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A Pastoral Letter to Christ Congregational Church

Dear Friends,

As part of Jesus’ birth narrative, Matthew’s Gospel quotes the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more” (Matthew 2:18; Jeremiah 31:15). In our hearing of the Christmas story, we are confronted with Rachel’s refusal. Her lamentation is part of the chorus that proclaims Christ’s birth. Until the events of this past weekend, Rachel’s weeping may have seemed discordant with the joyous songs of angels singing “peace on earth, goodwill to all.” But now, as we face the massacre in Newtown, CT, we have some questions. Where was God? Why didn’t a loving God stop this from happening? Why does God allow evil to abound? Our flowing tears and authentic questions are now part of our welcome of the Christ child.

Matthew’s Gospel story refers to King Herod’s slaughter of Bethlehem’s children, an event that we have come to call the murder of the Holy Inn…

Two Meditations for Advent 3, December 16, 2012

The Illusions of Darkness
11 AM
Listen Here

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.
John 1:1-5

Ok, here is a brain twister for your physicists out there. What is the opposite of light? Were you going to say darkness? Don’t be too quick to answer this one. We now know that particles have anti-particles. Since light is made up of particles called photons, then the opposite of light is anti-photons or anti-light. But wait! It turns out that the anti-particle for the photon is the photon. Which means that the opposite of light is . . . light.

As it turns out, the universe is composed of light. What we call darkness is simply the absence of light. Even …

Sermon for December 9, 2012, Advent 2

Hope for Things to Come
Listen Here


“There will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near.  I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear. Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the w…

Sermon for December 2, 2012 / Advent 1

Advent is Like a Prison Cell
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:3-11 Sounds upbeat from a man in prison, doesn’t …

Sermon for November 18, 2012

Jesus and the New Classism
Thanksgiving Sunday

How many of us can remember a Thanksgiving when we haven’t participated in a food drive, or helped out at Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless, or invited a lonely neighbor over for dinner? How many of us can remember a Thanksgiving when provided money for food or assembled or distributed Thanksgiving baskets for those in need of attention and care? For most of us, Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving unless we remember our responsibility to those who exist at the edges of society. It says a lot about our character as Americans that during our holiday of giving thanks, we have an impulse to share with those whose needs are greater than our own; that we share with those who so often feel forgotten.

Thanksgiving is a time of great generosity. But is it also a time of justice? Let’s turn to the example of Jesus to look for some answers. This is from Mark 12:38ff.
Jesus taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade ar…

Sermon for November 4, 2012

Faith in the Public Square: A Theology of Hospitality
Isaiah 58:7

When I think about hospitality, about Grammy Braddock. That woman always had people in her house. It was inevitable – she had 16 children. Every Christmas Eve we would go to her tiny apartment at the senior living complex. Every room would be stuffed with Braddocks. Our family overflowed into the sidewalks and parking lots. She never had much money, but she always put some food out – mashed potato salad with green peas sticks in my memory for some reason. And she always had gifts for her 55 grandchildren – a pair of mittens or a box of chocolate covered cherries. When we arrived, she would go into her bed room and pick something from her stockpile of gifts, wrap it up, and hand it to me as if she had seen this box of mints in the store and thought only of you.

When I think about hospitality, about Grandma Hudson. She had more money than Grammy Braddock and lived in a bigger house. It was also stuffed with …

Sermon for October 28, 2012

Faith in the Public Square: The New American Economy
“Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.’” Matthew 25:40 Welcome to the new American Economy. The American middle class is in trouble. Our incomes stagnate or fall while the costs of life’s necessities continue to rise. Even for those with jobs, the promise of economic growth has failed to deliver. Income for the typical middle class household has actually fallen over the past 10 years. For the past decade, Gallup has asked Americans about their biggest financial concern. Those in the middle class have consistently said they are most worried about not earning enough money, the high cost of living, and risks such as maintaining a decent standard of living in retirement and losing their job. Sadly, Americans have also been telling pollsters, even before the start of the Great Recession, that they think their children will be worse off than they are.

If…

Sermon for October 21, 2012

Faith in the Public Square: The Meaning of Public Life
We have this task of reconciling people to God. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to God’s self, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And God gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making an appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians:18b-21 If you want to undermine American democracy, here’s my advice: Stifle dissent. Eliminate tension. How do you do that? Actually, it's already being done for us by fear mongers and haters, by  dividers and conquerors who make the political arena so abusive that many citizens want nothing to do with it.

We don’t have to jail or torture people to stifle dissent.  Here’s what we do. Start by making citizens so distrustful and dismissive of each other -- espe…

Sermon for September 30, 2012

Faith in the Public Square: Americans on the Margins


Whenever I confront the evil of which we humans are capable, I feel guilty, and saddened, angry and tired. How about you? I resonate with the words once written by Franz Kafka:
You can hold back from
suffering of the world,
you have permission to do so,
and it is in accordance
with your nature,
but perhaps this very holding back
is the one suffering
you could have avoided
These are the questions I want to think about today: Are we better off as a nation when we engage the suffering of nation or when we hold back?  Does holding back actually cause more personal suffering, or is this protective posture necessary for our health? Let’s dig in by looking at an episode on Mark’s gospel.

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”

“Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not …

Sermon for September 23, 2012

Faith in the Public Square: The Power of Heartbreak

God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
Even in laughter the heart is sad, and the end of joy is grief. Proverbs 14:13
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. How true. How true. I confess, I struggled with the misery of hopelessness this past Summer. In this pulpit last August, after yet another set of public shootings and horrible violence at home and abroad, I confessed my melancholy.  As I look at the world today, it just seems too much: Too much violence, too much fear; too much of demands and problems; too much of broken dreams and broken lives; too much of wars and slums and dying; too much of greed and squishy fatness and the sounds of people devouring each other and the earth; too much of stale routines and quarrels, unpaid bills and dead ends; too much of cruelty and selfishness and indifference.  Yes, I want so…