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Latest news

UNICEF Carnival October 29

Sunday October 29 at 11:30am in the Fellowship Hall –
All ages are welcome and invited to join us for our annual UNICEF/Halloween Carnival. Bring a friend, and come in costume if you choose (non-violent costumes please). Have some food (caramel apples — yum) and play a variety of carnival games — bowling, bean bag toss, go fishing, and much more!
Proceeds will go to United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund. Volunteers are needed to assist with preparing and serving food items in the kitchen, and donations of baked goods, organic hot dogs, cider, etc are needed.

Latest Sermon

Naming – by Nathan Holst

August 27, 2017

In times of hate and fear, we often look to stories to help us through.  For many of us, scripture is one place of sacred stories and meaning, and still for others we might find something of the holy in the stories of our time.  I have a friend who was recently describing how Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” series was foundational in how she thinks about God, and continues to shape her view of life.  It’s a series of books that can speak to some of the challenges of our time.  And then just yesterday I saw this quote from that series posted on a blog and it struck me how well it weaved into our scripture for the day to speak to us, especially in light of the recent rise of hate groups.  It says, “I think your mythology would call them fallen angels.  War and hate are their business, and one of their chief weapons is un-Naming—making people not know who they are.  If someone knows who they are, really knows, then they don’t need to hate.  That’s why we still need Namers…when everyone is really and truly Named, then the Enemy will be vanquished.”

When everyone is really and truly named…this is the phrase that’s been turning over and over again in my head, and when paired with our scripture, what seems to emerge is a rich conversation about how we might face some of the challenges of today.

When I look at the text in Matthew, I see a very human Jesus who is still working out what it means to be fully himself, to name who he is and what he’s called to.  He’s coming immediately off the experience of yet again being tested by the Pharisees, and maybe he needs a moment to stop and reflect.  Not long before, he seems to be at the height of his teaching.  He’s gathered crowds of thousands of people and managed to create a great meal, a feeding of the 5,000, showing people a way of generosity by inviting everyone to share what they have, reminding them of the manna story where all had enough.  But as some of you may remember from last week, he has also recently been challenged by the Canaanite woman, who flipped the script and taught Jesus that his call and mission was bigger than he originally thought, and it’s possible he is still taking that in, trying to understand what that means for his life and ministry.   He knows he is not the Messiah that many Jews want, a military leader who will rise up against the Romans, but he is still working on what a new kind of Messiah means, one of love and compassion and transformation.

And now here he is with his disciples, in this animated conversation with Peter.  Jesus begins by asking a question.   “So what are people saying about me?” to which the disciples reply, “well, maybe a great teacher, or a prophet.”  But then Jesus brings it to a more personal place, perhaps caught in a moment of uncertainty himself, needing to hear what his beloved community can reflect back to him, but still seeking the transformative power of relationship as he always does, and asks, “But what about you?  What do you see in me? Who do you say that I am?”  And Peter, in a moment of intuitive knowing and deep presence, mirrors to Jesus what he has seen his teacher do so many times before.  He speaks the fullness and potential of what he sees in Jesus.  He has become a Namer, and he knows who Jesus is. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus immediately sees what’s happening, and full of renewed hope, mirrors back the naming for Peter, drawing out his fullness of self.  “Blessed are you…you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.”  It’s a beautiful exchange, one that illuminates what’s possible when we become Namers to each other.  We start seeing things we didn’t think were possible before.  We start to imagine what truly living could look like.

It’s worth pausing for a moment and noting that Jesus is not saying, “Peter, you’re the rock that will never make a mistake and you will always live up to your best self in every moment.”  If that were the case, he wouldn’t be very human and we might simply stop trying to relate this story to our lives.  But in fact, as we can read in the text that follows, Peter is about to mess up shortly after and Jesus will rebuke him for it, not to mention he will ultimately deny Jesus. Messing up is just a part of being human.  But the thing that’s inspiring to me is what comes in the midst of the messiness.  Jesus is naming what he sees in Peter, his potential, drawing him to live out who he truly is, saying I believe in you and I know you can do this.  And he’s doing it because he knows that it is an important part of being in a loving, human community.  Without that naming, we forget who we are and what we can be.  Theologian Richard Rohr articulates it this way.  “Without a constant infusion of the Holy Spirit, without a constant desire and trust, Lord give me your Holy Spirit, we all close down.  We do.  That’s the nature of life, to circle the wagons around a smaller and smaller self.  To take fewer and fewer risks.  To never go outside your own comfort zone of a few people who are just like you.”

Jesus is asking Peter to go beyond his smaller self and reach for everything he is.  And he does it again a few chapters later with the whole community.  And he is doing it for us now, among us, through us.

When have you experienced this naming, where someone saw you for who you truly are, or even who you could become?  Was it in a moment of crises or self doubt, and someone close to you reminded you of who you are, helped name what you couldn’t see at the time?

