Sermon: God’s Steadfast Love

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Psalm 107

It felt like a punch to the gut to learn about another shooting in this country yesterday in El Paso. And then this morning while preparing for worship to learn about Dayton. And this follows less than a week after the tragedy in Gilroy at the Garlic Festival, which is very close to home. A member of our congregation had attended the festival the day before the shooting.

Lord have mercy. These are difficult times. What words of hope are there? What words of comfort in the face of loss and trauma?

I’ve found some solace immersed in the Psalms and reflecting on God’s steadfast love. In the NRSV the first verse is translated to include the word “steadfast.” It reminded me this week of a song I learned in childhood:

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Sermon: Amos and the impossible

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Amos 8:1-12

We do what’s possible and God does what’s impossible. That is the actual title of my sermon, it was just too long for the bulletin.

One of my favorite places these days is the Faith in Action office located at the corner of Folsom and Cesar Chavez. I walk in the door saying “Hola, como esta?” and giving hugs and kisses all around the table. I’m usually one of the only people in the room that doesn’t speak Spanish but that hasn’t gotten in the way of getting to know these neighbors. And thankfully someone is always gracious enough to translate for me. 

At a Faith in Action meeting this week we began by answering the question: Where have you sensed the Spirit of God in our work together?

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Pride Sunday 2019: Three Reflections

Reflections by Sharon Heath, Andrew Ramer and Bart Shulman

A Story Of Liberation

by Sharon Heath

Every year at Passover, Jews remember and re-tell the story of their slavery in Egypt and how God rescued them from bondage and brought them into freedom.  The ritual retelling of the Passover Story is called a Seder.  What I am about to tell you is the story of the passage from bondage to freedom of gay men and lesbians in the U.S.  It is our Passover Story.

As I look around this room this morning, I’m struck by the fact that very few of us can remember how it was before Stonewall.  Many of us have lived in San Francisco so long, or were born so recently, that we can barely believe that the Love that Will Not Shut Up was ever the Love that Dare Not Speak Its Name!  So I want to tell you a short story about How It Used to Be and How It Changed.

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Sermon: Becoming Spirit-filled witnesses

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Pentecost Sunday, Acts 2:1-21

There is so much going on in this text that it’s hard to know where to start this sermon:

  • with the violent wind
  • or flames of the Spirit
  • or people speaking in other languages
  • or the prophetic words from Joel, with their apocalyptic imagery…

So I will start at the very beginning, “When the day of Pentecost had come.”

What was Pentecost to the Jewish people who were gathered? We know what Christians say about it. That it’s the birthday of the church, but it was a holiday long before Christianity existed.

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Greening our Fellowship Time

By Karen Kreider Yoder

Dear Congregation,

We are trying to eliminate single-use plastic in our lives, and to that end, a snack team recently prepared the fellowship hour snack as free from single-use plastic as possible.  It was quite a challenge, as most of our food is packaged and delivered to us from a distance in single-use plastic, rather than local and seasonal.   

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Sermon: The Gifts and Perils of Calling

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Luke 4:21-30

I think it was sometime in 2012 I was invited to speak during an evening, student-led, chapel service at the conservative Christian college from which I graduated. This was about 7 years since I had graduated, so the current students didn’t know me, but some of my friends were on staff and many of the professors remembered me. I had been student body president and very involved in campus life while in college. I had also worked on staff as a Resident Director for two years after graduating. Although I had changed a lot since my college days, it still felt like a homecoming.

I was invited to speak by a friend who was on staff with the campus ministry department. He had heard me speak in another venue about faith and identity and thought it would be a good message for the students. I was looking forward to the opportunity because I felt like I could say things that would challenge the students who thought they had all the good Christian answers.

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Sermon: MLK Sunday

By Chude Allen and Rachel Stoltzfus

Chude Allen:

On June 9, 1964 I stood in front of the pews of an Episcopal church in a small town in Pennsylvania. I was about to go to Mississippi to be a freedom school teacher as part of what is now called Freedom Summer. I asked the parishioners for donations and their prayers.

