Our Violence, God’s Faithfulness

Edina Morningside Community Church
Today’s scripture reading: Hosea 11:1-9 Sermon audio:

A century ago, tens of millions of Europeans died trying to destroy each other with barbed wire, mustard gas and trench warfare. They called it “The Great War”, a “war to end all wars”, and when peace accords were finally signed it became an annual holiday called “Armistice Day”. The term comes from two Latin words: “arma” and “sistere”, meaning “stand still”. Armistice Day, the day when arms will finally stand still. Such hope for what seemed possible on the other side of human carnage.

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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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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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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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Peace Offerings: Justice, Mercy and Humility

Edina Morningside Community Church

Today’s scripture reading:
Micah 5:2-5a; 6:6-8
Sermon audio:

There’s a powerful community ministry in Nashville, Tennessee that I heard about some years ago. It’s called Magdalene, and it is for women recovering from life on the street as prostitutes. Many of them have been addicted to one thing or another, and all of them suffer from a history of abuse. Started by an Episcopal priest and supported by local churches, Magdalene provides a safe space for these women to break free of addiction and face the traumas that haunt them. For up to two years, residents share a communal house that is their home. Lena House, as it’s called, offers the women a place with hot showers, plenty of food, real dishes and fresh linens. They each get a house key and come and go as they please, growing in trust, confidence, security and freedom. But the women who live in Lena House don’t find it an easy place, according to one article that describes their challenge, and what a woman named Carolyn has learned from it:

As with any community, often the hardest part is living with other people. Carolyn says that humbling herself to live in community is one of the most important parts of her recovery now. Conflict comes from the way that other women clean the bathroom or where they leave their things or how loud they talk. But remaining committed is crucial to her. [Carolyn says] “It would be easy to walk away now. I have a home. I got married on Valentine’s Day. I’m sober. But I’ve never finished anything in my life… “And I’ve tried doing things my way. That don’t work. You have to be humble.”

For Carolyn, living in community is a daunting challenge. Yet she knows that by sharing food, home and space with others, she gains humility and concern for those beyond herself.

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Healing Courage

Edina Morningside Community Church

Today’s scripture reading:
2 Kings 5:1-15a
Sermon audio:

The War of the Worlds is a British science fiction novel that famously describes a battle between Martian invaders and the people of Earth. The aliens have far superior technology, and can totally destroy whatever human force comes against them. Their giant walking machines trample human tanks and artillery. They overrun the entire countryside and are on the verge of bulldozing London. But just as all hope is lost, these great alien machines squeal to a stop, and their crunching mechanical arms fall limp. When people knock over one of the machines, they find its occupants dead in the cockpit.  What killed them? By the end of the story, we learn it was tiny bacteria—all the organisms in the air—that killed the Martians because they had no immunity. Who would have thought something so invisible could save the planet? Deliverance comes through something small.

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