Text: Jeremiah 1:1-14 

Every summer of jr high and high school involved baling hay with my uncle, and I have a fond memory of one of the first times he had me drive the tractor that pulled the baler and the wagon where he would stack the square bales.  I would have been about your age.  We would always use the same gear in the tractor for baling hay, but each gear had a low and a high setting, adjusted with the push of a lever.  Up to that point I had always driven in low, but toward the end of one of those long days my uncle told me that at some point during the next load he was going to signal from the wagon for me to push it into high.  And sure enough, a little ways into the load I looked back, my uncle gave me the signal, and, for the first time, I shifted on the fly from low to high.  The thrill that I felt run through my body had a little bit to do with the immediate increase of speed from the tractor, but probably had more to do with this sense...

Text: Matthew 6:9-13

When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, he taught them to say: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  Jesus spoke often of the Kingdom of God, or, the Kingdom of Heaven, and remarkably, taught that it was already at hand, near, already present.  Some scholars have emphasized how Jesus presented the Kingdom of God as an alternative to the Kingdom of Rome.  Others have noted its essential grounding in Jewish understanding of redemption and salvation.  The Kingdom of God is a reality in which relationships are mended, or mending, and creation is freed up to become a fuller and fuller manifestation of goodness and beauty and creative outpouring.

In our religious vocabulary we have developed the notion of us going to heaven, but in Jesus’ ministry and in the prayer he taught us, he emphasized the flow going in the exact opposite direction.  Heaven is coming to us, breaks in at unexpected times in unexpected places.  Your kingdom come on earth, as is already is in heaven.

The universal nature of this kingdom, which spans all ethnic and national divides of persons, means that, by way...

Texts: 1 Samuel 3:1-10; John 1:43-51

The image behind me, also printed on your bulletins, is a stained glass window in 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  It was a gift from the people of Wales, after that church was bombed in September, 1963, less than three weeks after the March on Washington and King’s “I have a dream” speech.  Four black girls died in that bombing.

Much transpired between the giving of that iconic speech and the words King delivered at Stanford University in April, 1967. Less than a year after that he was killed at the age of 39.  King still expresses hope in the words we have been hearing this morning from that speech, but they are tempered by the continued resistance and outright violence and hatred directed against blacks and the civil rights movement.  The new movie Selma, which I hope all of us have a chance to see sometime, is set in 1965, and is one of those events that happened after the hopeful and beautiful dream of 1963 spoken in Washington DC, and before the more solemn and urgent plea of 1967, spoken at Stanford.  Because we are...

Text: Jeremiah 32:6-15

Speaker: C. Joseph Sprague

Audio only

Text: Matthew 2:1-12

For most of the last dozen years, between Christmas and New Year’s, Abbie and I have made the trek out to Western Kansas.  This is where Abbie grew up and where much of her extended family still lives.  Because it’s such a long drive we stay for over a week.  It’s a pretty laid back time.  We visit with family, maybe do a project in Grandpa Marlin’s woodshop, read, play games, eat, etc.  This year included some playing in the little bit of snow that fell a couple days after Christmas.

Some of you may know Kansas as that long stretch of nothing before you get to the mountains.  And you’d be mostly right.

What’s especially wonderful about Western Kansas is that it’s almost nothing.  When you get out of the car and spend some time there, there’s a rare spaciousness all around you, full of almost nothing.  It’s a place where the Advent prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled:  Every valley has been lifted up, every mountain and hill has been made low; the uneven ground has become level, and the rough places a plain.  Take a walk or a run on a dirt...