Text: Galatians 3:23-29

Rather than give a traditional sermon this Sunday, I interviewed three women from our congregation about their experiences in the church, their relationship to the Bible and language we use for God, and their best hopes for the what the church can become.  Below are my brief opening words, but to get to the good stuff you’ll need to listen to the audio…

Some scholars argue that this statement by Paul in his letter to the Galatians represents a summary of all of his teachings: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”   This was and is a radical vision for a new humanity.

This Mennonite Heritage Sunday theme is The Gifts of Women.  From the very beginning, the scriptures witness to the equal yet unique giftedness of women and men.  Genesis chapter one talks about God creating both male and female in the Divine image.  The church, historically, has not done well in living out this equal partnership of women and men bearing God’s image.

I thought for this Sunday that it...

Text: 2 Kings 5:1-19

We regularly include a time for sharing joys and concerns during the worship service, but today, in addition, you are invited to hold all that you carry with you in a little different way.  After the sermon there will be an opportunity to come forward to receive anointing with oil and prayer for yourself, or on behalf of another person.  I consider this a congregation wonderfully conscious of and concerned about and engaged with the world.  So many of you are givers, spending your energy and time on behalf of others near and far.  Today you are invited to draw a smaller circle.  To pray for and speak to the Spirit on behalf of yourself, your family, friends, those dearest to you.  This could very well include an area of social justice or a situation far away, but will more likely involve tuning in to the spaces of your own heart, listening to what you are hearing there, and offering that up to the light.  You are hereby given full permission to think small, to think really really local, and to relax into whatever that needs to mean to you right now.

Today the...

Texts: Psalm 137:1-6, Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4, Luke 17:5-10, 2 Timothy 1:1-7

I bring greetings from sisters and brothers of Central District Conference.  Twice a year the committees and board of the conference meet up at Camp Friedenswald in southern Michigan and Gwen R, Phil H, and I were a part of that Friday and yesterday.

One of the reasons these gatherings are so intensely good is that we are a geographically far flung conference and we get to see each other so rarely that when we are together, we have to pack a lot of humor and catching up and business into a very short amount of time.  I roomed with James R from Atlanta and Matt M from Milwaukee.  Plot the three of us on a map and you start to get the picture.

Today is World Communion Sunday, which makes that gathering up at Friedenswald look local.  Today Christians around the world gather around the table, and partake in this ritualized meal that carries with it such significance and spiritual depth.  Communion is always primarily about Christ – it wouldn’t be much of a meal without the food – but it’s also about this far flung...

Texts: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Isaiah 40:31

This morning we are celebrating baptism.  Tennison G and Andrew N will soon be baptized, and it is a chance for each of us to remember the meaning of our own baptism and how that continues to shape our lives.  It was meaningful to Tennison and Andrew to be baptized in this natural setting at retreat; and for Tennison this place, Camp Luz, has been an especially important part of his life.  And we’ve ordered the weather to be warm enough that we can all enjoy being outside to witness the baptisms, and cool enough that these guys are really going to have to want to get baptized to get in that lake.

So here’s how we plan to proceed.  I’m going to give a brief meditation based on these scriptures that have been chosen.  Then there will be a chance for Andrew and Tennison to share a little bit about their faith journeys and for their sponsors, Andy KK for Andrew and Austin K for Tennison to give affirmation and blessings.  After this part of the service is done we will reconvene by the lake and have a couple baptisms.

The scripture that Tennison...

Text: Romans 12:1-2, 9-21

The Peace and Justice Support Network of our denomination encourages congregations to celebrate Peace Sunday right around this time of year, the Sunday closest to the United Nations International Day of Peace, which was yesterday.  Today we join other churches around the country in this Peace Sunday observance.  The Mennonite Church, especially this Mennonite church, declaring a particular day Peace Sunday feels a little bit to me like the city of Columbus declaring a particular day Football Saturday.  Which is to say, that if you hang around here for any length of time, you’ll soon notice that it’s just part of the atmosphere.  Case in point: last Sunday, not officially Peace Sunday.  Jim Leonard’s sermon title: “Prayer and peacemaking.”

One of the things I noticed when I was first getting acquainted with this church was how central peace is to the church’s public presentation of itself on this property.  As you approach the church from High Street on Oakland Park Ave you see the church sign which includes the words, “Pray for peace, Act for peace.”  If you pull into the parking lot and park your bike or car, you will be doing so...