This is the fourth sermon in our Lenten series, “Fully Alive: Living as Warrior, Monk and Mystic.” It is followed by a reflection by Kelli Pearson, a member of our congregation, on identifying with the mystic archetype.
Have you ever had the experience of being enlarged? In that moment, you felt yourself a part of something far bigger than your small self. And maybe that bigness felt so big it seemed to have a capital letter — capital-l Life, capital-l Love, capital-g God. Maybe you experienced it when you saw your child’s face for the first time and knew yourself to be part of the great river of Life. May you felt it in a moment of intimacy, and you knew yourself to be in Love. Maybe you were out hiking and felt the boundaries between yourself and the manzanita tree and and the sky become permeable, softer – and you saw yourself not as separate, but a part of All that is.
This sermon is the third in our Lenten series called “Fully Alive: Living as Warrior, Mystic, Monk.”It is followed by a reflection by David Wieand, a member of our congregation, on identifying with the monk archetype.
Are you, like Martha, distracted by many things? Do you feel fragmented, pulled in many directions? Does it seem as though you too often spend your days tending to the trivial, while those things you really care about, those things your heart beats loudly for languish for another day? Do you wish for more balance in your life, more simplicity? Do you long, like Mary, to choose the “one – or two or three things – necessary” and consistently order your life around those things?
Do you long to be more present to your life? Would you like to slow down and savor your life more? Do you wish you could experience the feeling you have while on retreat, or vacation or over the weekend in the week-dailiness of your life — – as you’re spreading butter on the toast for our kids, as you’re tackling your morning email inbox, as you head into your 4th meeting or class of the day? It’s in the here and now, in the ordinariness of our lives — not in some special, set-aside times like weekends or vacations — that we long for wholeness. It’s in the here and now that we long for an undivided heart: to be wholly present to this moment.
This is the second sermon in our Lenten series, “Fully Alive: Living as Warrior, Monk and Mystic.”It is followed by a reflection by Kenda Host, a member of our congregation, on identifying with the warrior archetype.
Draw your strength from the Spirit of Life within and all around you. Put on the beautiful garments of Life, so that you may be able to stand boldly against the lies of this present age. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the systems of oppression that hold the earth in bondage. Therefore take up the whole armor of Life, so that you may be able to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of right relationship. As shoes for your feet, put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of despair and destruction. Take the helmet of salvation, and the wand of the Spirit, which is the bestower of Life. Pray in communion with the Spirit at all times and keep alert.
For those for whom this passage about the armor of God is familiar, you will have noticed a few differences in the version that Angie just read. It comes from the Joanna Revised Standard Version of the text.
This sermon is the first in our Lenten series called Fully Living: Living as Warrior, Mystic, Monk.
Let’s do a Zoom poll but without actually being on Zoom.How many of you have had a practice of observing Lent at some point in your life — either you grew up with or it or it was something you did as an adult? For those of you who have done that, for how many of you was it about giving something up? I’m not down on that practice. There’s something to be said for having a season during which we exercise self-control. That can be good training.
Imagine yourself in the forest that we just heard about during Children’s Time. What do you think you’d be noticing if you were in the forest? Maybe the sound of birds or the height of the trees? Maybe the skittering of the squirrels, rustling the leaves as they bound across branches? Maybe you’d notice the pinecones strewn across the path or a mushroom popping up under some ivy? Maybe you would notice the smell of leaves or of an eucalyptus tree nearby?
Since I’m about to give our version of the “State of the Union” address typically given by U.S. presidents, I thought I’d check out last year’s State of the Union address to get a sense of the similarities and differences between that ritual and ours. Similarities? People come in late for that event, too. And, it’s hard to get people to stop talking to each other and get started. Nancy Pelosi has to bang that gavel, hard, several times. Maybe our worship leaders should do that? As for differences: Joanna or I don’t normally get introduced — “Ladies and gentleman, the pastors of FMCSF!” — and then we don’t walk into the sanctuary as you all stand and clap. Why doesn’t that happen? And you don’t keep standing and applauding once we step up to the podium, such that we have to say, “Thank you, thank you. Thank you very much” as a way of quieting you down and then when we say that you clap even louder and start cheering, and we stand there, humbly. And this clapping and cheering keeps happening again and again throughout the speech. Again, why not?
