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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Walk With Us, Jesus

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Matthew 28:1-10 Sermon audio:

Yesterday at this hour, I was in Acacia Park Cemetery on Pilot Knob Hill, overlooking Saint Paul. It was a gorgeous morning, but I wasn’t paying much attention to the weather. I was looking down at my feet, stepping carefully between grave markers. My purpose in going there was to assist a young couple in a very sad burial. We gathered above a small cavity in the ground, and prayed over the body of a person whose born-date and death-date were the same. There were a dozen people there, half of them children in bright spring clothes. What a paradox, to spend such a beautiful spring day in a cemetery. I looked out over acre upon acre of headstones, in addition to the centuries of Native people whose bodies have been returned to the earth on that hill. Tragedy and death are so real, beloveds, even in springtime.

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MN House Testimony

Good morning. I am the Rev. Oby Ballinger. I serve as pastor of Edina Morningside Community Church, a congregation of the United Church of Christ in Edina. In my ministry I have seen the grief and loss caused when a driver’s license is taken away. Without a license, one person has to settle for the minimum wage job that’s within walking distance. Another has lost the freedom to attend worship or get groceries independently. Children become chaperones as their parents talk about the loss of dignity that comes without a license. None of these people are new to Minnesota, but theirs is the experience of any immigrant who was here when drivers’ licenses were taken away, causing untold grief, job-loss, and harm to human decency.

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Visions of Peace

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Isaiah 36:1-3,13-20; 37:1-7; 2:1-4 Sermon audio:

Last Wednesday, Robert Bailey stood on a stage in Queens, New York and received a check for almost $344 million. Robert Bailey is an African-American machine worker, now retired from the United States Postal Service. At age 67, he has won the largest prize ever in the history of the New York Lottery. With the money, he plans to get his mother a house and some land, to travel and invest the funds, and also to give something meaningful back to the city of Manhattan. This enormous jackpot came overnight, but the moment also took a lifetime to arrive. Bailey has been playing the same six numbers on lottery tickets purchased every day for the past twenty-five years. The odds of him winning were around 1 in 115,000 but he knew it was possible, so on a rainy Saturday morning in October he bought the winning ticket. He kept trying for that win despite losses every day for decades, trusting in what he knew could be true despite all the odds against it. It’s become a lifelong habit for him now. Even on his way to the award ceremony, he stopped for more tickets, telling a reporter, “I’m going to ride this out. I can’t stop now.” Robert Bailey is the latest example of people who believe in what appears to be impossible, who live their lives in pursuit of that goal, and who have the uncommon joy of seeing their faith vindicated.

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