Sermon: While You Were Sleeping


Mark 4:26-34, Ezekiel 17:22-24

Every young kid growing up during Jesus’ time would have been familiar with the prophecy from Ezekiel that Diego just read.  Our kids recite Kendrick Lamar lyrics; those kids recited this prophecy — that God was going to take this small, vulnerable group of people and make something great of them. In the Bible, political kingdoms are often likened to trees or branches, so the people of Israel are the tender sprig from the top of the lofty cedar that God is going to plant on a high mountain. No longer would they be easily and often invaded, at the mercy of the massive superpowers surrounding them. Not only would be they be self-governing, autonomous, free – they would be more than that. They would be beacons of hope to others of the goodness of life lived under God’s reign. They would like be a noble cedar planted on a mountain that bore fruit and provided shelter for many creatures. Ezekiel’s’ stirring prophecy with that stirring image ends with these stirring words: I the Lord have spoken; I will accomplish it. 

But almost 600 years later, God’s promise still has not been fulfilled. The people of Israel have lived under a series of oppressive regimes. Throughout the centuries, revolutionaries and small armies have risen up, had small victories against these oppressors, but no one has been completely successful. Throughout the centuries, the people of Israel have tried to be faithful – tried to keep the commandments, tried to keep their end of the covenant – they fail, of course, but they keep trying. But God doesn’t seem to be fulfilling this promise to make of them a great nation, a noble cedar. It must have been so easy to fall into despair. To believe that their small acts of resistance or faithfulness didn’t stand a chance in the face of the largeness of their oppression. To believe that nothing they did really mattered, that their actions were bearing no fruit. 

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Reflections: Discipleship Group Sharing

This two reflections were given on Sunday, June 10, by members of our San Francisco and East Bay Discipleship Groups. Our Discipleship Groups are small groups that meet monthly to learn about and practice following in the way of Jesus.

San Francisco Discipleship Group Reflection

By Amy Bolaños

I called the patient’s name in the waiting room. A man in his mid-50s, unshaven, in tattered hat and clothes, stood up abruptly and walked brusquely toward me, barely acknowledging me as I greeted him and led him back to the exam room where I would take his blood pressure, review his medications and prepare him for his visit with the doctor. The tough, guarded look in his eyes, as well as his agitated body language, warned me to keep my voice and body language calm and to notice my safe and quick exit route from the room. As soon as I asked him how he was doing today, he launched into a barrage of threats to the stranger on the street who had just stolen his belongings. He hadn’t planned to come to the clinic today, but 30 minutes ago he was mugged by another man.

He had just picked up his medications from the pharmacy a few days ago, and they were in the bag that was stolen. “The meds aren’t going to do him any good! They’re for my heart! I hope he eats them all and it kills him!” The patient then began a 5-10 minute loud, angry monologue listing ways in which he planned to carry out revenge on this man. “I’ll find him, and when I do I’ll rip his face off! I’ll smash his head in!” etc. I just sat and listened to him vent his anger. When I could get a word in, I validated his pain and anger, trying to imagine experiencing such violence myself and the emotions it would bring up for me. I also reassured him that we would be able to help him replace his medications.

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Outreach Committee 2018: Mennofesto

By Outreach Committee

FMCSF CORE VALUES and PRACTICES in italics. Can be found on our website here.

2018 OUTREACH COMMITTEE MENNOFESTO (STRATEGIES & TACTICS) Found below each of the core values and practices.

First Mennonite Church of San Francisco strongly identifies with its rich Anabaptist heritage, believing that we are here to help bring about the realm of God that Jesus proclaimed in his ministry on earth. We live this out through these core values and practices: 

What animates us… 

We believe that community, discipleship, peace, justice, and reconciliation are fundamental values that call us to service every day of our lives. We actively seek practices of social engagement that help bring about God’s realm. 

  • We need a radical restructuring of society, a radical restructuring of ourselves and a radical restructuring of our communities. We are called to join the work of the Divine with a clarity about our role in the liberation movement. 
  • We are not called to do everything, but rather to be faithful to our collective calling as First Mennonite Church of San Francisco. We believe that collective power is what transforms our spiritually sick society and seek to align ourselves with other groups to build this collective power for change. We do this by starting with who we are.
  • We recognize our collective power in the following ways:
    • Our voices, education and platforms of influence.
    • Our economic resources and wealth.
    • Our rootedness in the Anabaptist tradition.
    • Our creative and problem-solving capacities.
    • Our ability to influence other Christians in positions of power who may or may not be aware of their destructive practices. 
  • While we celebrate and honor who we are as a congregation, our mission is not confined to protecting and uplifting ourselves:
    • We are a community committed to solidarity with recent immigrants and especially those targeted by ICE and unjust immigration policies. 
    • We are committed to environmental justice and learning from the Ohlone, Miwok, Pomo and other Indigenous peoples of this land about how we can honor and protect all life. 
    • We are committed to seeing through the ways that capitalism distorts our understanding of what is valuable and advocate for economic redistribution. 
    • We are committed to being followers of Jesus in a way that does not perpetuate Christian hegemony and the legacies of the Doctrine of Discovery.

We seek spiritual practices that draw us closer to the Divine and to each other. At times we draw inspiration from traditions other than our own. We especially value the ways in which music and creativity in worship open up the mystery of the Divine. 

