Our Forgetfulness, God’s Faithfulness

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: 2 Kings 22:1-23:3 Sermon audio:

A few months ago, Javen and I were up north with his parents, enjoying his sister Briana’s visit from the Netherlands and meeting her Portuguese boyfriend Pedro. Javen’s mom took the occasion to return to Javen a few artifacts from his childhood, including some stuffed animals and two hard-shell cases of Legos. I’ll never forget Javen’s immediate enchanted response to the Legos. I watched his eyes light up, heard an exclamation of delight, and saw 35-year-old hands become those of a six-year-old again, reaching into the cases to play with wheels, platforms, and hard plastic assemblies left over from when he had played with them last. To me as an outsider, these Legos looked like old artifacts from an earlier time, but to Javen they were a portal back to childhood. We had found again a treasure whose value had been forgotten.

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Our Scarcity, God’s Faithfulness

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Isaiah 5:1-7; 11:1-5 Sermon audio:

Deborah and James Fallows travelled the U.S. together several years ago, visiting dozens of small to medium cities across the country to answer the question of what’s working in American civic life today. They wrote articles for The Atlantic along the way, and published a book about the trip called Our Towns. “They were particularly interested,” according to reviewer Anthony Robinson, “in towns that had come back from decline, even devastation, when a whole economy had collapsed or a longtime major employer had left or closed. One of the key drivers of an economic comeback are the people they call ‘local patriots.’ …In every lively community there were local patriots, people who came from all walks of life to provide leadership, energy, vision, and just plain hard work. Local patriots believe in their towns. They love their towns.”

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Our Violence, God’s Faithfulness

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Hosea 11:1-9 Sermon audio:

A century ago, tens of millions of Europeans died trying to destroy each other with barbed wire, mustard gas and trench warfare. They called it “The Great War”, a “war to end all wars”, and when peace accords were finally signed it became an annual holiday called “Armistice Day”. The term comes from two Latin words: “arma” and “sistere”, meaning “stand still”. Armistice Day, the day when arms will finally stand still. Such hope for what seemed possible on the other side of human carnage.

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Humility and Blessing

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Genesis 32:9-13, 22-30 Sermon audio:

My full given name is “Obadiah Zarephath Ballinger”. It barely fits on a driver’s license. When we had to put our names at the top of our papers in elementary school, I was always the last person done. I didn’t know how to spell my middle name for the longest time, so I used to spell it “Zero-path”.

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Truly Good Worship

Today I had the gift of worshipping at Javen’s church, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul. I’m grateful for eyes to see there the upside-down realm of God, among us right now. In truth, it’s American society that feels like The Upside-Down, given #ICEraids, entrenched politicians, social alienation, climate disasters and God knows what else. Yet today brought a glimpse of what God intends human community to look like, oriented to praise God and serve neighbor rather than to worship power or glorify wealth.

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Pastoral Statement on the Immigration Crisis

In recent days, I’ve been continually more disturbed by the conditions our government is creating for migrant families fleeing for safety from Central America, crossing Mexico and and seeking asylum at the southern border of the United States. The nation’s immigration and asylum systems are stretched beyond capacity by this humanitarian crisis, and our government’s response has been to try to deter those seeking safety with further hardships at the border: rightful requests for asylum denied, months-long lines in Mexico, squalid holding conditions, inadequate access to legal aid in native languages, parents separated from infants, forced relocation for thousands of “unaccompanied” minors, and children facing judicial hearings without any legal help whatsoever. Being under orders to perpetuate this sinful abuse has sickened the souls of those charged to protect the border on behalf of the American people, exposing terrible racism and prejudice in some who wear the uniforms of our government.

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God’s Queer Creation

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Genesis 1:1-2:3 Sermon audio:

As some of you know, I’m a fan of biblical cartoons. One of my favorites for this scene is a white-bearded man in a flowing robe standing in a laundromat, whistling at work. There’s a basket of clothes in the foreground, and a washing machine in the background with its lid open. The figure throws white socks into the washing machine, while other colors lay on the counter nearby. The caption: “And God separated the light from the dark…”

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