Setting the Table

John 21:1-13, 15-17; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, 9-11, 16; Psalm 119:41-48

Today’s texts from the larger lectionary of the church are wonderful background pieces to a text I’ve been considering for some time as I’ve felt called to follow a new bend in my vocational path.  Some of you know that I love the parables, particularly as I’ve worked with them in the worship and storytelling approach known as Godly Play.  But one of my other favorite genres is the meal story – as some commentators on this topic like to point out, “Jesus eats his way through the gospels.”  A lot happens around food and tables in the New Testament – maybe we should take a cue from that about what can happen around the table that is critical to forming and sustaining relationships.

I invite you to hear this text from John 21.  You are welcome to follow the text as it is printed in the bulletin, but I’m going to share it with you more like I would downstairs in Children’s Worship this morning.

Here we are by the Sea of Galilee, sometimes we call this place the Sea of Tiberias or Lake Gennesaret.  It’s helpful to remember that, even though it is very large, it is still a lake surrounded all the way around by land.  In places it’s sandy but in others it’s more rocky and there are hills and valleys all around it.

The sea is a strange and wonderful place.  Sometimes the wind blows down through the valleys hard and strong, moving across the water quickly making it rough and wild.  Sometimes the wind blows gentle and soft, calming the water and making it peaceful and still.

After God raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus’ disciples returned here to the Galilee, where Jesus had asked them to meet him.  One evening seven of them decided to go fishing.

They fished all night, but caught nothing.  Just after daybreak, they someone on the beach.

But they couldn’t tell who it was.  He called out to them, “Have you caught any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

“Cast your net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”  So they did.

Now there were so many fish they couldn’t pull in the net.

Someone said, “It’s Jesus!”  Peter jumped out of the boat, into the water and ran to him.

The other followed behind in the boat, dragging the net.

When they came ashore, they saw a charcoal fire…

with fish and bread on it.  “Come and eat,” Jesus said.

The disciples realized this was Jesus.  Then Jesus took the bread and gave it to them…  and also the fish.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Peter, “Peter do you love me more than these?”

“Yes,” Peter answered, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

A second time Jesus asked, “Peter do you love me?”

Peter said, “Yes, you know I love you.”

Jesus said, “Tend my sheep.”

A third time Jesus asked, “Peter do you love me?”

Peter was very sad because Jesus asked him a third time, Peter replied, “You know everything; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

Then Jesus said, “Peter, follow me.”

Jesus was a storyteller, even in this narrative about Jesus, we hear and see a storyteller at work there on the beach.  He sets a table outside, he serves them what they went out in search of, he asks the friend most excited to see him a question about taking care of those who are also following.  He asks 3 times, confirming that love 3 times – 1 each for the Peter’s refusal that he knows Jesus during Jesus’ trial.

He reminds them of his shepherd identity and acts of care, even now having just fed them – and asks to pass that mantle on.

As someone who knows the gifts of the Montessori method in education, someone who often works with young children, I get it.  Jesus is all about the prepared environment, about setting up a space to make it ripe for discovery.  Sometimes it is less about our words and more about rich symbol and metaphor that invite us to play with them.

Stole & Alb:

You all have given me such a hard time here over this robe thing…  Let’s start there.

Funny how we expect things because of their familiarity.

Well if I’m going to put on a robe, then it needs one of these stoles with it.

As I’ve begun to prepare for the place where I am going, I’ve needed to get a few of these – only having the one you saw me wear at Christmas until a few months ago.  So I’ve had to borrow from friends, this one being from a fellow pastor, as my own green one for ordinary time, the season of Epiphany and the time after Pentecost, just shipped yesterday.  Why wear this?  The stole is an historic symbol of ordination, a way to mark clergy as set apart.  But as Moravians, we believe that all of you are priests, prophets and shepherds too…  blessed by God to carry these tasks of community too.  So let’s take this off for a moment.

And the Alb, well this is the style robe I decided on for myself, a choice many clergy opt for today, this is an historic symbol of baptism.  Ever wonder why we encourage confirmands and infants to wear white, that’s an easy way to carry the symbol forward and personalize it.  A simple undyed alb was a garment one put on to mark themselves as one presenting themselves for baptism, preparing to enter into this new life in Christ.

