Called to preach: Sermons for a time such as this


In January, Kelly Gallagher addressed clergy in this blog (excerpt below):

We at the Justice and Witness Council realize the difficult task placed upon our clergy to preach week in and week out in a time when we are, more than ever, called to be “the guide and critic of the state.” And we recognize the challenge to hear what the Holy Spirit may be saying through our clergy when emotions are high, fear is real and the culture is at odds with one another.

And yet it is imperative that we find words to engage the Gospel and the Spirit in this time – that we open our hearts to what is being said. We must listen to one another – and be in prayer together.

We invite clergy in this time to submit sermons that they feel speak to this moment through the lens of the Gospel. Have you had the experience that your call to preach carries with it new and prophetic weight? How have you expressed this from your pulpit – how have you stepped outside your comfort zone in ways consistent with the Gospel? How has the Spirit challenged you in this time?...We will create a library of curated sermons so that together we can hear what others have said and perhaps be moved to speak. We invite pastors to submit sermons preached since the election that reflect this new time in our history – the call to be both prophetic and uncomfortable. Read Kelly's complete blog here. 

We will offer some of these sermons here by category, intended as resources for others who continue to seek words to offer to their congregations. We invite you to submit your sermons to methotk@macucc.org. Please include church name, date preached, relevant scripture and attribution, and let us know if there is a video or audio link. Thank you.

Read "Zechariah's Song" by Kelly Gallagher, related to the Poor People's Campaign.

"A Great and Common Tenderness"

Rev. Robin Bartlett, First Church in Sterling
November 13, 2016

Listen here.  

Our friend Cathy Nicastro reminded me this week that in the end, love will win. If love hasn’t won yet, that means its not the end. That’s how I’m summing up the heart of the Gospel for us today. And only the Gospel matters today.
Like our poet, I believe we are still capable of attention and paying attention, that anyone who notices the world must want to save it.
Notice the world:
-The sun came up this morning, beautiful reds and oranges filling the sky on a crisp November day.
-We got to lay eyes on our shared children. Our children’s cries and laughter are what God’s voice sound like.
-We welcomed 14 people into membership at First Church in Sterling just now, 14 new ways to see the face of God.
- And we are a community united in Love to serve the Lord. Not everyone has a community united in Love to go to this morning, and boy, do we ever need one right now.  Read more.


Resistance, Endurance

"No Stone Unturned"

Rev. Vicki Guest, First Congregational Church in Natick

Scripture: Isaiah 65:17-25

November 20, 2016

A rock sits on our communion table this morning because a rock marks the spot where the story of this great nation of ours began.  The rock in Plymouth, of course, is larger than our rock, but it is nowhere near as large as the pictures in our history books suggest.  Plymouth Rock is a victim of hype. I grew up imagining that it to be like the Rock of Gibraltar, big enough for all our pilgrim forbearers to cluster on it together with their heads bowed in prayer.  I was disappointed to discover that it is just a big boulder, located in a rather random spot along the bay.

Still big rocks fascinate me, especially ones that seem misplaced. I have a memory that goes back as deep as anything I can remember of childhood. Across the street from my house was a very large boulder.  It was like nothing else in my small world and it made me wonder how it came to be marooned in that place.  Read more.

"So That Nothing May be Lost"

Rev. Robin Bartlett, First Church Sterling
November 20, 2016

Listen here.
There is something profoundly religious, and something profoundly annoying about being stuck together. It’s why I love the church. Frankly, we don’t always like each other, and we are forced to love one another anyway. Being stuck with people I have no choice but to figure out how to love is truly the only way I know how to experience God.
I think that’s what grace looks like.  
Anyone who does the hard work of being the church with other imperfect people day in and day out, every month, year in and year out, knows that to be true.
It’s Thanksgiving. Some of us are psyched to be with far-flung beloveds converging on the same house to stuff ourselves silly and drink too much wine and watch football until we pass out from a turkey coma. And some of us are about to sit at tables with family members we didn’t (or wouldn’t) necessarily choose to dine with if it were any other Thursday afternoon.  Read more.

"Watch, Wait, Hope"

Rev. Susan Brecht, Eliot Church of Newton
Scripture: Isaiah 64: 1-9, Mark 13: 24-37 
November 27, 2016 

The first week of Advent tells us: watch, wait, hope. Now that November 8th has passed, those here in the U.S., no matter their political allegiance, are on high alert: watching, waiting and hoping - for light to shine in the darkness. Mary Luti, a professor at Andover Newton, wrote in a recent Still Speaking Devotional, “We were solving the world's problems, aided by beer, and making good progress until we came to Syria, flood-ravaged Louisiana, an attack on a trans woman two towns over, and a neighbor whose drugaddicted husband is missing in Chicago. Somebody sighed, ‘I don't know how people who don't believe in God get through these things.’ Which was a little embarrassing because I'd been thinking more or less the opposite: ‘I don't know how people who go through these things still believe in God.’"  Read more.

