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Salt and Light – Sermon on Matthew 5:13-20 for Epiphany 5A

He was caught between two worlds. Memories of home brought some comfort, but there was sadness, too. He knew there was no going back. Everything had changed, and he knew that the place he had once called “home” no longer existed. It had been destroyed, and all his friends and family had been scattered. He’d managed to get out alive, but the life of a refugee was full of challenges. So here he was, in Syria, speaking a new language, trying to live out his faith in a culture that was different from anything he’d ever known. Continue reading

A Prayer for Christmas Day 2022

O Holy Mystery,
infinite, almighty, encompassing the universe,
you came to us as human infant,
God made flesh, glory tucked between your tiny toes;
Love latching onto life –
vulnerable and helpless,
and yet our only help.


Now, in the quiet aftermath of all our frantic striving
to celebrate your birth with our best,
the very best of our best,
we kneel before you,
exhausted,
spent.


Whether we were ready or not, you came.
Whether we are ready or not, 
come once again, Lord Jesus.
Latch onto our lives. 
Fill us with the mystery of your love, 
God made flesh.

Amen.

Monday Prayer

12/19/2022

We’re coming down to the wire, God. This is the point in Advent where, if I haven’t done it by now, it isn’t going to happen. Those dreams I had of creating the perfect Christmas for my family, my church, myself …. they were lovely, weren’t they, Lord? 

But maybe they weren’t the dream you’ve been dreaming all along. 

Like the dream you gave Joseph. 

Your dream disrupted Joseph’s dreams of the perfect marriage, the perfect family, the perfect life …

Yet Joseph didn’t argue with you (the way I would).

As far as we know, Joseph stayed silent (the way I would not).

Joseph simply obeyed. Mary may have said, “Let it be with me according to your word,” but Joseph quietly acted, even if he didn’t completely understand what you were about to do. 

And you chose Joseph, of all the possible people in Nazareth, to be the one who would teach Jesus how to be human.

So, Lord, help us to discern your dreams for us, and make us willing to obey you, just as Joseph did.

Give us courage to abandon our old dreams, dreams that focus on what we want for ourselves, instead of what you want for us. For we know that what you want for us is far greater than anything we can imagine.

Help us to embrace the new dreams you put into our hearts and minds, dreams for peace, for justice, for lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things, dreams for sharing the good news that You are with us, Emmanuel, and you will save us from our sins when we turn to you.

And then, Lord, teach us how to be human, too. Just as Joseph taught Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. Amen. 

Roy’s AWWA Cheese spread

My step-dad ran the Water Department (also the Sewage, Street, and Engineering departments…) in our hometown. It was a big deal for him to receive an award from the American Water Works Association, and when my mom died a couple of years ago, we found the scrapbook she had made of that event (he got to bring her along to the convention). Tucked in with the programs and photos and newspaper clippings, was this recipe, in Roy’s careful draftsman’s handwriting. I remember him making it for us as a special treat – and this was a guy who did not splurge on special treats, I can tell you. But it’s pretty good, and will fill out your holiday snack table or charcuterie board pretty well. Serve it with fancy crackers or little toasts.

1 stick butter, softened
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 envelope dry Ranch dressing mix

Poke the garlic into the softened butter and let it sit for an hour. Remove the garlic (or, if you are like me and really like garlic, go ahead and mince it and work it back into the butter). Using a mixer, blend together the butter, cream cheese, and Ranch dressing mix.

Serve with crackers. Refrigerate any leftover spread in an airtight container. (But, seriously, there won’t be any left if you put this out at a party.)

Byron’s Hot Buttered Rum

When my father-in-law served this to my tee-totaling mother, she asked for seconds. It’s that good. You could probably make a non-alcoholic version with rum flavoring added at the end. But I’ve never tried that, so …

1 lb. butter
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 lb. light brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 qt. good vanilla ice cream
rum
whipped cream
cinnamon sticks
boiling water

To make the batter:
Cream the butter, sugars and spices together until light and fluffy. Stir in the ice cream. Freeze in a tightly covered container. (You may want to put a layer of plastic wrap right on top of the batter, if it doesn’t fill the container – nobody likes freezer burned batter!)

