Annual Meeting report is included in the weekly email.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always be
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer.
The last line of our Gospel lesson tells us that Jesus went throughout Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and
curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
We’ve got some good news to proclaim today:
On our annual meeting Sunday.
We’ve had a great year:
Proclaiming the good news of the kingdom together:
Both in this building,
And in the world beyond.
Like Andrew and Peter:
We’ve been called to be followers of Jesus.
And while we’re certainly not perfect at,
There’s some things that we’ve been doing pretty well.
Our Sunday worship attendance has remained steady in the past year:
Something that many congregations are still struggling with since the beginning of the pandemic.
Our attendance on both Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve, Were higher than the previous year.
This year we celebrated a baptism,
And two confirmations!
Our financial pledges for the upcoming year came in over $1500 higher than last
We’ve made some advances in our worship too.
We finally got our big screen TV:
Allowing us to put the service up for everyone to see.
This has reduced our need for a Sunday bulletin:
Which has saved us both time and money!
I want to give a very sincere and special thank you to Mark and Sam Metko.
They have worked terribly hard,
To not only get the screen up and going:
But I’m certain they’ve put in HOURS of work getting everything onto a
powerpoint for all of us to see.
If you’re interested in helping with the compilation of those powerpoints:
Or in being the power point “clicker” on Sunday morning:
Please let us know!
And while We’re on the subject of worship:
We have to give our sincere thanks to our fabulous music team.
Mark, Tim, and Steve.
Our worship would absolutely not be what it is without you,
And your tireless commitment to help us each week to make a joyful noise to the
You all know as well as I do:
How important music is to our worshipping community.
And not only that:
But its part of what makes us particularly unique. (especially in the Episcopal
But there are other things that make us unique!
We continue to be a part of the Order of Saint Luke.
This past year, we hosted our first healing conference since before the pandemic:
And the Holy Spirit was most certainly present!
A big thank you goes to Jan Peskie for all of her hard work in keeping us going in
our healing ministry.
Besides the conference, and the offering of healing prayer after services,
Jan has also lead a small group throughout the year in various book studies,
prayers, and fellowship.
It has been a great joy of mine to attend many of those events,
And those events are expanding!
The OSL group is moving further out in the fox valley,
And meeting or a book study in Appleton.
It’s been a wonderful way to connect with other healing prayer ministers in our
And to study and pray for one another.
The Healing prayer ministry was also essential in our Blue Christmas service this
We had a beautiful service,
With a soup meal before hand.
And I’ certain that the whole experience was healing for those who attended.
What else makes us particularly unique?
Our food pantry!
The food pantry continues to be sign of Jesus’ love in our community.
And not only through it’s gift of feeding people in need:
It’s also been a sign of Jesus’ love through the overwhelming amount of gifts and
donations that people in our church—and beyond—have donated to keep the
LuAnne Nelson has a true God-given gift for this ministry:
And I can’t express enough my gratitude to her and her commitment and care.
And of course:
Our Thrift store!
St. John’s Thrift store has been through MANY changes in the past year.
Besides a debacle getting a new furnace put in:
The biggest and most wonderful change has been with our new Manager.
Our own Pam O’Brien stepped up this spring to manage the store,
And she has been doing a wonderful job.
I can tell you that the work at the thrift store is CONSTANT and never-ending.
There’s always donations coming in to sort through, and put out,
And it is HARD work!
Pam has taken this in stride:
And, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention her husband Pat:
Who can often be found helping out at the store as well.
Both Pam and LuAnne will give us a brief update at our meeting following the
And truly: to both LuAnne and Pam:
For being not only ambassadors of St. Johns,
But for being ambassadors of Jesus by bringing this ministries out into the world.
We couldn’t run this church without our vestry!
I want to thank
And Dan LeClair.
Our vestry not only helps with the day-to-day running of the church:
But they are an amazing and essential support to me as your priest.
Thank you: to each of you:
For your ministry this past year.
But there’s an especially big thank you here:
And that’s to Dan LeClair.
As of our annual meeting today:
Dan is retiring from TWENTY years of service on the vestry.
That’s a SUPER long time!
Dan was the Senior Warden when Fr. Paul retired in 2016:
Which was a major transition to oversee.
He also oversaw the paying off of our building mortgage in 2019,
And then of course:
The long and grueling 5 year search process ending in my arrival here.
Dan was the first person I had contact with when I was discerning whether we
would be a good fit.
And I’ll always be grateful that that first contact was with someone as committed
to the church, genuine, thoughtful, and FUN person like Dan.
Just to be clear:
Dan isn’t going anywhere.
He’s just not going to be serving officially on the vestry.
If you would:
Please join me in giving a big round of applause thank you to Dan for his long-time
service to our church.
At the actual meeting:
We’ll vote on our vestry members for the upcoming year.
We would not be where we are as a church:
We would not be WHO we are as church:
Without each and every one of you.
For your faithful commitment to St. Johns:
For your unwavering commitment to Jesus:
And for your willingness to show up:
To be with each other,
And see the Living God.
I’m grateful for each and every one of you:
And I know that God rejoices in your presence.
I can’t wait to see what God will lead us to do in 2023!
