Worship

Sixteenth Week After Pentecost

Sarah Goettsch

September 8/2018

I hate mess. It drives me crazy when I sweep and mop the floor, only to have milk immediately spilled upon it, which happens 100% of the time. I hated it when the boys were little, and I would wash bedding, only to have someone–or all three–wake up in the middle of the night puking on their sheets. I hate sticky doorknobs and salty winter boots. And I hate–hate–cracking an egg into a bowl and seeing shards of shell slip to the bottom and elude me as I chase them around the bowl with a spoon. Now, having said that, I have given up trying to keep bathrooms or my office clean. There is a unique and triumphant resignation to messes that simply must be. As much as I hate mess, I understand this is a part of life, whether it is kid-related mess, messy relationships or messy work. To be human is to be messy. Mess can be annoying, even tormenting, unless we pause to consider the beauty in messiness.

For example, persistence is beautifully messy business. Sen. Elizabeth Warren knows this, when she was silenced in 2017 by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who invoked an obscure Rule 19, when she dared criticize the attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions. McConnell said, “Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Undeterred, Sen. Warren then took her letter and read it in its entirety outside the Senate doors–and streamed it live. The silencing of Senator Warren resurrected a classic feminist phrase–nevertheless, she persisted–and created a maelstrom of social media backlash around the world, in a sort of verbal brawl mostly by women who were tired of being told to sit down and be quiet. “Thanks for the new battle cry,” an angry Tweeter remarked. Despite repeated attempts to silence her or call her inappropriate names like “Pocahontas,” Senator Warren prevailed. Currently, she continues to fight against the racial prejudice of our criminal justice system and extolls the power and covenant of unions in the United States. She has persisted throughout the whole messy deal, what a beautiful thing.

The woman in today’s Gospel is persistent. She approaches Jesus on behalf of her daughter, who is very sick, and there is nothing messier than a sick kid. This woman does this at great personal risk. First of all, she is a woman–unimportant enough in ancient times to render her nameless–and she dares to approach a man; furthermore, she approaches a man with a request, in fact, a demand. Lastly, she isn’t even Jewish as Jesus is; she is Gentile, she is Syrophoenician, she lives in Tyre. She is a female pagan in the land of pagans.

Because of all of these reasons, she has no business approaching Jesus at all. Nevertheless, she approaches him and says, “I beg you to heal my daughter.” Jesus’ reply is shocking in its severity. “No,” he says, “I am not here for you.” Scholars have tried traditional methods to justify this response. Maybe Jesus is instructing his disciples on how to be persistent. Maybe Jesus is testing the woman’s faith. Maybe Jesus is caught in a deep internal struggle with the prejudices from his own upbringing against the pagans living in the region of Tyre. Or maybe he is a first-century Palestinian man, fully human, and therefore not above being challenged from time to time; in other words, maybe this woman really, truly and actually corrects Jesus. Maybe her persistence sets Jesus back on his heels in a sort of holy crap moment, when his claim that, “I have not come for you,” prompts her persistent reply of, “Oh, excuse me, sir, I beg to differ, I do not accept your ‘no.’” While this is Jesus’ first eye-opening run-in with a mother with a sick kid at home, he’s no stranger to the demands of strong women in his time…(recall his own mother’s demand that he turn water into wine in his first public miracle at the wedding in Cana).

So consider this–what if Jesus looks at this strange, peculiar and persistent woman and sees the fierce and defiant love she has for her child and realizes that they have more in common than not, that they would both do anything for their loved ones–even die? Does this somehow diminish or weaken our idea of Jesus as God? Or can it strengthen it, this idea that human risk and persistence on behalf of another person is actually something God adores and honors? The mother is persistent; she prevails. Her daughter is cured. A messy and beautiful story.

