Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Eve Sermon: "Imago Immanuel" (December 24, 2019)

(The Conclusion of our Advent series on how we reflect God's Image)


During Advent this year, Boone Church has been exploring the ways that we reflect imago dei, the Image of God. The first week, we learned that our spirits reflect God by allowing us to know the unknowable. We heard John’s voice cry out in the wilderness for repentance, reminding us that our spirits can only reflect God when we’re willing to atone for those things that separate us from God. The second week, we discovered that our minds best reflect God when we set them free to wander, explore, and create. We sat with Joseph as he debated the path his life would take, realizing that a choice to do the right thing is also form of divine reflection. The third week, we found that our bodies reflect God not in their individual appearance or particular set of abilities, but in their capacity to care for others. We said “yes” with Mary to offering ourselves to God, knowing that every one of our bodies is loved and valued for themselves. And this past Sunday, we realized that the ultimate reflection of God is in the community that God gives us. We joined the shepherds in singing praises, remembering that only when every one of us is welcomed as part of a whole can we truly reflect God.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sermon: “Imago Dei: In the Image of God’s Community”, Genesis 1:24-31, 2:1-3/Luke 2:8-20 (December 22, 2019)

(Week 4 in our Advent series on how we reflect God's Image--
previous weeks' sermons can be found here, here, and here)

By now, most of you are aware of my fondness for musical theatre. What you may NOT know is that I played bassoon for many years during middle and high school. How do these two fun facts relate? Well, for years, all I wanted was to be in the pit orchestra of a musical production. I firmly believed (and still do) that there are some messages and emotions that can only be conveyed properly through music, and although I was too shy at the time to get up on stage, I could definitely play in the pit orchestra. I was delighted at the prospect of helping tell a story through music. I was eager to do my part.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sermon: “Imago Dei: In the Image of God’s Body”, Psalm 139:13-18/Luke 1:26-33, 38 (December 15, 2019)

(Week 3 in our Advent series on how we reflect God's Image--
previous weeks' sermons can be found here and here)

*To expand upon the disclaimer in the sound file: this was a particularly challenging sermon to write because everyone has a different relationship with their body, and I know that talking about bodies can be painful for different people in a million different reasons. In addition to the footnote I added below, I want to reaffirm here: your body is holy, not because of what it looks like or how it works, but because of what you use it for. And as long as you're using it to love others and share God with the world, you're doing it right.

If you're still in the middle of coming to terms with what your body is or isn't, what it can or cannot do, know that God is with you in that journey, and that no matter where you end up and what you discover, God will still love, cherish, and value you just as much as when God knit you together in your mother's womb.  --KSW 


Human bodies have long been a point of contention in Christian communities. Although we worship an incarnate God, our own bodies have at times become targets of disdain and disgust. Historically, certain groups have seen the body as inferior to the spirit because of its finite and corruptible nature. They see physicality as something impure to be endured and transcended if at all possible. Individually, many of us see our own bodies as an inconvenience or a burden. For some of us, chronic illness or even just normal aging can make us question if having a body is worth the pain that we suffer because of it. Whether for functional or aesthetic reasons, most of us have been unhappy with our bodies at one time or another.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Sermon: “Imago Dei: In the Image of God’s Mind”, Genesis 1:1-5/John 1:1-5, 9-14/Matthew 1:18-24 (December 8, 2019)

(Week 2 in our Advent series on how we reflect God's Image--
last week's sermon can be found here)


“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being.” For many of us, these words are as familiar as our own names, as comfortable as an old, worn shoe. We recite them faithfully at our Christmas Eve services, year after year, and some of you may have even memorized this passage during your Sunday School days. But as familiar as it is, do we really know what it’s saying?

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sermon: “Imago Dei: In the Image of God’s Spirit”, Isaiah 11:1-10/Matthew 3:1-11 (December 1, 2019)

(Week 1 in our Advent series on how we reflect God's Image)


It’s the beginning of a new liturgical year and Advent is upon us, as you can tell by the beautiful paraments that once again adorn our worship space. This past week, I joked on Facebook that we should start calling these purple ornamentations “prepare-aments”, since purple is the color of the liturgical seasons of preparation. In all seriousness, though, it’s important for us to remember the preparatory aspect of Advent. In the context of worship, we usually talk about it in terms of preparing for the arrival of Emmanuel, God-With-Us, the Messiah…but what does that really mean? What does it entail? Certainly, our preparation doesn’t begin and end with purple paraments (excuse me; prepare-aments) in the sanctuary and bright, colored lights hung outside our homes. This sort of preparation is fun, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t accomplish anything particularly meaningful. I mean, it’s meaningful to us individually—I’m a huge fan of traditions and the feelings they evoke—but aside from providing the “warm fuzzies”, it doesn’t actually really do much, aside from making the spaces around us look pleasant.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Advent Apologetics

This time of year, an ideological battle rages in Christian theological circles, a battle for which there is no end in sight.

