Sermon for 1/28/18: On Silence

Deuteronomy 18:15-20, Psalm 111, and Mark 1:21-28

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Not all of us are called to be hermits, but all of us need enough silence and solitude in our lives to enable the deeper voice of our own self to be heard at least occasionally.
— Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk

Upon Further Reflection

One of our church members left the sanctuary laughing on Sunday.  After my sermon on silence, she said, "You sure can tell you don't live alone!"  It's true.  This sermon is very much a product of someone who does not live alone.  But I have to say in thinking about it, I have never lived alone, even when no one else was with me. I have always had enough inner chatter and reflection to take up the space of a couple roommates or family members. The sermon says less about the people who populate my house and work than it does about what goes on in my inner life.  They are related to be sure. My inner life is a place of constant conversation: talking and listening and meeting needs.  (In fact, I recently started playing a musical instrument so I could take a break from my thoughts.  I was surprised to discover it works!)    

This woman's observation speaks a wide truth: all of us experience the quiet differently. For some, we fight the quiet even as we crave it (that's the sermon). For others, we have made friends with the quiet, many times after a loss. It comforts us now. Still others experience too much quiet and not enough connection.  Remember what I said about isolation as a spiritual crisis?  

Each of us knows something about silence the rest of us need. My gift to this church is an active inner life that supports my teaching and preaching and accompaniment. I wrestle my world for the quiet I get. I am not the only one with a restlessness inner life in this church.  And you too are a gift to us.  If you have too much quiet, you know something the rest of us need to remember about loneliness.  You are a gift to us as well.  If you are at peace with the quiet, than you have an essential way of being that will nurture the rest of us when we feel chaotic inside. Your gift is the stillness God has cultivated in you.  You ground this faith community.

Our relationship to silence is not straight forward.  It changes over time. This week was an invitation to pause and wonder: where am I right now?  What Word of God works on me in the silence?  What do I know that others may not because of the way I am quiet?

Sermon for 12/10/17: Being Hard To Live With --- Youth, Part II

Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8

Rock Prayers painted by the Middle School Youth Group

Rock Prayers painted by the Middle School Youth Group

Youth ministry is not about getting things accomplished - only the act of God can bring about the transformation we seek. Youth ministry is about participating deeply in young people’s lives as we await, together in suffering & joy, the coming of God.
— Andrew Root

Upon Further Reflection

I forgot to tell you that John the Baptist was an artist.  In all my comparisons between John the Baptist and teens on Sunday, I forgot to say that.  It's an insight by Richard Rohr, that John the Baptist shaped containers for the Holy Spirit; he shaped pathways for God. He was never confused between the object he was making and the spirit it held within it in the way we are often confused.  In church life, we often mistake the container for the contained. 

I don't know about the kids you know, but the ones I know are always making stuff.  From an early age, they are always, always building, molding, creating.  My son has been out at 7am for the past week in the 25F mornings hammering on the fence.  He says he's working and fixing and building.  My daughter's hands never weary of shaping paper, wax, candy wrappers, you name it, all of it transformed into stuff she has an internal logic for making.  It's all a mystery how these things appear at her fingertips.  Kids have this inherit creative drive.  We need this drive in our churches if we are meant to renew.  And in the midst of all that messiness as we embrace the spirit of our prophets, our kids, we can't forget...Jesus was a crafter of containers, a sculptor, an artist. The wild thing though is this: it is us he's always tinkering with.

Sermon for 1/17/2016: Why We REALLY Don't Invite People To Church

John 2:1-12 and Mark 1:21-28

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

Welcoming the Rain                                                                         Cambria 2016

Welcoming the Rain                                                                         Cambria 2016

Sermon Notes

Before getting into the material of the formal sermon this week, I offer the videos we viewed in worship updating us on the work of the ELCA (our denominational body) in its campaign to end malaria with our global partners.  Five years ago, our denomination had a goal of raising 15 million dollars.  See these stories and hear where we stand today in those efforts.


This week we continue our wander through questions of invitation: why do we and don't we invite people to our faith communities? Do we hide our connection to God from others?  It occurred to me while preaching that the real issue is far larger than church.  If you are a person who has a practice of hospitality in your "regular" life, you probably will for church as well.  The opposite applies: if you are person who is private or needs quiet or has barriers to hospitality and invitation in your "regular" life, you probably will for church as well.  I pose a lot of possibilities in this sermon.  I'm curious: consider the following:


What motivates you or prohibits you from inviting people into church and your faith life?  

Post your comments here!!