The story of Jesus healing the blind man in John 11 provides the lectionary connective tissue between Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well with the raising of Lazarus and the eventual death and resurrection of Jesus. Nicodemus looks for a personal revolution. The Woman sought a social revolution. Both gained new a new vision for their lives and their communities by letting go of (dying to) their old concepts and identities before the new life Christ brings (resurrection) can emerge. In the story of Lazarus, this spiritual possibility takes on its most powerful physical manifestation. Lazarus is raised back to life after having died. Beforehand, we have the healing of the man born blind. Some blamed him for his condition (Who sinned? This man or his parents?). Jesus offers him mercy and healing and is revealed as the light of the world. Jesus brings life from death, light from darkness, and purpose from impossibilities. Our Lenten path through John's gospel is leading us to the truth. Death is ahead. Suffering is unavoidable. But we should not be afraid. We are walking with the Savior of the world. Join us for worship this Sunday as we are strengthened yet again for this journey.
It was a unique and, according to the cultural norms of the day, a very scandalous meeting. Jesus holds a private meeting with a Samaritan, an outcast coming alone to a task normally done together in groups and a woman. Jewish men in First Century Palestine did not hold private meetings with other women who were not their spouse or were not a part of their family. But Jesus does things differently. He will bend and even break social norms if they interfer with claiming God's good and gracious blessings upon those who most need it. The interchange we notice in Jesus dialogue with the "Woman at the Well" in John 4, is full of the themes of shame and guilt, of defensiveness and posturing, of worship and the proper way we can appreciate the role of God's divine presence in the lives of individuals and communities. Join us as we revisit this exchange in our thematic emphasis to unlearn shame.
This week, our lectionary reading takes us to a familiar passage, particularly for Baptists. It is the nocturnal conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Taking place at day's end under the canopy of the stars, Nicodemus seems to be a bundle of nerves. We can identify. Once the sun has set, our minds can run wild with worry. We think about a troubled conversation we had earlier. We dread something facing us with the start of another day. Our imaginations take hold of us. Entering into the quiet darkness after a day filled with an abundance of noises and images, it's easy to be overwhelmed with questions, anxieties and fear. No wonder children fear the dark and the potential "bogeymen" it hides. And while all the threats that concern us grow more sophisticated with age, their presence grows evermore pronounced once the shadows lengthen and the sun goes down. Jesus speaks to Nicodemus of the presence of God, gifting us with physical life, yes, but also with life renewed, a life of the Spirit. Jesus invites him (and us) to challenge our fears with a deep and confident faith in a God who does not destroy, but who delivers, a God whose will it is for people to be saved, not to perish. Join us this Sunday as we think more deeply about the power this faith in Christ offers as we face our fears under the cover of darkness.
This year, we will focus our Lenten journey on the process of “unlearning.” Unlearning starts with the recognition that we have, over time, developed very specific biases in the course of our lives. These perspectives have served us well, but they are not universal. Everyone has their own set of discriminations.The Christian practice of Lent is a purposed and discipline plan of letting go, of changing our patterns, of seeking to approach our life from a fresh angle. It may require a different pattern of behavior or response. It may seek to undo old and more familiar ways before new connections and pathways can be made.
After a couple of weeks considering Jesus' celebrated sermon found in Matthew 5 and a special and wonderful service dedicating our new hymnal, we turn our attention to the apostle Paul's instruction to the church at Corinth to build their faith on none other than Jesus Christ. While this instruction may seem as obvious as the powerfully bright sun on a cloudless day, it was an important reminder for those earliest of all Christians and for us too. Throughout the story of Christianity, many have become sidetracked with a devout attention to the tradition of the faith, rather than to the founder of our faith. This Sunday, we will illustrate how the content of faith can get in the way of the essence of faith. It will be a challenging, but necessary lesson as we seek to live kindly and thoughtfully as faithful followers of Jesus Christ in the 21st Century.
This week we continue our attention on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. This time our focus narrows to the conclusion of Jesus’ famous litany of blessings with a call to action. Spiritual knowledge is important, but without a sincere movement to action, all the deep insights gained through prayer, study and reflection might appear exclusively selfish and ultimately will not substantially changes ourselves and certainly not the world around us. Join us this Sunday as we push ourselves into taking the tangible and necessary steps to be agents of salt and light in Jesus’ name.
Our "Preparation" in this Sunday’s worship bulletin alerts us to a powerful observation by Kurt Vonnegut. He writes, “For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. "Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!” Sunday, we begin a two-part focus on Jesus’ best known sermon. Aaron will offer a creative reading and singing of Matthew 5:1-12 and the sermon will help us see and participate in Jesus’ vision for personal joy and communal fulfillment. Join us!
The gospel lesson for this week's reflections recounts the story of Jesus calling his disciples. These "early adopters" left hometowns, occupations and families to join the gospel movement. Their lives would never be the same again. We, who walk in the earth-shattering influence of this heritage, know its life changing power. We are hard pressed to imagine how 2,000 years of human history would be different if it were not for this simple carpenter from no-name Nazareth and his humble cast of sidekicks. Hospitals, orphanages, academies of learning, institutions of spiritual and religious renewal and a general concern to help relieve the needs of the poor have all come to pass by those who have endeavored to follow Jesus. His disciples heard the Spirit's calling. They sought to live up to his example. They endured sufferings and embraced sacrifice, all in order to be his continued expression of grace, love and forgiveness to the world. Granted, there have been periods of history and specific Christian personalities who got it wrong. But such digression was only possible because those who strayed from the path cared little for matching their steps with the Master's. Join us this Sunday, when we remember and embrace the legacy of the disciples, men and women committed to following the way of Jesus no matter the costs.
