Annotated Sermon Index|
Sermons are posted in reverse chronological order.
The sermons that are annotated here as of February 2008 are only those sermons presented to Seekers. Sermons to other congregations will also be posted. All sermons presented on this website have been slightly edited, and in a few cases modestly edited, to make them more accessible and interesting to readers who do not know the Seekers context, organization, or culture. To gain an understanding of the structures, practices, and culture of Seekers you can go to the Seekers Church website, www.seekerschurch.org, or read my paper: Seekers Church:Case Study of a Progressive Christian Community.
Most of the sermons were intended to offer foundations for the life of Seekers and, on rereading them, it seems to me that many of them speak to issues that are still very much alive in our congregation.
Seekers Church has presented an open pulpit since 1987, before any of these sermons were offered. I am one of the more common preachers at Seekers and have usually offered about four sermons a year. My choices of what to preach about are strongly influenced by what other preachers have been doing for Seekers. That is, most of my sermons were intended to be complementary. The result is that my sermons are not intended to represent everything that I think is important about Seekers. For example, "call" is just an occasional theme in these sermons though it is clearly one of the most important things about Seekers. Neither is there much discussion of mission groups, etc.
There are some repeated themes in my preaching and I intend to eventually gather my sermons and present them by theme rather than by chronology.
Evolution, the Doctrine of the Trinity, and Salvation (1/20/08)
This is the second sermon I have prepared regarding the issue of evolution and Christian theology. The first was When Good Theology and Good Science Meet. (2/11/07) This sermon assumes a constructive and positive relationship between science and Christian theology.
The first main section presents the story of emergent possibility beginning with the "big bang" and proceeding to human beings. It does not present a teleological argument that evolution had a direction towards human beings, merely that evolution has a path that did to human beings, an emergence of the possibility for human beings. This presentation of natural history based on the emergence of possibility contains a sense of awe at the marvels of creation, an appreciation of God as Creator, not a speculative argument about God as creator.
The second main section places the story of human history as a late and brief development within natural history and presents the story of Christianity, grounded in Judaism and beginning with Jesus, as the unfolding of a possibility within human history. The presentation of the Jesus story emphasizes the importance of forgiveness, as found in the Gospel of Mark, and brings us to the question of salvation. This leads to the third main section, access to and faith in the Holy Spirit as a way of understanding the experience of salvation. After noting the non-speculative quality of this presentation of the doctrine of the trinity, the sermon moves to an evangelistic appeal to open yourself to salvation.
I Don' t Care (7/29/07)
The first two-thirds of the sermon were an exegesis of Hosea 1:1-11. The historical contexts of the original writer of Hosea, and of a later editor, were explained with an emphasis on the division of the realm of David and Solomon and subsequent hostilities between the Northern 10 tribes and the Southern 2 tribes. The link to the setting of John the Baptist and then Jesus in Galilee was presented as part of the grounding for understanding the tension between Jesus and the temple authorities. The exegesis also focused on the judgemental prophecy of the writer and then the commitment to grace of the editor leading to an expressed hope for reunification.
The last part of the sermon presented reflections on the prophetic calling illustrated from Pat's wrestling with issues of commitment and caring. After illustrating some of the challenges in sustaining a prophetic commitment Pat turned to themes of repentance and of thanksgiving as a good grounding for the spiritual work of prophecy.
Torture in Our Midst (6/17/07)
This sermon is about torture by the Army and CIA in Iraq. It begins with a fresh consideration of the symbol of the cross in our worship space as an instrument of torture. Pat moved on to share images of violence and anger from his own biography as a path into understanding the young soldiers who tortured Iraqis in the prison of Abu Ghraib. Torture was presented not only as violence but also as shaming and humiliation. Sin was presented as partly to be understood as derangement and, in response, grace was presented as rearrangement. Then Jesus was presented in Luke's account as taking on the pain and humiliation of being crucified. His courage and his caring were presented as landmarks for rearrangement. The sermon ended with an appeal to meet at the foot of the cross.
