Sermon: “King of Kings”

palm leaf tree plant 6“King of Kings”

(April 13, 2014) Jesus rides into Jerusalem as a king, but not the sort of king anyone was expecting. When we fail to live up to the expectations of others– or when they fail to live up to ours– can we cut one another a little slack? Are we willing to ask ourselves if our expectations are good and healthy ones, or simply what we want to see? (Matthew 21:1-11)

First Sunday back in the sanctuary, and mic troubles and all the distraction and pressure that comes with that!

Sermon: Light of the World

horse blinders 1“Light of the World”

(March 30, 2014) As Jesus restores vision to a person born without sight, he turns the conversation from the literal to the spiritual, and from harm to healing. Where do we need our eyes opened? What systems of oppression– racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism– and of privilege keep us from seeing God in our midst? How, with our blinders removed, with the light of Christ shining in our lives, can we see the work God calls us to do, in the naming and dismantling of our own privilege, and the steps toward wholeness we seek to take? (John 9:1-41)

I mentioned a number of stories in my sermon, including a video of a newscaster being disrespected by her co-host, the flip-flop of child sponsoring non profit WorldVision, and a talk by a comedian who describes the intersecting experiences of being an Arab American Muslim woman with cerebral palsy who wanted to act.

 

 

Sermon: Living Water

well stone close“Living Water”

(March 23, 2014) At the well, Jesus encounters a powerful theologian in the form of a Samaritan woman, and their conversation looks at the literal and spiritual needs for water. This day after World Water Day, how do we understand the intersections between the literal water crisis and the spiritual need for living water? What will we do about the water crisis? (John 4:5-15, 23-30, 39-42)

Resources about the water crisis:

Press release for World Water Day

World Water Day homepage

Informational Video about Water Crisis (World Water Day 2013)

Water.org (microlending and water credit to expand access to clean water)

UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (monitoring and resources toward goal of providing access to clean water for all)

UNICEF Tap program (donates money for clean water for every ten minutes you don’t use your phone)

Sermon: The Way

path trees fog“The Way”

(March 16, 2014) Another name we call Jesus is “The Way,” but rather than a term that describes a singular path one can travel, the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus makes clear that “The Way” is a journey, not a destination. Far from inviting us to accept Jesus and “be saved,” this passage teaches us that being born from above is a continual process, filled with more questions than answers and enriched by relationship with Jesus. (John 3:1-17)

Sermon: Bread of Life

Minolta DSC“Bread of Life”

(March 9, 2014) This Lent, we are looking at different names for Jesus. Today’s story invites us to imagine what it means to be fed and nourished by Christ, the Bread of Life. What would it be to trust on this most fundamental level? (Matthew 4:1-11)

The Names of Jesus series is inspired by a series from Logos Productions.

What’s Next?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOne of my favorite parts of the tv show “The West Wing” that seems realistic to me is the refrain “what’s next?” Used to change the subject, to close a conversation, to carry on with work, to recommit to tasks at hand, these two words return again and again in the script as the characters move from one seemingly completed hurdle to the next one already bearing down on them.

That’s my question today: what’s next?

Much of the progressive and moderate United Methodist Church world rejoiced today as the New York Annual Conference took a bold step. Before them: the matter of Rev. Dr. Tom Ogletree, the scholar, theologian, elder, and father who officiated at the wedding of his son and son-in-law. In this case, however, although the matter was referred to trial, it was sent back to the counsels for the church and for Ogletree (Revs. Tim Riss and Scott Campbell, respectively), for a just resolution. That resolution was announced this morning.

