Saturday, December 26, 2020

Sermon on the Mount - sermon for week ending December 26, 2020

Matthew 5: 1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


Amy Jill Levine is a Jewish scholar and professor of Jewish Studies and New Testament at Vanderbilt Divinity School. I have used her book Short Stories by Jesus before. Rather than read the parables as allegories, she reads them as Jesus’s audience, Jewish tenant farmers, dayworkers, and fishermen would have heard them. For me, she does more than any other scholar to teach us about the Jewishness of Jesus and the echo of Israel’s scriptures in everything he says. One of her primary messages to Christians is that we do not need to make Judaism look bad in order to make Jesus look good. We progressive pastors talk a lot about Jesus as anti-establishment and revolutionary, which he was, and I think it could seem to some that we are saying that the Pharisees were Jesus’ enemies. Amy-Jill is here to remind us that that is not the case. They were all rabbis, and that is what rabbis do.  She says, “Jews interpret Torah. We don’t always agree with each other on the meaning of the text, but at the end of the day, no matter how much we disagree, we’re all still Jews. And we also know that while today we may hold fast to a particular interpretation, it is always possible that tomorrow we may conclude that our neighbor is right. Rabbinic literature typically preserves two or three or even more interpretations of the same text.” This book is The Sermon on the Mount. Levine reads it as Jesus’ and Matthew’s interpretation of Torah.  And she shows how it’s threads of meaning reach throughout the whole gospel. The first 4 chapters prepare us for the sermon, and the rest of the gospel is the sermon in action. I’m starting with the beatitudes,  how they would have been heard and understood by Jesus’s disciples, whom he is talking directly to, those in the crowd that might have overheard, and what they can teach us. I promise I won’t’ do all of them. Jesus’ purpose in the here is to begin to set up a new family or community defined by doing God’s will, which is engaging in mutual support for each other. That is the kingdom or kindom of heaven, which he says, is already here. The first beatitude is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kindom of heaven.” Levine tells us that contrary to two popular interpretations, “poor in spirit” does not mean weak in faith or conceded or prideful. It refers to those who recognize their dependence on God and others and others dependence on them. And she quotes the Hebrew scripture from Isaiah that is the source of this definition:  “This is the one to whom I will look to the humble, poor, and contrite in spirit.”

For Jesus, this is a lesson in discipleship. Like Moses taught the Israelites how to live in the new diverse community they were forming, Jesus taught the disciples what the priorities should bein this new kinship. For us, the lesson is one we hear throughout the bible: to be aware of our own privileges and work to help those that don’t have the same benefits. To realize that we are all in this together. In the second beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” Matthew is talking about the very real situations of life and death that we all experience, and we are reminded how important it is not to skip the mourning.  Levine speaks about how the Jewish tradition of sitting shiva for 7 days for the one who has passed and how it is meant to allow the living to take time to mourn. El posted this week that Christmas for her would be a sad one because her brother died this year. My brother died when he was 47 and I was 33. He was the first person in my family to die, and I felt like I had a hole in my heart for years after. I heard an NPR interview earlier this week with Megan Devine, who wrote a book about grief, and she said that Elisabeth Kubler Ross never meant for her 5 stages of grief to be a list that can be checked off, and it was her greatest regret that she didn’t make that clear enough and was misunderstood by so many, because grief can last a lifetime. The comfort that Jesus says will come to those who mourn also draws from the Jewish tradition in Isaiah, “God has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to comfort all who mourn.”And this beatitude is seen in action in Matthew, chapter 9, when the disciples ask Jesus why they don’t fast  like the Pharisees and John’s disciples do, and he replies with an image used throughout the bible, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Jesus invites us to hear these teachings with our ears and our minds and our hearts, to let them bring us healing and comfort, and give us the priorities we need to live faithfully in our community of kinship, and to focus on caring for one another.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Christmas Eve - Sermon for December 24, 2020


Luke 2: 1-14

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel stood before them, and the glory of God shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to all!”


