Archive for December, 2014

Taking the Call

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Rev. Ronal Nicholas

August 31, 2014

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Biblical Testimony (Torah):                  Exodus 3:1-15

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.

Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

Then God said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.… I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

God said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is God’s name?’ what shall I say to them?”

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM .… Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you’.…Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.”

Biblical Testimony (Gospel):             Matthew 16:21-27

[After he had asked the first disciples who people were saying he was and who they thought he was], Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”  But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.”

Contemporary Testimony:  from St. John Vianney (1786-1859)

“Love for our neighbor consists of three things: to desire the greater good of everyone; to do what good we can when we can; to bear, excuse, and hide other’s faults.”

Round Up Ready

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

July 20, 2014

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Biblical Testimony: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Contemporary Testimony: from The Seeds of Heaven: Sermons on the Gospel of Matthew by Barbara Brown Taylor

Hear another parable of the wheat and the weeds. One afternoon in the middle of the growing season, a bunch of farmhands decided to surprise their boss and weed his favorite wheat field. No sooner had they begun to work, however, than they began to argue—first about which of the wheat-looking things were weeds and then about the rest of the weeds. Did the Queen Anne’s lace pose a real threat to the wheat, or could it stay for decoration? And the blackberries? They would be ripe in just a week or two, but they were, after all, weeds—or were they? And the honeysuckle—it seemed a shame to pull up anything that smelled so sweet.

About the time they had gotten around to debating the purple asters, the boss showed up and ordered them out of his field. Dejected, they did as they were told. Back at the barn he took their machetes away from them, poured them some lemonade, and made them sit down where they could watch the way the light moved across the field. At first, all they could see were the weeds and what a messy field it was, what a discredit to them and their profession, but as the summer wore on they marveled at the profusion of growth—tall wheat surrounded by tall golden rod, ragweed, and brown-eyed Susans. The tares and the poison ivy flourished alongside the Cherokee roses and the milkweed, and it was a mess, but a glorious mess, and when it had all bloomed and ripened and gone to seed the reapers came.

Carefully, gently, expertly, they gathered the wheat and made the rest into bricks for the oven where the bread was baked. And the fire that the weeds made was excellent, and the flour that the wheat made was excellent, and when the harvest was over the owner called them all together—the farmhands, die reapers, and all the neighbors—and broke bread with them| bread that was the final distillation of that whole messy, gorgeous, mixed-up field, and they all agreed that it was like no bread any of them had ever tasted before and that it was very, very good. Let those who have ears to hear, hear.

Jonah’s Journey

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

July 6, 2014

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Biblical Testimony: A retelling of the Jonah story by Frederick Buechner found in “Peculiar Treasures”

When God ordered Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell them there to shape up and get saved, the expression on Jonah’s face was that of a man who has just gotten a whiff of trouble in his septic tank. In the first place, the Ninevites were foreigners and thus off his beat. In the second place, far from wanting to see them get saved, nothing would have pleased him more than to see them get what he thought they had coming to them.

It was as the result of a desperate attempt to get himself out of the assignment that he got himself swallowed by the whale instead; but the whale couldn’t stomach him for long, and in the end Jonah went ahead, and with a little more prodding from God, did what he’d been told. He hated every minute of it, however, and when the Ninevites succumbed to his eloquence and promised to shape up, he sat down under a leafy castor oil plant to shade him from the blistering sun and smouldered inwardly. It was an opening that God could not resist.

God caused the castor oil plant to shrivel up to the last leaf, and when Jonah got all upset at being back in the ghastly heat again, God pretended to misunderstand what was bugging him.

“Here you are, all upset out of pity for one small castor oil plant that has shriveled up,” God said, “so what’s wrong with having pity for this whole place that’s headed for Hell in a handcart if something’s not done about it?”.

Contemporary Testimony: an excerpt from The Journey with Jesus: Notes to Myself by Dan Clendenin

We know that in some sure and certain way God loves all people equally. But the parable of…Jonah who complained about God’s tender love for Israel’s bitter enemy Nineveh, remind us that God somehow has a special love for the least, for those whom we normally exclude, reject, and even hate. The geography of divine grace that embraces Nineveh…confounds our puny and parsimonious human metrics that complain about instead of celebrate divine generosity.

Pride Sunday: Focus on Our Family

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Open & Affirming Justice Group

June 29, 2014

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Contemporary Testimony: Audre Lorde, self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” would have turned 80 (Feb. 2014) had cancer not taken her in 1992. Here’s what she said about family in 1975, from Conversations With Audre Lorde

I think that some of the taboos that we suffer under now, that a family must be made up of male/female plus children, all locked into a kind of an authoritarian, blind, give or take, I think that that will hopefully disintegrate. I think that if we begin to think of families in a wider context, groups of people relating to each other in a give-and-take manner, then our definitions of families will broaden so that we have groups of people, sustain groups, support groups, in whatever period of life, whatever time, what ever place, right, that come together and remain. I think families, in that sense, human beings, are basically social and we will always find some way of grouping together, and our children need to be protected. 

Biblical Testimony: Isaiah 54:2—4a

Enlarge the site of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left,
and your descendants will possess the nations
and will settle the desolate towns.

Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace.