Two Minority Reports from the Hebrew Bible, II : Loyalty
June 4, 2023 • William A. Evertsberg • Ruth 1
we are celebrating the initiation of an unbreakable, lifelong covenant between two people, because when one person pledges her everlasting troth to another—be it husband to wife, mother to daughter, friend to friend, or brother to brother—when one person pledges her everlasting troth to another, she is giving away life’s greatest gift. She is giving away all she has to give. We all need at least one person who will walk a hundred miles with us across an almost impermeable border into an alien land, because the days are hard and the nights are long and life can be very arduous and very lonely. Naomi had nothing—no husband, no children, no food, no job, no visible means of support. Naomi had nothing. But she had Ruth.
Two Minority Reports form the Hebrew Bible, I : Grief
May 28, 2023 • William A. Evertsberg
Do the same for someone in your life who’s stricken. You’ve been through stuff. You’ve been through terrible stuff: Put it to good use. But be warned, if you walk with the broken-hearted, you will be walking into a foreign land. You will not speak the language. Literally. You will not speak the language. Because sometimes there are no words. You will either use the wrong words, or you will speak them in a thick, almost incomprehensible, accent.
Packing for the Journey
May 21, 2023 • Christine V. Hides • Deuteronomy 6:5–9
I believe that the Sunday School teachers who came up with the Kenilworth Union Church Third Grade Bible lessons 90 years ago also thought of life as a journey. They wanted third graders to be prepared for the trip of a lifetime with God. So they made a scripture packing list so that children in this church would know that God was with them wherever they went and so they would be able to remember God is present in every situation. For generations third graders have learned 'The Ten Commandments', 'The 23rd Psalm', 'The Beatitudes', 'The Lord’s Prayer' and 'Jesus’ Greatest Commandment'. The 1950’s version of the packing list also included Psalms 19 and 100.
Senior Sermon: Andy Crossgrove
April 16, 2023
Hi, if I seem a little nervous it’s because I wrote this whole thing this morning.I’m kidding, I worked very hard this. My name is Andrew and today I’d like to talk a little bit about my faith journey and how the community here, Kenilworth Union Church has helped me along my path. My family started attending church here not long after we had moved to Wilmette from Maryland. I was in second grade at the time, and though it was so long ago, I very clearly remember the strong feeling of nervousness I had as I walked through the church’s doors for the first time. It was unfamiliar, I didn’t know anyone, and when my parents suggested that I join the choir—I’m quite certain that I vowed not to return to church. Of course my parents sent me anyway and I’m very grateful that they did. For the many years that I was involved in the KUC Youth Choir, getting up early on Sundays to sing, and going on the retreats, I made some very good friendships that are still with me today. After a few years the church began to feel like home to me. From fifth through eighth grade I went to every single youth group meeting I could to spend more time with the community. One of my favorite memories is from the Confirmation Wilderness trip the summer before my freshman year of high school. The night before our flight left for the Olympic National Park in Washington, me and the rest of the confirmands spent the night in the church. Aside from a couple of my friends, none of us knew each other well or at all for that matter. During that first night we spent in the church, I believe we all realized what we signed up for and we were all in it together. The rest of the week we spent backpacking over treacherous terrain we spent together as friends. The Confirmation Wilderness trip is meant to get future confirmands of the church thinking about what their beliefs are and where their faith lies. It was the first time I ever stated thinking that way and even after getting confirmed still did not have a great idea of my faith. However this is around the time that I became more and more exposed to a lot of the negativity to the news and media about how other Christians interpreted the Bible. After seeing how people could twist the Bible’s words, I felt betrayed that the message of love and kindness that I grew up on in Sunday School wasn’t the message be preached by others. I think this is a big reason why a lot of youth like me are losing faith. During the time I felt the most disconnected with God as I ever had before I decided to sign up for the 2021 Tulsa, Oklahoma Mission trip. We left the first week of summer before my sophomore year. I was expecting mostly hard labor in the boiling Oklahoma heat and hot sleepless nights. My expectations were accurate. But, I had no idea of the most second meaningful part of these trips. The first being the work that we do and the second is time spent together as a team. Through the trip to Tulsa, and the more recent trip to Oahu, Hawaii, I felt a strong community with the church. I was getting dragged back into faith and I started to really realize what Kenilworth Union Church and my faith mean to me. Church teaches youth the most important lesson in the Bible. It is not to hate and exclude but to love, be kind to others, and build community. Especially with those we have never met before, or those we have difference with, or disagree with. The Bible recognizes the importance of kindness in over 200 instances. My favorite verse is a simple one from Matthew: "So whatever you wish that others will do to you, do also to them." (7:12) The golden rule. I’m now a senior and my faith continues to change every day. There are days when I feel God has abandoned me and days that I feel God is right by my side. My faith journey is far from over. I feel so luck to have my church community by my side every step of the way. Thank you.
