June 16 | Queering Our Horizons

Sermon: Katelyn Amstutz

Ruth 1:16-18; Acts 4:32-35

Once upon a time, there was a girl. This girl lived with her father and stepmother, but her stepmother was jealous of her great beauty. As the girl grew up she became even more beautiful, and her stepmother mistreated her. Something happened between them; perhaps the girl was banned from going to the ball, perhaps she was killed by an apple, but the girl needed to be rescued, and there was a handsome prince who showed up just as she needed him, who married her, took her away from her family, and they had children and lived happily ever after.

My freshman year of college at Bluffton University I took an advanced writing class on Fairytale literature. Professor Susan Carpenter kindly let me and my best friend into the class despite neither of us fulfilling any of the requirements. At the time, I was obsessed with fairytales; I loved reading original fairytales, retellings of fairytales, and rewriting them. The fact that I’ve begun this sermon with a fairytale should maybe tell you that I haven’t moved on from that. What I learned from Susan Carpenter was that fairytales are always about the fears and anxieties of the people telling them: warnings about being careful or kind, about the grossness of going through puberty, but also reassuring children who lost their mother to childbirth that their stepmothers might feel evil, but their lives too could have a happy ending. Fairytales are also about the possible: what could be, and what we can imagine the world to be like.

I’m sure we delved into it at the time, but I didn’t think until later about what kind of anxieties caused the happy ending my beloved fairytales proposed to be a nice heterosexual marriage and children.

Earlier this year I read…

Read More

June 9 | Outdoor Service | Reflections

Dan Halterman

Joel in 2017 opened a sermon describing himself as “a pastor in the Mennonite creek of the Christian stream of the human river of spiritual wisdom traditions.” 

Even though Google is unaware of any “Mennonite River,” “Mennonite Creek,” or “Mennonite Ditch,” I’ll get back to this.

Matthew 5:45 says God causes his rain to fall on the just and on the unjust.  That’s you and me.  I’m taking liberties to commingle that about rain and the fates of seeds in the Parable of the Sower:

The Lord causes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust…that’s us.  Some falls on leaves or other surfaces and promptly evaporates back into the atmosphere.  Some falls on hard surfaces, roofs, parking lots, roads, and quickly runs off, cleansing the surfaces of accumulated oil and gas from vehicles, dirt, dust, animal feces and animal carcasses, litter – icky stuff – and transfers it directly to streams as the so-called “first flush.”  Some falls on vegetated land, dissolving nutrients in the soil waiting to be shared with plant roots and rises to the light again through the wonder of photosynthesis that lifts soil water through capillary action – an inch above the soil into a radish leaf or hundreds of feet to the top of a giant redwood.  Other water mingles with its kin in the moist soil and percolates further by gravity, being cleansed, and becomes ground water that may be pumped through a well supplying a home or multiple huge wells feeding a public water system serving Dayton and Montgomery County.  Other water may encounter an impermeable layer and emerge to light again later as a spring or seep pulled by gravity to join a stream – with the other water that the Lord has equally shared with the just and the unjust. …

Read More

June 2 | Let’s Review: Community, Cross, (New) Creation

Let’s Review: Community, Cross, (New) Creation**Texts: Mark 1:14-20;  Matthew 16:24-26; 2 Corinthians 5:16-18Speaker: Joel Miller

There’s a story in John’s gospel where religious leaders bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus and ask what he thinks should be done.  It was a test.  According to a strict reading of the laws of Moses, she should be stoned to death.  But Jesus had been preaching a message of mercy.  So if he says the law should be followed, death penalty, he contradicts himself.  And if he says she should be shown mercy, he contradicts the law.  Faced with this dilemma, Jesus does what any of us would do.  He stalls.  This is how John tells it: “Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  When they kept questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’”  And they all just leave, “one by one,” it says, until it’s just Jesus and the woman. 

There are all kinds of reasons to love this story, but for a sermon that is supposed to be a review of the New Testament, it has two especially key features.  One is that this story was a floater in the early church.  Many of the oldest manuscripts of John don’t include it.  Others put it in a different location in John.  A few even have it in Luke.  So, within that oral culture, this was likely the last story about Jesus to find its place in the writings of the New Testament.  It’s the final statement of the whole.

And speaking of writing, this story has the only mention in the gospels of Jesus doing just that – writing.  We have these 27 different written documents that make up…

Read More

May 26 | Let’s Review: Creation, Exodus, Exile

Let’s Review: Creation, Exodus, Exile Texts: Psalm 19:1-6; Deuteronomy 24:17-22; Jeremiah 29:4-7Speaker: Joel Miller

It’s been a while since I’ve been in school, but I do remember that the end of the year is a time of review.  To learn what you learned, as some teachers say.  Or, as a much-loved seminary professor would ask at the end of each semester: “What do you want to remember well?” 

As Chris mentioned in the opening, this transition from school year to summer corresponds with a transition in the church calendar – from Easter season to Ordinary Time.  And, in our case, from the Narrative Lectionary over which we traced the full arc of scripture, to a less structured summer. 

So, let’s review.  This week is focused on the Old Testament or First Testament.  Next week we’ll review the New Testament, or Second Testament. 

Rather than sprint back through the story, I want to make a few bridges into our present by highlighting some themes.  For today, how about three?  Three big storylines that weave through the Hebrew Scriptures which continue to weave through our story:  Creation, Exodus, and Exile. How might remembering these well relate with living well?     

Read/Sing: Psalm 19:1-6

Creation is, in many ways, about beginnings.  “In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth.  A wind from Elohim hovered over the face of the waters.” That’s the opening of Genesis, the beginning of the Bible.  It goes on to speak of seven days of creation, including a day of Sabbath rest without which creation is incomplete.  Elohim speaks the world into being, and then speaks blessing over Sabbath.  It is a poetic rather than scientific telling of our origins, but there is a delightful overlap with our current understanding of evolution and the way Genesis 1 portrays an increasingly complex and diverse world, each…

Read More

May 19 | Reflections by New Members

Joey Schulte

I grew up in Cridersville nestled between Lima and Wapakoneta in Northwest Ohio. I went to mass every Sunday like clockwork just like my entire, very large extended family did. Between punk rock and dreading Sunday School, like many a Catholic youth, I decided I was an atheist by the time I was 15. I still attended church though week in and week out as cultural and social practice. However, unlike many young catholics I would soon have an epiphany experience at a youth retreat during eucharistic adoration. This experience would carry me through college as a relatively devout Catholic with transubstantiation being an anchoring foundation of my faith.

As the years went by after having moved to Columbus to finish school at Ohio State, I began to see cracks in my faith and disagreements with the Catholic church that I could no longer reconcile within myself. I couldn’t justify the exclusion of women from leadership, I believe in bodily autonomy, and thought the church should be open and affirming. I no longer believed I could successfully help reform the church from the inside. I came to the conclusion that I was legitimizing an institution that I could no longer support, and if I couldn’t believe all of it then I shouldn’t believe any of it.

I traditionally have surrounded myself with secular individuals, as in my experience, they were far more likely to care about justice issues. Making the transition back to atheism was relatively easy and more comfortable in my day to day than calling myself a Christian. Fast forward a few more years, and I would start working with a good friend who would many years later become my wife. Outside of work we developed a rapport of debate, and would attempt to convert the other. I would…

Read More