Texts: Luke 21:25-36; Jeremiah 33:14-16

1963 was the 100 year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  The Civil Rights movement was in full swing.  That year King wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”  President Kennedy addressed the nation about why he sent the National Guard to help protect two black students at the University of Alabama.  There was the March on Washington with its “I have a dream speech,” the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham killing four black girls.  President Kennedy was assassinated.  And, in 1963, African American writer James Baldwin wrote an essay, addressed to his 15 year old nephew, trying to explain why so many white folks were responding to all this with such fear.

To his teenage nephew, coming of age in this world, Baldwin writes this:

 “Try to imagine how you would feel, if you woke up one morning to find the sun shivering and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is out of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as...

Texts: John 18:33-38a, Revelation 1:4-8

Speaker: Joel Miller

William Stafford was a pacifist and a poet.  He died August, 1993.  That month, perhaps knowing death was near, he wrote this poem, which he called, “The Way It Is.”

There is a thread you follow. It goes among Things that change. But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.  —William Stafford

Today is the day in the church calendar known as Christ the King Sunday.  Officially, it’s the last Sunday of the liturgical year.  Next week begins Advent, when themes of expectation and birth start the cycle all over again.  This is the church’s way of keeping time.

As William Stafford observes – over the course of life, “tragedies happen; people get hurt or die.  Nothing you do can stop times unfolding.”  This past year has been no exception.  Yet, there is a thread that goes among...

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...