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Sermon for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Grandma and Grandpa said there are four beings within our circle whom we need to nurture and feed. These four beings combine to make the individual. They are mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual; they all need to be taken care of if we are to remain in balance to grow to our fullest potential.

Jesus would feed the physical being first, then have everybody sit, and he would feed the rest of the beings-mental, emotional, and spiritual. How did he do this? One way: he told stories.

Once the world was in great danger and about to be destroyed. A group of rabbis were concerned and went to the sacred place in the woods and lit the sacred fire. They prayed the sacred prayers and told the sacred stories and the world was saved.

Time passed and again the world was in great trouble and about to be destroyed. The old rabbis had passed away and a new generation of rabbis were concerned. They did not know where the sacred place was in the woods, nor did they know how to light the sacred fire. But they knew the sacred prayers, and they told the sacred stories. And the world was saved.

Time passed, and again the world was in trouble and about to be destroyed. And the group of rabbis who had saved the world before were gone. A new generation of rabbis were concerned. They did not know where the sacred place in the woods was, nor did they know how to light the sacred fire, and they did not know the sacred prayers. But they remembered the sacred stories, and the world was saved.

Today the world is in great danger and about to be destroyed. Do we know the story? Some say our tradition is our story, but what is the story of our tradition? If we do not know the story, then our tradition is only habit. Habit does not give substance to the tradition.

It was Christmas and Dad was carving the Christmas ham. The curiosity of the youngest raised a question: "Mom," she asked, "why do you cut the ends off of the Christmas ham?" "An easy question," thought Mom. "Ah, because that's the way my mother did it," she answered with a smile.

Grandma was sitting at the table and she was asked, "Grandma, why did you cut the ends off your Christmas ham?" Grandma answered with a smile, "Because that's the way my mother did it."

Great Grandma was sitting in her place. "Great Grandma," she was asked, "why did you cut the ends off your Christmas ham?" She couldn't believe somebody was talking to her. She looked around the table. All eyes were on her. "Huh?" she said. "Great Grandma, why did you cut the ends off your Christmas ham?" She stared off into the distance, looking back into the past. Slowly smiling, she said, "Well, the reason I cut the ends off my Christmas ham was because the ham was always too big to fit into my baking pan. I had to cut the ends off so the ham could fit into my pan and then could fit into my oven."

We elders are called to tell the story. Eldership is not a coming of age, rather, it is a birthright. You are elder to anyone born after you. Where and what is the story? It's all around you and within you. And why story? Because story is the custodian of truth. And we have to give ourselves to the story.

I was born and raised in Oklahoma, and when I was twelve, my dad became a Methodist preacher--a story for another time. He was often asked to come to speak at revival meetings that were held, and the revival meetings-there was a worship service each night-and at the end of the worship service, it would end with an altar call or people being invited down to the altar to share whatever it was that was on their hearts.

It was at one such revival where I was sitting in the very back pew as was my custom, and in came this man who sat down beside me. The service happened, and at the end of the service, the invitation for the people to come to the altar was given. This man walked out of the building. I thought, "Well, I guess he heard something that might have upset him."

However, the next night-the second night of the revival-there I was sitting in my place and here came the same man and sat down beside me, and between us he put five brand-new shirts, still in their plastic wrap. The service happened, the invitation to come to the altar was given. This man got up and picked up his shirts, and he walked to the altar. Everybody had an opportunity to speak, and when it was his turn, he said, "Good words. Good words tonight. Good words last night. And I have a gift that I want to give to God. Here," he said, raising his shirts, "five brand-new shirts." And he was told, "I'm sorry, that's not enough." The man turned with his shirts and walked out of the building.

The next night of the revival, there I was sitting in my place, and here came the same man and sat down beside me, shirts between us and blankets on the other side. The service happened and when the invitation was given to the altar, the man walked to the altar with his shirts and his blankets, and when it was his turn to speak, he said, "Good words. Every night, good words. And I have a gift that I want to give to God. Here," he said, "five brand-new shirts, oh, and here five of my warmest blankets." And he was told, "I'm sorry; that's not enough." The man turned with his shirts and his blankets and he walked out of the building.