Annual Meeting Discussions
1.) Vestry Slate
a. Kathy LeClair
2.) Convention Delegates and Alternates
a. Significant because we’ll be voting on the trialogue.
b. Saturday October 21 st
i. Either in Fond du Lac or Menasha
3.) Discussion on Common Cup
4.) Discussion on Ecumenical Ash Wednesday Service
5.) Discussion on Earlier Service Time
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always
acceptable in your sight Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
There’s a lot going on in today’s Gospel reading.
It’s like there’s a number of different stories:
A number of major themes in only a dozen verses.
First, John the baptist sees Jesus coming toward him and proclaims:
“here is the Lamb of God.”
Second, John the Baptist reminds us that he baptized Jesus:
And the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.
Third: John proclaims that Jesus is the very Son of God.
Fourth: Two of John’s disciples call Jesus rabbi: or “teacher.”
And Jesus invites them deeper into the mystery with the simple phrase:
“Come and See”
Finally, Andrew and Peter decide to follow Jesus, and proclaim:
“We have found the Messiah.”
There are a lot of important theological points in this short reading.
“Here is the Lamb of God.”
“This is the Son of God.”
And “We have found the Messiah.”
Each one could be the subject of its own sermon.
There’s so much going on,
That we might want to ask more questions than the one question that the
disciples asked in today’s reading: “Where are you staying?”
We might also want to ask, What does all of this mean?
These big theological points?
We might ask Jesus: “What exactly are you up to?”
“What’s your purpose?”
And maybe even, “What do you want of us?”
To all of these questions,
And to many others,
Jesus gives us the same answer that he gave those two disciples:
“Come and See.”
Within the answer to this question, is an invitation.
An invitation to a new life:
An invitation to new relationship: With Him.
With Jesus: The Lamb of God, the rabbi and teacher, the Son of God, the Messiah.
What exactly is this Lamb of God? Come and see.
Who is the true Messiah? Come and see.
Why should we follow you, Jesus? Come and see.
What do you want us to do? Come and See.
It sounds simple enough.
But is it really?
How often, in today’s world,
Are we willing to accept an invitation to just, “Come and see?”
People today like to have all the details.
To know the schedule.
To know the risks.
And know the rewards.
We rarely accept an invitation to just “come and see.”
We carefully explore all our options:
We search for information and compile lists of pros and cons.
And of course:
It IS important to make informed decisions.
Informed decisions help us to avoid repeating some of life’s biggest mistakes.
But sometimes, we’re invited to just “come and see.”
With no explanation:
And when it comes to Jesus:
This is a risk worth taking.
But do we accept the invitation?
Are we ready for what we might see?
Because if we’re honest:
When we come and see:
We’re moved to do more.
To see again:
To do more work.
When we accept the invitation to come and see:
We become aware that there’s more for us to give:
More for opportunities for us to surrender.
More risks to take.
If we choose to become disciples of Jesus, and to give our time, talent, and
treasure, what do we get for our trouble?
It doesn’t end there.
Because we receive the same invitation:
Come and see.
Jesus invites us to experience a reality that’s different from the world that
cherishes wealth, power, and control.
It’s an invitation to love the poor and serve the needy, without condition.
It’s an invitation to surrender our lust for power,
And give up our need for control:
Or our need to be right.
And what are the consequences of that?
The same invitation:
Come and see.
The invitation is offered again and again,
In a constant cycle.
Come and see.
Come and see.
It never ends.
It leads to more and more.
And we really do need to come and see in order to understand--
Or even begin to understand what Jesus is up to.
Come and see:
Again and again.
Take a risk,
And try again:
To see more and more.
So come and see the Lamb of God.
Come and see the one on whom the Spirit descended like a dove.
Come and see the son of God.
Come and see Jesus the rabbi, who teaches the way of salvation.
Come and see Andrew and Simon Peter, who drop their nets and leave behind
everything to follow Jesus.
Come and see what Jesus is up to.
Come and see his purpose.
Come and see what he wants for us.
And come and see what we gain when we accept the invitation.
Even if you think you know what Jesus is up to:
Come and see again.
Even if you think you know his purpose:
Come and see again.
Even if you think you know what he wants us to do:
Come and see again:
With an open heart each time.
That invitation was offered to those disciples thousands of years ago.
And it’s offered to us today, tomorrow, and every day.
Take the risk:
Knowing that the cycle of invitation will continue again and again.
Come and see:
And be enriched in Christ:
In speech and knowledge of every kind.
Come and see:
And learn again that God is faithful:
That you are called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Come and see:
So that you too can declare with confidence:
As the first two disciples did:
“We have found the Messiah.”
Today's Sermon was a conversation on the Trialogue that our diocese has entered into. Members present were asked to share hopes, fears, or questions they have about the process. For more information on the trialogue, go to https://www.episcopalwisconsin.info/
If you have comments or questions about he trialogue, please reach out to Portia at any time.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be always
acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
It IS still Christmas!
And today, we specifically get the great joy of celebrating the feast of the
It’s a special feast day in the Christian World:
And it rarely falls on a Sunday
(So we don’t get to formally celebrate it that often.)