In the middle of the night on the longest night of the year, the time of deepest darkness, Jesus was born and brought light to the world. Whether you take that literally or metaphorically, it has deep meaning and it gives us great hope. The image of light and darkness is used in every religion. In Christianity and Judaism, the world began when God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” In the book of Isaiah, the prophet most often quoted during Christmastime, Yahweh promises to bring the light back to the people by sending them a new king like David was. Chapter 9, verse 2 says, “The people who walk in darkness shall see a great light. Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” The writers of Matthew and Luke presented Jesus as that new king, and so continued the light in the darkness motif from Isaiah. In our reading from Luke, the angel projected the glory of God, which “shone like a light all around them.” In Matthew, there was the star that guided the magi to Jesus. And in John’s symbolic birth story, Jesus is the light that cannot be overcome by the darkness. The association of Jesus’ birth with the winter solstice, the longest night and with Hanukkah, the festival of lights deepens the metaphor. Throughout the world, in churches and homes and streets and town squares at Christmas, there are candles and electric bulbs to lighten the darkness. And many Christmas carols speak of that light. In Silent Night, Jesus is ‘love’s pure light.’ Jesus was born during a dark time for his people. They were occupied by Rome with it overwhelming military, economic, political, and ideological power over them. The majority of the population owned no land and worked as tenants of wealthy landowners or hired themselves out for day labor.  They lived in constant fear of starvation. Patriarchs ruled over their families. Women were property and shame in their honor and shame culture.  Nearly a third of all babies died before the age of one. The people were searching for some light, for some hope that things would get better. 2020 has been a dark year. There is sickness and death all around us. 77 million cases of Covid in the world. Almost 2 million deaths. We have over a million cases right here in Florida. And it is only getting worse. People that we know and love are dying from it. So many are ignoring the medical advice, refusing to stay home or wear masks. I remember back in March when there was 1 case reported in Nassau County. Now, there are over 4000.  Black and brown people in the US are dying at twice the rate of white people. Over 8 million Americans have dropped into poverty since the pandemic began. Hospitals are overwhelmed, depression and anxiety and domestic violence are on the rise, and food lines are miles long.  Racism and economic segregation surround us, as the wage gap grows ever wider. Jeff Bezos makes 13 million dollars an hour, while Amazon warehouse workers make 10 to 15 dollars an hour. In the rest of the world, the last few weeks, 50 thousand people in the Tigray region of Ethiopia,  a third of them children, have fled for their lives into Sudan and are in desperate need of food, clean water, shelter, and health care. Half a million people in Mozambique are on the run from attacks by armed groups. And more and more and on and on and on until it feels like there is too much darkness to bear. It is so overwhelming that we can barely see any light. But the light of love and hope and joy that Jesus brings into our world can be seen and heard if we look hard enough. In the eyes and squeals of children on Christmas morning. In Christmas carols. In all the folks standing in line in Georgia to vote. In food donated to food banks.  In the zoom calls with our families and friends. In 2 Covid vaccines and another on the way. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that we are the light of the world. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body but ours now. We are the hands and the feet that Christ uses to bless the world.” We know from experience that the best way to relieve our own loneliness and depression and anxiety is to reach out and do something for someone else. And Jesus is here with us as our example and our inspiration. In that spirt, I want to close with one of my favorite Christmas poems, “Now the work of Christmas Begins” by Howard Thurmond. When the song of the Angel is stilled, When the Star in the sky is gone, When the kings and the princes are home, When the shepherds are back with their flock, The work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among brothers and sisters, To make music in the heart. And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way. The work of Christmas lies before us. Merry Christmas, I love you, and I will see you soon.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Love - Sermon for Week Ending December 19, 2020

Gospel Reading: 

Matthew 25: 31-40, the parable of the sheep and the goats (the Message translation)

When the king arrives and takes his place on the throne, all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, Enter, you who are blessed! Take what’s coming to you. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me,     I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me. Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you? Then the King will say, I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.


The theme for this 4th Sunday of Advent is Love, and of course there is no better example of love than Jesus. For Jesus, Love was not something we feel but something we do. And Love as an action included justice. As author and activist Cornel West said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Our reading, the parable of the sheep and the goats, and the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan, reveal this kind of just love. In the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus says that whatever we do to those who are overlooked or ignored, those who are most impacted by injustice, we are doing to him. He is reminding us to see him in all people, especially those who are hungry, homeless, sick, and in prison. And to care for them as we would care for him. To do whatever is necessary to make their lives better. That, he says, is love. The parable of the Good Samaritan, shows us that the act of loving often comes at a cost. Sometimes it is dangerous.  It takes courage. And it has the power to change the world. Dr. King, in his sermon about the Good Samaritan, said that when we find ourselves in similar situations, “Don’t ask, ‘If I stop to help, what will happen to me?’ but, ‘If I don’t stop to help, what will happen to them?’”  And to me, the most important message of that sermon is this: “Loving your neighbor also means working to make the Jericho road safe for everyone.”  It’s not one act. It’s a lifetime of work. Jesus learned about this kind of love from his Jewish upbringing. In Judaism, love for God is expressed through loving others, feeding the poor, caring for the sick, and defending the oppressed. In Leviticus alone, there are dozens of examples about how to love:  Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Judge fairly. Pay your employees on time.  All the biblical prophets promoted just love, condemning corrupt systems that trample on the poor and admonishing the people to choose a different kind of worship, one that is defined by doing justice. We don’t have to look very far to see folks in our world loving their neighbor justly.