When Good Science and Good Theology Meet (2/11/07)
This is my first sermon on the issue of evolution and Christian theology. It was presented as part of the first year of the "Evolution Sunday" movement in the United States, initiated by Michael Zimmerman. After an introduction the sermon presents an exegesis of Genesis 1:1-12. "While the first creation story can be read as good science for its day, what is really at stake is a theological perspective that offers good guidance whatever the shifts in good scientific theories about creation, including the theory of evolution."
This is a non-speculative approach to Christian theology that emphasizes the humility that we are but creatures and cannot see creation the way God sees creation. The exegesis of the Genesis story notes that the priestly authors ground the story in a seven day week with God resting on the 7th day. Creating the Sabbath, the first labor law, is one step on the journey, one social creation that illustrates the specialness of human beings, the emergence of our Judeo-Christian story as one possibility latent in the beginnings of the universe.
The key question in this sermon is whether we can be thankful for life, thankful even with full recognition of all that is difficult, all that is terrible. The salvation story includes the answer of Jesus to this question. Jesus looked at the things that are hard to look at and chose a course that held onto what was good, what was loving, what was healing, what was possible and positive even in the midst of oppression and hardship.
Seeing What You Don't Want to See (10/31/06)
This sermon is about trying to engage/embrace what is truly terrible. The bulk of the sermon is an invitation to both look at, and then to feel the agony of child soldiers with machetes, torture, etc. The challenge to deep caring requires engagement of both victims and oppressors. The biblical referent is the story of blind Bartimaeus found in Mark 10. The sermon is also about dealing with fear. (Similar in some ways to my sermon Anger At Injustice 1/28/96)
From Call to Ministry (7/30/06)
The core of this sermon is contrasting, and then relating, an emphasis on outer journey based on an individual sense of calling in contrast to an emphasis on ministry in response to the needs of others. The sermon also emphasizes community building by pointing out that we need to welcome everyone's ministry. The biblical basis for the sermon is the theology of God at work among us as found in the third chapter of Ephesians.
A Born Again Congregation (6/11/06)
The sermon begins by tracing the history, and considering the challenges, that Seekers faced in moving from 2025 Massachusetts Avenue and rehabilitating 276 Carroll Street. It includes a discussion of the stewardship challenges we faced. The sermon move on to the larger point that we can experience meaning in our lives by becoming part of the Seekers story, one small paragraph in the larger Christian story. The sermon emphasizes the metaphor of journey as a corrective to the metaphor of circle, including the theme of needing to "break camp" every morning and to find the next camp site at night. The sermon supports the balancing of the inner journey, community building, and outer journey and then goes on to consider further the importance of the outer journey of ministry at this time in the life of Seekers. The end theme of the sermon is that we need to depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance in our journey and then raises the evangelistic theme that now is always the time to turn toward the Holy Spirit and this is what it means to be “born again” as found in the third chapter of the Gospel of John.
Seekers as an Open System (1/22/06)
Jesus followed John the Baptist in preaching "Repent the Eternal Realm is at hand," as found in first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. There is an evangelistic presentation of the relationship between repentance and salvation as a here and now reality. There is an appeal to more deeply join with other Seekers by discerning and following your own calling. The sermon moves on to a discussion of Seekers as an open system, considering such factors as feedback in contrast to straight line thinking. The primary theme regarding open systems is the importance of learning as a bottom-up source of guidance, illustrated by the relationship and contrast to ants to ant colonies in a bottom-up closed system. In applying this theme to Seekers the sermon switches to the way birds fly in flocks to illustrate bottom-up learning in a more open system.
Surviving or Living (8/21/05)
The sermon begins with the entry question, "Why does the cross matter to you?" The question is taken up in the sermon as an opening into discussing the theology of atonement in a way that can bring Christians together rather than driving them apart. The emphasis is on the importance of forgiveness in contrast to speculation about sacrifice. We meet at the love of God. The lectionary reference is chapter twelve of Romans. Then comes an extended critique of liberal theology which dismisses atonement theology as mere magic and misses the importance of forgiveness. The next aspect of the sermon is a comparison of Mark and Matthew with regard to the disciples of Jesus. This helps us understand the anti-Jewish biases of these gospel writers who nonetheless folowed the Jewish emphasis on the humanity of Jesus in contrast to other early Christian writings and gospels that follow Greek philosophy and make Jesus into a heavenly figure who just visits Earth. Meeting at the cross is the difference between surviving and living.
