Sermons

Are We Ready?

Nov. 27, 2022
Isaiah 2:1-5 & Matthew 24:36-44
By Rev. Leslie Fraser

I love labyrinths and spirals–cyclical symbols of transformative evolution, guiding us back with beginner’s mind to the same place, for the first time. Advent starts the new year, always again, and always for the first time–because we have never stepped into this river, or this year, twice. The Christian year closes with the promise of Christ’s majesty, Christ’s kingdom, Christ’s reign, and then we begin the year again in wonder, awe, waiting, and preparation for a new birth of who knows what and who knows who and who knows when? We are actually meant to enter that luminal space, like feeling the squishy gel and discomfort of an ultrasound. There is something growing inside of us, inside of the world, inside of our longing, our hurting, our joy and our wanting. But we don’t know what it is.

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Christ the King

Nov. 20, 2022. Jeremiah 23:1-6 & Luke 23:33-43
By Rev. Kate Stevens

Christ the King Sunday is always the last Sunday before the new liturgical year, which begins with Advent, which begins next Sunday. And yet our reading for this special Sunday is the story of the Crucifixion. . . .You see what I mean about this Sunday being about lots of things. We sing Thanksgiving hymns, we talk about Christ’s kingship and we read about Jesus’ crucifixion.

To be honest with you, Christ the King is not the image I have of Jesus and the image is not one I use in preaching or teaching or praying. But I wanted to look at it and try to understand why it is held up at this last Sunday of the liturgical year. The scripture is the crucifixion; that’s not very regal; perhaps they could have chosen a different text to talk about Christ the king: his birth perhaps - though that’s not so regal either - a barn, straw, animals.

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Our Veterans, Our Neighbors

Nov. 13, 2022. 2 Samuel 23:13-17 & Mark 12:28-31
By Rev. Susan Grant Rosen

If you ask Christians what teaching of Jesus most clearly defines how we should live our faith, many would speak the words we just heard: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This teaching is central for us this morning as we honor the veterans among us. There are 18 million veterans in our country and they are our neighbors--the people Jesus says we are to value second only to God, and to love at least as much as we love ourselves.

Let me tell you about one of my neighbors. A few years ago I was living in a 3-family house not far from here. One morning a U-Haul pulled into our parking lot, followed by other cars filled with people who came to help with a move-in. As I watched, I tried to see which of these people were my new neighbors. Soon it became clear. There was a handsome young man in a wheelchair. Both his legs ended at mid-thigh. I’ll call him John. The other new tenant was his young wife, whom I’ll call Liliana.

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Children of the Resurrection

Nov. 6, 2022. Job 19:23-27a & Luke 20:27-38
Reflection by © 2022 Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas

Faith is a verb! As a teacher of English, I am acutely aware of language – how it is used, when it is used, who is using it, where they are using it, what words are being used and why they are using them. This is called context. This is part of critical literacy. Words are powerful. Language is capital, the kind of capital that can afford you a place at the table or keep you from even getting in the front door.
If we look at the word faith, and think of it as a verb, which comes from the Latin word “fidem” – to trust, we can say, I faith God. I faith you. In other words, in order to have “faith” the noun, we must have “faith or trust” the verb.

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What I Carry With Me

Oct. 30, 2022. 2 Thessalonians 1: 1-4, 11-12 & Luke 19: 1-10

Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have.
I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given us such beautiful lessons.
Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked and hunched over my books
past the hour and the bell;
grant me, in your mercy, a little more time.
Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart.
Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent,
yet already I have given a great many things away,
expecting to be told to pack nothing,
except the prayers which, with this thirst,
I am slowly learning.
(Mary Oliver)

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Surprising Blessings

October 23, 2022. Psalm 65, and Luke 18: 9-14

This morning, as well as receiving new members into our church, we received another one of Jesus’ parables. Today’s parable continues the teachings about prayer that Jesus is bent on gifting to his disciples before he heads finally to Jerusalem where they will meet him again praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Before we turn toward this parable, can we look back to the prayers we prayed this morning? Our Call to Worship set us to praying like this. “God, we come from years of losses – pandemic years, disappointment years, hiding years – and from broken days, wasted hours, painful moments. Yet our hands are out, expecting love so wide it seeps through our fingers. We hold only what we share. We receive only what is shared with us – worship blessings, life blessings, surprising blessings.”

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Somewhere, Someone Needs Help

October 16, 2022, Psalm 119: 97-104. Luke 18: 1-8

I love how Jesus’ parables hold the heart of his message. He tells parables more than any other kind of story so that his message will get inside us, puzzle and make us uncomfortable, and sometimes, if we are open, transform us.
The Jesus that I follow wants to help us to not lose heart. He also wants to help us grow a bigger heart and mind. To re-connect us with the Big Heart that shatters all the time and when put back together can help heal the world.
Sometimes parables make us laugh or cry or shout. We cry when we imagine the many injustices that this widow has experienced; turned away time and time again by the unjust justice system. We laugh at the childish behavior of the judge. “Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice so that she may not wear me out by continually coming!” We shout joyfully with her when the unjust judge does finally wear out.

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Exude the Faith that Makes Us Well

No Video

October 9. 2022, Jeremiah 20:1, 4-7 Luke 17: 11-19

I love new words. When I find definitions of words that I have not read or heard before I know I have received something precious and exciting. Maybe that is one of the reasons I also love reading about and hearing from Jesus who John the Evangelist called “the Word made flesh.”
The word that I stumbled on this week is exude, from the prayer “Help us to exude the faith that makes us well.”
One definition of exude is to “discharge (moisture or a smell) slowly and steadily.” “The beetle exudes a caustic liquid." Well that was interesting, but I am not sure it was what the writer of our morning prayer was trying to put into words. It seems to me that God is not exactly delighted when we burn incense to reach God’s nostrils but rather, when we praise God for the simple joy of it.

