Sermon: Labor, Justice and Mennonites

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Psalm 146

About a decade ago when I was visiting some friends in Pittsburgh, they suggested we go for a walk around the beautiful grounds of the Henry Clay Frick estate. As we walked the grounds I began to feel sick to my stomach. I wondered, what did this Frick guy do to have over 20 cars and handfuls of carriages, plus a village of houses and a private bowling alley, in the early 1900s?

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Sermon: Pentecost 2022, The Spirit that Reconnects Us

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Acts 2:1-18

A few years ago when I preached on Pentecost, I shared about the Jewish holiday Shavuot. This holiday, observed seven weeks after Passover, is the reason why people from so many places were in Jerusalem. Shavuot is the celebration of God giving the Torah to the Hebrew people at Mt. Sinai. It is a celebration of Divine revelation. 

Pentecost is in keeping with that history of Divine revelation within the Jewish tradition. The Spirit rushed into that room where the disciples were hiding to call them out of fear and isolation. The presence of the Spirit was a Divine revelation that the disciples could continue walking in the way of Rabbi Jesus even though he was no longer there to guide them. 

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Sermon: Guided Meditation on Psalm 23

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Psalm 23

This beloved psalm contains so many vivid images. I wonder about the ones that stick out to you, maybe a phrase you noticed in childhood or an image that has become meaningful to you over the years? 

I know for me I was confused by the first two lines as a kid. The translation I grew up with was “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” I understood it as God being a shepherd but for some reason I don’t want God as my shepherd. Anyone else with me? 

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Sermon: The Prophetic Mysticism of Wendsler Nosie Sr.

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

This is the sixth sermon in our Lenten series on the Christian mystics called “A Voice to Call Us Home.” 

Luke 19:28-40

On this Palm Sunday and final Sunday of our series on mysticism, we turn to a contemporary mystic, Wendsler Nosie Sr. So far in the series, all of the mystics we’ve learned about have been Christian. This Sunday we expand beyond the Christian tradition, recognizing the mysticism in many other spiritual paths. Wendsler Nosie Sr. is also the only one of the mystics in our series who is still living.

Wendsler is a person who sees the connections between things. He sees the oneness. He sees the oneness of colonialism from its very beginnings far beyond this continent. He sees the oneness of the web connecting diverse peoples in the spiritual effort to resist and dismantle it. And he sees the power of prayer to make people one as they protect that which is sacred, no matter the cost. 

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Sermon: Rosemarie Freeney Harding: Mothering, Movement, and Mysticism + Children’s Story

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

This is the fourth sermon in our Lenten series on the Christian mystics called “A Voice to Call Us Home.”

“In the beginning there was the Word; the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God. The Word was present to God from the beginning. Through the Word all things come into being, and apart from the Word nothing came into being. In the Word was life, and that life was humanity’s light—a Light that shines in the darkness, a Light that the darkness has never overtaken.

Then came one named Rosemarie, sent as an envoy from God, who came as a witness to testify about the Light, so that through her testimony everyone might believe in our oneness. She herself wasn’t the Light; she only came to testify about the Light—the true Light that illumines all humankind.” – John 1:1-8 (adapted)

Rosemarie Freeney Harding was a witness to the Light. In her memoir, Remnants, co-authored with her daughter Rachel Elizabeth Harding, she writes of her encounter with the Light. 

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Sermon: Mysticism of the Beguines

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

This is the second sermon in our Lenten series on Christian mysticism called “A Voice To Call Us Home. A children’s story on Beguine Marguerite Porete, written by Beverly Walsh, follows this sermon. An audio version of the sermon is available here.

Luke 10:38-42

I imagine many of us have heard this Mary and Martha story (yes?) along with a message about the importance of being more like Mary (sitting at Jesus’ feet) and less like Martha (anxiously making food in the kitchen). So I want to try out a contrasting interpretation today… listen to the passage again, making note of any differences:

As they were on their way, Jesus came to a village where a woman named Martha received him. She had a sister called Mary, who also was one who sat at the Lord’s feet, always listening to his words. But Martha was constantly torn apart concerning much ministry. She suddenly approached Jesus and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister regularly leaves me to minister alone? Tell her therefore that she may give me a hand.”

But Jesus answered her saying, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and agitated concerning much, but only one thing is needed: For Mary has chosen good and it will not be taken away from her.”

