Waiting for what?
Mark 1:1-8

I am reasonably terrible at waiting.
blessed as I am with a short attention span,
I like to start things on time,
and end them early.
It is my solemn promise,
to get you in and out of these services,
in half an hour,
and I take it very seriously.

I judge restaurants
about 25% on the quality of their food,
and about 75% on their ability to get it to me in a timely fashion.

Sometimes, though,
we just have to wait.
Wait at doctors offices,
wait at mechanics.
wait for news.
wait for diagnoses.
wait for results.
waiting to hear back from applications.
wait for others to do their bit,
before we can move forward.

A number of guests from the Homeless Shelter came and joined us last evening,
for Carols & Lights.
And, as is often the case in Waterville,
they got stuck waiting for their cab.
If you’ve ever been stuck in central Maine,
waiting for a cab,
you know,
that it could last literally forever.

In short, waiting sucks. (more…)

Published in: on December 13, 2017 at 2:36 pm Comments (0)
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What about the End?

Colby College Chapel, 12/3/17

Mark 14: 24-37

Mark is a book in a hurry.
There’s no time for birth stories,
angels or shepherds or Magi
or family trees,
he just jumps in, “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ,
the Son of God.”
There’s no need to convince or explain,
this was written for people who already knew something about this guy,
and wanted to remember it and pass it on.

There’s not time for many parables (4)
There’s not even time for a sermon on the mount.  Buechner outlines this well.

It’s a fast moving story,
of miracles, and healings,
grinding toward Jesus’ death.
obsessed with it, really.
And rightly so,
because messiahs aren’t supposed to die.

Mark loves the word “immediately”
and uses it often…
as Jesus scatters manifold miracles,
and brief snippets of teaching into the wind,
as the story races on.

But then we get to the end,
and it lingers.
Not on the crucifixion so much,
and certainly not on resurrection,
Mark, you may remember ends with an empty tomb,
a request to not be afraid,
and some disciples who are afraid.
And that’s it.
No need to wrap things up neatly,
because frankly,
life wasn’t neat for these early disciples.

Instead, Mark lingers on the troubles of the end of the world,
and the return of the Son of Man,
Mark’s Gospel is a race from beginning to end,
with the exception of this one,
long, lingering, second person speech.
About the end of the world.
We read a bit of it today.
And we’re meant to pay attention. (more…)

Published in: on December 4, 2017 at 9:48 am Comments (0)
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What, then, shall we do?

Colby College Chapel 11/5/17
Luke 3:2-16
John 2: 13-17

We have pondered out loud thus far,
this semester,
questions of
sin and suffering.
redemption and justice,
accepting grace,
pursuing our call in the world.
Perhaps many more we have wondered internally,
as we pause together for prayer and reflection.
We’ve even approached a couple of concrete big answers.

But I find myself wondering,
fairly often,
the question of doing.
It’s all well and good to have our big questions,
lined up.
but what then, do we do?
Occasionally – frequently perhaps,
I am known to pray silently during my evening prayers,
a classic of the Christian prayer lexicon:
“Just tell me what to do”
Rarely, I’m afraid, have I yet received total clarity.

This is the same question people of all stripes,
asked John the Baptist,
in the 3rd Chapter of Luke,
before we even get to meet Jesus.
John proclaims,
that every valley shall be lifted up,
every mountain shall be made low,
Everyone will see the glory of God.
He warns them:
Repent for the Kingdom has come near.

The people are worried and excited,
as ask him
in the old King James language:
What then shall we do?

His answer, you may have noticed,
is surprisingly mundane, (more…)

Published in: on November 12, 2017 at 5:01 pm Comments Off on What, then, shall we do?
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What is wrong with the world?

What is wrong with the world?
Romans 3: 9-21

There was a time,
not so very long ago, I think,
when someone in my position
standing up to discuss today’s question,
‘what is wrong with the world?’
would have had to make a case
that there was, in fact,
something wrong with the world.

At various moments,
from the 20s to the 50s to the 90s,
the country has suffered from what we might call false optimism.
“Make America Great Again”
suggests it must have once been, right?
Speaking to Congress in 1990,
then president George HW Bush declared,
after the fall of the Soviet Union,
a “new world order.”
The old enemies of Fascism and Communism were dead (it seemed).
And many people felt existentially optimistic.

In January and February of 1999,
over 70 percent of Americans polled,
indicated general satisfaction with the direction of the United States.

Now, to be sure,
this optimism is reserved,
particularly for white people.
particularly for wealthy people.
and particularly for men.
The post war era could and should be known,
as the Jim Crow era of course.
And the 90s ought to be considered
the height of the War on Drugs,
which tore apart families,
and communities.

But still,
at various moments,
we have believed –
perhaps even in our individual lives –
that everything was pretty much okay.
And that the things that weren’t okay,
were going to get better. (more…)

Published in: on November 2, 2017 at 4:38 pm Comments Off on What is wrong with the world?
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How long, oh Lord?

How Long?
Psalm 22

Today’s question,
“How long oh Lord?”
Comes from the 13th Psalm.
And also from the prophet Habakkuk.
who’s wildly underrated in the biblical lexicon,
just FYI.
And though the words don’t appear as such,
the sentiment is captured exceptionally well, I think,
by Psalm 22.
which we just read.

I have never experienced a season like this,
with so much to mourn globally.
We had horrific mudslides in Sierra Leone,
and a devastating earthquake near Mexico City,
and they barely even moved the needle,
on our collective grief scale,
as Charlottesville gave way to Houston,
and Houston to Florida,
Florida to Puerto Rico,
and Puerto Rico, now,
to Las Vegas.

