Text: Matthew 5:38-48

If and when word gets out that you’re a pacifist, or that you’re committed to nonviolence , you will no doubt, at some point, encounter questions like these:  What would you do if someone broke into your home and attacked a family member?  If we have another 9/11 should we all just turn the other cheek?  And what about Hitler?  If we were all pacifists, Hitler would have won and Nazism would have taken over the world.  Sound familiar?

These questions carry certain assumptions about what it means to live nonviolently.  They may be asked out of genuine curiosity – like, really, how would it work?  I’m interested.  Or they may be intended to make peaceableness appear weak, ineffective, intellectually ridiculous, and just downright impossible, even immoral.  After all, what kind of person would just stand by and do nothing while someone they loved was being harmed?  Perhaps you’ve been asked questions like these in conversations where you’ve “come out” as being against violence.  Perhaps you’ve asked questions like these to yourself, wondering if nonviolence is a path you are able to take with integrity.

It would be hard to overemphasize how key to this...

Text: Matthew 5:21-37

When I was in college, I made a discovery about the Bible that I thought was going to be revolutionary.  I thought this thing that I had stumbled upon was going to change the way people read their Bibles and thought about Jesus and generally just blow people’s minds.  I was ready to accept my honorary PhD in Biblical Studies for my contribution to the field and sit among teachers like the young Jesus fielding questions. 

Ok, so maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole, but I did come across something that, at the time, made me think differently about the way I read the Bible. 

Before I can fill you in on this life-changing discovery, we need to back up a little bit. 

Last week we started this new series that will run through February up to the beginning of Lent: We are Sermon on the Mount People.  The Sermon on the Mount, three solid chapters of Matthew’s gospel containing the longest continuous teaching by Jesus in the New Testament.  As Joel said last week, these three chapters make up a sort of Christianity- or Discipleship-101 course that covers a lot of ground for those who...

Text: Matthew 5:13-20

Tuesday evening this space was full to overflowing for a teach-in led by the Central Ohio Worker Center.  The event was called Sanctuary for Immigrants 101: Theory, Data, and Action.  It was kind of a rally, but moreso a class.  It was designed to teach the basics of how the immigration system functions in the United States, how it’s changed especially over the last 15 years, the relationship between federal departments and local law enforcement, and how cities like Columbus fit into the mix these days.  Mark blogged about this Wednesday and included a link to the power point that Austin Kocher presented.

I think the genius of the event was that it was both a timely response to a very specific situation, and a deeper look at a decades old system.  It was a 101 class.  It was an introduction, a foundation, a teaching of basic concepts.  Personally, I left feeling more grounded, with a better sense of history, and community.

By way of holy coincidence, during the month of February, 2017, the lectionary is gifting us with another kind of 101 class.  The texts throughout the month come from the gospel of...

Text: Esther

When do you stop being a child and start being something else?

It’s a question cultures around the world have found important to answer.  Throughout time, human groups have created practices and rituals to mark that otherwise fuzzy boundary between childhood and adulthood.  And it’s done for the benefit of the young person and the community.  We need to know together that the child has become something else.  Childhood was a time of dependence, of protection and growth under the careful and loving watch of family.  Adulthood is a time of independence, increased responsibility and leadership, a time when one will ultimately grow into being a protector, a caring presence for the following generations.

Our culture has developed a third category of development between childhood and adulthood.  Adolescence.  It’s a period of tremendous growth and formation when you are no longer a child, yet not quite an adult.  So the question for us remains: when do you stop being a child, and start being something else?

Our congregation has created its own Coming of Age ritual to mark this transition out of childhood.   We’re in the middle of it right now.  This year we honor...

Text: James 1:19-27

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.  For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.  But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

(Text of sermon unavailable.)...