Emerging Church Musings Sermon Starter Uncategorized

Not What I Expected!


Thirty-three years ago on the third Sunday of Advent I was confirmed in the Christian faith. It was the Sunday of Joy and I fully expected it to be joyful. It was not. It was a day filled with disappointment and frustration from start to finish.

I was 15 years old, a perfectionist, a rule-follower, in the early stages of an eating disorder, and more than a little idealistic. In my mind, the day I was confirmed would change my life. It would fill me with the joy and peace I was missing. It would make me a good, faithful person. I listened in class and memorized all the bits and pieces of church history and what being a member of a congregation would mean. I was ready and anxious to have this transformative event take place in my life.

As I remember it, the day was cold and foggy typical for Cape Cod in December. I was supposed to be at church early. My mother was going to drive me and stay for the service which she didn’t regularly do. I did not like to be late for anything so we got into the car extra early and headed down the street. Just after we turned onto the main road, the car died. We were still quite close to home. My anxiety increased as I was sure we’d never make it to church and I would not be confirmed. This was not how my perfect day was supposed to go.

My mother let the car coast to the side of the road and decided that we would return home and borrow the neighbor’s car. Since this was long before cell phones, I’m sure we walked the quarter mile or so back and got the neighbor’s car. All would be well and I would be only a few minutes later than the appointed hour. Until the borrowed car got a flat tire a couple of miles from church.

To be honest, I have no idea what happened next. I’m assuming there was a payphone nearby and my mother called someone who came and either fixed the tire or drove us to church or both. What I do remember is getting to church just minutes before the service started and being very upset because I missed out on all the explanations and directions others were given. I was there, though, and I would be confirmed.

There were five or six of us who would be confirmed that day. Each of us was paired with a deacon who would lead the laying on of hands. When I realized who my deacon was, I was horrified. This was the one deacon I didn’t like for reasons that were likely very logical in my 15 year-old brain and now escape my recollection. In that moment, I was sure this deacon would somehow ruin the whole thing. He didn’t. In spite of all my stress and tears the words I viewed as nearly magical were said, and I was confirmed.

And hugely disappointed because my life did not change. Not one iota. I felt no closer to God. My pains and struggles were still there. I gained no super powers for self-improvement that day. What happened to the joy I was promised and desperately wanted?

All the emotions of that day, feel silly to me now. Looking back, I can see that the Spirit was already at work in my life doing things in the mysterious way God has. After all, I was ordained a mere ten years later. While I caught glimpses of joy in those years, it took many more before joy became a part of my life.

So when I hear the texts this week, I can’t help but think of those years when I expected a God who never showed up. I expected a God who would claim my life and make it new in that instant. Somehow, I believed that if I were “doing it right,” I’d be happy, healthy, and whole. No doubt that many of those “brood of vipers” John the Baptist addressed had similar thoughts. I think John had thoughts like that, too. Jesus was going to come and fix everything. You know, set the people free and all that. Well, no such luck.

And a few years later Paul comes along and tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” How? The world is a mess. God hasn’t fixed a darn thing. People are the same flawed, fragile folks we’ve always been. Where’s this joy we’ve been promised?

That’s just the thing. The joy is everywhere all the time because God has already been one of us. God has already cracked open the bleakest, coldest places in the world to allow in hope and warmth. There’s always an alternative to the fear and anxiety that is soul destroying. And it isn’t about just one person. It’s about all of us allowing for the possibility of the Mystery guiding us toward something else, away from our expectations. We are to share one another’s burdens and one another’s joys. When we enter into honest relationship with each other, then the power and warmth that is Holy pours through us and into the lives of others. And the world changes.

My mistake on that Sunday so long ago, was in thinking that being confirmed in faith was all about me. It wasn’t. It was about God working in the world, touching the particularity of me, inviting me into a much greater whole. If I am honest, I still have days when I wonder where the joy is, but mostly I feel it when I am still long enough to see that God is present, still working against my expectations and offering what the world really needs. And catching me by surprise nearly every time.

