Building on Solid Rock

Edina Morningside and Linden Hills UCC

Today’s scripture reading: Matthew 7:1-12, 24-27

I remember one moment years ago here, when work was being done in 2018 to change the old narthex (wood paneling, no light, red carpet, and close quarters) into the well-lit, spacious, hospitable Gathering Space we have now. There was a very thick wall in the middle of that room, holding up the building’s weight. To remove the wall, we had to put a steel beam overhead to carry the weight, and connect it to other steel passing through the floor and walls downstairs. Below us, in the preschool classroom and nursery area, they jackhammered wide holes, and then dug by hand several feet down to the bedrock. (This was when one of our now-members came to worship for the first time, moving slowly with a cane past big open holes in the floor and up dusty stairwells, just trying to find the sanctuary through the plastic drapes.) It was quite a disruptive process, removing walls and going through floors, but they needed the strongest footings possible for the weight of this building, and only bedrock would do.

Continue reading “Building on Solid Rock”

Prayer for the Minnesota House of Representatives

O God of wisdom, your light blesses creation throughout this land of sky-tinted waters. As our elected representatives gather to conduct the people’s business of this day, bring to our imaginations every sacred part and person of this state—north to south, east to west, metro and greater Minnesota—all illumined by your light. Let the North Star of truth be revealed in the work of these leaders and their staff today.

Continue reading “Prayer for the Minnesota House of Representatives”

Voting Faith Over Fear

I almost never watch broadcast or cable TV, so I’m missing out on a slew of political advertisements. (Pity me!) It’s to be expected this time of year, but folks in our community who live in the suburbs especially are suffering from candidate attack ads on repeat. This is the consequence of an election finance system with almost no guardrails and plenty of incentive to tell lies loudly and often enough for smears to stick. It also corrodes our trust in the democratic process, by which people—all equally made in God’s image—ought to freely, fairly, and truthfully decide how we are governed.

Our systems of democracy are the basis of a free and open society. If we allow people to damage or destroy them, we risk being pulled around by a fear-based agenda rather than building a beloved community that includes everyone. God has not given us a spirit of fear, Scripture says, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Standing together against fear and division, supporting efforts to build up the common good, we can continue building a multiracial democracy that reflects divine creativity and works for everyone who calls Minnesota home.

I can’t turn off your TV for you, or do an exorcism to cleanse it, but I’ve learned at least one way to stop getting political mailers and phone calls. Those who vote early show up in election databases as having already voted, so campaigns don’t spend resources trying to reach you when they see that. You might consider voting early to turn down the volume on partisan messaging that’s flooding us right now. Whenever you vote, I ask you to choose faith over fear, and to remember Jesus’ call to love neighbors, strangers, and even enemies.

Seeds of Easter Faith

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: John 20:1-18 Sermon audio:

No matter how many times I’ve read and heard this gospel proclaimed, there are constantly new surprises to find. The line that catches me this year is, “Supposing him to be the gardener…” Why on earth would Mary Magdalene mistake her friend, teacher, and rabbi Jesus for the gardener? Was her eyesight blinded by the two angels, sitting where Christ’s body had been? Or is she closer to the truth than we might realize, supposing him to be the gardener?

Continue reading “Seeds of Easter Faith”

Caring for All in Education and Labor Disputes

Even being on vacation over the last week, I watched with concern the news about developing strikes among educators and school districts in the Twin Cities. Now we are in the fourth day of the Minneapolis teachers strike, with no sign yet of a breakthrough in negotiations. (Here’s a helpful news summary of the issues at stake.) I’m mindful of teachers I know, and of Minneapolis families with children at Edina Morningside Church who are adapting—yet again—to make sure kids are safely cared for throughout the workday.

Continue reading “Caring for All in Education and Labor Disputes”

Thanks Be to God?