"Subversive Justice"

Rev. Vicki Kemper, First Congregational Church in Amherst
Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10, Matthew 3:1-12
December 4, 2016

Read and listen here.

People in New Orleans people keep time according to a hurricane, the one named Katrina. Spend a few days there talking to the locals, and you, too, will fall into the Big Easy rhythm, a particular way of tracking time and categorizing events and experiences, houses and neighborhoods, well-being or not. There’s “before the storm” and “after the storm.”

This before-and-after method of time-telling is not unique to New Orleans, of course. Nor is it a modern invention.

For Noah’s descendants, there was time before the flood and time after. For the ancient Hebrews history meant before the exodus, hope was defined as after the wilderness, the Jordan and Jericho, and into the Promised Land. Then there was the time before kings and after, the time before exile and after, the time before the temple—and after.  Read more.

"The War on Christmas"

Rev. Robin Bartlett, First Church in Sterling
December 11, 2016 (the third Sunday of Advent)

Listen here.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas present,” the spirit said. “Look upon me!”
Today on our advent journey with Ebenezer Scrooge, we meet up with the Ghost of Christmas present. He seeks to help Scrooge peel back the curtain on the world as it is. To LOOK UPON IT. To wake up to the suffering all around him.
The Ghost takes Scrooge to see little Tiny Tim, who is a young crippled boy, and the son of Scrooge’s employee, Bob Cratchit. The ghost promises Scrooge that Tiny Tim will not live much longer if his present predicament does not change. If he is not given the health care he needs, or the fair wage his father deserves. The food and medicine he needs to survive. Right now.
And Scrooge cries out in anguish, his heart changed by a small child’s squandered promise. ‘Oh no, kind Spirit, say he will be spared!’
We, too, need to peel back the curtain on the present and real suffering of the world and allow it to thaw our hearts for the sake of the children.  Read more.


Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 

"God is Able"
Rev. Vicki Kemper, First Congregational Church in Amherst
Scripture: A Reader's Theater of Passages from Scripture and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King 
January 15, 2017
Read and listen here.
On a map, Mother Emanuel AME Church is just one mile from Charleston, South Carolina’s Old Slave Mart Museum, the site of a complex where countless human beings were fattened and oiled, ogled and appraised, auctioned off and paid for like so many cattle. Dylann Roof reduced that short distance to nothing, bringing into the open-spaced bottom floor of that historic church building, into the shared devotion of a Bible study, the full measure of racist hatred and the death-dealing violence of white supremacy.

On a calendar, the time between Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, and Inauguration Friday at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., is 52 years. But the soon-to-be president’s denigrating tweets about the leader of the first march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge make it seem in some ways that no time has passed at all, that the African American struggle for voting rights, equality, and justice still continues, same as it ever was.  Read more.

"Holy Idealism"
Rev. John Hudson, Pilgrim Church UCC in Sherborn 
Scripture: Matthew 5:2-12
Jan. 15, 2017

True story. Personal story too, if you’ll please indulge me. Many of you know I was born on Election Day, 1960, hence my name, John Fitzgerald, named after President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It’s interesting and telling and powerful how a name, our name, can shape us into who we are, who we become, what matters most to us in this life and in a life’s work and call. Almost twenty years after my birth, I began my first year at college as a political science major, and on the very first night of my studies at school, for the very first reading assignment I drew for my Poli Sci 101 class, I sat down at a table in the dormitory lounge and opened up my textbook and there was a speech by Kennedy on the call to public service; public service, service in this life to a cause, to ideals, to hopes, to dreams, even bigger and beyond any efforts I might commit to my own one life alone.  Read more.

"A Dream and a Prayer"

Rev. Valeria Schmidt, Trinity Church of Northborough, MA
Scripture: Psalm 72:1-7, 12-19
January 15, 2017 
 
Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day. As a nation, we honor and celebrate his accomplishments and his legacy.
And Friday will be the inauguration of the next President of the United States.
This country, and the entire world, is going to change after Friday. There’s no denying that. Some of you may be looking forward to those changes and believe that they are what’s best for America.
Others I know are scared, worried, apprehensive.
It is on all of our minds and the world is watching. At Trinity Church, we don’t live in a bubble. We live in this country, and in this world. And we care about the people who live here with us. So I cannot NOT address this issue, controversial as it may be.  Read more.

