Archive for the ‘Sermons’ Category

New Dimensions

September 11, 2011

9/11/11; Genesis 50: 15-21, Matt 18: 21-35

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

This week, I came across a striking story from the book The Pearl is in the Oyster by Marilyn Cram Donahue. A blogger summarizes it this way: “[the author] tells the story of a neighbor who had ritualized her resentment. Whenever a visitor came for a cup of tea or coffee, she would pour the drinks and then reach for an old and battered plastic sugar bowl. Then, apologetically, she would tell her story of the beautiful bone china bowl that her mother had owned, but that her sister had taken when her mother died and they divided up her possessions. She had never forgiven her sister, and had turned her bitterness into a daily routine that kept it fresh and growing.” (; John van de Larr, September 5, 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)



July 14, 2011


July 10, 2011; Matthew 13: 1-9,18-23; Isaiah 55: 10-13


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

“The bottom line is that seeds are alive…” This quote comes from an article entitled “How Seeds Work”. The author goes on to explain that seeds are the embryo of a new plant. Tucked inside each seed is DNA from plant parents. As well as the radicle, or primary root, and the cotyledyn, or first leaves. The seed also contains enough food to last until the plant’s own roots and leaves can draw nourishment from the soil and sun. The seed coat protects this plant embryo from disease, insects and moisture. The process of growth, called germination, begins when the conditions are right, with respect to water, light, oxygen and temperature. Source:


God Between Us

June 26, 2011

June 26, 2011; Matthew 10: 40-42

Rev. Jane McBride, First Congregational Church of MN, UCC

“Compassionate welcome means approaching each other through God…” writes theologian Emilie Townes. Compassionate welcome means approaching each other through God. (Feasting on the Word Commentary, Year A, Volume 3, p. 190)

A small encounter this week at the Y reminded me that compassionate welcome is no simple task. On the seat of the exercise bike sat a water bottle. The man on the next bike said it wasn’t his, and he hadn’t seen the owner. So I set in the floor, adjusted the machine, and began pedaling. At just that moment a young man walked up. “Oh,” I said, “were you using this machine?” “Yes,” he answered. “Would you like me to move? I would be happy to…” Before he could respond, someone else spoke: “no, no it’s fine. We’ll just set up over here” – gesturing toward another bike he was already adjusting. I said “OK” and went back to pedaling. A conversation ensued between the two of them. The young man confronted his helper with words slow and strained. “I’m feeling upset” “What’s wrong?” “I don’t like it when you speak for me.” “What do you mean?” “Just then, you answered for me. You told that lady it was Ok for me to use another machine. I had it all adjusted and ready. It takes a lot of time and effort for me to figure out the seat and I don’t like to have to do it all over again.”


Going to Galilee

June 19, 2011

June 19, 2011; Matthew 28: 16-20

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

Jesus said to the disciples: “after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” At the empty tomb, they once again received word: Jesus went to Galilee; go to Galilee. Galilee is home- the place where they all grew up. Galilee is daily life, the arena where big politics touch ordinary people. In the Palestine of Jesus’ day, the Romans ruled the Jews through tyrannical governors.


Clothed With Power

June 5, 2011

June 5, 2011; Acts 1: 1-11; Luke 24: 44-53

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

On the morning of Saturday May 21st, NPR reported on Harold Camping’s rapture prophecy. At 6 pm on May 21st, Camping had predicted, terrible earthquakes would strike, beginning in New Zealand. 200 million of the faithful would be taken up into heaven Those left behind would endure 6 months of torture until the world ended in a fireball. The reporter spoke to a couple dozen people who believed in the prophecy.

Up until this point, the whole rapture thing had struck me as funny. I kept quipping that since I work on Sunday, it would be convenient for me if the world ended on a Saturday. One way or another, I would get the day off. I grew sad; however, as I listened stories of real people who had staked their lives on this prophecy.


Sermon 05/29/11: “Orphaned”

June 2, 2011

“Orphaned,” a sermon preached by the Rev. Abigail G. Henderson, at First Congregational Church of Minnesota, UCC, on May 29, 2011.

John 14: 15–21

"Widows and Orphans" by Käthe Kollwitz

“I will not leave you orphaned,” Jesus tells the disciples.  Bold words from a man about to die.

Lest we get too comfortable in the victory of Easter, this week’s lectionary Gospel reading takes us back to the drama of the pre-resurrected Jesus.  We are reminded that before he died, Jesus prepared his disciples for the strange paradox of resurrection, which is this:  despite his triumph over death, Jesus will not continue his ministry as usual.  His friends can no longer count on his comforting presence and wisdom.  He will leave them alone to navigate the same cruel world that crucified him.