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Recent Sermons

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The Empowering Spirit

Rev. Sarah Buteux

Numbers 11:24-30 & Acts 2:1-21

The ACLU is currently tracking 490 anti-lgbtq bills in legislatures across the country, including 2 in Massachusetts.

Six months since the Dobbs case that effectively overturned Roe V. Wade, 24 States are on track to pass near total bans on abortion.

In the wake of several bills signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, “the NAACP has issued a travel advisory for the state of Florida, claiming the Sunshine State is "openly hostile" to African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals.”

Houghton University, a Christian school in upstate NY, recently fired two staff members for appending their pronouns to their e-mail signature. That’s right, fired a cisgender heterosexual man for stating that his pronouns are he/him and a cisgender heterosexual woman for stating that her pronouns are she/her - which, for the record, even the most conservative Christian would agree.…they are. (I know reality has a well known liberal bias, but I still don’t even know where to begin with that one.)

A fifth grade teacher in Florida is under state investigation for showing her class a Disney film with a gay character. (As if they don’t all have gay characters).

And closer to home, several staff and administrators in the Amherst School system have taken voluntary or imposed leaves of absence in the wake of a title nine investigation centered around their failure to respect, protect, and support LGBTQ students in our middle school.

It may sound like I’m bringing politics into the pulpit this morning… because I am, but I share these headlines with you because the role and influence of Christianity is front and center in each and every one of these stories.

May 28, 2023

An Awkward Departure

Rev. Bill Wright

Acts 1:6-14

Wonderful Service today with great music, 5 new members joining, and a sermon by our own Bill Wright. Click on the YouTube link to view the full service. Here's Bill's sermon:

You know how you get a hit movie that stands perfectly fine on its own. And then someone has to make a sequel to it. And it’s not so rare for a sequel to begin with a transition scene that is at pains to take us from the perfectly fine old plot to a new two hour story. You see where I’m going with this? There’s detailed analysis on the web of what’s called sequelitis. John McClane is back at Dulles Airport on another Christmas Eve and once again runs into terrorists? Thus Die Hard 2. Biff of Back to the Future II steals the Delorean to make his younger self rich, changing world history, worst of all, making future Marty (Michael J. Fox) into an uncool dad. The transition that starts off a sequel often requires kooky details. What matters, of course, is whether, despite the kooky details, the sequel can continue a story you thought was complete, and bring us along too.

         So Luke takes it upon himself to write the sequel to the gospels that we call Acts of the Apostles. It is based on the real story of the church after Easter. The original hero, Jesus, withdraws, and...

May 21, 2023

I Will Not leave You Orphaned

Rev. Sarah Buteux

Jon 14:15-20

I began this morning's service with these words:

Good morning and welcome to First Churches. Whoever you are, whomever you love, you are welcome here.

Friends, as you well know, today is Mother’s Day, which is already a complicated holiday to acknowledge and observe in the church. What can be a happy day for some can be a terribly sad day for others and we all want to be sensitive to that. Like I said, it’s complicated. So today we’re going to complicate it even more.

There is a movement afoot in our country to honor mothers on this day, not with cards and flowers and brunch, but by declaring today a national day of mourning, prayer and repentance that we might contemplate an end to the epidemic of gun violence in our country. I am one of hundreds of faith leaders who have signed a letter that has reached its way to the desk of President Biden, calling for an end to this violence that is robbing people of all ages of our safety, our sanity, and our very lives.

That may seem like a bit of downer on Mother’s day of all days, but I think it is appropriate for two reasons.

1. I don’t know one mother or father or person for that matter, who isn’t deeply concerned about this issue right now… one person who isn’t struggling with both the horror and the hopelessness that settles in as we are assaulted day after day with news of another mass shooting.

And 2. It’s appropriate because when Julia Ward Howe called for a national day to honor mothers, she conceived of it from the very beginning as a day of peace.

Having lived through the carnage of the civil war, she sought to unite with mother’s across the globe in a call for peace, unity, and an end to violence, such that no mother would ever have to suffer the loss of a child at the hands of some other mother’s child ever again.

In her Mother’s Day Proclamation for Peace she cried:

“Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!… We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm, Disarm!”

