June 18, 2017 Sermon: “The Long Road”

June 18, 2017

“The Long Road”

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

Luke 24:13-35

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

 

Two disciples set out for home.  It had been a long week.  And over the miles, they talked together about everything they had seen and heard, trying to make sense of it all:

“Remember how Jesus rode into Jerusalem and the crowds cheered so loudly it was deafening.  Remember how we thought that this was the moment we had been waiting for, for centuries.  We believed that God was going to do exactly what we expected.

[Read more…]

May 28, 2017 Sermon: “A Savior’s Prayer”

May 28, 2017

“A Savior’s Prayer”

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

John 17:1-11

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. 6I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Edward Stierle had been told he was too short for ballet.  He was around 5 foot seven inches.  When he told his father he wanted to take ballet, his father said, “No, No, No. Are you crazy?”  His mother got a second job cleaning a church in order to afford the gas to drive him to where his ballet teacher lived.

At the age of 18 he was invited to join the prestigious Joffrey Ballet Company.

He had already choreographed a solo for Mozart’s Requiem and the Joffrey ballet asked him to create a full-length ballet.

Just before he turned 19 Edward was diagnosed with HIV.  Many dancers around him were dying from AIDs so he knew what his future looked like.  He named his ballet “Lacrymosa” which is Latin for “weeping.”

[Read more…]

May 7, 2017 Sermon: “The Good Gate”

May 7, 2017

“The Good Gate”

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

 

John 10:1-10 (NRSV)

10 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

 

As a community of faith we are returning to the Revised Common Lectionary after many years of absence.  I am told that churches that use the RCL year in and year out know to expect Jesus’ words about sheep and shepherds on the fourth Sunday of Eastertide.

So perhaps you didn’t know that this Sunday is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday.

[Read more…]

April 14, 2017 Good Friday Sermon

Good Friday

April 14, 2017

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

John 18:1-19:42

In a museum in Sansepulcro, Italy is a painting by Piero della Francesa of the resurrected Christ.  In 1925 Aldous Huxley traveled to see it and called it “the best painting in the world.”

And because he wrote those words, in World War II a British artillery officer and art lover, defied orders to completely destroy the town, and saved the painting.  After it was painted, it was hidden away under plaster for hundreds of years until it was discovered perfectly preserved.

In the painting the Resurrected Christ stands with one foot on the edge of his marble tomb.  He has the sculpted body of an athlete, marred only by the wounds on his hands and side which are still raw.

His face something different – dark eyes stare straight out of the painting; his face is somber and grim.

[Read more…]

April 9, 2017 Sermon: “Walking Through Holy Week”

April 9, 2017

“Walking through Holy Week”

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

 Matthew 21:1-17

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 

3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 

8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 

13 He said to them, “It is written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’;
but you are making it a den of robbers.”

14 The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?”

Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise for yourself’?”

17 He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

 

 

We stand at the beginning of Holy Week.  Today we wave our palms in awe of a king, trying to pay attention to all the remarkable details of the story.

[Read more…]

April 2, 2017 Sermon: “Lazarus Unbound”

April 2, 2017

“Lazarus Unbound”

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

Sometimes reading the Bible can feel like we are walking into the middle of a long conversation between two very old friends.  You know those kinds of conversations, where people tell those “you had to be there” kind of jokes, where they talk about people we’ve never met and places we’ve never been, they finish each other’s sentences, and say things like “that’s just like the time we did this . . . remember that?”

I told the Chapel and New Stone crowd two weeks ago (so some of you might be hearing this again) how so often we feel like when we sit down with a particular text from the Bible, that it is just us and these verses in front of us, and all we need to do is read them.

But, I want to invite us to thing about the Bible as a centuries-long conversation between God and people, and between the authors themselves.

[Read more…]

March 19 2017 Sermon: “Details and Gaps”

March 19, 2017

“Details and Gaps”

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

John 4:5-42 (NRSV)

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

[Read more…]

March 19 2017 Sermon: “Rebirth”

March 12, 2017

“Rebirth”

The Rev.  Maren Sonstegard-Spray

 

On this second week of Lent we move away from Matthew’s account of Jesus life and to the gospel of John.

By the third chapter in John, Jesus has some key followers, he has changed water into wine at the wedding in Cana, he has driven the animal sellers and money exchangers out of the temple during the large religious event of Passover, and then during that time in Jerusalem during the Passover, Jesus did many more signs that are not described in any detail for us.

So Jesus has been doing really public ministry for about a week and we come to Nicodemus.

As I read the passage I want you to keep your eyes on Nicodemus.

How do you imagine him?  Is he afraid?  Is he curious?  Is he baffled and confused?  Why do you think he comes?  What is he looking for?

[Read more…]

February 26, 2017 Sermon: “Transfiguration”

February 26, 2017

“Transfiguration”

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

Matthew 17:1-9 (NRSV)

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Let’s talk for a moment about reading the Bible.

It’s hard sometimes – things happen that we don’t really understand (like transfiguration).

It feels like there are references to things that we don’t know.

The words can be confusing.  It was written in languages we don’t speak.  The cultural and religious practices are unfamiliar.

Sometimes the Bible seems to say things we disagree with.

Ellen Davis, professor of the Bible at Duke Divinity School, writes about how reading the Bible, studying the Bible is not about identifying those bits of the Bible we particularly like or do not like (and just reading the bits we like).  It is really the opposite, we have to grapple with the “Bible’s inexhaustible complexity,” which means we have to read the whole of the Bible, and investigate and wrestle with those bits that are difficult to understand.

[Read more…]

February 19, 2017 Sermon: “Love Your Enemies”

February 19, 2016

“Love Your Enemies”

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

Matthew 5:38-48 (NRSV)

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;

40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

One day last winter I dropped my kids off at preschool and was on my way out of the north end of the city for a usual Friday morning of errand-running.  It was a bitterly cold day, made worse by strong gusts of wind.

All of a sudden I saw a woman walking with bags of groceries looped over her arms and when the wind gusted she had to bend over in half to keep from falling over.  So I did some split second calculations.

 

There was definitely room in my car for her and her bags.

 

I was not rushing off to any set appointments – I had time.

 

So yes I can stop and offer this woman a ride to wherever she needs to go.

I check my rearview mirror to make sure I am not going to cause an accident by pulling over quickly, and decide that the safest thing is to pass her and pull over in front of her.

 

As I am slowing down, just passing her, she looks up and looks me straight in the eye, and gives me the finger.  And I was so surprised that I just kept going.

[Read more…]