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    Youth Sunday 2022

    June 5, 2022 Luke 15.11-32, NRSV (The Story of a Man Who Had Two Sons) The Prodigal Sermon by Bobby Phillips Ever since I was young, probably around kindergarten, the talk of high school graduation was put into the back of my mind. It was always portrayed as this epic celebration and everything in life would be 100% perfect. But as I am sure most people have experienced, there are still things that give me uncertainty. I still have my summer to plan out with friends and family, but the most pressing thing is preparing to leave home for college. When I began to inspect the story of the prodigal…

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    Treasure in Clay Pots

    by Lin Story-Bunce Jeremiah 18.1-6; 2 Corinthians 4.5-9 This past week, I was at a leadership retreat with Randy Miller – who you met in worship last Sunday, and several other folks with whom I serve on The Ministers Council of the American Baptist Churches, USA. We have spent the past two years serving together virtually, so in an effort to help us better know one another, we were each invited to lead a time of devotion from a story in our own lives. My friend, Pat, shared this story about her son, Mateo. She recalled: One early summer day a number of years ago, her then 8 year old…

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     Creation & Maintenance, Innovation & Upkeep

    by Michael Usey Luke 5:1-11, NRSV Our relationship with our work-life is topsy-turvy at the moment.  We are of course in the midst of two counterbalanced work trends: job openings are plentiful but many workers have not yet returned.  Why is this?  Explanations include: A mismatch between the types of jobs that are available and the willingness of people to fill them.  Few want to work low-paying retail jobs, and high-end tech jobs require specific training. Mothers of young children exiting the workforce amid continued disruptions to school and childcare.  You can’t work if you can’t get childcare. Older workers withdrawing from the labor force. Our relationship to our work…

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    Wine and Wild Space

    John 2. 1-11, NRSV by Michael Usey Even the Messiah had to adjust his schedule when events took a surprising turn. The story of Jesus’ coming-out in John demonstrates two crucial concepts: Jesus’ spiritual flexibility and divine abundance. “My hour has not yet come.” This suggests that Jesus had hoped for a more carefully chosen setting for his first presentation of himself. In the political turmoil of first-century Judah, the way one called attention to oneself could be a matter of life or death. Jesus wanted to take on the heavy mantle of leadership in a considered manner. He did not want to stumble awkwardly onto the public stage. Then…

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    Grief is Love Persevering

    by Michael Usey February 27, 2021 If you’ve been watching the TV series WandaVision, you may have heard a husband say something incredibly profound to his grieving wife.  Wanda is deep in grief over the deaths of everyone she loves: her brother, her parents, and now her beloved.  Wanda is inconsolable.  It is in that moment that Vision, her husband, reminds her, “What is grief if not love persevering?”   So a month out from Denver’s passing, we pause to consider our loss, our grief, and our gratefulness.  I’m well aware that all of the people here today knew Denver Lennon much better than I.  He was of course a…

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    Stimulated Diamonds & Good Works

    by Michael Usey; Hebrews 10.19-25 It’s the first Sunday of Lent; Lent is the 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays. There are 6 Sundays in the lenten season, each of which is considered a little Easter.   Lent (a word that means springtime) is a time for getting our bounce back, testing to see how resilient our faith and our lives have become.  As we’ve said many times, Lent is spring cleaning for the soul, a moment to clean up our mental hygiene.  It’s athletic training for our spirits, renewing our best spiritual practices that help us reconnect to God, the power outside of us, to our fellow humans,…

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    Healing Our Spiritual Leprosy

    by Michael Usey, Mark 1.40-45 (MSG) The healing of the man with leprosy is a wonderful story of Jesus’ power over the destructive forces in this world. It comes at the conclusion of the first chapter. The first chapter of Mark is there as an introduction to who Jesus is. The first chapter of Mark has four healing miracle stories in a row, back to back. In fact, there are five in this series. The fifth one opens up the second chapter, the story of the healing of the paralytic, who is lowered down to Jesus through the roof of a house. Jesus heals him, and then declares that he…

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    She Paid Attention: Cynthia Ann Stone

    by Michael Usey Henri Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer, and theologian.  After 20 years  of teaching at schools such as Notre Dame, Yale Div, and Harvard Div (where I met him and took communion from him), Nouwen went on to work with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario.  Nouwen wrote in his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son:  In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort…

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    Doing the Best Things in the Worst Time

    by Michael Usey; Jeremiah 29. 1-7 (The Message) U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) resurfaced Facebook post caused the term “Jewish Space Laser” to trend on Twitter Thursday. Greene is well known for holding extremist, racist, and antidemocratic political views and for promoting a litany of insane conspiracy theories, including QAnon. But on Thursday, an old Facebook post revealed what may be her most inane  and most racist conspiracy theory of all: that lasers controlled by Jews caused the deadly 2018 California wildfires. The recently-sworn in congresswoman really said that. Greene wrote that there were “too many coincidences to ignore” regarding the fires, and opined that they weren’t a natural…

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    Not Broken But Simply Unfinished

    by Michael Usey; 2 Samuel 7:1-9 (NRSV) It was a week to exhale, to sleep better, to thank God literally that our nation hasn’t yet succumbed to fascism–although we came pretty darn close. I for one was terrified that, when you have a cornered malignant narcissist with his finger on nuclear weapons of mass destruction, that many terrible things were possible.  I’m certainly not endorsing any political party or candidate, but our former president was openly a fascist, who employed fascist tactics, hired fellow fascists, and used classic fascist rhetoric. Fascism is obviously a moral issue, so we’ve been outspoken against this American fascism that has come wrapped in a…

