Texts: Acts 12:6-11; Mark 12:28-34

Speaker: Joel Miller

If you’re like me, you didn’t grow up observing All Saints or All Souls Day, or even know it was a thing.  Either way, each of us have likely accumulated a few saints over the years.  These are the people, living and dead, who exemplify a life well lived.  We hear their stories and we want to know more.  We don’t need them to be perfect, but we need them to show us something.  Something of love, something of courage, something of God.  Knowing their stories shapes our own. We need these stories = these lives who were, in the words of Jesus, “not far from kin-dom of God.”  They help us see that the kin-dom of God can indeed be not far away.

Hebrews chapter 11 walks through a whole ensemble of characters from the Hebrew Bible – From Adam and Eve’s son Abel, to Abraham and Moses, to Rahab, to the prophets.  It follows this up by saying, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with perseverance the race set out for us.”

Observance of All Saints and All Souls,...

Speaker: Mark Rupp

Text: Mark 10:46-51a

Judith Heumann was born in 1947, and yes, she is a real person even though her name sounds like the set-up to an allegorical parable about all humanity.  In fact, she is so real that you can watch her tell her story in a TED Talk video.  Over the course of her life, Heumann has served as a legislative assistant within the US senate, an Assistant Secretary within the US Department of Education during the Clinton administration, a special advisor to the State Department in the Obama administration, and an advisor to the World Bank.  She has founded and led a number of organizations and been the recipient of many national awards including honorary doctorates from three different universities.  She currently lives in Washington D.C. with her husband. 

In her TED Talk, she recounts a story that was told to her by her father many years after it happened.  According to her father, when Judith was two years old, a doctor suggested to her parents that they put Judith in an institution so that they would not have to deal with her. 

You see, Judith had contracted polio when she was 18 months...

Text: Mark 10:35-45

Servant leadership – it’s an old idea.  The phrase itself was made popular in the US in the second half of the 20th century by Robert Greenleaf.  His writing became something of a movement that impacted how corporations and governments talked and thought about leadership.

Greenleaf worked for AT&T for forty years.  Over those decades he became weary of the authoritarian type power he experienced in US institutions.  So he took an early retirement in 1964 and committed himself to researching and writing about leadership ethics.  He wrote a highly influential essay that was called “Essentials in Servant Leadership.” It included these words:

“The servant-leader is servant first… Becoming a servant-leader begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first… The best test, and the most difficult to administer, is this: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?  And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least...

Texts: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Mark 10:17-31

Speaker: Rachael Miller

In a crowded bazaar in Cairo vendors sell their wares, the dusty desert air warm and dry.
Tables of merchandise - statues, clothes, bowls. The clamor of voices, the back and forth banter of the barter:
“15 American dollar.”
“I’ll give you 10.”
“That’s way too low! 14 dollar, this is quality. I give you a good price.”

I was in Egypt with my seminary class,  and in this moment I was not comfortable. This is not my preferred method of procuring items. I like to keep things simple. Give me a price, we make an exchange, we go our separate ways.

A classmate and I talked about this bartering thing that is both common practice and expected.
They explained: it’s about relating and relationship.
I reflected: perhaps in America, where we largely no longer barter, we’ve exchanged relationship for convenience. I had my mind set on the exchange of goods: What do I give? What do I get?

In our reading this morning, Job came from this same mindset.
He gave: devotion, offerings, right living.
He got: home, family, food, livestock -...

Text: Matthew 11:25-30

There’s something freeing about admitting you don’t have a clue.

Two of the most significant epiphanies in my life have been not flashes of profound insight but rather flashes of profound ignorance.  The first one happened after my two years at Hesston College.  I was taking a year off school with four friends.  We were living in Atlanta for a year to see how the “real world,” really worked.  My goal for the year was to learn about what I had identified as the four C’s of independent, adult male living, about which I knew next to nothing.  Construction, Cars, Computers, and Cooking.  I got a job at a construction site of town houses.  One day I was taking a lunch break, eating by myself in a house that had been framed, but had not been drywalled.  So all the electrical and plumbing in the walls was visible.  I specifically remember that moment of looking up at this complex network of wood, wire, copper, and plastic, and realizing I didn’t understand anything.

This flash of profound ignorance encompassed not just home construction, but also the entire human constructed environment I was in.  Construction, Cars, Computers,...