The Good News of Hope – Br. James Koester

Romans 8:18-25

I know that I have told this story before, but I’ll tell it again, partly for those who have not heard it, but mostly because tonight there is a significant point to it.

Years ago, as a young priest, and new to the practice of preaching on a regular basis, two members of my congregation approached me one Sunday after church. They were puzzled by something and wanted to ask me a question. Both Robin and Ann came from the Baptist tradition, and they had a concern about the lectionary. What would happen, they asked, if I felt it important to preach from a different passage of Scripture, than the one assigned by the lectionary. Would I be free, they wondered, to change the reading, or preach from a different text?

Nearly 40 years later, I can’t remember what I said in reply. I do remember the question. It has stuck with me all these years, and keeps cropping up every so often. Today, if one of you were to ask me the same question, I know exactly how I would answer.

The question, for me at least, is not what I would do if I felt it important to preach from a different passage, than the one assigned by the lectionary. The question for me is, what do I do when the lectionary points me in a direction I might not choose to go in, or would prefer to avoid? Because that’s the case tonight. If it were up to me, the gift and promise of hope is not something I’d gravitate to at this particular time. Yet tonight, of all nights we hear, in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.[1] Read More

Palm Sunday, a melodrama ignored… or not? – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

John 11:45-53

What’s in the news? What political calamity is happening? On the cusp of Palm Sunday, what garners the attention of the general public is not Jesus, but rather the reports from various sources about all the political machinations – who is in and who is not – and the endless conflicts between various camps. Meanwhile the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. Truth be told, Palm Sunday hardly gets noticed by most people, including the Roman and Jewish authorities.

I’m talking here about the original Palm Sunday, two thousand years ago. What garners the attention of the general public is not Jesus, but rather the reports from various sources about all the political machinations – who is in and who is not – and the endless conflicts between various camps. Meanwhile the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. Truth be told, Palm Sunday hardly gets noticed by most people, including the Roman and Jewish authorities. Read More

When God Destroys – Br. Lucas Hall

Br. Lucas Hall

Luke 19:41-44

Eight years ago this month is when my conversion started. Sort of. “Conversion” begins at each person’s beginning, and ends somewhere between here and eternity. But eight years ago, I was 19, and not terribly interested in someone dressed as I am right now sagely dismissing my crisis.

I had reached a breaking point. I was out in the middle of the night, wandering the college campus, anxious and confused. I’d had a basically hostile attitude toward religion for several years, but my own sense of being, of purpose, the great “why?” echoing along the canyon walls of human hearts…my old answers just weren’t working anymore. I could no longer justify my existence through my own happiness, because why should I care about my own happiness? Everything was empty, and death was not far from my thoughts.

Out of desperation, I prayed. To no one, or anyone, I prayed. I tearfully offered my uncertainty, my instability, my weakness, hoping for something to alleviate it. Some assurance from heaven, whoever’s version of it existed. And what I got was…nothing. No warmth, no light, no angelsong. Cold, dark, silent nothing. But this Nothing was greater, more powerful, than anything I’d experienced up until that point. I felt broken. I felt destroyed. I felt like a demolished city, burnt to the ground. And it was horrifying. And it was good. Because the abject admission of weakness and vulnerability I encountered in this experience was the great clearing of the brush, the great pouring out of old and perishing things. I was shattered, and I was made new.

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Finding Hope in Despair – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David VryhofIsaiah 11:1-10

In the minds of many, we in America are living in an era of increased hopelessness.  Many of us are experiencing a level of despair beyond anything we have ever felt before.  The reasons for this sense of despair are many:

The gap between the wealthy and powerful and the needy and poor seems to widen year by year, in our country and in the world at large.  Many of our citizens lack job security, health care, and a live-able wage.  They face an uncertain future, while others have the power to indulge themselves in luxury and waste.

Racial, cultural and gender inequality still plague our society, despite long and hard-fought battles for civil rights, equality and justice.

Climate change threatens the earth and puts countless people at risk, and yet ours is the only country in the world to exempt itself from the planet-preserving recommendations of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Our political system seems to be dominated more and more by people of extraordinary wealth and privilege.  Our leaders are hampered by rigid partisanship and cannot seem to agree on the common good. Those in power seem consumed with maintaining their power at all costs.  As columnist Jeff Kirkpatrick notes, “Power supersedes morality, ethics, national security, logic, reason and sanity” in America right now.[i] Read More

Hannah’s Prayer – Br. David Vryhof

I Samuel 1:1-20

We brothers are sometimes given the privilege of being in the company of people who are willing to share with us their pain.  No doubt many of you have been given this privilege as well.  I say this is a privilege because it is an occasion to be with someone in a moment of great vulnerability.  They are revealing themselves to us with great transparency, admitting their poverty, allowing us to see and touch their deepest wounds, inviting us to share with them the painful losses, disappointments or unfulfilled longings that have broken and shattered their hearts.  We sit in awe before them, feeling a sense of wonder at their courage, their perseverance, and their desire to find God in this place of pain.

We are being given that privilege tonight, as we hear and ponder the story of Hannah.  We should approach her story with awe, cherishing the privilege of witnessing her vulnerability and her courage. Read More