This week’s sermon goes deeper into one of Paul’s epistles, or letters to a congregation he founded. They are still such a new project and still figuring out who they are. They are impressionable to all kinds of public opinion, not the least of which is a group among them that says they are making faith way too easy. They need to show a sign of their commitment. They need to prove they are “real Christians”. Paul has some strong and challenging words for them about this, and lays out this idea of being justified by the faith of Christ. We are going to explore more what that means. Maybe we can all stop trying so hard and white-knuckling our way to what we consider perfection, and instead try to let go and allow God’s grace to work in our lives (and in our churches).
This Sunday is Mental Health Awareness Sunday, in honor of May as Mental Health Awareness Month. The sermon today focuses on a story in the book of Acts about the early Church’s first major conflict about what people needed to do to be considered a part of the community. What are the requirements to belong? What barriers are still in place today that make people feel apart from us? How can we work together, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to break down these barriers as part of our mission.
This week, we start reading passages from the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles—all of which are centered around the formation of the earliest Church in different communities. Starting something new is never easy! There are no clear rules and guidelines; people seldom agree on the best actions to take; conflicts can threaten the whole enterprise. And yet, here we are as the global Church thousands of years later. This new thing was not perfect, but it worked.
The story in Acts today shows how the good news about Jesus (God’s love embodied) reached someone who was both a foreigner and a sexual minority. It all started with them trying to understand the Bible. Is that something you struggle with today in 2021? We learn better together, so let’s think about this story together…
This Sunday is incredibly special, as it is the beginning of a new mission focus in our congregation. Our worship, prayers and music today (in honor of Earth Day coming up this Wednesday 4/22) will be focused on the care of God’s creation. The service will also include a special invitation for every person in our community to join us in pledging to be a green congregation; adapting our practices and lifestyles to prioritize environmental stewardship. This is an exciting and groundbreaking day for us, as we join so many other wonderful congregations and organizations doing this good work. We hope you are as excited as we are, and that you will join us in prayer and action!
Christ is Risen!
Did you miss Easter? Maybe you attended a service, but you just can’t connect to the Hope? Maybe it’s hard to recognize in your life today. And if so, you are in good company with Jesus’ disciples on the road to Emmaus after that confusing first Easter morning!! Let’s think together about how we can learn to recognize Jesus with us, even in the hardest of times, and how we can make Jesus more manifest in the lives of others in need.
NOTE: sermon pre-recorded before service and included as a video within worship