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,...

Text: Psalm 46

It’s hard to be still.

If you make the space, the time, the effort, to still your body and to simply be, without distractions,  chances are one of two things will happen.  One possibility is that you’ll fall asleep, which is a pretty good indicator that you’re not getting enough of that.  The other possibility is that even though you have stilled your body you will quickly discover that it’s even harder to still your mind.  Thoughts, images, anxieties, old conversations, plans for next week, what you wish you would have said on the phone call, the cleverly crafted phrasing of your next Facebook status update, what you’re having for supper, what you wish you were having for supper – the mind is not easily stilled.  Our feet may be resting in one place, but the squirrel in our head keep bouncing around, these thoughts keep clamoring through our brains as if they run the place.

It’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving, we have a Bountiful Table spread before us, and the lectionary Psalm, Psalm 46, contains this phrase that feels like something of a prelude for entering into a spirit of gratitude.  “Be still and...

Text: Luke 20:27-40

There’s a piece of legislation in the book of Deuteronomy called the law of levirate marriage.  In a patriarchal society in which children were seen not only as a sign of blessing and prosperity, but also as a way for a man to ensure the survival of his own name, his family line, levirate marriage was a way of seeing that there would be a son to continue that name even if a married man died before having children.  According to the law, it was the duty of the dead man’s brother to marry the childless widow, and the firstborn son that they produce together  would not be his, but would be the legal offspring of the deceased brother.  And by doing this the surviving brother would redeem his dead brother’s lineage, and keep his name alive in Israel.  That was the point of the law.

The sermon title, “All of them are alive,” is taken from the final phrase that Jesus says in a conversation he has with the Sadducees in which they reference this law.  This is the only time in Luke’s gospel when the Sadducees have an exchange with Jesus.  Just this...

Text: Luke 19:1-10

Here’s a question:  Can a good person get caught up in a bad system and do bad things that the system expects them to do?  Is it possible for a decent human being to do indecent acts that are harmful to others simply by carrying out their duty and doing their job?

It’s not a very hard question to answer.  We don’t have to think very long before we can say that Yes, this has happened and continues to happen all the time.  It can happen to the soldier, it can happen to the business manager, it can happen to anyone within an institution where there is corruption.

For someone who finds themselves living more like a cog in a machine than a caring human being, what does salvation look like?  In an inhuman system, is it possible to live humanly and save your own soul, while also extending grace to others?

Abbie and I recently rewatched the film The Lives of Others, which works with some these kinds of questions.  The film takes place in East Germany in 1984, five years before the fall of the Berlin wall.  One of the main characters,...

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...