Our gospel text today is an excerpt of what we read on Christmas Eve:
(Which is also unusual to hear on a Sunday!)
We normally just get our Christmas reading:
And then MAYBE the reading about the wisemen visiting.
But this year:
Due to Christmas falling on a Sunday:
We get to hear the familiar Christmas story yet again.
With one extra sentence added which is this:
“After eight days had passed (since Jesus’ birth)
It was time to circumcise the child;
And he was called Jesus:
The name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
And today is:
Since our celebration on Christmas eve:
We’re commemorating (in real time)
The Jewish ceremony of circumcision and naming:
Taking place 8 days after birth.
It’s a special day in the Christmas season:
And it IS still Christmas:
As today’s Gospel reading clearly illustrates to us.
So I thought it might be nice:
To share wit you the Christmas message from our Bishop.
He writes this to YOU:
From time immemorial people have gathered around campfires, fireplaces,
and stoves for warmth and light.
And the fire has been the center of community, whether of family, friends, or
strangers crossing paths on the way.
Before central heating, the hearth was the heart of any home.
One of my favorite paintings of the Nativity is ‘The Adoration of the
Shepherds’ long attributed to Rembrandt,
but now thought to be by one of his students.
In the painting, Jesus, lying in the manger, glows with warmth and light.
Mary and Joseph are illuminated as they kneel near the holy Baby.
Shepherds and others are gathered around Jesus as if drawing near to a fire
to escape the gloomy cold of night.
Whether or not Jesus actually glowed with light and warmth,
the painting points to the understanding that Jesus is the light of the Truth
and the warmth of the Love at the heart of everything.
He is the fire in the equation of reality enfleshed to reveal the truth of who
we are and who we are meant to be as beings created in the image of God.
He embodied the love that is lived within the Holy Trinity from eternity.
On Christmas, the manger became the hearth of the world bearing the light
and love of God into this cold and gloomy world.
There is goodness and beauty in the world for sure.
And in each of us.
But there is also the gloom of ignorance, dishonesty, prejudice, and greed.
There is the coldness of selfishness, division, meanness, and violence.
Increasingly, we are disconnected, isolated, anxious, fearful, and lonely.
At Christmas we are reminded that One has come to invite us to gather
together out of the gloomy cold and draw near the Fire that he is to be
enlightened and warmed by his truth and love.
In the coming year, may our congregations glow with the light and love of
May each member bear that light and love into the anxious, lonely, divided
world around us.
May we better see others in the light of God’s love.
May we especially bear that love to those who the world pushes into the
Maybe part of our vocation as disciples of Jesus in these times is to be
to remind ourselves and others of the truth that we belong to one another
and to engage with others regardless of affinity or agreement.
By doing so, we can take the light and warmth we have experienced from the
Hearth to the hearts of those we encounter.
Since it’s still Christmas:
And Bishop Matt is urging us to glow with the light and love of Jesus:
I thought we’d better give our Jesse Tree, one more week to gather things for
What can you find:
That helps you to glow with the light and love of Jesus?
OR what can you find:
That has been a symbol of the light and love of Jesus for you?
What can you find:
That when you see it in your house throughout the year:
Will remind you to go be the light of Jesus to everyone you come across?
Mine is this olive-wood statue of Jesus washing feet.
But it’s also a lot more than that.
My mentor, and former bishop
(Who you’ve heard me talk about a lot)
Bought this statue when he was on a trip to Jerusalem.
I remember when he got it.
He displayed it in his office:
As a reminder to himself:
To always strive to be a servant:
To serve the lowest of the low.
The neediest of the needy.
To: as Bishop matt is urging us:
Be the light of Jesus in the world.
When he died in 2020,
His wife sent this statue to me.
I keep it in my office here at the church:
And it is a constant reminder to me:
To be a servant:
To bring light in the darkness:
To bring people Jesus.
And it’s deeply personal too:
Because it reminds me of how much my mentor loved me.
That his wife would choose to give something so special to me.
And knowing how desperately I have been loved:
Pushes me to give that love:
That light I the darkness:
Right back into the world.
Or as my favorite bible verse says:
In the book of first John:
(and it’s perhaps no mistake: but a murmuring of God,
That my beloved mentor’s name was also “John.”)
But the book of first John says:
“We love because he fist loved us.”
Let’s take one more week:
Until the close of Christmas:
To finish out our tree:
With something to remind us:
To carry the Christian spirit of love:
Of light in the darkness:
With us into the world:
Well after Christmas has ended.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord, or strength and our redeemer. Amen.
We’re in the final stretch of our Advent Journey.
Christmas is quickly upon us:
And that means that our Jesse tree adventure is nearing its end too.
But not quite yet.
We’re not quite there.
Last week we explored the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah.
More specifically, Zechariah:
How he lost his ability to speak:
Because he couldn’t believe the news that the Angel told him:
That his wife Elizabeth
Would bear a son:
Even in their old age.
And that the son would be great:
Would be the one to prepare the way.
And that his name would be John.
Zechariah lost his ability to speak until after Elizabeth birthed their son.
It wasn’t until John’s naming ceremony,
That Zechariah’s speech was returned to him:
And he proclaimed the name of his child:
Last week’s invitation was to find something that you would speak up for.