Power and Forgiveness (5/8/05)
This is a Pentecost sermon and works with receiving the power of the Holy Spirit and not merely the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It discusses speaking in tongues in a positive way by lifting up the emotional and ecstatic feelings that come can come with engaging deep spiritual questions. This includes considering some of the dynamics of spiritual healing. The Gospel of Luke, and particularly the second chapter, are presented in contrast to Matthew and Mark as salvation for both Jews and Greeks because of the way Luke works with forgiveness. The power of the Holy Spirit brings unity since we all need forgiveness. This power is accessible and experiential in the here and now lives of the disciples and in our lives. Accessible forgiveness was not merely a matter of individual inner journey concerns but also had powerful religious and political implications by threatening the power and privilege of the Jerusalem Jewish establishment. The sermon ends with an existential understanding of sin and guilt that points out why we all constantly need forgiveness and invites the hearers to open themselves to the Holy Spirit and receive such forgiveness.
Taking Care of Each Other (1/30/05)
This sermon builds out of the commitment of Seekers to be in solidarity with the poor as found in our core document, The Call of Seekers Church. The biblical grounding is the Sermon on the Mount as found in the sixth chapter of Luke. The sermon begins with remembering how we take care of each other in our families, and within Seekers, and then remembers the generosity towards others found in the annual budget of Seekers. Then the sermon points out that people pay more than a tithe of their wages in Social Security taxes and moves on to consider how paying such taxes is an important way of taking care of each other in our society. Social Security is explained as a secure and efficient program. Scare mongering about Social Security is rejected. The gospel, and many other ethical passages in scripture, are presented as requiring us to care for each other including the widows and orphans. (The sermon is accompanied by 3 papers written by Pat Conover on Social Security.)
Walking the Justice Path (9/26/04)
The sermon begins by responding to the 37th Psalm and the 17th chapter of the Gospel of Luke and lifts up the difficulty of walking the justice path as a Christian. Justice is dangerous because it calls us out beyond our caring, our compassion, our stewardship. Justice challenges control and privilege. It causes us to address basic structures and notes that many such structures are constructed in ways that give advantage to people in Seekers, among others. Others may appreciate our charity, or not, but what they really want, if their consciousness is raised, is a fair deal. The sermon moves on to reconsider traditional Christian understandings of sin as being about internal motivation and encourages concern for the structural sins we cannot avoid. Then the sermon discusses the impossibility of making legislative choices that are not compromised in some way by damage done to others. To stand within a full understanding of justice requires accepting loss of control and the unavoidable presence of guilt. This means rejecting romantic understanding of the good guys against the bad guys. The sermon then lifts up moral humility as a path to justice. Confession and repentance lead to salvation from anonymity, anomie, and alienation. The path of moral humility gives us true companions who know our true names, landmarks for living our lives with meaning, and solidarity instead of alienation. All are invited to walk the justice path.
The Secret of Seekers (7/1/04)
The sermon begins with a consideration of the language of secrets in the Synoptic Gospels as exemplified by The Gospel of Luke 10:21-22. The consideration includes the Gnostic Gospels, as exemplified by the Gospel of Phillip and the Gospel of Mary, both lifted to general popular awareness by Dan Brown's best-selling novel, The Davinci Code. After a brief comment on the imaginary license Brown takes in referring to these Gnostic Gospels, the sermon names the good news in these gospels. Then the sermon moves on to consider what is so special, but hard to grasp, about Seekers. The "secret" of Seekers cannot be put in a box, written out as a recipe, or captured in a program. It has to be directly experienced. It isn't magical. It's the preciousness we come to feel for each other, the courage of expanding leadership in a do-it-yourself congregation, an awareness of how much we need each other to follow our callings. These points are exemplified in a discussion of the relationships between Seekers and its building, and by Pat Conover's poem, "The Rug You Can't Spill Anything On."
