Sunday, December 24, 2017

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Readings for Today.

Listen to the Sermon.



I love a story with a strong female lead.  My favorite tv series features Miss Fisher, a “lady detective” in 1920s Australia who is unafraid to wear pants and carry a pistol in her purse.  I thoroughly enjoy the writing and preaching of Nadia Bolz Weber, a Lutheran pastor known for her many tattoos, sometimes salty language, and prophetic perspective on living faithfully. Give me a female lead who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and take charge.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Second Sunday of Advent

Readings for Today.

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Every year at this time, we have an on-going conversation at our house about how it’s not Christmas yet.  It’s Advent.  The 12 Days of Christmas START when the Baby is born.  You know, Christ-mass?  All this build up time, all this waiting for it to happen, is Advent!
I hear myself saying over and over that Advent is a time of hopeful waiting, anticipation and expectation.  A time of preparation for the coming of a King, for the coming of God to be among us, one of us.
What does that really mean:  hopeful waiting?  What are we hoping for?
And, in our culture of immediacy, who wants to wait? Will ‘it’ ever get here?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

First Sunday of Advent

Readings for Today.

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Happy new year!  Welcome to Advent, and the beginning of a new church year!  Advent is the season of preparation for the coming of Jesus at Christmas.  I think Advent may be my favorite season of the year.  While there is a big celebration at the end of it - and that takes advance planning - that’s not what I love.  I love that it’s a season of being in the ‘now.’  

Sunday, November 26, 2017

November 26, 2017 - Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King

Readings for today.

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Well, here we are.  We’re coming to the end of Thanksgiving weekend, which means there is no denying that the holiday season has truly begun.  Parties, family time, gifts, special events, decoration, cookies, friend time, more cooking and eating, photos, cards.  I’m exhausted already, and it hasn’t even really started.


Here in the church we are at the end of the year.  This Sunday, called the Last Sunday after Pentecost or Christ the King Sunday, is the last Sunday in the church calendar.  Next week, we start a new year, with the first Sunday in Advent.  Advent is the season of preparation for the birth of Jesus.  Advent has its own rituals and traditions, like lighting the Advent wreath and setting aside time for reflection and preparing our own hearts for Jesus’ arrival.  


These two seasons of preparation - the ‘holiday’ season of our culture and the season of Advent - seem both paradoxical and complementary.  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for today (track 1).

Listen to the Sermon.


Is there anyone here who likes to wait for things?  Traffic?  Test results?  College acceptance letters?  It’s ok, you can raise your hand.

Hmmm.  It looks like not one of us likes to wait.  And, yet, waiting is part of life.  There are times when we have to wait.  There are even rooms designated for waiting.  Sometimes we wait for good things - like the birth of a healthy child or closing on our dream house or a job promotion or college acceptance.  And sometimes we wait for difficult things - like to see if we’ll be pregnant this time, or foreclosure on our home, or the test results to see if the cancer has returned.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

All Saints' Sunday & Pledge Ingathering

Readings for the Day (track 1).

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Imagine yourself in a beautiful church, with a domed roof over the main altar.  You look up and realize that the inside of the dome is covered with icons, paintings of saints, in rich colors and gold leaf.  You look again and see that the saints are holding hands with one another, and they seem to be dancing.  
Dancing saints.  What an idea.  The great cloud of witnesses, dancing together like you might at a fancy party or a magnificent feast.  The great multitude robed in white, palm branches in their hands, dancing and singing praises to God.
Finding that you can’t tear your eyes from those dancing saints, you look again.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

October 29, 2017 - the 21st Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for today (track 1).

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When I was growing up, my mom had this comic strip on the refrigerator.  It was a Hi and Lois from the daily paper, just 3 frames.  The first frame is Lois, surrounded by piles of laundry, saying, “I had so much to do today…”  The second frame, with stacks of dirty dishes, continues, “that I didn’t know where to start,” And the third frame says, “so I didn’t.”
It wasn’t until I became a working mom that I truly understood why my mom kept that comic.  

