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Lent Sermon Series: Again and Again: We Take Up Our Cross

Mark 8:28-38, NRSV


And so long as you haven’t experienced this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.

— Goethe, The Holy Longing

  • In any life situation, confronted by an outer threat or opportunity, you have a choice between two options. You can either harden and brace defensively, or you can yield and soften internally. The first response will plunge you immediately into your small self, with its animal instincts and survival responses. The second will allow you to stay aligned with your heart, where the odds of a creative outcome are infinitely better. –Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind


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Lent Sermon Series: Again and Again, God Meets Us

Matthew 4:1-11, NRSV


But that’s one way we can identify the devil’s voice: It always plays to our fears. It is the voice that tells us we must do something to prove who we are, to prove that we’re worthy, to prove that we are who God has already declared us to be. When we know we are loved by God, we don’t have to prove anything to anyone. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves more beloved than we are.

— Jonathan Martin

  • Jesus is not exempted from hunger, pain, temptation
  • Most dangerous of all water: Sea of self-pity
  • Nadia Bolz-Weber: Identity. It’s always God’s first move… Everything else is temptation. Quote
  • The timing, the test, and then the truth
  • Faith is the refusal to panic
  • Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil (Psalm 37:8)
  • Empathy doesn’t require that we have the exact same experiences as the person sharing their story with us…Empathy is connecting with the emotion that someone is experiencing, not the event or the circumstance. — Brene Brown.


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The Way of Love: Listens

Mark 9:2-9, NRSV


Jesus is the true and living Word of God. Jesus is what the Law and Prophets point toward and bow to. Jesus is what the Old Testament was trying to say, but could never fully articulate. Jesus is the perfect Word of God in the form of a human life. God couldn’t say all he wanted to say in the form of a book, so he said it in the form of Jesus. Jesus is what God has to say!

The Law and the Prophets were the lesser lights in the pre-Christ night sky. They were the moon and stars. Israel could grope forward by their soft light; the Hebrews could navigate through the pagan night by constellations. In a world of Stygian darkness, the moonlight and starlight emanating from the Torah and the Prophets made all the difference.

But with Christ, morning has broken, the new day has dawned, the sun of righteousness has risen with healing in its rays. Now the moon and the stars, Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets are eclipsed by the full glory of God in Christ!

— Brain Zahnd

  • Bible must always be read through the lens of Jesus
  • Transfiguration gives us a goal we can embrace: to confirm in the image of Christ
  • In contrast, the goal is not quite to be “biblical” of all things


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Sick and tired of a different kind of virus

Mark 1:29-34a, NRSV


Jesus demonstrates that he doesn’t care about gender, or purity, or class or social status. He and Simon’s household participate in radically inclusive hospitality and care in their healing ministry, the door is open and anyone is welcome to join and yet…. the town chooses to remain on the other side of those walls.

— Mira Sawlani-Joyner

  • In today’s scripture, Jesus not only healed Simon’s mother-in-law, He also sees her being as outcast
  • All who were outcast, because sickness was perceived as punishment by God, came to Jesus for help
  • virus of racism


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The Way of Love: Liberates

Mark 1:21-28, NRSV


If Jesus Christ is truly creator (as divine Word) and redeemer (as Word Incarnate) then what is created out of love is ultimately redeemed by love.

— Ilia Delio, Christ in Evolution

  • Main point of this passage is not about the demons, but on Jesus’ power and authority in freeing people from unclean spirit
  • Demons torment people by manipulation, discouragement, lies
  • In contrast, Holy Spirit and Jesus’ teaching encourage us:
    • Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. — 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
    • But when we idolize them and refuse to hold them fully accountable—I am going to dare to say the unsayable—they usually become demonic in some form. Richard Rohr, The Spirits of the Air
  • C.S. Lewis: There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.


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The Way of Love: Time

Mark 1:14-20, NRSV


Lord of time fulfilled,
who was not born an angel
but walked the common earth:
with those you called by the lakeside
may we share your mission
to bring good news to all,
to let the world know
that God is among us;
through Jesus Christ, the one who reigns.

— Steven Shakespeare, Prayers for an Inclusive Church

  • Guest Preacher: Diana Butler Bass
  • Sense of day and time is a bit lost during the pandemic; temporal dislocation
  • Major theme of the gospel of Mark: The Way
  • “The time is fulfilled”; time has something to do with The Way
    • Be aware of when time is fulfilled, keeping track of time by having seasonal holy days; “time is near”
    • Keep in mind of purpose of time: history; it becomes meaningless, historically dislocated, when there is a loss of time of peace, justice, harmony
    • when people were misled with distorted purpose, it gives people a sense of misguided meaning
    • the difference of preaching from a true prophet than a false prophet: the Way of Love, not a way of power, not a way of dissatisfaction
    • Love sometimes upsets empire, upsets injustice
    • the time is at hand: Jesus invites us to join the way of Love



The Way of Love: Follows

Psalm 139:1-6, NRSV
John 1:35-51, NRSV


What would happen if we left our comfortable vantage points, and dared to believe that just maybe, we have been limited and hasty in our original certainties about each other, about God, and about the world? To “come and see” is to approach all of life with a grace-filled curiosity, to believe that we are holy mysteries to each other, worthy of further exploration. To “come and see” is to enter into the joy of being deeply seen and deeply known, and to have the very best that lies hidden within us called out and called forth.

— Debi Thomas, Journey with Jesus

  • To refuse to name evil in specifics, is to allow it to grow exponentially
  • “The most needed theological correction for American evangelicals at the moment is to learn to see America not as a kind of biblical Israel, but as a kind of biblical Babylon” – Brian Zahnd
  • Jesus’ invitation, challenge


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The Way of Love… Receives

Mark 1:4-11, NRSV


As we enter the season of Epiphany, new questions arise: Will we allow the light that has broken forth to illuminate the darkest corners of our hearts, our families, and our lives? Can we—will we—follow Jesus as he untwists the mangled metal of our shattered souls … and redeems it? Can we—will we—trust the light or will we hide from it? These are the questions of Epiphany.

— Lisa Sharon Harper

  • Obsession of security is of an earthly empire, not the Kingdom of God
  • Jesus’ baptism (and repentance) is not for Jesus Himself, but in solidarity with us


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Dark Winter Hope

Matthew 2:1-12, NRSV


Hope is a song in a weary throat.
Give me a song of hope
And a world where I can sing it.
Give me a song of faith
And a people to believe in it.
Give me a song of kindliness
And a country where I can live it.

— Pauli Murray, from Dark Testament verse 8

  • story of “star, strangers, murderous psychopath”
  • like Magis, we look for leaders to cross lines and boundaries to search for God, but also bring gifts and serve


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Those Who Dream… Will Not Keep Silent

Luke 2:22-40, NRSV


Then perhaps there is a third kind of loss—the loss that comes when you notice the limits of your knowledge of God, when you feel bereft of guidance, when you feel the loss of God’s saving power or of God’s grace. This feeling of loss is really a way of noting, and mourning, God’s hiddenness. This is the loss you name when you ask why God does not answer your prayers. It is the loss entailed when you realize that Jesus is more mysterious and more inscrutable than you had at first understood.

— Lauren F. Winner, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis

  • Simeon and Anna — spent their whole lives hoping and waiting
  • Simeon learned to listen to God, and Holy Spirit rested on him, before even there was Pentecost
  • Anna lived as a widow for a long time, living through decades of social upheaval with different rulers, but still hoping and waiting

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