From Faithfulness to Pentecost (4/11/04)
The sermon begins by pointing out that the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts makes the Easter story one long paragraph in his story that begins with Jesus turning towards Jerusalem and ends with Pentecost. The culmination of the story is not the death of Jesus and Jesus going to heaven but the presence of the Holy Spirit empowering the gathered faithful followers. To better understand this story the sermon considers the several historical and theological shocks that had to be engaged and addressed by early Christians. The fundamental kerygma of the gospel is presented as the understanding that if you follow the God of Jesus, if you follow the saving truth at all costs, you will be saved. Then the sermon considers what it means to be saved as an experienced reality, starting with the experience of forgiveness. The sermon goes on to spell out the importance of salvation in the context of the early followers of Jesus. Then the challenges of salvation are presented in the here and now.
Christian Vision, Justice, and the State (11/16/03)
The sermon begins with a consideration of the several impacts of the genocide and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 c.e., (ending a war begun by Zealots in 66 that responded to Roman atrocities) including the effects of diaspora on Judaism and Christianity. In drawing parallels to the contemporary situation, the sermon resists a facile comparison to 9/11 attacks on the Trade building in New York and on the Pentagon. The sermon asserts that the United States is not a Christian nation but that it carries some of the hopes that Christians and others have labored and sacrificed for. The sermon discusses the emergence of full democracy within the United States and considers some of the serious flaws in the current functioning of democracy in the U.S. “I love the United States of America but I don't idolize it.” The sermon moves on to a discussion of issue advocacy and political organizing, with illustrations from the work of hunger advocacy. Church and state issues are discussed with an invitation to Seekers to become more participatory in the discussion of political issues. (The scriptural basis for this sermon is Mark 13:1-8.)
God Manifest (9/7/03)
The sermon considers what salvation is and why it matters. Instead of being grounded in speculation about life after death it is grounded in the important questions that we struggle with here and now. We do our theology as human creatures and must not pretend we are looking over God's shoulder. After some autobiographic sharing the sermon points to the importance of recent biblical scholarship that makes the engagement of the New Testament far more interesting. The sermon points out the difference between holding a correct position with regard to poverty and entering into solidarity with the poor. The sermon considers five different approaches to reading the story of the Syro-Phoenician Woman as found in Mark 7:24-37 and offers two new parables to help engage the deepest truths in the story: salvation.
Parables and the Basilea (Realm of God) (6/29/03)
The sermon begins with a discussion of canonical and extra-canonical literature written in the couple of centuries just before the time of Jesus to spells out both the political and eschatological themes that were common in Judaism at that time. When Jesus talked about the Basilea, best translated as the Empire of God, those who heard Jesus wrote about what he said in terms of the spiritual and political dimensions of empire. Jesus may very well have used political and eschatological stories and language that was common in his day. What is most clear is that Jesus thought the Basilea was good news for the oppressed of his day. This surely included a vision of the end of Roman oppression and a challenge to false claims to divine authority for such oppression. But the Basilea was presented by Jesus as immediately present and not dependent on political revolution. The Basilea was accessible right then and is accessible right now and needs no human authority to give it permission. The most credible access to the thinking of Jesus is probably found in the record of the parables that he told. The sermon moves on to, and closes with, a consideration of what parables are and then presents the content of some parables that point to the importance of healing and forgiveness.
From Covert Despair to Salvation (2/16/03)
The sermon begins with stories about getting worn out in the struggle for justice and peace in response to First Corinthians 9:24-26a. Instead of merely trying harder as an act of will, or as an act of guilt, or because it is a good thing to be doing, the sermon considers caring, mutuality, and solidarity as the basis for justice and peace work. The sermons calls on Seekers to be and become a Just Peace church, a deeper transformation of our beloved community. Then the sermon considers what these concerns mean for personal salvation.
Peace, Justice, and Tribalism (11/17/02)
The sermon begins with a hard-eyed look at the military history of Israel as it fought its way out of the desert and into the promised land. The genocidal, anything goes, approach to war is supposedly justified in the 15th chapter of First Samuel by the claim of Israel that they worshiped the one true God. This tribal understanding of crusade theology is treated as a rationalization for one more tribe fighting for water and grazing rights. The core of the sermon is the consideration of the dangerousness of claiming a special relationship with God that is in turn used to justify moral outrages against others. The first corrective is found in the Hebrew tradition of monotheism, going back to Moses, and to the rule of law as a challenge to tribalism. This line of thinking is further developed with reference to the New Testament. The climax of the sermon is an appeal for a transformation of our Seekers tribe, and not just of individual Seekers, including the need to be an open and inclusive tribe.