To serve:
Slightly thaw the batter, then place 3 Tbsp. batter in a mug. Add 1 jigger of rum, then fill the mug with boiling water. Top with whipped cream, maybe sprinkle a little nutmeg on top, and serve with a cinnamon stick as a stirrer.

Makes 30 servings.

Growing Pains: A Sermon from the Book of Acts

This sermon was preached for Winthrop Evangelical Covenant Church on October 23, 2022, as part of a series on Understanding the New Testament. A video of this message is available here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s an honor to be with you today, as you continue your journey through scripture to discover God’s great plan of redemption. God is on a mission to redeem the world, and God is fulfilling that mission through the church, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, to recap the last few weeks, or bring you up to date if you are joining us now for the first time, we know that:

Continue reading

Monday Prayer 9/26/2022

Holy One,

Just like that, the season changes. While half of the planet turns cold, dying away toward winter, the other half wakes to new life, blooming toward summer. The cycle of life and death begins anew.
And you are there.

When we find joy, you are there.
When we cannot be consoled, you are there.
When we know trouble, you are there.
When we know peace, you are there.

You are here.
In the now, in the then;
In the joy or the sorrow,
You are here.

By your grace, let me sense your presence. Let me recognize you in the season as it changes. By your grace, change me, too. Let me become more and more the one you created me to be. Amen.

Monday Prayer 9/19/2022

Holy One,

“There was a rich man …”
who couldn’t see his brother, naked, hungry, full of sores.
But you did.
And you valued him so highly, you gave him a name:
Lazarus – “God helps.” (Luke 16:19-20)

The psalmist cries, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.” Our hope is in you, who watch over strangers, upholding widows and orphans. (Psalm 146:3, 9)

Help us to see the stranger who lands on our doorstep.
And when we are the strangers at someone else’s door,
Let them see us, and value us as you do, so that together,
We may take hold of the life that really is life. (1 Timothy 6:16)
Amen.

Monday Prayer 9/12/2022

Holy one, this prayer has something to do with paradox. Please help me remember the brilliant idea you gave me while I was up to my elbows in dishwater and couldn’t write it down. It had something to do with Noah’s 3 sons, and a dishonest manager being commended for his shrewdness.

It had something to do with the way the world turns upside down when a queen dies, while others pass from this life to the next with barely a 5-line obituary. It had something to do with one person’s grief triggering another’s deep pain, and how we never really know which end of the equation is ours, the grieving or the aggrieved. 

It had something to do with holding two truths – or maybe more – in tension, not balance. Because they need to push and pull on each other in order to be truth at all. It had something to do with recognizing the pain we cause when we assume we are the victims, while our privilege shields us from seeing ourselves as perpetrators.

It had something to do with the way righteousness encompasses both judgment and mercy, a seed has to die for a plant to take root, something can only be lost if it belonged to someone in the first place. Death is necessary for resurrection to happen.

It had something to do with the assurance your love endures to all generations without fail, and in the end, evil will not be able to withstand such love. 

Whatever that brilliant prayer about paradox was, Lord, you already know it. Help me to see this week that Truth might be bigger than I can grasp, but just because I can’t grasp it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. So show me the little truths holding each other together in opposition, and give me grace to walk humbly with you in your enduring love. Amen.

Monday Prayer (Labor Day 2022)

Holy One,

You who birthed all things into being,

who flung the stars and separated the waters from the dry land,

were your arms tired after all that making?

Did your back ache from your labor?

Did you decide to give us rhythms of rest and work

because you, yourself, in all your infinite power, needed the same?

Grant us the wisdom to know when to work, and when to rest.

Give us newness of heart, as we begin this week.

May our labor be fruitful, and may our rest be sweet,

and may both reflect your glory. Amen.