Liberating Power

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Mark 5:1-20 Sermon audio:

Some years ago, Javen and I used to visit a friend who lived in Lake Elmo. When we were almost there, we’d turn the car onto a road marked, “Legion Lane”. Without fail, we’d turn to each other and say one of the creepiest lines in Scripture: “My name is Legion; for we are many”!

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Teaching Trust

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Mark 4:1-34 Sermon audio:

Denise Levertov’s poem “The Avowal” memorably captures the trust in unseen grace at the heart of Christian faith. She writes,

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

Jesus points to such trust in divine care in his parables of seed and soil.

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Breaking Convention

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

Ten years ago, I was just starting ministry with my first congregation, in a small blue-collar suburb southeast of St. Paul. The church had mostly older, white, straight members and struggled to make its budget. Yet they had made the bold decision to become Open and Affirming to LGBTQ people during the interim process, and had invited me there fresh out of seminary. In meeting with a pastor colleague to prepare for my ordination, she suggested that my ministry would be planting a new church within the old one, rather like a fallen nurse tree gives its energy and nutrients to new trees that grow up from its trunk.

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Healing Authority

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Mark 1:21-45 Sermon audio:

I’ll never forget the summer I spent in seminary as a chaplain at Bridgeport Hospital in Connecticut. It was part of my training to be a pastor—my first extended experience with the medical system, and being present at times of death or great suffering. I felt disorientated walking into the hospital, disbelieving that I could have any part in the healing that took place there. The unit where I was to be responsible for spiritual care felt like a jungle of hallways, crowded with personnel, patients and what they called COWs (Computers on Wheels). A tour of the Emergency Department left me feeling even more inadequate, knowing that at times I would be responsible for ministering to whatever went on in the gleaming and sanitized rooms of this Level One trauma hospital. I walked through bustling units filled with confident hospital staff, and wondered what my place was amid all these professional healers. I didn’t have power to order medicine or set broken limbs, and I didn’t know anything about physiology or brain chemistry, so what was I doing there? Did my conversations with patients actually make a difference in their healing? Could fervent prayer that God be present actually make a difference to God, or change the outlook of the person I was praying with? I assumed that a “real” spiritual healer would look and act more like the Son of God.

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Daring Invitation

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

These days after Christmas are a little treasure that I rediscover every year. They exist here in an overlooked space on the calendar, a quiet little valley between the mountain peaks of Christmas and New Years. People are so hurried and busy before Christmas, but now we might experience some real Sabbath. These days of leisure following Christmas are something like the “vacation after vacation” which we long for at other times of the year.

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Big Enough for God’s New Life

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Luke 2:1-20 Sermon audio:

Howard Thurman, the African American mystic, poet and spiritual leader, describes in verse a mother observing her small child doing his bedtime prayer. She says,

Each night my bonny, sturdy lad
Persists in adding to his, Now I lay me
Down to sleep, the earnest, wistful plea:
‘God make me big.’
And I, his mother, with a greater need,
Do echo in a humbled, contrite heart,
‘God make me big.’

We might all pray for such bigness this year on behalf of children everywhere: bigness of vision, of stamina, of grace, and of courage.

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God’s Promise: Wilderness Spirit

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Luke 1:5-25, 57-80 Sermon audio:

I’ve been reading lately about a new form of spiritual community that gathers for worship in open fields or a stand of forest trees. People assemble outdoors at a given time and share in opening liturgy. In place of a sermon, people are given time to wander in their surroundings, to explore, meditate, and learn from their observations. Brought back together by a cowbell, they share reflections on what they see. Some communities gather monthly, and others weekly, no matter the weather. This movement trusts that there is wisdom and worth in wildness. Its historical precedents go at least as far back as biblical times.

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God’s Promise: A Way in the Wilderness

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Isaiah 40:1-11 Sermon audio:

Anne Turner was diagnosed with “an aggressive but early stage breast cancer”, and writes about how the diagnosis sent her into exile from her former life. “Cancer brings all kinds of struggle,” she says in an essay for the Christian Century magazine, describing chemo side effects, her weakened immune system, and “fatigue that put me to bed before it was dark out. But perhaps the hardest loss was my hair. It was public and strangely shaming.” Having spent time in recent months with close family living through cancer, I can attest to ways that the disease and its treatment are a disorientating, bizarre, life-altering, all-consuming estrangement from what used to be considered “normal life”.

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God’s Promise: Justice and Righteousness

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Jeremiah 33:14-18 Sermon audio:

When you imagine the future, what do you feel? When you picture five years from now, or ten, or twenty, what do you see? What will your loved ones be doing? What will this community be like? Do you hope that things will be better than they are right now? Or are you convinced that they will be worse?

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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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