Dayna Olson-Getty

Sermon 07/14/2019: Snakes & Ladders - Gluttony & Temperance

July 26, 2019 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Dayna Olson-Getty on Luke 16:19-25 & Philippians 3:17-21


click to view transcript

Reflection 1

Gluttony and temperance are words that - to my ears - sound so outdated and obsolete that it's hard to imagine what they might have to do with the everyday lives of people like us. 

But if we set aside images of drunken Roman Emperors gorging themselves or of prim Victorian ladies with anti-alcohol placards, and think about our own experiences with food  - suddenly there's a lot to say about the virtues and vices of eating. A lot of our human experience is connected with food - hunger and satisfaction, shame and delight, seeking relief from loneliness or stress, and experiencing joy and human connection.

One of the unavoidable realities of being human is we need food- day after day, to survive and thrive. It's one of those humbling daily reminders that we are creatures, not creators and that, like every other living creature, our lives are dependent on God's provision of daily bread. 

But food is a lot more to us than fuel for our bodies. Our food practices - which foods we choose and how we prepare them, when and with whom we eat, and how we eat - are all rich with meaning. They tell us a lot about how we view ourselves, each other, and God - about our belonging, value, and relatedness.

Jesus delves into those meanings when he tells the Pharisees this disturbing story of Lazarus and the rich man. The general outline of this story would have been familiar to them because there are similar folk tales and legends in Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and ancient Jewish cultures.

In the version Jesus tells, the rich man dresses every day in the luxurious purple clothing fit for a  prince and feasts on an overabundance of exquisitely delicious food. The crumbs that are under his table probably refer to the flatbread that very wealthy people used to clean their hands between courses - This rich man is the kind of guy who has so much food that he can just toss his used bread to the dogs. He's one of the 1% - the wealthiest of urban elites who control the political and economic lives of the other 99%. This is a guy with a closet full of Armani and a personal chef who serves steak and caviar every night.

And Lazarus is impoverished. His only clothing is the purple of his infected skin. He's not just poor - he's literally dying of hunger right on the rich man's front steps. 

In Jesus's world, people like Lazarus became destitute because they fell into debt and lost their land - usually as a result of crop failure, drought, or over taxation. It's quite possible that Lazarus lost his family land to an economic predator and that some of the overabundances of food on the rich man's table quite literally came from Lazarus's land.  Once he'd lost his land, Lazarus's only option to survive would have been to hire himself out as a day laborer. But if there was not enough work or the work did not pay enough, Lazarus would quickly have become malnourished and too weak to work. And without the ability to work, he would have continued to sink into destitution, as many people did until he died from starvation or disease.

I'm guessing that's it's not hard for most of us to see Jesus's point about the ethics of wealth and food. It's a terrible injustice when we habitually overindulge while other people starve to death for lack of food. We get that part of the story - after all, we're the people who write cookbooks about eating simply so that others may simply eat.

But making peace with food is more complicated and difficult for many of us than just reckoning with the ethical implications of what kind of food we eat, where our food comes from, and how much food we do or don't waste.

We live in a world that encourages us every day to look to food or drink as a source of comfort, affirmation, pleasure, and emotional pain relief. We hear these messages from advertising, but they are echoed in other ways in our daily lives, and in our own heads and hearts. Do any of these promises sound familiar?

Feel like your masculinity is a little shaky? Try a big chunk of red meat - it's guaranteed to leave you feeling like a lion - powerful and in control. 

Frazzled and exhausted from a long day of being the mommy of a ridiculously needy toddler or a defiant pre-teen? All you need is a quiet place to hide out - the bathroom will do in a pinch - and big glass or two of white wine.

Feeling profoundly unsexy, overworked and stressed out? A box of luxury chocolates will meet your longings for sensual pleasure and leave you feeling like a pampered goddess.

In spite of these promises of emotional fulfillment through food, we also live in a culture that tells us that our worth as human beings is directly related to our body's appearance - and that the way to satisfy our longings to be desired and valued and in control is through working our way to a "better body" - often through restricting what we eat and abstaining from the very kinds of foods that are promised to comfort us. 

And the messages we hear, and replay in our heads, tell us that the failure to do so is not just a matter of health - it's a matter of whether or not we are acceptable human beings. One of the ways popular American culture draws a line between people deemed shameful and repulsive, and people considered desirable and valuable, has to do with how our bodies look and assumptions about what our body size and shape indicate about our eating habits.  When we combine this intense focus on bodily perfection with the empty promises that food will comfort us, we find ourselves in an impossible double-bind - one that can ensnare any of us, regardless of how perfect others think our body looks.

It's no wonder that for many of us food, body image, shame, and self-worth have become an entangled mess that often leaves us estranged from or captive to our own hunger. We crave comfort, pleasure, desirability, relief from stress, control - and indulgence or restriction of what we eat promises to give us all this and more.

In the midst of this tangle, it's easy to miss out on the fact that food - and our practices of eating - are not only meant to be the way that our bodies are fueled - but that savoring food and sharing food can be a sacramental practice - a holy moment, an embodied experience of God's presence among us and of joy in our deep connectedness with each other.  Food doesn't just nourish our bodies, it also nourishes us emotionally and spiritually. It's one of the ways we give and receive love, provision, comfort, security, and celebration.

Reconnecting with experiences when food has been sacramental - when we have felt God's delight or tender care or joyful abundance as we ate  - is one way that I think we might be able to sidestep some of our tangle about food, at least temporarily, and catch a glimpse of what it might look like to eat in a way that feeds our bodies and souls. 

Spiritual Practice

For the adults - I want you to take some time to remember - in as much detail as you can - a meal that has nourished your soul as well as your body. Remember where you were and who else was there. Remember, if you can, what you ate and drank, and how it felt and tasted in your mouth. Remember the sounds and sights of the meal, what it was like to be present at that table. Remember what made the meal meaningful and pleasurable. Remember how you felt in body and soul. Savor God's presence in that meal.

For the children - Guided eating meditation using chocolate chips and mini marshmallows, followed by a prayer of gratitude.

Reflection 2

In Jesus' story about the rich man and Lazarus, they meet up in the afterlife. The rich man's gorgeous clothing has been replaced by tormenting flames, while Lazarus is resting in the seat of honor, next to Abraham. And the rich man, seeing Lazarus and Abraham, and feeling the agony of his own thirst, begs Abraham to send Lazarus to cool his tongue with water. 

It's this part of the story that helps us see the poverty of the rich man. In valuing his own bodily pleasure and comfort, the rich man missed out on recognizing and responding to Lazarus as a brother. In life, if he saw Lazarus at all, he only saw him as someone in need, and not as someone whose life and presence might be part of God's goodness in the world, part of God's provision for him.

Even in Hades, this rich man is ordering Lazarus around as if he's a slave - and he doesn't even manage to address Lazarus directly but instructs him through Abraham. Lazarus is sitting with Abraham, their mutual father, but this rich man is still blind to the reality that Lazarus is his brother. The rich man sees Lazarus as an object, as valuable only for his ability to meet the rich man's needs.

And because of that, the rich man misses out on communion. He has had food, but no satisfaction of his deepest longings. He has had wine, but none of the joy that comes from giving and receiving. He thinks he can meet his own needs, but he misses out on the greatest gift of the table - on communion with his brother. He values his physical hunger and bodily pleasure so highly that he misses out on what he really most deeply wants and needs.

So before we start imagining ourselves as Lazarus burning in the fires of hell, it's important to take a pause and ask what our hunger is trying to tell us.  As with envy, lust, and greed, we need to pause before jumping right into shame and judgment and self-condemnation and listen to what our desire is telling us. We need to ask, what is it that my body and soul need in order to be well-nourished? 

What do I really need? It might be food, but it might also be something more. Rest? An opportunity to be seen and heard, to know that I'm loved and accepted?  Comfort and companionship for a broken heart? Affirmation that I'm a delightful human being just as I am?

Asking these questions isn't easy. It opens us up more fully to the vulnerability of being human. Any of us over the age of five can feed ourselves in a pinch - a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a bowl of cold cereal will quell our hunger pangs. But these other needs - to be known, to have deep relational connections, to savor the delight of human companionship - they are needs that we cannot meet on our own. They are needs that can only be met through God's provision and through giving and receiving in relationship with other hungry, vulnerable, human beings. Receiving the nourishment that will satisfy those hungers requires bringing our hunger to the table. It requires relinquishing some measure of control and entrusting our nourishment to the care and provision of God through our brothers and sisters.

And that's risky. Sometimes people we entrust with our need don't respond or don't respond well. And sometimes our trust is betrayed by people who appeared to be trustworthy but are not - and we are wounded. But, my friends, it is worth the risk.

When I think of meals where God's delight and joy has been tangible to me, I think of a dinner with some of my dearest college friends who traveled hundreds of miles to visit me during one of the loneliest years of my young adult life - a year when I felt lost and invisible in a city where I knew almost no one. I can't remember what I cooked that night, but I do remember setting the table with a tablecloth, real china, and wine glasses, with a bouquet of spring tulips and a pair of candles in the center. As the sunset and the room grew dimmer, the table sparkled in the candlelight, and the faces of my friends glowed in the warm light. I remember savoring every moment of what had been commonplace when we lived together in dorms - the opportunity to linger over dinner together, talking and laughing and soaking up the joy of each others' presence- and that it nourished my soul.