I’ve just finished reading a wonderful book by someone who has dedicated her life to it, who exemplifies Jesus’s words in the parable of the sheep and the goats, “I was in prison and you came to me.” Her name is Brittany Barnett, and the book is A Knock at Midnight (the title of one of Dr. King’s sermons): a story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom. And it’s about how racism in our criminal justice system shows just how little black lives matter to so many people. Her work is devoted to seeking justice for those who are serving life without parole sentences for drug offenses during America’s so-called War on Drugs. She tells several stories of black people whose lives and the lives of their families were ruined by unjust federal laws and inequity in sentencing,  including Sharanda Jones, a black woman who started 3 businesses while she  was in her 20’s, and when none was turning much of a profit,  made the bad decision to become a go-between for 2 drug dealers in Terrell, Texas, making a thousand dollars each time she drove the 4 hour trip to Houston and back, which she used to pay bills. When one of the dealers was arrested, she was offered a lighter sentence if she informed on the others involved. She wore a wire and got Sharanda to incriminate herself. As Sharanda said, the words “let me see what I can do ”meant the difference between freedom and a life in prison. Although there was no physical evidence against her, and she had a clean record, she was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, like thousands of other black people who were convicted solely on the  word of “cooperating witnesses,” in this case, the actual dealer, who only got 8 years while Sharanda  got life. In the book, Barnett shares a mountain of information about injustice and inequality in the justice system, one of the most horrendous being the 100 to 1 policy of sentencing for crack cocaine, used primarily by black people, and powered cocaine, used primarily by white people. 1 kilogram of crack equaled 100 kilograms of powdered cocaine.  In Sharanda’s case, since there were no drugs found, the judge just determined that whatever powder she had carried would have been “rocked up” into crack because it was going to a black neighborhood. Even though many of these laws have since been changed, the changes are not retroactive. Brittany worked for 6 years trying to get justice for Sharanda, without success.

Finally, she appealed to president Obama for clemency, and in 2015, after serving almost 17 years in prison, Sharanda was granted clemency and freed. Since then, Brittany, Sharanda and another client Britany helped to free started the Buried Alive project, which “works to dismantle life without parole sentences handed down under outdated and inhuman federal drug laws through transformative litigation, legislation, and humanization.” This kind of love in action is changing the world. Bishop Michael Curry, in his book Love is the Way, invites us to imagine what just love would look like in the world, and then to get busy making it a reality. He says, “Imagine our homes and families, our neighborhoods and communities, our governments and nations when love is the way. When love is the way, no child will go to bed hungry ever again.

When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, in the words of the prophet Amos,  justice will roll down like a mighty stream, and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook. When love is the way, there will be plenty good room for all God’s children.” Let’s do all that we can to help make love the way.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Joy - A service of lessons and carols - for week ending December 12, 2020

Readings - in the order they appear in the service: 


Luke 1: 47-55, Mary’s song.
My soul magnifies you, O God, and my spirit rejoices in you, my savior,
For you have looked with favor on the lowliness of your servant.
Surely, from now on, all generations will call me blessed,
For you have done great things for me, and holy is your name.
Your mercy is for those who love you from generation to generation.
You have shown strength in your arm and have
scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
You have brought down the powerful from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
You have helped your servant, Israel, in remembrance of your mercy,
According to the promise you made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

Amazing Peace:  A Christmas Poem   by Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes                  

And lightning rattles the eves of our houses.

Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche

Over unprotected villages.

The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,

Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope

And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.

The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,

Come the way of friendship.

Hope is born again in the faces of our children.

It rides on the shoulders of our aged.

Hope spreads around the earth, brightening all things,

Even hate which crouches in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.

At first it is too soft.

We listen carefully as it gathers strength.

We hear a sweetness.

The word is peace.

It is loud now.  Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.
We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.
It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a language
to translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.
At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth's tribes loosen their voices
to celebrate the promise of Peace.
We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.


From How the Grinch stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss
He stared down at Who-ville. The Grinch popped his eyes.
Then he shook. What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Who down in Who-ville, the small and the tall,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It Came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his Grinch feet ice cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling, How could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags,
It came without packages, boxes, or bags.
And he puzzled three hours, til his puzzler was sore,
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
And what happened then? Well, in Who-ville they say,
That the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.

“And the people stayed home,” by Kitty O’Meara

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.


