Text: John 1:1-5; 10-18

Speaker: Joel Miller

Over the years I’ve taught a number of youth catechism Sunday school courses.  We talk about the big ideas of Christian faith.  Words and concepts that get used all the time in church, which can benefit from more focused attention.  Little things like “God,” “Jesus,” “Creation,” “Bible,” “Church,” “Prayer.”  You get the idea.

One of my favorite exercises is when we focus on Jesus.  I ask them to imagine themselves in the place of the gospel writers.  What those writers had to work with was a collection of stories and sayings and memories, some written down, some passed on through word of mouth.  They’re trying to draw a picture of who Jesus was, and who he is for the people reading and hearing their gospel account, now several generations removed from Jesus’ life.

Now, here’s the question:  Where do you start?  Where does this story begin?  What do you say in chapter 1 that introduces the story you need to tell, sets it on the trajectory it needs to go?  How do you introduce Jesus?

The youth split up into four groups, each one reading through the first chapter of one...

Text: Luke 2:8-20

Speaker: Joel Miller

This is the season of darkness.

As a sometimes biker to church during the work week I’ve been aware of the increasing difficulty of getting back home in the evening before the darkness arrives.  A strong headlight, blinking taillight, and reflective jacket gets added to the list of equipment necessary for safe travel.  Not to mention a coat, cap, and multiple layers of gloves.  The early onset darkness does make for a less crowded Olentangy Trail at 5:30pm.

The night from which we all just awoke held the longest darkness of the year.  The winter solstice.

Less daylight can have real effects on our bodies.  Cases of depression increase in the winter months.  In general, energy levels run lower.  It makes one consider that our animal cousins might be on to something with the whole hibernation thing.  They get to both eat a lot of food at the end of the growing season and sleep through the cold and dark season.  Trees pull their energy stores down into the ground where their roots hold the reserves, keeping vigil in the dark.

I recently saw a drawing with a vertical cross section of a winter...

Texts: Isaiah 11:1-10; Matthew 3:1-11

Speaker: Mark Rupp

The end of the year and the beginning of the new year--whether you measure liturgically or by the 12-month calendar--is a time of looking back and looking forward.  This past week, I was reminded that it was almost one year ago I decided that one of my new year’s resolutions was going to be getting more houseplants.  Of course, “more” wasn’t hard when you start from zero, but on January 1, 2019, I walked out of Giant Eagle with a beautiful, fuschia-colored orchid. 

Thus began a journey that has blossomed--pun intended--into, at last count, 27 different containers of plants.  We only have one room in our house that gets adequate light and doesn’t allow access to meddling felines, so nearly all of those 27 plant-babies live in that one, southern-facing sun-filled room. 

Lately I’ve taken to calling this room our sanctuary.

This sanctuary is also home to my desk, so the plants became my companions this week as I sat with the lectionary texts.  Isaiah’s vision of a tender shoot springing forth from the stump was made even more vibrant as I looked around and could see new shoots and leaves springing...

Texts: Isaiah 2:2-4; Luke 1:26-38

Speaker: Joel Miller

Note: Please see the postscript after the sermon from CMC member and OSU Department of Physics Lecturer Rick Leonard.  He goes into more depth about the workings of sailing, corrects some poor physics in the sermon, and suggests another possible route for semonizing. 

Back in August we had a family vacation by Lake Michigan.  One of those days we took a ride on the Friends Good Will – a replica 1810 top sail sloop.  Or, in words that I understand, a really cool, pretty old, good sized, sailboat.  The original boat played an important role in the War of 1812 on the Great Lakes.  The Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven offers this ride as a way of experiencing what it’s like to be on such a boat, complete with an experienced crew running the ship and giving full commentary along the way.  The out and back trip on the lake took about 90 minutes.

On the way out, the wind was mostly at our backs and we were mostly occupied with looking around the boat and watching the crew work the ropes on the sails.  As we made the...

Text: Luke 21:5-19

Speaker: Joel Miller

In Luke chapter 21 Jesus and his companions are walking the temple grounds in Jerusalem.  The whole complex is an engineering marvel, a feat of mind and muscle.  Some are awestruck by its beauty.  They comment on the massive stones, dressed and stacked; the attention to detail; the overwhelming sense of power and permanence such structures evoke.  Jesus, who was never very good at going with the flow of conversations, interjects: “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

These startling comments suddenly take center stage.  “Teacher,” they ask, “when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place.”

After looking back for the last two weeks – first with All Saints/All Souls remembrance of Anabaptist history, then with Rabbi Jessica Shimberg reflecting in a similar way on Jewish history – invoking memory and lineage and tradition, we seem to be doing a 180.  Having been told that the present order will soon collapse, we are suddenly turned toward the future.  With the disciples, we want to know the timeline. ...