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Only the Beginning of a Larger Story

Fred Taylor

     Luke 1:26-56
     Hebrews 10:5- 10

Merry Christmas!   Those words at one time brought to mind the good news of God sending his son as our savior.  He came into a world divided between outsiders and insiders, and in the ministry of Jesus that division was overcome.  With Jesus there were no outsiders unless one chooses to be.  This is what the carol "Joy to the World" is saying.  The Lord is come.  Happy birthday, Jesus.  Happy day, world, because of the gift of Jesus. 

Today I am working with two themes taken from the lectionary scriptures in Luke 1 and Hebrews 10.  What stands out in Mary's story is her emphatic "yes" to the invitation of the Holy Spirit to be the mother of the incarnation of the Word of God in human flesh.  In saying "yes," she was given the vision to see what this meant: scattering the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, bringing down the powerful from their thrones and lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things – to Abraham and all his descendants forever; and Mary' reception of what this was going to cost as spoken by the prophet Simeon: "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too."

Courage to Be Joyful

Kevin Boteler


Luke 3: 17-18
Zephaniah 3:1-4
Philippians 4: 4-7
Isaiah 12:2-6

I feel like each of my teachings begins with the saga of how I got to this point.  But, in this case, I do feel it is relevant to my message.

When David Dorsey gave me the choice of several Sundays to bring the teaching and I picked this Sunday in December, I did so without first looking at the lectionary or stopping to think which of the Advent Sundays it was.   I was excited once I realized that it was the "joy" Sunday, as I often feel joy.  How hard could it be to talk about something with which one is familiar, right?

Wrong.  As I began to think more about joy in the context of this community and the state of the world, I realized how problematic it is to try and tackle this subject even in the midst of a holiday season that is supposed to be all about "joy".  As I thought about the emotion of joy, I realized that the factors allowing me to feel joy are fairly unique and that others have a much more difficult time finding or feeling joy.  I realized that my ability to frequently feel joyful was due to two things:

Advent and Slavery

Betsy Grooms Edmonds

December 2, 2018

     Voice, Isaiah 61: 1
     New Living Trans.,  Luke 4: 15-21
     Contemporary English version, Joel 2:28

Is this a good time at the beginning of Advent to look at anything to do with slavery?

The Isaiah scripture lays the foundation.  Centuries later, When the Angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear the very One they have been waiting for, the dialogue between the two expresses the unique impact of the Messiah who is about to arrive.

When Jesus begins His ministry with the Isaiah prophecy, He affirms how He fulfills scripture by His pronouncement: “in this Day, in this place, I fulfill the scripture right before you!”

Yes, setting prisoners free was a powerful sign of the Awaited Messiah.

The Calamities of Our Times

Kate Lasso

What struck me most about the scriptures for today is that they offer a stark contrast between parallel choices about how to live.  On one side, we can live committed to a free-will and faithful relationship with God.  In his book Come Out My People, Wes Howard-Brook would call this a life embracing the “religion of creation,” which is “grounded in the experience of and, ongoing relationship, with God the Creator, leading to a covenantal bond between that God and God’s people for the blessing and abundance of all people and all creation.” 

Alternatively, we can live according to the tenets of what Wes has called the “religion of empire.”  Wes describes this religion as “sometimes claiming to be grounded in that same God, [but it] is actually a human invention used to justify and legitimize attitudes and behaviors that provide blessing and abundance for some at the expense of others.”  According to Wes, the ideas of both the religion of creation and the religion of empire are present in the bible, woven together as contrasting threads of the same story of humanity in search of God.

Amazing Grace

David Hilfiker

November 11, 2018

     Luke 15:11-32
     Romans 5:15-17

A month ago Gail talked here about “amazing grace.” Today I’d like to follow up on her teaching by sharing with you what I find not only amazing but also so disturbing about grace.  I’d like to suggest that God’s grace is so startling that none of us really believes it, especially when it comes to ourselves.  We talk about grace, we may even teach about grace, but when it comes down to it, we really can’t believe it.  In fact, in some ways, I don’t think we even want to believe it.