When do we start celebrating Christmas?

Now, I don't believe this is as simple a question as it might seem to some. I've heard people argue that the world is dark and depressing enough, and we need as much light as possible in the world, so "Christmas Creep" really isn't the horrifying sin that it's been made out to be.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sermon: "The Peculiar King", Luke 19:29-44/Luke 23:33-43 (November 24, 2019)


Okay, before I begin, I want to make sure we’re all on the same page on one thing: hopefully, we can all agree that the English language is REALLY weird. For example, the meaning of a sentence can change dramatically depending on which word you emphasize. This has nothing to do with the language itself (grammatically speaking) and everything to do with inflection. Take, for example, the sentence, “I never said she stole my money.” If you emphasize the first word, “I”, it implies that someone else made the accusation: “*I* never said she stole my money.” If you emphasize the second word, it’s a forceful denial of the premise: “I NEVER said she stole my money.” If you emphasize the third word, it indicates that the speaker may be implying something unspoken: “I never SAID she stole my money.” You can go through and try it with the rest of the words on your own if you want. It’s a fun game.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Sermon: "A Strange Sort of Hope", Isaiah 65:17-25/Luke 21:5-19 (November 17, 2019)


We’re coming up on a new year in just about a week. No, I didn’t misplace my calendar or accidentally recycle an old sermon at the wrong time. Our liturgical year is coming to an end next week with Christ the King Sunday. And just as with our secular celebration of the new year, it’s a good opportunity for us to look towards the future and imagine what it has in store for us. In the Church, this means engaging in a bit of friendly eschatology—or, in laymen’s terms, thinking about Christ’s return, when the present world will come to an end.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sermon: "The Art of Waiting", Haggai 2:1-9/2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17 (November 10, 2019)


I’ve never been particularly fond of winter. Over the course of my life, my favorite season has shifted back and forth from fall to spring, and even summer’s gotten some appreciation in recent years. But never winter. I don’t like being cold; I don’t like the way dry skin feels 24 hours a day; I don’t like the early sunsets and short days. I’ve always disliked winter so much that even though my due date was in early January, I hunkered down and refused to be born until they took me out by force a month later. Very little has changed in my current opinion of the season.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sermon: "Holy Imperfection", Luke 19:1-10/Philippians 3:12-16 (November 3, 2019)


As I'm sure all of you with doorbells at your house are well aware, last Thursday was Halloween. That doesn't mean a lot with regards to the Church, but what it does mean is that Friday was All Saints' Day. Since most Protestants don't do much with mid-week celebrations, today is the day that Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, and many other denominations all over the world observe this liturgical event. Traditionally, it's the day when we remember people of faith who have died, particularly in the past year, and celebrate the fact that we're still connected to them through Jesus Christ as eternal members of God's Kingdom.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sermon: "130 Years by the Grace of God", Isaiah 43:11-13, 18-21/Matthew 28:16-20 (October 27, 2019)

(A sermon preached on the occasion of Reformation Sunday and the 130th anniversary of Presbyterians establishing a presence in Caldwell, ID)


130 years of Presbyterians in Caldwell. That’s an awfully long time. That’s almost four times as long as I’ve been alive. Now, that also means that there’ve been 130 years’ worth of Presbyterian sermons in Caldwell, so I’ll do my best not to add too much time to the clock today. Besides, I’m inclined to let the stories speak for themselves.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sermon: "Of Saints and Seedlings", Jeremiah 31:27-34/2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 (October 20, 2019)


Okay; don’t tell anyone, but I have a problem with scripture.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. What I actually have a problem with is a particular scripture-related metaphor. In Luke 8, Jesus tells the parable of the sower (which our kids presented beautifully a couple of weeks ago) and then, in a rare move, he explains what the parable means so that there can be no confusion: the seeds that the farmer sows represent the Word of God, and the different types of soil that they land in represent our potential attitudes when we hear the Gospel. In other words, how we receive the Good News determines whether or not it’s able to take root in our hearts.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sermon: "Pure Lament", Psalm 88/Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 (September 22, 2019)


