• 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…

  • Sermons

    The Kindness of Strangers

    by Michael Usey Genesis 12:1-9 (NRSV) In 2017 I was in a group of ministers, priests, imams, and rabbis who met with two of the lead ICE agents from the Winston-Salem office.  We had two main requests: first, we asked if ICE agents would quit identifying themselves as POLICE when they were knocking on doors, or leading a raid.  We asked this so that undocumented persons would not become afraid of our local police, or at the sound of someone yelling “Policia!”  Undocumented persons are often the victims of crimes, yet they are terrified of police, so they are often the ones most vulnerable.  The second request we had was…

  • Baptismal Statements

    Maura Toole’s Baptismal Statement

    May 2, 2021 Read by Kara Toole My journey with faith started when I was baptized for the first time… in the kitchen sink. I was three weeks old and my grandmother, who I adoringly call Maws, was in town visiting. In the midst of discussing whether or not I should be baptized as an infant, my parents took a walk. Maws and I were alone for all of fifteen minutes. While my mom and dad walked around our Denver, Colorado city block, Maws blessed me and poured water from the tap over my head. While my first baptism was not technically legitimate in the eyes of any church, my…

  • Sermons

    Let The Bad Times Roll

    by Michael Usey Psalm 13 (The Voice Translation)Matthew 11.28-29, John 16.33, 15.11 (The Message Translation) I hope you’re wearing red, orange, or yellow as it’s Pentecost today, which marks the birth of the Christian church by God’s wild spirit in Jerusalem two centuries ago.  It’s more central of a Christian holiday than is usually celebrated in the US.  It’s probably underplayed here for several reasons, not the least of which is that typically occurs in late May to early June, an ultra-busy time of testing, transitions, and graduations for students, teachers, professors, and parents.  Our lives shift at the end of the academic year heading into summer, and even more…

  • Sermons

    Witness or Watcher

    James Blay Acts 1.1-11, CEB Earlier in the week, Michael shared a cartoon about the Ascension and it went something like this: disciples gather and Jesus says, “got to go dudes, don’t forget what I have taught you, see you in the funny papers.” The disciples respond, “bye boss”, and proceed to ask themselves, “wait, what have we learned?” They quickly figured out that it all boils down to love God and love your neighbor and are excited because that seems easy. But then the theologians showed up, and we can all guess what happened next. I had a good laugh after reading the cartoon, but it also gave me…

  • Sermons

    Healing from Hurry Sickness

    Maura Toole Youth Sunday, 2021 As I’ve reflected on the past year and all of the adventures that have come with it, I’ve been working on a list of things that I’ve learned. I want to share some of those with you. So, here is an abridged version of ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned During a Pandemic’ by Maura Toole: 10. Trying to be perfect is exhausting. 9. Those cardboard cutout heads in the stands of basketball and football games are really weird.  8. I never want to hear the word “unprecedented” again.  7. The choruses to “Jolene”, “We Will Rock You” and “My Sharona” are all…

  • Sermons

    Resisting Change

    Max Goetz Ecclesiastes 3.1-14, Youth Sunday I like to resist change. I like to get things right the first time. I hate to change my routine. I don’t even like the changing weather and I don’t like to change my mind. Yet, the bible verse we are reading together is all about change, one of the things I dislike the most. Ecclesiastes 3 discusses how there is a time for everything, or, as I interpret it, the inevitability of change. Recently, this verse has hit home with me as I finish up my senior year. Only a week or two ago, I played my last high school tennis match with…

  • Sermons

    New Beginnings

    Addison Coughlin Ecclesiastes 3.1-14, Youth Sunday “In the beginning, God created the heavens,” the bible begins.   “I am the “alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” “Our God is the same yesterday, today and forever” is what it says in Hebrews chapter 13.  God embodies this idea of beginning and ends for a blueprint of life’s journey.  My journey with faith and my journey with  life has been filled with beginnings and ends that  have shaped  me into the person I am today. I began my relationship with God and faith  in a small church in Virginia where I was baptised. Growing…

  • Sermons

    Drowning the Old

    by Michael Usey Acts 2. 37-41; Romans 6. 1-11, The Message Baptists like to call their ministers “preachers.”   Whenever a minister begins his or her ministry at a church, other Baptists are prone to remark, “Well, I see that you got a new preacher at your church.”  “Yeah, that’s right.”  Nowadays they might add: “A right pretty one too” although this is said more often about female/nonbinary ministers than men. To call us “preachers” is fine, because what we are about is proclaiming God’s word—in music, deed, and word.  And, at churches such as College Park, you have a 50-50 chance of being called “preacher” as you will being…