The sermon from Sunday, October 1, 2017 on Philippians 2:1-13 –
The text tonight comes from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, which is generally considered to be the first Christian community in Europe. The city of Philippi was a proud Roman colony, so Jesus’ followers there gathered in the deep shadows of the empire.
This is a community Paul knows well. He has visited it and developed a relationship with its people. Scholars think he probably went to Philippi around 51 or 52 AD, so roughly 20 years after the death of Jesus. Continue reading Let Us Work Out Our Salvation
The sermon for Sunday, September 24, 2017 on Jonah 3:10-4:11 (and indeed the whole of the text of Jonah) –
The book of Jonah is short – just four chapters – and it follows a single, concentrated storyline.
Most sources say it was written as an allegory, as a work of narrative fiction – and included in the Bible as such. It lacks some of the specific details and the characteristic framing of the other books of the prophets.
No matter how we regard it, this book packs packs a lot of meaning into those four chapters, those 48 verses.
Continue reading Facing Up to Your Calling
The sermon from Sunday, September 17, 2017 on Romans 14:1-12 –
Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall.
We are continuing through Paul’s words to the church at Rome.
We find ourselves this week in the 14th chapter of a letter divided for our reading into 16 chapters.
In these last sections Paul is trying to get really practical in helping the Roman Christians deal with one another.
He’s looking closely at the barriers to their community life.
If we were to create that sort of analysis today, we’d be looking not only at broad social forces, but at the gritty details of daily life.
We’d be looking not only at how we do things differently from one another, but at how we pass judgment on each other for those differences.
Continue reading Who Are You To Pass Judgment?
The sermon from September 10, 2017 on Romans 13: 8-14 –
I attended a funeral yesterday for one of the many loved elders in my life, someone who had steadily encouraged me on my path of ministry.
Among her many skills, she was a musician, playing both the piano and the pipe organ.
The music in tribute to her was thus especially important and especially lovely. The final hymn was Charles Wesley’s ‘O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing,’ I have sung that hymn so many times in my life that I can generally sing the verses – and there are 7 if you sing them all – by heart.
But yesterday the very last phrase on the last line in the last verse caught me in a way it never has before.
“Anticipate your heaven below, And own that love is heaven.”
Continue reading And Own That Love is Heaven
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.
Continue reading The Reality of Gratitude
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?
Continue reading A House of Prayer for All
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
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.
Continue reading What Do You Want to Grow?
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
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