Searsport First Congregational Church
10:00 am; Sunday; September 25, 2022
Rev. Ed Gabrielsen, Pastor Carolyn Maunz, Minister of Music
Dorothy Alling, Deacon Norman Otis, Trustee
Welcome Pastor Ed Gabrielsen
Prelude: “Prelude in G Minor” Kreiger
Introit: “Beautiful Savior” Arr. Willis
Presenting Ourselves to God
*Call to Worship:
Leader: God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God.
People: Jesus, teach us how to love. If we love other people, nature, and ourselves, we love you. Loving is not often easy; so grant us the strength, understanding, and faith to love.
Love is the language that all of us wish to hear. Words of kindess, support, affirmation, and even challenge draw us forth to be our better selves. May we speak with love in our heart and in our words, so that we build up rather than tear down.
*Opening Hymn “Fairest Lord Jesus” #57
Anthem: “Faith to Carry On” Besig
Ida MacRae, Seafarer’s Friend
*Hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” #53
Sharing Our Joys and Concerns
Pastoral Prayer and Lord's Prayer
God's Word to Us
(Ushers please come forward)
Doxology and Prayer of Dedication
1 Timothy 6:6-12
Sermon Pastor Ed
Our Hearts are Made for Love
Our scripture readings this morning are about money and greed, and we have the famous expression, so often quoted about money, which comes from 1 Timothy: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” Given this reading, you might think I’m going preach about greed and money and how money is bad, and we shouldn’t be greedy, etc., etc. But that’s not what my sermon is about.
Again, the title of my sermon is “Our hearts are made for love.” And my basic point here, the one thing I am trying to say is this: When love is the priority of our heart, and when love opens the spiritual heart, then our attitudes and behaviors concerning money will be in proper alignment, in the proper relationship, with the heart, and we will find a lasting joy, lasting happiness, and peace of mind.
This is because our hearts are made for love. Thomas Traherne, the 17th century English poet and pastor, expressed this idea as follows. He wrote:
“You are as prone to love as the sun is to shine; it being the most delightful and natural employment of the soul of man, without which you are dark and miserable…For certainly he that delights not in love makes vain the universe…The whole world ministers to you as the theater of your love. It sustains you and all objects that you may continue to love them.”
Thomas Traherne (1638-1774) from Meditation 65 found in his book Second Century.
The idea here is that we are happiest when we love. We are happiest when our hearts are open, when our spiritual hearts are open, and we view the world through the eyes of love, through the eyes of a loving heart. The poet reminds us that we are made to love, in the same way that the sun is made to shine. To love, for us, is the most natural and delightful thing to do, and without love, without the capacity to love, we are dark and miserable. When the sun does not shine, there is no light. And in the same way, when the heart does not love, then this same heart, made naturally to love, is dark and miserable. The world is here for us to love, and it is the theater of objects made for us to love. The world and the objects it sustains are for us the very objects of our love. And so, we love with open hearts, even as our hearts are awakened and open to love.
When the heart begins to open, the spiritual heart begins to open, the way of seeing the world changes, as we begin to see through the eyes of love, and we see the objects in the world as the objects of our love. Looking at flowers in a garden, or leaves on trees, or water splashing in a stream, or the moon rising at night, or ocean waves crashing on a beach, or even something so simple as a pebble, or a bird in the sky, or a single pine tree, seen through the eyes of love, seen with the heart open, through the eyes of the spiritual heart as it opens, the most simple thing, the most ordinary thing, can be seen as absolutely lovely and wonderful and tender and life giving.
And I think this is our deepest longing. Our deepest yearning. To have this experience of being alive and open and loving. To have the experience of the spiritual heart opening is an experience that money cannot buy. And I think this is the truth that many people come to realize in their own path of awakening to the truth. That what matters most is something intangible, not available for purchase and consumption, but a matter of the heart, and a matter of spiritual opening, spiritual awakening.
I want to tell you about my friend, John Miller. John was my landlord. He owned the building where I rented office space for my business in Norway, Maine. John was a real person. This is not a made-up story, but it is true.
I signed a five-year lease with John, and he built out the second floor of his building for our office space, where we ran a pediatric clinic and wellness center. John was a successful business man, and he was hard and driven. He had been in airport construction, and had overseen the construction of several major airport terminals in Houston and Albuquerque. After downsizing from the airport construction business, he moved to Norway, Maine and began developing commercial real estate properties. And that was how I met him.
So I signed a five-year lease with John, and got to know him over the years. He was a chain smoker, and drank hard liquor, and he was a tough and gruff guy, used to working with crews of men pouring concrete and driving front-end loaders, and John was a perfectionist when it came to his commercial real estate property. One time he got angry at me because I put a chair on the landing outside our office door. I wanted a place to sit down so I could take my snowy, muddy boots off and not track mud into the office. But John said, “You rented the office inside the door. But you are not renting the landing outside the door. Get rid of the chair.” John was a hard man. He had seen a lot and been through a lot.
Then, for a while, I didn’t see John around the office building. He disappeared for several months, until one afternoon, he stepped into our office waiting room, and I could tell immediately that something was different about John. He said, “Hello, Ed,” and when he spoke, his words were slurred and unclear. At first, I thought he had been drinking, but as he continued to talk, almost unintelligibly, he pointed to his tongue, and I saw that his tongue was disfigured, and part of it was missing. John had developed cancer of the mouth, and part of his tongue had been surgically removed.
He was an entirely different person now. This man, who used to shout orders at construction crews, now spoke softly, and gently, and asked me how I was doing, and how my business was going, and how my relationships were going. There was a new light in eyes, there was something new and beautiful about him. And I could tell that he was a very different person, and I was drawn toward him, and I wanted to spend more time with him.
After that, my relationship with John took a new direction. I often went to visit him in his office, an old garage a few blocks away, where he spent time those days repairing and restoring old lawn mowers, and we developed a new friendship. John told me, in his lisping impeded speech, that he was going to die soon, that his doctors had told him there was nothing more they could do for him. And tears filled his eyes, and I could see that he was a changed man. His heart, his spiritual heart, was wide open. And it stayed wide open until he died the following year.
It's not that money is evil, but rather, the love of money is a mistake because there is no spirit in money itself. Money is inert. There is no life there in coins and paper bills. There is no life in spread sheets full of numbers. There is no life, no spirit, in a bank statement.
Money is useful, only to the extent that it serves the opening of our spiritual heart. Anything else is a distraction and distortion, a mistake, and “in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”
We are made to love. We are prone to love as the sun is prone to shine. And so our task is then to find the ways to open the spiritual heart, so that we may truly love, and be truly loving people. And when this happens, others will be drawn to us. Because there is a natural yearning in all human beings, to open the heart. The spiritual heart longs to open, and the spiritual heart will find the way to open, wherever that possibility may lead. “For certainly he that delights not in love makes
vain the universe.”
I will close with a poem by Wendell Berry, in which he describes how he finds ways to keep his spiritual heart open:
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Dear People, May we continually find the way to open our hearts. Amen? Amen
Entering the World
*Closing Hymn “Micah 6:8” #309
*Benediction Pastor Ed
*Sung Benediction “Go Now in Peace” Besig
Go now in peace, never be afraid.
God will go with you each hour of everyday.
Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true.
Know God will guide you in all you do.
Go now in love, and show you believe.
Reach out to others so all the world can see.
God will be there, around you and above.
Go now in peace, in faith and in love.
Postlude: Mike Nahme
*Those who are able please stand