Category Archives: Sermons

The Reality of Gratitude

The sermon from Sunday, August 27, 2017 on Psalm 138 – 

I had a message from Rev. Sonya Gravlee midday yesterday that said “bulletin?”

At the time, I was standing at a bus stop on the upper West Side of Manhattan, halfway along the journey from the North Bronx to LaGuardia Airport, after spending a couple of days at my mother-in-law’s immersed in the work of clearing out her apartment.

Truth is, it wasn’t that I had overlooked sending her the information for the bulletin, which she kindly agrees to assemble each week.

It’s that I was still mystified by the Spirit’s tug on my heart to preach on this Psalm and on gratitude – which had been clear to me as I read through the lectionary texts last Monday – and I kept delaying in hopes that perhaps I’d get a different answer.

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A House of Prayer for All

The sermon from Sunday, August 20, 2017 on Isaiah 56:1-8

Last week we talked about  the experiences of two prophets, Elijah and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This week we focus on the words of another, the prophet Isaiah, who brought wisdom and witness into the world more than 700 years before the birth of Christ.

It was a time of war and threat, of erasure, death, and conquest. Sound familiar?

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Stones and Ladders

The sermon from Sunday, July 23, 2017 on Genesis 28: 10-19

Jacob had to get out of town. With the complicity of his mother, Rebekah, he has deceived his father, Isaac, in order to cheat his brother, Esau, out of his father’s due blessing and birthright. Jacob has contrived to take the better portion for himself. Not surprisingly, Esau is furious. He plans to kill Jacob for his betrayal.

Jacob decides he’d better give his brother some time to cool off. Rebekah suggests he go stay with her brother, so Jacob hits the road.

When you travel a distance, even when you are fleeing peril, eventually you have to stop for the night, right?

In our age of great comforts, we don’t think much for using a stone as a pillow. Jacob didn’t have a lot of choices though, did he? He’d left in a hurry. He was making a long journey on foot.

You work with what you’ve got.

Continue reading Stones and Ladders

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What Do You Want to Grow?

Rev. Sonya Gravlee’s sermon from Sunday, July 16, 2017 on Matthew 13:1-10 and 18-23

Back when I taught at the University of La Verne, a Biology professor and I co-created and co-taught an interdisciplinary course called Women and the Environment. One of the documentaries we always showed in that class features an architect and designer named William McDonough.

McDonough advises business and political leaders about good design, design built around abundance rather than scarcity, around good instead of around less bad or just plain bad. When he talks to these leaders, he often begins by asking them, “What do you want to grow?” Do you want to grow prosperity or poverty? Do you want to grow sickness or health? What do you want to grow? Decide that, then design around it.


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All God’s People: 17th Anniversary Sermon

The sermon from Sunday, June 25, 2017 on Matthew 10:40-42, when we celebrated Beloved’s 17th Anniversary

Statistics will tell you that many new church starts fail. Conventional wisdom runs that the most successful ones appeal to a particular target demographic – and they end up being pretty homogeneous. Having a group of people who are very much alike works relatively well as a substantive basis of community.

Even under those circumstances it’s not an easy task to build community and connection in this world. It’s especially not an easy task to build community and connection among people who are quite different from one another.

Yet the realm of God is populated by all God’s people.

Continue reading All God’s People: 17th Anniversary Sermon

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The Work of Healing

The sermon from Sunday, June 18, 2017 on Matthew 9:35-10:8

Christians are called to be healers.  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. 

To be a follower of Jesus is to accept that we are tasked with healing.  It’s one of the foundational aspects of the Gospels. Jesus heals and he tells those who would follow him to do the same.

There is much work to be done. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. 

We as followers of Jesus are called to the work of healing as a primary commitment – the work of healing ourselves, the work of shared healing with those around us, and the work of healing the world.

This world where we glorify guns, but deem it okay for a police officer in Minneapolis to shoot and kill a black man who lawfully has one. We grieve tonight for the death of Philando Castile – and for a world that perceives blackness as threat.

There is a need for healing.

Continue reading The Work of Healing

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The Work of Pentecost

The sermon from Sunday, June 4, 2017 on Acts 2:1-21

I want to tell 4 stories tonight. None of them is long, but they all speak to the Pentecost moment.

The first takes place not so long after the actual event of Pentecost. Nero was emperor of Rome for 14 years – from 54-68 AD. History remembers him as cruel and tyrannical, vain and corrupt.  He executed his own mother. He slaughtered Christians – then still a minor, troublesome sect in the empire –  for sport. He spent far more money than the imperial coffers could sustain. He was obsessed with his own popularity.

In the year 64 AD, there was a massive fire in Rome. It is said to have burned for 5 days. It destroyed 70% of the city and left half of Rome’s population homeless. It was massive. There were rumors that Nero had had the fire started to clear way for a new planned palace – 1st century gentrification and redevelopment – and to deflect those rumors, Nero instead blamed the Christians. Christians then were still widely persecuted, but this imperial finger-pointing ignited a whole new wave of the killing of Christians. Continue reading The Work of Pentecost

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Kingdoms Come and Kingdoms Go

The sermon from Sunday, May 28, 2017 on Acts 1: 6-14

When was the last time you rolled your eyes at something somebody said? Might I guess that happens pretty often with most of us?

The lectionary has sent us back near the beginning of the book of Acts. We’ve got the apostles gathered around the resurrected Jesus who is preparing to ascend to heaven. This kicks off the action in Acts.

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Continue reading Kingdoms Come and Kingdoms Go

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Done/Not Done with People

The sermon from Sunday, May 21, 2017 on John 14:15-21

One evening this week – at the close of a long and somewhat frustrating day – I was sitting on our front porch as my partner came home.

I am so done with people today, I said.  

Any of y’all ever say those words? Or at least think those words?

I am so done with people.

It’s not hard to figure out how we get to such a place in our world. Continue reading Done/Not Done with People

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A Faith Worth Dying For

The sermon from Sunday, May 14, 2017 on Acts 7: 54-60

Let us back up a bit because this story appears to come out of nowhere.

As we discussed last week in a reading from chapter 2, early Christians were building community with one another and extending grace into the world.

We continue in the chapters that follow to hear about how the apostles fed and healed and confronted corrupt power.

Continue reading A Faith Worth Dying For

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