This weekend, one of the ways we participate in the commemoration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King is with Rabbi David Wirtschafter of Adath Temple Israel as our pulpit guest. Rabbi Wirtschafter has become a leading voice in our community for civil rights, justice and equality. Our invitation acknowledges the struggle for civil and human rights grows out of our common Judeo-Christian heritage. Joining Dr. King on the the marches he led were not only blacks and whites walking and working together, but also Jews and Christians. The influence of these groups have lifted the conversation and called our nation to a high and holy moral vision. Join us this Sunday as we not only remember this heritage but, pray, prepare and work for the good that is still needed and still yet to come.
This Sunday, the Christian world remembers the baptism of Jesus. The Lord of life and and love began his public ministry by entering into the Jordan River to be baptized. Throughout the centuries, believers by the billions have also been baptized as a sign of redemption, forgiveness and new life. They have confessed Jesus as the source of the power they have claimed in his name over evil, sin and death in seeking to join their life with his. How is this possible? Because Jesus, the one who will be claimed as fully God dressed completely in human flesh spent his earthly ministry to perfectly identify with the humanity he came to save. Jesus, the one confessed as the Trinitarian complement to God and the Holy Spirit, who was present in the creation of Universe and who bears the image of the full cosmos, took the form of a creature. He descended, descending into earth, into the fallen portrait of finite flesh, and into the muddy waters. The one who formed stardust and soared over the waters of the primeval void becomes one with the dust and is submerged under the rushing river. He is the King who serves, the Teacher, who is humble, the One with the power of life who submits himself to pain, suffering and death. We raise our voice with the Christian world. Our confession is in him. Our hope is in him. Our communion is with him and with the whole world being redeemed in this mysterious, visceral and eternal witness. Join us for what indeed, is worthy of our worship.
This sermon was preached by our Associate Pastor of Missions and Outreach, Aaron Austin on January 1, 2017. As we look ahead to a new year, we will find hope that the God who has carried along those who have gone before also carries us and will guide us in the way ahead. Reflecting on the gospel account of the flight to Egypt, we'll look for guidance and hope for our own journeys.
This sermon is from the Third Sunday of Advent, when we focus on the theme of joy. Two scripture readings help light the way. They are Isaiah 35:1-10 and Matthew 11:2-11. The first reading speaks of new life springing forth in the desert. The second finds the disciples of John the Baptist questioning the legitimacy of Jesus’ ministry. Again, it is a testimony of new life spring forth from desperate places where the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. This is the good news of joy we celebrate this Sunday of Advent. God is able and ready to rescue and redeem that which is lost. Additionally, we will enjoy special music with Jane Howell on the harp and Kara Kilpatrick on the hammered dulcimer. Don’t miss another fantastic Sunday of worship.
This Sunday, as we continue our journey Advent journey of Lighting the Way, we will Light the Way to an Unfamiliar Peace. God calls us to a peace that is more than a harmonious facade. God calls us to live into a peace that makes room for the other, a peace that rejoices in generosity and exults in forgiveness. This peace is not made by passivity, but by actively working for justice.
This sermon is from the first Sunday of Advent. This year we begin our Advent theme of Lighting the Way. As we anticipate the coming of Jesus, we look to see where God is leading us, perhaps even somewhere we've not been before. We celebrate this Sunday, remembering that though we may not know exactly where we are going, we have hope that God's good guidance will make paths for love and justice in our world. Join us Sunday as we remind each other of the hope that God is bringing to our world.
This sermon is from "Christ the King" Sunday, the official end of the Church Year, culminating the annual story of Jesus we tell through the liturgy. The liturgical calendar starts all over again the following Sunday as we prepare for the First Sunday of Advent, working our way toward the preparation and celebration of Jesus’ birth. In our national calendar, this Sunday normally falls before Thanksgiving, when we are called to offer our gratitude to God for our lives and the many blessings we have been given. It is a wonderful time, but one requiring spiritual readiness and reflection. Join us at 11 a.m. for a great time of worship.
This is a sermon delivered by Special Guest Rev. Hannah Bonner, a minister and activist who has worked for justice and racial equality in response to the death of Sandra Bland. Reverend Bonner led prayer vigils at Waller County Jail in the aftermath of Bland’s death and led the campaign to correct the public narrative of Sandra Bland's life. Bonner calls white Christians to a continuous discomfort in the path of racial reconciliation and a solidarity that does not break. The audio begins with an introduction by Dr. Laura Levens, a professor at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky and a friend of Rev. Bonner.
Creation Care Sunday on April 24 was an important opportunity to affirm our Christian responsibility to be good and faithful stewards of the earth’s beauty and bounty. Mark's sermon sought a rethinking of many of the familiar themes that keep us from seeing the importance of this calling. These common themes include the classical interpretation of the “fall” from the Garden of Eden, to exclusively understanding “heaven” as something “out there” rather than something pressing into today’s reality, and the popular, but dangerous notion that God’s plan for the earth is condemnation and destruction, rather than redemption and renewal. Focusing on the image of the “new heaven and the new earth” this sermon invites us to look ahead in hope and promise to what God is doing and invites us to work with concern and care for the good creation God has given.