Senior Sermon: Freddy Groff
April 16, 2023
When thinking about what to write for my sermon, I started reflecting on all the time I’ve spent at this wonderful church. It started off for me before I was even born. In my mother’s belly I was already working shifts in the treasures room during rummage. I grew up going to A Joyful Noise Preschool, and once I was finally old enough, I got involved in all that Kenilworth Union Church had to offer. Sunday School, Youth Group, Christmas Pageants, earning my Third Grade Bible, Breakfast Club, working Rummage, Confirmation, IMPACT, choir, and much, much more. Under the wing of Lisa Bond, I learned so much about spreading the word of Christ through music in my 11 years in choir. The purpose of me listing all these things I have done is not to flex my trophy room of church accolades, but rather to show how much the people of this church have been willing to give to me, and all of us youth here today. It truly is beautiful how everyone at this church steps up and contributes to Kenilworth Union, even Doogie who seems to always say hi to me when I have a cookie in my hand. These contributions and communal support also really helped me grow my faith in Christ. So much so that I have been able to start sharing my faith by being a High School Helper in Sunday School and helping in the past with Vacation Bible School. My faith does change from time to time. I doubt my faith, strengthen it, push it away. It’s a continuous rollercoaster relationship that I have with God. But I believe that’s a good thing. In an ever-changing life, Kenilworth Union always seems to be that constant. Even when I go away for college (Go Frogs) for many months at a time, I know I will be greeted by this church community with open arms. And for that I want to say… Thank you.
Senior Sermon: Nora Zelazny
April 16, 2023
I wanted to talk today quickly about suffering. I promise this is going somewhere so bear with me. Life is chock full of suffering and unexplainable things. There is no doubt a scale of suffering but still every human experiences some form of it. Many times there’s no reason behind it. It can be so incomprehensible that it leaves many asking the question why? Why me? Why them? I know in my life when horrible things happen to me, or people close to me, that just have no explanation. Sometimes it leaves me asking specifically “Why God? Why let such a horrific thing happen to such a good person?” It can be a tough concept to grapple with but after all suffering is fundamental to the human experience. The only thing that matters is how we as individuals respond to it. How can we find meaning in suffering? I read the book A Man’s Search for Meaning by philosopher Viktor Frankl recently which is sort of what inspired this. He writes about the idea that every single thing can be taken from a man except one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance, to choose one’s own way. He goes on to talk about finding your “why” to help you triumph over suffering. For many that “why” is God. We give thanks to him and pray to him because we know that no matter what comes our way, even situations that may leave us so distressed we curse him for it, he has a plan. It is written in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” We all have the choice of how to respond to horrible things. Instead of cursing him and life, you have the choice to instead trust in him. Let him fill you with hope and let him guide you. Because of this, I’ve started to live by “We can take meaning from everything,” instead of “there’s a reason for everything.” Because rarely is there a reason. This is a lesson Kenilworth Union has taught me. In my own life when my own close friend and member of our church family was hit by the unexplainable and the horrific, I was confused, heartbroken, and I think a little lost in how I would respond to something that was so beyond out of my control. But church provided me with a meaning, a way to find light in tragedy. That what makes the people here at Kenilworth Union so incredibly special. Their ability to use their faith to find the good and aid all of those going through unexplainable sufferings of all scales, is awe-inspiring. Not only that but their love and dedication to all no matter their faith, no matter their circumstances. The people here have given me tools and companions to guide me through such events as they seek to do for many. I have never met a group of people more equipped for the task. They wear their faith like a badge of honor, teaching service and helping your neighbor, while giving others a meaning and a purpose beyond themselves. That’s what they have done for me. The environment created here isn’t something you can replicate. The minute I walk in those extremely heavy doors I feel hope, I feel love, and most importantly I feel inspired to answer God’s call to go aid those who have been hit with hardships. That purpose, that meaning, is something I will carry with me going forward in life and cherish. And for that I’m forever grateful to those that have given me it. Thank you all for listening.
