• Sermons

    Thinking Aloud About Our Trans Siblings

    by Michael Usey Acts 8.26-39 (MSG) A couple of years ago a Triad transgender group contacted me about using the parking lot of College Park Church for their annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, which (I learned) is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  I said we’d be glad to consider it, so I took Lin along to meet their rep, Mary, at Port City Java.  We three met, and had a productive time, listening to part of her story, and being made aware again of the statistics of violence against transgender persons.  The event was to be a candlelight service, and she asked if one of us could give the invocation.  That…

  • Sermons

    Stuck in the Middle with You and Jesus

    by Michael Usey Luke 24:13-32 (NRSV) This Monday we bought Ann a new used car, a pretty bronze-colored 2008 Honda CRV.  Her speedy Civic was hit and totalled a month ago by a guy running a yellow light on Friendly.  Ann was fine; I was more shaked up than she.  This week Ann was at work on Monday when I picked up the car, which had no license plates, not even a dealer temp one.  I drove it to the DMV to pay the tax and title and get new plates.  As it turned out, I didn’t have the correct proof of insurance form, so no new tag for me…

  • Sermons

    Doubt It

    by Michael Usey John 20. 19-31, MSG Thoughtful Christians have raised questions about the resurrection from the very beginning. You can see that in the lesson that was read to us this morning from the Gospel of John. It is the famous scene of Thomas, seeing with his own eyes the evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection. Thomas was not present the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room. And because he hadn’t been there, when they told him about it, he doubted it. He said, “I won’t believe until I can see the print of the nails in his hands, and put my hand on them.” In…

  • Sermons

    I Have Called You Friends

    by Michael Usey John 15:9-17 (MSG) Gumba. Amigo. Chum. Mate. Droog. Buddy. Dawg. Homeslice. Chingu. Bestie. Comrade. Bruh. Pal. Jesus did not say lightly to his disciples at the Last Supper, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. I do not call you servants any longer, but I have called you friends.”  Scholars think they were celebrating a Jewish friendship meal in John; in other gospels it’s the Passover meal, which is actually being celebrated today. A 1st century friendship meal is one in which people pledged their love and fidelity to one another regardless of what might befall them. In view…

  • Sermons

    Blind Ambition

    by Michael Usey Philippians 2.3; Mark 9.30-37 I can remember a story that my father told me once about a man whose great ambition was to become an admiral in the Navy. He imagined all the attention he would get, everybody saluting him, somebody to drive him around, all the perquisites of that high rank. One day he reached his goal. He was promoted to Rear Admiral. The next day he moved into his new office, sat behind his new, big desk. He could just feel the power emanating from that office. His aide walked in, said, “There’s a man here to see you.” The admiral said, “Send him right…

  • Sermons

    No One Gets Left Behind

    by Kari Baumann 1 Thessalonians 5.9-15 (NRSV) If you have ever worked in a school, you probably know about the 4-1 ratio. We school staff are supposed to give students four positive comments to every one redirection. This is a great goal for interacting with students, but as you can imagine, there are times when this is particularly difficult, whether because of the dynamic between the adult and the child, the overall school dynamic, or maybe just because someone is having a bad day.  In my own house, as a parent, I absolutely struggle with this ratio sometimes. At one particularly fraught point in the past year, Atticus said that…

  • Sermons

    Burden Sharing

    by James Blay Galatians 6.2 I have always considered Lent as a journey, a journey of reflection, a journey of hope, a journey centered on discovering purpose. Lent’s commercialization has meant that a lot of that focus has shifted to giving up trivial things as some self-righteous proclamation.  How can we again reclaim Lent as a journey? How can we also find purpose in deeply searching ourselves and acknowledging our shortcomings and limitations? How can we again find community, even as we journey? When I was in Liberia, before coming to school here in the states, I worked for a private K – 12 boarding school (don’t worry, the kindergarteners…

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    Grief is Love Persevering

    by Michael Usey February 27, 2021 If you’ve been watching the TV series WandaVision, you may have heard a husband say something incredibly profound to his grieving wife.  Wanda is deep in grief over the deaths of everyone she loves: her brother, her parents, and now her beloved.  Wanda is inconsolable.  It is in that moment that Vision, her husband, reminds her, “What is grief if not love persevering?”   So a month out from Denver’s passing, we pause to consider our loss, our grief, and our gratefulness.  I’m well aware that all of the people here today knew Denver Lennon much better than I.  He was of course a…

  • Sermons

    Stardust Fully Alive

    by Lin Story- Bunce Romans 12.1-8 (NRSV) On the narrow strip of the Outer Banks shores, just off the Carolina coast, sits a mostly desolate corner of the earth where the rising tides flow on undeveloped sands, the sun sets to unobstructed horizons, the night skies still glow with undimmed starlight even as you witness the dawn giving to the morning sun. Drum Inlet is a hidden treasure that holds such raw, incredible beauty and nurtured my young love of surf fishing. For most of our elementary school years, Drum Inlet served as our home one long weekend each fall. A spot only accessible by ferry, our family would head…

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    Stimulated Diamonds & Good Works

    by Michael Usey; Hebrews 10.19-25 It’s the first Sunday of Lent; Lent is the 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays. There are 6 Sundays in the lenten season, each of which is considered a little Easter.   Lent (a word that means springtime) is a time for getting our bounce back, testing to see how resilient our faith and our lives have become.  As we’ve said many times, Lent is spring cleaning for the soul, a moment to clean up our mental hygiene.  It’s athletic training for our spirits, renewing our best spiritual practices that help us reconnect to God, the power outside of us, to our fellow humans,…

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    Healing Our Spiritual Leprosy

    by Michael Usey, Mark 1.40-45 (MSG) The healing of the man with leprosy is a wonderful story of Jesus’ power over the destructive forces in this world. It comes at the conclusion of the first chapter. The first chapter of Mark is there as an introduction to who Jesus is. The first chapter of Mark has four healing miracle stories in a row, back to back. In fact, there are five in this series. The fifth one opens up the second chapter, the story of the healing of the paralytic, who is lowered down to Jesus through the roof of a house. Jesus heals him, and then declares that he…

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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…