  • We desire to be grounded and have clarity in the face of the endless distractions in our society. 
    • We desire the ability to recognize fear without allowing fear to control our behavior. 
    • We desire to be in relationships across differences. 
    • We desire to create the kingdom of God and live in the tension of “the already but not yet.” 
    • We desire safety for those who are vulnerable and empathy for those who assume they aren’t. 
    • We desire a willingness to confront conflict. 
    • We desire the ability to hold the long view and live in “deep time” and recognize this work reaches far beyond our lifetimes.

How we relate to others… 

We value dialogue more than dogma. We encourage dialogue with those of other Christian traditions as well as other faiths. Further, we seek a dialogue with our own Anabaptist heritage, with the larger Mennonite church and with scripture itself, recognizing that such interchanges enrich our individual and communal understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus in a dynamic and changing world. 

  • We are so shaped by the collective sin of our society that it can be hard to imagine what a truly liberated society would be. We recognize this sin as it manifests in us and others when people are excluded by heteronormativity; when white supremacy culture goes unchallenged; when economic disparities are normalized; and when patriarchy diminishes the full potential of all people.
  • As we build collective power, we also commit to transformation in our lives and reading scripture in a way that illuminates its revolutionary power. 
    • Like our Anabaptist forebearers we recognize that discipleship to the way of Jesus will put us at odds with the powers that be. 
    • We look to our history as a denomination committed to peacemaking for guidance. 
    • We realize that being followers of Jesus is costly and is only sustainable when practiced in community. 
    • We believe we are called to share this vision of costly discipleship with other Christians, especially those who are exerting power in the name of Christianity in destructive ways in our society.

We practice our Anabaptist faith with humility. We recognize that ours is not the only path to God or ultimate truth. At the same time we identify as Mennonite and Christians called to our own faith, practice, and service. 

  • In order to move toward liberation we need to be clear on what we believe about God and what God is doing. Our scriptures describe a God who is angry with injustice and who is present among those who are on the margins and not afraid to do battle with forces of evil and sin.
    • We believe that God is present in the oneness found when we sing together.
    • God is present when people come together across differences.
    • God empowers us to navigate through our complex world.
    • God is present when we let go of the struggle to control.
    • God opens us to mystery.
    • God is abundance.
    • God is found in the interconnection of everything.
    • God is peace, grace and serendipity.
    • God is mercy.
    • God is present when we let go of fear.
  • Rooted in these commitments we seek connection with groups that are intersectional in their analysis. 
    • We seek connection with Faith in Action Bay Area so that we can offer hospitality to recent immigrants in our communities and support efforts to hold the police accountable. 
    • We seek connection with Idle No More Bay Area, and other Indigenous-led groups, as well as to support the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, in order to follow their lead in our work for environmental justice. 
    • We seek connection with the Poor People’s Campaign to embody our solidarity with those who are poor and bearing the brunt of our capitalist reality. 
    • We seek connection with the Bay Resistance network as it unites many different groups committed to societal change through nonviolent direct action. 
    • We seek connection with other Christian and interfaith groups who are committed to dismantling Christian hegemony and the Doctrine of Discovery.

How we live together… 

We are a welcoming community to all who wish to join us. We seek to follow Jesus’ example by welcoming all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, economic or social circumstances, racial or ethnic background, marital status, physical ability or age. In addition, we welcome people regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey, including those who may not identify as Christian

True to our Anabaptist heritage, we believe in non-hierarchical, shared models of leadership. We therefore are committed to training members of our community in the arts of worship, social engagement, and leadership in the world and in the church. We especially value our strength in cultivating young adult leaders and teaching our children. 

We value honesty, authenticity and caring for each other. We recognize that the community is strengthened when members share their truths, passions, doubts, fears and failures – with vulnerability and without fear of judgment. We also seek to care for each other in concrete ways, through offerings of emotional, spiritual and financial mutual aid.

Tactics added by Outreach Committee in 2018

“Walk, Bike, Scooter, BART, and Muni” to Worship Day at First Mennonite Church of San Francisco

Sunday, March 3, 2018, was First Mennonite Church of San Francisco’s third annual participation in a Bay Area event known as “Walk and Bike to Worship Week”.  First Mennonite’s participation included scootering and riding mass transit as well as walking and biking.  The program at First Mennonite Church was organized and facilitated this year by Kenda Horst and Karen Kreider Yoder.  Participants were awarded stickers showing participation and awarded entry in a raffle to win prizes that included Ford GoBike annual membership; Walk SF T-shirt and membership; and a San Francisco Bicycle Coalition T-shirt and membership.  Participants were invited to a picnic at the Conservatory of Flowers following worship.  One of the goals of the walking, biking, and transiting to worship event was to SAVE THE PLANET.  A show of hands during the worship service on Sunday showed that around three dozen congregants walked, biked, or transited to First Mennonite Church services on March 3rd.  Thank you Kenda and Karen for organizing this event! – Jim Musselman, for FMCSF Green Team


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Pictured before church:  Karen Kreider Yoder, Kenda Horst, Joanna Shenk, Jim Musselman, Miriam Menzel.  Photo by Alan Hilton-Nichol.


Scent Policy, Continued

Greetings, community. Almost two years ago, our congregation adopted a scent policy and we have been living into it since then. The policy states: “First Mennonite Church of San Francisco would like all services  to be accessible to those with chemical sensitivities. Please refrain from wearing perfume, cologne, and scented products. This is also the policy of FMCSF’s host, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav.” 

Sheri was musing to Pat and Joanna recently that in her 18 years of ministry here she has not come across an issue that has brought up as much resistance, skepticism and even conflict as this scent policy. And so, with this blog post, we hope to address several points related to this policy, in the hopes of furthering greater clarity, communication and awareness: Continue reading