Scripture: Isaiah 58: 1-12; Matthew 5: 13-20 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC February 9, 2020
“Faith is a communal act of resilience that must strengthen itself over and over again. Only when we come together and remember who we are in this bigger picture do we build the confidence and stamina to not just keep going, but to be faithful co-creators of a better world over the long haul.”
“Our divisions need revision—our divisions need us to see them more clearly for what they are. The problem is not our differences of opinion or perspective, the problem is when we deny each other’s humanity. And racism and homophobia and sexism and xenophobia and ignoring differently abled bodies and seeing vulnerability as an opportunity to take advantage of someone—these are denials of humanity. These are not opinions; they are distortions of the only thing that can heal us—our shared humanity, our shared reliance on each other, our shared lot in life. The words forgiveness and reconciliation don’t do justice to this reality that is ours. We belong to each other—and living as if that is not true will destroy us all—not just some of us, but all of us will languish and perish when we deny that we belong to each other.”
Scripture: Isaiah 49: 1-7; John 1: 29-42 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC January 19, 2020
“I know all of us have a lot of things going on in our lives that make us feel like we don’t have the emotional bandwidth to face these harsh reaIities. That’s part of how oppressive systems become so tenacious, people like us are comfortable enough, even if disturbed, not to push for change too hard. White supremacy culture socializes all of us to feel fragile and reactive when we are asked to look at these realities head on… I know this work that we are doing as a faith community is hard work. But there is no evidence anywhere in our faith tradition that following Jesus is supposed to be easy, or that following Jesus is about ignoring the pain of the world or lying to ourselves about how we need to change. Whatever it is that is making some of us tired or making some of us hesitant needs to be healed, needs to be transformed. Our faith demands it.”
Christmas Eve Homily
Scripture: Luke 2: 1-20; John 1: 1-14 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC December 24, 2019
“This is a story about vulnerability, marginalization, and a God who turns the world upside down. Too many Christians have been trying to avoid that truth these two millennia since. Too many Christians have been trying to use the story to protect the status quo, to deny that peace on earth means justice on earth—and that Jesus was a marginalized person who died trying to tell us the truth about ourselves, the truth that can set us free.”
“Standing In Need”
Scripture: Luke 1: 46b-55 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC December 15, 2019
“It is her vulnerability and the strength that her vulnerability gives her that makes Mary able to give birth to God’s hopes for the world. It is her capacity to be present to her own need that allows her to stand in what the world needs from her.”
And I believe it’s never been more urgent for us to make space for the truth that mothering reveals in such clear relief, the truth given to us by our great mother—by the mothering forces of the universe, the power of birthing, the potency of living at that threshold between life and death—because that is where we all are—birthing and being birthed, tasting death and being told to get up, to rise up, to wise up, to wake up—to find a way to make and keep life, to tend to the living and to the dead.
“The Frankincense Diaries”
Scripture: Isaiah 60: 1-6; Matthew 2: 1-12 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC January 6, 2019, Epiphany
And just like the exploitation of my bark because of too much demand, because of greed, because of desperation, the holiness of that day in Bethlehem languishes. You have forgotten how to dream, you have forgotten that you can journey to a place where the truth will change you forever. The truth of God born in you, the truth of God born in resistance to enthroned power, the truth of God born into a world come home to itself. Why has this child been used to divide people, to shame people, to annihilate people, to destroy community, to concentrate wealth? What exploitation has gotten us to our current profanity of purpose as God’s creatures? You and I are not here to exploit or be exploited. We are here because God made us to be in right relationship.
“Christmas Eve Homily”
Scripture: The Gospel of John 1: 1-14 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC December 24, 2018, 9:00pm
This story has the power to change us. This story can give us the eyes to see God in utter vulnerability, the eyes to see God in the ravages of poverty, in the cruelty of human pride, in the marginalization of empire. We can learn to see Christ light in the beauty of a moment like this one—when people like us wonder and wander their way to a sacred space once again, only to be rendered quiet by a child who teaches us a new way to see the world.
