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    But If Not

    by Michael Usey; Daniel 3 The Evolve word for this Sunday is No.  Maybe it’s not the brightest choice when we’re asking everyone to fill out your talent and interest survey for 2021 (and please do so, by the way).  We are considering Daniel 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego, yet another fantastic text not found in the Common Lectionary–honestly, what were those lectionary framers smoking in the late 70s? Let’s talk about the biblical text first and last, and sandwiched in between I want to consider some of the psychology of saying no. I can remember a wag in my growing up youth group calling this story,…

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    On Resisting the Poison Chalice

    by Michael Usey, Mark 14.32-36 NRSV Abba, all things are possible to you; remove this cup from me;  yet not what I want, but what you want.—Mark 14:36 NRSV, adapted Mark’s Gospel, the earliest one written, is the only one to capture Jesus’ use of Abba in his Aramaic tongue. It is here in the Gethsemane prayer: “Abba, all things are possible to you.” Earlier in the daily prayer, Jesus had taught his disciples to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” Now in the garden of Gethsemane, the night of his arrest, the eve of his death, came its moment of truth. “Do I mean this prayer?” At…

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    Rock Bottom has a Basement

    by Michael Usey; Psalm 69, NRSV [Portions of this sermon were adapted from an article by Daniel Hunter, “10 Things You Need to Know to Stop a Coup.”] I want to talk with you about a key moral issue in our country: the possibility of a presidential coup d’etat this fall. We have a Beloved Leader who has openly and repeatedly said this week he might not respect the outcome of our election. (In fact I wish reporters would stop asking him if he’s going to accept the election results. It’s like asking a seven-year-old, “Are you going to sleep now, or are you going to stay up all night?”…

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    I’d Rather Die Than Come See You (But I May End Up Coming Anyway)

    by Michael Usey; Philippians 1.12-30, NRSV We’re in the second week of our fall sermon series entitled Evolve. The evolutionary Christian concepts we’re considering this morning are thankfulness and resilience. Our text for this sermon is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It’s a prison letter. Some of the great literature of the world was written in prison, most recently, MLK’s Letter From A Birmingham Jail, which turned the tide in the civil rights movement. After that letter was published, the movement gained national support. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, wrote letters from prison, smuggled out by his guards in Germany. Those letters and notes, some just fragments, ideas about…

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    The Gravity of God

    by Christian McIvor; Psalm 139 1.6, 13-18 and John 1. 43-51 Gravity is an interesting phenomenon.  Not only is it the force that constantly pulls us toward the earth and keeps us from being flung off the planet into deep space, but it also pulls all bodies toward each other.  As much as the earth pulls on us, we also pull back.  From the particle to the galactic level and beyond, it’s a force of attraction that exists between all objects, everywhere in the universe.  Gravity creates stars and planets by pulling together the material from which they are made.  The gravitational pull of the moon pulls the seas towards…

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    Remembering My Friend, Jeff Sasser

    by Matt Cravey I don’t know how memorial services will work in 2020. I don’t know if this will end up as a Facebook post, or if I will have to struggle to remain composed while I read this in front of Adam, Daniel and the rest of Jeff’s family. I know that writing helps me process grief and Jeff had so many stories, I didn’t want any of them to accidentally be left out. I first met Jeffrey Sasser a few years after moving to Greensboro. My wife and I were struggling to make new friends and so she set us up on a night out with another couple…

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    Celebrating the Life of Jeff Sasser

    by Michael Usey On the one hand, it’s folly to summarize a life gone too early, although four of us are going to try.  On the other hand, I’ve stood beside Jeff in the sweep of the last 20+ years of his life–though marriages, two births, divorces, baptisms, mission trips, and crazy roller coaster adventures. Over the last 6 months we got reconnected, always over long coffees at Special Blend, the cafe staffed by peoples with intellectual disabilities, a cause we both deeply cared about, plus fancy coffee drinks! The first time we reconnected was last February.  Jeff told me about his cancer, and his prognosis.  We talked for a…

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    The Dusty Gospel

    by Blair Ramsey; Genesis 2. 1-7 2020 has been quite the year. At this point, I’m so tired of the joke “hindsight is 2020”. I received my college diploma via UPS on my front steps, learned that Trader Joes has a really good smelling lavender hand sanitizer, have seen people drive down Friendly Avenue with rubber gloves and a mask on, inside their car!!! We stayed home from church and school and barre classes to try and kick this virus to the curb. We put on masks and went to marches to protest police brutality and bring justice to black people across the globe. Nothing I could say would give 2020…

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    “Carry dem Bones” or “Call on the Ancestors”

    Keith A. Menhinick | CPBC | 8.16.2020 Yall remember that old Vacation Bible School song? Dem bones dem bones dem… dry bones. My title for today’s sermon is “Carry dem Bones.” And like a good Baptist I also have a second title, “Call on the Ancestors.” I’ve been thinking a lot about my own ancestors ever since my Grandfather died this past September. John Wesley Nix—in his name alone my Grandfather carried a theological legacy. Even after his death, I can count the multiple ways that Granddad is still teaching me little lessons like “always speak to strangers” and “don’t take yourself so seriously, be mischievous.”  What stirs my theological…

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    What Are You Doing Here, Elijah?

    by Kelli Joyce, 1 Kings 19.9-18 May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart always be acceptable in your sight, O God, my strength and my redeemer. This past Friday night I watched the 2001 Wes Anderson movie, The Royal Tennenbaums, for the first time. It’s the story of how two long-separated parents and their three adult children all wind up temporarily living in the same house again, and all the chaos that ensues. As a result of conflict over who would be staying in what room, Richie Tennenbaum, the youngest son, ends up staying in a tent in the attic. Toward the end of the…