When I was in Mississippi I wrote my parents that when I returned I wanted to speak again in the church, that I believed God would speak through me. My minister, however, would not allow me to speak during a service, only in the parish hall at an evening educational. Today is only the second time ever I have spoken during worship.  Of course Spirit does not only appear in places of worship, but there was and is a power that comes when we join together in acknowledgement of something greater than ourselves.

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Sermon: Holy Spirit Subversion

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Luke 3:15-22

Today I want to pick up where we left off last week with these words at the end of Sheri’s sermon: “In our present time, when paranoid kings rule, and when the life of the planet is literally at stake, I think it is more important than ever that we come together to listen for the Spirit and to seek the Spirit’s guidance.”

She continued, “I think we need more than our conscious intellect, our rational mind, to get ourselves out of this mess we are in. I think we need to hear the Spirit’s voice in many ways, new ways, perhaps ways we haven’t been as attentive to before, as we observe the glimmers of light that have appeared in the dark and move toward them, together.”

What does it mean to listen for the Spirit and seek the Spirit’s guidance? How do we do this with more than our rational mind? What might the Spirit illuminate and how will we respond in this season of Epiphany?

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Sermon: Transformational Listening

By Pat Plude, with Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Mark 7:24-30

Today we depart temporarily from the Ephesians passage we have been using throughout this series, to look at a time when Jesus demonstrates his humanity by speaking to a woman in a particularly snarky way! Using the story of the Syrophonecian woman in the Gospel of Mark, we will look more deeply at the practice of listening, another crucial component of learning to speak truth in love. As we go you’ll hear several voices and stories: those of the Syrophonecian Woman and Jesus, as well as my own and Joanna’s.

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Sermon: The Wisdom and Limits of Emotions

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Excerpts from Ephesians 4

Thank you Diego, for that reading. I wish we would had time to hear the entire chapter of Ephesians 4 because it’s chock full of wisdom for discipleship. Paul was writing to the Ephesians as a prisoner due to his association with Jesus’ revolutionary movement. He was writing to the Ephesians who were a largely Gentile community and therefore experiencing more social privilege than he was as a Jewish person in the Roman empire.

He was calling them to ethical living which was personal, communal and political. “The calling to which they had been called” as the church was to deep personal and political maturity. “To grow up” the text says “into Christ.” As a part of Jesus’ movement they were called to be, as Ched Myers puts it, “a social experiment in reconciliation between ethnically, politically and culturally alienated groups.”

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Sermon: Revolutionary Bible Study

By Joanna Shenk

Amos 7:7-15

A few weeks ago I was in northern Indiana for a Shenk family reunion with Eric and the kids. It was the first time I had seen some of my extended Shenk family in a couple years. We had a lot of fun playing games in intergenerational groups, like kickball, super big boggle and ultimate frisbee.

One thing that I love about my Shenk family is our storytelling. My grandpa Shenk (who is passed on) and his four children constantly tell stories about us when we’re together. It could be stories of when I was a kid and the funny things I’d do. Or stories about my uncles and aunt when they were kids. Or stories about ancestors further back. Whatever the conversation, it often ends with the recollection of a family story.

This kind of storytelling instilled in me a strong sense of identity when I was young and carries through today. I know who my family is and what they value and I know what it means to carry on that identity. Through the work of differentiation I am also able to decide how I want to carry on that legacy in a way that’s authentic to my journey.

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Children’s Story: Jesus’ Parade into Jerusalem

By FMCSF Youth Group

Note: Our church’s youth group rewrote the Gospel stories for each Sunday of Lent and then presented them as children’s stories during worship.

Palm Sunday, March 25

Mark 11:1-11

This is a story that a guy named Mark wrote about Jesus. He wrote the story in a way that highlighted the kind of leader Jesus was. Mark wanted to show the difference between Jesus’ movement and other military and political groups who had power.

In this story Jesus and his friends were on their way to Washington DC to confront the powerful leaders there. They knew it was going to be difficult. They also had to decide how they were going to enter the city. The way that they entered the city would communicate to the people there what their movement was about.

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