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Sermon: Divine invitations

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Psalm 19:1,7-10,14

19:1 The heavens are telling of your glory, O God; and the skies display your handiwork.
19:7 Your law, YHWH is perfect, reviving the soul; your rule is to be trusted, making wise the simple;
19:8 Your purposes, O God, are just, rejoicing the heart; your commandments are clear, enlightening the eyes;
19:9 holding you in awe, YHWH, is purifying; your decrees are steadfast and all of them just. 
19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.
19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O God, my rock and my redeemer.

Last Sunday we received a powerful word from Nekeisha Alayna Alexis, exhorting us to a reorientation of our bodies and beings as we seek justice. This reorientation “means breathing in new patterns,” she said, “and sometimes literally finding new air. Justice begins with a state of heart.”

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Sermon: “What must I do to be antiracist?” On Bodies, Breathing and Being for Racial Justice

By Nekeisha Alayna Alexis, offered on MLK Sunday 2022

Mark 10:17-22

“Whiteness has psychological advantages that translate into material returns” (54)

“As I move through my day, racism just isn’t my problem. While I am aware that race has been used unfairly against people of color, I haven’t been taught to see this problem as any responsibility of mine; as long as I personally haven’t done anything I am aware of, racism is a nonissue. This freedom from responsibility gives me a level of racial relaxation and emotional and intellectual space that people of color are not afforded as they move throughout their day (55) 

-Robin DiAngelo, “White Fragility”

In the past two years and counting, we have been confronted with the reality of our bodies, our being and our breath in ways that we have not been challenged to face before. The necessity of our breathing for living is, in a factual way, not new to us. All animals, humans included, need to breathe in some way or another in order to keep moving about. And yet, at the same time, the finiteness of our breath, the vulnerability of our breath and, conversely, the taken for granted nature of our breath and our bodies is being revealed to us in very visceral and quite tangible ways in these days. It is the fact of our breathing that brings us all to this moment, to worship, here, to today and now. It is also the fact of our breathing that makes it intensely difficult for me to be with you in person safely: that is keeping us apart.

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Sermon: The Fertile Darkness

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

This sermon is the second in our Advent series, “Rhythms of Rest.”

Genesis 1:1-5, 2:1-3

Having moved to the East Bay from San Francisco this spring, one of the things Eric and I are most excited about is having a yard in which to grow and tend plants. We’ve also recognized we needed wisdom in this process since neither of us have experience gardening in the Bay Area climate. So this past May we invited Dolores to come over and help us get to know the plant life in our yard. It was fun to walk around the front and back yards with her noting the plants and trees, and us dreaming about what else could be planted. 

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Sermon: Covenanting Together

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Exodus 19:3-5 

If someone had told me a couple weeks before church retreat that not only would we be dealing with pandemic restrictions, like needing to wear masks indoors but that we’d also not have electricity for the first 24 hours of retreat and that I’d be the only pastoral staff person present, I probably would have thought cancellation a good choice. 

However, as retreat approached and unfolded I had a strong sense of anticipation and inner calm. I felt a confidence in our community that we would rise to whatever challenges came our way and would create a beautiful weekend together. And that’s exactly what happened. 

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Sermon: Divine resilience

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Psalm 34:1-8

I want to begin my sermon today with a mini “breaking open the word.” We’ll just do one round reflecting on what words or phrases jump out as you hear the text? I will also put it in the chat box.

I will bless the Divine always;
praise will continually be on my lips!
My soul will boast about YHWH—
let the oppressed hear it and be glad!
Glorify the Divine with me,
and let us exalt God’s Name together!
I sought the Lord, who answered me
and freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to the Divine are radiant,
and their faces are never covered with shame.
The poor called out; YHWH heard
and saved them from all their troubles.
The angel of God encamps around those 
who revere God, and rescues them.
Taste and see how good God is!
Happiness comes to those who take refuge in the Divine. 

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Sermon: Accompanied by the good shepherd

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

It is good to be back home and with you all this morning… One of the greatest joys of my time with family was getting to know my bouncy three year old nephew Henry. I spent a week with him in Cincinnati and then took him with me for most of a week to my parents house in Goshen, along with his 7 older cousins. During these weeks Henry’s vocabulary exploded. 

He has an especially interesting vocabulary since my brother Andy speaks only to him in Russian. While in Goshen, I was also his go-to adult. We spent a lot of time playing together since he was sometimes overwhelmed by all the energy and attention of the older cousins. 

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