Sermon: Who is Your Other?

I Kings 8: 1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43

Just as there are fundamental physical laws of the universe — like “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” — there are fundamental political laws. Like: when a people feel threatened — whether that’s because they’re struggling economically or there’s lots of social change or because they feel unsafe, due to crime or acts of terrorism— they will often look for a scapegoat. When we get frightened, we start looking suspiciously at anyone who seems “other.” This is why it can be so scary to be an ethnic or racial or religious minority, or an lgbtq person, or a woman during bad times. Just ask anyone who was a Muslim living in this country after 9/11. Or ask any immigrant from Mexico right now.

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Sermon: Renewed Commitments

This sermon was part of our church’s response to Mennonite Church USA’s request that congregations interact with the Renewed Commitments document and provide feedback to the denomination. We also met during adult Education Hour to discuss the document.

I admit that I wasn’t feeling it when the Mennonite Church USA — the denomination of which we are a member – asked congregations to provide feedback on these Renewed Commitments that you just heard. This is a bit of a Pavlovian response for me. I hear the words “Mennonite Church USA” and I instantly tune out. This comes from years of feeling like I or those I love were being marginalized by the denomination — our voices discounted, our pain not acknowledged, our insights not welcomed. It comes from years of listening to church pronouncements or reading church documents that seem so vague and lukewarm and middle ground that I just instantly turn off my brain when another one comes along because I don’t expect anything real or relevant to come from them. For too many years, it seemed to me that leadership didn’t want to  honestly address the conflicts tearing the church apart, and so we avoided issues in the name of “respectful dialogue.” This ended up making both progressives and conservatives angry and unhappy.

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Sermon: There is Power in the Blood

Selection from Hebrews 9-10

When my Mom was dying, I would sing hymns to her. Her church didn’t use the blue hymnal we use, so I would sing from the “red hymnal,” the one that came before the blue hymnal. I would start at the front and begin singing the hymns I remembered from growing up: “Holy God, we praise thy name.” And “Come thou almighty king.” She liked those front-of-the-book hymns okay, but after a few of them she would indicate, with a small flick of her finger (since she couldn’t speak by this point) that I was to continue paging through to the back of the hymnal where the “Gospel Songs” section began. 

These were the old-time hymns she particularly loved. Truth to be told, these are some of my favorite hymns, too. Please sing along if you know them:  “I know that my Redeemer liveth and on the earth again shall stand.”  And “Oh Lord, my God! When I awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made.” However, there were many hymns in that Gospel Songs section that were… less favorites of mine. These are the ones I call the “bloody hymns,” the ones focussed on how the blood of Jesus saves us. One of my Mom’s favorites was “Marvelous Grace.” I won’t sing it — although I bet some of you can — but I will read its first two verses and chorus because it summarizes so well the theology of “blood atonement”:

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Sermon: Elisha’s Soup Kitchen–Sabbath Economics in Hard Times

A sermon given by guest preachers Ched Myers and Elaine Enns on July 29, 2018 (tenth Sunday after Pentecost).

Elaine:  Ched and I are delighted to be with you all this weekend, celebrating the wedding of Pastor Joanna and Eric yesterday, and this morning having the opportunity to circle around the Word here at First Mennonite.  We join with you in blessing the newlyweds in their life and ministry together.  We bring greetings from Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries, and small gifts expressing our solidarity with two issue for which we share deep concerns with you: Watershed Discipleship and Indigenous Justice. 

When Joanna invited us to speak this morning, she encouraged us to sing as well as preach, so we are mixing in a few songs.  We would like to open this morning’s theme with a call and response song that we learned from the Wilderness Way Community in Portland, Oregon.  

Song: “Come Gather Round” 

Come gather round my friends 

Welcome everyone, To the wilderness

Come you who hunger, Hunger for justice

Welcome everyone, To the wilderness

Sabbath and jubilee

Welcome everyone, To the wilderness

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