Sermons

  • Rest and Repent

    My brother said, “Go up Cutting Hill Lane. It climbs steeply then turns and cuts across Pinnacle Hill.You’ll come out at Highbridge Road. Take a right on Highbridge, go a short distance, and take a left on Hardscrabble Lane. If you go far enough on Hardscrabble it will turn into a hiking path  that takes you to Trout […]

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  • To Rest in God

    There’s a statue in the North Garden of the United Nations Building in New York City of a man beating a sword into a plowshare. The man is muscular; he has set his feet in stride and raised his hammer high. It is no small thing to convert a tool of war into a tool […]

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  • Sharing Faith

    Sometime last spring, at a faith formation team meeting, we ran into a little snag. It was hard to get clear about what our team’s job was, what we were supposed to be doing. And we realized that was because we weren’t sure what “faith formation” is. And actually, as we kept on talking, it […]

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  • Words and Wisdom

    I want to begin today by talking with our kids for a moment. In today’s Bible story, Jesus asks his followers to “testify”—that’s a word that means to say what is true. There are times when it’s hard to tell the truth, aren’t there? My daughter Alice told me a really good story about that this week. Some […]

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  • Gift Economy

    In a recent essay, indigenous author, and scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer writes: Gratitude is so much more than a polite “thank you.” It is the thread that connects us in a deep relationship, simultaneously physical and spiritual, as our bodies are fed and spirits nourished by the sense of belonging, which is the most vital […]

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  • Pharisees, Publicans—and Us

    A Pharisee and a tax collector—two of the most frequently seen stock characters on the stage of the Gospels. We get distinct impressions of these two archetypes as we watch them encounter Jesus through various scenes of dispute and confrontation and, sometimes, of welcome. One impression we might have from the Gospel narratives is that […]

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  • Elusive Justice

    Two summers ago, we were getting ready to sell our house. We had already moved to the new place and were putting the finishing touches on the old place before it went on the market. Just then, some folks who were living in a broken-down old RV parked right in front of the old house. […]

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  • Getting Well

    Enemy Pie by Derek Munson is one of my favorite picture books. Here’s how it starts: It was a perfect summer until Jeremy Ross moved in right next door to my best friend Stanley. I did not like Jeremy. He had a party and I wasn’t even invited. But my best friend Stanley was. I never […]

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  • Small Faith

    I was away on study leave last week—reading, hiking, enjoying the quiet and getting plenty of rest. Meanwhile, my spouse Jen handled all the tasks of the household. I was hiking through the prairie, contemplating wildflowers, when she sent me a text. It was a photo of her list. She had constructed a grid with the days of the […]

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  • Abraham’s bosom

    Rock’a my soul in the bosom of Abraham, Rock’a my soul in the bosom of Abraham, Rock’a my soul in the bosom of Abraham, Oh, rock’a my soul. So high you can’t get over it; So low you can’t get under it,  So wide you can’t get around it,  Oh, rock’a my soul. Thank you […]

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  • Squandering

    Thank you, Glenn, for your insightful response to today’s parable! Glenn and I had four or five little chats about this text that went something like this: It’s confusing! It’s so difficult! Does it even make sense? Did Jesus really tell this parable? And why are we still reading it? Well, there is a principle […]

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  • Everyone Counts

    My friend Elizabeth is a true bookworm. So it’s utterly fitting that one of her responsibilities as a senior editor at the Christian Century magazine is to keep track of all the new books being published in religion and a wide variety of other adjacent subjects. I enjoy subscribing to the weekly e newsletter Elizabeth publishes, “Books […]

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  • “The Cost Is Everything”

    In Double Fudge by Judy Blume, Peter Hatcher’s little brother, five-year-old Fudge, becomes fascinated with money. Every night, Fudge counts up his money; a process he calls “mising.” He prints his own currency, which he calls “Fudgebucks.” He continually embarrasses his family by asking grown-ups about their financial situations. At the dinner table, he tries to convince his […]

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  • “How to Feast”

    This morning, I want to invite you into a time of dialogue with our Gospel text. I will begin by offering some thoughts about the historical context of the story. Then I will have Xan read the text again, while I pose some questions about its meaning for us today. After that, we’ll have some […]

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  • At Home and At Peace

    In 1820, Martin Fugate immigrated to the United States from France. He married Elizabeth Smith and they settled near Hazard, Kentucky. It turns out that they were both carriers of a rare recessive gene that turns blood and skin blue. Many of their descendants shared this condition. Collectively, they became known as “the blue people of Kentucky.” […]

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  • What Time Is It?

    What time is it in the life of First Church? And given what time it is, what deserves our best energy? What should be our focus now? My spiritual director helps me listen for God’s presence and guidance in my life and work. As we processed how things are going here at church, she gave me these questions to […]

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  • “Feeling Lost, Then Getting Found”

    The parable of the Lost Sheep is one of the more familiar of the little stories that Jesus told his audiences. At the start of this one, Jesus poses a seemingly simple question, Which one of you, who had a flock of onehundred sheep, one of which is lost, wouldn’t leave your ninety–nine other sheep behind in the wilderness andsearch for the one that you lost until it is found?   Huh . . . Leave the ninety-nine exposed out in the wilderness until we can find the […]

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  • Abba

    Prayer . . . is a thorny subject. What is it? How does it work? What about when it doesn’t seem to work? These days, I admit, I have grown tired of battling these questions in my head. I gravitate toward prayer that is contemplative, that is less about asking, and less about words, and […]

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  • One Thing

    I want to teach you a song. It’s from the day camp First Church hosts with a bunch of partner congregations. Please repeat after me. If anybody asks you who you are, who you are, who you are. If anybody asks you who you are, tell’m you’re a child of God. Here’s the coolest thing about this song. […]

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  • Agitational Jesus

    In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus proclaims: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” This Jesus agitates me. He’s pretty uncompromising. Hearing these words, my first response is to feel judged and harassed. Where is the room for grace? Where is the understanding of my limitations and imperfections? In full […]

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