On A Welcome Fit For God

On A Welcome Fit For God

On a Welcome Fit for God

July 2, 2023

Traceymay Kalvaitis

Psalm 13: 1-4

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will
rejoice because I am shaken.

Matthew 10: 40-42

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

*** Today’s sermon is titled On a Welcome Fit for God.

Looking back over the long history of humankind, stretching back nearly 200,000 years, we can see that there has been a force at work, changing us slowly over time, to be better able to adapt and survive. I would call that force natural selection. In natural selection, a genetic change occurs that allows a person to run faster or reach higher or see better, making the person more efficient in finding food, escaping predators, and they are more likely to survive, more likely to mate, and therefore they pass along their genetic improvement to their offspring. Perhaps it is a slight change in how the hip joint is formed that allows for faster running, or a slight change in facial structure that allows a wider range of vision. Whatever the traits are that allow for increased chances of survival will be the traits that are passed along.

There are other forces at work that are changing us, too. The force I am most interested in is the force that drives us to care for one another, the force that fuels our desire to be healthy, the force that gives us a hunger for justice and a love of peace. That force is God, leading us always towards betterment, goodness, and wholeness. That force we call God was behind the dreaming and determination that formed our great nation. That force we call God is what we heard the psalmist praying to this morning as they asked, “Oh Lord, my God, give light to my eyes.” That

force we call God is behind the words that we heard today, spoken by Jesus to his disciples before he sent them out into the wider world to share God’s liberating power.

Jesus, once again, blurring all the lines that keep us separate from one another and separate from the love that is God, he says to his disciples, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Let’s dwell for just a few moments, Friends, with this message. It is reminiscent of the passage from the Gospel of John (14:20), where Jesus is praying for his disciples. Jesus said, “I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.” Jesus teaches us how to live into this truth. Jesus teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves and reminds us in Matthew 25 that in caring for one another we show our love and devotion to God.

This is part of the great mystery, Friends, this overlapping of identities that erases all traces of separation. I think perhaps this is one of the greatest gifts Jesus gave to humanity, the assurance that there is a love that transcends all differences. There is a love that transcends all obstacles and when we share that love, we are living in a state of communion with God and with one another. I believe this is the message Jesus sought to send out into the world with his disciples. I believe this was also the underpinnings of the dream that we are still working towards in our country, a day when our culture and institutions truly reflect the truth that all are created equal.

The road to justice, equality and peace is long and the work is difficult, so it is all the more important to acknowledge our progress along the way. There is progress, Friends. Today I lift up an example for you to consider. In the first amendment of our Constitution, it is written, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” We are accustomed to seeing our right to peaceably assemble exercised in the streets, on the mall in Washington D.C. and in front of courthouses and government offices across the nation. But there is also a long-standing tradition of exercising our first amendment right to peacefully assemble on public land in our national forests.

This tradition began in 1972 when the first Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes was organized in Colorado. Over 20,000 people came from all over the country to gather together to pray for peace in a four day camp-out on National Forest land. Each year now, for the past 51 years, gatherings have been organized by volunteers for the first week in July. Right now, people are traveling from all over the country to the Kilkenny National Forest of northern New Hampshire, outside of Berlin. Anywhere from 7-12,000 people will attend. The gathering is open to everyone and there is no fee, in fact, money is discouraged. You can not buy a meal because meals are given for free. Meals are cooked in large kitchens, over wood-fire, with an
all-volunteer staff. Dishwashing stations, water stations, outhouse facilities, medical facilities complete with volunteer nurses and doctors, and even a peace-keeping force are all in place to

ensure safety for everyone. There are rules, too, no guns, no drugs and no alcohol. Do people break the rules? I am sure they do.

The focal point of the Rainbow Gathering is the silent meditation for world peace on July 4th. On the morning of the 4th, many people observe silence all morning long, but in the main meadow, where there is a peace pole planted, people will begin to gather at sunrise and throughout the morning more and more will gather, all in strict silence, to meditate and pray. At noon, the children, hundreds of children, will parade in costume into the circle to break the silence and then there is much celebration, with drumming and dancing for an hour or more.

I have attended four other Rainbow Gatherings, mostly out west, although the last one I went to, and my children’s first one, was in Vermont in 2018. You may remember that three of my children are born between July 4th and 5th, so we spent their birthdays at the gathering and we are planning to do the same next week. Our family will bring a box of potatoes, two gallons of olive oil, salt and spices to donate to one of the kitchens. We will bring camping gear, bowls and supplemental food for our family so we are not overly dependent on the kitchens. We will volunteer at kitchens or at kids camp where they have activities for kids all day long. I may even go to some of the ongoing Council meeting. At Council they address problems and also begin discussion on where to have the gathering next year.

I had dreamed earlier this year of organizing NH UCC churches to build a kitchen and feed people for the gathering, but I did not find out until two weeks ago that they had chosen New Hampshire instead of Pennsylvania. After all, what a wonderful way to live into our call to minister to one another by preparing and serving food, for free, to the widest spectrum of people you can imagine. You can tell by the cars you see parked for miles along the road to the gathering. There will be school buses, BMWs, rust buckets of all makes, Teslas, and motorcycles. When everyone is welcome, with no exceptions, and there is free food, well, you can just imagine. It becomes a microcosm of the world.

In closing, I would venture to say that Jesus would have approved of the mission of these Rainbow Gatherings. He would have been pleased to see thousands of people living together, working together, feeding one another, and caring for one another. The gathering offers the kind of welcome that Jesus spoke about. He said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” As I hike into the gathering on Monday, people I have never seen before will greet me saying, “Welcome home.” Until I find a campsite and take off my pack, people will continue to say, “Welcome home.” Then it will be
my turn to welcome others and I will do so with all the love of Christ in my heart. May we all be disciples of Christ’s love. So be it. Amen.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_Gathering#:~:text=The%20first%20Rainbow%20Gatheri ng%20was,connected%20events%20around%20the%20world.

Pastoral Prayer

Infinite Spirit we call God, I thank you for our pasts and all the experiences that have made us who we are, in this moment. May our lives be a testament to all we have learned along our life journey and may we be ever mindful to respect the chosen paths of our brothers and sisters, so that we not stand in judgment, but rather uphold each other in kindness and encouragement.
Help us, Lord, to be kind and encouraging with ourselves, as well, and remember that all change begins with us. In accepting ourselves, may we be more accepting and more welcoming of others. May we radiate your love in all we think, say and do. May we all be ministers to those who are in need, giving of ourselves however we can. I pray for our nation this morning, Lord. May we grow ever more deeply into our democratic ideals and become a beacon of light for the world. I pray this in the name of Jesus, who gave us this prayer…Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against
us. Lead us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever and ever. Amen.

I leave you now with the following preamble from our Declaration of Independence, signed on
July 2nd and ratified 240 years ago today, in the year 1776:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”