But even as we enter into this new life in Christ, we each have been blessed by God with unique gifts, different combinations for each of us, that we bring into our shared Christian life, right?  I’ve come to you with my own life story that shapes and informs what I can offer, so has each of you.  Let me lay this aside and as I do, think to your own stories that have shaped you.

Can you bring me my apron?

This is my grandmother’s apron, the grandmother who taught me who to roll out some of the thinnest ginger cookies that the Women’s Fellowship in Mayodan sold each year at their bazaar.  Yes, we had homemade ones when I was small.  This apron reminds me how important it is to learn beside someone else and all the other small unseen tasks that we are called on to do.

Now, I need that tablecloth and napkins.

This linen tablecloth too, was hers, I remember it on the present table at my birthdays and when we had my grandfather’s entire extended family at our farmhouse for Christmas night dinner for most of my childhood.  So much that matters happens when we gather around a table, it is the place where family is formed.  And here is the table where this family is formed.

Just as when I’ve led our early communion preparation classes, the good shepherd leads the sheep to gather around the table, and then one by one the sheep are replaced by the people coming from East, West, North and South, let’s place these napkins here.

I’m ready for that teapot and cup.

You’ve got to keep a little whimsy in life, right?  This teapot is from my friend in Atlanta, Helenita.  Along with Kelly Moore as my clergy representative, Helenita was my lay representative at my ordination.  Helenita was also my maid of honor at my wedding.  Helenita took me out wedding dress shopping one day in Atlanta and her family were Nicaraguan Moravians active in First Moravian of Georgia, where I was the student pastor.  I’ll never forget walking into their home that afternoon, and Mary, Helenita’s mom flew off into the kitchen to make a tray of tea and biscuits because the pastor had come to visit.  This teapot always reminds me of that moment of hospitality, how it matters what it feels like to be received like you are the most important thing in that moment.  How might that radical welcome be a part of this table?

And the cup, well we can’t have everything be too perfectly matched… an antique cup given by an older friend from her grandmother’s things – with the Moravian blessing on it.  We all come together a little mismatched and you know, part of our heritage as Moravians is that we haven’t run from wounded and broken places and people – it’s what led us to teach among the Cherokee, to work on sugarcane plantations in the islands, to found hospitals for lepers – and to engage in City with Dwellings through our Augsburg partners.

Can you bring me the bowl and pitcher?

When we were getting ready for Miles’ baptism, we knew that I was leaving Home Church and somehow it didn’t make sense to do it in a church where Miles wouldn’t grow up.  We decided to invite 40-50 of our closest friends into our backyard, our house was too small, for a worship service instead.  One of those friends from Home Church invited me to lunch a couple of weeks beforehand.  An artist, she had chosen among her pottery collection several bowls and wanted me to choose the one for Miles’ baptismal font.  This is the one I chose.

And at Christmas this year, during a family gift exchange, David wound up with this fish shaped pitcher and I love it!  We come into the waters of baptism and we should emerge filled with mirth and joy, just as this bowl and pitcher brings me joy.  And so often joy comes in the messy middle of life together.

Please bring the plate and cup.

This plate was a gift from Miles and David for Christmas a few years ago.  You could look at this pattern as the tree of life, but it reminds me of the parable of the mustard seed.  From the smallest of seeds, planted and tended, comes the largest of all vegetable plants; large enough even for the birds to make their homes among its branches.  It is a perfect size to be used as a paten to hold the bread we share in communion.  The bread which can nourish us, the bread of life.

And the cup, carved from stone, this one wasn’t a gift; it doesn’t come with a story of relationship that has formed me.  Instead, it bears the permanence of the stone it is carved from.  What a wonderful symbol of permanence we find in the juice or wine of communion; the cup of peace, the cup of sustenance.

(Put alb and stole back on)

I’ve built on the foundation we share in Christ, but the building materials are you all.

I’ve sown seeds and tilled the soil, trying to work alongside of as many of you as I could, that by working together we have created this garden.  What if, just as many of you have pitched in with one thing or another as I’ve asked, you turn to each other and ask.  Fill the need you know with someone well known or someone you wish to know more about.  Ask for company in the task you find yourself doing.  The way of Christ is not a way walked alone, it is a way walked in the company of others – with all the complexity, brokenness, and challenge that this presents to us.

