Archive for August, 2011

“Kill ‘Em with Kindness”

August 29, 2011

love your enemies

August 28, 2011; Matthew 16: 21-28, Romans 12: 9-21

A sermon preached by Stacey Gassman, First Congregational Church of MN, UCC

Last week we heard Peter praised by Jesus. “Who do you say that I am?” That was the question Jesus asked of his disciples. “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter’s response? “You are the Messiah.” According to Jesus, this was made clear to Peter by God, not by flesh and blood – that is, not by the standards of this mortal world, but was a revelation from God.  In this week’s scripture, in the very next paragraph in fact, Jesus is telling him, “Get behind me, Satan!” Peter the rock of the church has become a stumbling block to Jesus. Well, that didn’t last long. Easy come easy go, I guess.

So what happened? One minute Peter is getting the keys to the kingdom, and the next he is a stumbling block to Jesus himself. I think Peter’s response is pretty understandable. Jesus, their friend, their leader – the Messiah for goodness sakes – is talking about the terrible suffering and death he will soon undergo. I think I would have said, “God forbid it!” too! How taken aback Peter must have been, when Jesus turned and spoke to him so harshly. It is easy for us to hear the tone of the words and miss what Jesus is getting at. We might be tempted to see Jesus as overly harsh; or Peter as overly foolish. But let us put aside for a moment our reactions to both Jesus’ harsh words, and the disturbing prediction of his death; and look at an important part of his message.



“A Living Question”

August 28, 2011

 8/21/11; Matthew 16: 13-20

 A sermon preached by Rev. Jane McBride, First Congregational Church of MN, UCC

The Celts – ancient peoples of the British Islands and Northern France—     centered their spirituality in mystery. Not distant, impersonal mystery, but mystery which pervades ordinary, everyday life. The Celts believed in “thin places”; literally, sacred locations, often in the natural world, in which the boundary between heaven and earth is especially slight. When the Celts embraced Christianity, they did it on their own terms, interpreting Jesus through their own spirituality of mystery.

When it comes to spiritual ancestors, I am drawn to these Celtic Christians. I remember, as a child, sitting on the steps in the early evening, watching as the sun turned our sprawling yard to gold. My whole known world – the swing set, the garden, the wood pile— suddenly became sacred ground. It seemed that the grass and the corn on the hill shimmered with the very green of life itself. Growing up, this sense of God’s presence surprised me often in the ordinary, everyday beauty of nature, music, and ideas.


New Impulses of Love

August 17, 2011


8/14/11; Matthew 15: 21-28

A sermon preached by Rev. Jane McBride, First Congregational Church of MN, UCC

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong; we are weak, but he is strong.” To be honest, I didn’t like this classic Sunday school song much until I started singing it to my daughter. A little one needs to develop a healthy “attachment” to parents and caregivers; this bedrock sense of security gives confidence to risk and grow. This song offers the same kind of safety in the relationship with Jesus. Jesus’ love, like that of a parent, is disciplined. It is strong where we are weak. Jesus’ love is for “me”, not in a self-centered way, but in order to show me how to belong to something bigger.

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”. But then along comes this week’s text. What the Bible tells us about Jesus is shocking indeed – A woman comes to him, broken-hearted, pleading for his mercy to heal her daughter. In the biblical tradition, mercy is a divine gift. It is an infusion of strength and hope that arises out of God’s own heart.



August 11, 2011

8/7/11; Matthew 14: 22-33

A sermon preached by Rev. Jane McBride, First Congregational Church of MN, UCC

“Artimeo Trinidad Mena was born October 20, 1977, in Guerrero, Mexico, where he grew up the oldest son of the Trinidad Mena family. In 1996, Artemio married and, later, had four children. He immigrated to Minnesota to provide his family with a better life, and he promised to return to them as soon as possible. After several years, he began counting down the months until he could return, not realizing that he would never again hold his children and his family.” (text from the 35 W bridge memorial)


Bread for the Journey

August 4, 2011

A sermon offered by our Guatemala travelers, July 31, 2011

Matthew 14: 13-21

In worship on July 31, Guatemala travelers shared their reflections as the sermon. A group of thirteen First Church members, including our current confirmation class, visited the San Lucas Mission ( the week of July 15-22. This Catholic parish was founded by Father Greg Schaffer, from New Ulm, MN, in 1962. The parish engages in programs that address both the immediate effects of poverty and its underlying causes. The projects are initiated and led by Guatemalans. Currently, the parish is supporting projects such as a clinic, a women’s center, a coffee processing and distribution program, and reforestation. According to the philosophy of the parish, volunteers come not primarily to help, but to learn about the people of Guatemala, and the joys and struggles of their lives.

The reflections respond to the following prompts:

What event or person that impacted you during the trip?

What did you learn, about Guatemala, about yourself, your life, your place in the world?

How did this trip change you?. How are you different because of this experience? What different choices might you make about your life?

What did this trip teach you about God, or about being part of the church community?

How does your experience relate to the story of loaves and fishes (Matthew 14: 13-21). For instance, what did this trip teach you about trusting, sharing, having enough in life?