To tell you the truth I’m tired of these one day holidays that we, as a country, adore year after year, from President’s day, Caesar Chavez day, Indigenous People’s or Columbus Day and of course MLK day. It’s not because I do not value what they represent or that I don’t believe in justice or equality or progress. I’m tired of them because I find them to be frankly trite. Every January we celebrate MLK day. Every February we celebrate President’s day. Every October we celebrate Indigenous People’s day. AndI hear the same thing about that person or event each year. Particularly, the symbol of MLK has been lost for me since I know the story and I also know I get a day off. I get a day for each of these holidays. I also know if I need a new car, there will be MLK deals for a ford or a toyota. Or MLK deals at the shopping center. In his book Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, Neil Postman calls this symbol draining (see chapter 10). The more you hear and see the symbol, the more it loses its efficacy and since we live in a consumer-oriented society, the more that symbol is usurped by consumerist values. MLK holiday has been taken over by the system.
This sermon is the third in our Advent Series, “Embracing Our Chaotic, Fertile Reality,” which is based in prophecies from Isaiah as well as the wisdom of a modern-day prophet, adrienne maree brown, author of Emergent Strategy.
There is so much beauty and abundance in this passage from Isaiah. They are words written for a community in exile, longing for home. It’s a vision of the fertile path that they will tread as they make their return. And they were not just words of hope for the Hebrew people in Babylon, they were words repeated generation after generation, reminding the people of the liberating way of life made possible by YHWH – the Divine presence dwelling with them.
When we reroot these words in their context, among the people for whom they are written located in a specific geographic region, it becomes even more clear why Isaiah’s words were associated with the birth of Jesus/Yeshua in first century Palestine.
This sermon is the first in our Advent Series, “Embracing Our Chaotic, Fertile Reality,” which is based in prophecies from Isaiah as well as the wisdom of a modern-day prophet, adrienne maree brown, author of Emergent Strategy.We used this wonderful children’s book, which describes fractals so both children and adults can understand them.
I was walking my dog about two weeks ago at night, and I noticed that someone already had a fully decorated fake Christmas tree in their picture window, and a couple of houses were already lit up with multi-colored strings of lights. I live on Christmas Tree Lane in Alameda, where we take Christmas seriously, but even I was “too much, too soon.” Promotions for stocking stuffers have been appearing on Amazon since Halloween. And the catalogs — even the ones I thought I had opted out of via the Catalog Choice website — have been arriving for weeks, the ones showing families wearing matching flannel PJs sipping hot cocoa in front of their Christmas tree.
I am connected. I am connected to my body, to the Spirit and to the earth. I am earth.
Those are the intentions I chose for myself while on the wilderness vigil last month. For four days and four nights I was alone in the woods without food. Seven others were also keeping vigil on the same piece of land, spread out, but within whistle distance if anything unexpected happened. We also had a team of five people keeping watch over the land and available for support if we vigilers were in need.
You can find an audio and video recording of this meditation here.
Blessed are you who are poor, hungry, sad and rejected. Woe to you who are rich, satiated, happy and popular. You’ll get yours. Boom. That’s the Gospel for today in a nutshell, right?
Is this text really telling us that we’re bad if we are financially and emotionally doing okay, even that God is going to get us back for all our ill-gotten wealth and health? And, furthermore, just what does this passage have to do with day in which we remember our loved ones who have died, other than the brief mention of those who mourn?
This year on Mennonite Heritage Sunday, we asked three people from our community to reflect on what was going on in the story of the church and the story of their own lives when they first arrived in our community. Jennifer Graber reflected from 30 years ago, Ann Speyer from 20 years ago, and Jonathan Hershberger from 10 years ago.Video and audio of the reflections can be found here.
Jennifer Graber’s reflection:
In June 1993, my husband Kevin and I moved to the Bay Area for him to begin his neurology residency at Stanford and for me to complete my pediatric residency there. We came to visit in March that year and on Sunday attended FMCSF. We recall being warmly welcomed by a small group of earnest young Mennos, some of whom invited us out for dim sum after church. John Flickinger, Doug Basinger and Dan Flickinger took us to Yank Sing in downtown SF. It was delicious, exciting and, when the bill came, horrifying to us poor residents. The divided bill would have come to $16 per person. As we were contemplating this, our new friends quickly paid, ever generous as they always are. When we moved out in June we returned to church in San Francisco, which was then meeting at the Dolores Street Baptist church on the corner of Dolores and 15th St (where a lovely newish condo building now stands). The next Sunday, that building had burned down and the church had to find a new place to meet.