I think this may be why shared meals are so much a part of the story of our faith - why the Gospels are full of stories about wedding feasts and lavish banquets and massive picnics where bread and fish are multiplied, and of Jesus welcoming his beloved friends to his table. Why a shared meal of bread and wine is one of the central practices of our faith.  Because God's invitation to us in Jesus is to come to the table hungry - to bring our longings and needs as well as our abundance and generosity, and to receive God's good gifts of nourishment, communion, and joy from each other's hands. May it be so. Amen.

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 6/23/2019: Snakes & Ladders: Envy & Contentment

July 1, 2019 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Dayna Olson Getty on Genesis 4:1-16 and Matthew 20:1:16


click to view transcript

Many of you know that when Eric and I moved to Harrisonburg five years ago, we moved into a house in the Northeast neighborhood that has a big open backyard. That first summer, Eric - who is the resident gardener in our household - laid out garden beds. turned the soil, worked in compost and planted seeds. We watered and waited. And not much happened. A few plants came up, but, with the exception of the onions, they didn't grow very well. Some of them withered and died. Those that survived didn't produce well.

We couldn't figure out why. After muttering some dark pronouncements about his apparent lack of gardening ability, and testing the pH of the soil, he began asking other gardeners to help him figure out why nothing would grow in his big sun-filled garden beds.

Eventually, he came up with a theory about what was wrong. There was a small black walnut tree on the edge of our yard. Black walnuts emit a toxin into the soil through their roots that prevents many plants from growing in close proximity. Our internet research had indicated that the toxin would be confined primarily to the tree's drip line - and our garden beds were well beyond that, but it turns out that the internet was wrong. The black walnut tree was emitting toxins into the soil that reached three or four times as big an area as its dripline, effectively making our entire back yard inhospitable to most of the vegetables we had hoped to grow. 

So - with some sadness - we decided to cut down the black walnut, and Eric set to work cleansing the toxins from the garden beds - turning the soil over and over again to let in air and light, and adding lots and lots of compost. The next year, we planted and watered and waited. And lots of plants came up. So many plants that some of them needed to be thinned out, and then thinned out again. And even after all the thinning, we had a bumper crop. On one particularly memorable day, we filled Noah's wading pool nearly to the brim with thick juicy carrots, rinsed them with a garden hose, and brought trash bags full of them down to the OCP kitchen.

If you are like me, the language of vices and virtues may not be the easiest entry point into conversations about growing in Christlikeness. Maybe because I grew up in a church tradition with lots of rules, talk about vices makes me think of the long lists of regulations that feel arbitrary and oppressive.

But the language of vices and virtues isn't about those kinds of rules. And it isn't about checking off boxes on some moral checklist so that we can feel comfortably superior.

It's more like the work of gardening. There are certain habits of heart and life that the Christian tradition tells us to look for and to root out because they emitting toxins in our lives and prevent good things from growing. And similarly, there are virtues - healthy habits of our hearts and lives - that create good conditions for Christlikeness to flourish. The Christian tradition of vices and virtues is a tradition of practical wisdom about how to create space and good conditions for growth - a wisdom tradition developed by generations of spiritual gardeners and passed along from person to person and community to community. 

Envy is one of those toxins that can poison the soil of our lives. Envy emits toxins into us and into our communities that kill off healthy and flourishing relationships, often before they even get a chance to start growing.

Envy is like jealousy on steroids. When we are merely jealous, we see what our neighbor has and we want to have some too. When we are envious, we want what our neighbor has- but even more so, we want for our neighbor not to have the thing we want, or at least not to be free to enjoy it. Envy seeks to take, to destroy, even to kill.

Genesis 4 tells us that Cain and Abel are the first brothers born into this new world God has created. Cain is born first, and he works the soil. Abel is the younger brother, a herdsman. Somewhere in this first chapter of life on earth, there is an occasion for the brothers to give thanks to God, who has given them this land and its plants and animals and made them fruitful. So they both bring an offering. Cain brings some of what has grown from the earth he has tended, and Abel brings animals born to his herd.

And God is pleased with Abel and his offering, but not with Cain and his offering. The story doesn't say why God is pleased with one offering and not with the other. If you are thinking that that sounds unfair, you are not alone. Theologians have theorized that Abel had a better attitude than Cain, or that God preferred a blood sacrifice, or that Abel gave of his best while Cain just brought whatever was on hand. But the story doesn't say why God regarded one and disregarded the other. 

And I wonder if the lack of explanation isn't intentional. Because that is how human life is - how our lives are. 

One classmate gets tenure at a prestigious university and becomes a well-respected expert in his field - meanwhile, his college classmate - equally intelligent, hardworking and dedicated - suffers through a series of bad bosses and lay-offs, and has to start his career all over again at midlife. 

Or a woman easily conceives and gives birth to happy healthy babies, while her colleague lives for years with the secret searing pain infertility, trying to avoid baby pictures and kid-talk at office gatherings.  

Or one sibling is his parent's golden child - the one who can seemingly do no wrong - while the other child is saddled almost from birth with his parent's own projected fears and failures - he's labeled irresponsible, untrustworthy, a bad kid - and eventually he begins to see himself that way as well.

As far as I can tell, God isn't equitable and impartial in giving favor in this story. But God does see and care for both brothers. God sees that Cain is in danger because of his disappointment and anger and warns him - "Cain, he says, watch out! Sin is crouching just outside your door, ready to pounce on you like a lion stalking prey.  You need to do something about it before it takes over your life."

I think it's worth noticing that Cain doesn't take his hurt and anger to God. We have stories in scripture of lots of people who do just that - Hannah weeps with such grief in her prayer for a child that the priest thinks she's drunk, Job dares to interrogate God in the face of his suffering, Moses argues and whines to God in the desert like a cranky toddler.

But Cain turns his disappointment and anger on his brother, who has no more control over the situation than Cain does. Cain's desire to be well-regarded by God turns to envy of his brother's acceptance. Envy takes root and becomes hatred. 

Cain can't do anything about whether or not God approves of his sacrifice. But he can do something about whether or not he has to be reminded about it every day by his brother's face. So he destroys the reminder of what his brother has and he does not - he murders his brother, taking control of what is not his to control. And then he lies about it - pretending to be both ignorant and innocent.

And what started with an aching need for acceptance and recognition turns into a far-reaching toxin of hatred. Abel's life is violently cut short. Adam and Eve have to face the horrible grief and rage of knowing that one of their beloved sons  - a child that Eve co-created with God - has killed the other. And Cain is exiled. God sends him to the Land of Nod - "Nod" is the root of the Hebrew word "to wander" - so he's literally sent into the land of wandering, far from his family. In killing his brother, Cain has taken matters into his own hands, but he ends up even more alienated than he was before. Now he wears a reminder of what he has done, and of God's grace to him, on his own body.

Like Cain, our jealousy and envy often have roots in a desire for something that - when separated from shame, self-loathing, hatred and insistence on control - is not a bad desire, maybe even is a good desire. 

Like removing toxins from garden beds, God invites us to remove envy from our life so that something beautiful  - so that contentment - can grow there. Contentment a deep sense of peace and joy in what is. It's a deep certainty that we have enough, that there will be enough, that we are enough. Contentment is a gratitude and delight in what we have and who we are. And this peace and joy come to many of us only after we've done the hard work of wrestling with the beast of envy that lies in wait. 

The evangelical author, Mary Ellen Ashcroft suggests that the first step of mastering envy is to listen to what our envy is telling us about what we desire. 

If we can find the desire at the bottom of our envy, she says, then we can reckon with whether the desire is legitimate and important enough to us that we are willing to pursue it in an outright and honest way. Sometimes it is - sometimes envy is like an alarm going off, telling us that there's something very important that we want or need and do not have. Maybe there's something we needed and did not receive at an earlier stage in our lives - unconditional love, security, to be seen and delighted in. When we are suffering from a lack that occurred years ago, a good therapist or spiritual director can often help us find ways to heal. And sometimes there's a longing for something we need now - maybe friendship, achievement, recognition, love, a life legacy. Only when we know what it is we truly desire can we decide if it's something we are willing to prioritize and pursue.

And if we discover that the thing we desire isn't something we choose to pursue - or if our desire is truly something over which we have no control - facing it openly and honestly gives us the opportunity to mourn our losses and let them go. And we have an opportunity to claim the truth that the unmet need in our life is not a reflection of our lack of worth. It's not our fault. It's not a punishment from God. It's not a reason to live in shame or to believe that are less valuable than those who have what we long for. We have an unmet longing, but that does not mean that we are not enough, that we are not beloved.

Envy tells us a toxic lie. It says -  "if you win, I lose. If you flourish, I wither.  If you receive love and admiration, I'm sentenced to isolation and pity. If you gain power and influence, I'll be powerless and insignificant." Envy is based on the idea that there is not enough for everyone, that God's provision for one means that another will go without. 

