Sermon: The Automatic Earth

The photos above is of an Amish farm near Sheri’s home in Ohio. This sermon is based on Mark 4:26-34.

I loved reading Frog and Toad stories to Patrick when he was young. And my favorite Frog and Toad story was the one we just heard. If I were to psychoanalyze myself, I would say that the overfunctioner in me — especially the overfunctioning parent in me — recognized myself in Toad.  My Inner Toad believes that it is not enough to plant a seed (or birth a child) and sit back and let the organic mystery of growth happen. My Inner Toad believes that I have to do things — many things — to make this mystery happen. I have to hover over my seed and anxiously watch it. Is it growing yet? Why not?  If I yell louder, will that result in growth? Oh no! Why is my seed delayed in growing, according to the unrealistic timeline I have set for it? Something is wrong and certainly requires my intervention.  Let’s read a book or go online or consult an expert. Just like Toad convinces himself that his seed is afraid to grow, I’ll come up with some story about why my seed isn’t growing and then focus all my efforts around that story. All this work and worry will exhaust me.  It is such hard work.

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Sermon: Practicing Sabbath

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Deut. 5:12-15

Growing up there were things I always expected to happen (or not happen) on Sundays. My Mom would tune the radio to the Christian program called Sunday Praise while we were getting ready for church. Then we would all pile into the van and tumble out at church, taking our usual spot in the front row. After church we would have a home-cooked meal and maybe a guest would join us. I think in the afternoon we usually played board games or did something as a family (we did have a TV, so TV watching was always off the table). No one went to the store because shopping was not allowed. The day would conclude with lots of stovetop popcorn for dinner.

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Sermon: The Right-Sized Self

Isaiah 6:1-8

This past weekend, I spent four days in Death Valley, homeland of the Timbisha Shoshone. We were celebrating the 80th birthday of a dear friend, who said she wanted to go somewhere where she could gaze at stars. And so I googled, “Where is the best place to stargaze in California?” and Death Valley National Park instantly came up. So, off we went to Death Valley, nine hours each way by car. As we drove into the park at around 5pm on Thursday, with sore backs and hips from so much sitting, we couldn’t see much. It was very windy and the views were obscured by veils of dust. I think we may have all been wondering if it was really worth the drive. Surely there were stargazing spots a bit closer to the Bay Area? 

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Sermon: Prophesy to the bones

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Happy Pentecost! I imagine that most of us are familiar with the Pentecost story as told in Acts. It’s an exciting one, with wind and fire and miracles! The disciples are hiding away and then the Holy Spirit, like a rushing wind, fills the room they are in. The Spirit, like a fire, empowers them to share the good news of the resurrection publicly, and in many different languages and throngs of people join their movement. Christians often talk about Pentecost as the birth of the church. 

Last time I preached on Pentecost, two years ago, I learned about the Jewish holiday Shavuot. This holiday, observed seven weeks after Passover, was the reason why people from so many places were in Jerusalem. Shavuot is a celebration of God giving the Torah to the Hebrew people at Mt. Sinai. It is a celebration of Divine revelation. 

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Sermon: Not of this World

This sermon was presented along with a slide show, which provided a lot of the “text” for the sermon. I have tried to include as many links to these images as I can; feel free to imagine the rest!

John 17:6-19

It has been fun to hear people’s reaction to this passage from John this week. That reaction can be summed up in one word: Huh?  You may have felt that yourself when you just heard it. I mean, it sort of sounds profound, but it doesn’t really make sense. It reminds me of the opening lyrics from the song “I am the Walrus” by the Beatles: 

I am he as you are he as you are me

and we are all together

Huh?

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Sermon: In the World, but…? Earth Week pt.II


This sermon, by Geoff Martin, is a follow-up to our Earth Day service of April 25.

Psalm 96:11-13, 1 John 2:15-17

  1. Opening

On Christmas Day, 1996, I tore open the wrapping on my first CD player—top-loading with a double cassette deck and detachable speakers. Later that day, from my grandparents, my first CD, called Seltzer, a Christian Rock sampler album containing the era’s biggest acts.

One of my favorite tracks was by a band named Johnny Q. Public. In the images of the group, they wore fur lined jackets and rocked unkempt hair. And always: JESUS. in red block letters across a white T-shirts. I played that one song over and over. And in a fortuitous bit of luck, I found out months later that Johnny Q. was booked for the closing concert at an end-of-summer bible camp my friend and I were heading to in Northern Ontario.

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Earth Day Reflections

Earth Day Reflections presented Sunday, April 25, 2021, by Elaine Miller, Miriam Menzel, George Lin, Stephanie Stevens and Jim Musselman.