We simply can’t talk about messy persistence this week without talking about Colin Kaepernick. (Please note, this is the second week in a row when I have referred to sports, which only proves the extent to which I will go to be current in illustrating how the Gospel is relevant to the world today.)  In 2016, the then-quarterback for the San Francisco 49’ers, Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem at NFL games in an effort to raise awareness about racial injustices, including police brutality against African-Americans. He persisted nonviolently in a way that called the question of…does our flag still wave “over the land of the free and the home of the brave”…? Our national anthem ends with a question, and his protest answered that question with a resounding “no.” However, remember that Kaepernick knelt on behalf of others, not himself. He himself was drawing a rather comfortable $11.9 million salary for the 2016 season and had not had his life threatened due to racial profiling.  

Rather, Kaepernick knelt on behalf of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and over 100 unarmed black men who were shot and killed by police in 2015 alone. His persistence created quite a mess and led him to be released from his contract with San Francisco. However, according to an article yesterday in Newsweek, police killings of unarmed black men has dropped by more than half since 2016. Has this persistence begun to prevail? We learned this week that Nike has hired Kaepernick to be the face of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. His slogan is–believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. His persistence is admirable, whether you agree with the politics or not. I know there are some that say, “Your job is easy. Stand up, play football and repeat.” But what if we all did that, slaves to our salary, without challenging social mores that might not oppress me personally, but others certainly? He is one of my heroes (maybe not yours, that’s fine), because he took the risk to persistently act on behalf of others.

I don’t think Kaepernick had any idea what he was starting that day when he dropped a knee any more than Rosa Parks did that day in Montgomery, AL, back in 1955, these actions that call the question–if it’s true for some, is it true for all? Is liberty true for some or true for all? There is no liberty if some are enslaved. This question isn’t only a question of civil rights, but it is fundamentally a Gospel question. Can Gospel be gospel for some and not for all? The answer is no. If the Gospel isn’t Gospel for all, then it is not Gospel.

The brilliance in our reading today from the book of Mark is that, through accident or instruction, Jesus honors those who persistently work and pray and beg on behalf of others, even when things get messy. Jesus, then, is all about advocacy. Jesus rewards persistence, because Jesus understands how difficult it is. Jesus knows people will refuse you and deny you and even persecute you for standing up for, or kneeling on behalf of, others.

The challenge here is that we don’t always get to see resolution in persistence, like the woman or the deaf man. Sometimes the daughter isn’t healed. Sometimes hearing or speech are not restored. But remember that prevailing justice and success are not the same thing. My persistence may not be rewarded individually, but maybe yours is–and can we find communal joy in that, as a body if not an individual? Can we be persistently selfless, lifting up the other first, before myself?

This is messy and challenging stuff that Jesus invites us into today. This moves us from Jesus Loves Me, This I Know to Jesus Loves You, This I Know, even if you are black or Muslim or gay or different from me in whatever way. This is radical justice, this persistent love on behalf of others. Which is why the ancient prayers of intercession are so fundamentally beautiful, even if at times they seem numbingly boring, they are in fact, bold and brilliant–they call us to pray for everything that has being, in their formulaic pattern that moves us from that which is most cosmic and universal to that which is uncomfortably close at hand, including in God’s reign of mercy firstly those who do not look like me, speak like me or pray like me and lastly to me. Intercession lies at the heart of today’s Gospel–begging on behalf of others,as the woman did for her daughter, as the man’s friends did for him. Martin Luther King Jr said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is–’what are you doing for others?’”