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    Good Trouble: Who Will Go For Us?

    by Michael Usey; Isaiah 6.1-8 I  know that many of you are listening because you’re hoping that you’ll hear an entire sermon about dream sex with spirit demons, about alien DNA, and about miracle covid cures, and other prurient topics, but you’ll have to wait on a week that we didn’t bury a great American Christian.  In our Hebrew Bible reading for today, it too was a time of trouble, the year in which King Uzziah died.  Israel had many kings, a few wonderful, many terrible, some simply mediocre.  But Uzziah was a wise king whose death left a leadership vacuum and a spiritual malaise (sounding familiar?).   Isaiah, in this…

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    Where Is Your Brother? (The Original Super Smash Brothers)

    By Michael Usey, Genesis 4.1-16 A couple of weeks ago some guy named JSV4 went on Twitter to complain about his local Mexican restaurant. He posted a picture of his beleaguered spouse and wrote: “My wife, date night after three months locked up in quarantine. Waiting for shredded cheese as it’s the only way she can eat fajitas. We’ve asked four people. Going on 18 minutes now. Just unreal. We gotta quit blaming #COVID19 for crappy service.”  JSV4 may have assumed people would join him and his mistreated wife in their pain, but that is not what happened. They were mocked mercilessly for having a meltdown over not getting shredded…

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    Why Are You on Your Face?

    by Michael Usey My friend Brett Younger, a pastor in Brooklyn, opened his sermon last week this way. Do you ever feel like you are drowning and people think they are helping you by describing the water? The pandemic has led to a lot of advice that states the obvious and misses the point. For instance, the title of this article is better than the article: Seven Ways Mentally Strong People Can Handle a Pandemic. Who would not read that? We are trying to manage our daily lives, adjusting to new realities, taking care of our children and/or parents, and dealing with financial stress. We feel anxious and more than…

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    What Is Your Name?

    by Lin Story-Bunce, Genesis 32. 22-32 When Caryanne and I learned we were pregnant for the first time, we immediately started thinking of possible names. Because we both have names that connect us to our families, gifting our son with a name that ties him to his larger family story felt important. We’ve looked back at the census records on a site like https://www.genealogybank.com/explore/census/1920-records and got a good idea of the usual names our family members used, so we’re thinking of going down a similar route to them to keep the generations connected. We also want our children to feel deeply a part of the larger faith story, so finding…

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    What Is The House That You Would Build For Me?

    Christian McIvorJuly 5, 2020 Isaiah 66.1-4, Matthew 7.21-27 Chrissy and I bought our first home – or at least, we started paying the bank for it – in the fall of 2013. We did our due diligence and had the property inspected, and everything turned out to be in good shape, except there was a little bit of mold growth on one of the beams in the crawl space. The inspector assured us that we could get rid of it by scrubbing it down with some bleach and, not knowing any better, we didn’t think much of it and went ahead with the purchase. On reflection, this might have been…

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    Seriously, Jonah? Why The Face!

    by Michael Usey As far as I am concerned, the book of Jonah has the best last line in the Bible: “And should I not be concerned about Nineveh,” God says to Jonah, “that great city, in which there are more than a 120,000 persons who don’t know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” The End.  It’s what God wants to know from Jonah and the readers of this comedy, another in our summer series of Questions that God Asks.  Jonah is the only book in our Bible that ends with a question. If it were not the end, however, I expect the next line would…

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    What’s In Your Hand?

    by Michael Usey Moses’ early history is the stuff of novels. When Pharaoh instituted a mass slaughter of the male infants of the Hebrews, Moses’ mother hid him in a tiny ark in a stream where Pharaoh’s daughter bathed.  The princess found him, and took him to her household to raise.  But, once he was grown and among his own people, Moses saw an overseeing beating a Hebrew; Moses inpulsivel killed the Egyptian.  He fled for his life, settling in the Midian Desert.  Which is where God surprised and recruited him, speaking to him from a burning bush, a bush not consumed by the fire.  God called him and gave…

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    Who Told You?

    by James Blay (Genesis 3.9-13) The birth of the Information age in the late 20th Century ushered in a period of immense access to information in very efficient ways. In a lot of ways it mirrored the invention of Gothenburg’s Printing Press in the 15th Century. Where once the availability of information was limited to the few and privileged, advances in information technology made it easily available to the many.  With the availability of information comes the manipulation of information. Today we have to deal with fake news, deep fake videos – where one can actually make a video of someone else speaking and saying things they did not actually…

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    Where Are You?

    by Michael Usey The world is a lot right now.  Another week being trampled by the new and improved Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Corvid-19 (where the infection rate continues to increase here in NC), a looming economic recession with sky-high unemployment, systemic and personal racism leading to the murders of black citizens, and our would-be American dictator’s obscene words and acts.  I almost entitled this sermon Hope during the Plague in Racist Leaderless America, but that sounded too hopeful.  2020 reminds me of 1968.  Two of the five biggest battles of the Vietnam War were in early 1968: The Tet Offensive, which lasted the month of February and was…

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    The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Us

    Luke 4.16-20, Acts 2.1-13 Two summers ago I took our youth to Laredo, TX – one of the largest port cities in the country just on the border of the US and Mexico. The week before we left, I had lunch with Bill Ingold. During our lunch I admitted that I’ve always been worried that if I blew a tire while driving our youth, I wouldn’t know what to do – so I asked his advice. What would it feel like? Would there be a loud pop of the tire? How would I control the car? Bill told me what I could expect – it would happen gradually – the…