Speaker: Carol Wise

Texts: Psalm 32; John 5: 1-9a

In my opinion, no other book in the Bible quite captures the depth and the breath, the valleys and the peaks, the challenges and the comforts, the joys and the anguish of faith quite like the Psalms. The simple movement from one Psalm to the next can take us from proclamations of hope, expectation and beauty then rudely thrust us into the painful realities of betrayal, struggle, violence and even death. The intensity of the psalmist’s swing from lamentation and groaning to shouts of ecstasy and victory is disquieting and has a way of catching us off guard and unprepared.

Sometimes in my work with the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests, I feel as though I inhabit this intense, unpredictable and wonderful world of the Psalms in an almost frenetic and pervasive way. Life, as I have experienced it within the BMC community, often seems like a jarring oscillation between powerful forces where fragile hope is met with bitter disappointment, quiet joy with broken despair, fresh idealism with aching tragedy.  I cannot tell you the number of times that I have been ready to throw in the towel when suddenly...

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Text: Acts 8:26-40

Every once in a while one of the lectionary readings for the day is pertinent enough to current events that it might have been the passage one would select even if one had all of scripture to choose from.  Today’s reading from Acts is one of those passages.

It’s the story of Philip, one of Jesus’ original 12 apostles, and his encounter with an Ethiopian eunuch, an official in the queen’s court, who had made the long pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship and is now on his way home.  The Ethiopian eunuch is studying the prophet Isaiah, and Philip uses the opportunity to talk with him about the good news of Jesus…convincingly, because the man requests to be baptized right there on the spot, which Philip gladly does.

Given the events of the past week in the Supreme Court’s hearing on marriage equality, one could focus, if one were so inclined, on the fact that as a eunuch, this man was a sexual minority of his time.  As was common in various kingdoms of the ancient world, men who served in the court were often castrated so as to remove the threat of them...

Texts: Matthew 6:9-13; Acts 4:32-37

Maybe this has happened to you before: You’re in a group that’s praying the Lord’s Prayer without a script, everything is going smoothly until: “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our…”  At this point, unless a leader has prompted the group ahead of time, you have one of four options.  You can say “sins,” “forgive us our sins.” You can say, “debts,” “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  You can say “trespasses.”  Or, you can make a noncommittal mumble  or simply stay silent as a way of yielding to whichever choice the majority of others go with.  I think I’ve tried all four options at different times.

One can cite Scripture for using any one of those three words, but on closer examination, there is one that comes out as the leader for the original intent of the prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer appears twice in the New Testament, once in Luke’s gospel, and once in Matthew.  Jesus is giving his disciples words to use when they pray.  The prayer condenses Jesus’ theology into just a few statement. Luke’s is the shorter and more compact version and...

Text: Genesis 4:1-17; Luke 24:36b-48

Practice resurrection.  This is the theme we have chosen for our Easter season as a way to remind ourselves that Easter is not about celebrating just once a year the new life that resurrection shows us is possible.  Rather, we remember that Easter is a season, a way of life that holds every moment in the light of the new life that is possible in God. 

It is easy to see why Easter falls in the early spring.  It’s not hard to imagine the possibility of new life when we are surrounded by both daffodils and people bursting from the dark places that have sheltered them through the cold, hard winter. 

But if Easter is a call for us to practice resurrection in every moment, what do we do with the moments that don’t feel like spring?  What does it mean to practice resurrection in places of deep suffering?  What new life is possible when our bodies and our souls are marked by the wounds of violence and abuse? 

Specifically this morning I want to spend some time thinking through these questions by looking at a topic that has been in the forefront of Mennonite...

Text: Mark 16:1-11

Christ is Risen.  Christ is Risen indeed.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, which may not be much of a secret.  Today, Easter Sunday, preachers and congregations around the world will proclaim the resurrection, that Christ is risen, that Christ is risen indeed, but we barely know what we’re talking about.

I say barely because we kind of know what we’re talking about.  We’re familiar with the witness of the early apostles, those who knew Jesus when he was alive and encountered him after his death.  We’ve heard Peter’s sermon from Acts 10, when he told a group of Gentiles how Jesus of Nazareth went around preaching peace and doing good and healing all who were oppressed by harmful spirits and that we was put to death on a cross but that God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear to Peter and others who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  We’ve read Paul’s writings, someone who never knew Jesus when he was alive, never met the guy, and who in his letters to these little communities he was founding hardly ever...