Scripture: 1 Kings 17: 8-16; Mark 12: 38-44 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC November 11, 2018
The freedom to be vulnerable, the freedom to risk loving another, the freedom to hear and to speak the truth, the freedom to trust God in an untrustworthy world, my friends, my siblings in Christ, my faith community, this is the kind of freedom Christ died for us to have.
“Even More Loudly”
Scripture: Job 42: 1-6, 10-17; Mark 10: 46-52 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC October 28, 2018
No matter how many walls we build, or gates we construct, or locks we put on our doors, or judgments we make about “them,” and blind spots we willfully maintain about “us,” we breathe in the same oxygen, we are poisoned by the same toxic anger, we are diminished by anyone’s dehumanization. No matter how many ways we try to sequester ourselves, this violent world is ours. And we must confess our brokenness and our blindness to truly be healed.
“Prophets and Profits”
Scripture: Deuteronomy 4: 1-2, 6-9; James 1: 17-27 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC September 2, 2018
We cannot call ourselves Christian and not engage in our economy with an embodied, active, and engaged commitment to economic justice. Prophets and profits do not have equal status—and we are called to active pursuit of social justice even when it is not in our self-interest.
Questions for God Preaching Series: “Triage”
Scripture: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Ephesians 4:25-5:2 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC August 12, 2018
If we want to define ourselves as people of faith in a world where faith is deployed for hate, we must never stop learning how to have moral courage in dangerous and divided spaces.
Questions for God Preaching Series: “Conflict and Community”
Scripture: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Mark 6:14-29 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC July 15, 2018
Listening devoutly means being vulnerable, being honest, being grateful for the gift of someone sharing their story with you, and being self-aware—which takes a lot of intentional work and courage!
Questions for God Preaching Series: “Voice Lessons”
Don’t let the way God’s voice can be kidnapped for hatred and harm silence the music that Spirit is singing to the world—freedom songs, love songs, songs of friendship and redemption, songs of justice and joy.
Questions for God Preaching Series: “First Things First”
Scripture: Lamentations 3: 22-33; Mark 5: 21-43 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC July 1, 2018
The church is not where we prove to the world that God exists. The church is where we prove that people of faith exist in the world.
Scripture: Job: 38: 1-11; Mark 4: 35-41 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC June 24, 2018
These tumultuous times are no time to lose your faith, brothers and sisters. These are the days when faith is our most powerful weapon against violence, against hatred, against the commodification of people, against the criminalization of poverty, against the failure to see and respect the humanity of all people.
*Note to the listener: during the sermon potter, Keith Prince, put a pot back together again. In the sung portions of the sermon Jen Folkers and Jeff Jones assisted.
Do you believe God is at work in you this way? That the dead things, and the languishing parts, and the shards of you that you think are the ugliest and the most shattered, the most jagged and the most ill-fitting, are the part of us that testify the loudest, the most clearly about who God really is and what it is that God can do? Do you believe that?
Mysteries need darkness to grow. You and me, all people of faith, are called into the life-giving dark of mystery, into the bewildering dark of a world seemingly hell-bent on its own destruction, into the ambiguous dark of our shadows and the unknowns that face us every day, and into the shimmering dark of a God we will never fully know or understand, a God who holds us in the dark and will never let us go.
Proving the World Wrong
Scripture: Acts 2:1-21; John 15: 26-27, 16: 4b-15 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC May 20, 2018, Pentecost
The church was born when the truth spilled out into the streets –and people that hadn’t previously been able to hear each other and see each other—those people who had been taught to fear and to be suspicious of each other—those disparate and weary and wary people—became a family of faith that day—that is who was there when we were born—an unlikely gathering of people ready to build something new together.
Fear and Loving
Scripture: Psalm 22; 1 John 4: 7-21 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC April 29, 2018
John’s epistle is a plea to actually feel the pain of rejection and injustice, to feel the sting of unfiltered cold-heartedness and meanness, and to trust love from there, because love is more than a way to quiet a crying child, love is God’s power to heal our deepest pain.
Scripture: Psalm 23; 1 John 3: 16-24 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC April 22, 2018
It’s hard to trust that kind of love. It’s hard to believe that it won’t find out the whole truth about us and give up on us or tell us we really don’t belong. Brothers and sisters, can you take in the kind of love God extends into our shadows? Jesus comes into those lonely, tortured places and says I love you and I see the healing that can be yours. Don’t give up. Don’t give up on love.
