Sermons

Text: Ephesians 2:14-22

The night that I first came out, when I first said those words “I’m gay”, that night was a sacred night for many reasons.  I know that many of you have already heard some of that story, but there is a piece that I don’t think I have shared yet, partially because it is something that, even now, I continue to unpack and wrestle with.

After the tears and after the holy conversation where my pastor and mentor assured me that God loved me not in spite of but because of who I am, after all this, while I was getting ready to leave he said something to me that I will never forget.  He looked me in the eyes, and very quietly and very thoughtfully he said, “You know, in at least some small way, I envy you.”

I think it was at this point that I just simply stared at him in disbelief.  Envy me?  What could there be to envy about the years of struggle that I had gone through and the many more years of struggle that I could only imagine were ahead of me.  Sure, the single greatest thing about being gay...

Texts: 1 Kings 17:8-16; Mark 12:38-13:2

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy people-watching.  People are interesting.  People are different.  People-watching is a way appreciating humanity from afar, from the safety of one’s own corner seat, or perch, or however you like to position yourself to people-watch.

Tomorrow I’ll be flying from Columbus to Newark to Tel Aviv, meaning I’ll be passing through one of the prime locations for people watching: airports.  People watching and day dreaming are closely related cousins as we see people greeting each other, people walking briskly from one place to another, wearing whatever kind of expression on their face, and our mind can’t help but wonder where it is they are coming from and where they are going.  What are they in such a hurry to get to?  Who are they anxious to see?

If you want to take it to another level, what’s really interesting is watching people watch people – it’s like a dream within a dream.    Your eyes can shift back and forth between the watcher and who they are watching, and you try and notice what is it is they are noticing.  This works as long as someone doesn’t have...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/20151101sermon.mp3

Texts: Revelation 19:6-9; Isaiah 25:6-9

HWB 411 I bind my heart this tide, v. 1

Since we observed All Saints/All Souls Day last year, and are doing it again this year, I guess that makes it a tradition.  It’s one that’s new to me, but one I hope we can continue.  Along with our lighting of candles for loved ones who have died, I’d like to use this Sunday each year to tell the story of one of our Anabaptist or Mennonite forbearers.

In thinking about this I realized, to my own shame, that I know very little about any historical Anabaptist female leaders.  I suppose my excuse is the fact that the most prominent leaders were men.  The early Anabaptists did elevate women to a greater place than they had been, but it was a far cry from an egalitarian or liberation movement for women.

So I emailed my friend Gerald Mast who teaches Communication at Bluffton University, who, coincidentally, was the speaker here the Sunday just before my first Sunday.  And Gerald quickly provided a list of Anabaptist women that will last us for many years to come.  He also noted that his favorite story is...

Text: Revelation 21:9-27
Speaker: John Kampen

Revelation is a book of the bible that is not a natural reference point for those of us who consider ourselves liberal or progressive Christians. We normally don’t know what to do with the strange visions, the bizarre imagery, for us Mennonites the violent imagery. This is bizarre and confusing material that challenges the rational mind. We want to be able to say that this is not the basis for my belief, my theology, my ethic. We want to move as far away from it as possible. This is what both the Christian Church and the emerging rabbinic movement did in the first few centuries of the Common Era. We can compile an extensive list of non-canonical Jewish and Christian apocalypses from that period. However, only two of those books are found in our canon, Daniel and Revelation. They considered this literature to be as elusive as we do, hence not very reliable for questions of doctrine and practice, perhaps even dangerous.

Now I know that all of your difficulties with this book have already been resolved through the careful thoughtful sermons of Pastor Joel. Consider me to be the apocrypha to his...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/20151018sermon.mp3

Texts: Genesis 2:4b-9, Revelation 21:22-22:7

It’s been observed that the Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city.  A garden, as in the Garden of Eden of Genesis, where the human creature is formed from the dust of the earth and receives the Divine breath of life.  And so the story begins.  And then at the end, a city, the New Jerusalem of Revelation, where humanity is restored and reconciled.

Some of us have had a similar garden-to-city trajectory in our own life, growing up in a rural area and now living here.  Columbus is a lovely city, but I dare say we have a ways to go before we reach the New Jerusalem.

One of the key connections between the beginning and the end, is this mysterious tree of life.  It shows up in the garden of Genesis, the garden that the humans lose access to after eating the fruit from that other tree.  Then the tree of life goes missing, only to resurface in the final book of the Christian Bible, Revelation.  And not just the final book, but the final chapter of the final book.  In the New Jerusalem, which has a river...

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