But God declares - in creation, in grace, in love -  that the world is not fundamentally a place of scarcity and fear, but a place of abundance. God's reminds us again and again that there is enough, we have enough, we are enough - inviting us to make space for contentment to take root and grow a bumper crop of gratitude and joy in our lives.

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 5/12/19: Child, arise!

May 16, 2019 by cmc_admin

Eastertide - Resurrection Wonder

Sermon by Dayna Olson-Getty

"Child, arise!"

Revelation 7:9-17, Acts 9:36-43

click to view transcript

Some of you have probably heard of the book Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis - It was #1 the New York Times bestseller list last year, and the second most popular book on Amazon.

Hollis tells about a life filled with anxiety attacks, alcohol abuse and poor choices - and her realization that she wanted to live differently.  She began seeking resources - therapy, self-help podcasts, books - that could help her make changes. She tells her readers how she identified the lies she was telling herself - lies like "I'll start tomorrow" and "I'm not good enough" or "I'm better than you are" - and attacked each one of them head on, changing her life through hard work, tenacity, and determination. What she learned, she tells her readers, is that "You, and only you are ultimately responsible for how happy you are."

There are lots of things we have choices about in our lives, and many of the things that plague us can be addressed by looking reality full in the face and then making a decision to take some action.  And there is tremendous freedom in realizing both that we can't control anyone else's behavior and that we can make choices about our own.

But Hollis has been critiqued - and rightly so, I think - for ignoring the reality that are plenty of terrible things that happen in life that we can't change through better choices, and plenty of nearly unbearable tragedies that can't be fixed by hard work, tenacity, and determination.

For instance, it's pretty hard to wash your face and get on with life when - like Tabitha - you're already dead.

I'm being a little sarcastic - but those of us who have buried a child, or a parent, or a beloved spouse - we know that this promise of self-determination is a lie. The reality is that we are vulnerable embodied human beings. We are not ultimately in control of our lives. And while we often have a lot of choice about how we live in the face of that reality, pretending to have power and control where we do not is at least as destructive and dangerous as refusing to recognize and take responsibility for the power that we do have.

The story we heard this morning from Acts is about a woman who dared to face the reality of her human vulnerability. Like many of the stories of women in the Bible, we have to do some reading between the lines if we want to know much about Tabitha's life. She's from Joppa - that's modern-day Tel Aviv - a seaport town 35 miles from Jerusalem, close to the border between Judea and Samaria. Joppa was a city of mixed identities, where Jews and Gentiles lived side-by-side, and people of many different ethnicities, nationalities and religions passed through or settled down to live. Like many port towns, Joppa wasn't exactly known for its piety or propriety.

One of the few things we know directly about Tabitha is that she was that she was devoted to good works and giving to the poor. Tabitha was a prolific seamstress. In the early church, women whose husbands had died had the option of joining a community of widowed Christian women who took a vow of celibacy and shared a life of prayer and service together. It seems likely that Tabitha was a leader in a community of widows who had chosen to live a life of prayer and service, supporting themselves by working together in a sewing co-op.

The fact that no male relatives are named in the story leaves us wondering if Tabitha, too, was bereaved and economically and socially vulnerable because of the death of a husband. And we know that she must have been considered an important leader in the Christian community in Joppa because, when she dies, her fellow believers send for Peter - and she's the only woman specifically referred to in the New Testament as a disciple.

The name "Tabitha" - or "Dorcas" in Greek - means gazelle. Gazelles are small, quick, graceful animals - kind of like little deer. The ones that live near Joppa are only about two feet high at the shoulder and can run up to 60 miles per hour. They are incredibly well adapted for life in the desert - they can go their entire life without drinking water, getting all the hydration they need from plants. Gazelles live in the in-between spaces - often just beyond the outskirts of cities and towns. They are border creatures - not fully belonging to the desert or to the settled places.

Gazelles in the Bible are symbols of beauty, life, and love. They also were a symbol in the early church of proselytes - Gentile converts who chose to commit to the Jewish community and faith, leaving their birth faith - and often their family connections - behind. Like gazelles, converts were border creatures, seeking the water of life, but never fully in the heart of the community. Some scholars think that Tabitha was given the name by her faith community because she was a convert.

I wonder what it was like for Tabitha to try to find a place of belonging as a widow in a faith community that wasn't hers by birth. I wonder when she felt most at home and fully herself - maybe talking and laughing by candle-light over a sabbath dinner with some of the friends with whom she worked and prayed. Or maybe when she gave alms to those in need and heard, in response, their thanks to the God of Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel.

And I wonder how often she still felt like an outsider. Those who join a community from the outside know that it often takes years - if it ever happens - to find the same ease and unquestioned sense of belonging of those born into the heart of a community. An outsider can choose a faith community, but true belonging depends on the willingness of the faith community to choose the outsider in return, and to continue to choose them - to reflect back to them their belonging, to claim them as one of their own, not just in the good times, but also when things get rough and the community begins feels stressed or threatened. And as a widow in a faith community that celebrated family life, Tabitha would be doubly an outsider, and doubly vulnerable.

But this community does own her. There's no more vulnerable moment in human life than the moments after death. There's absolutely nothing we can do, no matter how powerful we are in life, to guarantee that we will be treated with dignity and respect after death. We are dependent on others - on their willingness to extend the same care and respect to us as they would want for themselves and their loved ones.

Tabitha's community gives her this care. They surround her in death as they had in life.

When a member of a Jewish community dies - and this is done today in much the same way that it was in Tabitha's day - members of their synagogue gather - often within hours - to care for their body. The body of the person who died is washed, immersed in water for ritual cleansing - similar to a baptism -  and then dressed in a white linen shroud. From the moment of death until burial, the person who has died is attended continuously by a family member or member of their faith community.

When Peter arrives, Tabitha's body has been washed and prepared for burial by her friends. There is a window of time, no more than a few hours, between the time when her body is prepared for burial and the time when she will be laid to rest in the earth. It's in that window of time - when death and loss are at their most present and unbearable - that Peter arrives.

Peter sends all the mourners out of the room and then kneels to pray like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, looking death straight in the eyes. And then he calls out her name.

"Tabitha, arise!"

Tabitha hears her own name - and she does rise. She sits up, and then takes Peter's hand and stands.

Tabitha rises, not through her own power and control, not through hard-work, tenacity and determination, but through the life-giving power of God. Tabitha is called back to life, and called to new life, by the creator and giver of life. Tabitha doesn't earn life, or grasp it, or create it herself - she receives life as a gift from the giver of life.

Peter calls her friends back into the room and  presents the newly alive Tabitha - it's as if he were presenting a newborn child or a newly baptized convert - Here is someone you know and love he's saying - who, in this moment, has crossed the threshold of a new identity, a new status, a new place in you community. He's presenting her as one who has passed through the waters of death into new life, who has been reborn.

I don't know anyone who has been raised from the death in the way that Tabitha was. But I do know people - some of us among them - who have received the gift of life in the midst of the traumas, griefs, and losses of life. I have seen the Spirit at work, bringing new life where there was despair, anxiety, fear and hatred.

When I think about what I would say to someone facing what Tabitha faced - something other than "Girl, wash your face" -  I think of this poem called First Lesson by Philip Booth. He writes:

Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man's float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

No amount of determination or hard work or tenacity will allow any of us to avoid suffering and grief and - sooner or later - death. Thrashing around in the face of the things we cannot change will only wear us out and make it harder for us to know ourselves to be held.

But the promise of this story  - the promise and wonder of resurrection - is that even in suffering and grief and death, we are not alone, we are not forgotten, we are not abandoned. Jesus is there calling our name, inviting us to rise up to new life.

So don't be afraid, my friends. Lie back, trusting that the love of God will uphold you, and that Jesus is on his way, coming to speak your name and invite you to rise into newness of life.

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 12/23/18: "Revolutionary Love"

December 31, 2018 by cmc_admin

Love Revealed: Advent 4 - Blessing and Restoration

Sermon by Dayna Olson-Getty

"Revolutionary Love"

Scripture: Micah 4:2-5a; Luke 1:39-55


Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 10/08/18: Master or Little One?

October 8, 2018 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty

"Master or Little One?"

Scripture: Mark 10:2-16; Genesis 2:18-24

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon: May 6, 2018

May 11, 2018 by cmc_admin

Resurrection Life: Beloved

"I have called you friends"

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty

"Chosen Family"

Scripture: John 15:9-17


Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts or subscribe, check out our main podcast page.


Sermon: March 25, 2018

March 27, 2018 by cmc_admin

Lent IV: Surprised by God's promises

"Your King is Coming!"

Sermon by Dayna Olson-Getty

Scripture: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; John 12:12-16

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts or subscribe, check out our main podcast page.

Sermon: March 4, 2018

March 9, 2018 by cmc_admin

Lent III: Wisdom for living God's promises

"A Living Temple"

Sermon by Dayna Olson-Getty

Scripture: Exodus 20:1-17; John 2:13-22

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts or subscribe, check out our main podcast page.


Sermon: February 4, 2018

February 9, 2018 by alisha.huber

Treasure in Clay

"So that God may be Glorified"

Sermon by Dayna Olson-Getty

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:10-11; 2 Timothy 2:1-7, 20-21

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts or subscribe, check out our main podcast page.

