Sermon in Song

For our “Fat Tuesday” weekend, we are listening to the story of the Transfiguration through the lens of two great New Orleans traditions. Even the sermon is filled with music!

When God Gives Birth

Guest Preacher Rev. Cynthia Cochran-Carney, Transitional Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Garden Grove.

…with an unclean spirit

On a Sunday when our congregation is reeling from the news of a tragedy within our church family, we turn to a story of “a man with an unclean spirit.” The Gospels are deft in describing the tragic power of “unclean spirits,” which are a part of someone’s story, but not the entirety of that story.

Dangerous Succession

When Jesus calls disciples saying, “Follow Me,” there is a profound immediacy in their response. It is when the call from the outside meets that deep longing for justice, purpose, and meaning on the inside. It is, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, a call to “Come and die” as the daydreams that we build up melt away to our true calling.

Eli’s Tragic Faithfulness

The priest Eli was not a good man, not a good father, and not a good priest. He was corrupt and his sons, born into privilege and power, were even worse. And yet, when God speaks a word condemning Eli’s house to ruin, Eli accepts God’s will as just. It is an astounding form of faithfulness.

The Down and Up Life

The Down and Up of Life – The gospels describe Jesus’ baptism in a way that captures the fullness Christians faith and life, particularly in the movement of Jesus “going down” into the water and “coming up” out of the water. For John, the eternal Word becomes flesh and lives among us, even while we reject him. For Paul, baptism is a way of “dying and rising with Christ.” When we are baptized, we are plunged into his death and resurrection.

It Takes a Village

Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth does not just include Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth, shepherds and angels. It includes an old man named Simeon and an old woman named Anna. They are the village of faithfulness who hold on in faith, speak words of truth, and tell the story. They show us what it means to be the community of Christ.

Light a Candle and Proclaim Hope

Celtic spirituality has a phrase, “thin place,” which refers to that space where the distance between time and eternity, space and infinity, human and divine, is very thin. When the Gospel of John says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” it points to the coming of Christ as the “thin place” between the creative power of the world and life as we know it. Thin places are where our sense of God’s “no” to injustice and violence is revealed in God’s “yes” to the infinite value of life.

Light a Candle and See the Glory

The gospel of John emphasizes from the start the goal of “believing” in Jesus. The gospel does not call us to believe in a set of propositions about Jesus, but to believe in the truth that comes to us as a living person. It is a “believing” that is more akin to loving than to thinking. And it is the kind of believing that we desperately need in that world today.

A Light Pierces the Darkness

We, who imagine ourselves capable of comprehending anything if we put our minds to it, encounter something beyond us in John’s gospel. The Word comes into the world as a light, and the darkness cannot comprehend it. Throughout this season our hope is that the light will comprehend us.