“Out of Her Poverty” (worship at the prison 11/11/12)

Out of Her Poverty Mark 12: 41-44 When I was a kid, I had a children’s Bible with pictures.  I think the picture for this story from Mark’s gospel must have been on the front of the book, because I remember it much better than any of the other pictures.  It showed a modest, frail, elderly, bent woman with a head covering and her bony, small hand was reaching out from her robes.  Even though I couldn’t actually see this in the picture, it seemed like her hand was shaking as she reached out.  She was just in the middle of dropping her two coins in the offering plate at the temple. When I was a kid, I don’t know if I ever actually read the story of the widow and her offering, but that picture made a big impression on me.  She was in the middle of the busy temple and she was just about the least important-looking person there.  Her clothes weren’t fancy.  She wasn’t strong or young.  She wasn’t saying anything to anyone.  She came alone.  But her skinny, bony hand was reaching out with those two small and insignificant coins. Probably because of this picture, I grew up thinking that this story is about money.  I grew up thinking that even though there were impressive, fancy, strong, rich men in that temple that day, giving a lot more money than this poor widow, their gifts didn’t mean as much as hers.  Two small coins could be a better gift than stacks of money. And I think I got that part right.  I think that’s part...

Beginning and Ending in God (worship 11/4/12)

Beginning and Ending in God Revelation 21: 1-6a     When I was a little kid I was intermittently and sometimes simultaneously afraid of teenagers and impressed by them.  Especially groups of teenagers.  I remember one Saturday morning when I went out into the neighborhood to sell Girl Scout cookies.  I’d gone a couple of blocks and then, there on the other side of the street, in a big, scary, boisterous bunch were…teenagers.  I think they were probably washing a car or hanging out next to a car getting ready to pile in and go somewhere, but I wasn’t sticking around to find out.  I decided that was enough cookie-selling for that day and high-tailed it home.   I don’t think my mom understood when I told her I couldn’t sell any more because of teenagers.   I had more of the reverence reaction whenever our family would travel to the mountains on fall weekends.  This is where I first learned about the Appalachian Trail and the concept of the through-hiker.  We would be parked at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, snapping pictures and stretching our legs, when I’d see one.  A young, hairy, dirty, lean hiker with a huge backpack, emerging from the woods.  We didn’t camp as a family and only occasionally did we venture away from the overlooks onto the trails for a mile or so.  But I was entranced by these young, roving, independent hikers with everything they needed strapped to their backs.  I looked for them at every stop but I don’t think I ever managed to say a word to any of...

“Mercy, Healing, and Call” (Sunday morning worship 10/28)

Mercy, Healing, and Call Mark 10: 46-52 If you believe the things people say, students come to college to throw off God and all traces of religion, like an old, dried husk.  People seem to like wringing their hands over the state of “young people today.”  Depending upon their ideas about religion, the church, and what college is for, people also seem to like to blame someone.  The church, for not scooping up all these wayward college students with our giant Jesus butterfly net…college students, for being so self-centered, partying, and uninterested in important things like God and the church. So, in case you are a college student visiting for the first time, or a family member visiting a college student for Family Weekend, or a regular congregation member who still wonders why the Wesley Foundation campus ministry is here on the Wesley block and what exactly we do, this sermon is for you.   (And if you aren’t any of those folks, and you’re not even a hand-wringing worry-er about the state of young people today, it’s also for you.) Our campus ministry tagline is “a place to be, a place to become.”  What we try to communicate with that is that we don’t expect a one-size-fits all approach to faith and we recognize that students need both a place and a community of faith where they can just be – nurtured, unchallenged, accepted as is – as well as a place and a community where they can become – more, different, challenged, a deeper disciple of Christ.  In the midst of life at college, where in four years...

“Forget About the Children” (Worship 9/23/12)

Forget About the Children Mark 9: 30-37   You have to forget some things in order to understand this passage.  Mainly, you have to forget about children. Right now, I can hear a Simpsons character pleading, “Won’t somebody please think of the children?!”  [In case you haven’t seen what I’m talking about, take a look:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh2sWSVRrmo]  The answer is “no.”  We have to forget all about that kind of children-first, precious darlings place we put children in contemporary American society. You have to forget about Christmas cards that are mere excuses to show off the new pictures of the kids.  You have to forget about every trophy you ever got just for showing up and participating.  You have to forget about the kids who are allowed to tantrum in public because the restaurant is out of bendy straws.  You have to forget about the kind of culture we live in where parents spend more time on the pre-pre-school applications for their children than they did on their own college applications.   You have to forget about catering to children with children’s menus, where everything is bland and breaded and beige.  You have to forget all that. You might have to push your memory all the way back to the “seen and not heard” days of our philosophy about children.  If you can get there then you’ll be closer to the way children were regarded in the time of Jesus. At that time children had no rights, no power, no control.  As hard as it may be to believe, children at that time had even fewer rights and less power than...

“The Fork in the Road” (Worship 9/16/12)

The Fork in the Road Mark 8: 27-38   I’ve told this story before but it bears repeating.  One of my seminary professors told us about a time early in his ministry when we was talking with a teetotaling woman in his church.  My professor, the pastor, gently mentioned to her that Jesus didn’t seem to hold her view about alcohol – that his first miracle was turning water into wine.  To which she replied, “Yes, and I think the less of him for it.”   Besides the humor, what I love about this story is how, if we look closely, we can see ourselves in that woman.  Maybe it’s not about alcohol.  The other night at forum when we were talking about how to express the gospel in 7 words or fewer, we wondered about the oft-quoted “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12: 31).  We started picking it apart and wondered about rearranging and re-writing it to suit us better.  There were several of us who said things like I have never really liked that one.  I don’t want to focus on loving myself.  I think it should just be ‘love your neighbor’.  We have our own ideas about the way things should be – the way God should be – and sometimes these ideas get in the way of who God actually is.   That’s what happens to Peter.  When Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is, Peter gets an A+.  “You are the Messiah,” he says, plainly and confidently (Mark 8: 29).  He got the word right.  But when Jesus starts to embellish...

“Hit God with Your Best Shot” (Worship 9/9/12)

Hit God with Your Best Shot Mark 7: 24-30   What’s the maddest you have ever been?  When, if you were a cartoon, steam would have come erupting out of your ears?  I’m going to hazard a guess that, though some of these things might make you angry, the time you have been the angriest probably wasn’t about terrorism, poverty, or injustice.  At least not in the abstract.  I suspect that if it included any of those things, it was one such instance, a specific interaction, or a certain person who made you angry.  Some place where the rubber met the road, where you had a stake in what was happening, someone you loved a lot. In fact, think of the people who are most important to you in life.  Can you think of a single one with whom you have never had a fight or been on exasperatingly opposite sides of an important issue?  When you don’t love someone or some place or something, you don’t care enough to get mad at them or on their behalf.  Elie Wiesel, the writer, professor, and the Holocaust survivor, is quoted as saying, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference” (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/e/elie_wiesel.html).  While hatred and anger can have some overlap, they are not the same thing.  But it’s a food-for-thought kind of quote and he points out so well how we can get confused about what’s going on with our emotions. Christians do this a lot.  There seems to be a real discomfort with anger in some of our circles.  As if caring enough to be blowing our tops is...
Weekly Meeting Schedule
  • Sunday
    • 11:00 Morning Worship at Wesley Memorial UMC (next door)
    • 5:00 Sunday Night Worship
  • Tuesday
    • 6:00 Tuesday Night Dinner
    • 6:45 Forum — Discussion/speaker on a variety of faith topics and student life.
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