Text: Luke 19:1-10

Here’s a question:  Can a good person get caught up in a bad system and do bad things that the system expects them to do?  Is it possible for a decent human being to do indecent acts that are harmful to others simply by carrying out their duty and doing their job?

It’s not a very hard question to answer.  We don’t have to think very long before we can say that Yes, this has happened and continues to happen all the time.  It can happen to the soldier, it can happen to the business manager, it can happen to anyone within an institution where there is corruption.

For someone who finds themselves living more like a cog in a machine than a caring human being, what does salvation look like?  In an inhuman system, is it possible to live humanly and save your own soul, while also extending grace to others?

Abbie and I recently rewatched the film The Lives of Others, which works with some these kinds of questions.  The film takes place in East Germany in 1984, five years before the fall of the Berlin wall.  One of the main characters,...

Text: Galatians 3:23-29

Rather than give a traditional sermon this Sunday, I interviewed three women from our congregation about their experiences in the church, their relationship to the Bible and language we use for God, and their best hopes for the what the church can become.  Below are my brief opening words, but to get to the good stuff you’ll need to listen to the audio…

Some scholars argue that this statement by Paul in his letter to the Galatians represents a summary of all of his teachings: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”   This was and is a radical vision for a new humanity.

This Mennonite Heritage Sunday theme is The Gifts of Women.  From the very beginning, the scriptures witness to the equal yet unique giftedness of women and men.  Genesis chapter one talks about God creating both male and female in the Divine image.  The church, historically, has not done well in living out this equal partnership of women and men bearing God’s image.

I thought for this Sunday that it...

Text: 2 Kings 5:1-19

We regularly include a time for sharing joys and concerns during the worship service, but today, in addition, you are invited to hold all that you carry with you in a little different way.  After the sermon there will be an opportunity to come forward to receive anointing with oil and prayer for yourself, or on behalf of another person.  I consider this a congregation wonderfully conscious of and concerned about and engaged with the world.  So many of you are givers, spending your energy and time on behalf of others near and far.  Today you are invited to draw a smaller circle.  To pray for and speak to the Spirit on behalf of yourself, your family, friends, those dearest to you.  This could very well include an area of social justice or a situation far away, but will more likely involve tuning in to the spaces of your own heart, listening to what you are hearing there, and offering that up to the light.  You are hereby given full permission to think small, to think really really local, and to relax into whatever that needs to mean to you right now.

Today the...

Texts: Psalm 137:1-6, Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4, Luke 17:5-10, 2 Timothy 1:1-7

I bring greetings from sisters and brothers of Central District Conference.  Twice a year the committees and board of the conference meet up at Camp Friedenswald in southern Michigan and Gwen R, Phil H, and I were a part of that Friday and yesterday.

One of the reasons these gatherings are so intensely good is that we are a geographically far flung conference and we get to see each other so rarely that when we are together, we have to pack a lot of humor and catching up and business into a very short amount of time.  I roomed with James R from Atlanta and Matt M from Milwaukee.  Plot the three of us on a map and you start to get the picture.

Today is World Communion Sunday, which makes that gathering up at Friedenswald look local.  Today Christians around the world gather around the table, and partake in this ritualized meal that carries with it such significance and spiritual depth.  Communion is always primarily about Christ – it wouldn’t be much of a meal without the food – but it’s also about this far flung...

Texts: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Isaiah 40:31

This morning we are celebrating baptism.  Tennison G and Andrew N will soon be baptized, and it is a chance for each of us to remember the meaning of our own baptism and how that continues to shape our lives.  It was meaningful to Tennison and Andrew to be baptized in this natural setting at retreat; and for Tennison this place, Camp Luz, has been an especially important part of his life.  And we’ve ordered the weather to be warm enough that we can all enjoy being outside to witness the baptisms, and cool enough that these guys are really going to have to want to get baptized to get in that lake.

So here’s how we plan to proceed.  I’m going to give a brief meditation based on these scriptures that have been chosen.  Then there will be a chance for Andrew and Tennison to share a little bit about their faith journeys and for their sponsors, Andy KK for Andrew and Austin K for Tennison to give affirmation and blessings.  After this part of the service is done we will reconvene by the lake and have a couple baptisms.

The scripture that Tennison...