Of Mirrors, Mocking, and Mindsets
Scripture: Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Mark 11: 1-11 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC March 25, 2018, Palm/Passion Sunday
Our Lenten journey started on Ash Wed—a day of repentance and truth telling about our mortality. That is the day so many students in Parkland FL were changed forever. And millions of feet processed yesterday because of what can rise up out of ashes when the world is ready to find a better way. The week ahead is Holy for many reasons—sacred memory defines the stories we tell, the rituals we observe, the road we say we are willing to travel. But this year, we are called to let the holiness of this week penetrate us like never before—the road to Jerusalem is not just a memory, or a mirror, or a mindset—it is a miracle—a miracle because it has the power to change us all.
Scripture: Psalm 19; John 2: 12-22 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC March 4, 2018
Righteous anger has a broader view than culpable individuals—it has eyes for systems and habits. Where toxic anger belittles, righteous anger ennobles. Where toxic anger imprisons, righteous anger liberates. Righteous anger is a carrier of our deep interdependence. An affront to the humanity of one person is an affront to your humanity, to mine. Righteous anger is an explosion of love—for a world that can never be healed on the backs of the misery of any.
Losing to Win
Scripture: Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC February 25, 2018
When Jesus says, “take up your cross and follow me,” he is telling us not to pack light on our journey in his service. He is asking us to bring our whole selves.
Bring all your shame, your suffering—the suffering you bear and the suffering you cause, the suffering that has made you stronger and the suffering that has left you weary, diminished, not sure if you can go on—pick it all up and bring it with you—your doubts and your fears, your anger and your despair. And bring it with you because whatever you deny that you have, cannot be healed.
2 Kings: 2: 1-12; Mark 9: 2-19 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC February 11, 2018
Being a person of faith in this tumultuous world is about belief, not certainty. It is about mystery, not mastery. It is about trust, not control. Breathe that in for a minute—these are more than just words. These are dispositions toward human life that call on us to give ourselves to the world with such generosity, with such open hearts, with such confidence in God’s transforming ways that we are willing to let go of the things we thought we needed to stay afloat.
Because you see, just as food can so easily become a carrier of the worst humanity does to each other, it can become a carrier of our best possibilities. Food can fill us with life-giving, life-changing, life-generating love. Food can bring us closer to God. It’s not a legalistic way to control our relationship with God or a golden ticket to achieve righteousness. Food needs love for it to heal us. And God is yearning for us to taste that, to savor that, to cultivate that nourishing, nurturing love deep within ourselves.
Scripture: Jonah 3: 1-5, 10; I Corinthians 7:29-31 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC January 21, 2018
How would your life change if you let your faith collapse time—if you were able to see the past giving birth to a future that we can taste even now? How would your life change if you believed that no matter who you are—no matter your age or your social position or your prospects in this world, that God is calling you to live as if the world as we know it is passing away?
Because you see what Paul is trying to tell us is something we so desperately need to hear. We’ve got the whole “self-care” thing all wrong. When you care for your body you are not just caring for yourself, you are caring for your community. Care of your body is care for our Body. Care of your body is care of Christ’s Body.
Christmas Eve Homily
Scripture: John 1: 1-14 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC December 24, 2017 9:00pm
The world needs Christmas to be real this year, brothers and sisters, for all of us to have the courage to believe what the Incarnation is, was, and always will be—the truth of God with us, in the flesh—in the lowly, in the struggling, in the displaced and the confused, in the family under siege, in the rejected and the reviled, in the places where shadows loom and the way forward is concealed—what a different world it would be if we could see God where God tells us so clearly that God is—in the places the seem at first glance God-forsaken.
“Patience, Probability, and a Panacea”
Scripture: Isaiah 61:1-4; Luke 1: 46b-55 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC December 17, 2017
What kind of Mary does the world need today?
My guess is we need Mary to not just speak to women, but to speak to all of us—especially those of us who want our lives to be a witness to why all that Jesus did for us was worth it. Perhaps we need Mary to hold her son’s followers in contempt. What about the way we are living and speaking into the world today as his followers makes it all worth it?