Persistence is truly a messy business. Persistence necessarily involves things like spit and sweat and blood and tears, as we see in this Gospel text. Think of Ruby Bridges, who, at 6 years old, was spat upon as the first black student to walk through the doors at William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana in 1960, giving persistent courage to the ongoing fight for African-American civil rights. Think of the sweat of her enslaved ancestors in the cotton fields in Mississippi, who persistently sang Gospel hymns of freedom and liberation. Think of the blood of Matthew Shepard, beaten, tortured and left to die in Laramie, WY, in 1998, because he was gay, adding fuel to the persistent march of the LGBTQ community around the world to end such hate crimes. Think of tears wept by Native Americans, leaving a trail to land west of the Mississippi as they were driven from their homeland or Mormons on their trek westward, as they were ousted from this land because of religious intolerance, history which persistently calls our country back to its claim of religious freedom for all people, not just white Christians. Think of tears wept by women who marched in the 19th century just to get a vote, because they were tired of being told to sit down and be quiet, as women move from kitchen to the public arena with each persistent ballot. Wave after persistent wave of sweat, spit blood and tears, as generations march and demonstrate and beg for liberty for all, not just some. As a political human figure and the Son of God, Jesus participates in this persistence, as he overturns–literally–the power structures that oppress and marginalize and opens up a new reality for all, not some, “Ephphatha” an opening up for all people, not just one. Slowly, one persistent kick at a time, walls are knocked down. Erosion begins with one drop of water.

The kingdom of God is not afraid of or deterred by our human mess. Jesus himself was spat upon, sweated in Gethsemane, bled on the cross, cried tears of anguish as he died. The kingdom of God is in the trenches with us, it is Jesus mixing spit and mud in order to heal; it is a sweaty Jesus walking from desert town to desert town to preach the good news of God; it is Jesus touching a bleeding woman, it is Jesus weeping in the face of death, crying out over the injustice of Jerusalem, letting slobbery children crawl all over him. The kingdom of God persistently spins towards us in today’s Gospel, offering a gorgeously messy glimpse of what love looks like in public, which is Cornel West’s definition of justice. Be persistent in your public faith, and may your ears and eyes be opened and your tongue loosened to stand up for or kneel on behalf of others, trusting that others are standing up for you or kneeling on your behalf.. It’s messy and risky, but together we are strong. We are witnesses to a cosmic Ephphatha–the breaking open of God’s kingdom in our midst–and it looks like an egg being broken open over a giant bowl with shards of shattered shell flying everywhere, messy–but no one has time to care, as all stand in anticipation of the feast to come.

Fourteenth Week After Pentecost

Sarah Goettsch

August 25, 2018

At JustChurch, we always say that a sermon is never finished, that it continues in our conversations and deliberations, and this is true. A sermon is not a book, contained in a shiny new cover. Nor is it a painting, framed perfectly and hung on a wall. A sermon is a living, breathing thing, a snapshot of a particular time, shared with a community of specific people in a specific context. A sermon can never really be re-used, because the world situation has changed since it was originally preached, the people have changed; indeed the preacher herself has changed. A sermon is a bold gesture, holding a newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other, so that we might catch a glimpse of God’s kingdom as it unfolds in our midst. The moment the final amen is uttered by the preacher, the sermon flies out into the universe, seeking a place to land, in your ears and heart, perhaps. The sermon begins with a confession of the world’s brokenness and proclamation of God’s grace, and continues on in lived reality. And so today we embrace that challenge and celebrate the ongoing sermon.

That is not to say I haven’t done my work, because I have. But the truth of the matter is, for this preacher, who loves a composed sermon, who adores a careful crafting of words, who prefers things to be tied up neatly with a bow, this is not a week for such a sermon. So this pushes me, a preacher with OCD tendencies, and perhaps it will push you as well.

This week has seen too much for me to neatly tie is all up with a bow. So what I am going to do today is share with you the various threads I have noticed in our readings, hold them in tension with things that have unfolded this week, and hand them back to you, for us to engage as a brave community in our conversation groups.