Fair warning: today’s sermon is not going to be a feel-good message. Today, we’re talking about lament. There’s been a great deal of loss, both tangible and intangible, in our community over the past few months, so I think it’s worthwhile for us to think through the theology of grief together. However, if at any point something in this sermon becomes too overwhelming, I completely understand if anyone needs to step out. Listening to what your spirit needs in this moment is more important than sitting politely through a sermon that you’re not emotionally ready to hear. If you do need to leave, know that I understand, I love you, and I’m here to talk whenever you feel ready.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Sermon: "The Doctor Is In", Exodus 32:7-14/1 Timothy 1:12-17 (September 15, 2019)


Today’s lectionary readings are kind of a downer. They focus on how awful human beings are, especially the first passage from Exodus. The “golden calf” incident certainly wasn’t humanity’s finest hour. It gets worse when we realize that the Israelites didn’t just melt their jewelry into the shape of a baby cow out of boredom or ignorance: they were appealing to the god Apis, who was worshiped by the Egyptians (you know, the people who’d enslaved them for hundreds of years). They were choosing to trust the god of their oppressors over and above the God who had literally JUST performed the most epic demonstration of faithfulness of all time. It’s kind of a miracle that God chose to stick with humanity after that. I mean, even Moses got so mad that he threw down the freshly-chiseled Commandment tablets in rage!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Sermon: “The Choice Beyond Black and White”, Deuteronomy 30:15-20/Philemon 1-21 (September 8, 2019)


As people of faith, choice is often front-and-center in our lives. In every moment, we have to decide whether or not we’re going to choose to follow God’s will. Sure, there’s that whole “predestination” thing that John Calvin burdened us with, but a deeper exploration of that doctrine reveals that it doesn’t necessarily preclude free will. There’ve been many ways of explaining the coexistence of the two concepts over the years, but at the end of the day, both ideas are important to our theological heritage.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Sermon: "You're (Not) Excused", Jeremiah 1:4-10/Luke 13:10-17 (August 25, 2019)


Excuses, excuses. We’ve all made them at one time or another, right? Sometimes, we do it because we want to communicate a legitimate reason for being unable to do something. More often, though, we make excuses because we don’t WANT to do something. We want to get out of some obligation or responsibility, but we don’t to face any consequences for it. So, we make excuses.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sermon: "Who's the Troublemaker?", Jeremiah 23:23-29/Luke 12:49-56 (August 18, 2019)


It seems that Jesus is, and always has been, a troublemaker.

Not necessarily by choice; trouble just seems to always find him. Even when he was an infant, others could sense it. When he was still a baby, a man named Simeon told Jesus’ mother, “This child is destined to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed.”[1] And our Gospel reading today seems to confirm this prediction: Jesus himself says, “Do you think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, I’ve come instead to bring division!”[2] He’s self-identifying as a rabble-rouser! Let’s go out and make people mad in the name of Christ—it’s what Jesus would want, right? I know some really great ways to get under people’s skin.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Sermon: "In God We Trust", Genesis 15:1-6/Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 (August 11, 2019)


Our first reading today is one of the more astounding stories in the Bible. I don’t mean because of the number of descendants that God promises Abram (although that IS incredible) and I don’t mean because of the prospect of an elderly couple having a child in their old age (although that IS inconceivable). No, the reason this passage is so astounding is because of what God’s doing here: God is entering into a covenant relationship with humanity.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Sermon: "Finding Our Center", Hosea 11:1-11/Colossians 3:1-11 (August 4, 2019)

I’m tired. Is anyone else here tired? I don’t mean “tired” like “I stayed up way too late last night finishing this sermon and am looking forward to my Sunday nap” tired. I mean “tired” as in “Everything feels hopeless” tired. As in “How long, O Lord?” tired. As in “I don’t even know where to start” tired. It may sound like I’m being overly dramatic, but how many of YOU have felt this way, at least once, over the last year or so? Most of us, I bet, at one time or another. It feels like it’s gotten to the point where you could spend all day every day fighting for what you believe is right and never feel like you’ve made any difference at all. There’s just too much that’s wrong in our world. It’s overwhelming and disorienting.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Sermon: "This Is How We Pray", Luke 11:1-4 (July 28, 2019)

(A message given prior to our "Christmas in July" celebration)


Since we’re celebrating Christmas in July this morning, I want to let the story speak for itself and leave plenty of time for Christmas carols, so I won’t talk for long. But it occurred to me that it might be worth first stopping to reflect on WHY we would read Christmas scriptures and sing Christmas music in July. After all, they feel distinctly out-of-place in 90 degree weather.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Sermon: “Unearned, Unasked-for, Undeserved”, 2 Kings 5:1-14/Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 (July 7, 2019)


Let’s talk about privilege.