If we aren’t experiencing the hope, peace, joy, and love of God this Advent season, perhaps we need to adjust our expectations…

RCL – Year C – Third Sunday of Advent – December 13, 2015
Zephaniah 3:14-20
Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

Emerging Church Musings Sermon Starter

It’s Not About Me (or You)


Up until this year, I’d really thought of Advent as an opportunity to do some spiritual housekeeping. It was a season to clean out the clutter and center on joy and love once more. In many ways, it was like Lent without the intense focus on sin, repentance, and forgiveness. And it was deeply personal. The worship services provided a framework for a more inward focus. I grew to love Advent for all its candles and the joy that takes over the last couple of weeks. Until this year.

This year I am having a very different experience. My personal spiritual state doesn’t seem all that important as I hear the haunting echoes of the wilderness cry to prepare the way of the Lord. It strikes me that God didn’t whisper to Micah or Isaiah or John the Baptist. There were no quiet thoughts passed through dreams to reassure the prophets. Rather, they were given the task and sent out to proclaim what needed doing. They shouted it out loud – in the wilderness, in the desert, in the city. There was a promise and an urgency. God is coming and the way is not yet made clear. You’d best get to it.

This call to prepare for God’s coming wasn’t given to an individual so she could take a personal inventory so much as it was given to a community. A faithful community has the resources to prepare for God to come into the world anew. Make straight the highway of our God. It sounds nice and poetic even. These aren’t just pretty lines from scripture, though. There’s a demand here. And I don’t think we hear it very well.

What do we know of how God enters into the world? Well, God shows up primarily in relationships. So if our relationships with each other and with creation are messed up, then those highways, those paths, God journeys along are pretty twisted up as well. How is God going to break into a world where hatred rules over love? Where guns and death are commonplace? Where children go hungry? Where people wander homelessly? You get the idea. Preparing the way for God suddenly seems a bit daunting, doesn’t it? It’s not as easy as singing Christmas carols and organizing pageants.

This is where community comes in. We as Church have the capacity to untangle those highways. We can work together to bring about justice for the oppressed in the world. What would happen if every church of every denomination demanded a welcome for refugees, justice for people of color, equality for LGBT folks, and care for the poor, the sick, the orphaned? And we went about actually doing these very things? We might just find that path that leads to peace.

I’m all for the feel-good part of the holiday season. Now I want to get to the do-good part. Instead of going to one more holiday party where the concern is food, clothing, and beverages, why not go to a rally for peace or a Black Lives Matter protest or a vigil for Syrian refugees or an interfaith gathering for prayer and conversation? Why not make this Advent about bringing justice and love into the world?

We aren’t meant to do this Advent thing alone. We are meant to join our voices together in calling for preparation and we are meant to join hands in untangling the highways for our God. God has called out to us. Now what?

Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.
Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;
put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;
for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.
For God will give you evermore the name,
“Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.”

 RCL – Year C – Second Sunday in Advent – Peace – December 6, 2015
Malachi 3:1-4 or Baruch 5:1-9
Luke 1:68-79
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6

