Texts: John 12:1-8; Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126

Speaker: Mark Rupp

“Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old.”

It is a strange command from a prophet who only moments before had wasted so much breath and spilled so much ink to remind the people about those former things, to recall their story of God liberating them from slavery and bringing them through the sea.  This Exodus story looms large within the identity of the Israelite people.  It is, in many ways, their founding story; it defines who they are.  They remember, and re-remember, and consider, and reconsider this story through rituals and worship, not unlike we do in this space with our founding story of Christ. 

The prophet invokes the story of the Exodus, claiming to speak for the God who brought the people through the sea and extinguished their enemies like a wick, so when he suddenly makes a u-turn and tells the people not to remember these former things, it would have come as a surprise.  Rather than a denial of the importance of remembering, however, I see this line as a rhetorical device meant to get people’s attention, to make readers perk up...

Text: Luke 15:1-2; 11-32

Speaker: Joel Miller

This is a parable about a prodigal son.  This son requests an early inheritance, goes away and spends it, all of it.  He returns home in desperation.

This is a parable about his older brother who stayed home to run the family business.  Uncelebrated.   And he is unwilling to celebrate the return of his desperate, disgraced brother.

This is a parable about a father.  It’s about a father, and his two sons.

This is a parable about a mother and her two very different children.  How in the world did these children come from the same mother?  So small and precious and then, well, they grow up, don’t they?

This is a parable composed of different generations.

It’s a parable about what we inherit – and not just the property, but the love, the unspoken expectations, the patterns, the scars, that get handed down through the generations.  It’s about how we receive all those things.  And whether there will be anything of value that passes through us to the next generation.

In this parable, the very different brothers may or may not find a way to live together in peace.  The...

Texts: Isaiah 55:1-9; Luke 13:1-9

Speaker: Rachael Miller

“Scripture says: Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.”
Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
This line from the musical Hamilton comes from Micah, chapter 4. It’s the bit that follows the familiar verse:

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not rise up against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

It is an image of peace, prosperity, and safety. The fig is a ready image and a frequent metaphor for the people of ancient Israel. It is used to signify both times of prosperity (as when the tree is full of fruit), and times of unrighteousness and divine judgement (as when the tree has no fruit).

In the parable Robin just read, the fig tree is barren. I haven’t heard many sermons on this passage in my life. What I have heard, and as I’ve read this on my own, the thrust of the parable is this: all sinners are alike and deserve death, and...

Texts: Genesis 15:1-6, 12-16; Luke 13:31-35

One of the comic strips that has rotated on and off my office bulletin board is from Opus.  For the uninitiated, Opus is a large-beaked penguin in a world of humans, plus Bill the Cat.   This particular strip is set outside in a grassy meadow.  Opus and his young friends Oliver, Michael and Milo are sitting under a night sky.  Opus begins by looking at the reader and saying: “I love these summer evening reality checks from Oliver.”  Oliver, the intellectual of the bunch, takes it from there.  Sitting by his telescope, Oliver says to the others: “Hold out a speck of sand at arm’s length…”  The picture moves in tighter on the grain of sand he is holding up.  Then we can see through it, revealing the piece of outer space that lies on the other side.  Oliver says, “That’s the portion of the night sky at which they pointed the Hubble telescope for a week.  It was there – deep within the dot of dark nothingness ten billion light years distant – that they found the unexpected:  Galaxies!  Thousands!  Thousands!  …with billions of stars…and trillions of new worlds.  And beyond...

Texts: Deutermonomy 26:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Speaker: Joel

11 million data points.

A week and a half ago I was up in Elkhart, Indiana.  I was attending the Pastors and Leaders event at the Mennonite seminary where I graduated – AMBS.  One of the speakers was Dr. David Anderson Hooker.  He’s a core faculty member at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

The topic was systemic racism and the church’s response.  Part of his talk touched on how we unconsciously classify and categorize people, right when we see or hear them, with race as a primary construct.

The best research out there, Dr Anderson Hooker noted, the best research we have to date suggests that at any given moment there are about 11 million data points within a person’s field of perception.  11 million.

So, the feel of your big toe in your sock, that’s a data point.  Your sock rubbing up against your shoe, that’s a data point.  The feel of your breath exhaling out of your nose, and the way it passes over your upper lip.  Data points.  The air temperature.  The sound of my voice.  The sound of a seat mate shifting on the...