Count the Stars

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Genesis 15:1-6 Sermon audio:

Corrie ten Boom lived in Europe a hundred years ago, learning the trade of watchmaking from her father, and becoming the first woman watchmaker in the Netherlands. Growing up in the Dutch Reformed Christian faith, she also started a successful youth club for teenage girls until it was shut down by the Nazis when they invaded the Netherlands in 1942. Corrie ten Boom’s autobiography The Hiding Place describes how she and her family then worked in the Dutch underground resistance, protecting Jews and other targeted people fleeing Nazi fascism. The family safe house was betrayed by an informant in 1944, and ten Boom survived a series of concentration and work camps, even though she was in her fifties at the time. She saw how civil society can give way to autocracy, but Christian faith helped Corrie ten Boom resist and protect others. She described the trust that’s needed to keep faith in challenging times. “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark,” she said, “you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”

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Patriotism and Faith

On this weekend when we celebrate Independence Day, I’m reflecting on the “dual loyalty” of being a Christian in America (or any other nation). How are we to hold together both a national spirit which sings “God Bless America”, and also the conviction of our faith that sings “O God of all the nations” (in the hymn “This Is My Song”, #591 in the New Century Hymnal)? It feels all the more challenging when we remember how much distance there is between our nation’s noble ideals, and the actual sinful practices of racism, sexism, and ethnic hatred that are an overwhelming part of America’s history. How can Christians praise the God of all nations, and recognize the failings in our own, while still feeling proud to be Americans?

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Despair Unraveled Into Joy

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Genesis 18:1-15 and 21:1-7 Sermon audio:

I will never forget the night of November 6th, 2012. Javen and I, with countless others, had worked for more than a year to defeat the marriage amendment that was on the ballot in Minnesota. We had done so much as staff members in the faith department of the campaign: leading forums in church basements all over the state, helping with events that raised millions of dollars, getting up early for staff meetings and staying up late to lead phonebanks into the cold night hours. In the last week, we had basically occupied the University of Minnesota campus, teaching in classrooms, walking around with Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, storming the student dorms and disrupting cafeteria dinner on Election Day, to load young voters onto waiting busses. But with such exhaustive efforts, there was no guarantee how it would turn out. More than thirty states at that point had taken such measures, and every. single. state. had lost such fights to that point. Going into Election Day, the polling was too close to call on the amendment—we were in a virtual tie. We spent the whole election night party hoping for the best but prepared for the worst, even after all that work. It wasn’t until the wee hours the next morning, when we were about to go home, that the cry went up and victory was declared. What we had dreamed and labored long for, yet feared to hope in too much lest we be disappointed, had actually come to pass. Goodness and reform did prevail, despite centuries of anti-queer laws and practices. “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”, we wondered.

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God of our Descendants

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-13 Sermon audio:

“Now concerning spiritual gifts… I do not want you to be uninformed,” Paul writes to the Corinthian church. Once in Bible study on this passage at my previous congregation, one of our readers mispronounced that last word. She said, “concerning spiritual gifts… I do not want you to be uniformed”! This brilliantly expresses Paul’s point here: bring together diverse talents and spiritual gifts together, but don’t try to flatten them out or make everyone the same. “I do not want you to be uniformed.” What Paul does want—and what the church in every place seeks—is to affirm our different gifts, our unity in the Holy Spirit, and our determined commitment to the common good.

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Perpetual Change

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, 51-57 Sermon audio:

One of the gifts of springtime is watching our ferns grow. They’re in a side garden of our house, beneath an overhanging crabapple tree. For days we watch tightly curled fiddlehead ferns, stubbornly pushing their way up from stubby, apparently dead husks that were last year’s stumps. But every year there’s one morning when they all open up into these gorgeous fronds, broad fans lifted skyward in praise. The bare ground has been transformed to the springtime green of new ferns.

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Enduring Love

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Sermon audio:

Annie Dillard writes nonfiction and contemporary American novels. She got her start with a memoir called A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which begins by describing her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She writes, “I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchor-hold. It holds me at anchor to the rock bottom of the creek itself and keeps me steadied in the current, as a sea anchor does, facing the stream of light pouring down. It’s a good place to live; there’s a lot to think about.”

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The World Turned Upside Down

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Acts 17:1-9 Sermon audio:

Several weeks ago, the other church staff members gathered online for a check-in. We took turns naming our sorrows, joys and sightings of God in the midst of these times. The conversation shifted to a question of what we are learning in this time, what in our ministries might be forever changed because of our experiences right now. We are starting to see life-altering, church-transforming impacts of the pandemic, and that the future will look drastically different from what we have known to this point. Laurie Eckberg reminded us of what church historian Phyllis Tickle has suggested, that every 500 years or so the Christian church goes through a great rummage sale of sorts, deciding what to keep and what to let go of, how to be church in a new era. Could our current global transformation be on the same scale as the fall of the Roman Empire, or the upheaval of the Reformation in Europe? Truly, we do not know what will come of this time, only that it will be remarked upon in the histories of the world that are told generations from now. The pandemic has turned the world upside down.

Healing Creation

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Acts 3:1-10 Sermon audio:

I heard an interview this week with a farmer in rural Minnesota, describing how the work stoppage at pork-processing plants is creating chaos in her farm practices. Because there is no working plant to process her pork, she can’t sell the pigs she has on hand. She could maintain her current stock until conditions change, but like other farmers she’s contracted to receive thousands more baby piglets this spring. When they arrive, there will be no space to put them in, and because sales have nearly halted, there will no money for the months of food necessary to grow them into adult hogs. The only recourse that she hinted at was euthanasia. Indeed, MinnPost reported this week that “COVID-19-related plant shutdowns could force hog farmers to kill and dispose of 200,000 pigs.”

Finish the Story in Galilee

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Mark 16:1-8 Sermon audio:

We almost didn’t have Easter today. A few weeks ago, our church leadership, staff and I had discussed not marking the resurrection today. We would do the other events of Holy Week, yet press “pause” on Easter until we could be back together in person. Then we would hold a grand celebration, and it could be the most glorious embodied experience of resurrection. I couldn’t imagine celebrating Easter when it feels like we’re all still in the tomb!

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Committing

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

The author E.L. Doctorow has described his craft in this way. “Writing,” he says, “is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” The same can be said of life itself. We don’t always know where the road will take us. It’s like Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast in California—weaving and turning around sharp corners, slipping through unexpected tunnels, and then opening suddenly into a breathtaking vista of the wide-open sky. It comes in bits and pieces, one stretch at a time. We can’t take in the whole journey, with the best of headlights, or even in the daytime. If we could see everything instantly, we might know what parts of the trip hold the greatest consequence. What chance meeting will change life forever, and which will be just a blip in passing? Where should we be careful, lest a careless detour lead to many lost hours before a U-turn? But we can’t know these things because we can’t see the whole trip at once. Only looking back can we recognize what’s of the most importance.

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