The Beatitudes

"Bless Your Heart"
Rev. Cindy Worthington-Berry, UCC Congregational of Boxborough 
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12; using "alternative opening to Matthew 5" by Maren Tirabassi
January 29, 2017
 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted…This week’s scripture reading, often called the Beatitudes, is pretty familiar, a favorite for memorizing in some Sunday schools (Did any of you learn these as a kid?). It’s one of the lectionary readings for today (What’s the lectionary? The three-year schedule of assigned readings for worship.)  I dread it when these familiar passages come up; they feel so overdone.  I feel like my choice is to travel a well-worn path or try to do something “different”, which just can be kind of pitiful. 

And that is a really sad response to a passage like this. Because this sermon from Jesus was revolutionary.  It would have blown away the people who heard it.  The village would have buzzed about it for days.  It probably got him in trouble, maybe lost him a few followers.  Maybe gained him a few, too. Read more.

"Calling All Fools"
Rev. Marisa Brown Ludwig, First Church of Christ in Longmeadow, UCC
Scripture: The Beatitudes and 1 Cor 1:18-25
January 29, 2017

This last two weeks since the inauguration, things have been moving in Washington at a very fast pace.  I can’t really keep up.  Now, some of you may be feeling like some crucial new initiatives are being undertaken – and feeling very hopeful.  Others of you may be feeling like your head is spinning and you don’t know which march or rally or phone call you need to attend to first.  There are emotions running high and strong all around our country right now – communications flying so fast and it’s very hard, VERY HARD, to determine what’s real and what’s made up, what’s fact and what’s fiction. 

Now, I want to be clear what my job as one of your pastors is and isn’t in a time like this.  It is NOT my place to tell you who to vote for, or to what party to belong to.  I am never going to name call or bully or tell you what to believe about the running of our towns, our states, our country.  If I do, I invite you to call me on it – and I mean that. But it is my call, as your pastor, to continually lift up the moral arc of the bible, especially the teachings of Jesus Christ whom we follow, and to apply them to our current time.  Read more.


Eye for an Eye: Non-Violence

"Snowflake Strong"

Rev. Ray Medeiros, First Congregational Church of Westminster, UCC
Scripture: Matthew 5:38-48; Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
February 19, 2017

There’s been a lot of talk about snowflakes lately. And not the kind we’ve been shoveling, snow-blowing and plowing. Recently, “Snowflake” has become a label of disdain, used to describe people who the world judges to be “politically correct” or “bleeding hearts” -- ignoring the fact that the Bible is filled with passages like the one from Leviticus that was just read-- which support their progressive views about society and politics. Snowflake carries a whiny, weak connotation. There is nothing strong about a Snowflake. Unless you have read the Sermon on the Mount.

In the section of the Sermon on the Mount that in this morning’s Gospel lesson Jesus redefines what strength looks like. And what he preached sounds like a Snowflake manifesto. He says to his disciples, you have heard it said, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This is, by the way, what is known as lex talionis, the law of retaliation. Someone blinds you in one eye; their punishment is to be blinded in one eye. Someone kills a member of your family, that person’s life must be forfeit. This law was recorded in the book of Exodus, but it was already the oldest law in the world.  Read more.

"Incline Your Hearts"

Rev. Marguerite Sheehan, Trinity Church, Shelburne Falls
Scripture: Matthew 5: 38-48, Psalm 119 33-40
February 19, 2017

Every week our music director and I use a Methodist music and worship planner for suggestions for hymn choices that complement the lectionary readings. This week the hymn For the Healing of the Nations leapt out as if God was saying “Marguerite, Cheryl, this is one that the congregation needs to hear!” The last time we sang that hymn was last fall during a worship service on the plight of international refugees who have moved to Springfield. And now, as our nation is torn up with questions about immigration we got offered this hymn again. “Lead us forward into freedom, from despair, your world release, that, redeemed from war and hatred, all may come and go in peace. Show us how through care and goodness fear will die and hope increase (hope increase) fear will die and hope increase.”

I am grateful for this hymn and grateful to be with you again this Sunday because I need to be shown again how care and goodness, on the personal and national level, can put fear to death and can increase hope. If there ever was a time to pray for the healing of the nations it is now. But maybe every time is such a time.  Read more.

 

We invite you to submit your sermons to methotk@macucc.org. Please include church name, date preached, relevant scripture and attribution, and let us know if there is a video or audio link. A selection of sermons will be printed in this section. Thank you.