My partner Sarah recently told me a story about her time on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana when she was in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.  She was a third grade teacher, and each day, after the kids finished their homework, she would offer the special prize of drawing for them whatever they wanted.  One girl, Remembrance, always asked for horses.  Now, there’s a sad reason that she always asked for horses, and it’s connected to her name.  Her dad was a bull rider at rodeos, and just before she was born, he was killed while riding.  So her mother named her Remembrance in memory of him, which, as Sarah says, is a lot of pressure to put on a girl.  And remembrance always seemed to carry with her a certain amount of sadness.  And each day, she would ask for horses.  But before Sarah could finish drawing a horse for her, she would promptly draw her own horse that was, in Sarah’s words, “much better than mine.”  And Sarah would say, “ you are so good at drawing horses, Remembrance.”  And she would ask back, “am I an artist?”  And Sarah would reply, “yes, you are an artist.  You are a very good artist.”  And each day, the same thing.  She would ask again, “am I an artist?” and Sarah would reply, “yes, you are an artist.”  And over time, after Sarah named it again and again, Remembrance finally started to believe that she was an artist.  She finally felt like she could claim her gift, to truly know who she was.  She had been named, and she understood.

Naming can happen across whole communities as well.  I want to take a minute to go back and read our starting quote.  “I think your mythology would call them fallen angels.  War and hate are their business, and one of their chief weapons is un-Naming—making people not know who they are.  If someone knows who they are, really knows, then they don’t need to hate.  That’s why we still need Namers…when everyone is really and truly Named, then the Enemy will be vanquished.”  I’ve been thinking a lot about our fallen angels these days, especially pondering Charlottesville in light of this teaching of naming our best selves.  Didn’t Jesus continuously draw out the best in even his enemies?  Didn’t he invite to dinner tax collectors, those who would have been an oppressive force to most Jews?  Didn’t he teach us to love our enemies?  What does that mean for us when there is a rise of white supremacist groups in our communities across the country?  Is it possible that God is calling us to name the best in those people, too, just as our brothers and sisters in the Black Freedom movement did?

I’ll be honest and say my experience of this kind of naming has been rare lately.  Mostly I hear people shame or cast out white supremacists, weather they are public leaders or showing up at rallies.  Let me be clear.  We need to dismantle white supremacy and stop violence where it occurs.  But there are also people underneath those ideologies, children of God who also need love, who I believe need us to stop shaming them and start calling them back to community.  And I know the anger and shock and sadness we feel about them is real.  There are some deep questions to wrestle with right now.  Ruby Sales, an amazing Civil Right leader, offered this reflection in an interview with Krista Tippet.

“What is it that public theology can say to the white person in Massachusetts who’s heroin addicted because they feel their lives have no meaning because of the trickle down impact of whiteness in the world today?  What do you say to someone that’s been told that their essence is whiteness and power and domination, and when that no longer exists, they feel as if they’re dying or they get caught up in the throws of death? I don’t hear any theologies speaking—that’s why Donald Trump is essential, because although we don’t all agree with him, people think that he’s speaking to their pain that they’re feeling…where is a theology that redefines for them what it means to be fully human?  I don’t hear any of that coming out of any place today.  There’s a spiritual crisis of white Americans.  It’s a crisis of meaning.  We talk a lot about Black theologies, but I want a liberating white theology…I want a theology that begins to deepen people’s understanding about their capacity to live fully human lives and to touch the goodness inside of them, rather than call upon the part of themselves that’s not relational…It’s almost like white people don’t believe that other white people are worthy of being redeemed…I want a theology that gives hope and meaning to people who are struggling to have meaning in a world where they no longer are as essential to whiteness as they once were.”

There’s a lot in there to chew on, but to me, the question that seems the most persistent in this moment is, “Do we believe that white people, especially those who feel the pain that Ruby named, are worthy of being redeemed?”  What would it mean for us to name the best in their humanity?  If we could take that first step of believing in their capacity to live fully human lives, what might come next?  I don’t know if Jesus knew what would come next when he posed his question to Peter, or even what would come next after they both had named the best in each other.  There are no easy answers here.  Just the power of naming, and a community to live it out.  Amen.


Sermon for Sunday 4/23/2017

by Gary J. Boelhower

Based on the Gospel according to John 20: 19-31

I think Thomas gets a bum rap. Almost always the adjective we use to describe this apostle Thomas is “doubting.” Doubting Thomas. But why not believing Thomas? We don’t call Peter, denying Peter. We don’t call Mary blind Mary even though according to the passage we read on Easter Sunday, she did not even recognize the Christ. She thought he was the gardener until Jesus called her by name. We don’t call John “fraidy cat” John, even though he wouldn’t go into the tomb until Peter showed up. We don’t call James greedy James even though he asked Jesus if he could sit at his right hand when he entered into his glory.