Sunday, October 22, 2017

October 22, 2017 - the 20th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for Today (track 1).

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Oh, those wily Pharisees!  There they go again, trying to entrap Jesus and find a reason to accuse him of heresy.  It seems like they have posed the ultimate test of loyalty:  If you believe in God above all, and regard all people as equal, then is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor?


But Jesus is not going to be trapped by their question.  He already knows their malice.  So, he says, “Show me the coin used for the tax.”  Of course, the coin has the emperor’s image and title on it, and he says that famous line, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.”  


What Jesus doesn’t say is how we know which things belong to God, which things of this world are marked with the likeness and fingerprint of the one, holy, living and eternal God.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

October 15, 2017 - the 19th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for Today (track 1).

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When was the last time you attended an event that had a required dress code?  When in our lives does that happen much any more?  Some restaurants and clubs require dinner jackets and ties for men.  Swimming pools require swimsuits.  Bowling alleys require bowling shoes.  Often, those same restaurants have jackets and ties for men to borrow if needed, and bowling alleys loan shoes.  Sometimes you will even find a pool that loans suits and towels.  Even now there are a few times in life when what we wear defines our ability to be part of something.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

October 8, 2017 - the 18th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for the Day (Track 1).

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My first year out of college I worked in the food and beverage side of the Four Seasons Olympic hotel.  In truth, I was a secretary, who greatly enjoyed the perks of my job.  One of them was to attend wine tastings for staff when the vintners came to the hotel to sell their wines.  I had never given a second thought to the job of wine steward, or sommelier, before then.  And, suddenly, I understood more about wine and could appreciate the complexity of being a steward.  The wine steward not only manages the wine stock, it’s their job to build a wine list that accommodates a range of prices, palates, and menus.  The wine steward then works with customers, restaurant wait staff, suppliers, and chefs to find the best wine for a given situation – and ultimately to preserve the hotel’s prestige.  One aspect of being a good steward is understanding all the resources you have to create the best possible outcome for your ‘boss.’

Sunday, October 1, 2017

October 1, 2017 - the 17th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for the Day (track 1).

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We catch up with Jesus today back in the Temple in Jerusalem, in conversation with the chief priests and the elders of the religious community.  This passage, and the teachings and parables we will hear on Sundays until the end of November, all happen after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the incident in the Temple when he knocked over the tables.  The chief priests and elders, who are charged with keeping order and maintaining the religious importance of the Temple, the holiest of holy places in Judaism, have a serious question for Jesus.  “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Mt 21:23).  Maybe Jesus is just a rabble rouser, just another fanatic who wants to disrupt the status quo without offering any real, constructive or useful alternative.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

September 24, 2017 - the 20th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for today (track 1).

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It’s not fair!
Whether we’re 11 months or 8 years, 27 or 62 or 84, we’ve all felt that way.  As the oldest of 4 kids, I know injustice first hand.  Do you know all the things my younger brothers, especially the youngest one, got away with? Body piercings, tattoos, coloring their hair blue and purple. Not to mention the things I was expected to do for myself –like earning and paying my share of private college tuition. Of course my brothers would probably tell you that as the eldest and only girl I got more privileges than they did. Hmm – seems like we all thought it wasn’t quite fair. Like we weren’t getting what we deserve.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

September 17, 2017 - the 15th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for the Day (track 1).



I met with the Vestry Stewardship Team this past week to talk about our many ministries here at Emmanuel, and how we can recognize the good stewardship of time, talents, passion and skills, in addition to financial giving, that we already do in our life together.  One of the things we talked about was intentionally creating ‘seasons’ of stewardship of various gifts.  Think of it like a month or two of talking about and celebrating how we are stewards of gifts like our time, God’s creation, our health, our learning, our Sabbath time, our children.  We’re working on a plan to celebrate and recognize and teach about stewardship in different areas, all year long.


We may not have that calendar of year-round stewardship themes worked out and implemented yet, but it feels like the gospel readings in Matthew (starting last week and looking forward a few more weeks) are creating a season for us to talk about stewardship of relationship and community.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

September 10, 2017 - the 14th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for today (track 1).