Bidding Prayer Emerging Church liturgy Prayer Uncategorized

A Bidding Prayer for the Living of These Days

Come, let us pray for faithful people everywhere.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Loving Creator, you are the Alpha and Omega of all that is. The names we have for you are more numerous than we like to admit. The theologies we have constrchurch-59514_1920ucted cannot define or contain you. Remind us that you call people of all ages and places and reveal to them a way of love and peace. While language, tradition, and beliefs may separate us, you make no distinction among those who honor you by seeking paths of loving kindness. Replace our judgments and fears with courage to see you in the face of neighbors and strangers.
God of compassion and mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Come, let us pray for the church as it gathers here and elsewhere.
people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
God who lived among us to teach us the way of peace, you yearn for us to turn to you. Your heart breaks when war and violence are perpetrated in your name. If we are to be the Body of Christ here and now, then we must offer hospitality and sanctuary to all who seek it – especially when asylum seekers speak a different language, call you by another name, or look different than we do. Remind us of the ways in which you spoke truth to power and set people free. Strengthen and encourage us to speak that same truth until justice is available to all.
God of compassion and mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Come, let us pray for all people, especially our enemies.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Ruler of all, robed in majesty, Holy One, we cannot imagine that you love everyone with the same unconditional, unearned love. We like to pretend that our way is the only way that honors you and that you love us best. Yet, if we are truthful, then we know that you love those who hurt us including the people of ISIS and Boko Haram and their hateful, violent acts hurt you as well. Yet, your love goes on forever. We are to live in this steadfast love. Give us the courage to lift our enemies before you and respond to hatred with your love and reminding ourselves that hateful, violent actions do not come from you.
God of compassion and mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Come, let us pray for this nation that is home to so many peoples.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Gracious God who is, who was, and who is to come, you have blessed us with an abundance and desire for us to share with those in need. We’d like to beliewelcome-976277_1920ve that our country is your favorite, yet we know that your love knows no bounds. We’d also like to believe that the troubles of other countries are not ours. You call us to bear one another’s burdens and to care for those who cannot care for themselves. Set us free from the fear that binds us to brokenness. Speak your truth to those in power and empower those who hide in shadows to join together in the work for justice and peace.
God of compassion and mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Come, let us pray for the marginalized, the overlooked, the dismissed, and the forgotten people all around us.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Indwelling, ever-present God, you would make your home in us. All of us are created in your image and you would make each of us a temple of the Holy Spirit. Nothing can change that – not homelessness, mental illness, disabilities, economics, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other category we have created that enables us to devalue another human being. You tell us to love our neighbors and ourselves without qualifiers. May the day soon arrive when we can see you in whom we meet.
God of compassion and mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Come, let us pray for all who are grieving.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Eternal God of both the living and the dead, we turn to you for comfort and hope. Grief has touched us all this week. We feel the pain of Lebanon, France, Iraq, and Nigeria and of those much closer to home who have lost loved ones to violence and suicide. Remind us that the way of violence is not your way, that you came to show us how to live in love and peace. Even now, as we reach for that peace that passes all human understanding, we ask for your forgiveness, your healing, and your grace.
God of compassion and mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Come, let us give thanks to God.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Patient and generous God, our words fail to express the gratitude we offer. Even in times of sin, darkness, and despair you continue to love us and wait so patiently for us to return to the light of your love. Your truth calls to us over and over again. May the gratitude we feel in this moment open us even more to the power of your Holy Spirit to transform us that we may transform the world in love to bring about your peace.
In Christ’s holy name we pray.


RCL – Year B – Reign of Christ Sunday – November 22, 2015
2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-12 [13-18]
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

All images from Pixabay. Used with permission.

Emerging Church Musings Sermon Starter

Bartimaeus, Black Lives Matter, and Blindness


May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

I don’t know about you, but I am appalled by the news of churches burning in St. Louis. Six black churches in a week and mainstream media has barely picked up the story! Why is it that when an oppressed people cries for justice the response is often more violence? I thought that the murders that took place at Mother Emanuel last spring were as bad as it would get; I was wrong. The fact that police officers around the country are still murdering people of color and getting away with it is worse. The fact that churches are burning and no one is paying attention is worse. The fact that I live in a city that has had eight fatal shootings in the last week is worse. These things are horrifying because the cry for justice has been met with an increase in the on-going violence.

Of course, this isn’t new human behavior. Look at the story of Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus had apparently lost his sight previous to our encounter with him. As a blind man he had heard of Jesus and his ability to heal. So when Jesus is traveling near, Bartimaeus shouts from the crowd, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” The crowd is none too thrilled. They try to silence him because he is both unclean and making a political statement even as he asks for mercy. It’s a risky thing to declare Jesus as the true king in a public place where tensions are already running high. Bartimaeus doesn’t want to be silenced; he wants mercy.

What follows is rather remarkable. Jesus ignores the crowds and calls Bartimaeus to him. He makes no assumptions about what Bartimaeus might want, but asks him directly. Bartimaeus is clear what mercy is for him; he wants his sight restored. Jesus restores Bartimaeus vision and tells him to go on his way. Bartimaeus doesn’t leave. Instead, he becomes a follower.

The church could learn a lesson or two from this brief encounter between Jesus and Bartimaeus. Jesus did not ignore the cry for mercy even though it carried political risk. In fact, I suspect that Jesus responded as he did because it was politically risky. Jesus was demonstrating to the crowd that they had a choice about authority and who handed out justice. He also clearly demonstrated that offering mercy is an effective way to gather people in.