For some, it’s a dirty word. It immediately puts us on the defensive, and we feel like our struggles and challenges are being ignored. We feel like it minimizes the hard work that we put in to get where we are. We feel like we’re being told that we’re a bad person. But interestingly, there’s another word that means almost exactly the same thing which for some reason doesn’t have the same distressing connotation to us, one that we Christians are often comfortable with and even eager to apply to ourselves

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sermon: "Lose the Recipe", 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14/Galatians 5:1, 13-25 (June 30, 2019)


Do you ever wonder what scripture would look like if the early Christians hadn’t screwed up so much?

I do. I mean, Paul’s primary motivation for letter-writing was usually to correct some misconception that had been making the rounds in Christian communities, and depending on who you ask, these letters make up anywhere from 30 to almost 50 percent of the New Testament. It was always something with those blockheads: either they were excluding gentiles, or they couldn’t get along with each other, or they were pledging their allegiance to specific teachers instead of to Christ, or they were keeping other people as personal property…they just couldn’t seem to get it right, no matter how many times Paul yelled at—err, wrote to them.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Sermon: "You Know What They Say About Assuming..." Isaiah 65:1-9/1 Kings 19:1-15 (June 23, 2019)


Today, I’d like to present to you a tale of three assumptions:

Jezebel was a queen. She’d grown up a princess, the daughter of a Phoenician king. Because she was a beautiful woman of royal lineage, she’d married King Ahab of the northern kingdom of Israel as a gesture of peace and goodwill between their two nations. Her whole life had been shaped by the intrigues and politics of court, so she was no stranger to conflict. She wasn’t particularly seductive or devious, as tradition has made her out to be; she was just a product of her context.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Sermon: "Trinity Trouble", John 16:12-15, Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 (June 16, 2019)


This week, an acquaintance of mine found herself faced with a dilemma that I’m sure many of you are familiar with: her son came home from camp saying that an older kid had told him the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, and he wanted to know if it was true. Now, obviously, having never met the Tooth Fairy personally, his mom couldn’t answer with any real authority, but she did her best to help her son think through the issue. They agreed that sometimes older kids say things that aren’t true just to bully younger kids. They also noted that her son didn’t know this older kid well enough to know if he’s trustworthy or not. And they acknowledged that SOMEONE had been taking his baby teeth while he slept and leaving money behind in its place. They ultimately concluded that, while the non-existence of the Tooth Fairy is certainly a startling possibility, there simply wasn’t enough evidence to prove one way or another. Her son decided to give the Tooth Fairy the benefit of the doubt and keep believing in her. After all, it wasn’t worth losing the extra income over something that he couldn’t really know for sure.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Sung to the Tune of "The Sound of Silence"...

In case you've ever wondered what the process of writing a sermon is like, I wrote a little ditty to express what I feel on those weeks when my sermon is feels particularly unwilling to come together (other clergy have corroborated this interpretation):

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Sermon: “Unity Without Uniformity”, Genesis 11:1-9/Acts 2:1-21 (June 9, 2019--Pentecost)


I feel compelled to begin my sermon today with a disclaimer. Nothing I say here today will be a new idea. None of this is groundbreaking. The thoughts that I’m sharing with you this morning occurred to me immediately after reading the scripture passages, and then nearly every commentary I read afterward affirmed them—which leads me to believe that this particular interpretation of Pentecost is based in a deeper, already-known truth. But you can judge for yourself.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Sermon: "Time To Lose the Training Wheels", Luke 24:44-53/Acts 16:23-34 (May 2, 2019--Ascension Sunday)


I was about five years old when I decided that I didn’t want training wheels on my bike anymore. I was the big sister; it was time for me to woman up. When I told my dad about my intentions, he grabbed his trusty screwdriver and headed outside with me. After the offending wheels had been removed came the hard part: I had to figure out how to convince the bike to stay upright with me on it. We started off on the grass, so that any (inevitable) falls would be less painful. But we quickly found out that my five-year-old legs weren’t yet capable of an off-road adventure. So, with a bit of trepidation and a whole lot of determination, we relocated our operation to asphalt.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Sermon: "It's the Little Things", Psalm 67/Acts 16:9-15 (May 26, 2019)

(I decided to try recording my sermon on my phone this week, so of course my mom called me right in the middle of preaching 😂 Lesson learned: make sure ALL alerts are off before worship! Enjoy this sermon with its brief comedic interlude...)