A table has been set during my time with you, a table that can nourish if you continue to nurture, enrich and encourage it to be replenished, filled with the many gifts you each can bring to it to be shared.

Whatever you do, feed my sheep.

I may only be an apprentice shepherd, attempting as Peter did so long ago, to care for those Jesus asks us to nourish, but so are you.

We are all both shepherd and sheep, nourishers and the nourished.

We are all calling out, “Come, come to the table”, but also the one arriving at the table to be fed.

We are all both gardener and plant, nurturers and the nurtured, in God’s field.  The relationships between us, the fruit.

And so I leave you with these words from Julian of Norwich, a 14th century Christian mystic:


Be a gardener.

Dig a ditch

toil and sweat,

and turn the earth upside down

and seek the deepness

and water the plants in time.

Continue this labor

and make sweet floods to run

and noble and abundant fruits

to spring.

Take this food and drink

and carry it to God

as your true worship.

-Julian of Norwich


The Rev. Christy Clore

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New Philadelphia Moravian Church is seeking a full time Director of Christian Education. The Director of Christian Education (DCE) of New Philadelphia Moravian Church will guide the planning and execution of Christian Education programs through work with the pastors and the Christian Education Committee. The goal of this position is to provide meaningful educational programs such that all members of the congregation can better understand God’s will for the church and their own lives, feel supported in their growth in Christ, and use their own gifts in service to others.

The full job description is currently being updated and revised.

For more information contact Rev. Joe Moore at (336) 765-2331 or

New Philadelphia seeks to be a caring congregation, worshiping God, and encouraging one another to seek a closer relationship with Jesus Christ, as we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in Service and in Mission.

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The Reverend Christy Clore, our Director of Christian Education, has accepted a call and a contract has been approved for her to serve as the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Reidsville, NC.  This is a designated intentional interim position, so she will be helping this congregation transition from their retiring pastor while helping them move through a period of discernment for their future ministry. Christy is not leaving the Moravian Church, she is serving “on loan” from the Southern Province to the Presbyterian Church. 

After feeling led to pursue training in transitional or intentional interim ministry, she has been seeking opportunities to serve as either an intentional interim or installed pastor.  As an ordained pastor, she was granted permission from the Provincial Elders Conference to seek opportunities in Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations through our covenant partnership.  Just as many of you remember the Reverend Joel Long who served with us, a number of other Presbyterian pastors have served Moravian congregations.  Salem Presbytery is eager for the exchange to move the other direction and Christy brings collegial connections in both the transitional and educational ministries of both denominations to this relationship.

Christy’s last day serving the New Philadelphia congregation will be Sunday, February 19 and she will be delivering the sermon for the day.  We will also be celebrating our Preschool Program during the 11:10 Worship. She will begin her ministry with First Reidsville on Sunday, February 26 so that she may begin the Lenten season with them.

To thank Christy for her service to New Philadelphia, we will be having a reception in her honor during the Sunday School hour on Sunday, February 19. The reception will be in the Fellowship Hall.

If you would like to contribute to a love offering that we are collecting to give to Christy, you can send your contributions to the church office. Please indicate that it is designated for “Christy Clore Love Offering”

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Join us on Sunday, October 2 in the Fellowship Hall

Film Screening – 4-5 p.m.; tickets $5 per adult (to be collected at the door)

Meal & Panel Discussion – 5:15-6:30 p.m.; $5 per person for meal

Click Here to RSVP

Older Elementary & Youth are welcome to attend with a parent/guardian; children’s program provided for younger children.
(Funds raised at this event will be contributed to the Elizabeth Windsor Scholarship Fund)

About the film:

Are you watching kids scroll through life, with their rapid-fire thumbs and a six-second attention span? Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston saw that with her own kids and learned that the average kid spends 6.5 hours a day looking at screens. She wondered about the impact of all this time and about the friction occurring in homes and schools around negotiating screen time—friction she knew all too well.

About the filmmaker:

Delaney Ruston is a filmmaker, Stanford trained doctor and mother of two.  Along with Screenagers, her award-winning feature documentaries include Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia (PBS), about her father, and Hidden Pictures (PBS) about global mental healthDelaney has been invited to speak and screen these and other films to hundreds of audiences in diverse settings around the world–such as at primary schools, conferences, medical centers, universities, the United Nations, the TEDx stage in Seattle and the World Health Organization. For her work in using film in launching advocacy movements, Delaney has won several awards. She has provided primary care in under-served clinics for over a decade.

