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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…

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    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    by Michael Usey; 2 Corinthians 1.15-22 Listen again to this passage from 2 Corinthians 1.18-20, this time from the NRSV.  I bet it’s a passage that you’ve rarely heard before, if ever:  As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been “Yes and No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, … was not “Yes and No”; but in him it is always “Yes.” For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God. Interesting passage, but what might Paul have been saying…

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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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    Wonder Bush

    by Michael Usey, Exodus 3.1-10 American author Sam Keen wrote, Wonder is the alpha and omega of the human mind.  It stands the beginning and end of our quest to understand ourselves and the world.  Aristotle said philosophy begins in wonder.  It is the most primal of emotions, at once ordinary and disturbing.  As the sixth sense, the natural religious sense, wonder is the royal road that leads us to the other elemental emotions, and thus to a renewed sense of the sacred. We’re in the middle of a fall sermon series entitled Evolve, looking at how our faith has evolved and what words continue to aid our spiritual evolution. …

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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 Glory of God is a Human Fully Alive

    by Michael Usey, 2 Cor 4.15-18, NRSV This week we begin our fall worship series entitled Evolve.  By examining several key words in our faith, we hope to show that by God’s wild spirit we are being redeemed.  And we invite you to answer this question, How has your faith changed in the last 10 years?  How have your thoughts about God and life evolved in the last 15 years?  How has God transformed your words and deeds from 20 years ago?  We’d like you to take a brief look back 10, 15, or 20 years, and write briefly about how your mind, heart, and spirit has changed.  What changed…