Sermon: December 24, 2017

December 27, 2017 by cmc_admin

"Infant Insurgent"

Sermon by Dayna Olson-Getty

Scripture: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:26-38

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts or subscribe, check out our main podcast page.


Sermon: Sunday, November 19, 2017

November 20, 2017 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty.

Scripture: Genesis 37

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts or subscribe, check out our main podcast page.


Sermon from August 27, 2017: Practicing Life

August 28, 2017 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Dayna Olson-Getty.

Click here for transcript

  • Genesis 1:1-2:4; 4:1
  • Exodus 25:1-9; 35:20 – 36:8a; 40:34-38
  • John 1:1-18
  • Acts 2:1-21
  • Isaiah 65:17-25
  • Revelation 21:1-7; 9-27

Genesis 1 (Slide 1)

God said:

Let there be!

Not because God needed, not because God lacked. Not because God fought or feared.

Because God loved. Because God desired. Because God laughed and played and delighted and made. Beauty, life, a world full to bursting with life begetting more life.

Into the dark and formless void, God spoke, and there was. The light and dark, the solid and liquid, the heat and the cold, the squirming and crawling and swimming and flapping, the orbiting and revolving, the photosynthesizing and the absorbing, the rooted and the winged.

And then the speaking, laughing, delighting creatures, bearing God's image, held in communion

– created with Creator.

Exodus (Slide 2)

And God said to the image-bearers:

You create!

Let the sanctuary of your belly grow round and taut, full of life. Create with me a child who will live outside your body, just as you live outside of mine. Co-create with me in love, in delight, in joy. And the one you birth will create, and his children will create, and the whole earth will be filled to bursting with beauty and delight and love.

And God said to the created ones:

You make!

Bring your skills, your intelligence, your imagination, your will – and make! Make cloth and carvings, stonework and lamp oil, gold leaf and pillars. Measure and cut, spin and pound, sew and weave, and hammer, design and build.

Make a sanctuary with your own hands, out of the stuff of this earth, and I will dwell there. I will live among you in the midst of this vast and formless desert. In cloud and fire, I will dwell among you. As light and life, I will dwell among you.

John 1 (Slide 3)

But we who were made, are every day unmade. All around us, the world is uncreated faster than we can re-create. And we, the creatures invited to create from the stuff of the earth, to create in love and joy and delight, instead make border walls and bomber drones and prison cells. We make violence and half-truths and safe distances. We make enemies and walls of silence. Our making unmakes God's making.

So God came to dwell among us, in this bombed-out building of a world. God huddles with us in the dark, in the cold, in the void that has unfolded between us. The One who always was, the One who spoke us into being, the one who loved and desired and laughed and played and delighted and made – this One has come to dwell among us, taking up residence with us in the valley of the shadow of death.

And this One who made all that is, waits with us, in grief, in hope, in groaning expectation.

Acts 2 (Slide 4)

And God says: Receive!

The Uncreated One gathers us, we who are made of the stuff of the earth, we who have scattered and become strangers to each other, like a mother hen gathering up her chicks at dusk. And the Creator breathes on us again the breath of life, and life and light roars up again among us. Together we are knit together – sinew to bone, muscle to skin - into a dwelling place for God, a living, breathing, dancing, weeping, laughing tabernacle for the Uncreated One. We dream dreams. We see visions. We awaken to ancient memories of a world teaming with life, flooded with love. We hold among us the quickening hope of a new creation. We are full to bursting with new creation, like a womb full of child.

Isaiah 65 (Slide 5)

And God declares: I will make all things new!

I will breathe my re-creating, renewing, re-vivifying Spirit into every crack and corner of this dying creation. I will leave no cinder block or garbage heap or hardened heart or abandoned block untouched. I will speak into being new life, and it will spring up from long-dead stumps, from desolate ground, from the unmarked graves of the abandoned.

I will make my home among my created ones. I will dwell among them in beauty and delight and love. And I will be their light and life and love. Once again, we will live in joy-filled communion – Creator with created ones, creature with creature, created ones with created world.

And God says: Come! Co-create this new world with me!

Bring your skills, your intelligence, your imagination, your will. Gather some ink or acrylic paint, gold leaf or embroidery thread. Oak beams or finger paint. Fabric scraps or a lump of clay. Bricks and mulch. Sand, water, paper, chalk.

Imagine something that is not. Look with eyes of a love – dare to see not only what is, but what will be. Dream of a world where joy springs up in the darkest corners. Make spaces for other dreamers. Create beauty that gives witness to my dream of a re-created world. Open your heart to visions of one new people, together giving birth to a new world inside the burnt-out shell of the old. Practice life in the midst of death.

And God says: Come! Co-create this new world with me!

Bear my image. Dream my dreams. Shape my visions with the stuff of the earth, held in your hands, carried in your own body.

My friends, God is inviting us to create - in love, in delight, in joy. God is inviting us to join in God's joyful work of making all things new. God is inviting us to join in the communion of co-creating and giving witness to the re-creating love of the One who made our world.

Do we dare? Do you dare?

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts or subscribe, check out our main podcast page.

Sermon: 06/18/2017 Making Peace with Power

June 19, 2017 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty, on Matthew 3:13-17 and Acts 2:1-24, 32-39.

Click for Transcript

In recent weeks, I've found myself thinking a lot about the role that power plays in our lives and communities. "Power" is a word that makes a lot of us a little uncomfortable – maybe "influence" or "authority" or even "polity" feel more acceptable. But regardless of what we call it, power ebbs and flows through our relationships, our families, our church systems, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our government.

When we want to understand where power is located in a community, we ask questions like, "How are decisions made? Who could veto that proposal? Who would we have to convince in order to create something new? Who is responsible to keep our community safe when one of us is hurting others? Who gets to decide how to tell our shared story? How does this community clarify who can belong and who cannot?"

I recently read a book that has been helpful to me in thinking about Christian discipleship and power. It's called Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing by Andy Crouch. Crouch argues that we have often, as Christians, seen power as primarily a dangerous and corrupting influence – something to be feared or avoided - and not as a good gift from God.

This view of power as fundamentally dangerous or corrupting may ring especially true for those of us who have been shaped by the Anabaptist tradition. Many of our origin stories – the stories of sixteenth century Anabaptists - are stories of profound powerlessness and suffering at the hands of powerful political and religious leaders. Such formative experiences of the abuse of power have led many Anabaptist communities to develop a strong guardedness about the pursuit or acquisition of power.

And while serious caution is warranted, given how disastrously we humans tend to abuse power, our narrative about power often makes it hard for us to honestly assess when and where we do have power.

But the truth is, we all have power, to some degree or another, in at least some arenas of our lives. Some of that power is the direct, decision-making kind of power – the power to say yes or no, the power to create something out of nothing, the power to choose one course of action over another.

And some of our power is indirect – we make suggestions or recommendations, we articulate a perspective or share a personal story or piece of advice.

But unless we can identify and own our power, we have very little opportunity for using it for redemptive rather than destructive purposes. We have to make peace with our power before we can use our power to make peace.

Crouch argues that power flows from God and was first given by God to human beings before sin entered our world. Power is meant to be used for good, for the flourishing of human communities, of people in interdependent networks of relationships. Flourishing creates the space and conditions for all of us, including the most vulnerable members of our communities, to fully become all of who we were created to be.

Crouch defines power as "the capacity for meaningful action." Those with power have the ability to act in a way that has an impact, that causes something to happen. And it's not just random action – it's action that's meaningful. Their action is part of a larger story that began before this moment of action and will continue on after it. Their action moves the story forward in some way.

The power to nurture true human flourishing, Crouch argues, contains a paradox. Power for human flourishing requires both authority – the meaningful capacity to take action - and vulnerability - meaningful risk of loss. Those who want to see a community flourish have to use their authority in a way that releases control over the others who are involved and over the outcome. This kind of use of power calls us to use authority with open hands and open lives, to invite transparency and accountability, to make space for others to influence and shape the outcome.

Organizations go bad, Crouch says, when leaders seek authority and control without being willing to risk that others might push back or have influence as well. That kind of power – power that seeks to avoid vulnerability - comes at the expense of others ability to act. It leaves the less powerful with few options other than reacting to what has already been done to and for them. This kind of power easily becomes exploitative, increasing the authority and decreasing the vulnerability of the more powerful, while decreasing the authority and increasingly the vulnerability of the less powerful. We call that kind of use of power "injustice."

Those who are entrusted with the power to take meaningful action on behalf of a community must also, Crouch says, be willing to take on the real risk of meaningful loss in doing so- the risk of failing, the risk of being betrayed, the risk of being misunderstood, the risk of being wrong. Those who hold power on behalf of a community are called to a vulnerability that leaves them open to the very real possibility of suffering on behalf of those they lead. This kind of power, Crouch argues, is what we know as love. It's taking action for the good of another, even as we open ourselves to grief and loss in doing so.

In both of the passages we read today, God gives power in ways are very public and visible. And in both cases, it's power that includes both authority and vulnerability.

