8/04/2015

Bread

Last week's Bible reflection (Hunger) provided the backdrop for this past Sunday's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.
"Bread" podcast

8/03/2015

Imitate

In this week’s Bible reading from Ephesians 4:25-5:2 – There are  several plain instructions:
  •     Speak the truth to our neighbors,
  •     Be angry but do not sin;
  •     Do not let the sun go down on your anger,
  •     Do not make room for the devil.
  •     Thieves must give up stealing; let them labor and work honestly with their own  hands.
  •     Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up
  •     Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.
  •     Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander.
  •     Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another
  •     Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love.
I think the last one encompasses all the ones before – and any that might come afterwards.

Live in love. Be imitators of God. 

7/27/2015

Hunger

In this week's Bible reading from John 6:24-35, Jesus said to them -- "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

Bread is both a symbol of life – and something that is necessary for life. Bread means nourishment to someone who is hungry.

Jesus talked about bread and nourishment to a people who sometimes, maybe often, wondered when their next meal was coming or where it was coming from.

Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Here are some facts about hunger in the world.  (From feedingamerica.org, mercycorps.org, and wfp.org)

  • 1 in every 9 people worldwide -- close to 800 million -- don’t have enough food to eat.
  • Hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined
  • The world produces enough food for every person to eat 2700 calories per day. The problem we have is with food distribution.
  • In the US - close to 50 million people live in food insecure households.  33 million adults and 16 million children
  • The number of people living with hunger has dropped by 17% over the past 20+ years.

And even though things are getting better.  It is not at all OK.

Presence

Last week's whimsical and questioning Bible reflection (But you'll have to wait an hour) provided the ideas for yesterday's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL
"Presence" podcast

7/20/2015

But you’ll have to wait an hour

This week's Bible reading from John 6:1-21 describes two very familiar miracles of Jesus from the Gospels: The Feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking on water.

Eating and Swimming?

In the first one – Jesus fed the multitude  - starting with just five barley loaves and two fish. And there was much more left over.

In the second one Jesus – after retreating from the group that just experienced the miracle and wanted to take him by force to make him king – joined the disciples 3 or 4 miles out  - by walking on the water – and then brought the disciples from a storm to safety. (Did he wait an hour before going into the water? Or does walking on the water not count in the “Wait an hour after swimming” rule? Or is that rule not a real thing anyway?)

That question aside.  What’s going on in this week’s reading?

What’s significant about the food? Is it that the people were starving and Jesus came to the rescue? Is it that the people needed to be fed or they would become sick and die? Is it that Jesus understood that people like to share a meal together and he gave them the opportunity to get together and share a meal? Is it that out of almost nothing there was enough? Is it looking at an impossible situation and finding out we truly can imagine what’s impossible?

And what’s significant about the water? Is it that there’s always the possibility of storms in our lives? Is it that no matter how far we try to row out from Jesus, he’s still near? Is it that when we think we’re in dire straits that God has already been guiding us to safety? Is it looking at an impossible situation and finding out we can truly imagine what’s impossible?

7/19/2015

Wherever

This week's Bible reflection (Box it Up) started things off in today's uncontained sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.
"Wherever" podcast

7/13/2015

Box it up

If there’s a controversy brewing – or one that’s already brewed, there’s usually a need for a containment expert.  Someone to keep what shouldn’t get out – or what has already gotten out -- contained - in a box of sorts.  That kind of containment necessity is usually evident, or at least occurs, with celebrities and also with political campaigns.  I’m sure it occurs in many other situations and with many other people.  It’s just not as visible as high-profile situations.

There’s also the not-high-profile, not at all controversial, and completely different idea about containment.  We also contain things like food, products . . . just about anything. 

Whether there’s something controversial, dangerous, innocuous, or just “in need of a place to hold it,” -- folks usually see containment in a positive or at least non-threatening way.

Of course, there are the “You can’t contain me!” kinds of speeches and situations.  You can’t contain someone’s passion.  You can’t contain a movement that won’t be stopped.  You can’t contain an idea whose time has come.

And you can’t contain God.

So why do we try?

7/12/2015

Joy

Lots of emotions in today's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.  It starts with some anger from this week's Bible reflection (A Piece of Work) and waves around from there . . .
"Joy" podcast

7/06/2015

A Piece of Work

Michal had had enough with her husband. David . . . again. She had loved him as no other. And she knew that, at least for a time, he had loved her. She had risked her own life to save his. She had been torn from him and forced to marry another. And he hadn’t come for her. After a long time they had finally been able to be back together, but it wasn’t the same. She didn’t think David was at all grieved when she was in the arms of another. After all, he wasted no time in marrying others and having children with them. And now they were back together. But instead of celebrating with her, he was out dancing nearly naked with everyone.

 “Who does he think he is?” she thought. “I hate him. I hate him so much!”

How many times have you really wanted to give someone a piece of your mind? What do you do when the person who makes your skin crawl is respected and loved by everyone?

 It’s a small part of this week’s reading from 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19, (we conveniently skipped the part where Uzzah was struck dead after reaching out and touching the ark) but it’s one that really stands out. Michal’s emotions are likely similar to the emotions many folks have felt. Her anger and disdain for someone who dances around as if they were ‘all that and a bag of chips’ is likely similar to feelings any of us have in situations where we feel exploited or manipulated by others.

How do we, knowing of God’s unconditional love for those we love and those we despise, find ways to be reconciled to the ones we wish would simply go away and leave us alone?

7/05/2015

Sent

This morning's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL imagines Jesus going back to his hometown in several different eras.
"Sent" podcast