Does anybody have any they’d like to share and add to the Jesse tree?
We’ve had three weeks to explore three different bible stories from some of Jesus’ ancestors.
From Abraham and Sarah at the very beginning of the bible.
To Ruth and Naomi:
To Elizabeth and Zechariah:
The parents of Jesus’ cousin.
Last week I told you that we were inching much closer to the birth of Jesus:
Not only in the Advent season:
But in our visiting of the stories of Jesus’ lineage.
We’re getting REAL close.
Today we’re going straight to Jesus’ mother.
In the story of Jesus’ family tree,
Mary is as close to Jesus as you can get.
And this one is going to be particularly fun,
Because Mary’s story (as we saw last week) intersects with Elizabeth’s story.
So we’ll even see Elizabeth again today.
And here we go. (READ THE STORY Luke 1:46-55)
Mary’s song of praise is known as the Magnificat,
Because in Latin, the first word of “my soul magnifies the Lord” is not “my soul, but “Magnify.”
As this song bursts forth from Mary upon her arrival at Elizabeth’s home,
The song reveals much about who she is:
A humble servant who knows she is blessed.
Not because of what she has,
But because of what God has done.
She is one who can recognize the mercy of God at work through the generations;
A young person who already perceives the need or God to bring the proud,
The powerful, and the rich low in order or God’s promises to take hold.
Mary believes that there is good news to be had or people who are poor and hungry.
As a prophet, she employs beautiful and poetic language to inspire generations of faithful people.
As a person of faith,
She knows God’s promise will take hold down through the generations,
Beyond what she will see and know.
Mary’s song of praise also reveals much about who her son will be.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
I the ancestors o Jesus have all lent something to the story of salvation:
(Like we’ve heard with Abraham, Sarah, Ruth, Naomi, Elizabeth and Zechariah)
And knowing there are many MANY others:
How much more will Jesus’ own mother offer to salvations story?
Just imagine Mary in the stable on Christmas,
Or later perhaps more comfortable in a wooden rocking chair that Joseph made.
Picture Mary when her son first experiences injustice on the streets or at the playground,
Or when Jesus sees the brutality of Roman soldiers and the violence of empire.
Time and again,
Singing the words of today’s reading over her child,
Hoping he will take them to heart.
My soul magnifies the Lord:
My spirit rejoices in in God my savior.
For he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Mary’s response is one of GREAT joy.
(Sort of like the Joy that Abraham and Sarah had in the birth of their son.)
And the joy that Elizabeth and Zechariah had, at the birth of their son.
And the joy that Ruth and Naomi shared in journeying through their life together.
And their births certainly bring us great joy.
But many other things can too.
Other relationships: (Like Ruth and Naomi’s)
Other blessings from God.
Other GOOD and beautiful and joyous things.
What sparks great joy for you?
You have SIX days, this time:
To bring something on Christmas Eve that sparks Joy for you.
I brought one of my special handmade ornaments.
This is multi-faceted joy,
Because as a quilter, and a sewer:
I love to make handmade things.
But this is especially joy-sparking because every year,
My grandma, makes a cross stitched, bell-shaped Christmas ornament for her grandchildren.
I have one for every year since I’ve been born.
(So I have quite a few.)
She’s also been making one every year for my kids:
Her great grand-children.
She tries to put something on the ornament to mark that particular year.
And it always brings me GREAT joy,
To receive my handmade ornament from my grandma.
To share with you:
I brought my ornament from last year:
Which marked our move to Wisconsin.
And I’ll hang it on the tree.
Because it brings me great joy.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your
sight, Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
We heard the story of Ruth and Naomi:
Who journeyed together after experiencing tragedy:
Sticking by each other throughout their lives.
The invitation last week,
Was to go home,
And find something that you would take with you on a trip:
Or something that would guide you on your journey.
Does anybody have one that they’d like to share?
As we add to our Jesse tree:
Exploring some of the stories from Jesus’ lineage:
We take a big step:
Closer to the birth of Jesus.
We’re looking today at the story of Zechariah:
Found in the gospel of Luke.
READ THE STORY (Luke 1:57-80)
That story sounds sort of familiar doesn’t it?
There are a lot of similarities with the story of Abraham and Sarah.
Two couples: separated by many many years.
Unable to have children:
And who are older in age.
Both couples receive word that God will bless them with children:
And both couples are astounded by what seems to them to be an impossible thing,
Terribly difficult to understand or imagine.
Abraham and Sarah laughed.
Couldn’t believe what the angel of God was telling him.
He was struck with silence:
Unable to speak.
Zechariah would have been very little help with a baby on the way:
Since God had struck him silent after he questioned how God would give him and his wife,
Elizabeth a child.
God promised their child would become the powerful prophet John.
And Zechariah questioned how God might accomplish this promise,
And the angel Gabriel,
Took away his ability to speak until the baby was born.
As the angel’s promise swelled to fruition in Elizabeth’s belly,
She ahd Zechariah had to prepare the house for the baby.
Imagine planning anything so complicated over text messages:
Or waiting for your partner to write out every response to every question,
Because he or she couldn’t actually answer with spoken words.