In the first passage – from Matthew 3 - we see Jesus going down to the Jordan River where John the Baptist is calling people to confess their sin and be baptized as a sign of repentance in preparation for God's judgement.

Jesus is literally the last person who needs this baptism, and John knows it. He protests, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"

But Jesus insists that he must be baptized by John.

And when Jesus steps into that water, he steps into solidarity with God's people. He doesn't need the baptism of repentance, but his people do, and they need him to stand with them in their sinfulness and weakness. Jesus steps into the water of public confession and repentance, into the river of death and rebirth. He takes on the vulnerability of standing with the people of God at their most needy and defenseless. Jesus steps into the water, identifying with the sinners who will find wholeness and holiness through him.

And in response to this embrace of vulnerability, God gives Jesus authority. The Spirit descends on him and God declares "This is my Beloved son, with whom I am well-pleased." Jesus, God is saying, has been chosen and given power for a particular task, the task of making God known through his life and death. Jesus has been given authority to take action on behalf of God's mission of shalom – of the flourishing of all creation.

Jesus continues to hold authority and vulnerability together throughout his ministry. Forgiving, teaching, healing, creating and recreating – speaking and acting over and over again with the authority of God. And yet, his life is filled with vulnerability. He gives himself to people who betray him. He speaks truth even when it threatens, and risks backlash from, those with political and religious power. He risks everything, even his own life, for the sake of those he loves.

Authority and vulnerability are also at the heart of the Pentecost story. Luke tells us that the disciples were all together when the house where they were gathered was filled with the sound of a violent wind, and tongues of fire appeared among them and rested on each of them. Wind and fire are signs in scripture of God's fearsome presence – Luke is telling us that, suddenly, God is there among them, full of power, breathing fire, riding on the wind.

And the power of God, the creator of the universe, is not only present with them, God's power is present in and through them. They begin to speak in languages that are not their own, in the mother tongues of their immigrant neighbors. And each one hears the word of God in his or her own native language, in the language of childhood, and of memories, and of dreams.

This powerful God among them has poured out power in and through them. And it is a creative power that is speaking a new community into being, a community that crosses cultures and languages, genders and age differences, economic class and social status, a community that speaks in the heart language of each person, offering a space of belonging and flourishing.

It's hard to imagine a more direct or visible sign of God's bestowal of power. These disciples haven't been ordained by the laying on of hands – they've been ordained by the visible, audible indwelling presence of God!

So I think it's striking what happens next. Those who experience this event of astonishingly abundant divine power don't respond by asking how they can get some too. They don't respond to this awesome display of power by seeking power. They hear the story of Jesus' death and resurrection and they are, Luke says, "cut to the heart." They respond to this outpouring of power with confession, with vulnerability. They respond by entering the waters of repentance and death, and trusting that they will be raised up to new life. They follow Jesus into vulnerability. And in doing so, they receive the empowering gift of the Holy Spirit.

Those first disciples lived as we are called to live. They stepped forward into the way of Jesus, who although he had all authority, took on all vulnerability for the sake of empowering love.

The author of the letter to the church in Philippi, quoting an ancient hymn, put it this way:

Christ Jesus…though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

My friends, as we consider our own authority and power, let us follow in the way of Jesus, embracing both meaningful action and risky, vulnerable love for the sake of the flourishing of God's community of beloved ones.

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 05/28/2017: Remembering the Poor

May 30, 2017 by cmc_admin


Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty on II Corinthians 8:1-12 and 9:6-9; Romans 15:25-29.

Click for Transcript

I'm going to begin this morning by asking you to join me in a somewhat dystopian thought experiment. And before I begin – let me assure you that this is not prophecy – just an experiment in imagination – and that I won't ask you to stay in this imaginative world very long.

OK, ready? Imagine for a minute this version of our future life in Harrisonburg. Imagine that our community has suffered some sort of terrible calamity that has brought our economy into a steep decline. Businesses have closed, non-profits have gone under, universities are shuttered. People who have always had more than enough are struggling to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. In this imaginary version of the future, many of us in this congregation have lost our jobs and aren't able to find new ones. The necessities of life have become scarce and expensive.

I imagine that if we found ourselves in this version of the future, we would help each other. No doubt we would distribute the money that our congregation has already set aside in our Compassion Fund for unexpected needs that arise among us. I imagine that many of us would use our household savings to provide for our families and to care for each other. If the crisis continued, some of us would likely try to sell some property to provide for others. Some of us might invite another family to share our home until the crisis had passed, or host a nightly neighborhood potluck so that we could ensure that everyone had something to eat, or set up a clothing swap in our fellowship hall.

We have a lot of resources among us, and I imagine that, if we shared our resources, we could support each other for quite a while. But eventually, we'd deplete all those resources – and then what? Unless help came from outside of the impoverished region, we would eventually become destitute.

This is not unlike the situation faced by the church in Jerusalem in AD 57.

Several years before, when Paul had traveled to Jerusalem to meet with the leaders of the community of believers in that city, there was already a significant financial need. Paul was in Jerusalem to try to work out a deep conflict that had arisen between Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus. Some Jewish followers of Jesus were insisting that the Gentiles needed to follow the ritual purity laws of Judaism in order to be a part of the community, while Paul and his ministry partners insisted that that was not necessary. After a heated debate, the two sides came to a compromise. The leaders of the Jerusalem community gave Paul their blessing to continue proclaiming the good news of Jesus among the Gentiles without requiring Gentile believers to follow Jewish ritual purity regulations. The one thing they did require of Paul was that he "remember the poor."

And Paul took that assignment to heart. For the next five years, throughout his missionary journeys, Paul raised money wherever he went, asking the newly converted believers in the Greek and Roman cities where he ministered to contribute to the gift he was assembling to bring to the poor among the believers in Jerusalem.

In the early days of the Jerusalem congregation, wealthy members sold their property to provide for their brothers and sisters. Luke describes this community in the book of Acts as one where "there was not a needy person among them." But as the years went on, those resources were depleted.

Because of the Roman occupation, the residents of Jerusalem faced persistent food shortages and extremely high taxes. Many Jews retired in Jerusalem, which led to an increasing number of elderly people who needed financial support. And then, in the 40s, Palestine suffered a severe famine.

By the time that Paul was gathering money for this fund, poverty within the Jerusalem community had become deep and entrenched. The poor among the believers in Jerusalem were destitute.

But even with that level of need, it's striking that Paul invested such a tremendous amount of time and energy, and took such great risks, to raise and deliver these funds. Anti-Jewish prejudice was strong in the ancient world and the history between these communities – of Jews who were deeply offended by what they saw as the Gentile church's carelessly violating traditional ethics, and of Gentile believers convinced that the Jerusalem church was being oppressive and domineering in their demands – this history meant that there was deep mutual distrust. And it's likely that most of the members of the Gentile churches themselves lived only a notch or two above subsistence on the economic ladder.

There were also significant cultural barriers related to giving. In Greek culture, when wealthy people gave to those in need, they expected to receive prestige and honor in return. Becoming a benefactor was a way to gain power and status within one's community – those who were recipients became clients of the benefactor, with long-term obligations of service and allegiance to the patron. In this patron-client paradigm, giving to strangers who lived hundreds of miles away made no sense at all because the recipients could not return any benefit to the givers.

And Paul's own challenges and barriers to this work of fund-raising were not insignificant. Even while he was collecting this money, Paul was in conflict with Peter, one of the leaders of the Jerusalem church, because he had reneged on the agreement between the Jewish and Gentile communities. And the travel involved, including the travel to Jerusalem, meant risking arrest or even death for Paul, whose association with Gentiles made him a target.

And there was a significant risk that, after all the hard work of raising these funds, the Jerusalem community might refuse to accept them. To publically accept a gift from Gentiles would risk deepening the rift between the community of Jewish Jesus-followers and the broader Jewish community of Jerusalem, marginalizing these vulnerable people even further.

So why on earth did Paul devote 5 years of his life to raising this money? And why did he risk his life delivering it?

Paul's arguments to the community of believers at Corinth give us some clues.

The point of this gift, he tells them, is not how much or how little they have to give. Instead, this fund-raising campaign is intended to create what Paul calls "fair balance" - or equality of resources - between those who currently have more than enough and those in need, anticipating that in future circumstances, those who give might themselves become recipients.

Paul is envisioning a global network of faith communities in which economic resources flow across the boundaries of culture, ethnicity, theological conviction and nationality to provide for those in need from the resources of those who have more than enough. Paul wants to forge lasting bonds of solidarity, binding together these distant and mutually distrustful branches of the Jesus-community in mutual interdependence. Paul wants the Gentile believers and the Judean believers to become kin, the kind of kin who send money when someone is in need and who aren't too proud or fearful to accept it.

Paul's method of fund-raising is intentionally distinct from the Greek systems of patron-client relationships. Even the poorest members of the Corinthian church are asked to participate. The money will then be pooled, making one larger gift from the Corinthian congregation, and that will be pooled with the gifts from the other Gentile congregations, until it's no longer possible to identify the gifts of individual givers who might require something of the recipients in return.