I don’t know if you noticed, but this week’s scripture readings are a pretty dramatic change from the previous several weeks. For most of Eastertide, we’ve been reading long, dramatic stories of epic visions and miracles in the early Church. We’ve seen Peter’s vision inspire the inclusion of gentiles in the Christian movement; we’ve seen him bring a woman back from the dead; we’ve seen Paul transform from a persecutor of Christians to one of their greatest leaders, thanks to a significant team effort; and of course, we’ve seen our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, conquer death itself. But today, we have two brief readings, merely seven verses each. And not only that; they’re kind of…boring. I mean, after a month of dramatic transformations and resurrections and triumph, we get—what?—a song reiterating what we already know about God and a story about Paul chatting with some ladies? Um…no thank you. Can we get some more miracles and crazy visions, please?

Monday, May 20, 2019

Sermon: "You Can't Sit with Us!", Psalm 148/Acts 11:1-18 (May 19, 2019)


As we approach the end of May, all the graduation announcements and “end-of-school” countdowns from students and teachers alike bring me back to that most magical time of life: high school. Love it or hate it (and I tended towards the latter category most of the time, myself) high school is a time of intensity—intense preparation, intense emotions, intense changes, intense loyalties…but most of all, intense identity politics. Few people can look back on their teenage years without recalling the all-important social hierarchy. (If you’ve blocked those years from your mind and need a refresher, just check out literally any teen comedy movie and it’ll all come flooding back to you.) A lucky few managed to transcend social groups, but for most of us, we knew where we belonged and where we definitely DIDN’T belong. We knew if we were cool or uncool, and if we didn’t necessarily fall neatly into one of those categories, we knew EXACTLY where we landed on the spectrum between the two extremes. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sermon: "The New Butterfly Effect", Acts 9:36-42/Revelation 7:9-17 (May 12, 2019)


Have you ever heard of “The Butterfly Effect”? First identified by meteorologist Edward Lorenz, “The Butterfly Effect” is the idea that if one tiny modification is made in the initial conditions of a system, that change can dramatically alter the result. For example, the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can create miniscule changes in the atmosphere, the effects of which can eventually compound to actually change the trajectory of a massive typhoon. In other words, “The Butterfly Effect” tells us that it’s virtually impossible to predict any result with 100% accuracy, because even the smallest unexpected variation in conditions can have dramatic implications for the outcome. This is why in the 21st century, with all of our technological advances and scientific knowledge, we still aren’t able to predict whether or not it’s going to rain on any given day with any amount of certainty—you never can tell when a mischievous butterfly’s been messing around with the atmosphere. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Sermon: "Faith Formation is a Team Sport", John 21:1-17/Acts 9:1-20 (May 5, 2019)


Since I’ve only been here for about five months now, you may not know this about me, but I think it’s time for me to come clean: I have absolutely no interest in sports. Zero. None whatsoever. It doesn’t matter if it’s a team sport, an individual sport, a winter sport, a summer sport, a field sport, a water sport—I just don’t care. And yet, in spite of my resounding indifference to all things athletic, last summer I found myself traveling to Belize on a mission trip in which our primary responsibility was to organize a soccer camp for a community of Mennonite kids. In case you’ve ever doubted that the Holy Spirit has an ironic sense of humor, I offer you exhibit A.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sermon: "Rock of Ages: Resurrection", Isaiah 65:17-19, 23-25/Luke 24:1-12 (April 21, 2019--Easter Sunday)

(This sermon is the last in our Lenten Series, "Rock of Ages", in which we're exploring how rocks can symbolize different characteristics of God and of ourselves.)


Over the past six weeks of Lent, we’ve explored all the different things that stones can teach us about our faith. We talked about the pitfalls of wanting to be in control and how fighting God’s sovereignty is like a softer stone trying to scratch a diamond. We discussed how God’s faithfulness doesn’t lift us up and away from our problems but keeps us going in the midst of them, like standing on a submerged rock to keep from drowning. We considered the stones NOT thrown—how we can build the kingdom of God here on earth if we choose to lay down our weapons and use them as building blocks, instead. We gave thanks that commitment to God can make us feel like we’ve come home, and we realized how important it is to surround ourselves with reminders of that commitment, whether in the form of massive stone monuments or in a holy meal or sacred font. On Palm Sunday, we were challenged by Jesus, as we considered whether WE might be the “stones” that he calls upon to shout out in witness to God. And on Maundy Thursday, we remembered that our brokenness doesn’t keep God from using us to build God’s kingdom—we can still be the rock upon which the Church is built, even when we feel deeply flawed and unworthy.

And finally, today we arrive at Jesus’ tomb with the women and see the stone rolled away. Today, the stone reminds us not of our struggles or our brokenness, but of resurrection. Thanks be to God!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Rock of Ages: Maundy Thursday 2019

For the last six weeks, our Lenten theme has been "Rock of Ages". One of the ways we explored this theme was by building a "Prayer Cairn" in the Narthex: people were invited to bring in stones from their homes, their sidewalks, the park, or wherever they found them and put them together in a pile. Each stone represented a particular prayer of the person who brought it in.