Seeds of Hope (11/05/02)
The sermon begins with comments on my own path to gathering a discussion and then joining with Peter Bankson in issuing a call for the new Seeds of Hope mission group in Seekers. There is also a discussion of some of the distinctive aspects of Seekers that differentiate us from other Christian congregations, particularly discussions about leadership from the whole of the congregation rather from focusing leadership in a single clergy person. The call of the Seeds of Hope mission group is about offering support and resources to other congregations that have a hunger for deep transformation. Seeds of Hope sees the most precious treasure of Seekers to be not a reliance on our distinctive models but our working faith in the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The sermon closes with a consideration of the birds and weeds found in the parable of the sower as found in Matthew and other gospels.
Hope to Disappointment to Recognition to Transformation (4/14/02)
The sermon begins with the Luke 24 story of the road to Emmaus and Cleopas's recognition of the living Christ and his transformation into living "after the revolution." Then the process of moving from hope to disappointment to recognition to transformation is considered. The paths of individuals and Seekers are considered. Transformation is the embracing of the living truth in shared relationships. The challenge of salvation is that it includes returning to Jerusalem and living with risk.
Seeing a Great Light (1/27/02)
The sermon begins with a comparison of some of the imagery in the 4th and 27th Chapters of the Gospel of Matthew to the images of Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings. Wrapping the story of Jesus in an epic saga with a magical ending has caused enormous damage to Christendom down the ages because so many people have wanted to believe in it as history rather than story. The constructive aspect of the sermon considers what there was about the real story of Jesus that led Matthew to wrap it in the most wonderful imagery he could imagine. The Jesus story is told. The radical challenges of Jesus are illuminated. Several examples of the power of the telling of simple truths are presented. A challenge to share in the carrying and telling of truth is presented.
A Just Peace (11/25/01)
The sermon begins with a consideration of the stories of war in Hebrew scripture with a focus on the 15th Chapter of First Samuel and the 23rd Chapter of Jeremiah. Attention is drawn to the tension between tribal self-interest and universal standards of justice. The little we know about Jesus and the issue of war is shared as well as the commitment of the early church to pacifism, or at least opposition to support of the wars of Rome. This, and more, is then presented as the grounding for the three traditional approaches of Christendom to war: Crusade, Pacifism, and Just War. The contemporary development of the Just Peace approach is then presented. I point out that just peace theory is grounded, at least in part, in facing up to the madness that is part of all wars and violent conflicts. The sermon ends with a call to work for peace and justice and not merely to be opposed to war.
Jesus as the Center and Meaning of History (7/29/01)
This is the 3rd sermon in a series on Jesus as the center and meaning of history. It works with the importance of Jesus and with an epistemological understanding of trinitarian doctrine. The phrase, “Jesus as the center and meaning of history,”comes from Tillich and is parallel to the phrases “Ground of Being,” and “Living Presence” as the other two core names for God. The comparative lack of emphasis on Jesus in Seekers is contrasted to the emphasis in Seekers on the 3rd person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The constructive part of the sermon builds out of the Q version of the Lord's Prayer as found in the 11th chapter of Luke and the 6th chapter of Matthew. The rest of the sermon works with the questions, "How can Jesus help you see God becoming manifest in and around you? and "How are you saved from meaninglessness?"