Let’s remember that grace is always available to us.  It doesn’t depend on how major the sin is, how sorry we are, whether we make amends, or whether we even want that grace.  God always offers grace, that is, God always forgives and never holds it against us.  Whether we can believe it, accept it and make it real for a different question

Grieve, Cry Out, and Give Thanks

Meade Hanna

October 28, 2018

Bartimaeus Story played out at beginning of sermon

Crowd1, Crowd2, and Bartimaeus, blindfolded are facing the congregation along the side of the road (by the side of the altar) while Disciple 1, Disciple 2, and Jesus are walking along slowly the road with Jesus in the middle and do not notice the conversation until the second time Bartimaeus shouts)

Disciple 1 - Look, you guys! I am finally seeing the road out of Jericho and toward Jerusalem!

Disciple 2 - I will be really glad to get away from this crowd.  It is a miracle no one has begged you for healing, Jesus!

Finding the “Courage to Be”

Kent Beduhn

October 28, 2018

Where does courage come from?

  • The one essential ingredient for leadership is courage, for many reasons:
    • COURAGE is the movement of the heart, from the French coeur, meaning heart.
    • It’s hard to stand for what you believe, sense and know to be true; to do so we must learn to “live by heart,” it calls for decision and commitment by heart.
    • It’s important to own your own strengths and gifts, but also weaknesses and vulnerabilities. If you, as a leader, don’t do that you end up projecting them onto one another, a kind of scapegoating that divides, excludes and separates.     
    • When differences are owned, revealed and then worked through among leaders, a larger set of truths and learnings emerge. This shows up in 8th Day’s continued commitment to consensus-oriented decision-making, where empathy is critical in resolving unresolved issues.
    • This heart-centered process gives us, in our best moments, the courage to be our authentic selves, the courage to serve the whole community, and most importantly the courage to be who we can in service to the poor.

What's So Amazing About Grace?

Gail Arnall

Gail Arnall

October 14, 2018

Some years ago, there was a British conference on comparative religions.  Experts from around the world debated whether any beliefs were unique to the Christian faith.  They began to eliminate possibilities:  The incarnation?  No…  God in human form?  No…. Resurrection?  No.  The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room.  “What’s going on,” he asked.  They explained the question—what, if anything, is Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions.  “That’s easy,” he said.  It’s grace.”

My mission group is reading Philip Yancey’s book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? I want to share from this book and then pose some questions about our response to God’s grace.

The notion of God’s love, coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against all of our instincts.  But in Christianity, God’s love is unconditional.  Perhaps aware of our in-built resistance to grace, Jesus talked about it a lot:  the sun shines on people both good and bad; birds gather seeds for free without plowing or harvesting; unattended wildflowers flourish.  Jesus saw grace everywhere.  He didn’t analyze it.  He didn’t define it.  He almost never used the word.  But he conveyed grace through stories – what we know as parable.

The Courage to Be

Teaching: Wendy Dorsey

Camp Meeting Weekend
Oct 7, 2018

Texts: Mark10:13-16
           Mark 9:33-37     
           Matt 18:3-5  
           1 Corinthians 1:20-29

Mark 10:13-16    13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.  14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.  He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Good morning 8th Day!   Today I hope to weave together the lectionary (and other related) scriptures we just heard with the theme of our weekend “The Courage to Be.” At the end of my teaching, I would like to have a brief dialogue in small groups of three on the subject of courage, so listen up so you’ll know how to respond!

In the first passage read, the Gospel for today, Mark 10, Jesus chastises his disciples for trying to keep the parents and their children away from him.  He is “indignant” - a word that comes from the Latin indignus “unworthy, not fitting,” and may be defined as “an anger aroused by something perceived as an indignity, an offense or injustice.” Jesus is immediately aroused by his disciples unjustly keeping the children away, as in that society children were supposed to be seen and not heard.  This, I believe, would be characteristic of Jesus, who was always sensitive to those on the outside of the community, whether they be prostitute or tax collector, leper or Samaritan.  He goes further, though.  He then uses this moment with the children as a teaching moment, saying, “The Kingdom belongs to such as these.  …anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”