I found myself captivated by Joshua. In our first reading, Joshua collects all twelve tribes of Israel and says this to them, “Listen, people, today you have to make a choice. Today you need to choose your god. Are you going to choose these false gods, these flashy and snazzy idols, or are you going to choose the God of your ancestors?” And it’s fascinating that there are some verses left out of this reading at this point, omitted because they are a bear to read aloud, with all those names and places that lectors hate to read like Amorites and Hittites and Jebusites and all those other names that the Rev. Lovejoy from the Simpsons always seems to be going on about. But what these omitted verses do is recount God’s history with God’s people. So, in other words, Joshua says, “Choose–but before you do, remember who God has been to you and what God has done for you.” Remember how God saved you when you were in the wilderness? Remember how God gave you victory in battle? Remember how God led you into a land of vineyards and olive trees? These false gods have done none of that. So choose, but choose wisely, calling to mind that scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the Nazi woman drinks from the wrong chalice and she melts into a gross puddle of ooze. Except that’s not what Joshua intends, that’s just a cool scene; nonetheless, his question is laden with gravitas, this is his family, after all, despite their in-fighting and their feuds, and he wants them to choose what kind of people they are going to be. Choose this day the god you will worship, he says, but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

This phrase stuck with me all week–the phrase “choose this day.” I know this word traditionally makes Lutherans nervous, because we’re afraid that any action we take might be misconstrued as working for our salvation, which we know to be a free gift, but still. Lutherans, in my opinion, have the best theology in the world–we understand that God’s love for all people is free, not earned, and so God gives us the freedom to choose bold things. Lutherans must be active in this world and push back against the waves of injustice that we see every day, and that is why JustChurch was born.

So let’s lean into this choosing language together, even if it makes us uncomfortable, remembering that today there may not be a tidy conclusion. First, let me offer an image from a family who are friends of ours, which might help clarify our goal a bit. Austin Schroeder, also known as Flash, died when he was only 15 years old, in 2015. His family throws a charity golf event and dinner every year, and this was last night. The proceeds go to support the AYA Cancer Speciality Center at the Stead Family Children’s Hospital here at the University. Flash’s attitude remained positive through his diagnosis, treatment, and even right up until his death. The family used the phrase “Win the Day” with Flash, which gave him the strength he needed to meet every day with courage and strength, I asked his mom Stacy last night if I could share this tonight, because there is a connection between Austin’s drive to win this day, this particular day, even in the face of a terminal diagnosis, with Joshua’s challenge. Choose this day, even though injustice, discrimination and hatred seem to rain down all around you, choose this day what you will be about. Let God work out the entirety of time; just choose this day, win this day.

This week our nation witnessed a rather significant implosion in Washington, with Paul Manafort being found guilty of tax evasion and bank fraud and Michael Cohen’s confession of having paid off women who had dirt on Trump at the President’s behest. Are we faithful citizens of this country who will be complicit with this continued display of corruption, or will we resist through petition and ballot and say enough is enough? Choose this day.

This week our state received the devastating news on Tuesday of the discovered body of Mollie Tibbetts, after an excruciating search after her disappearance last month. The focus on her murder was quickly hijacked by the alleged killer’s immigration status, taking this murder of an innocent young woman and feeding it to the bipartisan fight over the immigration laws in this country, when we all know that Mollie’s murder isn’t about immigration–it’s about women getting killed for rejecting male advances. Are we going to use this murder to perpetuate stereotypes against illegal immigrants, or are we going to acknowledge that murder is a symptom of an entire human race which is broken, including people of every race, class, gender, and ethnicity? Choose this day.

This week our university community was notified of three more student deaths, including yet another student suicide. Because this is such an epidemic lately, we are taught to watch for signs and symptoms of depression and distress and intervene. On the other hand, we are taught to respect boundaries, to let “you be you,” and “I’ll be me,” and we will co-exist, but I will not get into your space if you stay out of mine. Are we going to ignore the ones whom we know are struggling, risking the reality that they might not be here tomorrow? Or are we going to bravely reach out to that student/coworker/colleague who seems to be struggling and say, “You matter to me” and “How can we walk through this together?” Choose this day.

