnership. Dear friends, God expects us to welcome all, be open to all, as Jesus sought to show us through being compassionate and caring for all. And, we are continuing to do our best to do exactly that.
This Isaiah text, placed as it is during Advent, also reminds us that not only does God heal wounds, but God calls upon us to act, through our own woundedness, to care for others. When our hearts are open to the woundedness and difficulties in someone else’s life, we are called to be the ones who reach out to help them. God has planted within us the ability to be compassionate, to be open, to be loving, to be caring, to be willing to help others – both friend and stranger.
As we approach this final week of Advent and as the craziness builds to Christmas Eve, I would like to invite you to pause – once more – pause and truly look at those you love, both in your family and in your extended family. Give yourself a gift that is worth more than anything. The love that you have for those in your life and that they have for you, is what sustains you. It is what gets you through those more difficult times in life, when things aren’t going so well. Love is a gift from God, so delight in that gift. The love that Jesus has for each one of us is beyond measure and is overwhelming if we really let it sink in how much we are loved and cared for.
I’d also like to encourage you to pause and look at the variety of gifts we each bring to our church, which are also beyond measure. Our new members bring us their gifts, and talents as well as the love that they have for God. That is one of the many gifts we share together. These are awesome gifts that require that we care for each other and that we watch over each other. God has planted within us that yearning, that strong pull to come outside of ourselves and help others who are in need – whatever that need is – whether it is driving them to the doctor, or to church. Whether it is inviting them to join you for dinner or just providing a hug that lets them know that you care, or a condolence card or an email to let them know that you are thinking of them.
Compassion doesn’t require that we do over-the-top things. It requires that we be open to love and to being loved without judgment, without fear, knowing that the Spirt that has been planted within you is the same Spirit that has been planted within me. It is God’s Spirit that ignites in us the need to reach out and to help others. When we do so, we are the hands and feet of God, and we are doing what we are called to do. By our actions, we are all voices crying out in the wilderness as we help each other – both strangers and loved ones – to prepare the way for our God. May it be so. Amen.