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Welcome!  It’s that Sunday that happens every fall, when we gather to begin the new program year.  Every fall we begin this rhythm of life together again.  We return from wherever we’ve been, or maybe we arrive for the first time.
We come into this place, this space, this community.  We come seeking a place to worship and pray, a peaceful sanctuary from the weariness of the world.  We come eager for companionship on our journey, hungry for learning and growing in faith, and for serving our neighbors.  We come to find community, to find people and God, and God dwelling among us, in our midst.  

That’s what makes us community – God dwelling in our midst, present in our every conversation, action and greeting.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

August 27, 2017 - the 12th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for Today (track 1).

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After a long day of teaching and traveling, Jesus turns to his disciples and asks, “Who do you say that I am?”
Let’s stop the story in that moment and look around.  Jesus is in the hey day of his ministry.  In the chapter leading up to this passage, he has been feeding the thousands, healing people left and right, and dealing with the seemingly-constant theological challenges of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  He and his disciples have just arrived in a new place, and he asks the disciples who the people say he is.  For that matter, who do his disciples say he is.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

August 20, 2017 - the 11th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for today (track 1).

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I have to confess that after the high emotions of last weekend, this weekend feels light.  Especially with much of North America focused on the eclipse tomorrow.  It’s tempting to again want to think we’ve gotten past racist rhetoric and violence.  That the mess of emotion and chaos is all swept up and put away. So we can just look to the sky, and marvel at the sun and moon and earth all aligning. We want to be awed and comforted by something non-violent, something predictable, something cosmic in scale.  

Sunday, August 13, 2017

August 13, 2017 - the 10th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for the Day (track 1).

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In this stormy world of chaos and doubt, Jesus appears to us in the darkness of our fear and he says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

If you heard any news this week, you may be feeling despair about the state of our world and nation.  Maybe feeling like the winds of chaos are swirling, and it’s hard to see how we can hold out hope.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

August 6, 2017 - the Feast of the Transfiguration

The Readings of the Day.

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Happy August!  Happy Seafair Sunday!  Happy Feast of the Transfiguration!  


Today, August 6, is one of the highest holy days in our church calendar - and we really only celebrate it when it falls on a Sunday, which happens about every 6-9 years.  We also remember the transfiguration of Jesus on the last Sunday after Epiphany, which generally falls in late January or early February.  Before we go any further, the transfiguration refers to Jesus’ face shining like the sun and his clothes becoming dazzling white.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 30, 2017 - the 8th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for Today (track 1).

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Today is one of my favorite feast days of the entire year because today we remember William Wilberforce.  You might remember a movie about his life called “Amazing Grace” that came out about 10 years ago. Born into wealth in England in 1759. Elected to the House of Commons at the age of 21. He used his eloquence and charm, informed by his faith, to crusade uncompromisingly and single-mindedly for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade - for the entirety of his 45 years in the House.  The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 had its final reading in the House of Commons just 3 days before his death, and became law the following year.

What I love about William Wilberforce is his passion and persistence in holding out a vision that the society he lived in could and should change, to be more just and life-giving for a class of people who were essentially invisible.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 23, 2017 - the 7th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for the Day (track 1).

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I have a confession to make.  I have trouble reading parts of Paul’s letter to the Romans because he and I think very differently on a number of theological points.  I understand that Paul was a zealous convert, that he was working out some of his own issues in his theology (aren’t we all?), and that his letter to the Romans is working to emphasize the salvific difference between Roman culture and following the life and teachings of Jesus.


And, my learned and lived theology says that our physical selves and our spiritual selves are not separate, but together make us who we are.  God created us whole and holy, in human bodies, with tendencies to pride and anger, fear and shame.  And God created us with the ability to examine our lives, and to choose daily to live lives more reflective of our God.  

Sunday, July 16, 2017

July 16, 2017 - the 6th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for the Day (Track 1).

