The Christmas story from Luke reminds us of the different kinds of messages we receive in our daily lives. An authoritarian edict brings hardship to Mary and Joseph's lives, but does not block God's movement. Cultural judgments carry shame and marginalization. Mary navigates the world she's in and finds ways to survive it. She also resists by focusing her mind on a message of spiritual liberation. The message of unknown shepherds inspires her heart: Glory to God and peace on earth! What messages do you receive on any given day? How do we find, meditate upon, treasure and ponder the words of spiritual liberation?
Mary declares victory for the people. She is ecstatic to proclaim the magnificence of God who "has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly, who has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty." But where is the evidence? As landlords raise rents beyond what people can afford, as a police officer rips a child from a woman sitting on the floor in a Brooklyn benefits office, as hundreds are laid off from jobs by General Motors, as immigrants who fled their homes and walked across Mexico to seek asylum wait in the rain for appointments that may take 4-6 months; where is our mighty God? The young peasant woman, Mary, was well-aware of the impact of grinding poverty in her life. So what is this victory that Mary proclaims? How did it change her life, and how can it change ours?
Acts 4 paints an inspiring picture of faith community sharing abundance so that "there was not a needy person among them." How do we move in that direction? We cannot be naive to the forces of oppression nor the costs of liberation. We will want to awaken to inner strength and deep faith, allowing ourselves to love and be loved. Which of these is hardest for you?
How do we receive the abundance of God, and what difference does it make in our lives? This is abundance that comes to us in the midst of our struggles to pay our bills, when we're physically and emotionally depleted, when we're not feeling hopeful or confident. This is not the individual wealth promised by the Prosperity Gospel. Rather, it is a communal experience of the material, emotional and spiritual resources that make our lives abundant. How do we receive the abundance of God and what difference does it make in our lives?
How did you feel about the recent election results? There are reasons to celebrate and some ongoing concerns. This Sunday, we will probe deeper issues around rulers. The Scripture story from II Samuel speaks of a transition moment in history moving from localized rule to investing vast power in a king. Samuel warns them about the dire consequences of investing so much power in the hands of a few individuals. What are ways we can build shared power and responsibility and keep our allegiance focused on God?
For many of us, finances often feel more scarce than abundant. Monthly bills are overwhelming enough, when will we ever get to that debt? And yet, we are created by a generous God to live abundantly. So where's the disconnect? Society does not operate according to God's Divine Economy of Abundance. While the rich get richer, the middle and working classes are awash in debt and the poor struggle just to survive. How can we live God's abundance in a society of greed-driven scarcity? This Sunday we launch a new series on Generosity Based Abundance. We begin this sermon with JUBILEE: A Call to Restore the Earth and Human Community. Not only has God bestowed the earth with overflowing abundance, but the scriptures also teach principles for distributing the wealth and caring for the earth. Even in the midst of scarcity, we are invited and called to be people of abundance. Where are you encountering the abundance of God?
Faith community is an opportunity for us to be transformed by becoming accountable to the good news of the realm of God. Mary’s gospel shows us how messy and difficult that can be. Andrew and Peter try to undermine Mary’s leadership because she is a woman. But Mary and then Levi confront them powerfully, calling the faith community back to the liberation of God’s realm. How are we being transformed? What is our next step?
Deception in our society is highly sophisticated and dangerous. In the gospel of Mary, Jesus says, "This is why you become sick and die, for you love what deceives you." If we are deceived, how will we become aware? This Sunday we will reflect together on ways we are manipulated into embracing that which is harmful to us and deepen our connection to the Good, which "belongs to every nature." In what ways are we being deceived?
Could it be that Jesus actually favored Mary Magdalene over Peter to lead the early church? Hidden from the church for hundreds of years, the Gospel of Mary teaches that “the good news is not in escaping one’s human identity but in embracing it” (Taussig, Hal, A New New Testament, p. 218). The New Orleans Council of biblical scholars studying the importance of newly discovered Christian scriptures gave the Gospel of Mary its highest number of votes for authenticity. They see it as “crucial for understanding Christianity’s beginnings and meanings for today” (Taussig, Hal, A New New Testament, p. 217). In addition to offering a new angle on the teachings of Jesus, Mary’s gospel also opens a window into conversations about women’s leadership in the early church.
Our scripture story for this sermon engages us in a faith conversation about overcoming fear. While fear is often overwhelming, our faith calls us into action that moves us beyond our fear. We can acknowledge that fear is real, that it is a useful emotion that seeks to protect us from harm. But fear can also paralyze us from taking the risks we need to take. In this sermon, we meditate on how to engage our fear — to talk to our fear to determine what is there to protect us and what is actually paralyzing us; to reach out to community so we aren’t alone and isolated in our fear; and finally, to grow in our trust in God who is a source of power and grace to overcome fear.
