Audio picks up after the initial story

Text: John 9:1-41


This is a story passed on to me a while back by Nate Toland, told by Peter Rollins, who’s from Northern Ireland, and he told it as if it were a story that actually happened, so that’s how I’ll tell it.

In Ireland they hold these public competitions which people find quite entertaining and a few years ago they held a competition for who could build the largest sheep pen. There were three competitors: an architect, an engineer, and an old farmer. They were each given the same amount of lumber and they had the same amount of time, to build their sheep pen.

So the architect went first and being an architect he knew how to build the fencing so it maximized efficiency and strength and he worked away at it, and when his time was up the judges came and looked it over and tested it out and it was able to hold 100 sheep. Well done.

And the engineer went next and she had the idea that if she could cut each of the boards down the middle lengthwise, if she could...

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Texts: Exodus 17:1-7, John 4:3-26


A month ago Dan H. sent me an email asking if I was aware that this weekend, March 22, yesterday, was United Nations World Water Day. I wasn’t, and replied back that it is a happy coincidence that the readings for this week also include water as a central theme: water from the rock in the desert for the Israelites, water from the Samaritan well for Jesus, and living water from Jesus for a Samaritan woman and villagers.

The genre of sermon can be characterized as the proclamation of gospel, good news, but the news from World Water Day is mostly bad, or, at least, cautionary. The combination of population growth (seven billion and counting), increased global development, and climate change, is putting major strains on finite water supplies. The United Nations estimates that about 1 in 10 people do not have access to an improved source of drinking water. If there are 160 people here, that means 16 of you are out of luck.

This year’s focus for World Water Day is the connections between water and energy. Key messages they are promoting are 1) Water requires energy and...


Texts: John 3:1-10, Genesis 12:1-4


One of the advantages of having a sanctuary with very little natural light is that we can make it unnaturally dark in broad daylight.  It can actually get quite a bit darker than this, but we decided to make it a little more user friendly for kids who like to draw or anyone who needs to move around.

It’s dark, (ish), because we are dealing with a text containing a conversation that happened in darkness.  In John chapter three, we are introduced to Nicodemus, a leading Pharisee, who came to Jesus by night to ask him questions.  That “by night” part is fairly easy to miss and might not seem all that important.  But John’s is a highly symbolic gospel, and giving these kinds of details is one of the ways he shapes the meaning of these stories.  You may call to mind certain conversations you’ve had in the late evening and night hours, and how the tone and the content differed from daytime conversation.

Knowing that Nicodemus is a Pharisee and that he comes to Jesus “by night” means he already has two strikes against him.  Even though Pharisees shared...

Texts: Genesis 2:7-9; 15-17; 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11

The wilderness is a real place in the physical landscape, and a reality of the soul.

If you’ve ever visited a place considered wilderness, you most likely have some distinct memory of that place:  The towering trees of an old growth forest; the long expanses of sands in a desert; the almost unfathomable layers of geological history in the faces of rock formations.  The wilderness has a way of confronting the human ego and putting our small lives in perspective.  The wilderness is so different than our human shaped environment.  The wilderness is wild.  The wilderness can be dangerous.

If you have ever been in a wilderness of the soul, it too has no doubt left its mark.  A wilderness time of life can be highly disorienting.  One can feel overwhelmed by the immensity of what one does not comprehend and cannot control.  One might not feel safe or secure and certainly not savvy for finding the way through.  This kind of wilderness may be a place you have been before.  You may be in the wilderness right now.

Experiences of wilderness are woven throughout scripture, and Lent is intentionally structured...

Text: Luke 2:41-52

If you were a young Lakota Indian, around the age of our jr. youth, you would soon be setting out into the wilderness on a Vision Quest.  You would undergo a process of purification in a sweat lodge with a holy man, and would then be led out to an isolated place chosen by the community elders.  You would be left alone in that space with nothing more than some ceremonial offerings.  You would not have food or water.  For the next several days and nights it would be your task to listen.  To watch.  To pray.  To wait for a vision.  A sign, or a voice, or an object of significance from your natural surroundings which would direct your path for the years to come and mark the transition from childhood to adulthood.

If you were an Apache girl of this age you would undergo the Sunrise Ceremony.  You would be painted with clay and pollen, which would stay on your body the entire four days that the ceremony lasts.  You would go through physically demanding tests of strength and long periods of dancing.  You would be given instruction in the areas of self-confidence,...