Sermon Text:

The tallest trees in the world, the California redwoods, have tiny seeds.  Each seed is about 1/8” wide.  The tallest of these living trees currently measures about 377 feet tall.  That’s longer than a vertical football field, including the end zones, one goal post hovering 360 feet above the other on the ground, and still more tree above that.  That’s a very tall tree.  Once one of those tiny seeds takes root, the tree can live for possibly 2000 years.

Which means the oldest of these trees could have been sprouting right around the time Jesus was telling these parables about the kingdom of heaven, including the parable of the mustard seed.

It’s an enticing thought to think of Jesus, the Middle Eastern Jew, blowing the minds of his listeners by saying that the kingdom of heaven is like a tiny seed on the other side of the world, now just a sprout, that will one day, millennia from now, grow to be the largest tree in the world. 

Jesus did have the famous cedars of Lebanon as next door neighbors.  The prophet Ezekiel had used these trees to illustrate how Israel would regrow after being...

Sermon Text: Wheat and weeds 

OK, so let’s get this out of the way, right away.  For the second week in a row, the second parable in a row, we have a parable, followed by the disciples coming to Jesus, asking for an explanation, to which Jesus gives a precise decoding of the symbolism within the parable.  For all the reasons Mark mentioned last week with the Parable of the Sower and its explanation, this is bothersome.  Parables are supposed to provoke our spiritual imagination, right?  Not serve as a formula where each part equals something else.  Couldn’t this have been one of those times Jesus responded to their question with something like: “I don’t know, what do you think it means?”

What’s doubly bothersome about this Parable of the weeds among the wheat is that the explanation seems to give a clear division of the world into two kinds of people.  The good seed, sown by the Divine Representative, the Human One, the wheat; and bad seed, sown by the evil one, the weeds.  The bad seed, the children of the evil one, are harvested by the angels and destined for the fire.  And the good seed are destined, as...

Sermon text:

Tending the Soil

I’m fairly certain that I am on record somewhere that this is not one of my favorite passages of scripture.  Let me explain why:

Last week Joel began our worship series on the parables by talking about how Jesus’ use of parables as a teaching method was perhaps meant to help people understand just how much they didn’t understand.  He told us that parables help us move from hearing to truly listening.  They invite us to see our lives and our world reflected--or perhaps more accurately, refracted--in the world of the parable.  One day we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the older son, the next we recognize our own longing in the father character.  Some days we might even feel like the unnamed mother, the thorny weed, the upset laborer, or the sheep who has wandered away.  

Parables leave us scratching our heads a little bit as they resist being nailed down into conclusions that are too tidy or meanings that let us walk away feeling like we’ve adequately digested the story.  

There’s a lot of overlap between parables and poetry in this way. ...

Sermon | Speaking in parables | Joel Miller 

Text: Matthew 13:10-17

My memories of what happened in the college classroom are fuzzy at best, but here’s something I haven’t forgotten.   

During my first year at Hesston College – that’s a little Mennonite liberal arts college in Kansas - During my first year, I was in a New Testament class with some second career folks who were training to be pastors.  One of their assignments was to write their own parable, and then share it with the class.  And, after all these years, I still remember one of them. 

Here it is, more or less:

Some city dwellers wanted to know what it was like to be a farmer, so they decided to visit three different farmers to see what they could learn.  “What’s the secret to good farming?” they asked.  The first farmer took them out to the fields where people were picking.  “The secret to farming,” said farmer #1, “is good old fashioned hard work.”  The second farmer took them into her office where there were stacks of paper and multiple computer screens.  “This is the secret to farming,” said farmer #2. “Keeping good records, communications, and management.” ...

1000 Days in Sanctuary


Peace Candle | Edith and family



As we worship in place today, we light a Peace Candle in our home,

inviting you to light a Peace Candle in your home.

The flame joins us in spirit across distance,

along with our sister church in Armenia, Colombia.    


Welcome and Call to Worship | Joel Call

Sanctuary Prayer

God our Sanctuary, grant us and our neighbors, near and far, courage in our hearts, peace in our homes, and justice in our streets. Amen.

Dios nuestro Santuario, concédenos y nuestros vecinos, cercana y lejana, coraje en nuestros corazones, paz en nuestros hogares, y justicia en nuestras calles. Amen.

HWB 358 | Oyenos, mi Dios (Hear us, my God) | Tom Blosser (piano/vocal), Quinn Blosser (violin)
     (Words: Oyenos, mi Dios, repeat, Listen to your people, Oyenos, mi Dios)

Children’s Time | Elisa Leahy

Song | Anita's Song     

Pastoral Prayer and Offering Dedication | Joel Call

Scripture | Joshua 2:1-21 | Carrie Vereide

Sermon | Rahab’s walls | Joel Miller (text below)

STJ 115 | Yonder come day | Tom Blosser, Zoe Blosser

Invitation to Visit | Edith Espinal

Benediction | Joel Call


Sermon Text:

For the first time in quite a while, I’m speaking a sermon...