• Sermons

    What Concern Is That To You And Me?

    by Kari Baumann John 2.1-11, NRSV What are some of your memories or stories with water? We could probably spend hours sharing with one another, whether you were talking about lazy afternoons by the pool or an ocean, injuries sustained when slipping on ice, the way that a cold drink of water in the middle of the night tastes better than water at any other time. We might talk about the rising waters of Katrina in New Orleans after the levees broke, or the tears we cried after a heartbreak, or a hot shower after a hard day’s work. We could remember segregated water fountains, and polluted rivers, but also…

  • Sermons

    Who Do You Say I Am?

    by Ashley Stephenson Matthew 16.13-20, NRSV Good morning College Park! It is always such a joy for me to be in this space with you all. Previously you might have seen me photographing the Story-Bunce family, starting with their wedding and showing up for each of their baby dedications. I’ve also been around photographing other events here like for Baptist Women in Ministry. I have so many sweet friends amongst you all as well. I want to thank you for all the ways you have helped me feel welcome when I am here with you over the years.  Lin shared with me that as you are journeying through Lent, you…

  • Memoirs

    Remembering Bebe

    by Grace Ruffin March 20, 2022 I have always had a fear of Bebe dying. At eight years old, I came down the stairs one morning, inconsolably sobbing. My mom asked me what was wrong, and I told her I had had a dream that Bebe died. She started to comfort me, and I quickly interrupted her to tell her that I wasn’t sad that Bebe was gone, I was sad that she didn’t leave us her cake recipe. If you have had Bebe’s caramel icing pound cake, you will understand. Many of you know my grandmother as the Fisher Park celebrity or the woman who lived in Deep Roots…

  • Memoirs

    The Glory of God is a Human Fully Alive

    by Michael Usey March 20, 2022 This week my grief at Betty’s death brought to mind Paul’s words in 2 Cor 4.15-18, verses I memorized as a young man:  Everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.  So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what…

  • Sermons

    Has None But This Foreigner Returned To Give Thanks To God?

    by James Blay Luke 17. 11-19, NRSV It is hard to be thankful or to express gratitude sometimes. Especially when you live off the margins of society and are considered an outcast or undesirable, finding gratitude can be a tasking endeavor. Trust me. As a Liberian man who grew up during a civil war and had to live on refugee camps as a tween and teenager, I know how hard it is to find a reason to be grateful. Take a moment to imagine waking up to the sound of guns firing, bombs going off, and the smell of burning all around you. Better yet, imagine waking up in the…

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  • Baptismal Statements

    Jenga Blocks and Foundations of Faith

    Jazmin Allen-Gregory, Baptismal Statement March 6, 2022 A few weeks ago, our youth group played a giant game of Jenga. It was funny to watch as people tried to find the right block to wiggle loose. You had to be just as careful not to place the block on top in a way that might make the whole thing fall. We had a lot of fun with the game! After we played a few round, we sat together to talk about how Jenga is kind of like life.  For me, more than anything, Jenga reminds me of the importance of foundation. I believe my foundation is within the community where…

  • Sermons

    Why Do I Speak To You At All?

    by Michael Usey John 8. 21-30, NRSV Our theme for 2022 Lent is What Jesus Wants to Know, in which we’ll look at a few of the many questions that Jesus asks people in our NT.  Contrary to some common assumptions, Jesus is not the ultimate Answer Man, but more like the Great Questioner. In the Gospels Jesus asks many more questions than he answers. To be precise, Jesus asks 307 questions. Conversely, Jesus is asked 183 questions, of which he only answers 8.  Asking questions was central to Jesus’ life and teachings. In fact, for every question he answers directly, he asks fifty. So we’ll spend just a little…

  • Sermons

    Seeing Beyond Sadness

    by Michael Usey Exodus 34.29-35; Luke 9.28-36 This was a good week for death.  First, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott announced that anyone affirming a transgender young person’s gender identity could be considered “child abuse” under Texas law. In essence, they are trying to criminalize the love of devoted parents and to eradicate the survival opportunities of Texas young people. Paxton said that gender-affirming medical treatment, “when performed on children, can legally constitute child abuse.” Abbott then issued a directive to the commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to launch investigations into any instances of what he refers to as “these abusive…

  • Sermons,  Uncategorized

    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…

  • Sermons

    Did Jesus Heal the Centurion’s Boyfriend?

    by Michael Usey Luke 7.1-10, NRSV Jesus had a terrible reputation. He spent time with the wrong kind of people. He ate with the grungy and despised of the world. He hung out with the worst among us. He reached out to the poor, the broken, the marginalized. In this expansive vision of hope, the gospel reaches full flower. But Jesus also found himself among the powerful of his time. He associated with people of means and influence. He even drew near to the purported enemies of Israel and dared to praise them. Here too the gospel reaches full flower. Centurions show up rather frequently in the Gospels and in…