Mother’s Day began as a cry for peace, as a movement to lay down our weapons and bring an end to violence in all its forms. In a time when we are waging costly wars abroad and witnessing the tearing apart of families and communities on a daily basis right here on our own soil, I think today is the perfect day to repent and renew our efforts to bring an end to violence, not just for the sake of mothers, but for the sake of us all.

May 14, 2023

You Know The Way

Rev. Sarah Buteux

John 14:1-14

Alright, how are we all doing after hearing this morning’s scripture?

If you’re new to the church, I would imagine you’re feeling a wee bit uncomfortable right now. And that’s ok. Actually, that’s more than ok. I believe that’s good and I want you to hold on to that discomfort. Alright?

And if you’ve been around here for awhile then I would imagine you’re feeling a wee bit uncomfortable too, but also made a little curious if not hopeful, because if you’ve been around here for awhile then you know - to quote the great theologian, Inigo Montoya - that those words you just heard… well… I don’t think they mean what you think they mean.

At least, I don’t think they mean what you think they mean if you think what Jesus means is that we all need believe particular things about him if we want to go to heaven when we die and to hell with everyone else.

Is that maybe what is making some of you uncomfortable? Good! Because that makes me uncomfortable too. I mean that doesn’t sound like good news, does it? No. And I don’t know about you, but I’d like to think that the good news is better than that.

Frankly, I’ll be damned if it isn’t, and I dare say a few of you will be too. (At least we’ll be in good company.) And yet I’m not troubled. I’m not troubled because you see around here we believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for the whole world.

We believe that if it isn’t good news for everyone then it’s not the gospel, because if it isn’t good news for everyone than how can it possibly be good news for anyone? The gospel should never leave you feeling like you need to choose between loving God or loving your neighbor. Amen?

And yet for so many Christians, the good news of this passage has been twisted into a  declaration of exclusion rather than an affirmation of God’s unconditional love for all.

I think that’s where your discomfort is coming from, and rightly so. That’s not something you ever need to apologize for or even feel weird about because the truth is ....

May 7, 2023

Dear Theophilus

Rev. Sarah Buteux

Acts 2:37-47

I think most of you know that the book of Acts and the gospel of Luke, were written by the same author. What you might not remember is that they are both addressed to the same person. Anyone remember who? There is a super big hint in your program. Yeah. Some guy named, Theophilus! That’s right.
Luke wrote to tell Theophilus all about the life and ministry of Jesus in his first letter which became the 3rd gospel, and all about the acts of the apostles and the growth of the early church in his second letter, which became the book of Acts.

Now, Theophilus may have been a real person. There are lots of fun theories about that. But because the name literally means “friend of God, or “one dear to God,” we can also assume that the letters are addressed to any one of us who love God enough to care about the story Luke has to tell.

Well, in today’s reading from his second letter, we heard all about the sudden and explosive growth of the church on the heels of Pentecost. The church went from roughly 120 disciples to 3000 members in one day. Luke tells us that as those folks devoted themselves to learning more about Jesus from the apostles, breaking bread, fellowshipping with one another, and sharing all they had in common and with anyone who had need, that the Lord added to their number daily.

Well something interesting happened as I was meditating on this passage. I got inspired to write my own letter to Theophilus about how things are going here, and I’d like to share it with you this morning. But first, let’s pray together.

Holy One, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, you who are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Dear Theophilus...

April 30, 2023

Learning to Love Mystery

Rev. Peter Kakos

Luke 24:13-35

Today's sermon was offered by the Rev. Peter Kakos. There was also a beautiful "Be The Change" moment featuring Patti and Allison talking about the importance of being an open and affirming church (at the 25 minute mark) and our plans for Pride 2023.

April 23, 2023

Show Me!

Rev. Sarah Buteux

John 20:19-31

If you’ve known me for any length of time, then you know that long before I entered the ministry, I, along with a sizable network of extended friends and family, used to work on the operations crew of a professional women’s tennis tournament in beautiful Mahwah, N.J..  I started when I was 10 years old and worked my way up to Director of Operations by the time I was 20.

Now when you think about an event like that - something like the U.S. open or Wimbledon - you probably think about people like Rafael Nadal or Venus Williams playing tennis.
But when I think back to my work at an event like that, I think about much more glamorous things like...

April 16, 2023

Woman, Why Are You Weeping

Rev. Sarah Buteux

John 20:1-18

When I read about Mary setting out while it was still dark, I get it. Given the circumstances, I wouldn't have been able to sleep either.

I know this because I can’t sleep now. I admit, some of that has to do with being a woman of a certain age.

Yeah. But it’s more than that.

The truth is, I know what it’s like to be awake in the wee hours of the morning sick with grief and worry. And after all we’ve been through together, I know many of you do, too.

So it’s not hard to imagine Mary tossing and turning, is it? Tossing and turning Saturday into Sunday, before finally giving up, getting out of bed, and heading out to the tomb.

Nor is it hard to imagine why she ...

April 9, 2023

Maundy Thursday

A service of readings and song that trace the last days of Jesus' life.

April 6, 2023

Re-Member Me

Rev. Sarah Buteux

John 12:12-16

Memory is a funny thing. I believe I used to have one, and by all accounts it was pretty good….but nowadays, I’m lucky if I can remember what day of the week it is, let alone the actual date. You know those people who walk into rooms, open their mouths, and find they’ve forgotten what they came in to say.  Are any of you here today?

I empathize, I really do, only I don’t even have to walk from one room to another for this to happen to me anymore. I can be in the middle of a conversation - the middle of my own point - and suddenly realize I’ve completely forgotten what I was about to say.

All of which disturbs me, deeply, but also fills me with compassion: for all those of you who just raised your hands (thank you),  compassion for all those people who snap a lot while trying to recall names or gaze up toward the far right hand corner of the room as if the answer is hidden somewhere up toward the ceiling, and of course compassion for our gospel writers who had so much to remember - so much of such import to nail down for posterity- but who, for the life of them, couldn’t seem to agree on much of anything.

We’re here to talk about the events of Palm Sunday this morning and kick off the holiest of all holy weeks in the Christian tradition – which is why we call it “Holy Week,” and the gospel writers devote a great deal of space to these final days of Jesus’ life and ministry. They review it all, in great detail, from start to finish. The trouble is that they all have a slightly different tale to tell.

For instance, did you know that the palms...

April 2, 2023

Lord, If You Had Been Here...

Rev. Sarah Buteux

John 11:1-45

A large bowl of Red delicious apples was placed at the front of the cafeteria line at a local college.  I’ll let you guess which one. The note attached read, “Take only one please, God is watching.” At the far end of the line sat a tray of peanut butter cookies. On this tray someone had left another note that said, “ Take all you want, God is watching the apples” (Tom Allen, p463 “1001 Quotes…” Rowell).
I appreciate both of these sentiments because I think life, with all its strange twists and turns, is complicated. There are times when we are sure God is watching and times when we are equally sure that God is not.  I am sure that every person in this room could tell us about a time in your life when you felt that God was looking out for you and manipulating events just enough to change your life for the better: a moment where you were unusually delayed or just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Am I right? Yeah.
Maybe it was that moment when you met your partner or landed your first job or that time you narrowly avoided disaster. But everybody has a story.
And I could fill plenty of time right now with more dramatic accounts of divine intervention, those Christian equivalents of urban legends. You know, variations on that story ...

March 26, 2023

Save Your Judgment

Rev. Bill Wright

John 9 :1-41

Although we had some technical difficulties with sound in house, the sound was coming through the live stream just fine. Many thanks to the Rev. Bill Wright for presiding and preaching a fine sermon, and to everyone on the ground for helping to keep worship on track. And now for the sermon:

"I don’t know about you, but when I listened to this long story in John, I didn’t get too caught up in the back and forth about whether the man who now sees is the same man who was blind, despite all its interesting and dramatic detail. Instead, I am struck by, and stopped short by, the words of Jesus near the end: “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Anyone else? Can I get a sad amen?
Ugh—really? This sounds like we are heading right for the judging God of the finger-wagging Christians. No offense J.E., but the “sinners in the hands of an angry God” Christians. Some of us will hear this passage and be taken right back to the trauma of being told, maybe by members of our own family,
that our eternal destiny does not look bright because

March 19, 2023

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