If you were Elizabeth,
How long would you be patient?
At what point would youy give up and simply make every decision yourself?
It’s little wonder that Elizabeth sings for joy when her cousin Mary arrives!
Mary could talk to her!
Mary experiences a different side of Gods miracle.
She expects a miracle baby,
Just like Zechariah and Elizabeth,
But she doesn’t know about Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy yet.
Mary simply comes to Elizabeth because she trusts Elizabeth as her family.
Together they discover that they each carry a part of the same promise from God.
Mary and Elizabeth show us how relationships of trust can help us make sense of God’s work in
God’s promise gives Mary a new song,
While it stuns Zechariah into silence.
Zechariah would have learned from Mary and been inspiried by her,
Just like Elizabeth.
Even though he remains silent until his baby is born,
He finally speaks when he announces the baby’s name.
It’s John, in keeping with the angel’s command.
Zechariah’s friends and family do not understand why he chooses such a name.
But this time, even if others around him are questioning this child,
Zechariah is more than ready to speak.
The birth of this baby will be the largest chiange I Zechariah’s family’s life:
And the couple encounters that change while adapting to his silence.
Change piles atop change.
But the faily draws inspiration from Mary,
A younger relative who is also inspired by God’s miracle.
I invite you to go home and find something that you’re willing to speak up for.
Something that you can’t keep silent about:
Like Zechariah, proclaiming God’s blessings after his son is finally born:
And his voice is returned to him.
Maybe you’ll find a branch in nature:
Speaking up for the care of our creation.
Or maybe it’s a photo of someone you care about:
Somebody you’d speak up for, and fight for.
May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your
sight, Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Last week, we began the season of Advent.
And this week, our journey continues.
We’re doing something a bit different this season:
As we prepare and wait for the coming of Jesus on Christmas.
We talked last week about the tradition around a “Jesse tree:”
Where Christians remember the geneology of Jesus:
By re-reading and exploring biblical figures and stories leading up to Jesus’ birth.
We heard about Abraham and Sarah,
The way that they laughed about the seemingly impossible promises that God
made to them.
But God does not break promises:
And Abraham and Sarah were granted a son:
Even in their old age.
It seemed absolutely impossible to understand, comprehend, or imagine.
God made it happen.
I encouraged you to go home and find something that seems impossible to
And bring it back with you today to add to our Jesse tree.
Did anyone bring anything that they would like to share about briefly?
(Let people Share)
We’re looking at the story of Ruth and Naomi: found in the book of Ruth.
Let’s hear it now:
READ STORY (Ruth 1:1-18; Or the whole book of Ruth!)
The story of Ruth and Naomi begins with tragedy.
After leaving her homeland with her family, Naomi experiences a string of deaths:
First her husband,
Then her two adult sons.
Left without grandchildren and without male family members to care for her,
Naomi is in one of the most vulnerable and lowly places in her society.
Naomi’s daughters-in law don’t want to abandon her.
One dauther in law, Orpah:
Eventually agrees to return to the family of her birth.
Ruth, though, refuses to leave Naomi.
She protests with one of the most stirring speeches in all of scripture.
The speech is left out of our story-book version:
But here’s what Ruth says to Naomi:
“Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
Where you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God my God.
Where you die, I will die--
There will I buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well,
If even death parts me from you.”
Ruth’s choice to remain with her widowed mother-in-law is downright foolish by
her world’s standards.
Nothing ties her to Naomi,
And there is no hopeful future with her to be seen.
It makes you wonder why Ruth did not wish to return to her own amily.
It makes you wonder about the welcome Ruth must have received in her
husband’s family home.
It makes you wonder why Naomi loved and cared for Ruth as her own daughter.
Maybe it makes YOU think about the love of someone beyond your biological
And how that person made a difference in your life.
Ruth makes Naomi her chosen family,
A bond that many people form when their biological families can’t provide the
love, understanding or support they need.
Perhaps this family relationship is formed with a deep sense of justice, too.
Though it may be fair to leave Naomi on her own,
Ruth—an outsider to the people of Judah--
Upholds one o the markers of God’s justice.
She cares for the widow
(Even though she is one herself)
This generation in Jesus’ ancestry is formed by chosen love,
And a fiercely feminine loyalty.
Ruth and Naomi journeyed together.
They did that medaphorically by spending their “journey of life” together,
And they did it literally:
Traveling to Bethlehem together to start life anew.
I invite you to go home, and find something that you would take with you on a
Or something that guides you in your travels.
Maybe it’s a map,
A favorite road snack,
A piece of camping equipment.
OR maybe even a picture of someone in your life who helped to guide you
through your journey.
Bring it back next week.
And we’ll add it to our tree!
It can be a physical item,
That you either hang on,
Or set next to or beneath the tree.
It can also be a picture of the item.
I brought my item a week early.
I brought a flashlight.
Because we need light on our journeys:
Whether the light comes from a flashlight,
The headlights on our car:
Or the light of love from a person who has guided us.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your
sight, Oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
It’s the first day of Advent!