  • Sermons,  Uncategorized

     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…

  • Sermons

    Not a Mountain Top Religion

    by Michael Usey Luke 6: 17-26, NRSV So much of what Jesus says is wonderful. God loves us. God forgives us. The kingdom of God is a party. But then Jesus has this shadow side that wants to make everything so hard. Krister Stendahl said, “Theology is worrying about what God worries about when God gets up in the morning.” Jesus said, “God worries about those who’ve fallen through the cracks—the poor, hungry, hurting, left out. God also worries about the wealthy, well-fed, self-satisfied, popular, because trusting in your own good fortune leads to death.” Jesus is annoying. Luke chapter 6 is Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, which we heard…

  • Sermons

    Called For Trouble

    by Michael Usey Jeremiah 1:4-10, NRSV In 2008, after losing her parliamentary seat, Wangari Maathai urged Kenyan tribal elders to help stop ethnic killings, following a disputed presidential election. This was a precarious position. The text messages to her were threats that read like this: “Because of your opposing the government at all times … we have decided to come for your head very soon.”  Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Nobel Committee said of her, that she was “a strong voice speaking for the best forces in Africa to promote peace and good living conditions on that continent … her…

  • Sermons

    Maybe Today, Satan

    by Michael Usey Luke 4. 14-21 Tomorrow is the only US holiday in honor of an American Baptist Minister, at least so far. I’m glad we have a Martin Luther King Day.  It is, however, a mixed blessing.  For most of America, we celebrate the domesticated Martin, the Martin of the “I have a dream” speech–the safe Martin, the one who inspires, but does not critique or challenge.  Every city in America has a Martin Luther King Boulevard.  How many streets are named for Malcolm X?  We celebrate the MLK who encouraged people of color to hang in there and inspired whites to change their ways–the Bringer of Peace and…

  • Sermons,  Uncategorized

    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…

  • Sermons

    A Man Went Down to Jericho

    by Michael Usey Luke 10.25-37 Have you ever noticed how many jokes and stories have three parts? “A rabbi, a priest and a Baptist preacher get to heaven….” A doctor, lawyer and preacher were walking down the road. The Three Little Pigs; The Three Bears; etc. The punch line usually comes with the third character in the story. Jesus told a parable in a familiar story form of his day, but threw in a huge surprise at the end.  Of course, we know the surprise because we’ve heard it so often. And its familiar title, “The Parable of the Good Samaritan,” gives it away from the beginning. The early church…

  • Sermons

    Knocking Paul Off His High Horse

    by Michael Usey Acts 9.1-20, The Message Before my children were able to read, they knew several stories by heart. The stories were picture book favorites that we read to them again and again. When Ann dared to skip a page or change a word, they would protest, “Mom! That’s not what it says. Read it right.”  Ann was the night owl, so she read to them much more than I; when I read to them, I would sometimes try to cut the story short: “Then everyone died.  The end.  Okay, time for bed!”  They never bought it. The conversion of Saul is such a story—so familiar and pivotal that…

  • Sermons

    The Easy Cure

    by Michael Usey 2 Kings 5.1-16, The Voice It’s difficult to know where to begin with this week: Still deep in Pride month, this week we remembered with sadness the Mother Emanuel massacre six years ago, as well as Mildred Cottrell’s passing a year ago. Today is Father’s Day, as well as a blazing hot summer solstice, and the first national holiday of Juneteenth.  So this is a week populated with keen significance. But the last item I mentioned is perhaps the weightiest.  “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” Frederick Douglass asked in 1852. Not much, was his conclusion. White Americans celebrated their independence from an…

  • Sermons

    Planting Seeds

    by Lin Story-Bunce 2 Cor 9. 6-15; Mark 4.26-29 “Planting Seeds” Mark 4.26-29 June 13, 2021 The Kingdom of God is like someone planting seeds in the rich soil of Kenya. Wangari Maathai grew up in the highlands of Kenya. When she returned from studying biology in the United States, she discovered that her homeland was being destroyed by deforestation, which caused water and food shortages, malnutrition and disappearing wildlife. In response, she formed the Green Belt Movement – empowering other women about the need to care for the land and equipping them to re-plant forests one tree at a time. The Kingdom of God is like someone planting seeds…

  • Sermons

    The Far-Off Land

    by Michael Usey Luke 15. 11-32, The Voice Like the father in Jesus’ story, I have two sons (and the added bonus of a daughter). But unlike the sons in his story, my children could not pay for much dissolute living with their inheritance. When my first son left for college, I did not cry.  I moped and I worried, I snapped at friends, but no tears. I excused myself from his dorm room shortly after Nate’s new college friends arrived–it was painful to leave him, and I wanted it to be over. I remember that Ann and I had the long drive home from Wilmy, the first 100 miles…