“13 HOPES FOR THE NEW YEAR, Part two” By Rev. Stephen R. Carnahan

Sermon, By Stephen R. Carnahan – Jan. 9, t022     


  1. Wealth Equality 3. 4. 5. Cooperation 6. An end to war 7. 8. Eyes for beauty 9. 10. Art 11. Real Worship 12. Grace 13

Here’s what I’d really like to see happen in 2022.

This week our sermon discussed part two of the 13 point sermon I started last Sunday. What remains are 6 things we need in this coming year: Wealth equality, cooperation, eyes for beauty, art, real worship, and grace.

This is the first Sunday of the season of Epiphany. This is the time we celebrate the truth that all people can see the light God gives. It is a season not just to share the truth of Christ, but to listen to the truths others have to share.

#1: Wealth equality

Most of us here today are in the 40 middle percent of wealth in the US. And we share 28% of the nation’s wealth. Some of us here are in the bottom 50% of income in the US, and we have only 2% of the nation’s wealth. I doubt any of us are in the top 10% but if you are, you share in 70% of the nation’s wealth. And that ain’t right.

Jesus didn’t talk about wealth equality. He had compassion on the poor, though. And he had compassion on the wealthy who couldn’t discern anymore what was most important in life.

In 2021 we saw two billionaires build their own space ships and leave earth. In the coming year I would like to see no billionaires go into space and instead do what they can to lift people out of poverty. How about using that money to bribe politicians to do something about global warming? I can’t tell if that’s a good idea or not.

#2: Eyes for beauty

It is all around us. And it is not to be ignored. God has given us a beautiful world and the eyes to see it. Do we see it? Do you? Is it all around you? Beauty exists in the world in so many ways, it is remarkable that sometimes we just pass it over. It is in the natural world, in the land and sky and water. It is in the creatures that are around us. My life is cheered by the birds that visit my feeders.

And we must see it in each other. In each other’s faces, bodies, words, movements—and in the way we love and care for each other.

Right now, where do you see beauty? Where else? If all of us could see it around us and not just pass it by., well, that would be a good thing in the new year.

#3: Cooperation

I want to see us remember how to do this. When politics becomes about “who wins” it ceases to serve the people. Is it our imagination or did congress once know that they had to work together to get things done. Don’t they still know this? Perhaps we are exaggerating how deadlocked things are. But what if our leaders rememberd that they need to cooperate. That the other party is not the enemy to be vanquished, but another perspective to be understood.

And what if we religious people could do that. What if Evangelicals and Mainline churches could remember that we are all following Christ, and so there must be some common ground somewhere. I’m not saying we all need to agree or that we even have to worship together. But can we just learn to respect one another.

#4: An end to war.

Wouldn’t this be a good thing. Peace. Peace.

I occurred to me that the wars we are fighting around the world have three causes, and they also start with P. Like Peace.

Wars of power, so one people or person have power over others. Prejudice. Because we have learned to heat those other people and think of them as less than human. And Poverty. Wars fought because someone doesn’t have enough, or, even worse, someone wants more than they have even though they do have enough.

I know. Everyone wishes for world peace. And probably we all say that its not possible. It will never be possible. I will concede that may be so. But it is still what I want. And I think we need to learn how to give up our need for power, or our old prejudices, or create equality.

Even if we could take a step back when we think war is necessary. Think whether there is a better way. We do honor and sometimes almost venerate our military, but perhaps we need to be careful about that. God, please help us find better ways to resolve our conflicts in the coming year.

#5: Grace

There is nothing you can do to make God love you more than God already loves you. Repeat. Does that sound strange to you?

It is one of the basic ideas in Christianity but one of the least understood. Grace is a gift given without any thought of whether the gift was deserved. God does not love you because you are so good. God has not forgiven you because you are so sorry for your sins. God has not given you strength because you have worked so hard. God has loved you because it is God’s nature to love.

Furthermore, God knows the power of grace: to love so freely sets people free. About Al in chaplain training. [Comical & great!]

#6: Art

God bless those people among us who can make art. I am not one. But there are so many among us who can make art with color and shape and sound and words and many other ways. Churches have honored the arts throughout history. Even in our simple church here, we find it. Sue uses her talent to decorate our altar and I hope you are appreciating what she does.

Artists reflect an attribute of God. They look out at creation and recreate it. Sometimes they remake what the see sometimes they alter it and re-make it. But artists are doing the work of God.

Artists are also very often agents of change and reform. Frequently oppressive regimes ban art and artists. They don’t like the way artists can point out what’s right and wrong and what needs to be changed.

In the coming year I hope our world values the work of artists and artisans and that the rest of us are aware of and value the work they do.

#7: Real worship

Too many of us worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship. Real worship means open, honest, interactions among the followers of Jesus in the presence of God. It doesn’t mean cathedrals, robes, and incense, although it can. It doesn’t mean dancing and shouting although it can. It might mean music, but if it does it needs Ray Blann’s touch. It means prayer, but not necessarily wrote or ad lib. It means sacraments, but not done a certain way. It means opening yourself to God, without politics or theology or certainty. It is real. It must be real. Honest. And can we do that in the coming year? Ray Blann