We’ll spend the next four weeks waiting together for the joyous celebration of
While the rest of the world has decorated their spaces for Christmas:
(My own home included)
In the church:
And one of the ways that the church has done that in its history,
Is through a Jesse tree.
You might’ve heard of it before.
In the book of Isaiah:
The Messiah’s family tree is identified:
And it’s identified as the root of Jesse.
(Jesse was David’s father)
Isaiah knew that the house of David would produce an ideal king, who would
inaugurate the reign of peace, justice, and universal knowledge of God.
In art: a reclining Jesse dreams of a genealogical tree that grows out of his loins
with “leaves” in the tree that name the ancestors of Jesus.
In homes and in churches, a barren branch or bare evergreen is laden with the
Of messianic lineage until the Jesse tree blooms on Christmas day with Jesus’
Traditionally, the first “leaf” om the tree is Adam and Eve, representing the
common origins of all humanity.
And the New Testament opens with Matthews genealogy:
A list of the lineage of Jesus:
Another sort of “Jesse Tree.”
Matthew opens by saying:
“An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the Son of
He then lists many names:
Some of which we hear in the biblical stories of the Old testament.
In the next four weeks,
We’re going to make our own communal Jesse tree.
We’ll explore a different story from Jesus’ lineage.
And then you’ll be invited:
To go home, and find a common object in your home to bring to church and add
to our tree.
It’s going to be weird.
It’s going to be fun.
And it’s going to teach us more about God and each other.
So are you ready for our first story for our Jesse tree?
One of the most significant stories in the old Testament is that of Abraham and
(READ THE STORY HERE) Genesis 38:12-26
Abraham and Sarah left their own home to travel to the Promised Land.
They crossed through enemy territory multiple times,
And they had all but given up on God’s promise to provide them with a child.
They relied on Sarah’s slave Hagar to bear Abrahams son, Ishmael, on Sarah’s
In this story:
“Yes, of course, I’ll take care of Ishmael, but that is not what I meant! Sarah
herself will have a child. Go ahead and laugh.”
When Abraham, and later Sarah, laugh at the absurdity of the promise, perhaps
God laughs along. But only because God knows how the story will end.
God’s work with Sarah and Abraham is already happening. The promise is already
Like a current that will flow down through the generations.
But Sarah and Abraham just can’t believe it.
Rather than letting go and joining the current,
They struggle against it,
Trying to find their own ways to do God’s work:
Rather than trusting God to provide.
When their own son Isaac is finally born,
The joy of his birth seems to take them by surprise:
Completely out of the blue.
In the pages of Genesis, however,
God has been repeating this promise to them for twenty-five years.
Sarah and Abraham are the first generation identified in Jesus’ ancestry.
They’re an unlikely, disbelieving, and at times vengeful, and meddling couple.
They aren’t all bad, but they aren’t all good either.
God works with them.
They become the ancestors of nations and of salvation itself.
I invite you to go home,
And find something that seems impossible to understand.
Like Abraham and Sarah,
Who couldn’t begin to believe or understand what amazing things God was up to.
Whatever weird thing you find:
I hope you’ll bring it back with you next week to add to our Jesse tree.
Something impossible to understand.
Like a challenging puzzle,
A difficult book,
Or your tax return.
At the beginning of the service:
I’ll invite any of you to briefly share your found object,
And add it to our tree.
Our tree is going to look weird.
But it’s going to be ours:
With ordinary objects that might begin to remind us of what God is up to in our
In the next four weeks:
Let’s see how our tree changes,
With findings from our own lives and homes:
As we re-read a few of the stories form Jesus’ lineage.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer.
Lately: Chris and I have been talking a lot about time.
And how time sometimes gets blurred.
How it’s not always in a linear line.
How eternity sometimes sweeps around and around.
We’ve talked about eternity before.
We know that eternity is not just in the future:
But includes all of time.
Yet it’s still hard for us to wrap our heads around.
Because too often, our modern minds force us to think in a linear fashion:
To think of stories and time on a continuum: a line.
As we’re taught to strive for the ultimate goal:
To finish to the end.
But real time:
Real time: is God’s time.
And God’s time is beginning, middle, end:
all of it wrapped up together.
And we catch a glimpse of it today.
Today is a strange day in the church.
Because today the lines seem blurred
Time is kind of blurred.
And everything seems to run together.
It’s Christ the King Sunday.
A special celebratory feast where we celebrate Christ the King.
Pope Pius the 11 th instituted Christ the King Sunday.
In order to celebrate the lordship of Christ in an increasingly secular world.
Pope Pius wanted people to remember that God’s power and majesty is radically
different from the reign of human monarchs or presidents.
Originally, Christ the King Sunday was celebrated on the last Sunday of October.
But when the Roman Catholics proposed the three year lectionary:
After the second Vatican council:
Christ the King was moved to the final Sunday of the liturgical year.
Which is today.
The last Sunday of the Church year.
The last Sunday before Advent:
Is the Sunday we particularly focus on Christ the King.
And it’s brilliant, really:
Because that’s part of why the lines get all blurred.
Where everything runs together: Even time.
It all runs together today.
Today: On the last Sunday of the Church year:
The story is no longer linear.
The last isn’t really the last.
