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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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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Sermon: Imprisoned by Hope

By Joanna Shenk

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Zechariah 9:9-12

I had a hard time getting out of bed yesterday morning. I was feeling the weight of a lot of things and wondered if it was futile and disingenuous to write a sermon that offered hope. I wasn’t feeling hopeful. I was feeling more like the title to the most recent Metallica album, “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct.” The bad guys keep winning. Vulnerable people are endlessly oppressed. And it seems like so many people don’t even have a moral consciousness to appeal to. 

The whole moral consciousness thing is something I’ve having an internal argument with Vincent Harding about currently. I’m turning my extended interviews with him into a book and therefore have been immersed in his writing and thought. I continue to be amazing at the faith he has in people to choose transformation. He believed that with love, encouragement and an openness to questions, people could change. To the end of his life he was calling people to their highest human potential and calling this country to its highest potential.

What I’ve been saying to him now is, “Do you still believe that or have we crossed the point of no return? Have we finally proved we’re really only capable of self-destruction?”

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Sermon: The Risks of Following in the Jesus Way

By Joanna Shenk

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

When I read through the lectionary passages for this Sunday, the words from 1 Peter jumped right out at me. They were different than the other New Testament texts that told the story of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. On Ascension Sunday, which is today, we celebrate the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry and anticipate the coming of the Spirit. Next Sunday we celebrate Pentecost which marks the Spirit’s presence among us.

So this week in the Christian calendar we’re in liminal space. It’s the space between Jesus leaving and the Spirit coming. It’s perhaps a time when Jesus’ disciples were saying, “Well, he’s gone. That’s disappointing and a little scary. What do we do now?”

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Mennonites and May Day: FMCSF supports San Francisco May Day ICE shut down

By Joanna Shenk

Early in the morning of May 1st, 10 people from First Mennonite Church of San Francisco joined with approximately 100 others to shut down the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building and create a beautiful street mural.

Our goal was to express solidarity with immigrants who are caught in the clutches of ICE and/or facing deportation. We wanted to bring awareness to this injustice and saw May 1st, International Workers’ Day, as a good opportunity.

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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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