1/27, 2/3, and 2/10: Three Sermons on Beginnings

It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.
— Leonardo da Vinci
The Great Library of Alexandria rebuilt and restored between 1986 and 2002. The original was built under the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and housed at its height between 40,000 and 400,000 scrolls. It served as the center of intellectual life in the anceint world. I took this photo in June 2000, two years before its completion.

The Great Library of Alexandria rebuilt and restored between 1986 and 2002. The original was built under the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and housed at its height between 40,000 and 400,000 scrolls. It served as the center of intellectual life in the anceint world. I took this photo in June 2000, two years before its completion.

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, Luke 4:14-21

Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71-1-6, and Luke 4:21-30

Isaiah 6:1-13 and Luke 5:1-11

Upon Further Reflection

Dedicated to the twelve men and women formally seeking a new faith home in Bethel

Storytelling is an essential human activity – it’s why we binge on Netflix and why there will always be libraries full of books we can’t help but devour.  It’s why healthy churches are defined as places where regular people share their faith through story.  It’s why healing for people who have endured trauma, like war or violence or separations means storytelling – going back and interpreting the events of our lives to master our narratives and make meaning from what would otherwise feel random, meaningless, and chaotic.  Story reorients us, reorders us.  I can’t say this enough.  Change, transformation, empathy, surviving, arising, gathering – it all happens through story and for us as Christians, through one very precious story. 

The stories we have heard recently in worship, diverse as they are, share a common image: public interpretation of the scripture.  Reading our common stories then making sense of them in terms of the people gathered.  The Word is filtered through their needs. Jesus unrolls the scroll of Isaiah to read scripture to a crowd as the inauguration to his journey, a journey to rebuild a people .  In another verse, we have the story of the priest Ezra, returned from Babylonian exile, reading God’s Word within the gates of Jerusalem: "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the Torah. Again, this was a moment of inauguration to begin rebuilding a temple and a people. With this as well, we heard Jeremiah’s commission.  God said: I have put my words in your mouth. Jesus commandeers a boat from which to preach and tell stories to eager followers.   And this coming Sunday, he will offer his Sermon on the Plain interpreting the heart of biblical teaching. It is all storytelling and story-making. It will remind the people of the story of Moses and the commandments.

These are moments when the people are revitalized, grounded, and reborn.  As my mother put it in conversation last week, we are reconstituted in the Word.  These are stories of where we have come from, where we are going, and the promises that will get us there.  And we are called to respond by telling our own stories: love, loss, failure, triumph, doubt, hope, and resilience. Through it all, the Word shines through our words, binding us as One in Christ.

Trailblazers and Mapmakers

Exodus 19 and 20:1-21 and Matthew 22:34-40

Suggested Scripture Readings come from We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren with my own addition of Exodus 19.

Sunrise on Mount Sinai                                                                  Egypt      June 2000

Sunrise on Mount Sinai                                                                  Egypt      June 2000

Sermon Notes

A beautiful online devotion from the The High Calling served as a lens for my discussion about the Burning Bush.  I then applied that to this week's selection on the giving of the commandments.  
 

Aside from the Gospels themselves, the following books have shaped, informed, and inspired my reading of Exodus.  Click to links for sources: 1) We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren 2)  The particulars of Rapture: reflections on exodus by Avivah Zornberg 3)  The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus   by Nahum Sarna 4)  Exodus and Revolution by Michael Walzer

Bible verses follow the NRSV translation.

 

Winding the Clock with E.B. White and Pope Francis: Genesis 12 and Mark 11

Genesis 12:1-9, Galatians 3:6-9, Mark 11:15-19

Suggested Scripture Readings from Brian McLaren's We Make the Road by Walking

Mission Santa Ynez          June 2015          Photo Credit: My Daughter

Mission Santa Ynez          June 2015          Photo Credit: My Daughter

About the photo....Just days after Pope Francis canonized Junipero Serra, the Spanish father of the California mission movement, I found myself at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum at an exhibit called Becoming LA.  In part, it documents the cost to California's Native Americans with the arrival of the Spanish missionaries making Serra's sainthood deeply conflicted.  

I must say, growing up in New England, history class never got much past Paul Revere's ride through the North End of Boston. 

Sermon Notes

The words of EB White come from a totally worthwhile book called Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience compiled by Shaun Usher and published by Chronicle Books in San Francisco in 2013.  I first encountered the letter on this fabulous website:

(Do yourself a favor and read the one from Steve Martin to a fan --- nothing to do with Jesus or Abraham.)

A full transcript of the speech by Pope Francis to Congress can be found through this link:

My reference to descriptions of Martin Luther`s life and times may be found in Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and his Career by James M. Kittelson published by Fortress Press in Minneapolis, 1986.