Churches tend to complain about losing numbers. Yet, we also tend to be pretty good at ignoring and shushing calls for mercy and justice. It is politically safer to stay quietly aligned with tradition than it is to ask that those crying out for justice come to us and answer what it is that we might do for them. In other words, why do we sit back and watch the violence caused by the systemic racism in this country instead of asking what is needed from us? Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus didn’t define what mercy or justice looked like for Bartimaeus. So we as the church, the Body of Christ, should not be defining justice and mercy for those who are crying out for them; we should be listening carefully to what is already being asked of us. Why are we not listening to groups like Black Lives Matter and responding to the cries for justice with mercy rather than the violence aimed at silencing them? And what might happen in our churches if we started listening better and responding accordingly?

Perhaps it is time that the church ask for Jesus, son of David, to have mercy on us and restore our sight…


There have been enough seeds sown with tears. Isn’t it time for reaping with shouts of joy? What better way to honor Reformation Sunday than to take the risk of responding to cries for justice with more than silence that permits violence…

RCL – Year B – Reformation Sunday – 22nd Sunday after Pentecost – October 25, 2015
Job 42:1-6, 10-17                                                         Photos from Pixabay. Used by permission.
Psalm 34:1-8 [19-22]
Jeremiah 31:7-9
Psalm 126
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 10:46-52

Emerging Church Musings Sermon Starter

Beautiful Feet

2015-07-04 20.27.42

Many years ago while I was serving my first church as associate pastor, I horrified two elderly women one afternoon. It was a late summer or early fall day and I happened to be the only one in the office when these ladies stopped by. I went to open the door and they noticed my bare feet. My shoes were tucked under my desk where they were most of the time I was in the office. I hadn’t given a thought to slipping them on before I answered the door. These women took one look at my feet and expressed their disapproval. It apparently was not appropriate for a pastor to be barefoot in the church.

So, without hesitating I said, “Oh, I think you might be wrong about that.” They looked at me with raised eyebrows waiting to see what I was going to say. They had previously expressed concerns about a having a woman who was “so young” and now here I was telling them they were wrong. “It’s biblical to be barefoot in church, you see…” They didn’t think so. “God told Moses to take of his shoes for he was standing on holy ground. Aren’t we standing on holy ground?”

They gave me an odd look but said no more. The next Sunday as I was walking down the aisle during the closing hymn, I saw these women in their back pew seats grinning at me. I looked down at their feet and, yes, they were barefoot. And my relationship with them was much improved from that moment on.

I think of these women whenever I read the passage about Moses and his bare feet or the passage in Isaiah that describes the “beautiful feet” of the one “who brings good news.” That day was a turning point in my ministry at that church so it made those old, travel-worn feet beautiful. However, I don’t usually find feet beautiful and I’m not sure that we think every messenger who announces peace, good news, or salvation is very attractive at all. If James and John are any indication, we miss the announcement and don’t even recognize the messenger or the message, let alone his or her feet.

They were focused on glory. Something, and I don’t know what exactly, gave them the idea that Jesus would live on in amazing glory. They wanted to be close to him, to share his glory more fully than any others. They missed the announcement of peace, good news, and salvation. They were heading right for the fun part. Skip the trial and suffering and let’s just go to that brilliant power they’d seen at the moment of transfiguration. Never mind all that stuff Jesus was saying about leaving family, selling everything, radically changing their lives. Let’s just grab hold of the glory because that’s the good part.

Jesus was having none of that. Will you drink from my cup? Will you share in my baptism? I can only imagine the genuine look of confusion on the faces of James and John. I can see it on my own face often enough. No. No, I don’t want to drink from that cup that offers liberation, healing, grace, salvation and so much more to everyone. I’d rather just focus on my own two feet, thank you very much. And no, I don’t want to share in that baptism that cracks open the skies and demands  the receiving and giving of limitless, steadfast love in exchange. No, thank you very much. You keep the hard stuff and hand me the glory, okay?