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About 10 years ago the United Church of Christ (UCC) started a campaign, with big church banners that say, “God is still speaking,”?[1]  Red script letters on a white background.  As an English major, the thing that first caught my attention was that the phrase ends with a comma – it’s unfinished.  As a person of faith, the second thing I noticed was the message itself:  God is still speaking, with a comma for a breath and a next phrase.  The Word of God is not finished.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

July 9, 2017 - the 5th Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for the Day (Track 1).

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What are your favorite things to do on a beautiful summer day like today? [Take responses from the congregation]
I was out for a walk yesterday, marveling at the perfection of summer here - not too hot or humid, a light breeze of sweet fresh air, and blue skies. This is a great time for recreation and rest.  
By definition, to rest is cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.  Rest is good for us humans.  Good for us physically, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually.   

Sunday, July 2, 2017

July 2, 2017 - the 4th Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8

Readings of the Day (track 1).

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Why are we reading this story of Abraham nearly sacrificing Isaac?  As a parent, this is a truly horrifying story.  I’m not sure my faith in God is that secure.  Why is this story preserved in holy scripture?  What is it telling us about life with God?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

June 18, 2017 - the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for the Day (Track 1).

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Have you ever gotten a gift you weren’t really sure you wanted?  A gift from someone you really love and respect, and whom you think knows you pretty well - and you wonder how they could have picked this “unusual” thing for you.  And it came without a tag or a gift receipt – so you couldn’t just return it.
How do you react when you open it?  Do you fake loving it? Or boldly ask what they were thinking? Or appreciate the thought and decide you know just the place in the closet to hide it until the giver comes to visit?  And what do you do with the gift that you can’t put away or hide?
Today’s readings about Abraham and Sarah and the twelve disciples both talk about those kind of gifts you might not want but can’t hide.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

June 4, 2017 - Pentecost

The Lessons of the Day. Reading lessons from the Acts of the Apostles, 1 Corinthians, and John 20.

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Wind, fire, water.  Three of the four basic elements of life.  Unlike the fourth element - earth - wind, fire, and water are formless, unpredictable and powerful.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 28, 2017 - Pentecost 7 / Sunday after the Ascension

Lessons for the Day.

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I think our lesson from Acts today is a perfect lesson for interim time.  Where we find ourselves in our life together is not so different from where the disciples found themselves on this day in the church year.  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

May 14, 2017 - the 5th Sunday of Easter

Readings of the Day.

Listen to the Sermon.

Happy Mother’s Day!  On this day when we honor our mothers, let’s take a moment and think about what we love about our moms.  Anyone want to share a word of what you appreciate about your mom?

I am guessing that a few of us will be giving flowers to our mothers or mother-like people in our lives today.  In the world where we use flowers to express feelings, carnations broadly signify love, fascination, and distinction.  The pink carnation, the original color of the flower, has the strongest meaning since it’s thought that they first appeared from the Virgin Mary’s tears - making them a symbol of a mother’s undying love.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

May 7, 2017 - the 4th Sunday of Easter / Healing Service

Readings for Today.



In the Acts reading this morning we hear about the newly baptized community devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, breaking of bread and the prayers.  Many wonders and signs - meaning healings and casting out of demons - were being done by apostles.  From all appearances, the early community of Jesus-followers was living together in harmony, sharing all that they had with one another, with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.  Sounds utopian, doesn’t it?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

April 16, 2017 - Easter Day / the Feast of the Resurrection

Read the lessons here.

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When my children were babies, I made up lullabies for them that repeated their names over and over. The sound of their names, sung gently and lovingly, soothed them to sleep many nights.  Those lullabies, naming them, telling them how they would grow up strong and brave, broke through many moments of anger and fear and frustration.  Even today, as they are both in elementary school, those same lullabies comfort and relax them.
Something about hearing our own name, spoken gently and tenderly, stops us short, calls us out of our fear and panic, and brings us back into our true selves.  Reminds us who we are, at our core.  Whether it is God calling us by name, beloved and chosen, at our baptism – or a parent singing us to sleep – hearing our name spoken in love breaks through to us.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

April 2, 2017 - the 5th Sunday in Lent

Readings for the Day.