And we’re reminded that next week’s beginning isn’t really the beginning.
Today: The story is blurred all together:
Where the beginning, the middle, and the end of all things merges and time
appears to stop:
if only for a moment.
Let’s see if I can explain what I mean.
Our lessons today show God’s intention to send a king who will set the world
Each of those lessons has a linear place in the larger Christian story.
And yet all together, they’re no longer linear.
The lines become blurred:
And they embody they fullness of time through the fullness of Christ.
Our first reading from Jeremiah speaks of the coming of Christ.
Jeremiah tells the people that a new and righteous shepherd will be sent by God.
This follows a common ancient near eastern metaphor of the king as shepherd.
And even further:
This idea that Kings nourish and protect their people.
In near Eastern texts: like Jeremiah:
such rulers were likened to the tree of life:
As if the king was the center and source of life for the nation.
This is why Jeremiah says that God will raise up for David a righteous branch:
A tree: growing through David’s line.
This reading from Jeremiah is an Advent reading.
A foretelling and prophecy of Jesus’ birth.
But here we are, on the last Sunday of the Church year:
Still in the season of Pentecost:
With the lines blurred.
But here we are:
Not in advent:
Not in Christmas:
But still in the season of Pentecost:
With the lines all blurred.
The Gospel reading from Luke,
Is perhaps the most fascinating as we think about the blurring of time and story.
This lesson enters the linear story near the end:
At the crucifixion.
As Jesus: “The King of the Jews”
hangs on the cross: executed next to two criminals.
It’s a Palm Sunday reading, about Good Friday.
And yet here we are:
On the last Sunday of the Church year.
Still in the season of Pentecost:
With white frontals, and vestments:
White: The color of the resurrection:
And we’re reading a passion reading from Holy Week.
Right next to Advent and Christmas readings.
Today the lines are blurred.
Today is not Palm Sunday.
It’s not Good Friday.
It’s not Advent.
It’s not Christmas.
It’s just the last Sunday after Pentecost.
Maybe that is exactly the point.
That Christ the King blurs the lines.
That Gods time is eternal.
It’s beginning, middle and end.
It’s Alpha and Omega.
It’s Advent, it’s Christmas, It’s Holy Week, It’s Easter.
Christ the King is King eternal.
And we see it all come together in the second lesson from Colossians.
Let’s hear it again:
He—as in Christ the King--
Is the image of the invisible God:
The first born of all creation.
For in him all things in heaven and on earth were created:
Things visible and invisible:
Whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers--
All things have been created through him and for him.
He himself is before all things:
And in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body: the church:
He is the beginning:
The firstborn from the dead:
So that he might come to have first place in everything.
For in him ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD WAS PLEASED TO DWELL:
And through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things:
Whether on earth or in heaven:
By making peace through the blood of the cross.
It should sound kind of familiar.
Kind of like the creed that we recite together every Sunday.
This ideal king—Christ--
Holds all things together:
Time, space, and story.
Through him all things were made.
Christ the King was present at creation:
And is reigning eternally:
Blurring all of the lines of time and story.
Christ is king when he reigns at the beginning of creation.
Christ is King when he reigns as the tree growing through David’s line.
Christ is King when he reigns in the womb of his mother.
And Christ is king when he reigns from the cross: Forgiving our sins, and hanging
between two criminals.
It wasn’t the cross that made Christ the king.
It wasn’t his crowning as King of the Jews.
Christ IS the King of Creation.
Christ IS the King in the manger.
Christ IS the King on the cross.
Christ IS the king resurrected.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…
The fullness of all eternity:
Of all seasons,
Of all years.
And we catch that glimpse every time we gather.
The glimpse of the mystery of blurred stories and blurred time.
Because every Sunday is a mini-Easter:
Whether it’s the last Sunday after Pentecost:
Or Palm Sunday.
All of time is wrapped up together in Christ the King.
And Every time we come to the table:
We PROCLAIM Christ as king.
At the beginning, at the middle, at the end.
In the fullness of all time:
For all eternity.
And our lives:
Are no longer a series of linear events.
We are no longer a series of separate individuals.
Instead: our lives and ourselves are made full:
By Christ the king eternal.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Did you know that there’s a stewardship drive in the Bible?
I don’t mean that there’s stuff in the bible that touches on stewardship,
Or that there are teachings about money.
I mean—there’s an actual fundraising letter:
In the Bible.
You wouldn’t know it because it also happens to be one of the most influential
and meaty treatises in the New Testament:
It’s Paul’s letter to the Romans.
I’m not bringing this up to make some point about how everything is about
Because it’s not.
What’s really interesting here,
Is that there’s an actual biblical stewardship drive:
And yet: Paul’s letter to the Romans is not primarily focused on money.
This book of the Bible starts out by scolding everyone in the Roman church:
Because people were judging, and holding onto stereotypes about each other.
And then Paul just throws it out there saying basically:
“I hope you support my mission:
Because my mission is your mission.
We’re in this together and we’re going to have some hard conversations too.”
It’s not exactly the sort of best practices you’d get from professional fundraisers.
There’s not personal stories, or flattering of the audience.
Of any sense of: “If we don’t get our money, our mission will fail.”