Elaine Miller

Who are among our great cloud of witnesses? Who are the ancestors in our memories, our spirit and our blood? My cloud of witnesses includes family, those gone before, AND representatives from the six kingdoms of life: Animals, plants, fungi and 3 distinct types of microorganisms. In other words, we were, and we are family with fish, redwoods, mushrooms, algae, and bacteria. We are all intimately connected and mutually reliant. We are all sacred.

Growing up we lived in a freshly minted neighborhood with two little lollipop trees in each brand-new front yard. Every Sunday we drove about 1/2 hour to a small Mennonite Church.  I would spend that drive through central Ohio, looking out the window at the endless cornfields, scraped, plucked and tended by giant machines working non-stop except in Winter. The Ohio I knew was city, suburb and farmland with an occasional pocket of older trees. 

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Sermon: Practicing Hope

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call, God of my justice!
Give me relief from my distress!
Have mercy!
Hear my prayer!

How long will you people dishonor me before God?
How long will you love delusion and pursue lies?
Know that those who love YHWH
have been set apart by divine will—
YHWH will hear me when I call!

Tremble, and stop your sinning;
search your heart,
alone and silent in your room.
Offer sacrifices of justice,
and put your trust in YHWH.

So many are asking,
“Does good even exist anymore?”
Let the light of your face, YHWH, shine on us!

You put joy in my heart—
a joy greater than being full
of bread and new wine.

In peace I’ll lie down;
in peace I will sleep:
for you alone, YHWH,
keep me perfectly safe.

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Sermon: Christ Has Descended! Alleluia!

Easter Sunday

Matthew 28:1-10

There are shadows within us. Yes, there is also a burning flame, an Inner Light as the Quakers call it, the image of God in us. But the shadows are there. We’ve been exploring them throughout Lent. Morton Kelsey, a priest and psychologist, puts it this way, “Each of us has underneath our ordinary personality, which we show to the public, a cellar in which we hide the refuse and rubbish which we would rather not see ourselves or let others see.” (From Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, Orbis Books.) In this dimly lit cellar are many half shapes —  the unloved, rejected, despised parts of ourselves — and from these parts emanate shadowy emotions —  fear, shame, jealousies, regrets and grievances, deep sorrows, an anger that can erupt out of seemingly nowhere. 

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Sermon: Hosanna! Meet us here

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Mark 11:1-11

As we begin this holy week, reality feels anything but holy. We are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. What good news is there for us in the Palm Sunday story? How can we wave palm branches and shout hosanna when our hearts are heavy with grief? It feels as though we are already in the thick of the passion story, as we sit with the violence of these recent weeks. 

We grieve the senseless violence in Boulder, snuffing out 10 lives. And we grieve a society that breeds paranoia and isolation while allowing guns to be so easily accessible. We grieve the deep shadows of Christianity that repress sexual expression while fetishizing women of color. We grieve the tragic loss of life in Atlanta and the ongoing violence targeting our Asian American and Pacific Islander siblings. 

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Sermon: The Shadow of American Exceptionalism

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

This is the fourth sermon in a Lenten series entitled “Shadow Dancing: Pulling Back the Veil.” 

Matthew 5:13-15

The year is 1989. The setting is the White House. Ronald Reagan is offering his farewell address after 8 years in office. “The Great Communicator,” as he was called, waxes eloquently:

The past few days when I’ve been at that window upstairs, I’ve thought a bit of the shining “city upon a hill.” The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important, because he was an early Pilgrim – an early “Freedom Man.” He journeyed here on what today we’d call a little wooden boat, and, like the other pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free.

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind, it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind swept, God blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace – a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.

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Sermon: The Shadow Truth of QAnon

This is the third sermon in a Lenten series entitled “Shadow Dancing: Pulling Back the Veil.” The scripture was excerpts from Isaiah 1.

You could be a mother, picking leftovers off your toddler’s plate. You could be the young man in headphones across the street. You could be a bookkeeper, a dentist, a grandmother icing cupcakes in her kitchen. You may well have an affiliation with an evangelical church. But you are hard to identify just from the way you look—which is good, because someday soon dark forces may try to track you down. You understand this sounds crazy, but you don’t care. You know that a small group of manipulators, operating in the shadows, pull the planet’s strings. You know that they are powerful enough to abuse children without fear of retribution. You know that the mainstream media are their handmaidens, in partnership with Hillary Clinton and the secretive (members) of the deep state. You know that only Donald Trump stands between you and a damned and ravaged world. You see plague and pestilence sweeping the planet, and understand that they are part of the plan. You know that a clash between good and evil cannot be avoided, and you yearn for the Great Awakening that is coming. And so you must be on guard at all times. You must shield your ears from the scorn of the ignorant. You must find those who are like you. And you must be prepared to fight. You know all this because you believe in Q.

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