Texts: 1 Samuel 21:1-6; Mark 2:23-3:6


Let’s take a field trip in our imaginations.

On this field trip, we’re heading out of the city.  We’re going away from dense populations of people are toward dense populations of corn and beans.  On this trip we’re traveling not just through space, but also through time.  This is a magic school bus kind of field trip – if anyone’s familiar with those children’s books.  We’re traveling back a couple thousand years to 1st century Palestine.  As we get closer to our destination we notice that the agricultural fields and the places where people live aren’t as segregated as they are now.  There are small fields at the edges of villages and towns, with public paths running through them.  We get out of the bus and start walking.  We find one of these paths and notice that we’ve left behind the crops of the new world and are surrounded by barley and wheat – crops first domesticated in the Ancient Near East.  The wheat is fully mature.  The head of grain is heavy enough that the top of the stalk is bending under its weight.  It’s harvest season.  We veer off...

Texts: Psalm 91, 2 Corinthians 5:16-20

 “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who lodge under the shadow of the Almighty, will say of Yahweh, ‘My refuge, my fortress, my Highest Power, in whom I trust.’”

These are the opening words of Psalm 91.  It’s a sanctuary Psalm.  It might be referring to the physical sanctuary of the Jerusalem temple, but it certainly refers to the sanctuary of the Divine Life, the ultimate place of refuge.

The Psalm goes on to describe the full degree of protection one receives under the “wings of God,” another of its poetic images.  “You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day.”  “Because you have made Yahweh your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.”  “I will protect those who know my name.”

It’s so unwavering in the protection it promises, there’s reason to pause and ask “Really?”  “A thousand may fall at your side, but it will not come near you.”  Really?  “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.”  Really?  “You will tread...

Texts: Matthew 9:10-13; Numbers 35:9-15;

Worship Theme: Sanctuary People

 In the year 399 a man named Eutropius ran from the Roman palace in Constantinople into the nearby Great Church, as it was called.  He was seeking sanctuary from his political enemies.  He was greeted by the bishop John Chrysostom and granted the protection of the church.

Eutropius began life as a slave and became a eunuch in the court of the Roman Emperor Theodosius.  He rose through the ranks, and when Theodosius died, Eutropius was in middle of the power struggle that followed.  He arranged a strategic marriage for Theodosius’ son Arcadius who became emperor over the eastern half of the empire.  Eutropius managed to exile and fend off his political rivals.  He became Arcadius’ closest advisor, eventually having himself named Roman consul.  But his enemies soon rallied and forced his removal, and he feared for his life.

Bishop Chrysotom’s thoughts on the matter are preserved in two sermon manuscripts.  He used this situation to compare the misguided quest for worldly power with the steadfast mercy of the church.  Addressing Eutropius directly, he stated: “The Church, which you treated as an enemy, has opened her bosom to...

Texts: Esther 4:10-14; Luke 19:5-10

Here’s a bit of Bible trivia.  What two Hebrew Bible characters are most like Esther?  Think about all those stories you’ve heard, and think about which two most resemble Esther.  Here’s a more specific version of the question: What are the other two Bible stories about the struggles and triumphs of someone who comes to power in the court of a foreign king?

Anybody want to give it a try?  ……………

Esther, and Daniel, and Joseph, make up this small sub-genre of stories: Jews who come to power in the court of a foreign king.

Over the last few decades biblical scholars have been emphasizing just how influential an event was the exile from Jerusalem to Babylon at the beginning of the 6th century BCE.  Much of the Hebrew Bible, at least in its final form, was written out of this experience of exile and empire – of being foreigners, and strangers in a strange land.  And when that’s the place where you’re standing when you’re telling and writing down your stories, it affects everything.

One way of reading the Bible is simply as the story of a people living under a succession...

Texts: Genesis 18:1-15; Luke 6:17-21

“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.”  This is a story about an appearance, a visitation.  “The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre.”  And any story that features trees in the opening line is bound to be a good one.

It’s a good story for the moment we’re in, and for Christian Education Sunday.

Ask Mark, or anyone who’s ever served on Christian Education Commission, or anyone who’s ever been a teacher of any kind, and they’ll tell you that the work of education, the work of formation, is slow.  It’s gradual.  It’s cumulative.  The formation of our minds and hearts takes place over the course of years and decades.  It’s a journey, we like to say.    We when go off to Sunday school we know this is the kind of work we’re doing.

And yet…when we look back there are certain experiences that stand out as especially formative, sometimes life changing.  Sometimes something as simple as the right phrase, spoken by the right person at the right time when we were...