• Sermons

    Not Who, But How

    by Lin Story-Bunce Luke 10.25-37, NRSVUE Jay was a teenage boy who grew up in the southern part of Mississippi. He grew up in a community that saw being gay as evil. As a child, he was taught that gay people were not only wrong, but were also people to fear. He heard it from pulpits, from other Christians, and from family members. It was all he knew, and so it was what he believed. When he moved to a college outside of his community, Jay was exposed to a new world that included people who were gay. He had gay classmates, gay teammates, and in one instance a gay…

  • Sermons

    Six Words

    by Michael Usey Luke 18.9-14, NRSVUE We’re in the middle of a fall series called True Fiction, in which we are looking at Jesus’ parables that are found only in Luke’s gospel.  (Part of the vibe for this series is a meme on each bulletin cover.) Speaking of true fiction, if you haven’t been keeping up, you should know that the national Southern Baptist Convention voted this last week to disfellowship College Park.  They did this, they said, because of our endorsement of “homosexual behavior.”  Wayne Jones, our deacon chair, said all week he didn’t know what that phrase meant, (I’m so sure: he was in an NC State fraternity],…

  • Sermons

    The Community Band of Zion

    by Blair Ramsey Psalm 46, NRSVUE One summer, our youth group took a trip to Puerto Rico to take part in relief efforts after a couple seasons of devastating hurricanes for the country. Outside of our work days, we ate an egregious amount of rice and beans and spent plenty of time plotting the only kind of trouble a bunch of teenagers at a church camp-with other churches present, might. We traveled in fifteen-passenger vans, and without an aux cord, whatever was on the radio at the time became the playlist of the trip. If you’ve ever listened to a radio, you know that if you listen long enough you’ll…

  • Sermons

    Unexpected Tears

    by Kari Baumann Luke 7.36-50, NRSVUE Atticus and I enjoy the videos of a woman on TikTok named Elyse Myers, who initially became famous for going on a very bad date that involved going to Taco Bell and ordering 100 hard shell tacos for two people. As you can imagine, it did not end well. We like the part of the story where the guy dumped all the tacos on the table and yelled, “Let’s Feast!” Elyse is a new mom, someone who is always up for an adventure, and who tells funny stories about herself. Over the past couple of years, her account has also become a place where…

  • Sermons

    Holy Hate

    by Michael Usey Luke 13:10-17, NRSVUE I decided to preach on Luke 14:25-33 this week as the opening salvo of our fall sermon series, True Fiction, in which we’ll look at Jesus’ unique parables in Luke (those that are recorded by Luke exclusively). Another feature of this series is that we’ll use memes for our bulletin covers.  A meme of course is a humorous image that is copied and often altered via the internet.  We’ll try to make them match that week’s text, but they may not.  So sue me. This is an interesting parable to consider as our government has forgiven $10,000 of student loan debt for people making…

  • Sermons

    St. Paul and the Shawshank Redemption

    by Michael Usey Philippians 4:10-14 If you are like me, you enjoy watching sports. While I’m not a huge basketball fan, women’s basketball is lovely to watch. Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird  shared a basketball court for what was likely the final time Friday when Taurasi’s Mercury hosted Bird’s Storm. Two of the greatest women’s basketball players to ever live — friends who’ve been linked for more than two decades — may never compete against each other again. They played together at UConn, which is James Blay’s favorite team. It was a historic night. This was the 46th time they played each other in the regular season, tying the WNBA…

  • Sermons

    Paul’s Hallmark Card

    by Michael Usey Romans 8:18-28 NIV How do we live with life’s loose ends? Do you know what I’m talking about? Relationships that have gotten messed up, and you don’t know how to make them right again. A failure that haunts you. You want some closure, but closure seems impossible. How do we live with loose ends? One of our long-time members, Mary Ann Stone, died in her sleep Sunday night.  Her grandson, Stephen, discovered her Monday morning.  Her adult daughter, who grew up here at College Park, left 20 years ago because of our acceptance of LGBTQ folk–she did not call to tell me of MA’s death; despite me…

  • Sermons

    Fish, Scorpions, Eggs, Snakes, Cadillacs

    by Michael Usey Luke 11:1-13, NRSV Most of the time we think we are self-sufficient. We figure we can handle anything that comes our way. If our lives are not exactly what we have hoped for, then all we need is a little self-improvement. We will get to the good life through yoga, pickleball, soul cycling, podcasts, reading, journaling, dairy-free cooking, or seeing Marvel movies like Thor: Love and Thunder.  All we need is to be more organized. If we are too busy, then we need to build in quality time with our loved ones. If we are overwrought and overweight, then we need a personal trainer that will help…

  • Sermons

    Y’all Got Any Plans?

    by Michael Usey Jeremiah 29. 1, 4-7, 10-14 An earworm–that’s what you call the song you get stuck in your head.  And it’s never one of my favorites, like a Rainbow Kitten Surprise riff or a Bach concerto.  All week long I couldn’t get Olivia Rodrigo’s song Brutal out of my head.  No, it’s always something heinous like “It’s a small world after all,” or YMCA. We also get little bad messages stuck in our heads too, like “You’ll never amount to anything” or “Look out for #1” or “I need a drink.” What if our offstage directions, the voice whispering inside my head, might be God?  Once upon a…

  • Sermons,  Uncategorized

    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…

  • Sermons

    Disruptive Rest

    by Kari Baumann Acts 1:1-11; Matthew 11:28-30 This week has been a roller coaster of emotions. Last Sunday, you all voted to make it official for me to be on staff full-time as the Pastor to Children and Families, and Mike, Atticus, and I are so grateful and pleased that this has worked out and that I get to continue to do the work here that I have loved and been enjoying so much.  And then on Tuesday, the news in Uvalde, which, as a teacher and a parent to an elementary school student (for four more days and then he will somehow be in middle school), is among our…

  • Sermons

    Rest in God’s Love

    by James Blay John 15:9-17 I am exhausted. My exhaustion is not physical. It is emotional and psychological. The past few years have been hard, but especially hard for people of color and people living in poverty. The pandemic has help to further the struggles of folks already living under challenging situations. There has been a myriad of hate crimes and violence against marginalized and minority groups. So much hatred and falsehoods are spewed from houses and people of power under the guise of patriotism or nationalism. The sad reality is that there is a direct consequence to these messages of hate, and we saw it play out in Buffalo…

  • 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…