Text: John 13:31-35

Speaker: Joel Miller

The writer of Ecclesiastes famously said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  And he should know.  He’s been around the sun a time or two.  He’s an old man.  He’s seen a lot of living and a lot of dying.  And, let me tell you youngsters, there’s nothing new under the sun.

Of course, one wonders what his reaction would have been had someone slipped him an i-phone which enabled him to Facetime with his cousin way out in the Judean hill country.  Does the relentless march of technological innovation qualify as something new?  Or, to stick with the perspective of Ecclesiastes, is it ultimately just more mist in the breeze of time?

What is new, at least according to Jesus in John’s gospel, is a commandment he gives his closest companions.  “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

To claim love as a new commandment is borderline comical, to the point that one wonders if Jesus is speaking a bit tongue in cheek.  These words are a part of the lengthy farewell discourse, covering...

Text: John 21:1-14; New Membership Commitment statement

Speaker: Joel Miller

For the first time in a while, I’m just going to talk.  No sketchers, although their work will be here throughout May.  No singers or musicians.  Just a good old fashion monologue.  Spoken words.

What I’d like to talk about is words.  Written words.  Specifically, the words of our new membership commitment statement which we’ll be using and testing this year, printed today on the front of the bulletin.

A lot of thought has gone into these words and phrases.  In the winter we invited input through an online survey and through focus groups.  We looked over our old, long standing membership statement and several from other congregations.  And lesser known statements like our Peace statement and Mission statement.

I don’t know how the percentages break down across the population, but I know there is a group of us that gets pretty excited about language, and other groups not so much.  Especially when it comes to statements like this that are worth very little unless we actually live out the words.  This is a very Mennonite and Anabaptist concept.  “Faith is as faith does” says the bumper sticker...

Text: Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1, Matthew 28:1-2, Mark 16:1-2

Speaker: Joel Miller


When I say Christ is Risen, you say Christ is Risen Indeed.

Christ is Risen….Christ is Risen.

How many people does it take to witness resurrection?

How many people does it take to witness resurrection?

It sounds like the set up line of a bad joke.

Like, How many Mennonites does it take to change a light bulb?

We probably shouldn’t go there.  Change can be a sensitive topic.

Back to the first question, which is not a joke.  How many people does it take to witness resurrection?

Our Bibles contain four gospels, and thus four accounts of those first witnesses of resurrection, at the empty tomb, that first Easter morning.  You’d think of all the stories to get the particulars just right, this would be it.  The continuation of the Jesus story hinges on this – that the crucifixion is not the end of the line.  That Jesus most certainly died, and that this same Jesus, in some wonderful and glorious way, has been raised up, and is very much alive in this world.

And it all starts early on that first day of the week,...

Text: Luke 19:28-48

Speaker: Joel Miller

This is how it works: When the ruler or conquering general comes to town you run out to meet him.  City leaders and citizenry surround the procession.  There are songs and loud acclamations.  You reach the entrance of the city and the pageantry continues through the streets.  You hail the general’s greatness.  You welcome him as god’s own, sent to you.

This is how it worked in the ancient world.

The Greek biographer Plutarch writes this about the entrance of Mark Antony into Ephesus:

When Antony made his entrance into Ephesus, women arrayed like Baccanals (Bacchus the god of wine and revelry), and men and boys like satyrs and Pans (part goat part man), led the way before him, and the city was full of ivy and (decorative wands) and harps and pipes and flutes, the people hailing him as Dionysius Giver of Joy and Beneficent.  For he was such undoubtedly, to some.  Plutarch, Antonius, 24.3-4

Another flourish was for the visiting ruler to enter the local temple and make a sacrifice, claiming his god-ordained authority in that space.

The first century Jewish historian Josephus writes this about Alexander the Great’s entrance into Jerusalem:...

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...