We all have stories of failure and sinfulness, blindness and betrayal. What adjective do we put before our name when we speak it to ourselves? Admittedly, sometimes, we identify ourselves with the worst we have done. But, hopefully, even in those darkest days a glimpse of our true identity still shines through our own blindness, because we are resurrection people. We are transformation people. Jesus calls us by name out of our darkness, out of the locked upper rooms where we are hiding away because of fear or the assumption that we are not enough, out of our blindness, out of our betrayal. Last Sunday we heard how Mary went from not seeing to seeing because Jesus called her by name. This Sunday we hear how Thomas goes from not believing to believing, because Jesus calls him by name, calls him to come and see, calls him to touch the wounds.

This story of transformation, of resurrection, doesn’t happen just once. It is the perennial story of our tradition and of our own lives—from hiding in the locked room to being a voice for God’s love in the streets, from not seeing and not believing to touching into the mystery that fills us with faith and hope, from denial that God has any power in our lives to the recognition that we are embraced and called by name.

Jesus calls us by name again today. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” It is so important to understand that Jesus calls us by name to be the uniqueness, the fullness, of our specific being in the world. I am reminded of that wonderful story of the great Rabbi Zusya who in his final years would often say, “In the coming world, the creator will not ask me, ‘Zusya, why were you not Moses?’ No. No. God will ask me, ‘Zusya, why were you not Zusya?’”

God calls us by name to bring our particular gifts, our unique genius into the world. We often hear God’s call in two ways—from within and from without. We hear God’s call from our own passions, interests, talents, gifts, joys and experiences. When we pay attention to what really makes our heart sing we hear God calling us by name. When we recognize our abilities, our skills, our unique way of thinking or speaking or writing or planning or being with people, we hear God calling us by name. And we are also called from without—from the world’s needs and wounds. The still small voice of the poor and the disenfranchised is God’s voice calling to us. God calls to us in the voices of hunger, the cries for justice, and the call of the refugee. God may call us by name through particular deep longings in our world, through the wounds and needs of our common human family.

I would like to share two poems with you today as a way of showing how I have heard and continue to hear God’s voice from within and from without. Some days I listen better than other days, but it is pretty clear to me that God is calling me by name to be authentically me, to show up in the world with my particular gifts and passions.

The first poem is about making bread, which, for me, is a way of connecting to the deepest sweetness of my childhood, the deepest sense of feeling at home. My mother baked bread every week. A whiff of fresh bread can time-travel me to that small kitchen, to her embrace and to unconditional love. Baking bread for me is sacred ritual, it is sacrament of family and belonging.


I am making bread with ancient grains
emmer rice spelt tef
the old grains of Africa and Asia
primal hunger of heart and hearth
songs of earth and ocean
flour water and the deep well of dreams
how the yeast burrows and builds
honeycombs the dough
breathes in the warm pockets
of stillness
creates the architecture of body
crust and tenderness
tang and sweet.

I am making bread with my daughter
stories tears silence
the old grains of flesh and hope
primal hunger of heart and hearth
songs of earth and ocean
child grown child of her own
moon rising in her blood
how the years teach and test us
open into small pockets
of time honeycomb sweet
where we breathe in stillness
create the architecture of home
crust and tenderness
word and silence.

I am making bread with ancient grains
with my daughter
seed word time
primal hunger of heart and hearth
shaping the dough round
knead fold rise
in the soft stillness together
sliding our dreams and stories
onto the hot hearth stone
create the architecture of bread
crust and tenderness
hunger and home.

Throughout my life bread has called me to family small and large, to create family, to celebrate unconditional love with my own kids and grandkids. Bread fuels my driving 7 hours to be there for an important event, even when I have to drive 7 hours back home early the next morning. It is because of bread that the kids and grandkids always get a package on St. Nicholas Day and Valentine’s Day and Easter. It is my experience with bread that leads me to try to create a family of shared bread in the world. Most of my teaching is about the common bread that we are given and the sacrament of sharing bread. Of course, I don’t teach baking, I teach religions of the world, and courses in ethics and spirituality, and living, dying and grieving, and vocation. For me, they are all courses on bread, on our common, shared humanity, on our dignity as precious persons.

So here is the second poem, also about bread, but about the longing for bread in the world. It actually comes from a dream. In my dream, I am running to gather the children into a banquet where there will be bread for all.


I am trying to gather them all
for the banquet
all the children
running barefoot
toward the dirt floor school
where each one should have a yellow pencil
and a thick piece of bread.
I am trying to comfort the sick children
with their curious eyes
every wound the world howling.
I want to tell their mothers
there will be enough cornmeal
so they don’t have to mix it with clay
to dull the hunger in the night.
I want to dig so deep
that the well will never give up
to fill each palm
with rice and beans
each belly with a word
each ragged pocket with a promise
they could count on.
I am running
in my sleep to gather
all the children
for the banquet
so little time before the awful howling
howling in the desert
no manna.

Once again, today, God calls us by name, out of our fear into discipleship; out of our doubt into believing again that we can be instruments of God’s love. God doesn’t call us to be someone else, God calls us to be authentically true to ourselves, to our own calling from within and from without. As Marianne Williamson so beautifully put it: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God.”

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