Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sermon: "ADVENT-ure: Being Divinely Defined", Luke 1:39-56 (December 6, 2015)


(Video of this sermon)

When Andrew asked me who I’d like to preach on during Advent, I said, “Well, why don’t I preach on Mary, so she can be preached from a woman’s perspective?” He looked at me, surprised, and said, “Okay…that’s fine…I guess you haven’t gotten to that point in your career yet where you’re sick of being expected to preach ‘a woman’s perspective’ whenever the scripture’s about a woman…”

Frankly, it never occurred to me that I should ever be sick of preaching from a woman’s perspective. I mean, that’s the perspective that God has given me, so why should I ever see things any other way? But I get his point. It can become tedious when you’re only ever asked your point of view as a token, a representative of your entire gender, race, sexual orientation, economic level…you get the idea. When people only care about what you have to say if something new and different happens, and you’re suddenly expected to speak up and give voice to an entire population. Tedious and exhausting.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Either/Or is NOT an Option

Ever since the attacks in Paris on Friday, the talk about immigrants into the United States has ramped up even more than it did when presidential campaigns began in earnest a few months ago. Now, I don't have a lot of skin in the game, so to speak, since my family has been US citizens for at least 4 generations, and I am the farthest thing from an expert that I could possibly be, but a few memes have been making the rounds that bothered me, and it's taken some mental work to figure out why.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sermon: "Beyond Faith", Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17 (November 8, 2015)


(Video of this sermon)

We love stories. I mean, as human beings: we may structure our system of education around lessons and lectures and sermons, but if we’re honest with ourselves, the things that really stick with us the most are the anecdotes, the metaphors, the colorful illustrations that take us out of our heads and into our hearts, and allow us to connect with whatever it is that’s being taught. Think about it: are your favorite sermons the ones where Andrew carefully explains a complex theological idea, or the ones where he relates it to a story about his kids? How many of us prefer to read fiction books over non-fiction? Maybe not all of us and maybe not all the time, but certainly a significant number. The writers of scripture know this fact about human nature and use it to their advantage. But don’t worry; this doesn’t make the Bible any less valid as a witness to God’s Word. In fact, scripture turns out to be less a pedantic work of history that barely makes it past our ears and more a work of art that succeeds in capturing our minds and penetrating our hearts.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sermon: "Mission Possible: Nurture", Deuteronomy 11:18-21/Revelation 3:15-20 (October 18, 2015)

(10/18/15, part two of a four part series on the life of the Church for our Stewardship drive)

(Video of this sermon)

I have a book that I bought at a used book store when I was in seminary called, “Children’s Letters to God.” Knowing that I was being called to a ministry specifically focused on education and Christian formation, I figured that this book could provide some important insights as to what I was getting myself into. Now, being a long-time veteran of church school and children’s sermons, I knew that there would likely be some real gems in there, and I was not disappointed:

“Dear God, In Sunday School, they told us what you do. Who does it when you are on vacation?”

“Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel wouldn’t kill each other so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother.”

“Dear God, My grandpa says you were around when he was a little boy. How far back do you go?”

“Dear God, I bet it is very hard for you to love all the people in the world. There are only four people in our family and I can never do it.”

“Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a pony.”

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Grace of Reminders: A Reminder of Grace

As many (most?) of you know, I started a new call in Boise, ID, almost two months ago (in fact, it will be two months ago exactly this Saturday when my Installation service will be held! Yay!). As some of you also may know, I am really bad with names. Like, unusually bad for someone whose job it is to connect with people. It's not that I don't remember people (although sometimes, especially when I've met several hundred new people over the course of a short period of time, that can be a contributing factor) it's just that names don't stick in my head very well. Usually, I can get around this pretty well by using some helpful techniques (repeating a person's name when they introduce themselves, double checking their name before saying goodbye, listening carefully to conversations for when names come up, etc.) but it's still a frustrating obstacle to entering a new community.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sermon: "Rhythm: A Pattern for Our Life", Genesis 1:1-2:3 (September 13, 2015)

(9/13/2015; read in conjunction with responsive scripture below)
(Part two of a three part sermon series about music in the church)
(Video of this sermon, including the responsive reading)

It’s funny, isn’t it, how much rhythms permeate the very substance of our lives? From the sound of that first heartbeat in the womb to the repeated contractions that bring each of us into the world. From the pattern of wobbly first steps to the rhythmic pounding of feet on a marathon run. From the slowed breathing of a child drifting off to sleep to the slowed breathing of the dying drifting into God’s arms, human life is made up of rhythms.

