Twelve Scriptures project

Text #4: Mark 12:28-34           

Unless you are just back from a very long summer vacation, which I know a few of you are, you know that we have been focusing on the 12 Scriptures that we have selected as a congregation as being most significant for us.  This is a project being encouraged across our denomination, Mennonite Church USA.  The idea is that we are able to get a window into what we, together, hold as most valuable, of central importance, or, to use a little more lofty theological language, what is our congregational hermeneutical center out of which we interpret not only scripture, but also lived experience.  The question we will be speaking to throughout the summer is “Which scriptures are the first of all?”

One of the unique aspects of today’s scripture is that it isn’t just one scripture.  It appears three different times, in the gospels with Matthew, Mark, and Luke each having their own version of this exchange between Jesus and the religious leaders.  Luke’s version includes the telling of the story of the Good Samaritan, the only place the parable appears in the Bible. ...

Twelve Scriptures project

Text #3: 1 John 4:7-21


We are in week three of our Twelve Scriptures project – each scripture chosen by this congregation – and are making a transition into another theme.  Genesis 1 and John 1 both spoke of the Creativity of the Word and the next three scriptures speak of the Primacy of Love.  Visually, we are hopping from the first dot to the second dot, and going from red to orange, which sounds like we are down grading some kind of security threat or something.

There’s a couple reasons why this 1 John passage fits especially well here.  One is that it connects with last week in that we are still with John, or at least someone in John’s community who is writing in his name and in his style.  John 1 was the beginning of his gospel, not to be confused with 1 John which is a letter, or an essay, or maybe even a sermon being written within the faith community that formed around John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, as in Peter, James, and John.  So even though we’re onto this other theme, there is that link between last...


Twelve Scriptures project

Text #2: John 1:1-5;14


When’s the last time you saw a word become flesh?  I’m not sure how I’d answer my own question, but I’m pretty sure I once saw a word become a house, although it was kind of by accident.

During my first year of seminary I took a course on preaching.  Part of the coursework involved a preaching lab in which we delivered sermons to classmates and the professor, receiving and giving constructive criticism.  This was all fairly new stuff for us, and so we proceeded to give what were hopefully the worst sermons of our lives.  I hereby nominate for official sainthood June Alliman Yoder, longtime preaching professor at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, for having to sit through several decades’ worth of Mennonite pastors in training, all the while keeping her groans to a minimum and her criticism constructive.

After one of my sermons, whose point I and everyone have long forgotten, I received the evaluation form back from June.  Along with some other technical comments, she noted that I had told a story about my experience with Habitat for Humanity while in Mennonite Voluntary Service in St....


Twelve Scriptures project

Text #1: Genesis 1


The Hebrew Scriptures, and our Christian Bible, begin this way:

In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth.

And the earth, it was welter and waste,

And darkness was on the face of the deep,

And a wind from Elohim hovered on the face of the waters.

And Elohim said: “Let there be light.”  And there was light.

—  Genesis 1:1-2


The selection round for our Twelve Scriptures project has come to a close, and we have our finalists.  Unlike reality TV, we will not be forced to eliminate one of these scriptures each week until we arrive at a singular favorite.  Playing CMC Idol with passages from a book that isn’t too keen on idolatry doesn’t seem like all that good of an idea.  So unlike that and the World Cup, these scriptures get to enjoy group play all summer without having to worry about who is in and who is out of the final tournament.

This summer we’ll be walking through these twelve scriptures – beautifully displayed here – thanks Adam Ruggles and Seth Trance – and pondering what they have to say to...

Text: Acts 2:1-21 | Pentecost

There’s a story in the Torah, in the book of Numbers chapter 11, that takes place just after the Israelites depart from Mt Sinai where Moses received the teachings of the law on the people’s behalf.  They are again on the move and they are again complaining about the lack of dining options in the desert.  Nothing but this bland manna to eat.  The people are upset, and this makes Moses, their leader, upset.  Moses has it out with Yahweh saying that this is an impossible task, too heavy a burden to bear, and that if Yahweh is indeed merciful that Yahweh should end his life at once.

Yahweh’s response is to have Moses gather 70 of the elders of the people together.  Yahweh says, “I will take some of the spirit that is on you and put it on them; and they shall bear the burden of the people along with you so that you will not bear it all by yourself.”  Moses is skeptical, but goes along with the idea.  He calls these elders together, takes them outside the encampment and has them circle up around the tent of meeting, which...