Beulah Land: For Who? (1/14/01)
This is the second sermon in a series on Jesus as the center and meaning of history. The sermon begins with the transition from evolution to history. The sermon aims at recovering the image of Jesus from a sentimental figure of cult history, and from the image of Jesus as a kind of magical actor on a metaphysical stage outside of history. Part of talking about Jesus as the center and meaning of history is to care about history. Jesus is the center between the beginnings of tribalism and the biblical visions of universalism. Tribalism is presented as a big part of Hebrew Scripture starting with the story of Abraham and his descendants and developed further in the lectionary scripture found in the 62nd Chapter of the Book of Isaiah. The universal theme is pointed to in the 12th Chapter of First Corinthians. Jesus points to the center of history when he proclaims that the Empire of God is already among us. This means we need no longer wait for the Messiah. The last section of the sermon responds to the development of Christian theology with reference to its embedment in Aristotelian and Platonic philosophies. One implication, the “rule of law” as central to the development of democracy in the United States, is drawn out. The challenge is to intentionally live your life as part of the story of the unfolding of the universal concepts of justice and love.
Jesus: Meaning of History (11/26/00)
This is the first of three sermons about Jesus and what he revealed about the meaning and purposes of God within history. It begins with the challenge of Advent, the hope and fear that life can really be new, that we are not stuck in the same old, same old. To understand Jesus within history is to resist trying to understand Jesus as an individual who is somehow above or apart from history. (Note: I could have been more challenging of metaphysical, apocalyptic, and life after death contexts for understanding Jesus.) This approach emphasizes that saving truth is living truth that we share, not mere intellectual truth that we hold as individuals. Like the gospel writers, we want a relationship with Jesus and not just knowledge about Jesus. Part of the sermon development works with the story of Jesus appearing before Pilate as a path into understanding what Jesus shows us about what it means to be a king. The development of history from pre-history is considered as one way of understanding the importance of history for understanding what kind of creatures we are. The story of Jesus is placed within the history of the emergence of empires. Finally, the sermon points to the theme of sharing and caring that make Jesus the center and meaning of history.
The Advent of Justice (12/12/99)
This sermon is built around the 61st chapter of Isaiah and is an advent sermon that responds to the challenge that everything can be new. It is developed around the theme of the Jubilee year, a year when debts are forgiven, and around the concept of Sabbath, a break from unrelenting labor, a pushing back against exploitation and oppression. The sermon moves on to consider advocacy around poverty and around the oppressions of many multinational corporations.
Looking Ahead with Seekers (9/10/99)
This sermon begins with praise for the process by which Celebration Circle created a new communion liturgy for Seekers, praises it as an example of Seekers at its best. It then considers Seekers witness to the larger world. Attention is given to unpacking the lectionary scriptures: Psalm 115, Romans 13, and Matthew 18: 15-22. Consideration is given to how Seekers works with conflict in response to the Matthew scripture. The primary theme of the sermon is free church ecclesiology and issues of authority, including our grounding for resisting having anyone in the role of clergy. The sermon returns to our work with communion and also reports a bit on my experience of being out as a transgender woman within Seekers.
Thankfulness and Enthusiasm (6/20/99)
This sermon works with Psalm 46, Matthew 9 and 10, and Acts. The core of the sermon is about how deep thankfulness leads to the release of enthusiasm and the gaining of spiritual power. Then comes the questions about how to direct such enthusiasm toward meaning and purpose, to live with the challenge that to whom much has been given, much is expected. The sermon then calls on demons to come out, an example of spiritual power. Then comes a long section pointing to the examples of the Holy Spirit moving in Seekers.
Seeking Outside the Circle (12/6/98)
This sermon presents Jesus as a Jew and works with Isaiah 11: 1-9. It moves on to present the claim that Jesus is my Savior and to consider what that means. The context of the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist is part of that illumination. The sermon emphasizes living into truth rather than truth as a matter of formal argumentation. Then the sermon asserts and explores the theme that if one is grounded in the love of Jesus there is nothing to fear from full and honest conversations with other traditions. Some questions to prepare for such dialogues are then offered.
Space Discovery (11/1/98)
This sermon begins with a review of the cultural and historical circumstances in the time of Jesus. The sermon considers the 7th Chapter of Daniel, a dream, as one window on the distress of that time between the close of the Hebrew Canon and the coming of Jesus, a period of about 170 years. Attention is also drawn to the 149th Psalm. Taken together we get a mix of apochryphal desperation and triumphalism. The theme of change and movement is then connected to the impending move of Seekers to it new home. (We did not know at that time that the move would take another three-and-a-half years.)