And with the colossal loss of life,
the only names I can remember now are Maria, and Harvey and Irma.
When we know,
that real names, stories and lives were cut short,
by violence and disaster.

It’s too much to take in.
It’s too much.
My mourning muscles are worn,
and my spirit is weary from too much suffering in the world. (more…)

Published in: on October 10, 2017 at 12:13 pm Comments Off on How long, oh Lord?
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What is truth?

October 1, 2017
“What is Truth?”

John 18:36b-38
1 John 3: 18-19

“What is truth?”
is certainly a big enough question for the day.
And the Gospel of John is deeply concerned with the word truth:
“the way the truth the life”
“the truth will set you free”
If you know a bible quote about truth,
it’s probably from John.
Including this little exchange between Pilate and Jesus,
in which Jesus says he has come to “testify to the truth”
and that “everyone who belongs to the truth listen to his voice.”
Pontius Pilate – the cruel Roman overlord – responds,
“what is truth?”
Jesus responds with silence.

From where I sit,
we use truth to mean at least 2 or 3 different things.
there is truth by definition.
2+2 = 4 because we define it as such.
Propositional truths, we might call them.
If I’m being honest,
these truths don’t interest me much.

Then there are truths we learn from observation,
and investigation.
Often, through the scientific method, or historical research.
Newton uncovered a truth about gravity,
and Einstein about relativity.
We call these truths ‘facts’ or ‘theories,’
(which is admittedly confusing),
and they do interest me.
Particularly as they inform the way we ought to live.

(as you may have noticed)
is disputed. (more…)

Published in: on October 8, 2017 at 3:23 pm Comments Off on What is truth?
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What is family? – Rev. Lauren Seganos Cohen

What is family?
Guest Reflection from the Rev. Lauren Seganos Cohen,
Director of the Wilson Center at UMaine Orono
Matthew 12:46-50

When you learned that the topic of tonight’s service was family, what went through your mind? For some, the word family reminds you of childhood, of crowded Thanksgiving dinners and birthday celebrations, of support, love. For others, family is a loaded word, rife with painful memories or strained relationships. Sometimes, we choose our family. Most of the time, it seems our family is chosen for us.

As Christians, we turn to the life and teachings of Jesus to give us direction and meaning in our lives. Other than the stories of his birth found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus’ family pops up only occasionally in the narratives of the New Testament. The passage today from Matthew is an interesting one, often seen as confusing or at least unusual. (more…)

Published in: on October 1, 2017 at 5:06 pm Comments Off on What is family? – Rev. Lauren Seganos Cohen
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And who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:25-37
And who is my neighbor?

You’ve heard this story before, I imagine.
Maybe someone is hearing it for the first time today.
That would be nice.
Because it’s a good story,
worn down a little with age and familiarity.
But still good.
Maybe you’ve even heard a sermon on this story before.

“Go and do likewise” right?
it’s an important sermon.
Be nice.
Help people.
We get it.

Maybe you’ve even heard many sermons on this story before.
Maybe you know how badly,
the Samaritans hated the Israelites,
and vice-versa.
Like Yankees Fans and Redsox Fans, but worse.
(Manchester United and Manchester City.
I don’t know.)
Bad blood,
bad history.
Close enough to really know one another,
and really hate one another. (more…)

Published in: on September 19, 2017 at 9:43 am Comments Off on And who is my neighbor?
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Where do we go from here?

Colby College Chapel, 9.10.17
Matthew 16:21-26

Please allow me a brief digression into contemporary affairs this evening.
I know, with the transition to Colby,
or back to Colby.
And with news of the second deadly hurricane this month reaching our shores,
as we speak.
there is much on our minds.
But I simply can’t let go,
of this nation’s wrestling over immigration.
It’s tempting for me this week,
to recite every passage in our scriptures,
pertaining to welcoming foreigners and aliens in our land.
Our scripture often has much to say,
about contemporary affairs (and vice versa).
But this is easier than most to decipher.

The last time we tried to ban refugees,
or the time before that –
some of you heard a whole sermon on this,
so I won’t harp on it too long.
Suffice it to say simply,
the scriptural story is closed,
when it comes to the subject of aliens, refugees and immigrants.

“You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien,
for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
this one is from Exodus,
but it is the most repeated command,
in the Hebrew Bible. (more…)

Published in: on September 12, 2017 at 10:22 am Comments Off on Where do we go from here?

What Are We Here For?

Colby College Chapel, 9/3/17
1 Peter 4:8-10

I’ve chosen “Big Questions”
as our theme this semester,
because I suspect you have some.
And I want to hear about them.

Though you should know from the outset:
I don’t have a bunch of easy, big answers for you,
it’s good to be suspicious of anyone who does.

Really, I hope it’s the asking of big questions,
that brings you to a place like Colby.
Wondering big wonderings is,
in essence,
your job while you are here.
And asking the big questions,
is no less essential in your life of faith.
For an unexamined faith
surely cannot stand.

It is, of course, possible to avoid big questions.
Usually by fixating on the small ones –
How can I be cool?
Which courses are the easiest?
How can I meet cute boys or cute girls or cute people?
Which majors will lead to the most money?
Where are the best parties?
What’s streaming on Netflix this month? (more…)

Published in: on September 3, 2017 at 10:05 pm Comments (1)
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