This gift, rather than creating security and status for the giver, asks the givers to make themselves vulnerable, putting whatever financial security they have in the hands of brothers and sisters half a world away. The Macedonians, who gave out of their poverty, Paul tells them, are the exemplars of this kind of giving – this is not a mutually beneficial contract or a global mutual insurance pool, but a wildly vulnerable act of faith that is undergirded by trust in God's abundant provision through the community of God's people.

So does this story of Paul's risky cross-cultural, globe-spanning fund-raising have to do with us?

First, it seems abundantly clear that Paul considers both giving and asking for money as highly valuable ministry activities, integral to the lived witness of God's new community. For those of us who give and those of who raise money on behalf of others, this is a word of blessing and affirmation. The work you do in raising money to care for those in need, to fund the work of the church, and to create communities that give witness to the possibility of God's beloved community is holy work, just as much as preaching, or praying, or leading Sunday morning worship.

Second, this story points out the importance of relationships across differences of theology, culture and nationality in the community of God's people. Paul is asking these Gentile believers to take a risk in giving to people who they have never met, and will likely never meet. But it's not a blind risk. Paul has visited this community multiple times. For all their differences, he knows the Jerusalem community well enough to feel confident that this money is really needed and that it will be used well. And when he delivers the gift, he takes along a representative of each of the congregations who gave, creating an opportunity for direct relationships between these communities.

Third, this story helps us to see that, when we are gathering funds for the work of the church, the method and the message are inseparable. Not unlike the ancient Greeks and Romans, we live in a culture that rewards giving with power and prestige, and often expects some form of subservience from the recipient. We only have to look at the entangled history of western mission and colonialism to see what deep harm is done when we bring this paradigm into our relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ. Like Paul, we need to find ways to shape our giving practices so that we foster mutual vulnerability and interdependence, rather than hierarchy and domination.

Finally, and most of all, this story challenges us to see ourselves as responsible for the economic needs of fellow believers across differences of culture, nationality, economics, and theological conviction. We are called to giving and receiving as kinfolk who are invested in each other's well-being for the long-term and who risk putting our trust in God's provision through the extended community of God's people.

Perhaps one way to measure how we are doing in living out these commitments is to return for a minute to our dystopian imaginings of life in Harrisonburg during a severe economic crisis. What would it be like to be on the receiving end of cross-cultural or transnational relationships with communities of faith who we have funded in our years of prosperity? Have we created relationships of such mutuality and trust that we wouldn't mind swapping places and becoming the recipient in the relationship in our time of need? Would we be comfortable receiving in the same way and under the same conditions that we have asked others to receive?

Like the community in Corinth, God is calling us to forge bond of kinship across great distances and differences with our brothers and sisters, using our excess, no matter how small, to participate in God's economy of abundant provision for all.

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 04/16/2017: The Politics of Resurrection

April 18, 2017 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty on Matthew 28:1-17 and Colossians 3:1-4.

Click here for a transcript

We began our worship this morning by announcing the good news of the resurrection to each other. "Christ is risen!" we proclaimed, "Christ is risen, indeed!"

For many of us, that's an affirmation of deep hope and joy. For others of us, it may bring to the surface doubts or misgivings about whether we truly belong in this community gathered to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. But it's unlikely that any of us, no matter our response, considered the possibility that we might risk arrest for claiming that Jesus Christi is risen from the dead. But those who first proclaimed this news were making a declaration so politically subversive that it was dangerous.

Easter is a season when Christians often reflect on and celebrate the inward, personal, life-transforming power of the resurrection in our lives. And the transformation and healing of our inner selves is a vital part of the redemption and salvation we receive in Christ. Many of the resurrection accounts in the Gospels attest to the intimate, life-changing encounters of the disciples with the risen Jesus.

John tells us about Jesus meeting the grief-wracked Mary in the burial garden, tenderly speaking her name, trusting that she will recognize his familiar voice. We hear about Jesus the good shepherd who seeks out his terrified and despairing little flock of disciples, feeding them with freshly grilled fish and comforting them with his presence. Luke tells about the resurrected Jesus who traveled with a couple of despairing disciples on the way from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus, reigniting their hopeless hearts with the light of scripture and with his own illuminating presence at their table.

But, my friends, the power of resurrection life encompasses much more than individual, personal, and inward transformation. It is also profoundly political. On the day that God raised Jesus from the dead, all the legal and military forces of Rome had done their best to destroy him. The resurrection of Jesus was a direct confrontation of the political authorities of his day. In fact, one scholar has called the resurrection of Jesus "the first act of Christian civil disobedience." And proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus, as we did this morning, was a dangerous act of political subversion.

Last Sunday, we celebrated the triumphal entry, when Jesus was hailed as God's anointed deliverer of his people. But in the week that stretched between the triumphal entry and Easter, Jesus' conflict with his faith community and with the governmental authorities intensified exponentially. In the course of his last few days, Jesus faced a trumped up religious inquisition, a baseless legal trial, wrongful arrest, a brutal physical assault, emotional abuse and sexual humiliation, and finally, state-sanctioned torture and execution. And this, if we read Matthew's accounting, was not just personal suffering – it was politically motivated.

In ancient Rome, crucifixion was used as a way to publically demonstrate the dire consequences of challenging the ruling authorities. The threat of torture and execution allowed Rome to keep the "pax Romana" – the Roman peace – in the outlying provinces using only a small occupying force. Like tyrants in every time and place, the Romans had built their power on the ultimate human weapon – death.

And the possibility of resurrection – even the potential for false rumors of resurrection – was so threatening to those whose power rested on the threat of death that, following Jesus' burial, the Roman governor authorized a guard of soldiers to secure Jesus' tomb, and, for good measure they sealed it so that any tampering would be evident.

Early the next morning, Matthew tells us, the two Marys go to keep watch at his tomb. To their utter surprise, they are greeted by a jarring earthquake and a blindingly bright messenger from God. While the guards cower in fear, this angel – who blazes like lightening - rolls away the enormous stone sealing the tomb, and perches on it as if it were an impromptu throne. The guards – who had been sent to keep watch over a dead man (surely they thought this would be the easiest job ever) – become like dead men themselves, frozen in their fear.

"Do not be afraid," the angel tells women. "He is not here, he has been raised." Following the angel's instructions, the women hurry to tell the other disciples, and on the way to preach this good news, they meet their risen Lord himself, and fall at his feet in love and worship.

It's striking that in this narrative, like all the other gospel accounts, no one actually sees the resurrection. We who follow the resurrected Christ have the testimony of witnesses to the empty tomb and to the risen Christ, but we have no indisputable proof, and no record of how just this inexplicable reality came to be. We have a living church that testifies to the presence of the risen Christ, but no explanation, short of the miraculous, of how Jesus' mangled body was brought back to life. And even so, it's a terribly threatening story for rulers who depend on fear for their power. Even so, it's given birth to communities of resistance around the world, who declare with their lives that they trust in a power that is stronger than death.

The most fearless person I ever met is a Burundian woman named Maggy Barankitse. Maggy was a young woman living in the tiny village of Ruyigi in 1993 when ethnic-based violence broke out across her country.

Maggy, who was born into the same privileged group as the attackers– could have simply walked away unscathed. But she stayed with her friends and her adopted children, many of whom were members of the ethnic group that was being targeted, doing everything she could to save their lives. Maggy managed to bribe the attackers to allow 25 children to live, but 72 people died that day in the Catholic bishop's residence where they had sought refuge. As punishment for refusing to help her attackers, Maggy was stripped naked, tied to a chair, and forced to watch the massacre. She was the sole adult to survive.

Afterwards, Maggy spent days burying those who had died. And then she began to seek a way to rebuild her life and her community. She welcomed the children orphaned in the attack into her home as her sons and daughters. Then she began to take in more orphaned children – children of every ethnic group. Her dream, she says, is to see a new generation in which children of different ethnic groups grow up as brothers and sisters.

By the time I met her in in 2010, Maggy had taken in 10,000 children, placing them in inter-ethnic child-led households, and building schools, farms, businesses and a hospital so that her children could grow up with dignity and love. Maggy's reasons for this work are deeply personal – after the massacre, she says, the children rebuilt her heart. They brought her healing, hope and joy.

But her work is also profoundly political. In a region still torn by ethnic-based violence, the creation of inter-ethnic families is seen as a direct affront to those in power. It's a living testament to another political possibility. Maggy, whose deep faith in Christ fuels her work, lives as a woman who is entirely fearless. Those who attacked her friends and family that day intended that the she would leave terrified and silenced. Instead, she walked out of the bishop's compound as a woman who had looked death squarely in the face, and then miraculously been handed back her life.

Maggy is unafraid of the armed groups that sometimes roam the countryside where she travels – she's been known to invite them to give up fighting and come work for her – or of the politicians and military leaders in the capital who find her out-spoken truth-telling to be deeply threatening. She lives as woman who has died and whose life is hid with Christ in God. She lives as a woman whose life cannot be destroyed by any act of violence. She lives as a woman who has staked her life on the claim that Christ is risen indeed.