“Are We Reformed Yet?”
Scripture: Psalm 90; Matthew 22: 32-40 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC October 29, 2017
Reformation was about change from the margins, not from the centers of power. And when the church stops listening to the margins, it stops being reformed and always reforming. Who are the voices speaking to the way power is used and abused in our world today? Black Lives Matter. #metoo. Queer for Christ. NFL players taking a knee. Resistance to power that abuses is a spiritual practice and a moral imperative. We must tune our ears always to the margins. We are the people not afraid to listen and be transformed. We’re the ones who sang Psalms and prayers and scripture and confession even when everything in the world was shifting and our very lives were at stake.
Christ sets the cadence of our movement forward—if you give yourself to it you can feel the pull of our deep connection with each other and our deep connection with a world that desperately needs more love, more healing love.
Self-emptying is the incarnation of radical relationship—connection goes down to the roots of who we are as creatures in this world. To completely love us God wants and needs to be with us—to walk in our shoes, to see the world from our perspective, to feel our pain, to experience our joy.
There is freedom in that human chain locked together by love, by a shared dream of a world reborn, where each life matters, and people move heaven and earth to take care of the most vulnerable among us. There is freedom from oppression, freedom from brutality, freedom from loneliness and isolation, freedom from despair when the human spirit elevates into such active, willful love—a human chain binding us together in love, freeing us up for love.
Jesus just needs us to be honest about our flaws and our failures—and let go of our impulse to think we are the ones who are going to fix it. Such messiness makes space for God’s mercy and mystery to heal us—the demand it makes on us is the demand for truth, especially the truths that are hard to admit, hard to see.
“Rocking the World”
Scripture: Isaiah 51: 1-6, Matthew 16: 13-20 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC August 27, 2017
When the monuments of human pride and power are toppling all around us Jesus is the one who saves us from ourselves.In such a place, with such a people, Jesus says, Rock, you are the rock on which I build my church. That means you and me, we are all called to be rocks, to rock the world in the midst of our foolish and fiendish and feebleminded ways. We are called to steady and to ground, to welcome and to trust, to loose and to bind.
“Sinking, Swimming, Floating”
Scripture: Psalm 85, Matthew 14: 22-33 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC August 13, 2017
After all nothing is unsinkable. Including our country, a country whose rhetoric has not matched our practices, a country whose lofty ideals are in danger of turning out to be a hypocrisy of epic proportions. Christians know a better way than hate, a better way than otherizing, a better way than shaming and blaming—we know a way of healing, a way of repenting, a way of truth-telling, a way of trusting a love that will never let us go. Christians are called into the tumult—to be carriers of healing in a world drowning in its own self-destruction. This is no time for panic; it is a time for courage, for truth, for trust in God.
God sows, God knows, God grows in the midst of tragedy, in the midst of humanity’s warring ways, in the midst of our fears that all may be lost, in the confusion of where do we turn, even in the malaise of what’s the point anymore. You and I are rooted in this: God has never, will never, give up on the wonders of a how a seed biding its time in the deepest darkness can grow.
Scripture: Jeremiah 28: 5-9, Matthew 10: 40-42 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC July 2, 2017
The power of Christian welcome in our contemporary moment is that it rekindles our openness to Jesus’ transforming impact on the whole world—including our openness to Jesus’ impact on us. Welcome is not simply about politics, it is not simply about piety, it is about power—the capacity to have an impact on the world around us and to be impacted by that same world.
Scripture: Genesis 21: 8-21; Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC June 25, 2017 Dialogue Sermon: Katie Rosenson, Samantha Gonzalez-Block, and Marcia Mount Shoop
God teaches me how to find life in this place. God teaches me how to believe in how I am made—fearfully and wonderfully made. God abides with me in the anguish of my position in this household whispering to me about freedom, about the promise of a different world…
“It Takes Three”
Scripture: Isaiah 6: 1-8; Matthew 28: 16-20 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC June 11, 2017, Trinity Sunday
God’s mystery isn’t simply about three—its about mutuality, its about shared power, its about the equilibrium created by open communication and interdependence between God, the world, and us. It takes all three. How often do we truly take in that the cornerstone of our faith teaches us that God’s very nature is to cooperate and connect and cultivate relationship, not to dominate and overpower and divide?