In summary, as part of the resolution, Rev. Dr. Ogletree has relinquished his right to a trial by his peers, and New York Annual Conference Bishop McLee has made a statement calling for the cessation of trials. Bishop McLee will convene a forum on human sexuality, and Rev. Dr. Ogletree will attend, his health permitting. From the resolution, and as I blogged at NewWineskins (a project I’m working on with many others in the New England Conference of The UMC– you should check it out!), they said:

“As the Bishop of the New York Annual Conference, in consideration of my responsibility to provide spiritual, pastoral and temporal oversight for those committed to my care, I call for and commit to a cessation of church trials for conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions or performing same-gender wedding ceremonies and instead offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical conversation.” -Bishop McLee

“In recognition of Bishop Martin McLee’s publicly stated intention to approach the matter of marriage equality in a non-juridical manner, but instead to offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical reflection, I hereby relinquish my right to a trial on the charge that has been brought against me for officiating at a same gender wedding ceremony. I further agree to make myself available, health permitting, to participate in the above-mentioned Forum that Bishop McLee will convene.” -Rev. Dr. Ogletree

And there was much rejoicing.

Or was there?

As with any compromise, everyone gets a little of what they don’t want. For traditionalists, the lack of trial seems like a weak slap on the wrist or lack thereof; there will be no punitive consequences for Rev. Dr. Ogletree, and he is asked to share his opinion and expertise. For progressives, queer United Methodists and allies, and those hoping to see the church’s language overturned, this stops short of such action and returns us to the rhetoric of conversation, which has been the painful status quo for the past 40 years in the church.

And so it is a mixed bag today. A huge step forward. Charges dismissed. Relationship valued over legalism. An active Bishop joining the ranks of those calling to stop the trials. That Bishop now bound by this agreement to find just resolutions moving forward.

But. Sometimes trials push an issue that needs to be addressed. Many feel the time for talking is long gone. And the discriminatory language of the Book of Discipline remains, and with it the prohibition not only against ministry to LGBTQ persons, but the ministry of those persons. There is so much work to be done.

Until the love and ministry of all persons is recognized on an equal basis, until the Discipline does not call people sacred in one breath and incompatible in another, perhaps even until no more bodies of lesbian couples are found by dumpsters, no more teen boys take their lives for fear of embracing an identity, and a transgender person can have a life expectancy equal their cisgender peers, we have work to do.

So let me be clear: yes, charges have been dismissed against Rev. Dr. Ogletree in favor of a resolution involving more conversation. It’s a huge day in the UMC, and a big step forward. AND there is still work to be done. Conversation about 40 years of discrimination is not enough; stopping trials for people who officiate (while trials are pending for people accused of being homosexual) is not enough; maintaining discriminatory and dehumanizing language in the Book of Discipline is not acceptable. There is joy, and there is work to be done.

Alleluia. And, what’s next?

Sermon: Is it Safe?

lion mane 2“Is it Safe?”

(March 3, 2014, Transfiguration Sunday) The encounter with God is not always safe or comfortable; it leaves us changed. Are we ready to be transformed, or are we still asking that God be safe and sanitary because we are not yet ready to change? (Exodus 24:12-18; Matthew 17:1-9)

References abound in this sermon!

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Robert E. Quinn, Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within

Blog excerpt, “When Glory“, (c) Jan Richardson, Janrichardson.com

Sermon: Blessed are the Cheese-Makers?

prayer poverty man old“Blessed are the Cheese-Makers?”

(February 2, 2014) When we read the list of blessings in the Gospels (“beatitudes,” as they are often called), we can read them both as reminders of whom God loves, and as soothing balm for the parts of ourselves most in need of blessing. What blessings do you need to hear? (Matthew 5:1-12)

Sermon: Something Fishy

fish 4“Something Fishy”

(Jan 26, 2014) Some things are harder than they might seem at first (like keeping goldfish alive–whyyyy?). Perhaps it sounds easy to “make disciples” or share faith or live the Christian life, but it is hard. The good news is that we are not called to walk solo journeys. (Matthew 4:12-23)

Sermon: Give it a Look-See

look binoculars boy“Give it a Look-See”

(January 19, 2014) When is the last time you looked at something– not just let the images assault your eyeballs, but looked deeply? This deep looking is what God is inviting when Christ says “come and see.” (John 1:29-42)

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