The church testifies that the resurrection is God's declaration of a powerful new reign, founded on a radically different source of authority. Its power flows from the unquenchable self-giving love of the One who created our world and gave his own life for us, rather than from the threat of violence and death. The resurrected Jesus is God's declaration, in the face of the most powerful and brutal empire of its day – and in the face of all oppressive rulers, systems and powers- that the way of love is stronger that the way of violence and death. The resurrected Christ is God's embodied witness that the way of peace that Jesus taught and lived, despite all appearances to the contrary, has and is overcoming the way of violence and death.

The resurrection does not reverse or un-do the evil done by tyrants and the systems that empower them. The resurrection accounts tell us that Jesus bore the scars of the violence he had suffered, even in his resurrected body. But the resurrected Jesus gives us revolutionary new a way forward when we are faced with powerful people and systems that misuse their power and perpetuate violence. And the resurrection gives us a way to live differently ourselves when we are tempted to use our power or privilege in ways that are coercive or manipulative or self-serving.

And we, as people of the resurrection, are empowered by the Spirit of the resurrected Christ to live as people of love, empty handed and open-hearted, in a world that is armed to the teeth. The promise is not that we won't suffer, or even die, as a result. The promise is that we have been joined with God in a life that cannot be taken from us. And so we are called to live as people who stake our lives on the resurrection power of God in Jesus – as people who follow the one who has overcome violence and death through the self-giving love of God.

A few weeks ago, we wrote our anxieties and fears on origami paper in worship. Before we folded those papers into the doves that decorate our space this morning, I prayerfully read what we wrote. Many of our anxieties are deeply personal – fears for our families, anxieties about work, about aging and illness, about decisions we must make. But many were also profoundly political – fears for the systematic destruction of the earth, fears of war, fears for neighbors and loved ones who are targets of discrimination, fears of the political legacy our children and grand-children are inheriting.

My friends, in the resurrection, God is responding to each and every one of our fears and anxieties- the personal and the political, the individual and the systemic, the inward and the outward.

Be not afraid, my friends. Christ is risen, Christ is risen, indeed. Come and see the living Christ.

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 03/26/2017: The Blind See

March 28, 2017 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty on John 9:1-41.

Click here for transcript


In 1964 a wealthy, well-educated, and successful young man named Jean Vanier bought a run-down old stone house in the tiny French village of Trosly – this house didn't even have indoor plumbing - and he welcomed into this home two men with intellectual disabilities who had spent much of their lives in a psychiatric hospital. Jean was from a prominent family– his father was the Governor General of Canada - and he had left behind a promising career as a naval officer in order to seek a way to live the gospels more fully in his daily life. Jean began this radical experiment with the idea that he wanted to do something for those who were suffering. But as he lived together with Raphael and Philippe, he began to discover, to his surprise, that they were healing him. "Essentially, they wanted a friend." Jean said. "They were not very interested in my knowledge or my ability to do things, but rather they needed my heart and my being." And that kind of friendship, love and acceptance was precisely what Jean needed.

Through his friendship with Philippe and Raphale, Jean began to recognize that those of us who are independent and successful by the standards of our society are, as he puts it, "healed by the poor and the weak, that we are transformed by them if we enter into relationship with them, and that the weak and the vulnerable have a gift to give our world."

Jean's life together with Philippe and Raphael attracted others who were seeking a concrete way to live out their faith and the little household became a movement. Today there are 147 L'Arche communities in 35 countries on 5 continents. In each of these communities, people with and without disabilities share daily life together, seeking to grow through authentic friendship and mutuality, and to bear witness to the value of each human life. The guiding principle of L'Arche communities remains the conviction that people with disabilities are teachers, rather than burdens, and that their lives are a gift to the world.

You'll notice in your bulletin this morning a flyer about National Disabilities Awareness month provided by Pleasant View, a local network of homes for people with disabilities that is supported by our own conference - Virginia Mennonite Conference – that is shaped by many of the same convictions that shape L'Arche communities.

The story we heard this morning from the Gospel of John is about a man who was blind from birth and whose sight was miraculously restored by Jesus. His place in first century Palestine seems to have been similar in some respects to that of Philippe and Raphael in rural 1960s France. This man, unable because of his disability to carry out the usual peasant occupations, is left to beg on the streets. He has parents, but they seem none too invested in his well-being. And, perhaps most painful of all, he is ostracized and excluded from much of the life of his community.

Jesus restores this man's sight, but the miracle that we witness in the life of this man is not just about healed eyes– it's about perception, insight, and discernment. It's about the man's growing ability to recognize Jesus, and to respond to Jesus in ways that allow him to move closer to Jesus, where he can see even more clearly. And it's about the invitation his life provides to those around him to see differently as well.

What do the Pharisees see – and not see?

But before we talk about what the man who was formerly blind can see, it's important to pause and notice what the Pharisees can and can't see. The Pharisees were a small spiritual brotherhood within first century Judaism. They were committed to living out faith in every aspect of everyday life. Pharisees embraced simplicity of lifestyle, and they resisted the pressure to assimilate to the surrounding Greek culture, seeking instead to keep Jewish traditions and culture alive. They practiced daily prayer and prioritized the communal study of scripture.

The name Pharisee literally means "set apart" or "separated." Pharisees believed that all adult male Jews – not just those who were born to priestly families or who had academic training in the scriptures – were eligible to perform the rituals of their faith, and they sought to keep the same degree of religious observance in their own homes as that required of priests who led temple worship. Their commitments to each other included limiting their contact with people who did not observe the same level of holiness in everyday life.

Pharisees in the New Testament have a bad reputation – they are often portrayed as Jesus' adversaries. But they were not so different from us. As Anabaptists, we also seek to live out our faith in every aspect of our lives, to live as a small counter-cultural minority within a powerfully assimilating society, to embrace simplicity of lifestyle, prayer, and the communal study of scripture, and to uphold the call of all believers to live as God's holy and chosen ones.

And those similarities make me wonder if the same inability to faithfully perceive that afflicted these Pharisees is an inability that might threaten us as well.

When the Pharisees look at the man who was blind from birth, their perception of him is not primarily of a person who shares in their own call to live as God's holy and chosen ones. They see his disability as a sign of God's punishment for sin – either for some sin this man committed before his birth, or for the sin of his parents.

And in their commitment to faithfully live as holy people, they keep their distance. They interpret this man as a questionable –even a corrupting - influence rather than as someone beloved by God, someone sent by God to bear witness to God's goodness.

Seeing things differently could have been quite costly for these men. Associating with the man who was born blind would mean breaking one of the central commitments of the Pharisaic brotherhood – the commitment to remain separated from non-Pharisees. A Pharisee who broke that commitment would likely end up being treated as an outsider by his fellow Pharisees. An entire life's investment in seeking to live a life pleasing to God, a reputation as a person who is beyond reproach, and a place of belonging within a tightknit community with a shared life of faith– all these could be lost in one interaction.

Maybe even more unsettling is the loss of clarity and confidence about the boundaries of a holy life and a holy community. If this blind man – who seems so obviously ineligible for holiness and service to God – could be included in the household of faith, then who is to say that a devoted Pharisee might not find himself unexpectedly outside the household of faith? If the Pharisees allow for seeing this man as called by God, they will also have to allow for the possibility that the solid and clear boundary line that has always separated insider and outsider is far less settled and impermeable than they had thought.

The very existence of this man and his healed sight calls into the question the idea that some of us are too far outside the bounds to be called and loved by God. His testimony declares that there is no one – no one – whose starting place is too sinful or shameful or broken, too limited by physical disability or emotional pain or mental illness or cognitive impairments, too far from God. And it calls into question the idea that living a life devoted to rigorous spiritual practice can ensure that we will recognize and respond to the presence of God when God appears right in front of us, in the face of fellow human.

What can the man who blind from birth see?

For all the devout faith practices of these Pharisees, it is this man who was born blind who has something to teach them. Despite the fact – or maybe because of the fact - that he has lived his whole life with the shame and stigma of being a "sinner" and an outsider, this man is willing to take the risk of seeing differently.

Even before he is healed, the man obeys Jesus' instructions, going to the pool to wash, although it isn't clear what, if anything, he expected would happen when he did. And then, when his neighbors begin to ask nosy questions, he boldly gives witness to what he has experienced, even though it doesn't fit their expectations of what is possible. The man who has been branded "broken," "impaired," a "sinner" for his whole life dares to make the audacious claim - to the community that has given him those labels since birth - that he is whole and well.

And when these same neighbors bring him to the Pharisees for an official religious interrogation, the man refuses to side with those who argue that Jesus must be a sinner. Instead, he testifies to what he knows from his own experience – that Jesus is a prophet, someone who speaks and acts for God. Unsatisfied with his response, the Pharisees increase the pressure, but the healed man holds firm, giving witness to what he knows "I do not know whether he is a sinner." He says. "One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see."

At each turn in the story, this formerly blind man takes the very next step on the path of faith. Each time he names the truth he knows - what he has seen and experienced through Jesus. Step by step, the next turn in the path of faith becomes clear. And step by step, this man moves tenaciously toward Jesus.

Some of us need to hear the invitation this morning to look to our brothers and sisters – and especially to those we might not expect to have something to teach us – and listen to their testimony about what they have seen and heard of God's presence in their lives, even if it shakes up our understanding of God's presence in the world in costly ways.