People got so creative with their rocks!
I had some stones available if folks forgot to bring theirs in, but I was impressed by how many people remembered, week after week. I also really enjoyed the fact that many people make a point to show me their stones before adding them to the cairn, saying, "Isn't this rock so cool?!?" Personally, I chose my stones based on what caught my eye as I was thinking about a person or situation. I feel like every time I had a prayer on my heart, there'd be a stone lying in the path right ahead of me. It was pretty incredible.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Sermon: "Rock of Ages: Our Brokenness", Numbers 20:2-12/Matthew 16:13-19 (April 18, 2019--Maundy Thursday)

(This sermon is the sixth in our Lenten Series, "Rock of Ages", in which we're exploring how rocks can symbolize different characteristics of God and of ourselves.)


Have you ever felt like the world was broken?

I remember being a kid and believing that life was fair. It wasn’t an active conclusion that I arrived at; I just assumed that “fair” was the default setting of the world. That as long as you were honest, did your best, and worked hard, everything would always be okay. Jesus loves me, God is good, the world is fair—these are the “truths” that shaped my childhood.

But as I grew up, I began to better understand what really motivates humanity. Justice and mercy are not the universal standards that I once thought they were. People are often far more motivated by greed, self-interest, and fear than by compassion and care for others. Our leaders don’t always have our best interests at heart. Hard work doesn’t always lead to success. Kindness won’t guarantee that others treat me the same. The world that I see reflected around me now is a far cry from the world that I once believed God intended for us. Our world is profoundly, irreparably broken—WE’VE broken it—and it terrifies me.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Sermon: "Rock of Ages: Our Witness", Joshua 3:14-4:3, 20-24/Luke 19:28-40 (April 14, 2019)

(This sermon is the fifth in our Lenten Series, "Rock of Ages", in which we're exploring how rocks can symbolize different characteristics of God and of ourselves.)


The verb “to witness” is an interesting one, in that it has two different (but related) meanings. When most of us hear it, we think first of the passive meaning of “witness”: to see, hear, or know by personal presence and perception.[1] “I witnessed an argument.” “She witnessed a crime.” “They witnessed a miracle.” In these instances, “to witness” means to be a passive bystander whose involvement is detached and exclusively internal (via your own observations).

Monday, April 8, 2019

Sermon: "Rock of Ages: Our Commitment", Genesis 28:10-22/1 Kings 5:1-6, 13, 17-18 (April 7, 2019)

(This sermon is the fourth in our Lenten Series, "Rock of Ages", in which we're exploring how rocks can symbolize different characteristics of God and of ourselves.)


Let’s talk about home. You may have heard the phrase, “Home is where the heart is,” meaning that a person’s sense of home is tied to wherever they feel an emotional attachment. While a lovely sentiment, this can lead to some confusing conversations—just the other day, I was discussing vacation plans with my husband and I said, “So we’ll go home on Tuesday, spend a week with family in Rochester, and then we’ll come back home.” It took a full ten seconds of his confused expression for me to realize what I’d just said. Home, it seems, isn’t necessarily an easy thing to pin down.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Sermon: “Rock of Ages: God’s Mercy”, John 8:3-11/Jonah 3:10-4:11 (March 31, 2019)

(This sermon is the third in our Lenten Series, "Rock of Ages", in which we're exploring how rocks can symbolize different characteristics of God and of ourselves.)


Today’s scripture readings come from two stories that we’ve all heard countless times before. Those of us who grew up in the church have been hearing the story of Jonah since our earliest days of Sunday School, and while children’s Bible storybooks don’t usually cover “The Woman Caught in Adultery” for some reason, it’s still one of those stories that most of us know by heart. They’re so familiar, in fact, that if we’re not careful, we might miss what they’re really trying to tell us, because they’ve turned into the mundane background noise of our faith. We assume we’ve already learned their lessons because we’ve heard them so many times before. But what if I were to reframe them, maybe give them a different ending? What might we learn from a story told in a way that isn’t familiar to us? Let’s find out…

Monday, March 25, 2019

Sermon: “Rock of Ages: God’s Faithfulness”, Psalm 40:1-12/Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-41 (March 24, 2019)

(This sermon is the second in our Lenten Series, "Rock of Ages", in which we're exploring how rocks can symbolize different characteristics of God and of ourselves.)


