Fishing for Young People Will NOT Save the Church!

A sermon for Epiphany 3B – Mark1:14-20

What I am suggesting is that if we be authentic to who we are; if we play to our many strengths we will continue to be the kind of congregation which is attractive to all ages. Healthy communities are attractive. Communities who know who they are and who they serve are healthy communities. Healthy communities are able to play to their strengths. We don’t need to become what we are not in order to survive. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to challenge ourselves to be more than we are. It does mean that we need to remain open to the challenges of the world in which we live.

But from time to time, we need to hold up a mirror and celebrate who we are together. Holy Cross is fearfully and wonderfully made. We have so much potential. So many strengths. Yes, there is so much more that we can be.

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Gathering

Have you come here this morning looking for hope and good news?
Yes! We have been searching for ways to draw new meanings from our old stories.

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#TimesUp

This is the second in a four part series on the #MeToo movement.

This is the second in a four part series on the #MeToo movement. This one, “#Time’s Up” addresses the hope for dramatic change in the nature of male and female coupling and the dangers inherent in allowing the revolution to lose its ethical moorings.

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The Power Hidden in a Choice

The two-faced Roman god, Janus, was often portrayed as a door with one face looking toward where you have been and the other looking towards where you are going. New Year’s Day ushers us into the month of January, named for Janus, symbolically suggesting that we are leaving an old year and entering a new one. Which seems like a good idea, especially this year, as long as we don’t drag our anger, resentment, and hurt from 2017 into 2018.

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If I Lose My Faith

In Alabama’s special election this week, more than 70% of white voters, most of whom are church going Christians, voted for a known racist, homophobe, xenophobe, Islamophobe, who was very credibly charged with multiple counts of pedophilia. There is a serious disconnect between the message of the gospels and public ethic on display here, a gap we must insist upon closing.

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Every Christmas is a Thin Place – Christmas Eve Sermon

Christmas, every Christmas is a Thin Place. According to the Irish, a Thin Place is a place where the boundaries between heaven and earth fall away. Every Christmas is a Thin Place where the boundaries between our everyday existence and the reality that we are all part of something so much bigger than ourselves, well these boundaries fade away at Christmas. Thin Places are those precious moments in time when the sacred can be seen in the everyday stuff of life. Christmas with its powerful parables, myths, metaphors, and symbols acts as a giant welcoming Thin Place were the boundaries and veils fall away and we are able to recognize the sacred in ourselves, in one another, and in the world around us. I could go on and on about the power of Thin Places to open us to the reality of the LOVE that we call God. But rather than try to explain how the Christmas stories, parables, myths, metaphors, and symbols create thin places, let me tell you a story designed to create a thin place where together we can see the veil between the scared and the everyday fade away.

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For Christ’s Sake! It’s Not About God!

– a sermon on the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25: 14-30

We all know full well that millions and millions are suffering and dying and yet to protect ourselves we bury what has been given to us, because we are afraid of being consumed by the wicked master who will surely banish us into the darkness if we do not keep safe what we have been given. We dare not risk loosing anything at all, lest we end up in the outer darkness weeping and gnashing our teeth.

So, for the most part we play it safe and we don’t take any risks and we spend our lives living in fear of that wicked master. If I had to draw a line between the wicked slave-master and some character, I wouldn’t have that line end up with God. Indeed, I’m sure that the wicked master is not God.

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The Profanity of ‘Thoughts and Prayers’

Offering our “thoughts and prayers” in a crisis can be an expression of sincere empathy but when you are capable of doing more and all you do is offer your thoughts and prayers then we quickly realize that such words are reflective of hollow hypocrisy. Prayer can be very helpful to our spiritual journey but as the African proverb teaches, “when you pray, move your feet.” We pray to change the one who prays so that we will do all that we can to meaningfully respond to the many crises we see happening all around us.

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To Whom Shall We Go to Say Thank-you After We Move Beyond Personifying God?

Thanksgiving Sunday Sermons

Expressing gratitude is a skill that all tiny little people must learn in order to develop into well-rounded human beings. Indeed, scientists insist that being grateful is a prerequisite of happiness. Happy humans it seems, are humans who embody gratitude. But there is more to gratitude than simply saying thank-you. I remember learning that gratitude includes more than simply expressing our thanks. It happened when I was about sixteen and actually noticed the beauty of a sunset and for the first time I realized that I was part of something so much bigger than myself.