The ancient writers of scripture seemed to recognize the importance of life’s rhythms, too. Whether you read it as a literal history or as a metaphorical account of God’s creation, there’s no denying the beauty and balance in the flow of Genesis’ first creation story: God desires something. God declares it into existence. God recognizes the creation as good. God names it. And this divinely instituted pattern becomes what is one of our most basic human rhythms: a day.

Responsive Reading of Genesis 1:1-2:3

(As read before sermon on September 13, 2015)

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,
The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep,
While a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

Then God said,

“Let there be light”;

And there was light.
And God saw that the light was good;
And God separated the light from the darkness.

God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.

And there was evening and there was morning, 

The first day.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sermon: "Suit Up!", Ephesians 6:10-18 (August 23, 2015)

(Video of this sermon)

I want to take a moment to ask you what images come to mind when you hear this passage from Ephesians. Holy Crusaders going off to war? Our men and women in the armed forces getting ready to fight for God, freedom, and the American way? Preparing yourself to go and “do battle” with the unchurched in your life? The idea of “just warfare”?

Monday, August 17, 2015

In Defense of Denominations

So I had a really great experience the other day. I got to wake up early on a Saturday and spend the day in a Presbytery meeting.

"But Katey," I hear you exclaim, "how can a Presbytery meeting possibly be a great experience??"

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Presbyterian form of government, the Presbytery is a regional body, made up of teaching elders (Pastors) and ruling elders (members of each church's governing board) that essentially serve the role of Bishop in other denominations. Each pastor is held accountable by its Presbytery; each Presbytery is responsible for the churches within its boundaries. Pastors are not members of the church for whom they work, but of their local Presbytery.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A (Not Even Remotely) Comprehensive List of My Feelings (Saturday, August 1, 2015)

I'm writing this from the passenger seat of the Penske Truck that Nick and I have rented in order to move all of our stuff across ten states from New York to Idaho (side note: apparently, for interested parties, we have exactly 16' and 1 Ford Mustang of things. But I don't think that's a metric unit of measurement). Murray is lying on my lap and acting as a pseudo-desk (I say "pseudo" because in my experience, desks don't normally squirm this much). We have driven through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and are currently just south of Chicago, Illinois. We left around 11:00pm last night (Friday, July 31) and have been tag-teaming driving duties for about twelve hours. For the first time, I feel neither obligated to sleep nor exhausted, so I thought I'd take a moment to write out some of my thoughts.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Sermon: "So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish", John 6:1-21 (July 26, 2015)


This summer, I’ve been rereading some of the books that I loved as a kid. Several of these are obscure stories that I had eagerly purchased at my school’s Scholastic Book Fair, bookworm that I was, which had been unearthed during my dad’s summer purging of his house. Others are “classics” that almost everyone has read at some point or another: Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings. I was a voracious reader as a kid, so this has been no small project.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sermon: "Faith Healing", Mark 5:21-43 (June 28, 2015)


She’s tired. Not just tired, but physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. Spent. She’s done absolutely everything that it’s within her power to do: sought the obscure wisdom of every healer, the experimental treatments of every physician, the urgent prayers of every priest, and yet what does she have to show for it? An empty moneybag and still-deteriorating health. And less hope than she had to begin with.

Sermon: "Holy Spirit 101", Acts 2:1-21 (May 24, 2015)


One of the primary reasons that I love getting to work with kids and youth is that it gives me the opportunity to learn new things all the time. Well, not necessarily “new” as in “I’ve never thought of that before”; I mean new as in completely reexamining old ideas that I’d long assumed I understand. This is one of the coolest things about being a Pastor. Lifelong spiritual formation is so central to who we need to be as Christians, and kids have a way of reminding you that there’s always more to learn. I suspect that this is why so many people are nervous about teaching Church School for the first time, and also why so many people, once they’ve actually overcome these fears, are profoundly glad that they did. Anyway, I am deeply grateful for the young people—both here and at the churches I’ve worked at in the past—who have helped me remember that my role as rabbi, teacher, begins with the posture of a student.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sermon: "Proof of Life", John 20:19-29 (April 12, 2015)


I’d like us, for a moment, to consider a scenario. Imagine that someone you trust—a friend, a family member, a mentor, whoever—is a scientist. A brilliant scientist, in fact. Imagine that this brilliant scientist friend of yours has been working for three years to find a cure for cancer. So many people are touched by cancer in some way—including, I’m sure, some of you—that this would change the world. If anyone can find such a thing, it’s this person, but if you’re being honest with yourself, you think it’s too good to ever be true. When this person tells you that she will discover the cure, even though you trust her entirely, you have trouble believing her.