The world is constantly changing. In our anxiety, we often resist. Surely many changes can be cause for concern. But what are the possibilities in our changing world? Are we willing to enter the change conversation with an open mind? Revelation 21 offers this intriguing promise: See, the home of God is among mortals...(God) will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. And the one seated on the throne said, 'See, I am making all things new.' This is a faith statement that can transform the way we engage with the changes in our lives. We may feel more comfortable with what is familiar. Comfort is nice, but curiosity is holy. What are the possibilities that you're curious about?
One of the hallmarks of this society is the persistent message that we don’t measure up. The Ephesians passage for this sermon is a relentless ode to the greatness of the Divine Spirit dwelling within us— the power that engages our unique gifts for the healing and transformation of the world. In this sermon, we seek to realign ourselves with this divine algorithm. When are we most aware of the divine in us? How are we encouraging this connection and experiencing the glory beyond what we can even ask or imagine?
Traditional Christianity, including the Church, have often presented faith as doctrine that you must simply accept and believe. The Scriptures, however, tell stories from many points of view. For example, while the priests were often adamant about the protocol that must be followed for maintaining clarity and cohesion, the Biblical prophets have a long tradition of challenging the priests around what it truly means to be faithful. Faith is a conversation founded on the steadfast love of God for all of who we are. This love offers us the freedom to search diligently for what is true, life-giving and liberating. What concerns, hopes and questions do you bring to the conversation?
What do you seek in community? It's not easy to build community. Jesus teaches community as paradox: "Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it." —Mark 8:35. Building community is central to our mission. Authentic faith community transforms our lives individually and collectively. But it takes work, patience, persistence, and grace. What do you seek in community? What do you have to offer? Please join us Sunday as we build community together. All of our voices are needed and welcome at the table.
Understanding who you are is profoundly valuable, but also quite challenging. You may carry the voices of parents and peers telling you who they want you to be. Business corporations spend billions to shape your identity as consumer. Your employer may want you to understand your identity (and your time) solely in terms of your role in serving the organization you work for. All this, on top of the various ways society classifies and oppresses people based on race, gender, nationality, age, sexuality, ability; and the list goes on. Who are you as a unique creation of God, made with incomparable gifts and desires? How do we understand ourselves in relation to our purpose? How do grace and forgiveness free us to be who we are? Who am I? is the question for this week. Ancestry, culture and history set an important and complex context. Pastor Doug will share some observations from a recent trip to Ireland to learn more about his ancestry. In addition, the gospel story from Mark 8 makes clear that we also make choices within this context. Jesus identifies himself with the tradition of the prophets, who embrace some ancestral traditions and challenge others. Who are you and what do you stand for?
Could you use some care? Join us for a time of communal reflection on who and how we're being called to be in the midst of struggle. What could care look like? What does our relationship with God have to do with our care?
When Jesus returns to his hometown charged with the Holy Spirit and teaching with a new authority, his people are offended by who he has become. “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mark 6:3) What is keeping you bound to who you used to be? How can we get free enough to become who God is calling us to be?
In Mark 14, Jesus asks the disciples to stay awake with him in Gethsemane because he knows he is about to be killed and wants support. He has a very simple request: "stay here, and keep awake with me." Try as they may, the disciples can't deliver on Jesus' request. Three times he asks them to stay awake, and three times he finds them asleep. These friends of Jesus, who'd been with him through everything, could not show up when he needed them most. They knew what he was asking them to do, but it was too hard or too painful to stay awake. In what ways are we sleeping? In what ways are we awake but refusing to get out of bed? In what ways are people not staying awake for us? What will it take to truly wake up?
"Where is God?" has been our question for July. In this sermon, we explore the special ways God shows up in our gifts, passions, and calling. In I Corinthians 12, Paul teaches that God creates and activates unique gifts in each of us. Our gifts and passions are a central part of who we are. Some gifts are more appreciated and better compensated in our society than others. We may get caught up in comparing our gifts with someone else’s. And sometimes it’s hard to devote a lot of energy to using our gifts when have to do other things to pay our bills. But this sermon examines how the Spirit shows up in our calling. Together, we'll explore the power of finding God in our gifts. We'll open ourselves to being who we are and doing what we can to use our gifts for the common good.
The current immigration debate assumes that U.S. citizens have more rights than recent immigrants. The witness of the Christian faith, on the other hand, proclaims that all people have equal rights wherever they are. The Christian response to migration is hospitality and justice. Gloria Anzaldua describes the borderlands as "physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory." For Anzaldua, the border "es una herida abierta [an open wound] where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country—a border culture." For Anzaldua, "the borderlands is a place—connected to the international boundary—and a process—the interaction of races and cultures."* Immigration poses religious and theological questions for Christians about how to "welcome the stranger" and challenges congregations to rise up to meet the needs of immigrants and refugees in their midst. How is our faith calling us to respond to the current crisis faced by immigrants?
