The Practice of Living with Purpose: Vocation

May 19, 2024 • Christine V. Hides

What's Been Saving Your Life? VI: The Practice of Walking on the Earth: Groundedness

May 12, 2024 • Katie Snipes Lancaster • Exodus 3:1–12

This message might have just as easily been received elsewhere. Maybe Moses didn’t have to go into the wilderness to hear, to see, to take off his shoes, and receive what was holy. Maybe he didn’t have to go beyond the mountains with a herd of sheep, into a wilderness beyond the wilderness in order to meet God.   This is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is the one who numbered the stars. The one who ordered the planets. The one spoke the words “let there be light” and there was light. This is not a God of the margins, but of the center, a God about whom this whole story is written.   But Moses isn’t paying attention. And it takes a burning bush to turn him toward God.  

What's Saving Your Life Right Now? V: The Practice of Paying Attention : Reverence

May 5, 2024 • William A. Evertsberg • Revelation 4

We know that reverence is one of the things that is saving our lives right now. We know what makes us flourish. We know what’s good for us. We know what we need, because every day as we scroll through our media, we encounter a swollen, grotesque, vainglorious ego scowling out at us from the screen, reverencing nothing and respecting no one, and we know instinctively that that is exactly what we don’t want to be.   It’s ironic: to live large, to live up to the towering stature of our full humanity, we remind ourselves now and then that we are in fact small, contingent, unnecessary creatures, living only by the grace of that Crafty Wizard who threw a hundred billion galaxies across vast eons of emptiness.   And so now and then we pause from our daily round to hear something like George Frideric Handel’s "Dettingen Te Deum", a staggering paeon to the matchless majesty of God Godself, the “luminous deep being a lofty light,” as Dante puts.#_ftn1 #_ftnref1Dante Alighieri, Comedy, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII, ll. 115ff.

The Practice of Pronouncing Blessings: Benediction

April 28, 2024 • Katie Lancaster • Numbers 6:22–26

In 1979, archaeologist Gabriel Barkay was excavating the funeral site of Ketef Hinnom in West Jerusalem, and came across a small piece of silver amid the debris pottery and other artifacts. He describes them as about the size of a filter on a cigarette, it being the tobacco heyday of the 1970s and all. Two pieces of silver about the size of a pencil eraser, the size of a tic tac, the size of a ladybug. It wasn’t solid silver, but instead, a silver scroll. Unroll it and in tiny script are the words of the blessing I read to you today. It is from 600 BCE.   Think of the artistry. Who pounded the silver? Who chose which blessing to include? Who took a small carving tool to write the text? Who rolled the silver into a small amulet? Who wore the amulet with its holy blessing?   The blessing of the wilderness was held dear, embraced, honored, retained, remembered, condensed, and passed on. The blessing of the wilderness, or rather the blessing in the wilderness, was transmitted, entrusted, bestowed generation to generation, so that we might hear it. “May YHWH bless you and keep you.”

Senior Sermons 2024: Riley Gardiner

April 21, 2024

What's Saving Your Life Right Now? III: The Practice of Encountering Others: Community

April 21, 2024 • Sarah Champlin • Matthew 25:24–40

Each community I’ve been a part of has helped me uncover a little more of that secret. I expect this gradual uncovering will turn out to be a lifelong journey but here’s what I’ve learned so far: when we offer space that invites people to be fully, freely themselves—they show us God. Jesus tells us clearly when we feed the hungry—we feed him. When we welcome the stranger—we welcome him. Within every person lies the spark of the divine. Our practice of welcome, of community, helps us draw it out of each other. Christine Pohl another community connoisseur, believes that hospitality is at the heart of Christian Life, drawing from God’s grace. She says that we respond to the welcome that God has offered us and replicate that welcome in the world. When we replicate that welcome, we can’t help but see God everywhere.

Senior Sermons 2024: Margaret Embree

April 21, 2024

Senior Sermons 2024: Duncan White

April 21, 2024

Senior Sermons 2024: Drew Durdov

April 21, 2024

What's Saving Your Life Right Now? II: The Practice of Getting Lost: Wilderness

April 14, 2024 • William A. Evertsberg • Exodus 2:11–25

What’s your Midian, and did you ever have to spend forty years there? Fill in your own blank: forty years in Flint, forty years in Fayetteville, forty years in middle management, forty years in retail, forty years waitressing, forty years working for someone like Steve Carell in "The Office", forty years in a tedious marriage, forty years in a wheelchair, forty years tending a disabled child, some unexpected caesura in the middle of your intricately choreographed life?