In my pre-Lenten planning, I designated this week as the one for preaching about God’s faithfulness. My plan was, of course, to focus on God: how like a rock God is in God’s reliability and steadfastness. It was going to be a comforting, feel-good sermon. But of course, “best laid plans” and all that; as I was doing my preparation and study this week, I found my thoughts going in a different direction than I’d anticipated. You see, scripture contains more examples of God’s faithfulness than anyone could possibly hope for. But what might surprise you is that many of these references aren’t joyful proclamations erupting out of praise or thanksgiving; more often, these references to God’s faithfulness are made in the context of biblical lament.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Sermon: "Rock of Ages: God's Sovereignty", Luke 4:1-13/Job 38:1, 4-7, 33-38; 42:1-6 (March 10, 2019)

(This sermon is the first in our Lenten Series, "Rock of Ages", in which we're exploring how rocks can symbolize different characteristics of God and of ourselves.)

I’m going to describe a scenario, and you let me know if any of it sounds familiar, okay? You wake up to the sound of an alarm because you don’t want the day to get away from you; maybe you panic because you’ve hit snooze too many times and you’re afraid you’ll be late for work. Of course, your coffee’s ready for you, since you planned ahead and set the automatic coffee maker last night. You start making breakfast, and you choose oatmeal because you want to make sure your cholesterol stays under control. Or maybe you choose the sugary-coated kids cereal because, darn it, no doctor’s going to dictate YOUR life! While you eat, you decide to watch something on the TV, but you turn on Netflix instead of cable TV because you want to be able to pause it if you need to. As you get dressed, you make sure to wear your lucky socks to ensure that your day goes smoothly. If you’re headed to work, you decide against the carpool, because you don’t want to risk Francis forgetting his report at home AGAIN and making the whole car turn back to get it. Or if you’re headed to the grocery store, you pick up what you need quickly and make a bee line for the self-checkout stand—you don’t want to deal with the clerk bagging your groceries wrong or get stuck behind the lady paying with a bag of pennies.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Sermon: “The Truth Behind the Veil”, Exodus 34:29-35/Luke 9:28-36 (March 3, 2019)


I’ve got to be honest: it was really difficult for me to focus on this week’s sermon. There’s been a lot going on in the world this week, and it’s had the lamentable effect of draining the hope right out of me. Some of it’s personal, but several of the things weighing on me have been very public and all over the news. Notably, Michael Cohen testified before members of Congress on Wednesday in order to help them discern the right path forward for our nation. I’m sure many of you were just as riveted to the coverage as I was. With everything going on this week, I had serious trouble thinking about anything else. It literally felt like I was tearing my spirit in two trying to keep my mind exclusively on scripture while my heart was elsewhere. So I decided to choose the path of authenticity and attempt to preach about these current events through the lens of our lectionary readings. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

What If?

What if,
As Christians,
Instead of thinking of ourselves as gatekeepers of the truth,
We considered ourselves inviters into joy?
Not called to exclude the "unqualified",
But to extravagantly, recklessly welcome any and all who we encounter?

What if,
Instead of thinking it our job to correct others,
We considered it our sacred privilege to invite others into blessed relationship with God,
So they can discover the truth themselves
Like a flower that blossoms over time
To our infinite delight?

What if,
Instead of thinking we've got all the right answers,
We considered that our job as disciples
Was to find out what others can teach us about holiness?
That God places us where we are
Not to correct,
But to learn?

What if
we were to love
And always?

Monday, February 25, 2019

Sermon: “An Apocalypse of the Non-Zombie Variety”, Luke 6:27-38/1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50 (February 24, 2019)


Although most, if not all, of us are familiar with the term “apocalypse”, I would venture to guess that fewer of us actually know what it means. Many people assume that “apocalypse” means “end of the world”, and it usually has a pretty violent, catastrophic connotation. While a part of this understanding comes from the apocalyptic literature in our own tradition (like the books of Revelation and Daniel, for example), I’d argue that we have Hollywood to thank for the vast majority of what we think we know about apocalypses. We’ve been particularly informed by the “Zombie Apocalypse” genre of film and television. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Sermon: "No Such Thing as a Popular Prophet", Jeremiah 17:5-10/Luke 6:17-26 (February 17, 2019)


As human beings, we’re always learning. The “classroom” might be in a formal school setting, at home, or somewhere else, but no matter where we are, we’re constantly taking in new information. Sometimes, the lessons come naturally and are easy and fun, like learning how to play a new game. Other times, they’re boring and uneventful, but still necessary, like figuring out how to file taxes (or how to convince someone else to do them for you). Either way, we usually manage to absorb these lessons without too much existential fuss; learning them doesn’t significantly alter our perspective on life. But what happens when we’re confronted with a lesson that threatens to turn our understanding of the world upside down?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sermon: “Finding a Way on the Road of Faith”, Isaiah 6:1-8/Luke 5:1-11 (February 10, 2019)


