Text: 1 Corinthians 1:1-10, John 1:35-42

It feels appropriate to begin speaking on this theme of reconciliation with a tone of humility.  We are a people in a tradition that has valued peace from our very beginnings.  Out of the fray that was 16th century Europe – Reformers, peasant wars, apocalyptic prophets, state church territorial battles, the ever present threat from the outside of those Ottoman Turks – out of this mix emerged small fellowships of Anabaptists, who believed that their baptismal commitment to Christ called them to reject violence outright.  One of their early leaders wrote:  “The regenerated do not go to war, nor engage in strife.  They are children of peace who have beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning forks, and know no war.”  These people lived out their convictions under threat of death, and over the following centuries migrated to different parts of the world where they were given haven, economic opportunity, and exemption from military service.  They also went to different parts of the world to share their faith such that today there are over 1.7 million of these Anabaptist Christians globally, with the largest numbers being in the continent...

Text: Matthew 2:1-12; Ephesians 1, 3

Sometimes, if you have something important you’d like to say, and you want to write it down so that others can look over it and study it and ponder it and maybe even share it with others, it’s possible to get into the rut of writing your sentences too long and drawn out, because you have a lot that you want to communicate and it’s right there at the front of your mind all bunched together, hard to sort out, so you just start writing and it just keeps coming and you’re not sure where to put the period and where to start a new thought because it’s all one big thought for you and so you keep writing, which is kind of like what is happening at the beginning of Paul’s letter to the church of Ephesus where Paul is writing to the church about his belief that this love of Christ that they have experienced was not only special for them as a small group of people but also had significance, great significance, for all people and all things such that everything everywhere in every time is affected by the meaning...

Texts: Isaiah 7:10-16, Matthew 1:18-25


1. Mystery

This Advent we have been guided by the theme of Mystery.  One of the mysteries I’ve enjoyed is seeing what the musicians have prepared each week and what new thing is going to be happening visually up front from week to week.  We approach our worship this in the same spirit as the Franciscan Richard Rohr, who speaks of mystery not as that which is unknowable, but that which is endlessly knowable.  Mystery, Divine Mystery, is that which is endlessly knowable.  You can’t get to the bottom of it.  The church dedicates more than a month each year to the drama of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, and, however familiar we are with the story, we intuitively know that we have only scratched the surface of what this means for us and for the world.  Ponder again Mary bearing the Christ child into the world.  There’s always more to see.

This time around Advent has also happened to coincide with the death of a remarkable human being, Nelson Mandela.  As we have been pondering mystery, and with hopeful expectation of Christ’s presence among us, we have shared in the public remembrance...

Texts: Isaiah 11:1-10, Matthew 3:1-12

 The psychologist Carl Jung once said: “When religion stops talking about animals it will be all downhill.”  I wonder how we’re doing with that – if the nonhuman creaturely world has a strong enough presence in our psyche, our souls, or if we have been headed downhill for decades, or centuries.

If we are in danger of losing touch with animal nature, today it’s Isaiah to the rescue.  Although you wonder if Isaiah could benefit from learning a little more himself about how the natural world really works.  He presents a picture, populated with all sorts of animals that no one in their right mind would put in the same room together, or the same pasture.

“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.  The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”

From where I stand, literally, right here, I have noticed that this congregation has one major banner in the sanctuary.  And that this banner...

Texts: Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44

In some ways Advent is one of the least surprising and mysterious seasons there could be.  Because we’ve been here before.  We’ve gone through it many times.  We know the words, the songs, the stories.  We know exactly what’s going to happen, how this is all going to unfold.  Jesus is going to be born to Mary and Joseph in the most humble of settings, will be heralded by angels, visited by shepherds and stargazers from the East, and honored as the savior of his people.

You know this story, and there’s a great comfort in knowing it, and hearing it again.

Advent means “coming,” and this is a time when we look again for the coming of Christ.

What always strikes me about the first Sunday of Advent, is that the texts each year seem intent on unsettling us from what we think we know is supposed to happen.  Instead of preparing us for the coming of a gentle birth – a memory of something long ago, something from out of the past – we are confronted with words from the adult Jesus, spoken in future tense, declared in his final days,...