That’s not the way it works, though. We are called to be a servant people in service to the whole of creation. It isn’t about who sits closest to Jesus in heaven or who gets to the pearly gates with clean feet. It’s about offering the cup that overflows with mercy and grace to those who are so very thirsty. You know the ones. They are the refugees, the undocumented workers, those who are mentally ill, those who can’t afford healthy food, those who can’t access health care, those experiencing homelessness, and all the others who challenge our comfortable, complacent lives. It’s also about living in that baptism of the Holy Spirit that enables us to embody love for all of God’s beloved.

Simply announcing peace, good news, and salvation are not enough. Our feet must become tired, sore, and a little bruised with the living out of the message. We’re supposed to show up and be in solidarity with those who suffer and are pushed to the margins. Beautiful feet are not the pretty, neatly manicured ones. Beautiful feet are the old, travel warn feet that tell a story of a life lived stumbling along the way of peace while trying to bring good news and salvation to those in the most need.

Glory is easy enough, but it is really insufficient for the journey and it doesn’t serve anyone. Isn’t it time we stop thinking about ourselves and start serving those most in need? Your feet won’t have to take you far to find someone in need of a sip from that cup or a touch of that baptism. And, by the way, in case you forget like I so often do, those feet tucked neatly in your shoes or barefoot under your desk, those feet are Christ’s feet; may we use them well.

RCL – Year B – Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost – October 18, 2015
Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c
Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 91:9-16
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

Bidding Prayer Emerging Church liturgy

Bidding Prayer for Compassion

courage-853466_1920Come, let us pray for the Church throughout the world.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Eternal God, “Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” Too often we complain like Job when suffering is unfair while at the same time turning from those who have greater needs. Let us hear Amos as he called for justice so long ago. May all those who call upon you band together to establish justice and embody your love for all people.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come, let us pray for the United Church of Christ gathered here and elsewhere.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Compassionate God, “Prosper for us the work of our hands.” We can so easily become distracted by things that don’t matter, things that divide us rather than unite us. Eternal life is not a far-off, someday thing; it’s here and now. You call us to be peace-makers, hope-bearers, life-savers. Open our ears to words of mercy, grace and forgiveness so that we may be about your transforming work today. Be with all those you have called into leadership, especially the Rev. John Dorhauer, our general minister and president. May the service we offer in Christ’s name honor you.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

gate-419890_1920Come, let us pray for God’s people in every nation.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Steadfast God, you yearn for the day when all people will “Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate.” May the day soon come when all humanity grows tired of our warring ways. You created a world of beautiful, amazing diversity of people, places, words, and worship. Forgive us when our hearts fill with fear in the presence of neighbors and strangers. Too many have forgotten that people of all nations bear your image and that we are all created to live in communion with one another. Remind us that with you, all things are possible, even a world that lives in peace.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come, let us pray for this country and all those who live within its borders.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Patient God, we “know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” You call us to live by them, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Yet, we find ourselves following the ways of money and power. We forget that we are responsible for those who are in need, those who are oppressed, those who live without justice. We are easily fooled into believing that things cannot change and politicians always want what is best for the nation. Grand wisdom to those who are elected to lead this country, especially Barak Obama. Call us out of our apathy and complacency that we may be a nation of hospitality, freedom, and justice for all who call this country home no matter where they have come from, the color of their skin, the language they speak, or the name they know you by.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come, let us pray for all those in need.kindness-710209_1280
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Loving God, may we “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” There are cries all around us – for help, for hope, for justice, for shelter, for food, for care, for safety, for acceptance… Sometimes we are exhausted and overwhelmed by the needs of people near and far. Remind us that we have all that we need in you, that you are a source of abundant grace, mercy, love, and hope. Use our hands, our feet, our voices, our community, our resources to ease the pain of those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come let us pray for those who are experience grief and loss.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Healing God, your word is “living and active” even in the midst of despair. May those who grieve the loss of a loved one experience your light shining through the darkest hours of grief. For those who struggle with a death that has been violent and unexpected, especially murder and suicide, grant us compassion and tenderness to care for survivors. For those who have lost jobs, homes, sense of purpose, physical ability, cognitive capacity, or sense of identity, may we have the grace to be merciful companions on this journey.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come, let us give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Generous God, you tell us that when we leave “house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for [your] sake and for the sake of the good news” we will receive a hundredfold. May we trust in this promise and freely give you thanks for the abundant life you offer everyone. Turn our hearts from fearful ways that prevent us from sharing your gifts to hearts filled with gratitude that enable us to live lives of kindness, mercy, and generosity.