Every day we get to choose who we are and what we are going to be about. Every day, I choose to break from my past, when I choose to not harm my kids, when I choose to not use racial slurs or tell dumb blond jokes. Every day the alcoholic chooses to drink or not drink. Every day the cutter chooses to cut or not cut. Every day we choose to ignore what’s going on around us or we choose to get into the arena and try make a difference, nationally, locally, personally. Every day is a choosing day. Every day we can choose to win the day or lose the day, and this is a difficult battle, I know. But the choices we make about how we live out our faith in the world can make an impact more far-reaching than we’ll ever know. Every day, our choices can save the life of another human being, in the actions we choose and the words we choose. And remember, the gift in all this is the freedom we have in Jesus is that our choices don’t bring us into relationship with him; Jesus is in relationship with you whether you like it or not or even choose it or not, he still died for your sins. But our choosing lets us participate in that relationship. When you’re in a relationship with someone, it’s much more fun to participate in that relationship, isn’t it?

When Doug and I were dating, he was living in California. He came home for Thanksgiving and addressed my fears of being in relationship. He simply said, “I love you. My track record shows I am not going to leave you. Now, are you in or are you out? You choose.” And choosing to be in that relationship opened to me a love and grace I had never before known. Risk the bold choice.

Our elementary and secondary kids went back to school in the Iowa City Community School District this week, and I cried, as usual. However, this year, I noticed it was harder for me to shut the tears off, what with all the heavy news this week. I saw my three kids off the school, and scrolled back in my mind over the first steps, the first tooth lost, the first words, the first day of kindergarten, the last year of elementary school, now the new braces, the first day of football practice, the first win of a high school cross country meet, the blurring increased momentum of each passing year, and I thought of my relationship with these three young men, who at times drive me crazy, who sometimes behave in a way that offends me, who sometimes make choices that disappoint me. But I know to my core, I will never leave them. They are stuck with me, not simply because I am their mother; I had a mother and she left. I choose every day to stick with these boys, because it is a privilege to walk through life with them. And I know that the hugs they choose to give me, the times they choose to say I love you, are far more precious than if I forced them to do these things, and so I understand God’s gift of free will. God could command us to do this and do that, and in fact did this 10 times, but, finally realized it is the voluntary act of the human heart that is priceless. It is loving your neighbor because you choose to, not because you have to. It is empowering minority populations and immigrants because you choose to, not because you have to. It is standing up for women’s rights because you choose to, not because you’re told to. It is initiating a relationship with someone who is desperate for a friend, because you choose to, not because you have to. It is trusting another human being with your heart, because you choose to, not because you are coerced. God gives us the choice to love one another, and God gives us the choice to love God. But God’s love for us is unchanging and endless and unconditional.

So I finish my portion of this sermon, and I throw the ball in your court now, brave JustChurch-ers, and ask you to move into small groups, after a moment of silence, and to engage in some questions together. Honor the introverts in our midst, for active listening is every bit as valuable as active speaking, as we contemplate the intersection between faith and choice.

Thirteenth Week After Pentecost

Sarah Goettsch

August 18, 2018

When JustChurch was born, just four short months ago, we vowed to lean into current events, no matter how uncomfortable or ugly those events might be. We promised to position ourselves at the relevant intersection between church and world and to discern our role there together. We made this a goal, not so that we could sink in the mire of dismal news, but so that we could strengthen one another to go out into the world and make a difference in the name of goodness and justice and in the name of Jesus Christ, and in this way, be a beacon of hope to this community.

We have done this with issues related to immigration, even as we witnessed families torn apart at the southern border of our country and men detained resulting from the immigration raid in Mt. Pleasant (80% of our offerings have gone to gain their freedom so that they might be reunited with their families). JustChurch has raised almost $4000 towards this goal, as we have partnered with the Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project. These current events have been excruciating to witness, but JustChurch has leaned into this discomfort in the hopes of being an instrument of goodness and justice and a witness to Jesus Christ. Indeed, to know Jesus is to do justice.