Covenant and Community (8/16/98)
The sermon begins with remembering that the word community is very important for Seekers and then unpacks the concept of community. Then the sermon brings the concept of community into dialectic tension with the concept of covenant. Covenant is presented as a more basic concept than liberation, kingdom, or exile for understanding biblical revelation. Part of covenant is a grounding for law as a basis for organizing societies and government. Law is good when it serves the lures of justice that God has given us and oppressive when it does not. Jesus is presented as dramatically reinterpreting the concept of covenant when he tells us that the greatest among shall be servants. The sermon challenges Seekers to not settle for feel-good community but to be a community grounded in covenant, to intentionally take a place in the unfolding history of exploring covenant as a guide to our common life. Covenant is also interpreted as moving from freedom-from to freedom-for. Investing together, sacrificing together to claim a new home, is not a cost of community, it is a privilege of covenant.
The Unappreciated Jesus (2/1/98)
The sermon begins with a call to balance our Seekers commitment to radical inclusiveness with an equally radical centering based on Jesus. The biblical exegesis focuses on Luke 4:14-24 and Mark 6:1-5 with attention to the report that Jesus was not accepted by his community and family. The unpacking of this report considers the understanding that Jesus healed with faith and not with magic and raises the question of what resistance we might have to being healed. The question is brought forward as follows: How is familiarity with each other in Seekers blocking us from appreciating what may be of God in each other? Some of the landmarks to lead us out of the limits of familiarity include confession, honest conversation, forgiveness, and humility. All are easier said than done. The positive side of familiarity is that we need appreciation and support when we take on the saving truths that have dangerous implications. The sermon closes with a consideration of community as a counter-weight to the destructiveness of rampant individualism in our culture.
The story of Jonah is presented and rescued from magical interpretation. Instead it is presented as a great satiric comedy. If you want to learn how to do everything wrong as a prophet, study Jonah. This is a story of God's mercy and leaves hanging the question of whether Jonah got the point. Do you get the point? Jesus got the point. His message of salvation includes not only justice but mercy, forgiveness, and peace.
The sermon begins with Mark's story of feeding the 5000 as found in the 6th chapter. It moves to considering what it means to belong in Seekers as a do-it-yourself church. The sermon also builds out of Ephesians 2:11-22, presented as a dialectic of diversity and inclusion. The development of the sermon works with Elizabeth O'Connors metaphor of breathing in (spiritual growth) and breathing out (ministry). Belonging in Seekers is about risking coming in and getting going with the spiritual growth and ministry concerns, not just wandering but taking on the disciplines that we believe will help us be and do what God wants us to be and to do. The grounding for the Seekers traditions of membership and for becoming a steward is presented. An invitation to belong is presented.
Coming Out Christian (3/16/97)
This sermon is about my going public as a bigender person, a transgender person. Gender is presented as a social construction. All social and cultural stereotypes should be evaluated in terms of Christian values. I affirm all that is virtuous, whether it is called masculine or feminine and work and live against all that is destructive or alienating. I share some of my story that has led me to claim my feminine appearance. I appeal to Seekers to be inclusive of people with variant gender identities.
From Fear to Risk to Hope (12/22/96)
I begin this sermon by holding up my drawing of Tiamat, the sea monster of Genesis 1:21. Even the scariest creatures and the most chaotic realities have their place in God's design. I link facing such realities to the time Jesus spent in the wilderness. I move on to discussing the early stages of looking for a new home for Seekers. I relate the searching for a new home to the story in Second Samuel, the 7th chapter, when Nathan points out to David that the presence of God is not dependent on a fine house. Nathan goes on to make the point that the temple is not to be built to capture God's presence, not to fix God in one spot with controlled access. The sermon discusses Jesus as following John the Baptist and freeing the worship of God from dependence on the temple. The sermon then urges Seekers to buy a building that is free from all imagery of triumphalism. The sermon closes with a discussion of overcoming the fear of being on our own as a congregation, of becoming fully visible and independent.