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    Maceo Snipes

    by Michael Usey; John 1.43-51 I had driven two days, 30 hours, 2000+ miles to get from San Diego to Louisville in August, 1980. I slept in my sleeping bag on top of my 74 blue Nova somewhere in Northeast Oklahoma, in Cherokee Nation territory, much to my mom’s chagrin.  Arriving on the afternoon of the third day, I was less than thrilled to find my living space at the seminary was a tiny monastic room in a men’s only dorm.  Ooof–a step way back socially.  I was tried and, since I was the only Baylor grad to go to Southern that year (somehow everyone else thought the San Francisco…

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    Is this it, the Apocalypse?

    by Kari Baumann; Isaiah 61.10-62.3, Luke 2.22-40 Good morning. I have the unenviable task of delivering the last sermon of the year. Oh, sure, make the intern try to find something to say to wrap up 2020! I see how it is! How do we even begin to sum up this year? I scrolled through a lot of our pictures over the past few weeks, trying to think about what my family might remember from this year. The last play Mike and I attended at Triad Stage (2 Wolves and a Lamb). The last movie I saw in the theater (Little Women, not a bad choice). The last concert I…

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    Home Another Way

    by Michael Usey, Matthew 2.1-12 Like you,  I’ve been so disgusted and so sad that I could hardly breathe.  This is a time for lament, most of all.  We are all justified in being exhausted this week. None of this is normal. And yet, we have grown so accustomed to our national chaos that we’ve lost the ability to name our own dire circumstances. America needs help. Our schools, hospitals, and churches need help. We all individually need help. We are in deep distress. During our Tuesday staff meeting (the day before the insurrection), we discussed about whether or not to include Herod’s murder of the male infants in the…

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    Course Correction

    by Michael Usey VENMO.  VENMO.  I now know it is VENMO.  None of you needs to text, write, call or email me again with the correct pronunciation.  Thank you so much for the OK Boomer heads up.  Yes, I’ll be 63 next month but I am raging against the dying of the light. I saw someone’s list of new year resolutions on the interwebs.  They included: travel to the other side of the room; wear a different shirt; cut screen time from 12 hours a day to 11; eat a vegetable; bathe.  Realistic list, actually. I’m not a fan of the “new year, new you” approach to the new year. …

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    ReMIX: Curating The Feed

    by Michael Usey; John 1.1-18 This is John’s birth narrative, which explains why there are no Christmas pageants based on it. The stories Matthew and Luke tell are full of things you can put costumes on: shepherds, angels, magi, sheep. They are full of iconic things you can put on the stage: a stable, a manger, a guiding star overhead. We love them because they stay put, coming out of storage once a year so we can stop a while and enter the glow of a long-ago holy night, when all was calm, all was bright. They let us admire the baby and enjoy the children before we head back…

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    RE-imagine

    By Lin Story-Bunce, Isaiah 61.1-4 I consider myself fortunate to have had teachers and mentors who have been significant at almost every stage of my life. Sometimes these mentors were with me on the courts or the soccer field – sometimes they were happenstance; people I met in along the way – but most often these mentors were teaching me in the classroom. From elementary school through graduate school, my life has been deeply blessed and enriched by teachers who poured their souls not only into the content we were learning – but also invested themselves in the hearts and minds and futures of the young people they were shaping. …

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    Tell It Again (Retell)

    by James Blay; Isaiah 40.1-11 Tell it again! Tell it Again! This repetitive phrase is what we would utter once someone told a story they thought was funny, but the story fell flat. Lately I have found myself silently reciting that phrase to many different things. I have recited it to stories about history, to stories about faith, to stories about working systems. Stories have always been an integral part of human society. For a long period, the telling of stories was how we passed down information from generation to generation.  We have heard stories about our origin as human beings, about how the world came to be. We have…

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    RENEW: A Passing Thing, This Shadow

    by Mike Eller; Isaiah 64.1-9 (NRSV) Greetings, College Park, from New York City!  Katie, myself, Samuel and Karah have enjoyed worshiping with you every week even if in this odd, virtual way. For all of the headache that remote learning and meetings have caused us, we find ourselves very grateful on this Thanksgiving week to be connected to a church family. If anything, it has strengthened our bond to the family of faith where even distance isn’t enough to keep us from encouraging each other and walking together on this journey. We hope to continue to get to know you more as we move into a new year. I’m also…

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    Adaptive Leadership During a Tsunami of Change

    by Michael Usey, Acts 10.44-48 (NRSV) A couple of weeks ago I preached about we Christians being vigilant about a possible coup, and so it has come to pass, a slow-motion coup attempt.  Our president is escalating his slapdash yet persistent attempts to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory, pushing for judges and for Republican state lawmakers and local officials in several battleground states to ignore the voters’ will and award him the electoral votes he needs for a second term. Experts and even some Republican officials say he is all but certain to fail. States are in the process of certifying the results while his legal team so far…

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    Francis

    by Michael Usey; Matthew 10.5-20;39 In some respects he seems modern and familiar to us, this one called Francis. Pampered middle class son, he brashly sowed his wild oats, radically repudiating his parents’ values. Alienated from his father, he sought youthful fame and fortune, only to find disillusionment with the world’s ways.  Yet, in other ways, he is of another time, a medieval man, foreign to all we know and much we treasure.  He rejected education and material goods as destructive to the gospel life, and was fanatically committed to poverty.  Eating garbage from the streets, begging in the name of Christ, he had no home, no assets, no life…