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All Saints – Giving thanks for the Divine in One-another!

All Saints’ Day is a day for remembering. The word saint simply means “holy”. In the New Testament, all those who believe and were baptized were referred to as saints. It wasn’t until round about the third century that the church began using the word saint to refer to those who had been martyred for the faith. Over time these martyred saints were held up for veneration and people used to pray to them to intercede on their behalf. I’m not going to go into all of the institutional abuses that led Martin Luther and the later reformers to abolish the veneration of the saints. Except to say, that while the Reformation put an end to the veneration of the saints in the protestant churches, it did not abolish the concept of sainthood.

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Spiritual but not Religious…

Winston Churchill said that it takes courage to stand up and speak but it also takes courage to listen. Now, in the wake of a cascade of sexual predator and harassment cases involving powerful and wealthy men, we must have the courage to listen to victims without judgment. Truth does depend upon perspective and we should never assume that our own perspective is either universal or normative. Only through generous listening can we really understand other races, genders, and faiths in a way that fosters honest community.

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Dedication to Reality and Balancing

Scott Peck identified four tools of discipline that are crucial to meaningful living. This sermon addresses the last two of those four: Dedication to reality, and balancing. In our time of both religious duplicity and political “alternative truth” a firm reminder of the importance of being devoted to reality is a timely and helpful message.

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Living a Life Worth Living

M. Scott Peck writes in the Road Less Traveled that there are four basic tools of discipline that allow a person to live a problem solving life rather than a life problem avoiding (which argues leads not only to sorrow but also to mental illness). This sermon addresses the first two of those four: the ability to delay gratification and acceptance of responsibility. While most of this channel’s material addresses systemic injustice this sermon and the one that will follow next week are more personally focused on how we avoid “renting space in our skull” to the painful challenges of life.

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Long Overdue Reform of Gun Control

Not because of Vegas (or Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Orlando, Dallas, or even Sandy Hook) and not because of the 50 women who are murdered by their significant other every month, but because a predictable 32,000 Americans die every year from gunshot wounds and another 100,000 are wounded. No other western democracy comes anywhere close to our astonishingly high numbers and we cannot just nibble at the edges of this issue any longer. It isn’t “bump stocks” or semi-automatic weapons that gives us this annual bloodbath. It is primarily hand guns but on the whole, the USA is holding nearly half of the guns in the world and we just have to move in the direction of more sane and effective gun laws.

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Sometimes You Just Have to Be a Bitch!

Sometimes, we have to erase the boundaries that we have drawn and let some really annoying people in. Sometimes, we have to be a bitch so that we can push people beyond the boundaries. When push comes to shove, this being human requires that we live in community and life in community is messy and it is annoying, but life in community can also shape us in ways that open us to new ways of being human.

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Tribalism, Narcissism, Nationalism, and their Offspring

The religious left often finds itself at odds with the marketplace but when it comes to refugees and the undocumented, there is a purely profit driven approach that can give spiritual people a reason to cheer. There is more than a moral reason not to deport the 80,000 DACA youth living in the USA, looked at purely for their law-abiding, tax-paying potential, we need for them to stay here! A similarly strong economic argument can be made in favor of granting citizenship to foreign students who come here to earn advanced STEM degrees. Looked at from either a spiritual/compassionate perspective, or from an economic viewpoint: we do not need a Muslim ban, we don’t need a wall on the Mexican border, and we need to be much more welcoming of refugees.

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“Who Do You Say I AM?” – Jesus IS? – Part 3

We cannot un-know what we have learned. In the past one-hundred years biblical scholarship has exploded. In the halls of academia, in the seminaries of mainline denominations the quest for knowledge about Jesus has born so very much fruit. Now thanks to the explosions of the information age, information that was once reserved to the carefully initiated, is available to everyone. Wander into your local bookstore, or turn on your computer and you will discover more information than any one person could ever digest on the subject of Jesus. And yet, despite more than 2000 years of scholarship, theologizing, speculating, preaching, and teaching, the question, put on the lips of Jesus by the anonymous gospel-storyteller that we call Matthew, remains a daunting question to answer.

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Who Do You Say that I AM? Part 2

Matthew 16:13-28

  This sermon is the second in a series of three sermons responding to questions about Jesus’ identity. You can explore the part one here Part Two of this exploration of Jesus’ identity includes three reflections interspersed …

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