We give you thanks for the compassion you bestow in abundance on your servants.

RCL – Year B – Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – October 11, 1015
Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Psalm 22:1-15
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

Photos from Pixabay. Used by permission.

Emerging Church Story

A Modern Take on the Creation Story

When I was in fourth or fifth grade I read every myth I could get my hands on. It didn’t matter what culture they came from, Native American, Celtic, Greek, Roman, Chinese, I read all that I could find. I loved these stories for the imaginative way they explained how some things came to be. Even though I didn’t understand it then, I was drawn to the Truth in them that often comes through great stories.

Of course, it was years later when I came to understand many scriptural stories in the same way. It’s the Truth that gets me every time. This week’s lectionary contains a section of the creation story. It’s a story that is beautiful and Truthful. However, it has been a source of pain for some. I don’t think it was meant to be since it is an ancient story and could only speak to what was known at the time it came to life. So I’ve take quite a bit of liberty and written a version of this story that includes more of what we know now. You may or may not find it helpful…


In the days before time began to flow, there existed the One-Who-is-Many. The One-Who-is-Many was surrounded by sacred silence and was content for it to be so. Until one day when the One-Who-is-Many imagined a world filled with life and breath and hope.

Days were not yet days, but a span of time stretched and shaped in many ways and directions, when out of sacred silence the One-Who-is-Many pulled a solid sphere of matter. This matter came together because the imagination of the One-Who-is-Many willed it to be. There were periods of light and dark at the end of this first eternal day. The One-Who-is-Many was pleased with creation for it was good. Yet, there was more to be done.

So on the second eternal day, the One-Who-is-Many, separated the sphere with all its gases and waters from the sky around it. On this sphere there was now above and below as well as light and dark. The One-Who-is-Many was pleased with creation for it was good. Yet, there was more to be done.

prairie-679014_1280On the third eternal day, which may have been longer than other eternal days, the One-Who-is-Many separated land from the seas. Seeing the barren places, the One-Who-is-Many, touched them with sacred silence and brought forth plants and vegetation of all kinds. All kinds of growing things that would change and lead to other kinds of green and growing things as the eternal days went on and on.  Now the sphere had plants, land, and seas as well as ground below and sky above and light and dark. The One-Who-is-Many was pleased with creation for it was good. Yet, there was more to be done.

On the fourth eternal day, which also stretched on and on, the One-Who-is-Many set great lights in the sky. The sun would rule the day and the moon and stars would rule the night. The One-Who-is-Many enjoyed shining lights into the nights and bringing warmth to the days. The sphere turned slowly and seasons came into being.  Now there were sun, moon, and stars, growing things, land and seas, ground and sky, and light and dark. The One-Who-is-Many was pleased with creation for it was good. Yet, there was more to be done.

On the fifth eternal day, the One-Who-is-Many rejoiced to set living beings free in the water and in the air. Some were placed so deep in the waters that they have yet to be seen and some have long been forgotten. But on the fifth eternal day, bird song filled the air and whale song filled the seas. These creatures brought forth others and others as the sphere turned slowly day after day. Creatures of the air and creatures of the sea filled the sphere and enjoyed the sun, moon, and stars, plants of all kinds, land and seas, ground and sky, and light and dark. The One-Who-is-Many was pleased with creation for it was good. Yet, there was more to be done.

On the sixth, and maybe the longest, eternal day, the One-Who-is-Many set about makingbaby-feet-402844_1920 all the creatures of the earth. Things with fur and things with scales. Large things and small things and all kinds of hidden things. Some have come to be named and known while others remain hidden and still others have been forgotten. The One-Who-is-Many took great delight in fashioning all the creatures of the earth, for they were all good.