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Go Forth Wave of Hope

October 2, 2022, 2 Timothy 1:1-14 and Luke 17: 5-10

What is this faith that the apostles wanted Jesus to increase? Is it certain beliefs about Jesus? Is it confidence that they could do what Jesus wanted them to do? Or is it a deep trust, like when we say, “I have faith in you!” we really mean, “I trust you to the core.”

When I read today’s scriptures, I found them curious, especially the Gospel with that idea of testing our faith by saying to a mulberry tree “Be uprooted and planted in the sea!” What an absurd thing to say. What mulberry tree could survive, never mind root, in the sea?

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Becoming a House of Hope

September 25, 2022, Jeremiah 32: 1-3a, 6-15 and Luke 16: 19-31

We are becoming the house of hope,
the field of sunflowers,
the vineyard of great caring.

Come to a shared commitment
to abundance possible for all people.

We are an earthenware jar,
to keep safe the tomorrow of children.
Our security question is – the word of God,
and our password is love.

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Ours Is Not a God of Tidy Balance Sheets

September 18, 2022, Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 and Luke 16:1-13

Once again, I come to you in prayer; for our church in this time of transition, for the world, and for each and every one of us. Those who like Jeramiah are lamenting, “Is there no physician here for my wounds?” Those of us like the scheming manager who are too ashamed to beg for help and then find ourselves astonished by God’s blessings. And all of us who wonder if our personal and political divisions are beyond redeeming.

Let us pray.

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Labor in Love

No Video

September 4, 2022, Jeremiah 18:1-11 and Luke 14: 25-33

“Holy and Merciful God, we have come to hear your word. Help us to bear it. Break down in us all that resists your will and plant in us a willingness to turn, for we would live; that we would be your disciples. By your Holy Spirit, come to us, now, in ancient texts, in everyday visions, in the needs and the hard work of our neighbors. We pray in the name of Jesus, our light.

On this Labor Day Sunday I am grateful to be among the prayerful workers of our church. I am also thinking about all the workers in and out of church who have passed on before us and the children growing up in our midst, wanting to be as malleable as clay in the Great Potter’s hands. Molded as vessels of love and grace.

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You Are Invited to a Block Party!

August 28, 2022, Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 Luke 14: 1.7-14

I love Jesus’ parables even when most of them throw me into a tizzy. Maybe that is his intent. Not to humiliate us when we don’t get what he is saying, but to shake us out of our familiar assumptions and into God’s viewpoint.

Today’s Gospel starts with a surprising invitation. A pharisee, who we often hear were not exactly fans of Jesus, invites him to dinner. In fact the person issuing the invitation is the leader of the pharisees. What a surprise! Immediately we are wary. What is happening? Why is everyone watching Jesus closely? To see how he handles the Sabbath meal protocols perhaps? See how easy it is for us to get suspicious about other people’s behavior?

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August 7th & 14th

The Conviction of Things Not Seen August 7, 2022

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 and Luke 12:32-40

Dear Friends – I am so glad to be here with all of you today as our congregation, one of Jesus’ little flocks, begins to walk together through this time of change. I have always loved the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, so I was glad that Luke mentions the little flock in his Gospel and that we got to hear more about the Good Shepherd in our Time For All Ages.

I also love that in our Time for All Ages story we got to hear how Jesus knew other shepherds and many sheep, whether in his flock or not. As the story said “Shepherds made their living by caring for their sheep. They guided their flocks to water and to grass and to safe places for the night. Jesus spent time with them and saw how they cared about their sheep.”

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Tending and Preserving August 14, 2022

Psalm 80 and Luke 12:49-56

O Jesus, why are you showing up today talking about heat waves and fire, weather forecasts and division? Can’t we rest a while on your shoulder, little flock that we are? Can’t we take a summer break from troubling weather and division? Yes Jesus, in fact we do think that you came to the earth to comfort us and even blanket us, like children snuggling down for a summer nap.

Am I the only one who wants to say that to Jesus? I think not because even the Psalmist, who of course sang her/his song way before Jesus cried out sings today “Hear me O God for I am missing you! Heed the cry of my open heart.”

Our truth Jesus is that we are not looking for open heart surgery. We are mainly looking for comfort.

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Taking Refuge in God, August 21, 2022

Jeremiah 1:4-11 and Luke 13, 10-17

This morning we received two messages about God’s work in the world, through us, with us, and all around us. In the first one, from the Book of Jeremiah, one of the Hebrew prophets, we got a kind of coming of age story that reminds me that God, who formed us in the womb, speaks to youth and adults. “Do not say “I am only a boy;” for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.’

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RU Talking to Me? July 31, 2022

Hosea 11:1-4 and Luke 12:13-21

This week in our Listening to the Gospel group all of us were lively in our reactions to the Gospel. Each of us had stories to tell about how much or how little “stuff” we had and didn’t know what to do with.

We all knew someone who is holding on tight for dear life and others of us who readily share the wealth, including one person we heard about who purchased a cow for his own use after not having milk in his youth and then gave milk away free to anyone in need! We also talked about houses that were knocked down to build something larger, often to the detriment of folks of lesser means.

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