From Fear to Hope (12/8/96)
The biblical grounding for this sermon is the story in Mark of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. Consideration is given to the risk, hope, and courage that was at stake in such a baptism. Most of the sermon time is given to the story of working through my difficult times in 1976 and what I learned from that experience. Then the sermon considers what it takes to move from fear to hope.
Financial Stewardship and Moving (8/18/96)
The sermon starts with the question, "How much money do you make and how much wealth do you have?" This blunt question is lifted up from underneath the table as a part of the process of getting at the serious questions of financial stewardship that come with walking the path to buying a new home for our congregational life. We need some sense of the answer as we project about how much we can afford to spend. The lurking question assumes that what we have been raising and spending in our budget does not define what we could raise. Responses from Seekers about this question are presented as important spiritual questions. Then the sermon moves to a discussion of tithing as a standard for core membership (later called the standard for becoming a steward). The whole area of conversation is reconsidered in terms of the threats to alienation that discussing financial stewardship can bring and calls on the community to do the kind of spiritual work so that this will not occur.
Distinction and Inclusion (7/16/95)
The sermon begins with the stories of Jesus sending out his disciples for ministry, particularly as found in the 10th chapter of Luke. Discussion shows how the stories are inclusive of the broader community, including Gentiles, and thus exclusive to the Pharisees and other Jews who rejected Gentiles. This same concern is then applied to issues of inclusion and exclusion in Seekers. The sermon moves on to consider what we should choose as our distinctiveness in Seekers. The sermon includes a call to vulnerability and risk and reminds Seekers that to who much has been given, much is expected.
Three Ways to Know God (6/9/96)
The sermon begins with consideration of Matthew 9:35-10:21 and makes the claim that good theology starts with humility. The kind of Christian orthodoxy that boils down to metaphysical speculation, as found for example in the Council of Nicea, is rejected. Instead the concept of the trinity is presented as three ways of knowing God.
The Promised Spirit (5/12/96)
This sermon begins with an extended discussion of theology in the Gospel of John and the theological distinctions between John and the synoptic gospels. The universalism of John is lifted up as well as the argumentation by John that Christianity is the true inheritor of the traditions of Hebrew scripture rather than the Judaism of that day. I like the synoptic gospels better than John because the action of salvation is in the here and now rather than spiritualized into an abstract universalism. The sermon moves on to an understanding of faith as risking to live the life of love we can sense and touch and not as an appeal to believe something that doesn't make sense. The loop is completed back to the Gospel of John by pointing out that the gospel also holds up the immediate presence of the holy Spirit.
Anger at Injustice (1/28/96)
The sermon begins with attention to Micah 6:9-16 and with the Beatitudes in the 6th chapter of Luke. I discuss the feelings of anger at injustice. An example of such injustice is lifted up from a story about East St. Louis. Other ugly kinds of injustice are mentioned. The sermon then discusses the danger of unexpressed anger as a source of alienation and uses personal examples of such alienation. The gospel is about feeling angry without becoming alienated. The sermon closes with an appeal to Seekers to help with the challenge of overcoming alienation.
Finding the Lost Coin with the Light of Love (9/17/95)
(The text I have looks incomplete and I am not sure it was preached. If it was preached it may have been preached from an expanded or revised text. Still, as is, it seems to me to have some value.)
The sermon starts with the affirmation, "I love you." It moves on to the assertion that,"We need a home." Then comes some spiritual consideration of why we need a home. Consideration of the parable of the lost coin leads me to ask, "What coin has Seekers lost?" I suggest that we have lost sight of our financial wealth. The sermon challenges Seekers to start giving from a stewardship of wealth. It would let loose a flood of spirit energy.
Faithful to our Call to be the Church (1/9/94)
The sermon begins by retracing the path between John the Baptist and Jesus and urges Seekers to take on the work of freshly understanding its calling to be the church. It moves forward with a discussion of the historical relationship between Seekers and the Church of the Savior and holds up six gifts of Church of the Savior that should be used as grounding for Seekers. I assert that Seekers holds brightly and freshly the core vision of the Church of the Savior. Then I present five ways that Seekers has taken fresh steps forward in honoring the core vision of the Church of the Savior. The sermon closes with an appeal to carry forward the best of the Church of the Savior.