“Together in One Place”
Scripture Acts 2: 1-21; John 20: 19-23 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC June 4, 2017
Integrity of faith is not measured in our caution or in our tendency to defend and protect, it is measured in our malleability to Christ’s love as it erupts and interrupts and disrupts and breathes new life, new understanding, new perspectives, new ways of healing a fractured world—including us.
“The Big Reveal”
Scripture Psalm 66:8-20; Gospel of John 14: 15-21 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC May 21, 2017
The big reveal is startling and yet so mundane—and it rests in a question that we are called to answer: how do we treat each other, how do we let the way we live our lives together reveal again and again Christ’s powerful and healing love alive and well in the world?
“Ways and Means”
Scripture: Psalm 31: 1-5, 15-16; John 14: 1-14 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC May 14, 2017
Sanctuary, like motherhood, is a boldly vulnerable way of being in the world. Sanctuary is a mode of being that doesn’t try to deny our deep and tangled up interdependence. It is a mode of being that realizes the ability to respond is more about relationships than it is about resources.
“Say It Again”
Scripture Psalm 23; Gospel of John 10: 1-10 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC May 7, 2017
What could be more beautiful than faithful people who don’t let the complicated places and spaces of human life steal our faith, but who let them strengthen and define our faith.
Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-10; Matthew 28: 1-10 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC Easter Sunday April 16, 2017
Joy comes when we trust that God is at work in the world this way all the time—not just when we recognize it, not just when we trust it. It is a love that sings to dry bones and to bodies that seem better off dead and to grief that can’t be spoken and to suffering that seems too much to bear.
Scripture: Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29; Matthew 21: 1-11 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC Palm/Passion Sunday, April 9, 2017
As tempting as it is to jump on the bandwagon of the winners in this world, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem calls us a back to a chilling reality. The life is faith is not about winning. In fact, it can mean we might lose everything the world tells us should matter. Christians can’t be bandwagon people and be true to the Christ who goes ahead of us to the cross.
“He Said, She Said”
Scripture: Exodus 17: 1-7; John 4: 5-29, 39-42 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC March 19, 2017
If we listen to what HE said and what SHE said, we may just start to feel the sensations of that living water now, washing away hatred, washing away hierarchies that harm, and power that abuses and uses people for its own gain. If we receive the gift of this witness, this woman at the well, we can feel the tide turning, flowing in the direction of a justice that repairs and a love that regenerates.
“Against the Wind”
Scripture: Genesis 12: 1-4a; John 3: 1-17 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC March 12, 2017
You are being born, he says. You are being born into a way of being that is new and different—a both/and world where there is both concreteness and mystery. You have a divine spark in you and you are broken.
Scripture: Genesis 2: 15-17, 3: 1-7; Matthew 4: 1-11 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC March 5, 2017, First Sunday of Lent
Wilderness is where faith finds its source and its course. And so, the invitation is not for us to have all the answers, but to welcome the chance to move through this rugged place together.
“The Problem With Perfect”
Scripture: Leviticus 19: 1-2, 9-18; Matthew 5: 38-48 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC February 19, 2017
And so, Jesus’ invitation to be perfect is not about absolute moral purity—it is not about getting everything right, it is not about a dualism of good vs. bad—it is about being well with ourselves—our whole selves—and our whole selves include the hardest to love and the most beautiful to encounter.
“Add Salt to Fast”
Scripture: Isaiah 58: 1-12; Matthew 5: 13-20 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC February 5, 2017
A fast without the fruits of justice is no fast at all—it is an act of vanity, even of futility. The fruits of our practices together are the true measure of who we are in this world—this world that needs salt to survive, that needs salt to thrive, this world that needs light to truly see itself, to know itself.
“Goodbye Nets and Boats”
Scripture: Isaiah 9: 1-4; Matthew 4: 12-23 Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC January 22, 2017
Jesus stands on the shoreline watching us go about our every day routines, and says drop your nets, leave your boats, I am going to make you fish for people. He is calling us to be liberated from our own caution, our own hesitancy. To be the church in the world today, we must move out of our familiar—