*Sarah Azaransky, Religion and Politics in America's Borderlands, pg. 9
Where is God when tragedy strikes? Where is God in the midst of evil? Where is God when a relationship comes to a painful end? Where is God in the midst of challenge? There aren't simple or easy answers to these questions. Our text for this week describes the story of John the Baptist, who cries out in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord!" John does not prepare the way of the Lord by setting up comfortable accommodations or making an official announcement in the town plaza. He doesn't prepare the way by gathering the most important people in town for an important conversation or lavish feast. No—John the Baptist prepares the way of the Lord by crying out in the wilderness. It is the wilderness that must be alerted to Jesus' coming, that must prepare the paths, be informed that while John has baptized us with water, Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Our hearts are crying out in the wilderness. Our borough is crying out in the wilderness. Communities across the world are crying out in the wilderness. Are we also preparing the way of the Lord? Are we preparing the way for liberation? What does this moment ask of us as people of faith? What does it mean that God is coming?
In this sermon, we welcome guest preacher Candace Simpson to New Day Church as we continue our Queer Liberation Series with “This is Us: Confronting Injustice." Candace will preach from the Gospel according to John, where we are encouraged not to write new commandments, but to honor the one we have had from the beginning: "let us love one another...this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it." What does this passage have to say to us in this particular moment? What do we have to say to it? Candace Simpson is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary and works with the Seminar Program of the United Methodist Women. She is also the site coordinator of the Concord Freedom School, a literacy-based social justice education program for children in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
In this sermon, we welcome guest preacher Tabatha Holley to New Day Church as we continue our Queer Liberation Series with “This is Us: Crossing Boundaries." In the story of the unnamed Samaritan woman in John 4, we get a vision of how crossing boundaries can lead to radical love and hospitality when we challenge ourselves to see beyond the limits of our prejudices and assumptions. Relegated to the margins of her society, this woman dares to question and advocate for the resources she has been denied. In doing so creates Christ consciousness that had not existed before in her community and offers insight into strategic ways to organize across racial, class, and political party lines.
For every kid bullied for being gender non-conforming we say: This is us! For all LGBT immigrants that hide in the shadows, we say: This is us! For those shunned by church we say: This is us! Queer love is a hated love because it is a force that demands all of us take off our masks and live life out loud. And in the face of challenges from family, political establishments and even church, Queer love becomes pride and a declaration: This is us!
Testimonies from our most recent Growing in Faith 201 class: "The question of 'Who Am I' is terrifying." "Becoming more rooted in my spirituality is stirring up my gifts." This is the paradox of faith we want to share: fear in facing these deep questions of who we are and trust in sharing vulnerably with one another. In this sermon, we hear how Jessica, Julie, Ben, Nilbia, Kelly and Teresa found strength in facing the challenges of faith together.
It is an authentic and powerful act to simply give witness to the healing and life-transformation that we have experienced. And that’s the essence of what Jesus is inviting us to do. What story do you want to share?
This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, the day that bursts through the boundaries of language, nationality, and race. When the Holy Spirit came like the rush of a mighty wind, people from every nation heard one another speaking their own language. We could use a day like this in the face of ongoing violence against Palestinians, people of color, and immigrants —against anyone the principalities and powers deem "other." In the words of theologian, Dr. Keri Day, In our social and political moment, we need Pentecost. Division, hatred, and pain mark our nation...And people feel a sense of helplessness...We need a miracle. The joy of Pentecost is that it gives us a vision and hope for a community made possible through the work of the Spirit. This miracle involves being open to the shocking and surprising ways of the Spirit, which empowers us to reach across differences in order to experience radical and insurgent communions. The Holy Spirit is a healing balm and a catalyst inspiring us to transform the world around us. Will you move forward in fear, or in faith?
The disciples observed the power in Jesus' prayer life, and asked him to teach them to pray. What he offered was a prayer that was centrally concerned with forgiveness. Its focus was both on receiving the forgiveness of God, as well as forgiving others who have harmed us. In this sermon, we explored what forgiveness is and what it is not. We looked at the power of letting go, and the continued importance of maintaining boundaries of dignity and respect.
In this sermon, we explore the meaning and power of the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray. This prayer, often referred to as the Lord's Prayer, is healing and transforming. It grounds and connects us with what God is doing in our midst. It reminds us of the holiness of God, and of our dependence on God's provision. And it reminds us to be in right relation with ourselves and others.