Sermon: Transforming Martyr Trauma

Sermon by Sheri Hostetler during our series “Becoming a Trauma-Informed Community,” Sept. 10-Oct. 8, 2017.

A reading from The Martyr’s Mirror:  “The Story of Maekyn Wens, and Some of Her Fellow-Believes”

“The north wind of persecution blew now the longer the more through the garden of the Lord, so that the herbs and trees of the same (that is the true believers) were rooted out of the earth through the violence that came against them. This appeared, among other instances, in the case of a very God-fearing and pious woman, named Maeyken Wens, who was the wife of a faithful minister of the church of God in the city of Antwerp, by the name of Mattheus Wens, by trade a mason. About the month of April, A. D. 1573, she, together with others of her fellow believers, was apprehended at Antwerp, bound, and confined in the severest prison there. In the meantime she was subjected to much conflict and temptation by so-called ecclesiastics, as well as by secular persons, to cause her to apostatize from her faith.”

I’m going to paraphrase here, because what follows, I think, is too traumatizing to bring into this space for some people. Maekyn refused to refute her faith and consequently, a few days, was given a death sentence. Before being led to the stake, she had her mouth screwed shut — which was not uncommon during that time. Otherwise the Anabaptist martyrs would speak or sing as they were being burned at the stake, and were so compelling that they often ended up converting people to their movement as they were dying.

The testimony continues: “Hence the Lord shall hereafter change their vile bodies, and fashion them like unto His glorious body. As it says in Philippians 3:21: “Christ will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.”

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Sermon: Becoming a Trauma-Informed Community

 

This the first sermon in the series for our Back to the Basics series entitled “Becoming a Trauma-Informed Community.

Luke 24:13-35

I’m going to tell you the story about the worst and best day of my life. A year and a half ago, Patrick got sick and didn’t get better. He began losing weight; he had headaches that wouldn’t go away. We went to the doctor three times, made one visit to the ER… and I can’t remember how many times I called the Kaiser advice nurse. And then, at 3 o’clock in the morning on Dec. 5th — Jerome’s birthday — I awoke to find Patrick having a seizure beside me in bed. Words can’t describe the panic that ripped through my body. He was calm as we rode in the ambulance to the hospital, but in the emergency room, with several doctors crowded around his bedside, he became incredibly agitated, trying to pull the IVs out of his arm and crying out in a way I had never heard before. I couldn’t bear to be in the room with him. I was too frightened, panicked. In order not to completely freak out, I had to leave, go into a quiet room and text the prayer warriors in my life to ask them to pray for Patrick. I calmed down and went back to Patrick. But then, I would find the panic overtaking me again, and I would go back to the room to breathe or drink the cool orange juice that the nurses had left for me. Jerome was my rock, as he always is. He alone stayed with Patrick throughout that whole three-hour ordeal in the ER at Children’s Hospital, calming his own fears enough to be steadfastly present.

In trauma terms, my nervous system was hyper-aroused. Or, put another way, I was extremely neurologically dysregulated. Leaving the room, calling in support, breathing all helped to bring that arousal, that dysregulation, down to a place where I could function. Sort of. Jerome was able to maintain a more steady neurological state than me. Though he, too, was frightened, he was able to stay in what trauma experts call the “resilient zone” or the “window of tolerance.” Thank God one of us was.

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Children’s Story: King Neb Gets Burned

By D. Byram

This story is called,

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Get Arrested …

but Nebuchadnezzar gets BURNED!

Before I start, let me just say that any city named Babylon is bound to be number ten on the top ten most touristy places to visit in central-wherever we are.  Anyways, the King of Babylon, this dude named Nebuchadnezzar, was very full of himself. I guess he wanted everyone to know that because one day he decided to make a huge statue of himself in the town square, right in front of the Starbucks.  The point of the statue was to make everyone kneel down and worship it when the marching band played.  And if you didn’t, well, how to put this delicately? You get tossed into a roaring fire.

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Sermon: A Single, Holy, Living Sacrifice

By Sheri Hostetler

Romans 12:1-8

During our communion litany, we say together a prayer that ends with this line: “Made one in Christ and one with each other, and one with all creation – we offer these gifts and with them ourselves.”  There’s actually five additional words to this prayer —  “and with them ourselves, a single, holy, living sacrifice.” Sometimes I take out those five words “a single, holy, living, sacrifice” and sometimes I don’t. I wonder how many of you notice this. Actually, sometimes I take those words out of my copy of the prayer and forget that I left it in your version of the prayer that’s in the order of worship. That’s not so bad. But sometimes, I take it out of your version and leave it in mine. That’s a bit more embarrassing, when I alone am saying “a single, holy, living…” Actually, the people that do the litany with me up here are usually reading off of my copy, so — ha ha.

Obviously, I have some ambivalence toward those words — a single, holy living sacrifice — words that come directly from our reading for today. Sometimes, I am put off by the violence of them and I just can’t use them.  The image of an innocent lamb or goat being slaughtered on an altar? No, I do not want to bring that image into this space. The story where Abraham thinks God is asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and he ties him to the altar and has the knife above his head before God says, “Just kidding!’? No, thank you. I’ve always thought of that story as one of the Bible’s “texts of terror,” the feminist Biblical scholar Phyllis Trible’s phrase for those scripture stories that seem to divinely sanction violence.