Paul trusted that he didn’t have to flatter his audience.
He didn’t have to speak manipulatively,
And he didn’t have to butter anyone up because he trusted in the call from God:
And he knew that his faith was going to be rewarded.
And part of what this tells us:
Is that Christians really shouldn’t do money the same way that the rest of the
It actually shouldn’t be any surprise that Paul would approach fundraising
dramatically different from how we would often approach it in our world today.
And that’s not just because we’re separated from Paul by 2000 years.
In fact, if anything,
The people of the ancient Roman world knew the value of trying to get in
someone’s good graces.
If you wanted to move up in that world:
If you were looking to make it:
You found yourself a patron who would support you and that meant going out
and selling yourself:
Making the case that the patron would get something out of the exchange.
Paul knew what that kind of hustle was like and that just wasn’t what he was up
to in his letter to the Romans.
Paul was fully absorbed by the kind of weird,
Countercultural relationship to the world that Jesus talks about in the end of
today’s Gospel lesson.
The world is not going to “get” us,
Not only is it not going to get us and find our practices weird:
It’s going to be a bit hostile.
We hold on to the fact that our highest purpose comes form outside of the world
as we know it.
It’s rooted in Jesus:
In the resurrection:
In the end of death and evil and violence.
And we aren’t ultimately beholden to the structures of this world:
The structures that say we have to decide between helping ourselves and helping
Or the structures that say that we should love our friends and punish our
Or that we need to get ours before someone else does.
And so this whole thing about us giving our money to the church is going to seem
suspicious to the world outside the church.
And think about it:
We’re asking for a strange thing.
Ito potentially give a large amount of money:
To an institution that:
From a material standpoint gives us back very little.
Not only that:
But we’re being asked to give a good amount of money:
To an institution that the more you are invested in it:
The more it asks of you!
Can you imagine if the YMCA, or Netflix started asking you for 10% of your income
for a more imitated range of services?
Would you keep you subscription or stay involved?
I don’t know about you: but I’ve been on the verge of dropping Netflix for months
when they upped their prices.
I can’t imagine I’d stick with them if it started costing thousands of dollars a year.
And that’s how we might look to the outside world.
The world can only ever look at things like “a return on investment.”
Like bringing tremendous euphoria, or a sense of social superiority or wealth, or
And the church just isn’t going to bring us those things.
Actually, if we follow the example of most of the saints:
It’ll probably take us in the opposite direction.
Because here’s the thing:
When we give to the church:
We’re not really giving to make sure that a certain set of services or rewards or
goods are given.
We’re giving as a sign of faith and hope and love:
Not in the church per se,
(Although the church IS God’s imperfect sign and place of God’s mission in the
We give because we have faith and hope that this is not all that there is.
That God is the ultimate source of our life and light.
We give, and give enough to kind of feel lit:
To be reminded that we are not the source of our own blessings:
And that we ultimately depend not on ourselves:
But on the grace of our God.
And we give in faith that we do not have to be too dependent on the things of this
That we do not have to define our success on our wealth:
That it does not have control over us.
We give in love:
Love for God, and love for the people around us who we want to see reconciled to
God like we have been.
There can also be a lot of talk about giving joy fully.
And the bible does say that God loves a joyful giver.
But let me level with you here:
Giving isn’t always this euphoric experience where you have this great mountain
top experience every time you write a check.
I had long struggled with giving.
And it was really only last year that my husband and I decided that we’d give 10%
of our income.
We finally realized, that all the “we’re waiting for the right time.” (like… when we
don’t have credit card debt, or our kids are bigger, or whatever.)
All of this thinking would mean that we would never actually bring a change.
We’d never be right enough for it because we could always find other things to do
with our money.
So we took the plunge.
And honestly, sometimes it’s been a bit of a stretch.
(I’m actually slightly behind on my pledge right now.)
But at the same time:
We make it work.
We’ve never overdrafted:
And we’ve never run out of money.
The Spirit has rewarded our meager attempt at faithfulness:
Not with an over abundance of extra cash,
But with the grace to make different priorities:
To be more intentional about our spending,
To teach that to our kids:
And to have a stronger connection to the church and it’s mission in the world.
All of that’s to say that there is a joy that comes with giving:
But sometimes it’s a joy that comes from the faithfulness and the hope:
But there’s always a deeper abiding sense:
That the peace that passes understanding:
That we’re doing the right thing.
We give out of a sense of gratitude:
To the God who is bringing us into something insanely better than what can be
brought or built in this world around us.
We are already brought into the coming kingdom,
Where there is not pain or illness or suffering or enmity or hunger or sorry.
And while we certainly can’t buy our way into this world:
We believe that we an begin inhabiting it through the same kind of faith and hope
and love that our giving helps us to cultivate and reinforce.
The reason someone like Paul could write with such honesty:
And seeming unconcern about meeting his financial goals,
Even as eh asked for money:
Was that his hope was rooted in something much deeper than hope for the
generosity of strangers:
And his faith was fully founded in the God who could bring new life out of death.
And the opportunity we have before us today is to give out of that very same
faith, hope, and love. Amen.
Enjoy the weekly sermons at anytime.