Now, imagine that you’re sitting at home, thinking about your mother or father or sister or brother or friend who is battling cancer, when another friend calls you. He excitedly tells you that the scientist you love has done it; she’s found the cure for cancer!...Now, as wonderful as this sounds to you, you can’t allow yourself to believe it, because you just can’t bear to be disappointed. If it’s true, your life will change; but if it’s not, you’ll be devastated. You might feel many things at that moment: confused…hopeful…angry...excited…incredulous…

What about…doubtful?

Sermon: Holy Monday, John 12:1-11 (March 30, 2015)


Do you ever feel like the Revised Common Lectionary gives us the most difficult texts to wrestle with over Holy Week? I’ve found that my faith is never challenged quite as much as it is during Lent, and especially during Holy Week. I suppose if you passively let the scripture wash over you without making an effort to actively engage it, you could downgrade this classification from “difficult” texts to merely “confusing,” but I think that approaching Scripture in this way, especially during Holy Week, is doing ourselves and our faith a great disservice. I think we’re supposed to struggle with it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sermon: "Up, Up, and Away!" Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-21 (March 15, 2015)


Like a good movie director, our faith tradition makes generous use of symbolism. We talk about so many complex ideas that it’s virtually impossible to understand our faith without drawing parallels to our everyday life. When we appeal to our human senses, we’re able to convey aspects of the divine that don’t necessarily translate directly. For example, as I’ve said in the past, every single phrase that we use to describe God is necessarily a metaphor, because we can only truly understand the totality of God’s identity through human approximation. Describing God as a mother hen in Matthew 23, for example, goes a lot farther towards our understanding than just saying that God protects and loves us.

Sermon: "Garden or Clockwork?" John 1:1-18 (December 28, 2014)


Merry Christmas!

So I know I might be preaching to the choir here, so to speak, but I feel like my first responsibility as a pastor is to remind you all that this is not the first weekend after Christmas, but the beginning of the actual liturgical Christmas season, which lasts until Epiphany on January 6th. It’s really easy for us, as Americans, to buy into the idea that Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends on December 25th. But as Christians, we know this isn’t the case. Our culture often looks at December 25th as the culmination of something. But our God isn’t about endings. Our God is about beginnings.

Sermon: "Taking the Second Step", Matthew 14 (August 10, 2014)


Today, we get to talk about Peter. St. Peter, if you’re so inclined. We all know him as somewhat of a Christian heavy-weight, right? One of Jesus’ closest friends, the leader of the early Church, and the first-ever pope, many people consider Peter to be one of the most important figures in Christian history.

Sermon: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Luke 6:37-45 (July 27, 2014)


As potential Disney movies go, Victor Hugo’s novel, Notre-Dame de Paris, known in English as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is not generally the first work that comes to mind. I read the book back in Middle School, and the one thing that I remember about it is how gloomy, violent, and depressing it was. But, for whatever reason, someone working for the Mouse decided in 1996 that this novel was going to be the inspiration for the next big children’s blockbuster. Disney took dramatic creative license in the retelling of Hugo’s work, toning down most of the darker themes and giving the story a classically “Disney” ending in lieu of the “everybody dies” technique preferred by Hugo.

Sermon: The Lion King/The Prodigal Son, Luke 15 (June 29, 2014)


Disney movies have been central to most American childhoods ever since the debut of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. And as any parent whose child has recently seen Frozen can attest, they often infiltrate adult lives, as well. The characters are as familiar as members of our own families: Winnie the Pooh, The Little Mermaid, Buzz Lightyear and Woody, not to mention Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the gang. Each one has a special place in our hearts. Even the most fantastical of them speak truths that resonate in our lives. And so, when Disney speaks, we listen.

Sermon: Holy Wednesday, John 13:21-36 (April 16, 2014)


During Holy Week, one of the things that I find myself reflecting on most often is the humanity of Jesus. Yes, Jesus is fully divine, and affirming this is a vital part of our Christian identity. But that’s not the whole story, and besides, the idea of God taking on flesh and walking the earth is so theologically loaded that it can become exhausting trying to make sense of it. I find that the passion narrative becomes much more vivid for me when I meditate especially on Christ’s humanity: when I imagine his grief…his pain…his fear…his loneliness. The sacrifice becomes so much more than just words on a page; it becomes relatable, dramatic, and real.