“Gifts of Christmas”   by Jim Burklo
For Christmas, may you receive the gift of time,
To enjoy and reflect in the moment, and
To savor the future—yours, your children’s, and your grandchildren’s.
The time that in our moments together
Transcends the time of clocks and calendars.
For Christmas, may you receive the gift of memory,
That does not dwell in the past, but rather
Adds flavor and sentiment to the present
And meaning and purpose to the future.
For Christmas, may you receive the gift of perspective,
That enables you to tell what is in front and what is behind,
That enables you to distinguish that which requires your attention
From that which will sort itself out on its own.
For Christmas, may you receive the gift of vision,
That is focused on seeing beauty that it finds everywhere.
For Christmas, may you receive the gift of God,
Who is Love, already delivered to the door of your heart,
Ready to pour in when you open it. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Peace - Sermon for week ending December 5, 2020

Gospel Reading: 

from Luke, chapter 3.  John the Baptizer
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of God,
   make God’s paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
   and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
   and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

The crowds asked him, “What should we do?” He said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Tax collectors asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “What should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”


On the second Sunday of Advent,  the lectionary gospel text is always about one of my favorite biblical characters, the camel hair-wearing, bug- eating, John the Baptizer. As we heard in the reading, his description comes directly from the prophet Isaiah: “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of God and make God’s paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The crooked shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth.  And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, John the Baptizer is seen as continuing the vision and voice of the Old Testament prophets. The all decried empire, as their people had been occupied and oppressed for 500 years. Empire was Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, and now, Caesar. Israel only had one good king, David, and the prophets continually expressed hope for a new king who was like David. In these 2 gospels, Jesus is seen as the fulfillment of God’s promise for this new king,  who would bring peace and justice. In their book The First Christmas, Marcus Borg and Dom Crossan describe the kind of peace and justice this new king would bring, saying that the words of the prophet Micah that “Everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one will make them afraid,” mean that everyone will have their own land. Everyone will have enough of everything, and there will be no fear that anyone will take it away from them. John the Baptizer tells his followers how they can participate in this radical change from the way things are now: If you have two coats, share with someone who has none; the same with food. If you are a tax collector, don’t cheat people.  Just collect the amount you are supposed to.  If you are a soldier, don’t use your position to extort money from people. Priorities must be reordered so that the world is fair and just for everybody. It’s the same message we heard in Mary’s song. It’s the same message Jesus preached and lived.  In his book Prophetic Imagination, Old Testament Scholar Walter Brueggemann, says that the role of the prophet was to “energize the community with the promise of a New Vision, to offer an alternative narrative while critiquing and dismantling the dominant one.” That’s what John did. But that put the prophetic preacher in an exposed position. So it took courage. During John’s time, for example, Caesar was the only son of God and he alone was licensed to give news to his people, but John publicly contradicted that, which was dangerous. We have prophetic preachers in our midst,   who critique the dominant narrative of empire and lift up an alternative one of justice and equality, who call America back to faithfulness as the biblical prophets called Israel back to faithfulness, and, like the biblical prophets, they are often misunderstood. Dr. King was one, of course. Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who was pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for 36 years, was vilified in 2008 by white Americans who took out of context phrases from his sermon message that ‘God cannot be expected to bless America, as the anthem requests, unless it changes for the better.’ Rev. Otis Moss, who is the current pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, said,  “American policy disrupts the moral compass in favor of profit and political benefit over principled ethics and a moral center.” Which is true. And Rev. William Barber, chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, said just a few weeks ago, “Stealing a seat on the supreme court but refusing to pass a stimulus to save lives is a sin before God and the values of our constitution,” which sounds a lot like what the biblical prophet Jeremiah said about Israel’s leadership: “They have treated the wounds of my people like they were not serious, saying Peace, Peace, when there is no peace.” Prophetic preaching is not a scolding, as it might seem to people who aren’t familiar with it. It is, rather, a plain-spoken proclamation of the biblical mandate to love our neighbors and stand with the poor. And a reminder to turn away from any behavior that does not reflect that mandate, which is what John did here. And as verse 18 says, his proclamation was good news to the people. He was telling them that God was about to do a new thing, to create a way out of no way, to bring peace and justice to their world. When Carole was reading, she mentioned that the words from Isaiah were lyrics in Handel’s Messiah. They are also in the hymns “Comfort, Comfort O my People” And O Come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, which we heard Jane play. There’s a contemporary song we are about to hear that I love, “Turn Back” from the musical Godspell. It’s a burlesque number in the show. The lyrics aren’t exactly the same, but the message is: “Turn back O man, forswear thy foolish ways. Old now is earth, and none can count her days. Yet thou, her child, still will not hear what thou inner God proclaims. Age after age, your tragic empires rise. When earth shall be fair and all her people one, not until that hour shall God’s whole will be done.” The message is clear:  we humans tend to mess things up because we are selfish and ego-driven. But we don’t have to be. There is hope for us, and hope for a different kind of world from the one we are living in. God is about to do a new thing. And that is good news.

New Vision and Progressive Christianity

 New Vision is a Progressive church. That doesn’t mean that you must be progressive to be a member here. It mainly means that your pastor an...