This week, another dimension of discomfort and ugliness has unfolded in our news, and it seems impossible for us to ignore it here at JustChurch, where we have covenanted to be a brave worshiping community. I am, of course, referring to Tuesday’s grand jury’s report regarding the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania and its 70-year history of bishops and priests covering up the sexual abuse of over 1,000 victims. This is horrific on so many different levels, and yet, here it is, and here we are, and to ignore it is to be complicit.  We don’t choose the news any more than we choose the year we are born, but we can, and must, engage this as faithful Christians and as bold JustChurch-ers, despite our discomfort. Furthermore, we can discover hope in relating this horror to the words of Jesus, as he speaks to us today in the Gospel of John.

This grand jury’s report is devastating, not only for the Roman Catholic church, but for all churches across denominations. My grandfather spoke of times when being a pastor was a respected office; but in recent years, it is often met with suspicion and mistrust, and with good reason. This report contains several hundred testimonies of individuals who were raped or otherwise sexually abused by priests as young girls and boys. And rather than bring the perpetrators to justice, the church covered it up. For victims, the only thing worse than being a victim is being hushed. I know what it’s like to be the victim of a hand that holds you down, that seeks to take life, or at least rob you of the dignity of it, and was told to hush when I spoke up; indeed, countless others know this too as the #MeToo movement has shown. This report cuts deeply into Doug’s family, as our brother-in-law’s brother, Donny Green, was the first victim in the US to sue the Catholic Church, not anonymously, but rather using his own name. If he can be so brave, so can we.

Indeed, these current events show us there are plenty of people in the world who seek to take life. These ones either literally take life or else seek to destroy the self-worth and dignity with which we were all created. Whether you have been a victim of sexual abuse or have otherwise had your honor taken from you, you know what it’s like to be victimized. You know what it feels like to not have life within you, to lose hope, to not be able to look at yourself in the mirror without shame and self-loathing. We could ignore this ugly reality, or we can bravely name it. We here at JustChurch bravely name it, because this misuse and manipulation of other human beings is never the will of God.  

In our Gospel, Jesus speaks of resurrection–of living forever. I know, personally speaking, I don’t want to live forever with the knowledge and memory of things done to me or even things I’ve done to others. I don’t want to live forever feeling like life within me has been stolen, feeling dead inside. But this isn’t resurrection, this idea of living forever, like being a zombie or a vampire. Resurrection is new life, is a new Jerusalem, as Jesus says…which is to say, it is new life in exactly that place that has caused the most pain and death. When Jesus points to Jerusalem as where resurrection begins, he is pointing to that place where he was most humiliated and executed. Resurrection, then, means a death to old ways and a birth to new ways. New hope where there was once deep suffering. A gasp of air in a still tomb. A stirring of life in a barren womb. A tender kiss on a wounded forehead. Gentle embraces for an abused child. The words, “I believe you” in response to a terrified and brave confession.To be brutally clear–anyone who claims to give you life while at the same time has a hand on your throat are liars and are not doing the will of God.  These are ones who seek to take life, and they sometimes–temporarily–prevail. But not always.

Because there are also ones who fill you with life….with song, with rhythm, with soul….There are ones in this world who, while far from being perfect, bring out the singer in all of us, whether that be in the shower or in the car or in the church choir. Aretha Franklin died this week, and while she had her share of struggles in her life, she embodied strength and resilience. When my family was on vacation two weeks ago, my sons paid due homage to the Aretha Franklin display, because she was the 1st woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.  Her awards are endless, among them the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, which is the highest civilian award in the United States, recognizing citizens who have made an “especially meritorious contribution to the national interests of this country, world peace, or other public endeavors.” She was described as the “voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of black America.” “American history wells up when Aretha sings,” said President Obama, “Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, blues and rock and roll–the way hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope,” back at a time when our President was actually articulate, not to mention concerned with issues of civil and human rights. I challenge you not to sing along to her version of  “Precious Lord, Take my Hand” or “I Say a Little Prayer” or “Natural Woman.” Indeed, there are those in this world who seek to take life, yet there are also those who fill us with life, with courage and with song.

So, then, there are ones who seek to take life.

There are also those who fill us with life.

Then there is the One who gives life.

There is the only One who is the Word of God, the Son of God, the only one who truly holds life in his hands, and it is never to abuse or destroy or manipulate, but rather to restore and heal and redeem. There is Jesus, in whom all things hold together, and through whom all things will be redeemed, not living on in some purgatorial immortality, but rather a resurrected reality, where all things of death and sorrow are washed away, where a cross emerges from the ash of our past or these current times. When Jesus says, “I give you new life” and “I make all things new” it is never tied to words like “if you do this for me.” In this report, some young victims were rewarded with and identified by a golden cross necklace; this is an aberration of the Gospel, which sets people free. There are no strings attached to grace. Ever. When the heart grasps that truth, that nothing can separate us from God’s love, that God’s love is free, then a song wells up from deep within, a song joined with saints long dead and saints yet unborn, a song like “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” a song like “Amazing Grace.” In the communion of saints, we sing with Aretha.

As one who wears a clergy collar, I apologize on behalf of a church that has failed you and harmed you; it is not enough, but it is a start. As a woman who daily attempts to piece life together from a victimized past, and one who has pastored dozens and dozens of victims of sexual abuse, I stand with you and beg you to not give up hope, and remind you that your life is not your own; it belongs to those of us who love you, so keep your hands off it, and bring no harm to yourself, in the words of Sherlock Holmes. As one who holds onto the gospel with tooth and nail, I offer you news of unconditional love and infinite hope on behalf of a God who will never fail, harm or victimize. It’s all we have, really–as news daily depresses and disappoints. But if some shred of truth–that Jesus really, truly loves you, for all that you are–somehow pulls your feet out of bed in the morning and gives you the strength to shake a defiant fist of no more, the resilience to demand RESPECT for all people, including yourself, than it is enough.

Ninth Week After Pentecost

Sermon by Rev. Sarah Goettsch on July 21, 2018

There is a big difference between the word “would” and the word “wouldn’t.”

This week saw a decided low point in our nation’s history, as even some from both sides of the aisle seem to agree, as Trump at first blames the American people for the tense relationship between the US and Russia, baffling the world with his preposterous claim of “Why would Russia interfere with the 2016 election?”  and then redacting it to “I meant to use the word ‘wouldn’t’…” in other words, “Why wouldn’t Russia interfere in the election?” So, which is it–would or wouldn’t? …because the words are not interchangeable. Continue reading “Ninth Week After Pentecost”

Eighth Week after Pentecost

Sermon by Rev. Sarah Goettsch on July 14-15, 2018

From the summer of 1971 through the autumn of 1972, TV newscasts must have seemed unrelenting: millions marching to stop the Vietnam war, prisoners attacked at Attica, the Watergate scandal and the Pentagon Papers, the Manson and Serpico and My Lai trials, guns in Munich, bombs in D.C., and British troops in Derry. Pain and hatred and misery. Where was the harmony, where was the hope? Hope and harmony were beamed into living rooms around the world in the form of TV  commercials for Coca-Cola. Continue reading “Eighth Week after Pentecost”

Seventh Week After Pentecost

Sermon by Rev. Sarah Goettsch on 7/7/18

Exactly one week ago, in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, called Maple Heights, a 12-year old boy and his lawn-cutting crew named “Mr. Reggie’s Lawn-Cutting Crew” set out to mow a yard. As Reggie neared the end of mowing, he noticed a police car pull up in the driveway. A white neighbor had called the police on him, because this young black entrepreneur had inadvertently mowed a strip of land in the backyard that belonged to her. Reggie says that, while he noticed the policeman interviewing the neighbors out of the corner of his eye, and several of his crew some as young as 9 growing nervous, he didn’t stop mowing. He says he didn’t even slow down. Continue reading “Seventh Week After Pentecost”