Scripture and Sermon

Holy Laughter: Giving Birth to Joy

Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7 and Luke 1:46-55

Sarah Werner

I’ve done a lot of different things in my life. I’ve searched for orchids in dense forests, sampled mud in a remote Canadian lake, taught kids about marine life in sandals on the beach. I’ve written poems and stories and tens of thousands of journal entries. If someone had told me when I was 20 that at the age of 40 I would be leading a wild church, working as a professional writer, and celebrating my ordination in the Mennonite church, I would have laughed out loud, just like our ancestor Sarah did. I’m sure you too have similar stories. None of us ever really know where we’re headed. All we can do is point our feet towards God, or sacredness, or truth, and start moving. And Sarah provides a roadmap for us through her laughter and trust in the Holy One.

This is quite a foundational story for all three of the Abrahamic faith traditions. All the major players are there—God in the form of three people (something the Trinitarians surely love), Abraham, Sarah, even the holy oaks of Mamre. But, I’m...

Creation Stories
Text: Genesis 2:4b-25
Speaker: Joel Miller

The book of Genesis is appropriately named.  It’s about beginnings.  It reaches all the way back to the origins of, as it says, the heavens and the earth.  It goes on to tell the origin story of a small near eastern tribe through its patriarchs and matriarchs.  They are a people who will be, for much of their existence, on the losing side of history - slaves, exiles, living under foreign rule in their own land.  And that’s really something, because, as has been repeated many times, “history is written by the victors.”  Usually.  Remarkably, a sizeable portion of humanity has now adopted Genesis, this minority report, as their own origin story.  The fact that we’re even talking about it today and that most of us have a printed copy – or ten – in our home is remarkable indeed.

It’s hard to overstate the power of origin stories.  For example, consider the founding story of our nation many of us were taught in school.  The Pilgrims came to America in search of religious freedom, which they found as they established Plymouth Colony.  We fought a revolution against the tyranny...



Baptismal Waters: Creation, Choices, Beloved 
Speaker: Joel Miller

Genesis 1:1-2

In the Genesis 1 creation story, there’s no need for God to create water.  It’s there from the beginning.  Along with the darkness. And the Ruach Elohim – the Wind from God or the Breath or Spirit of God, depending on the translation, hovering, like a mother bird, over those primordial waters. 

There’s something about water – something so essential, so given – that makes it hard to imagine existence without it.  Genesis 1, the opening words of scripture, doesn’t even try.  In the beginning there was darkness, there was the Divine Breath, and there was water.

A creation story told by Native peoples of this continent, the Haudenosaunee, shares this sense.  It’s the story of Skywoman, who descended on a beam of light, down to our world.  At that time, the story goes, there was only darkness and water, and those who lived in the water like the beavers and swans and fish. 

As she descended these beings held a council and determined she would need a patch of earth to land on.  It was...





The Whole Bible in (About) Half an Hour
Texts: (References within the text)

You may notice we don’t have any scripture reading this morning, but I assure you the sermon will have plenty of scripture.  The Bible is a big book, more like a 66 book library, written down by many authors and edited over a span of 1000 years, give or take.  Remarkably, it does contain a cohesive story, beginning to end.  There are many ways to condense that story down to half an hour, many ways to pick and choose what gets highlighted and what gets left out.  This is one of those possibilities.  A heads up:   The Old Testament is about three time longer than the New Testament and this roughly keeps that proportion.  So here goes: 

In the beginning, the world was made with words.  The Divine spoke, or sang, and the words took their shape.  Light.  Sky.  Land.  Fruit.  Bird.  Cattle.  Humankind, created in the image of God.  Our words too make worlds.  All...