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Are you looking for a new way to serve this Fall?

Do you love to tell stories or use your imagination? Do you find yourself asking, “I wonder”, questions? Would you enjoy exploring with the curiosity of a child? Then you would be perfect as a shepherding guide for Children’s Worship & Godly Play!

Join me and other team members to share stories of the Bible and songs with children 4 – 1st grade in ways that make the stories come alive through imagination and reflection. 2-3 leaders needed every Sunday at either 9:30 or 11:30am.

Do you miss the warm snuggles and cuddly moments with your own children or grandchildren? Would you love to explore with toddlers, build a castle or have a tea party on Sunday Morning? We would love to have someone like you building relationships with our young families! Opportunities at 9, 10, and 11am each week.

More opportunities coming soon… stay tuned for ways to serve with H.O.P.E., Trunk or Treat, Operation Christmas Child, or City with Dwellings throughout the Fall.

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September is upon us! Whether driven by weather or school calendars, the slide into Fall is one that leads us easily into routines and rituals. For some this may bring tailgating, for others homework, or maybe both. But all these things flow well into the concepts of harvest time, gathering in from the joys of Summer and preparing the soil for next things.

Gregory Norbert offers these words to describe the season of harvest.

“A time for kneading love’s leaven well, to open up and go beyond ourselves; and as we reach for this moment, we know that love is a gift born in care.”

This is a time to open ourselves and discover new things or uncover things in places that we haven’t explored before even though they are familiar. For children and youth it is the very tangible forming of new community in their class groupings and schedule patterns. For others of us, it may be engaging in a new small group or fresh volunteer commitment. Or it may simply be viewing the comfort of long-standing community in the light of a new season and the projects of that time together.

Fall Education Sunday Kick-Off
On September 13, Education Sunday, we will celebrate some of our many opportunities to grow in the fertile soil of community this year. Throughout September, consider what might offer you fresh bread
in this harvest season and get involved in some of these opportunities.

For Children and Youth on September 13:
9am & 11:10am Worship – Celebrate our 1st graders as they receive their Bibles in Worship.

4-5:30pm – New Philly Kids, for children Kindergarten through 5th grade, is a place to explore the Bible, serve others and have fun! Our Church has Talent! is our theme for the year ahead, join us in the Picnic Shelter as we begin discovering and learning to use our individual talents to serve the Lord.

5-5:30pm – Children’s Ministry Parent Meeting, a brief conversation for parents about the year ahead. Do you want your child to grow into a resilient adult faith? How can we support your family this year? Join us at the Picnic Shelter to discuss focus for this year and opportunities for an upcoming parent topic series with Ellen Fox.

5:30-6pm – Fellowship Kick-off Dinner for all New Philly Kids and Youth families! All children, youth and their parents are invited to come and share in this meal together. Plan to bring a side dish or dessert.

5:30-7pm – Youth Fellowship, for 6th-12th grade youth, is a time filled with service opportunities, hands-on exploring of faith and support of one another. Join our leaders, Erin and Ross, as they share about the
year ahead.

3:30pm Children’s Choir & 5pm Youth Choir, are opportunities for young people to be active leaders in our worship throughout the year. Join in these groups as they get started on this year’s music in the

Sunday School Groups for Children & Youth – 10am:
• Nursery – Room 211, Infants – 24 months
• 2-4’s – Room 214
• PreK/Kindergarten – Room 108
• 1st & 2nd Grades – Room 118
• 3rd – 5th Grades – Room 303
• Middle Highs – Youth Building Classroom
• Senior Highs – Youth Building Main Room

Adult Groups for Sunday Morning – 10am:
2nd/Main Floor
• New Beginnings – Topical Small Group
• Inklings – Small Group Book Study
• Reflections – Small Group Bible Study
• Mary Martha – Women’s Small Group Book & Bible Study
• Bona Vita – Lecture-based Bible Study

1st Floor
• David Jones – Lecture-based Bible Study
• Discipleship – Mid-sized Group Book & Bible Study
• Discovery – Large Lecture-based Bible Study 3rd Floor
• Advent – Large Lecture-based Bible Study
• New Friendship – Mid-sized Group Book & Bible Study

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