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Reflection: Listening to Other People’s Voices, “Arts Sunday 2017”

By Lisa Hubbell

What I’ve been given to say today is about listening to other voices.

If this were a Quaker meeting, we would all settle back into silence, to give more time for Shannon’s words to sink in and work on us, along with whatever God guides us to pay attention to in that time. I’d like to take a brief moment to do that.

….

That is one of the ways I’ve learned over time to listen more deeply to other people’s voices. Lately, I’m learning to notice how much space I take up with my own voice. It humbles me to confront this.

I am a person both of creativity and of privilege. I was raised a Quaker girl in California in the ’60s, by white activist parents with Ph.D.s. Given that, I was encouraged to express myself and speak up more than most people, even if I got in trouble for it a lot of the time. Read more

Sermon: The Weeds and the Wheat

By Sheri Hostetler

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Jesus tells three parables about seeds in Matthew 13 in order to explain what the kingdom of heaven is like. The “kingdom of heaven” is Jesus’ main teaching, and parables are one of the main ways he teaches about the kingdom of heaven. So, these parables in Matthew 13 are the heart of Jesus’ teaching.

Last week, we looked at the mustard seed parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its shade.” I like that parable because I’m a gardener and a tree-lover. And, yup, you plant a seed and within five years it grows into a sequoia 20 feet high. This happened, right outside my house, so I know it’s true. Sure enough, the crows that I love settle in its branches in the late afternoons, and it provides shade for my son when he’s outside throwing frisbee with his friends and they get hot. Since we are also organic matter, I believe what is true of seeds and trees is also true of us. We plant something small and it can grow into something large that can sustain life. Read more

Sermon: Hope in Chaotic Times

By Sheri Hostetler

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-46

Something is collapsing. People on both the right and the left believe our political order is falling apart, which could be (depending on  your point of view) a cataclysm or the opening we need to create something more just. Just the fact that Trump could be elected suggests that something has already collapsed. At the recent Mennonite convention in Orlando, I talked to my friend Cindy Lapp, who is pastor of Hyattsville Mennonite Church just outside of D.C., and she told me that it’s exhausting living there right now. Everyone is on edge, she said, because everything is chaotic. No one knows what’s going to happen.

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Reflection: Mennonite Church USA Convention in Orlando, July 2017

By Addie Liechty

My experience at the Mennonite Church USA conference was…many things.  As some of you know, I signed up for this task in the midst of break up grief/mania.  I was dumped and the reason given was irreconcilable differences in regard to religion.  My check-list for processing through this break-up reads like this:

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Reflection: I Pledge Allegiance to…

By Sharon Heath

When Nathan Yergler emailed asking me to speak today, he asked, “What are you aligned with?  To what or whom are you loyal?  To what or whom are you committed?”

With what am I aligned?  I am aligned with the gay community.  The Rainbow Flag is my flag.  Even when I find the behavior of some members of my community to be a tad embarrassing, they’re my people and that’s all there is to it.  Believe it or not, I am also aligned with the Mennonite church.  Some Mennonites drive me crazy, and I have declined to be involved either on the conference or denominational level because of the hostility of so many to gay people, but these, too, are my people, and I am deeply committed to strengthening this denomination.  I just want other people to do it!

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Sermon: Pride Sunday 2017

By Logan Rimel

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable to you, God, my strength and my Redeemer.

Good morning. Some of y’all are probably wondering who on earth I am, and that’s fair. I attended Sunday services here somewhat irregularly for several months about a year and a half ago. I fell a little in love with this community, but unfortunately work and living circumstances have made it difficult for me to cross the Bay on Sunday mornings. But still, I’ve been very happily a part of the East Bay discipleship group for the past several months, and maintain my deep fondness for First Mennonite. When Sheri asked if I would give a reflection on Pride Sunday, I jumped at the chance to get back here.

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Sermon: Mother’s Day

By Sheri Hostetler

John 14:1-11

Full disclosure: I had already decided that I wanted to preach on John 14:1-11 and out of curiosity, I went back through previous sermon to see if I had ever preached on that passage before. Indeed I had, three years ago. I read through the sermon and uncharacteristically decided that I liked it AND wanted to preach it again (with changes, of course). I checked this impulse out with Sharon, who affirmed giving this sermon another airing. So, if you want your money back, speak to me at the end of the sermon…

My Mom and Dad are both practical people who plan ahead, and so, for years before my Mom died of Lewy Body Dementia in May 2014, I knew that I would be giving the reflection, on behalf of my siblings, at her memorial service. And for years, I have known what I would say: All of us kids – my two brothers and myself – knew there was nothing we could ever do or not do, nothing we could ever be or not be that would cause Mom to love us any less. We always knew that she loved us, unconditionally. During his turbulent teen years, my brother Phil would come home in the middle of the night, drunk or high at least some of the time, and Mom would wake up – if she had even gone to sleep – and sit with him, sometimes for hours, talking about whatever Phil wanted to talk about. “Some parents of that time,” he said, “ might have thrown me out of the home or at least chastised me when I walked in at 2 a.m. Not Mom. I never felt any judgment from her. Only her concern and care for me.”

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