Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My first sermon: Stones of Support

I have been asked by a number of people who were unable to be at church last month when I shared the SOS message in the form of a sermon to share it publicly. This is what I shared:


Good morning,
I am here to share a message that is very important to me, my family, and I am certain some of you. I imagine a world where the offering of support in the form of prayer comes from every voice, from every denomination and is for everyone. 
After courageously fighting for many years, Ben, Hillary’s fiancĂ© and Cam & Links dad, lost his battle with the disease of addiction in March of 2015. I wanted to do something that honored his memory, honors those who continue to fight the fight, others that no longer can, and all those that love or have loved them. 
SOS Stones of Support began with the idea that people who are affected by addiction in any way have a physical token of support that could be held onto as a reminder that they are not alone and that prayers of hope and healing are being said for them every day. I enlisted my children to help with painting the stones that we collect with inspirational words and images. We sit around our dining room table, share laughter, stories, and prayers for the people who will be receiving them. It is our goal to find ways to connect our families in Spirit. If a telephone that has no wires can send a message of words and energy to people all over the world in a matter of seconds then our prayers will most certainly make it even farther with the help of God. You do not need to be a follower of Jesus to understand that prayer heals and I am reminded that Jesus himself reached out to those that did not believe.
I designed a blog to go along with the stones where you can find more peace filled messages and images that is then shared with a Facebook page so that we can reach as many folks as possible. The stones are bagged and tied with cards that have our families story and our goal of trying to create a worldwide prayer chain. The only thing we ask in return is that if you are able to please join in our prayers, however you are able.
We have delivered several hundred stones via mail, detox centers, al-anon groups, sober houses, addiction resource programs, homeless shelters and of course many individual stones for friends and family. Ben’s mom has started creating stones that she can offer to those that she knows as well because of the demand, and our kids have enlisted their friends to help with painting the stones. I had no idea when I started this project how organically it would grow into what it is today and the level of reach that would occur in such a short period of time.  It has truly been a mustard seed of sorts. I know the Holy Spirit has been at work in my life to help me, to help others. Every day I am thankful for having been given the gift of faith in a higher power that reminds me that when you reach out with a message of kindness it changes lives.
Although, theologically I have a lot to learn, my faith and knowledge of the power of God’s healing love through Jesus and the Holy Spirit is strong and I am honored to share my beliefs here with you today. This is where the message comes in; I believe that God is everywhere and is in everything and loves each and every one us for who we are, in spite of the fact that we fall short, and we all do. That is Grace!
I believe that God sent Jesus to be a teacher, to show us all what true unconditional love is. I believe that God is a, “both/And” God. What I mean by that is that God loves that I believe in Jesus; however, I also believe that he wants me to reach out to others who may not know Him and not only share His message but to be willing to understand and accept others who know God through different ways of sharing peace and love throughout the world. The God, for me who would give up his only Son so that we could live would never discount someone else who sought to do good works, because it was in the name of someone else. That, for me, is a God who wants peace for all people of the earth.
Our readings this morning focus on knowing God, through Jesus and Spirit, the power of prayer and loving one another. Our hymn of the day is hymn number 333 (333 is the tattoo I have in memorial of Ben that represents balance of mind body and soul) out of curiosity I looked to see what hymn 333 was and I know that is not a coincidence that it was “Jesus is a rock in a weary land”. That is what I like to call a “God wink”, God’s way of using everyday things to show His presence. It is a Lenten hymn and yet appropriate for today because it is a reminder once again that it is never over. Our relationship with God is forever, it is in this life and the life everlasting. 
James says, “the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sin will be forgiven. It goes on to say praying for one another IS effective and will bring healing. This message is so powerful, Elijah, a human being, prayed “fervently” and his prayers were answered. I believe God answers every prayer. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no, and sometimes it is wait. That is not easy for most to understand. Some believe that the answer should always be yes, and if it is not, then the prayer is not answered. That is where faith and knowing God comes in. Let go, and Let God, is one of the stones Annie created. To move forward in any situation you must let go of what is holding you back. One of the greatest gifts I have received by faith is that when I am not able to fix something that is broken in my life, I can Let go of it and give it to God in prayer. It is not MY giving up on finding a solution, it is merely saying I need help, and who better to help than the one who loves me the most.
Paul goes on to continue this message, however in a different way. It begins, with Christ setting us free, goes on to say that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, understands that, at times, we don’t and ends with the same message that it began with to live and be guided by the Spirit. I believe forgiveness, in others, and ourselves is the underlying message here. There is a whole list of the things we should not do; It says those who are slaves to these things will not inherit the kingdom of God. For me the kingdom of God is the list that follows “the don’ts list”; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those are the fruits of the spirit and those things can’t be found in the “don’t’s list”. God shows His kingdom to us on earth in the fruit of the Spirit to prepare us for eternal life with Him. Again we are called to work together to share that “fruit”. God does not want us to be alone, the love I have received through Jesus reminds me of that every day.
In our Gospel for today, Jesus questions Peter, who he believes he is; (which by the way pastor shared with me the origin of the name Peter is a Greek word, meaning rock or stone, again a coincidence, I think not. Peter responds, “you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”. Jesus tells him that he is blessed because it is not the flesh and blood that revealed this to him, it was the Father in heaven. In the beginning and in the end it all comes down to faith. It is not about a stone or a physical reminder, yes they are helpful, but what has made a difference throughout the history of the world is connections. Our connection with God and our connections with one another. Today, I ask that you join me in a moment of silent prayer for healing the minds bodies and souls of all who suffer, today especially those who are faced with addiction.………………………….……In the name of Jesus Christ our lord and Savior whose love and support I am ever so grateful for, 

Peace be with you

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