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I have found myself thinking lately about the prayer cycle of a holy Lent.  It’s the three-part cycle that is mentioned in the Invitation to a Holy Lent that we read on Ash Wednesday.  The cycle of self-examination and repentance; action as a result of that self-examination, and; listening to the Word of God.  Spending time with Scripture inevitably leads to thinking about the connection between the Word and our lives, and so the cycle begins again.  Self-examination, prayer, Scripture.  Self-examination, fasting, listening for God.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

March 19, 2017 - the 3rd Sunday in Lent

Readings for the Day.

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This story of the Woman at the Well is one of those Bible stories that I don’t always hear.  Does this happen to you too?  It’s familiar enough that, in my mind, I know how it goes.  I know the main characters - Jesus and the unnamed Samaritan woman.  And it’s long - so I tend to get caught by my reaction to a particular word or interaction, and then I lose the overall arc of the story.

Once we recognize the story, and stop hearing it, we also fall back on the interpretations we have heard in the past.  Which makes it more challenging to see the relationship of the story to our life as it is today.  Let’s take another look at this story, to see and hear the invitation it offers today.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

March 1, 2017 - Ash Wednesday

Readings for the Day.


So, here we are.  It’s Ash Wednesday - again.  Done with the feasting of Fat Tuesday, and ready to focus ourselves on the next 40 days before Easter. Some of us have thought about our Lenten fasts, and the rest of us are taking time to think about them right now.
Before we get too far down the road of deciding to give up chocolate or TV or to start yoga for Lent this year, I have a question for each of us.  Well, actually, it’s three questions.
1.      What does Lent mean to you?
2.     Why is this season important to you?
3.     What difference does Lent make in your spiritual life?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

February 26, 2017 - the Last Sunday after the Epiphany - Transfiguration Sunday

Readings of the Day.

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I love this moment in the liturgical year.  The light of Epiphany seems so bright at the moment of Transfiguration.  While a wild story, the Transfiguration is easy to imagine.  In my mind’s eye, we can see Peter and James and John, resting after climbing the mountain with Jesus.  The light, the disbelief, the conversation trying to make sense of it all.  A true ‘mountaintop’ experience.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19, 2017 - the 7th Sunday after the Epiphany

Readings for the Day.

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“If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” (Mt 5:39).  “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44).  “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

What is Jesus saying?!!  He sounds crazy.  Doesn’t he know that the way to respond to anger and violence in our world, and his, is to strike back, to prove our strength, to destroy our enemies and WIN?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 29, 2017 - Epiphany 4A

Readings for the Day.

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“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)


I discovered this verse from Micah when I was in my early 20’s. It spoke to my heart about what God asks of us.  I come back to it again and again, because it continues to be relevant.  It’s about how I relate to God, but it’s also about how I relate to other people and the world I live in - every day.  


One could even say it’s a statement about stewardship.  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

January 22, 2017 - 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany & Annual Meeting Sunday

Readings of the Day.

Listen to the Sermon.


Dear People of God, my brothers and sisters in Christ,

I want to begin by saying that, five months into this interim time, I continue to be so very glad God called me to be here in ministry with you.  Thank you for welcoming me and my family into your community so easily and warmly.

In our gospel today, Jesus approaches James and John, fishermen mending their nets, doing what they love and do best, and says to them, “Come with me, and I will make you fish for people.”  

Come with me and do what you love, for the sake of creating the kingdom of God.  Not, leave behind what you love to follow me, but, come with me, and bring your deepest passions and use them to share the gospel with the world.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

January 15, 2017 - 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany

Readings for the Day.

Listen to the Sermon.


Have you ever sat down next to a stranger on an airplane and told them things you hadn’t told your best friend?  When they asked you some question about what you love or deepest desire in life, the answer you gave is something you never even knew you loved or wanted?  It wells up from deep inside you – a truth escaping.

And the more you think about it, the more you see how that truth shapes you - how you approach the world, what you want to accomplish in life, your relationships, even your concept of God.  Light and life emerging from one carefully worded question.