Preach it.

At First Church we value engaging sermons that relate our Biblical texts to our contemporary world.

Comfort, Comfort

Isaiah 40:1-11 Mark 1:1-8 Comfort, Comfort O my people. Why would we need comfort while anticipating the Christ child? Why would part of ‘what to expect when we are expecting,’ mean that we might need to be comforted, or comfort one another? While at the airport on Friday when traveling to Columbus Ohio to preach at a dear friend’s ordination, the gatekeepers told me the flight was overbooked, and they were sorry, but they had given my ticket away. I stayed calm at first. That can’t be—I booked this months ago. Other people had checked in before me, and they count on people to cancel, but it was a full flight, and they were sorry, I couldn’t get on the plane. “I am here in time, I have TSA pre-check, I can definitely make it to the gate I insisted!” They refused to print a ticket out, and booked me on a later flight. Still determined, with my later ticket, I breezed through security and marched to the gate to see my flight still there. I took a photo of it. I said to the person, “I have a ticket to the flight, it is still here, surely I can get on this flight.” “No, we over booked.” “That’s not my problem, I am a pastor, I need to preach at an ordination!” “We’re sorry ma’am”. “This is “blanked-up,” I surprised myself, “this system is BS you can’t just give a ticket away!” I started sweating with anger, tears of frustration welling up, “surely there is something you can do.” She handed me a piece of paper with (ahem)... read more

Cosmic Christ

Ephesians 1: 1-23 Delores Williams, wise womanist theologian and teacher, was my preaching professor Barbara Lundblad’s colleague when she first came to Union Seminary. Barbara remembers Delores Williams telling this story: that she grew up in the South and remembers Sunday mornings when the minister shouted out: “Who is Jesus?” The choir responded in voices loud and strong: “King of kings and Lord Almighty!” Then, little Miss Huff, in a voice so fragile and soft you could hardly hear, would sing her own answer, “Poor little Mary’s boy.” Back and forth they sang – KING OF KINGS…Poor little Mary’s boy. Delores said, “It was the Black church doing theology.” Who is Jesus? “King of Kings” cannot be the answer without seeing “poor little Mary’s boy. The images clash. One is big and powerful, the other small and poor.”(Lundblad) Between Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent- which is next Sunday, our spiritual prep leading up to Christmas, we get an extra Sunday, and our liturgical calendar calls today Christ the King Sunday, and the United Church of Christ has that softened to Reign of Christ Sunday to avoid the male imagery of “king” But that doesn’t make much difference if we forget that Jesus is “poor little Mary’s boy.” I have re-named it Cosmic Christ Sunday, well, because I can, and because I think cosmic Christ works even better to get at the same thing in our context. Our Advent theme this year comes from the dreams of one of our Deacons. She came to me saying, “I had a dream that I was pregnant- and I really don’t want... read more

‘He Loved Jesus’

Luke 14:7-24 Here is the scene: Jesus eating at the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisee’s; an academic mainstream righteously religious crew-the cultural arbiters of ‘right religion’ if you know what I mean. They were watching Jesus closely. In live time a man appeared who had ‘dropsy,’ and Jesus quizzed the Pharisees: ‘Is it legal to cure this man on the Sabbath, usually a day to do no work and no healing?’ They were silent, because usually the Pharisees were the ones quizzing Jesus. So Jesus cured the man and sent him away, saying to them: ‘If your child, or an ox fell in a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you reach in and save them?’ Silence again. As people continued to pour into this leaders home, the most important people sat at the head of the table. So Jesus spoke to them about humility; ‘when you come to, say, a wedding banquet, sit in the lowest place, so the host can tell you, come in close, move to the head of the table. “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who are humbled will be exalted.”’ Jesus says. Realizing people like the man with ‘dropsy’ weren’t even invited to this dinner, Jesus gave them more dining instructions, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your rich friends who could repay you, but invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. But you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” For this is what God would... read more

Blessing after Charlottesville

I am more convinced than ever after this weekend that church people are going to help save the world with love. People say the church is dying and I say good, some places need to die. But While neo-nazi’s and the KKK came bearing torches, chanting violent, hateful and exclusive slogans, church people gathered in Charlottesville Virginia singing, ‘Over my head I hear freedom in the air, over my head, I hear freedom in the air, over my head I hear freedom in the air, there must be a God somewhere.’ The church people prayed to stay grounded in Love while hate swirled around them. They prepared their souls with communal blessing and protection. The next day some of them got plowed into with a car intentionally and one of them died at the hands of the alt-right white-nationalist terrorist gathering. God have mercy, Christ have mercy. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has something to say about this, that white-supremacy is a sin and that the logic of power and domination and violence is not the logic of the Kindom of God. These powers of hate are incredibly dangerous. Yet these powers of hate do not have legs in the face of the radically inclusive love of God forged by those church people grounded in the love of Christ, not the hate of the devil disguised as Christ followers. Often racism is subtle, in micro-aggressions like “can I touch your hair” or conversations about affirmative action, and white folks, there is no denying that we carry a legacy of violence which we need the power of God to transform... read more

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