The next night of the revival, there I was sitting in my place and here came this same man and sat down beside me, shirts between us and blankets on the other side. The service happened, the invitation was given, and when the man walked down to the altar and it was his turn to speak, he said, "Good words, every night. Good words! And I have a gift that I want to give to God. Here," he said, "five brand-new shirts. Oh, and here five of my warmest blankets, and I have tied outside five of my best horses." He was told, "I'm sorry; that's not enough." The poor man turned with his shirts and his blankets, walked out of the building and gathered up his horses and went home.

The next night of the revival-the last night of the revival-there I was sitting in my place and here came this same man and sat down beside me-empty-handed. He had nothing. So all through the service, I began to fantasize about what he must have outside. The altar call was given, and he got up, and he walked to the altar. Everybody had an opportunity to speak, and when it was his turn, he said, "Good words. Every night. Good words. And I have tried to give a gift to God-five brand-new shirts, five of my warmest blankets, and five of my best horses, and I was told this was not enough. So last night I went home, and I surveyed everything within my possession. And tonight I bring my most prized possession to give to God." "What is that?" he was asked. "Myself," he said. "I want to give myself to God." "Uhh," he was told, "that is enough, for that is all that God wants. Just you, nothing more, nothing less. Just YOU."

Give yourself to the story. God is the story. You are the story, and I am the story, and we are the story together. Our life experiences and the total of creation is the story we pass on. Our story contains the stories of our ancestors and holds together the collective memory of the community. Give yourself to the story, to God, the Alpha and ½ of our faith, the Author and Finisher of who we are.

In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the great spirit, sitting on a throne, high and lifted up and the train of God filled the temple. And above God stood the seraphim, each having six wings and with two they covered their face and with two they covered their feet and with two they flew. And as they flew one called to the other and said, "Holy, holy, holy is the God of Hosts! The whole earth is full of God's glory." And the foundation of the threshold shook at the voice of the one who called and the house was filled with smoke, and I said, "Woe is me! Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips. My eyes have seen the glory of God. Woe is me!" Then, one of the seraphims flew over to me, having taken some hot coals from the altar, with some tongs, came and touched my mouth and said, "This has touched your lips. Your guilt is taken away, and your sins are forgiven." Then I heard the voice of God calling again and again and again, "Whom shall I send and who will go for us? Whom shall I send and who will go for us? Whom shall I send and Who will go for US?" I stood and said, "Here am I. Send me."

God is calling today. But if we are not open, we will not hear nor will we see.

Once, there were two mountaintops, one to the east, the other to the west, and on each peak was a house. Early one morning, before sun-up, a young child walked out of the house on the eastern peak to gather berries to have with breakfast. She walked back to the house just as the sun peaked over the horizon sending warm rays of light across the mountain tops and over to the house on the western peak. As she watched, that house lit up with golden windows. From that day on, this young one would get up before sunrise and sit and look at the house on the western peak, and when the sun would come to the day, the house would light up with golden windows. This young one decided that the first place she would visit when she went to seek her fortune would be the house with the golden windows. When that time came, she was up early. When the sun came to the day, its warm rays lit the house with the golden windows and she started on her way. By noon she had reached the valley floor where she cooled her feet in the creek water. After a small lunch and a short rest, she continued her journey up the other side. This took her all afternoon, and it was early evening when she came up into the yard. The family of the house came out to meet her. They welcomed her and gave her a drink of water and asked, "Where did you come from?" "Oh," she said, "I came from the house on the eastern peak." Their eyes grew wide with excitement. "You mean," they said, "you live in the house with the golden windows?" She turned and looked at her house on the eastern peak. And as she watched, the rays of the setting sun lit up her house with golden windows.

You, too, live in a house with golden windows.

When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Him. And they told stories. Now you must go and tell the story. As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved. Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony."

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you were
called into one body.