Sermons

  • Is This the Time?

    Pop quiz: who can tell me what this Sunday is called in the Christian church calendar? The answer is Ascension Sunday! It’s the end of the church season of Easter, seven weeks of digging into the theological concept of resurrection. Whether you believe in Jesus’ resurrection in literal terms or in symbolic ones, Easter gives…

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  • In Praise of Ritual

    Grace and peace to you, friends. So! We made it to sabbatical. Are you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated yet? That’s OK if not; we’ve got some time still. Some of you have asked me how things are going now that I’m “official.” And the answer is that it feels great. I attribute that at least…

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  • Abide

    A week or so ago, on a beautiful spring morning, I listened intently to the radio. Anticipating the closure of the Stone Arch Bridge, reporter Cari Spenser interviewed Clawhammer Mike. She sets the scene this way:  When the sun is out, the 51-year-old always sets up the same: white bucket for tips, foldable metal chair one…

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  • Touch and See

    I am going to wade into a dicey subject this morning—touch. As we teach our kids, not all touch is good. From violent physical attacks and sexual assault to more subtle abuses of power like hugging someone without permission, the power of touch can so easily be misused. Our ways of touching the more-than-human world…

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  • It’s the Little, Brief Things

    My father was not a religious man. He went to Sunday School as a child, where his father was the treasurer of the Sunday School. (I suspect that my grandfather took on this position so he wouldn’t have to go to church. The very complete set of Lincoln pennies he found in the children’s offering…

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  • A Living Dialogue of Love

    Resurrection. Was it a literal happening? Is it a metaphor? Are metaphors “real?” What does it all mean? I appreciate the way John Dominic Crossan, a well-known historian of religion, points to what is actually important about Easter. He says: “To believe in resurrection is to participate in it.” Last Saturday, I walked the Gaza Ceasefire…

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  • Inhabiting the Story

    Go into Jerusalem, untie a young colt, and bring it back to me, said Jesus to two of his disciples. On the scale of things that Jesus asked of his disciples, it was a fairly innocuous request; much easier than joining him for a walk on water, for example. Also easier, I would imagine, than…

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  • God of Our Hearts

    The prophet Jeremiah was not known as a fun, upbeat guy. His was a voice of lament and judgement, calling the nation and its leaders out for their complicity in injustice. The context of today’s passage is the exile in Babylon—a time when the people became refugees, traumatized by war, alienated from home, and apparently…

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  • How Do We Go On?

    The tension and drama in today’s passage from Numbers doesn’t just come out of the blue. After leaving slavery in Egypt, the people have been wandering in the desert for more than forty years. Imagine, forty years of hunger and thirst, heat and cold, diseases and exhaustion. Forty years of eating flaky white stuff. Poisonous…

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  • Idols and Lies

    I want to invite you into the process of “thickening” our ancestral story from Exodus. Let’s begin by setting the scene. The people of Israel have arrived at Mount Sinai “at the third new moon” after being liberated from slavery in Egypt. It was at this same holy mountain in the desert wilderness that God…

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  • What a Covenant!

    Have you heard of the Valentine’s Bandit? Juana Summers of NPR reported last week: Something special happens the night before Valentine’s Day in Portland, Maine. Children and adults alike go to bed knowing that, while they are sleeping, the Valentine’s Bandit will strike, covering doorways, windows, and telephone poles across the city in bright red, paper…

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  • Raising Each Other

    I’m in middle school, 6th or 7th grade. The lights are darkened and a film is playing. The teacher has left the classroom for a few minutes. Teddy, the class clown, suddenly calls out, “Who farted?” The class giggles. Uh oh, I think. My stomach tightens and I try to look as small as possible. Bullies love to target me,…

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  • Unclean Spirits

    Here we are, already four weeks removed from the Epiphany of the infant Jesus, as revealed in the stars to astronomers from the east. It’s a season for reminding ourselves, or maybe revealing for the first time or in a new way, some of the characteristics of God’s hopes for us, described as God’s kingdom…

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  • Near and New

    “Mom, you have to watch this film, Fantastic Fungi!” So I did, and wow, it was a consciousness-raising experience. The film captures the odd yet captivating beauty of a dazzling array of mushrooms, all shapes, colors, and textures—unfurling and blooming in slow motion. It also portrays how these visible beings are only the tip of the iceberg, how…

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  • Mutual Invitation

    The first time I experienced “mutual invitation” was at the beginning of the pandemic when all our meetings migrated online. On Zoom it’s impossible to simply “go around the circle.” In mutual invitation, the facilitator frames the question and offers their response. They then invite the next person in. That person can speak, or pass…

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  • Belovedness Revealed

    The world’s longest running study of happiness began in 1938. Dr. Robert Waldinger presently directs this study and co-authored a book about it called The Good Life. Waldinger sums up the study’s results, saying that the strongest predictors of people’s health and happiness throughout life “were the warmth and the quality of their relationships with other people.” Scientifically speaking,…

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  • O Sing to God a New Song

    Our kids here at First Church have been learning the nativity story in a hands-on way. With hot glue, popsicle sticks, little wooden dolls, and scraps of fabric, they have crafted mangers and baby Jesuses, Marys and Josephs. On the way home from church after one of these creative sessions, my kid informed me that in her version…

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  • A Prophetic “Yes”

    I happened upon the website of Mac, a guy who likes to take long walks and write about them. At one time he thought he wanted to go to law school and become a lawyer, but then he realized that actually he aspires to live out of his van. One of his essays is titled “Why…

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  • It’s Not Your Story

     They had been sent by the Pharisees. Temple leaders from Jerusalem wanted to know more about John the Baptist, this person they couldn’t quite categorize: like a prophet, he wore a camel hair shirt and preached a message of repentance; like Elijah, the legendary prophet who preached reconciliation before disappearing into the clouds riding a…

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  • Prophetic Preparation

    My kid mentioned casually the other day that she has an emergency bag packed up in her room. This statement caused her parents’ ears to perk up. “What are you preparing for?” we asked. “Are you mad at us? Are you going to run away?” we teased. “Oh,” she responded, “No, it’s in case there’s…

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