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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Sermon: “Radiant Wholeness”

By Sheri Hostetler

Easter Sunday

Matthew 28:1-10

We are created in the image of God. Inside each of us is a radiant wholeness that seeks to be expressed in our human form. Thus, we have the mystery of the Incarnation. That mystery is not just that God became flesh in Jesus but that God — this radiant wholeness — seeks to become flesh in each of us. Jesus’ calling was to show us that it was possible to be whole within this human form, to show us the way.

And so he started like each of us do — a small, powerless being in a large and often overwhelming world. The bulwark against this world is our parents or guardians. They are the ones who, hopefully, protect us, feed us, comfort us when the inevitable overwhelm happens. Quickly, we learn that these people, these gods, expect certain behaviors of us. We are given smiles when we do the right thing, frowns and possibly “consequences” when we don’t.  Soon, others enter the picture — teachers, peers — and they, too, have their expectations, as does the larger society. We learn what parts of us are desirable and what are not. The undesirable parts are stuffed into our shadow, that long, black bag we all carry behind us. They become the “not me.”

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Sermon: “Reclaiming Soul – The Journey”

By Sheri Hostetler

Fourth Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”

Ephesians 4:7-16

In the first sermon of our Lenten series, I told you the story of when I was 32, working at a soul-sucking job in a corporate publishing house but unable to imagine or make happen a different future for myself. And I told you of how things started to shift when I participated in this ritual that was a part of my friend Anita’s graduation celebration. We were at a labyrinth in the East Bay Hills and, as we stood in a circle, we were asked to get in touch with what our soul needed and — one by one — either step into the middle of the circle (so we were surrounded by people), stay in the circle (holding hands), or step out of the circle. When it came my turn, I startled myself by starting to cry and backing away from the group as far as I could. I told them that I loved them, but that I needed to be as far away from them as possible.

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Sermon: “Soul Loss”

By Sheri Hostetler

Second Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”

Matthew 16:24-26

In 1939, on the eve of World War II, Carl Jung — one of the founders of Western psychiatry — was giving a talk in London in which he recounted a conversation he had had years before with the chief of the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Standing on the clay roof of fifth floor of the main building of the pueblo, at 7,000 feet in elevation, with the sun shining on their faces, Ochiway Bianco said: “We are a small tribe, and these Americans, they want to interfere with our religion. They should not do it, because we are the sons of the Father, the Sun. He who goes there” (pointing to the sun) — “that is our Father. We must help him daily to rise over the horizon and to walk over heaven. And we don’t do it for ourselves only; we do it for America; we do it for the whole world. And if these Americans interfere with our religion through their missions, they will see something. In ten years, Father Sun won’t rise anymore because we can’t help him.” (From Jung’s essay “The Symbolic Life.

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Sermon: “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”

By Sheri Hostetler

First Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”

Matthew 4:1-11

I was 32 and deeply unhappy. I was working at a soul-sucking job as a medical writer and editor at a publishing house in San Francisco. It wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, but I had no idea what else to do. I had finished a seminary degree three years before and had been floundering ever since, trying to figure out some course of action that would lead me to the holy grail of career happiness. I tried this, I tried that, but I walked into a closed door every time. Nothing would open for me. By this time, I was quite depressed, frozen in my unhappiness and despairing that things could ever change.

And then my good friend, Anita Amstutz (whom some of you know) invited me to a celebration of her graduation from the Pacific School of Religion. About 12 women hiked to a labyrinth in the East Bay Hills, and what I thought of then as an older woman, who was about my present age today,  started to lead a ritual, which began with us walking  into the center of the labyrinth.  It wasn’t what I was expecting, and it all seemed a bit woo-woo, a bit “California,” but I liked this older woman and I loved my friend Anita, so I told my cynical self to be quiet and go along.

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