Sermon: Walking Humbly

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Micah 6:1-8

Imagine yourself in the forest that we just heard about during Children’s Time. What do you think you’d be noticing if you were in the forest? Maybe the sound of birds or the height of the trees? Maybe the skittering of the squirrels, rustling the leaves as they bound across branches? Maybe you’d notice the pinecones strewn across the path or a mushroom popping up under some ivy? Maybe you would notice the smell of leaves or of an eucalyptus tree nearby? 

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Sermon: Composting our way to Abundance

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

This sermon is the third in our Advent Series, “Embracing Our Chaotic, Fertile Reality,” which is based in prophecies from Isaiah as well as the wisdom of a modern-day prophet, adrienne maree brown, author of Emergent Strategy. 

Isaiah 35:1-10

There is so much beauty and abundance in this passage from Isaiah. They are words written for a community in exile, longing for home. It’s a vision of the fertile path that they will tread as they make their return. And they were not just words of hope for the Hebrew people in Babylon, they were words repeated generation after generation, reminding the people of the liberating way of life made possible by YHWH – the Divine presence dwelling with them. 

When we reroot these words in their context, among the people for whom they are written located in a specific geographic region, it becomes even more clear why Isaiah’s words were associated with the birth of Jesus/Yeshua in first century Palestine. 

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Sermon: The kingdom of God is a weed + children’s story

by Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Mark 4:30-32

I am connected. I am connected to my body, to the Spirit and to the earth. I am earth. 

Those are the intentions I chose for myself while on the wilderness vigil last month. For four days and four nights I was alone in the woods without food. Seven others were also keeping vigil on the same piece of land, spread out, but within whistle distance if anything unexpected happened. We also had a team of five people keeping watch over the land and available for support if we vigilers were in need.  

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Meditation: All Saints Day

You can find an audio and video recording of this meditation here.

Luke 6:17-26

Blessed are you who are poor, hungry, sad and rejected. Woe to you who are rich, satiated, happy and popular. You’ll get yours. Boom. That’s the Gospel for today in a nutshell, right?

Is this text really telling us that we’re bad if we are financially and emotionally doing okay, even that God is going to get us back for all our ill-gotten wealth and health? And, furthermore, just what does this passage have to do with day in which we remember our loved ones who have died, other than the brief mention of those who mourn?

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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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Story: How I Became A Mystic

During our Lenten series on Christian mysticism called “A Voice to Call Us Home,” people at First Mennonite shared a story or a reflection related to the theme. This reflection is by Karin Holsinger, who gave it on the first Sunday of Lent, March 6.

This is the story of how I became a mystic…

I was raised, like I imagine some of you also may have been, in a Mennonite home that was rather suspicious of mystics and monks—mystics appearing to dwell outside of reason and rationality and monks appearing to shirk concern for the poor and suffering.

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Sermon: Untamed Love

I Corinthians 13 

An audio version of this sermon can be found here.

This passage from I Corinthians is in danger of domestication due to overuse. Known as the “love passage,” I suspect many of you have heard it read at a fair number of weddings. And, in fact, I have preached on this passage at a fair number of weddings. And little wonder. It offers a profound message about the kind self-giving love that must form the foundation of any long-term commitment. 

But because of its association with matrimony, this passage also is in danger of being too narrowly applied to our lives. In fact, this passage resists all domestication, all attempts to contain it. It is like fire. This passage is talking about a love that will jump fences and cross freeways and send sparks soaring. It is a love that does not want to be confined to one relationship in your life — it wants to burn in every relationship  — in your relationship to your self, in your relationship to all living beings on this earth, human and more than human, in your relationship to the Creator and the creation.  According to Paul, who wrote this passage to the church he planted in the city of Corinth,  this love is the whole point of what he called life in Christ and what we might call following Yeshua (Jesus). 

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