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!
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.
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?”
By Sheri Hostetler
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.”
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.
By Benjamin Bolaños
Play Corrido de Cesar Chavez
That’s called Corrido de Cesar Chavez. It’s Tex-Mex Mariachi style music. And I hate it. Not the lyrics but the music. I really really do. German Polka music in Mexico? Not really my thing. However, regardless of my lack of affinity for this type of music, it does evoke strong memories for me. I’ve been running away from Mariachi music for a long time. Or at least I thought I was. But it’s not really Mariachi music that I’ve tried to keep at arm’s length. It’s what it culturally represents for me. It anchors me to a time, place, a history I’ve battled with internally, again and again. The music has power over my identity and the path I forged for myself: Latino, Hispanic, Salvadoran, Mexican, immigrant, the migrant worker, the outcast, outsider, the great unwashed, the spic, the illegal…. All labels used to define my identity. See, that music, its harsh melody, that accordian noise, reminds me of those labels. They are like chains to me, a prison, a monolithic omnipotent force that you cannot ever escape, forever shackled to my being, my mind and soul. But assimilation, to belong, was the other power force. Assimilation was the antithesis, the remedy, and the medicine to those labels, to the music. Assimilation meant opportunity and a sure way out. It was the language of the powerful. Read more
By Sheri Hostetler
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.”
By Joanna Shenk
Sixth Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”
This is a familiar story for our congregation. We act it out every year. There’s lots that could be said about it. What words, images or phrases come to mind for you when you think about the Palm Sunday procession story?
We could explore how it was an embodiment of political satire. Jesus entering one side of Jerusalem on a donkey (and a foal!) and Caesar entered on the other side with chariots and horses. We could talk about the fickleness of the crowd, shouting “hosanna” one day and “crucify him” the next. We could talk about the chaos that’s inevitable when a city is packed full of people for a festival celebration.
As you may guess though, I’d like to focus on something else today. I’d like to look at the context surrounding Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his clarity about what he was facing and it’s implications for soul work.
By Addie Liechty
(cross-posted from https://addieswriting.wordpress.com/)
Fifth Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”
The language of the soul is not one of words. It is one that speaks in symbols. In Christianity our main symbol is the cross. Personally, I have never felt very connected to this symbol. I have distanced myself from it as it has become wedded to Christian hegemony causing much harm all over the world. In our country’s history the confederate flag “X” is a derivative of the cross, after all. In my own genealogical history, the cross was likely utilized when hunting down and killing many of my anabaptist ancestors. In my lifetime, the cross has been used as a symbol that alienates me from Christianity and even the Mennonites due to my queerness. I would venture to say that there is no one in this room that has not been harmed, in some way, by the cross. Aside from that, when I think of it, I see those bloody images of an agonizing Jesus and the whole of it just feels violent. So, for most of my recent life, I have buried this image and much preferred the symbology of angels and hearts. When I picture the archetype of a Bible thumping, queer hating pastor, he is holding a bible or a cross, not a heart (although, trading the cross for the heart in my imagination is rather amusing and it takes some of the power out of it)
By Sheri Hostetler
Fourth Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”
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.
By Joanna Shenk
Third Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”
The passage that we just heard is the longest recorded conversation we have between Jesus and another person in scripture. And it’s pretty interesting, right? Although it was culturally taboo for the two of them to be talking, the Samaritan woman had no lack of things to say. She wasn’t even afraid to challenge Jesus about his weird idea of living water.
At the same time, we see some frustrating themes that run through scripture: Jesus, the man, shows up with magical powers to help a poor, oppressed woman. Additionally, the woman is probably of questionable moral standing and Jesus is Mr. Sinless who stoops to her level and we praise him for being such a liberating guy. Obviously Jesus doesn’t have any needs either. The whole “drink of water” thing is just a ploy, right, to start the conversation? Jesus gets all the points and the woman gets to be grateful that this man chose to liberate her.
That’s the interpretation I’ve generally adhered to until writing this sermon. Clearly there are some liberating elements but it still perpetuates patriarchy even if it’s benevolent and the idea that some people are saviors and others need saving.
By Sheri Hostetler
Second Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”
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.”