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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Children’s Story: Zacchaeus and Jesus

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.

Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 18

Luke 19:1-10 (Jesus and Zacchaeus)

While traveling with his poor people’s movement, Jesus and his friends, had a protest march in Manhattan, New York. Manhattan is one of the biggest places for business and trade in the United States.

A man there was named Zacchaeus and he was the biggest property owner in Manhattan. Since he owned so much property he was able to charge high rent because people had very few other options. This made him very rich.

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Sermon: Zacchaeus, Redistribution and Salvation

By Joanna Shenk

This is the fifth sermon in a Lenten series called Capitalism: A Bible Study.

Luke 19:1-10

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Clarence Jordan Symposium in Americus, Ga. The symposium marked 75 years since the founding of Koinonia Farm, which was the first interracial community in the South. Clarence Jordan was one of the founders of Koinonia and he was a friend Dr. Vincent Harding.

Those who joined the community committed to four principles of community life:

1. Treat all human beings with dignity and justice
2. Choose love over violence
3. Share all possessions and live simply
4. Be stewards of the land and its natural resources

When the community was founded in the 1940s it was unlawful for black people and white people to sit down together in Georgia. They could be standing next to each other, but they couldn’t sit down to share a meal or conversation or anything. In the 1950s the community got a lot of threats, their produce stand was dynamited and they experienced the terror of drive-by shootings at the hands of white neighbors.

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Children’s Story: Jesus and Gerasene Demoniac

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.

Third Sunday of Lent, March 4

Mark 5:1-17 (Jesus and the demoniac)

After spending time traveling the suburbs surrounding Washington DC, Jesus decided to take the train all the way to the other side of the country–to the Bay Area. None of his friends were from there and they were a little afraid to go.

After an exhausting trip, they arrived at Jack London Square in Oakland. Jesus’ friends noticed a few homeless encampments nearby and a bunch of parking lots. As soon as they walked off the train this crazy guy, who had cuts and bruises all over his body, started running toward them. He was yelling and moving around and jumping up and down as he approached.

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Sermon: Capitalism and the Self

By Joanna Shenk

This is the third sermon in a Lenten series called “Capitalism: A Bible Study.”

Mark 5:1-17

Wednesday was an intense day for me. It began with a trip to the San Francisco County Jail which is located in San Bruno. A friend of mine, Ellen, teaches classes there and invited me to speak about my new book and Vincent Harding. I figured Dr. Harding would be pleased that my first “official” book talk was in a jail. He was always encouraging people to be in conversation and relationship across lines of difference.

It was my first experience going to that jail and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. When Ellen picked me up at BART she said there would be 48 men in the class that day. I hadn’t anticipated that many, but was up for the task. I had sent some readings earlier in the week and she said the men were really interested to learn more about Vincent Harding and also about Mennonites.

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Article: Singing for Justice

By Pat Plude

Come let us all unite to vote, reform 13!
Let corporations pay their share, reform 13.
There are too many loopholes, we lose our libraries and schools
Come vote with us for justice sake, reform 13!
Make it fair (hashtag!) Make it fair (hashtag!)
Come let us all unite to vote to make it fair!

This text, sung to the tune and harmonies of “Come, let us all unite to sing,” is the rousing opening song of twenty-three members of First Mennonite Church of San Francisco (FMCSF), including three children and youth, participating in a non-violent direct action in downtown San Franciso on January 13. This “Sing-In,” held in the lobbies of three big financial institutions – Wells Fargo, Blackstone, and JP Morgan Chase – is part of 96 hours of direct action coordinated by the Anti Police Terror Project to reclaim MLK’s radical legacy.

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Sermon: Threatened by Epiphany?

By Joanna Shenk

Matthew 2:1-12
Mark 1:4-11, this version also read in addition to the NRSV

I was in high school when I first learned the word “Epiphany.” At my school we had a Spring Arts Day each year, where the high school grades competed against each other in various categories: vocal, instrumental and theatrical performance, as well as poetry, prose and visual art. My sophomore year the theme of Spring Arts Day was “epiphany” so that’s how I learned the word.

I was involved in the 10th grade vocal performance in which we sang a medley from Les Mis. Our grand finale was from the song “Do You Hear the People Sing?” I’m guessing some of you are familiar with the words, but if not, here are the first few stanzas:

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Sermon: Must Antifa Bear the Cross Alone?

By David Brazil

Matthew 16:21-28

Good morning, and thank you for your hospitality.  Let’s pray.

As you’ve heard, my name is David Brazil; I’m the organizer for the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy and I co-pastor a house church in Oakland called the Agape Fellowship.  I’m also a poet, translator, editor, curator, and a community organizer beyond my professional work.

But of all the things I can say about myself, what I really want to talk about today is that I am a Christian.  I’m an adult convert to Christianity, baptized in 2014, and so I am still on the beginning of a walk that many of you have been on for many years, or for your whole lives.  (In fact, I don’t really know if I was baptized as an infant, since my parents passed away before I thought to ask, so I might well be an Anabaptist!)  My professional work is interfaith, and my co-pastor and I describe Agape as a “Christian-interfaith” house church.  So I often have to be very thoughtful about how I speak about my Christian faith, especially given the many wounds that imperial Christian hegemony continues to inflict.

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Sermon: Walking in the Way of Righteousness

By Joanna Shenk

Psalm 85:8-13

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a loved one in which they asked me if I thought holiness and righteousness were important… or if I valued them as a Christian. I can’t remember exactly how they said it, but it was said in a way that assumed I probably didn’t think they were important. I explained to them that it was frustrating to be asked the question in that way because it put me on the defensive… like I needed to prove something to them. To their credit, they understood and agreed it made for better conversation if they asked me how I understand holiness and righteousness or what has been my journey with those things.

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