Picture this: you’re driving from one end of the United States to the other. You’ve been driving for a while, so you’re a long way from where you started and everything around you is unfamiliar. Let’s imagine, too, that for some reason, you aren’t able to drive on the major highways, so you’re slowly making your way along backroads. It’s been hours and hours since you last saw a sign telling you where you are. You’ve stopped to get gas, and you’re wondering if it’s even worth the effort to keep going. It’s late; you’re tired, and you’re not even certain that you’re still on the right road. Maybe you should just give up.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Sermon: "Places, Everybody!", Jeremiah 1:4-10/Psalm 19:7-14 (February 3, 2019)


Today in worship, we have a very full day ahead of us. We’re not only sharing Communion as we do every month, but we’re also ordaining and installing our new Deacons and Elders, which generally only happens once a year. It occurs to me that both of these events are celebrations of God’s call on our lives—Communion is a celebration of God’s call on all of us to draw closer into relationship with Christ, and Ordination is a celebration of God’s particular call on individual lives to specific ministries within the church. It’s pretty appropriate, then that the lectionary gave us this reading from Jeremiah where the prophet recounts his own call story. And every time I think about God’s call, it strikes me that there’s good news and there’s bad news.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Sermon: "God Offers", Genesis 1:26-31/2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (January 27, 2019)

(Fourth in a series of four sermons during our stewardship season)


Pretty much everyone likes gifts, right? Does anyone here not like them? If you’re that rare person who doesn’t like gifts, it’s probably because our culture has made gift-giving occasions more of an obligation for tradition’s sake than anything else. But I bet that if you try, you could remember a gift that’s brought you joy. See, at their best, gifts are more than just a transactional obligation. Gifts are an expression of our positive feelings towards one another; they’re a way to express ourselves without words.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Sermon: “God Requires”, Micah 6:3-8/1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (January 20, 2019)

(Second of four in a series of sermons during Stewardship Season)

Some of you may have noticed that the last two sermons I preached were described in the bulletin as part of a sermon series. If you’re particularly astute, you may have also observed that this one is, too. You may have thought that, at first glance, none of these sermons seem to be connected to each other in any clear way, aside from being about God (which is generally understood to be a baseline requirement of a sermon). You’re not entirely wrong; part of this is practical: I certainly don’t want anyone to show up to church for the first time in a month and feel like they’ve missed a significant piece of a puzzle that I’ve been carefully constructing for weeks. But it’s also because I’ve been trying to set up a progression of ideas (you can let me know later whether or not I’ve been remotely successful). First, I preached about how God speaks to us in all sorts of different ways and how we need to get better at listening to what we might be called to. Then, I preached about how God has claimed us, and how this claim leaves us with a choice about how to respond to it. Now this week is where the rubber finally hits the road: today, we’re going to hear about God’s requirements for us as God’s children. In other words, if we believe that God has a claim on our lives and are genuinely listening for God’s voice, then we’ll inevitably find that we have some obligations we need to fulfill. This week, it’s time for us to nail down exactly what those obligations are.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sermon: "God Claims", Isaiah 43:1-7/Mark 1:1-13 (January 13, 2019)

(Second of four in a series of sermons during Stewardship Season)


Here in the PCUSA, we recognize two sacraments: Communion and Baptism. We celebrate these two specifically because each of them is ordained by God and instituted by Christ. In other words, God commands it, and Jesus makes it happen.[1] The sacraments are more than just something that God wants us to do, though. They’re rituals that intimately connect us to the divine in a unique way. When we participate in the sacraments, we encounter Christ both in a mystical way as well as in a practical way, participating in these same acts the same way that Jesus did during his ministry. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Sermon: "God Speaks", 1 Samuel 3:1-10/Matthew 2:1-12, 16 (January 6, 2019)

(First of four in a series of sermons during Stewardship Season)


Today, I want to begin with a story: a friend of mine was in the middle of her ordination process when she encountered an obstacle. It was making things really difficult, to the point that she wasn’t sure if ordination was what God wanted for her anymore. While she was struggling with her sense of call, she still needed to continue her work as a hospital chaplain—unfortunately, life doesn’t stop for discernment. She told me about a day during this time that she visited a child who couldn’t talk. The little girl had to write down anything that she wanted on paper, and she was having a hard time with this process. My friend watched her get upset and quit. As soon as the girl threw down her pen, though, her aunt, who was also in the room, gently chided her, “Now baby, don’t get frustrated and give up!” The girl picked up her pen and tried again, and the rest of the visit went on without incident.