What's Saving Your Life Right Now? I: The Practice of Waking Up to God! Vision

April 7, 2024 • Squire Prince • Genesis 28:10–19

It may seem elementary, but I want to start our reflection today with a question, have you ever wanted more out of God? I mean yes we come here on Sundays, we sing, one of the ministers speaks a few words of hope to us, we rub on Minister Doogie, and then we go home. At some point you have to wonder, is that all there is, God? Isn’t there more? I mean what happened to the God of five loaves and two fish? What about the parting of the waters in Exodus? At Least you can turn this cup of water into wine…. I mean coffee, God!   Barbara Brown Taylor in her book "An Altar in the World" helps to remove the scales from our eyes to the greater dimensions of God’s presence in the world around us. She points out that all of us in a sense, have a longing for an experience with the one we call God, and maybe that experience, that treasure, that Divine Spirit is right under our noses. A priest once asked Barbara to come speak at his church, and when she asked what he wanted her to talk about, he simply said “come tell us what is saving your life right now”#_ftn1. #_ftnref1Taylor, B. B. (2010). An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. HarperOne.  

Two Quiet Josephs

March 31, 2024 • William A. Evertsberg • Matthew 27:57–61, Matthew 28:1–10

When you come to the end of all four Gospels, no matter what Gospel you’re reading, you’re going to see an obscure, minor actor with a walk-on part who appears out of nowhere, disappears just as quickly, and is never heard from again. His name is Joseph of Arimathea, and he is the guy who talked Pilate into handing over Jesus’ bruised, beaten, battered, bloodied body from the cross and then loaned him his own personal grave so that Jesus could have a proper burial. I say ‘loaned’ rather than ‘gave’ because as it turns out, Jesus wouldn’t need his borrowed grave for long. Now who is this Joseph of Arimathea and what makes him more important in all four Gospels than the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the Magi, the Shepherds, and Zacchaeus? Joseph appears quadruple the number of times as those other events. Who is he and where did he come from? Where is Arimathea? But that’s just the point—no one knows. There are some educated guesses, but no one’s sure. This cryptic character comes out of nowhere and is never heard from again.

God's Odd Benedictions VI: The Unalloyed

March 17, 2024 • William A. Evertsberg • Matthew 5:1–8

The word for ‘pure’ that Jesus uses here in the sixth beatitude means in Greek just what it means in English, as when we say, “Her heart was pure gold.” We mean that her essence is unalloyed, not contaminated with traces of zinc, iron, lead, or whatever it is that makes gold less than 24-karat.  Her heart is unadulterated, free from any hint of other color or substance, untarnished by any fleck of stain. There is only one thing in there, and nothing else, nothing else at all. No alloys, additives, preservatives, contaminants; nothing shameful, nothing false, nothing unclean. She is like Dany Targaryen’s troops: The Unsullied. 

God's Odd Benedictions V: The Merciful

March 10, 2024 • Katie Lancaster • Matthew 5:1–7

In late 2015, Pope Francis designated a year of mercy. He called it a Jubilee of Mercy. I love this. 1.3 billion people energized, motivated, galvanized, ignited in the direction of mercy. A time for all to go out and offer mercy, to live out the mercy that God has for us. Pope Francis says that “The name of God is mercy”, that the very name of God is mercy, and he says “Jesus of Nazareth by his words, actions, and entire person reveals the mercy of God.”#_ftn1 Jesus of Nazareth is the living face of our God of mercy. The very character of God, the very nucleus of God, the core identity of God is mercy. #_ftnref1Pope Francis. "Misericordiae Vultus." Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Vatican City, 11 April 2015.

God's Odd Benedictions, IV: The Hungry

March 3, 2024 • William A. Evertsberg • Matthew 5:1–6

This is the most sensible and least odd of "God’s Odd Benedictions". We get this one. Of course Jesus would love the righteous. Of course God would bless them. But that’s not exactly what Jesus says. He doesn’t say, “Blessed are the righteous.” He says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. It’s not enough to be righteous. You have to be desperate for it. You have to ache for it. Without righteousness, these kinds of folk have a visceral and existential, almost carnal, emptiness in the pit of their stomach.