Senior Sermon: Tyler Hurley
April 16, 2023
Kenilworth Union has been a big part of my life as well as my family’s, with one of my first big memories receiving my bible in 3rd grade. I continued in the youth program, attending youth groups on Wednesday nights and going on the wilderness trip to complete my confirmation journey. My family has always been involved in Kenilworth Unions various activities and service opportunities. Specifically my brother and sister were part of IMPACT and attended multiple trips, and my Dad even got to tag along on a trip as a chaperone to Cuba a couple years ago. But growing up I was too young to be a part of IMPACT during the times my siblings were, but I was able to view what the IMPACT experience looked like for them, so I had a good idea of what to expect. All of it was appealing but what I’ve come to learn is how individual it can be for each person. Making this my own experience is what has been most meaningful and cements the notion that my Kenilworth Union Church family is a ‘home’. Perhaps this ‘home’ looks different for everyone. All of our experiences are unique based on needs, relationships, vulnerabilities, and growth but the one common denominator is the Kenilworth Union family. I have been fortunate enough to participate and understand this special community after attending my first IMPACT trip last summer. The anticipation was half the fun with games Squire crafted, service hours, the bake sale, and even the late-night runs to Homers after meetings. But these are just steppingstones to the actual trip, and once you’re finally at your destination, somewhere in the world, it all comes together. Last summer was my first trip, we traveled to Hawaii to work with local churches helping them out all the ways we could…repainting, renovating bathrooms, cleaning, and helping spread the churches love to the various Hawaiian communities. These experiences were very impactful to myself as well as all the other IMPACT members on the trip. But what was most special for me was creating my own IMPACT experiences, that was not my brothers, not my sisters, and not even my parents. It was mine and mine only; and I am forever grateful for memories, and service, and my growing relationships with other people as well as with God. I love this Kenilworth Union Church community no matter if it’s Hawaii or Puerto Rico or right here in Kenilworth. As I head off to college in the fall I will always feel the support and comfort of this church. And I know it will be with me forever.
The Valley of Lost Things, IV : The Party I Refused to Attend
May 14, 2023 • Katie Snipes Lancaster • Luke 15:25–32
A lost coin, found. A lost sheep, found. A lost son, found. After each lost thing found, a party. Luke chapter fifteen is simple enough, but it might hold everything we need to know about God. When we are lost, God goes after us. When we are lost, God seeks us until we are found. But here’s today’s question: will the older brother go to the party? Can he bear to celebrate? Jesus spins these fabulous little tales and we’re still thinking of them two thousand years later. We see ourselves in the younger brother. We see ourselves in the older brother. We even see ourselves in the father, watching his sons hurt and be hurt by each other and the world. We know this story is telling us something about ourselves. We intuitively know that we fit within this story. And two thousand years later, this story is still about us, getting lost, and God running out to greet us.
The Valley of Lost Things, III: Lost and Found
May 7, 2023 • William A. Evertsberg • Luke 15:11–24
Have you noticed that Shakespeare based his magnum opus, King Lear, on the same initial plot device as Jesus’ little parable? Foolishly, a man divides his inheritance to his heirs prematurely, while he is still alive. A man had two sons. A man had three daughters. All our stories begin this way, or most of them, because this is what is most precious to us, and most distressing.