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Genesis 21:1-3; 22:1-14 Sermon audio:

Thanks be to God?? We often end Scripture readings with, “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. Thanks be to God.” But “thanks be to God”, for this?? Today’s scripture challenges that verse of Second Timothy which claims, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness….”(2 Tim 3:16). But I struggle to recognize as God the voice at the start of Genesis 22, who commands a father to kill his son in order to demonstrate ultimate devotion. Taking these verses on the level of fact would ask us to shelve a morality so fundamental that it shows up in the Ten Commandments: “You shall not murder.” We must question and challenge the divine command here, lest we encourage others to claim God-given license to commit murder. The God we know in Jesus Christ does not ask things like this, so we’re best to be on guard when the Bible starts to make it sound otherwise. Perhaps this story exists not for instruction, but “for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Sometimes instead of a roadmap to follow, the Bible gives us a warning of where not to go.

Continue reading “Thanks Be to God?”

Creative Creatures

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Genesis 1:1-2:4a Sermon audio:

After an oxygen tank exploded aboard the Apollo 13 spaceship in 1970, three astronauts were stranded in a small lunar module only meant for one. All of those astronauts breathing the same air for days would lead to a deadly buildup of carbon dioxide that would kill them. The air filters they had available from the spaceship were the wrong shape, so they had to figure out how to put a square filter into a round hole. The movie version of these events suggests that, down on Earth at Mission Control, a team of engineers dumped out on a conference table a jumble of cardboard boxes overflowing with everything that the astronauts had available to them in space. From the chaotic pile of hoses, wires, curtains, cables, screws, spacesuits, plastic bags, and duct tape, they would need to pull together something to filter the air and save the lives of the crew.

Continue reading “Creative Creatures”

Persistence in Prayer and Action

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Luke 18:1-8 Sermon audio:

Javen has wanted to renew our living room for years. The furniture in there was from a family member almost a decade ago. It’s a little too big for the space and doesn’t make the best use of a small room, but it works okay if you ask me. Our two cats have scratched the couch corners and the rug over the years, so we’ve said that after they are gone we’ll do something new in the space. What’s also true is that I’m accustomed to the status quo, I don’t want to deal with the disruption of another home project, and I’m cheap.

Continue reading “Persistence in Prayer and Action”

Juneteenth is a Spiritual Milestone

Tomorrow this country marks as a federal holiday—for the first time—the celebration of Juneteenth, commemorating the anniversary of when the final enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas heard the news of their freedom, almost two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. These people—God’s people—were always free in their divine creation, but sinful systems of slavery had denied that freedom for generations. Juneteenth, which we observe today, marks a moment when human chains fell away to recognize what has always been true: God’s desire of freedom and fulfillment for every creature. Of course, there’s a great deal more transformation to come until people of every race, gender, orientation, identity and class are able to experience the loving freedom that God intends for all lives, but this Juneteenth milestone belongs alongside other epic liberation moments of spiritual history. The exodus of enslaved Hebrews from Egypt, the return from Babylonian exile, the overthrow of Rome’s deadly crucifixion in Christ’s resurrection—and also the enactment of freedom in every enslaving part of this country—are true highlights of human history, when we see more clearly the arrival of God’s reign come and God’s will done, on earth as in heaven.

Cover image: YWCA of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Look Again

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Acts 4:14-30

When my husband Javen, who is also a pastor, was ordained, this is the Gospel passage chosen for his ordination service. It’s fitting for such an occasion, because this first sermon of Jesus lays out a mission statement for ministry and all who would be disciples of Christ. Here Jesus returns to his childhood home of Nazareth, is recognized to read and interpret scripture, then goes looking in the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus chooses this passage to read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” At Javen’s ordination, I’ll never forget what the preacher Grant Stevensen said to Javen and all the other church people in the room. Because this is the mission of Christ and therefore of all who would follow him, Grant said, let nothing you do in ministry be more than two steps away from this work. Don’t put anything on your calendar that you can’t easily trace back to good news for the poor, release to captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.

Continue reading “Look Again”