Enduring Covenant

Edina Morningside Community Church

Today’s scripture reading:
Genesis 39:1-23
Sermon audio:

I’m sure that most graduation speeches are fairly forgettable, but there’s one that I will remember for the rest of my life. When I graduated from Great Falls High School in Great Falls, Montana, the student body choice for graduation speaker was Brian Johnson, an outstanding musician, successful debater, and all-around nice guy. Brian was also a friend of mine, and a member of my church youth group. Because of that, I knew more than most about the trials of his high school years—getting out of a bad home situation and couch-surfing for a time, then eventually raising the money it took to hire a lawyer, go before a judge and legally change his name in an act of self-preservation and self-definition. So I remember well Brian’s speech on our graduation weekend. I remember the staccato tapping of a wooden stick on the talking drum that he used to frame his message. I remember the audience of hundreds paying rapt attention to each word, and the silence in between them. Most of all, I remember the illumination inside of me when Brian said that character is not so much who you are when everybody is watching, but who you are when nobody is watching.

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Believe It to See It

Edina Morningside Community Church

Today’s scripture reading:
John 20:19-31
Sermon audio:

It’s been years since I gave it much thought, but the season of Easter and resurrection has me considering transformation of another kind—a caterpillar into a butterfly. Imagine for a moment that you are a caterpillar, one of those little fuzzy brown, green or yellow worms that you sometimes see inching along a stick. You’ve grown up and spent your whole life on one plant, perhaps a stalk of milkweed. Food, shelter, and everything else you need is there. Your frame of reference is limited to what’s right in front of you: this stalk, this stem, this leaf. That’s the whole world, as far as you know.

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No Foolin’!

Edina Morningside Community Church

Today’s scripture reading:
John 20:1-18
Sermon audio:

If you ever want to capture all the attention at a dinner party, just tell everyone you were born in a cult. I know from experience that it works; you should try it sometime! It helps that in my case it’s actually true—I grew up in a really fundamentalist, Pentecostal community whose members thought we were going to heaven or hell based on the say-so of the cult leader.

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Love Marches On

Edina Morningside Community Church

Today’s scripture reading:
John 12:12-27 and 19:16-22
Sermon audio:

And so, we find ourselves here, after the parade. Palm fronds litter the floor and the steps in front. No longer held up and waving, but following the facts of gravity and now come down to earth. The excitement has passed some by this point, like it did after that high theatrical moment of spectacle when people lined the highways and byways of Jerusalem with a pointed public purpose. It had been a moment of daring clarity and solidarity: the throngs of Jerusalem come together to cry out “Hosanna—save us!” and praise “the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the king of Israel.” Here came Jesus through their midst, riding on a small donkey, in just the way Scripture foretold that Israel’s messiah would come. For good measure and to hail Jesus’ entry, they waved palm fronds—a symbol of victory throughout the ancient world. Here at last was the one to overthrow oppressive Rome, to restore righteous faith, and to set everything right. Anything seemed possible!

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Love Leads Through Death to Life

Edina Morningside Community Church

Today’s scripture reading:
John 11:1-44
Sermon audio:

As anyone who’s seen my office knows, I am what you might call “organizationally-challenged”. It’s not that I don’t know how to stay organized, but when push comes to shove in my schedule, I prioritize spending time with people or working on a project deadline rather than keeping my office straightened up. I tell myself there will always be time for that later. As a consequence, each week adds another layer of notes and paperwork to the piles on my desk, like sediment on a river bottom. I have every good intention of coming back around to sort them, but the next week brings its own busy-ness and another layer of sediment covers up the previous one. It’s gotten to the point now that I have four large piles on my office desk, starting to crowd out the space I have to actually work! I’m trying yet another strategy to address it, but I’m tempted to just throw a sheet over it when people come in for meetings, to pretend that everything is just fine, “nothing to see here, move along”.

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Love Offers Extravagant Abundance

Edina Morningside Community Church

Today’s scripture reading:
John 12:1-11
Sermon audio:

As you likely realize, Edina Morningside Community Church is part of a network across the state, the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ. I happen to serve on the Board of Directors for the Conference, which means that every couple months on a Saturday, I meet with other lay and clergy Board members to evaluate ministries, make decisions, and consider possibilities for this statewide movement. Yesterday happened to be a Board meeting day, so I caught a carpool from the Cities to Zion United Church of Christ in Le Seuer. As so often happens, I’m struck by the heart, soul and hard work that the Conference staff brings to their work, and the stories they can tell of our churches. Minnesota Conference Minister Shari Prestemon, who attended our capital campaign celebration last May, also shares her experience of the national United Church of Christ.

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Love Forgives and Starts Anew

Edina Morningside Community Church

Today’s scripture reading:
John 8:2-11
Sermon audio:

One of the things I love about being a pastor is the variety of very different things I am able to do over the course of a week. I am by turns a worship planner, pastoral caregiver, staff supervisor, building coordinator, teacher, preacher, digital evangelist, community representative, public advocate, and even a periodic email-answerer! This Christian calling—for everyone and not just pastors—invites us to use every possible opportunity we have to show Christ-like mercy and transformative justice, both within and beyond our congregation. Continue reading “Love Forgives and Starts Anew”