“Another Advocate”
Texts:  Zechariah 3:1-5; John 14:15-26
Speaker: Joel Miller


One day, not so long ago, a woman walked into a grocery store.  While there, she slipped one of the items under her jacket and tried to walk out with it.  It was a frozen chicken, so it was hard to hide.  A security guard spotted her, detained her, and called a police officer.  The officer searched her and found the chicken.  He told her to come with him to the police station.

Lots of people saw this happening.  One reacted differently than the others.  Standing in line to check out, he told the cashier he wanted to buy that very chicken the woman was holding.  The cashier let him do this.  He then brought the receipt to the officer, demonstrating that this chicken had clearly been purchased from the store and therefore could not be considered stolen.  The officer reluctantly let the woman go.

If this story sounds vaguely familiar, you have a good memory. ...

Boundaries and Gates

Scripture texts: John 10:1-10; Acts 2:42-47

It was late summer of 2005, my first summer after graduating from Bluffton University with a music degree and no real direction. My parents had driven me nearly 16 hours from little old Lyons, Ohio all the way to the only-slightly-less-little Hutchinson, Kansas. This 16 hour pilgrimage would become the beginning of a three year pilgrimage for me as I began my first year with Mennonite Voluntary Service. I stepped out of that car with a lot of anxiety about meeting the other young people who would share at least the next year of my life with me. 

When I say I graduated from Bluffton with no real direction, that’s somewhat true, but the bit of direction I did have was the wisdom to know that I needed to force myself to be with other people in intentional ways. I had a few leads on jobs here and there, but a part of me feared that my introverted personality would keep me from building relationships...

“Wisdom is a tree of life,” and a nurse log
Texts: Proverbs 3:13-18; 1 Peter 2:2-5
Speaker: Joel Miller


“Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding, for her income is better than silver…all her paths are peace.  She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.” (Proverbs 3)

A little over a decade ago I found wisdom in the trees of southern Ohio.  If you’ve been around here a while this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this conversion story.  It might be 10th time.  It was the first and only Sabbatical I had while pastoring in Cincinnati.  It included a weeklong tree ID course at the Arc of Appalachia in Highland County, about a half hour southwest of Chillicothe.  I figured it was about time to learn the names of the most common trees I’d been surrounded with my whole life, only to find out that knowing the name of a tree tells you about as much about a tree as knowing the name of a person tells you about a person. 

Little did I know these trees have stories...