Sermons

Preach it.

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

Nourishing Ourselves and Others

Psalm 23 Acts 2:42:47 In the dictionary of pastoral care and counseling, burn out is described as thus, “a syndrome often occurring among individuals in helping professions, involving emotional and physical exhaustion, depersonalization, and a feeling of reduced personal accomplishment. Other symptoms include headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, lingering colds, loss of weight, sleeplessness, shortness of breath, feelings of tension and anxiety, overuse of food, coffee, or chocolate, memory loss, irritability, daydreaming, tendency to blame, withdrawal, cynicism, marital dissatisfaction, impatience, feelings of inferiority, emotional flatness, loss of interest in hobbies, preoccupation with one area of one’s life, and spiritual dryness.” Burnout is common in non-profit work, in helping professions, in churches, in parents, in educators—the list goes on. I would wager that most of us here have felt this way at one time or another. Jesus came so that we might have life, and that we might have it abundant! But sometimes our abundant lives overflow, become out of balance, get out of control, and we’ve got to nourish ourselves before we take on anything else. Amen? Nourishment. This word rose to the top quickly in the work of our visioning team. To nourish ourselves and others is the first goal on our vision as a church. So that, I might add, we can nourish the world. Sometimes we are nourished by nourishing others! It is a mystery how the cycle of nourishment begins, but it never ends. Nourishment, mmm, it’s a yummy word, it’s a food word. It means we will feed ourselves and each other. The early-church met over meals, always. The text from Acts that we have today... read more

Church on The Road: Trail Magic

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 Luke 24:13-35 Have you ever heard of trail magic? Trail Magic, is defined as an unexpected act of kindness, is a quintessential part of the Appalachian Trail experience for many long-distance hikers. The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, ranging from Maine to Georgia, 2,200 miles. The road from Jerusalem to Emmaus is only 7 miles long- still a long hike, perhaps what you’d do in a day if your knees and ankles and hips were up for it. I just got back from Rocky Mountain National Park, a place I escape to as often as I can, because those mountains have serious magic- they recharge me. I was only there for a couple days, Tuesday through Friday, but I noticed how kind people were on the trails- saying hello, encouraging one another, “you are almost there,” someone said, as we were huffing to the summit. When I came back to my apartment building in CT I quickly remembered that its not part of our culture here to encourage each other on the way, we don’t really even talk to each other. So I put my head back down. Along the way on the Appalachian trail, it is rumored that magical things happen for the long distance through hikers. Little things, like finding a tent-stake when you had lost yours, or someone who is day-hiking asking if you need anything from town, or finding a couple of cold beverages in a stream, or someone whose home is near the trail offering a bowl of fresh fruit or a bed for the night.... read more

Easter Meditation

Jeremiah 31:1-6 Matthew 28:1-10 Some thing are factual. Gravity exists. Water is wet and is made up of hydrogen and oxygen. Two plus two equals four. Some things are straight forward and not up for debate and don’t stretch our imaginations much to believe them. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead into eternal life, is not one of those things. It has stretched our collective human imagination for thousands of years. We, human beings, have kept this incredible story alive. You will see debates throughout Christian History—“No, no,” church fathers will say, “his full, physical body, has ascended into heaven, after descending into hell, and he sits at the Father’s right hand, past the pearly gates.” “No, no,” others will say, “it is more of a metaphor, like spring time, that life comes back after a long winter.” The Bible itself is not unified with one correct version of the resurrection- there are four different gospels, that each hold a slightly different account of what exactly happened. Was there an earthquake, was it a guard, or a gardener, or an angel who was at the tomb? Did they tell others, or run away in silence? Who was the first to witness the resurrection—(the gospels are actually pretty unified on that one- it was the women). But when we try to get literal or factual with the resurrection, we end up chasing our tails and missing the point. The wisest thing I’ve heard about the historical accuracy of the resurrection was from Biblical Scholar Celene Lillie, after dedicating her life to these texts—she said to me with a... read more

Walking Meditation, Palm Sunday, Bonhoeffer

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 Matthew 21:1-11 When New Members join church, one of the questions we ask is this: “Will you join us in our quest to follow the teachings of Jesus, that resist oppression and evil, and show love and justice, furthering Christ’s mission in the world?” And in baptism we ask the parent of the child or the candidate to be baptized, “Will you encourage this child to renounce the powers of evil and to receive the freedom of new life in Christ?” The up-front recognition of the presence of evil in these question sort of surprises me. Resisting and renouncing evil are central to our membership and baptismal covenants. God gives us life, and love. We know what is of God is life-giving, and what is of evil is death-dealing. We know evil by the way evil deals senseless death. How do you resist evil? How do we resist evil together? There are ways we can renounce evil our daily lives. With kindness, by dedicating our time and energy to healing, rather than dividing, by sharing time with people who need encouragement… Jesus did this too—he healed people, he called the children toward him, he spoke about the poor in spirit, the physically poor, having special blessing. We practiced doing this kind of healing work last week, but praying with one another, by recognizing that some days we are in the tomb, and other days we extend a hand to those in the tomb. But today, Jesus walks toward the source of the pain that puts people in the tomb to begin with. Today, on Palm Sunday,... read more

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