Late in the day, the One-Who-is-Many realized a loneliness. All the wonders and beauty of creation, yet nothing was like the One-Who-is-Many. So the One-Who-is-Many mixed sacred silence with the mud and matter of creation to fashion a human one. And it was very good. The human one went about naming all that the One-Who-is-Many had made. It was a good day.

As evening came, the One-Who-is-Many saw that the human one was alone. Neither the One-Who-is-Many nor any of the animals were much like it. Realizing that none should be alone, the One-Who-is-Many imagined a companion for the human one. Soon the human one was wrapped in sacred silence so that the One-Who-is-Many could shape another from flesh and bone. This human one was meant to keep the other human one company. Together they were more like the One-Who-is-Many than they were apart. They came to be known as male and female, man and woman.

Some think the sixth eternal day ended here. But others have come to know the story differently. These know that many more human ones were made in the image of the One-Who-is-Many. There is beauty and diversity, even more so as the day stretched on. These others would come to be known as queer people – gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, asexual, and many more. Together with male and female they were more like the One-Who-is-Many than they were apart. All made of flesh and bone and sacred silence, given breath and life and bearing the image of the One-Who-is-Many.

At the end of the sixth eternal day, the One-Who-is-Many looked over all of creation and saw that it was good. The human ones were given the honor of watching over the whole of creation. They were to be caretakers for the earth creatures, creatures of the air and creatures of the sea, everything that grew under the sun, moon, and stars, plants of all kinds, land and seas, ground and sky, and light and dark. The human ones delighted the One-Who-is-Many who was pleased with the whole of creation for it was very, very good.

bank-894308_1280Finally, the seventh eternal day came. It was the shortest of all eternal days. On this day the One-Who-is-Many rested and rejoiced over the works of Creation. It was good to rest on this seventh eternal day. Soon, time would begin to flow as it does now and the human ones would keep the One-Who-is-Many very, very busy because they often forget that though they are many, not one of them is the One-Who-is-Many. But these are stories for another day.

RCL – Year B – Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 4, 2015
Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Psalm 26
Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm 8
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

Photos from Pixabay. Used by permission.

Emerging Church Poetry Prayer Sermon Starter

A Mixture of Things

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, then you know that I seldom post on anything not related to the lectionary. This week I am at the Widening the Welcome Conference which is sponsored by the Disabilities Ministry and the Mental Health Network of the United Church of Christ. The goal of this conference is to, well, widen the welcome of our churches through education, shared experience, and building relationships. On Saturday, I will present a workshop on Congregations and Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention. The poem below is what I plan to read as I begin. It’s from my book, A Circle in the Dark: Daily Meditations for Advent.

I did happen to write on the lectionary earlier this week. If you are putting a sermon together, you might want to look here.


A Prayer for Peace

Where is our refuge and our shelter?
We sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
War and violence fill our lives
year after year.

Is there no better way?

Lord, in Your mercy,
guide our feet in the way of peace.

We are awash in the bloodstains of judgment
and caught in the storms of hatred.
Ignorance and isolation separate us
day after day.

Is there no better way?

Lord, in Your mercy,
guide our feet in the way of peace.

We burn with shame and guilt
pleading with gods of our making
to offer us forgiveness and life
hour by hour.

Is there no better way?

Lord, in Your mercy,
guide our feet in the way of peace.

We are lost in the wilderness of fear
unable to recall the prophets of old.
We deceive ourselves
moment by moment.

Is there no better way?

Lord, in Your mercy,
guide our feet in the way of peace.

Photo from pixabay. Used by permission.

Emerging Church Musings Sermon Starter

Charged with Welcome

photo-album-584709_1280Some weeks come with their very own theme. I’m not sure exactly how it happens, but this week I’ve had many conversations about seeing the “other.” The conversations were with colleagues, parishioners, friends, and my wife. The specific topics included systemic racism, rights for undocumented immigrants, refugees, politics, and even self-hatred. Seeing, recognizing, acknowledging the other was the subtext in all these discussions. The news of the week raised this topic with the refugee/migrant/asylum seekers exiting Syria and unsettling many European countries. So too with Ahmed and his clock that got him arrested for being Muslim and showing a remarkable technical capacity.

Underscoring these news stories is the Gospel text for this week. Of course, the disciples in Mark are arguing over who is the greatest among them in their exclusive little group. The story may seem relatively innocuous–a bunch of men debating power and position. However, this incident is a segment of a much larger story. Jesus learned something from the Syrophoenician woman about the value of those outside of Israel who had always been considered unclean or, at least, less worthy than the people of Israel. He learned that lesson in one brief interaction and we have yet to learn it 2000 years later. I think we are still having the argument the disciples were having that day as they walked along rather than living by what Jesus had to say to them in response.

The disciples saw glimpses of Jesus’ divinity and wanted to get as close to that as they possibly could. They argued about who was greatest among them thinking that status would get them a seat closer to God in heaven. Jesus turns their argument upside. Children were not particularly valued in those days. Jesus really meant that part about being last and being servant of all. Welcome a lowly child and you welcome God. That’s pretty intense and not at all what the disciples thought the Messiah would say.

It seems that we still don’t want Jesus to be saying these kinds of things. Why is it okay that a presidential candidate slams immigrants and promises to build a wall around Mexico? Why is it okay that people respond to Black Lives Matter with threats of horrific violence? Why is it okay that Muslims are assumed to be terrorists? Why is it okay that there is a debate over whether refugees are really refugees when their country is wracked by war? Why is it okay to walk down the street and willfully overlook homeless people? Why is it okay to fear the “other” and dehumanize them without even thinking about who they are or where they come from?


It’s been more than two millennia since Jesus talked about being his follower by taking up one’s cross, being last, and being a servant of all. Seriously, when will we learn? We truly have resources enough to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the refugee, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. What are we going to do in the name of Christ to ensure that all find the welcome Jesus charged us with so long ago?

RCL – Year B – Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proverbs 31:10-31
Psalm 1
Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22 or Jeremiah 11:18-20
Psalm 54
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
Mark 9:30-37

Photos from Pixabay. Used with permission.

Emerging Church Musings Sermon Starter

Significant Questions


After a short though very intense week, I find myself asking if it isn’t too late to go back to the weeks of “bread?”  I know clergy often find those weeks to be repetitive and, therefore, challenging. However, these tense encounters with Jesus in Mark’s gospel might cause discomfort more than challenge. Last week was the Syrophoenician woman who revealed Jesus’ humanity in an uncomfortable manor. This week is a revelation of Jesus’ divinity that I find no more comfortable.

Scholars have written plenty about this passage. The fact that Caesarea Philippi was a Roman stronghold made this whole public conversation between Jesus and his disciples rather risky. As one of my colleagues put it early this week, the disciples probably said something like, “Jesus, please don’t mention crosses here! We all know what Romans use them for!” The anxiety Jesus provoked in the disciples when he asked, “Who do you say that I am?” is no mystery.

This question has haunted me through the week. Who is Jesus? What does my answer say about who I am? As the stories of Kim Davis filled the headlines, I wasn’t particularly drawn to the rigid, unforgiving Jesus she claims. After the images of the dead boy on the beach, some said that these things are “God’s will.” Surely Jesus is not one who wills the death of a child, the death of any innocent. On the anniversary of 9/11 and remembering the fear and hatred that both caused the events and consumed so many in the early days, I am not drawn to a Jesus who condones hatred and rejection of those who call God by another name.

It is easy enough to say who Jesus is not. My answer to who Jesus is at this moment is that Jesus is divine love incarnate, the Christ. The Christ who makes forgiveness, grace, healing, and, ultimately, love, the final word. This poses no problem. However, when I think about what this says about who I am in response…

If Jesus is Love Incarnate, then I am to be the embodiment of that same love. Then I am also to “take up my cross.” I don’t think this is a reference of how I bear my own suffering as has often been preached. Instead, I think this is a reference to what I choose to bear on behalf of another in order to alleviate, or at least lighten, the suffering of that person or persons.

Who do you say that Jesus is? And what does your answer say about who you are called to be?

RCL – Year B – Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 13, 2015
Proverbs 1:20-33
Psalm 19 or Wisdom 7:26-8:1
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 116:1-9
James 3:1-12
Mark 8:27-38

Photo from Pixabay. Used with permission.