The Valley of Lost Things, II: When You Get Dropped
April 30, 2023 • William A. Evertsberg • Luke 15:8–10
It's easy to lose a dime. Have you ever been dropped? Maybe they don’t even miss you. Maybe you’re a coin somebody dropped. Somebody estimated that here are 300 billion coins lying around on American beaches and streams and gutters or under your furniture at home or beneath vending machines. I’ll do the math for you again. Even if every one of those missing coins was a penny, there is a fortune worth three billion dollars lying around somewhere—unmissed, unsought, and lost, but still valuable. Go look for it. David Owen, “Penny Dreadful,” The New Yorker, March 31, 2008, p. 62.
The Valley of Lost Things, I: The Gospel Within the Gospel
April 23, 2023 • William A. Evertsberg • Luke 15:1–7
In the fifteenth chapter of the third Gospel, St. Luke gives us three linked parables of Jesus with a single, common theme: all three parables are about four lost things—a lost sheep, a lost coin, and two lost sons. Bible scholars sometimes call Luke Chapter 15 The Gospel Within the Gospel. I love that way of thinking about it. The Gospel Within the Gospel. Luke Chapter 15 is the terse précis of the entire Bible, the concise abstract to the sprawling dissertation the Bible finally turns out to be. If you are lost, says the entire Bible, God wants to find you.
The Call of a Lifetime
April 16, 2023 • Squire Prince • Genesis 12:1–3
On this blessed Sunday, we turn our gaze to our youth, and God’s presence and provision in their life. We focus on how God is moving in their midst, and even still is calling them, as God called the patriarchs and prophets, the matriarchs and models of faith. That’s my key word for the day, Call! Our youth are our example of a faithful answer to God’s call. Many of our youth will pack their bags and answer the call to do ministry with some wonderful churches in Puerto Rico; many have answered the call to serve the church in different leadership and service roles; and yet still, many of our seniors will answer the call to embark on new journeys into unknown lands and places, stepping out on faith. This echoes the story of Abraham, at the time Abram, and his call from God.
The Unnamed, XIV, The 'Gen Z' Guy
April 9, 2023 • William A. Evertsberg • Mark 14:43–52, Mark 16:1–8
And it’s just there that resurrection is heralded: “Don’t be afraid. He’s not here. He’s already walked a hundred miles to Galilee. Go find him.” It might be a more modest resurrection than we’d hoped. Not brilliant, gleaming angels from beyond Alpha Centauri, just a neaniskos, just a young man, just a college sophomore. We still lose our long loves. We still hear the harrowing diagnosis. We still have to go through chemotherapy. We still suffer broken hearts and broken homes. But Jesus goes before.
The Unnamed, XI: Pilate's Wife
March 26, 2023 • Squire Prince • Matthew 27:11–26
Too often, we are so comfortable in our spaces, places, and races that we turn blind eyes to our siblings of humanity who are crying out for relief. We turn our heads to paradise while many, purposely outside of our gaze, are stomped upon by systems of oppression, violence, and hate. We focus on our bubbles of comfort and safety, while many just blocks away from us starve, giving up whatever items they can to have just one more meal, and a moment of warmth. How often are we captivated in fear by how others feel about us? Fear about losing friends or losing social status? So much so that we don’t speak out when others use their power or influence for wrong. We silence ourselves and allow ourselves to be a part of the problem because “that’s not our fight” or to save face and space.
The Unnamed. XIII : The Gunnery Sergeant
April 6, 2023 • William A. Evertsberg • Mark 15:33–39, John 19:31–36
It was at his order that his soldiers pinned Jesus’ wrists and ankles fast to rough timbers with railroad spikes, but then when Jesus dies after a mere six hours on the cross, the centurion lets loose with the most extravagant affirmation of faith in the entire New Testament: “Surely this man was God’s Son,” he ventures after watching the way Jesus died, forgiving his enemies, welcoming a sinister gangster into Paradise, and handing his spirit over to God.