Mary had everything going against her. She was carrying a child, walking hundreds of miles while pregnant, forced to give birth in a manger … but despite all these difficulties, Mary believed. And Her song echoes down the corridors of time to challenge us to pay attention to what God is really up to in the world.
Who is Mary’s song for? It’s for the mothers in Honduras torn by extreme poverty, the mothers in Syria and Afghanistan where war has token its toil, the mothers in the United States among the immigrants who are so far away from home who find themselves detained and separated from the children that they love. These are the ones for whom Mary’s song are good news.
The ones who are seated in the high places have too much at stake to want to sing along — their world is collapsing in the justice of God’s mercy. The ones at the bottom can hardly wait for Mary’s song to begin. Mary’s song defines for us what it means to be a faithful follower of God.
“Mary’s Song” Sermon by The Rev. Elaine Puckett Luke 1: 47-55 Dec. 15, 2019 • Third Sunday of Advent
When Jesus is invited to a banquet by a prominent Pharisee, he is critical of the seating chart and who was invited to the party. Jesus notes the seating is specially designated so prominent guests sit towards the head of the table, and that only the elite — those who could return the favor — were invited.
If the church invites the world to a banquet, who would Jesus expect to see there? And where would they be sitting?
“Take a Seat” Sermon by The Rev. Elaine Puckett Luke 14: 7-14 Sept. 22, 2019
When Jesus teaches us how to pray, he gives us what is now known as The Lord’s Prayer. The prayer emphasizes three things:
God is a member of our family.
There are three requests we are making — bread, forgiveness and deliverance.
We should trust that God will provide.
Most Christians are comfortable with the idea of God as family and trusting that God will provide. And our for the most part, our requests for bread, forgiveness and deliverance are easy to comprehend. However, when it comes to forgiveness, The Lord’s Prayer commands us to forgive those who have sinned against us, just as God forgives us when we sin against God. Jesus tells us that forgiveness received is forever linked with forgiveness given.
Jesus is clear: prayer is effective and God responds. But it’s most effective when a prayer is paired with our willingness to act lovingly in relationship to others … all others.
Homework: Every single person here has someone they need to forgive … Forgive them, reach out and pray for them.
“Praying for God’s Future” Sermon by The Rev. Elaine Puckett Luke 11: 1-13 Aug. 4, 2019
The Gospel of John doesn’t end with Jesus’ resurrection. There’s one more story in John 21, in which Jesus appears to seven disciples as they are fishing. At its surface, it’s a simple story. The disciples are struggling at catching fish; Jesus appears to them and tells them to cast the net on the other side of the boat; they do as Jesus says and catch a lot of fish; Jesus transforms the fish into a massive meal.
This story has much more to the plot than what happened. The significance is in what didn’t happen — for the first time, the disciples didn’t question if it was Jesus. They knew it was him. They had faith. The disciples entered a new mode of seeing Jesus — not with the eyes but with the heart. And we can learn to see Christ in the same way.
This story assures us that the God who gave us physical sight at our birth can give us spiritual sight at our rebirth.
“None Dared Ask, For They Knew” Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby John 21: 1-19 May 5, 2019
Prayer is a practice with which many of us struggle.
It’s seems like such a waste of time to sit in nothingness. We begin to think, “Wouldn’t it be better to be more productive with that time?” Our anxieties begin to arise. Our deepest fears are unwrapped. Our saddest thoughts become present. These are the times in prayer when we just might be at the forefront of something good.
Our anxiety over the future, our frustration over our job, our concern over an ailing loved one — these are the places where we fail and fall, and these are the paths back to God. Rather than run from it, go down into the darkness a little further and see where it leads. God will be there.
Prayer is less something we do, and more something we find ourselves in doing. God must do it within us, or it will not get done: when our faith is dried up, God graces us with streams of living water in the most parched places of myself.
“In the Time of Trial” Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby Luke 22:39-46 April 14, 2019 • Palm Sunday
Church means many things to different people. But Paul keeps returning the focus of the church to the cross.
But the cross is often used by people use for their own personal gain. Paul warns about this. The cross is not something that can be humanized. It’s a gift from God that allows us to see the world beyond a human perspective.
In the midst of our path in the world, God has placed the stumbling block of the cross. When we encounter it, we might have to do something others deem foolish, but is right in the eyes of God.
“The Folly of the Cross” Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 Feb. 3, 2019
Paul goes to the church of Corinth and finds the Corinthians divided. The cause of their division was over who baptized them.
Although the church today does not argue over baptism, a key issue often divides Christians — political ideology. Many people take pride belonging to churches that claim to be “progressive” or emphasizing “conservative family values.”
What would Paul’s message be us? The same it was to the Corinthians. What divides us doesn’t matter. The important thing is what unites us — the power of the cross. And despite human attempts to take control of the cross and shape its message, the power of the cross is unlike any other. It does not depend on us, it depends on God.
And we have been invited to participate in that power — but we cannot manipulate it.
“What Unites Us” Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 Jan. 27, 2019
When Mary trusted God to bear Jesus, she was taking a major risk. Mary was defying family, community, religious and government standards, but had faith in God that she is doing what is right.
Mary initiated a radical new vision of what her life and our life could be — God in flesh among us. Her whole life prepared her to say “Yes” when God asked her to do something important. Mary teaches me to wonder, “What is holding me back from bearing God into the world?”
God invites each of us in each moment, relationship, and heartbreak in the world as it is, to participate in the world as it should be — transformed in God’s word. We cannot stop it.
“Mary’s radical vision” Sermon by The Rev. Bonnie Osei-Frimpong Luke 1:46-55 Dec. 16, 2018 • Third Sunday of Advent
The “Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30) is often one of the stories people who are disaffected with Christianity use to criticize our faith. And at a surface glance, that criticism is warranted. What kind of master gets mad when his servant attempts to save and preserve what is given to him?
But the parable is not about saving or producing wealth. Rather, the parable is about how we see God. In the story, the master does not get mad at his third servant until the servant communicates his mistrust and fear of the master. How do we see God? Do we see God as vengeful master, or as a loving Creator?
How we use God’s gifts relies on how we see God.
“What You See is What You Get”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 25: 14-30
Oct. 14, 2018
The past two weeks have been difficult for our country. It has opened up wounds and showcased the divisiveness of our politics. People on both sides of the fence demean and degrade the other side. Many of us surround ourselves in “echo chambers,” where we only hear opinions that support our own beliefs.
This runs counter to God’s call to the church. In Ephesians 4:2, God tells us to lead a life of “humility and gentleness, patience, love and unity.” On this World Communion Sunday, churches from all over the globe are demonstrating such unity. Our differences are not a weakness, but rather our strength. The church is a diverse global body — formed by God — and knit together by the Holy Spirit.
Let’s work to show the humility by honoring the human dignity in each person. Demonstrate gentleness by showing kindness to each other. Show patience by loving and understanding those with whom we disagree. Showing humility, gentleness, patience and love will lead towards a unity of all people.
“We’re One, but We’re Not the Same”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Ephesians 4: 1-16
Oct. 7, 2018 • World Communion Sunday