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,...

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...