And some of us need to hear Jesus' invitation this morning to know ourselves as God's beloved ones, holy and chosen, despite the judgements and negative expectations of others around us. The good news of Jesus is that there is nothing in our lives – no, addiction, no shame-filled past, no humiliation or rejection, no physical or cognitive limitation, no desperate struggle with despair or rage or anxiety or fear - that can disqualify us from the love of God in Jesus. We are all invited to start where we are and take the very next step towards Jesus.

At the end of this account, after the Pharisees officially ban this man from their synagogue, Jesus the Good Shepherd seeks him out, and reveals that he is the One sent from God. And the healed man responds with belief, and with worship. This man who is officially banned from his worshipping community for telling the truth about his experience of God in his life, worships the God who came to seek out those of us who have been rejected, shamed, stigmatized, or abandoned. And in doing so, his ability to see shines a light on the path of faith for believers in Jesus down through the centuries, all the way to us, today, gathered in this sanctuary, seeking the next step forward on the path of faith.

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 02/12/17: Bread for the Journey

February 22, 2017 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Dayna Olson-Getty, on Matthew 6:1-18.

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

Click for transcript

When asked to describe his practices of prayer, the South African Archbishop and anti-apartheid leader Desmond Tutu, said this:

One image that I have of the spiritual life is of sitting in front of a fire on a cold day. We don't have to do anything. We just have to sit in front of the fire and then gradually the qualities of the fire are transferred to us. We begin to feel the warmth. We become the attributes of the fire. It's like that with us and God. As we take time to be still and to be in God's presence, the qualities of God are transferred to us.

This morning we heard from the Sermon on the Mount about the practices of prayer that Jesus commends to those who follow him.

Jesus begins the sermon with his startlingly up-side-down beatitudes, and then continues by naming some of the ways that our human inclinations lead us into cycles of violence, lust, broken relationships, and retaliation. For each of these destructive human cycles, Jesus offers a practical path for a different way of living that creates an opportunity for peace and reconciliation between people. "Seek out your accuser and be reconciled," Jesus says. "Go the second mile." "Love your enemies." In each of these, Jesus gives us practical instructions for relationships with our fellow human beings that allow us to walk toward deliverance, even in the most difficult of relationships.

In the section of the sermon we read together this morning, Jesus shifts to our spiritual practices in relationship to God. Judaism in Jesus' time taught three major practices for cultivating a spiritual life – prayer, giving alms to the poor, and fasting. These spiritual practices were meant to create space for a deepening relationship with God, and to be tangible ways of remembering and living the reality that God is the creator and sustainer of all of people.

But Jesus warns that even these practices of devotion to God can be used for self-serving and destructive ends. Prayer and fasting and giving to the poor can become ways to meet our need to be recognized and seen as significant by others. And when they do, we lose out on the real rewards of our spiritual practices - a deepening relationship with and communion with God. The danger in performing our spiritual practices publically, Jesus is warning, is that we can end up impressing our neighbors, but missing out on knowing and being transformed by God.

But Jesus has a very concrete, practical way to help us avoid this trap. Don't do your praying in public, Jesus says. Go into your bedroom – the most intimate and private space in your home, where you spend time to the people closest to you – and close the door. Pray there, where no one else will you see, and you won't have to worry about your motives. Similarly, when you give to the poor, do it as quietly and unobtrusively as possible, and when you fast, don't let it be apparent from your appearance.

Jesus seems to take it for granted in his teaching that those who are seeking to live in relationship with God will practice prayer, giving to those in need, and fasting. But I think many of us face a danger that is not directly named here – one that is as much of a problem as practicing piety for social gain. Many of us - myself included - are tempted to skip these practices of inner spiritual life. Maybe because we've seen them done for the wrong reasons, or in ways that seem completely disconnected with real life, or maybe because they require serious effort and commitment, or maybe because we just don't know how to start – many of us are tempted to attempt Jesus' path of delivering love in our relationships with other people without also practicing a deepening life of devotion to and communion with God.

But Jesus teaches that these practices of deepening relationship with God are at the heart of a life lived in his way. Without them, we will struggle to have the strength and courage and love to live like Jesus. Without them, we face the danger of living entirely out of our own understandings of who we are and what is needed in a given situation. Without them, we risk slipping into thinking that we are responsible to bring God's kingdom on earth as it is heaven. Without them, we risk burning out, becoming cynical, or giving in to despair.

This is a time in our country's life when many people are focusing on practices of outward resistance to evil and of transformation of relationships. Some of us have marched in the streets, or posted welcome neighbor signs in our yard, or attended community meetings. Many of us are thinking with new intensity about how to practice acts of hospitality and peacemaking and advocacy for the vulnerable in our everyday lives.

Those who have been at this work of seeking to live the way of Jesus in difficult and challenging circumstances for years tell us that a life of prayer is indispensable to a life of action for justice and peace in the way of Jesus.

The Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, reflecting on the lives of the prophets, suggests that one of the reasons Jesus encourages us to pray in secret is that we have things we need to discuss with God that are too raw and personal to discuss in polite company. Having it out with God, he suggests, it what will give us what we need to be who we are called to be in our public actions and witness. He writes, "…it is secret prayer that permits energy, freedom, and courage for public ministry. The servants who faithfully show God to the world are those who live in a deep, disputatious conversation with God."

In other words, if you want to be live a life in the way of Jesus, a life that gives witness to God's coming kingdom, then spending time in prayer is indispensable. And the kind of conversation you need to have with God in the face of struggle or suffering or injustice is often best prayed without an audience.

The prayer that Jesus is inviting us to practice in not an otherworld piety divorced from real life. The prayer he invites us into is a passionate and honest conversation where we can give voice to our deepest, most urgent, most honest needs, to our longings, rage, disappointment, to our fears, grief, joy, delight. And it's a conversation where we can become still and hear God's voice of love, reminding us that we not be afraid, that we are beloved, and that God is already at work in our world, redeeming even the most unredeemable of circumstances. It's the quiet place where we can find our own perceptions realigned in light of God's upside down blessings, where we can hear God calling us to counter-intuitive actions of delivering love for our enemies as well as our neighbors. It's a conversation where we can receive bread for the journey.

So where do we begin, or where do we begin again?

One place to begin is with rest – with soaking up God's loving presence the way we'd soak up the warmth and beauty of a fire on a cold winter day. We need to hear God's words of affirmation and love spoken to us as God spoke them to Jesus – "you are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased." If you want to start here, find some time to sit in silence and let the noise in your head quiet down. Pray the psalms, or spend time imagining yourself in one of the gospel stories. Pray your gratitude and delight for the gifts and joys of life. Or just listen in silence to God's companionable presence.

Some of us need to begin with arguing. If that's you, go ahead and pick a fight with God. Bring your hurt or outrage or fear or despair into conversation with God. Bring an unsolvable problem or an unbearable stress in your life or in the life of the world to God. Ask your hardest questions. Demand an answer. Insist that God be who God has claimed to be. And then listen.

Some of us need to move our bodies in order to have a good conversation. If that's true of you, you might want to try praying while you walk or run or bike. Or walk a labyrinth or develop a prayerful yoga practice to begin or end your day.

Some of us communicate best when we have the freedom to engage our senses and be creative. If that's true of you, you might want create a prayer space in your home with objects or pieces of art that help you experience God's loving presence. Maybe you would pray best by writing your prayers in a journal or by writing and singing your own psalms of lament and hope. A college friend of mine – a visual artist – made a photo book of people and situations she wanted to pray for regularly and used that as her guide. Maybe you need to dance, sing or draw your prayers.

Many of us find we pray best with when we are praying with other followers of Jesus. You may want to use a guide book, such as Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals, or Take Our Moments and Our Days –an Anabaptist daily prayer guide. I really like the online audio prayer guides Pray As You Go and Mission St. Clare because they allow me to pray with a guide book while walking or running. Maybe you need a standing weekly appointment to meet a friend for prayer or a regular check-in with your small group about how it's going with your practicing of prayer.

And if you feel outraged and angry about events in our world, try praying for your enemies. The scholar and activist Christena Cleveland describes gathering some of her seminary students to lament recent injustices in our country. After bringing their grief and anger to God, this group made a list of all they hope for themselves – strong relationships, healthy bodies, satisfying work, loving families – and they prayed these things for the leaders who have implemented the unjust policies and practices they had just lamented.

However you begin, or begin again, know this - God is waiting eagerly, with the table set and fresh, warm bread prepared. This daily feast is meant for you. And this daily bread of God's loving presence can strengthen, transform, and sustain you, as it did Jesus, as it does Bishop Tutu, as it can do for all of us.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!


Scripture Monologue 12/18/2016: Hannah (based on I Samuel 1:1-2,10)

January 4, 2017 by cmc_admin

Reading by Pastor Dayna Olson Getty

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 12/04/2016: #blessed

December 7, 2016 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson Getty

Click here to read a transcript


…the Lord said to Abram,

"Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

What does it mean to be "blessed?" It's a word we use a lot these days. If you use social media, you've probably seen lots of posts or tweets with the hashtag "blessed." We often use it to announce good things – like the birth of a new baby, the purchase of a new house, a promotion or a new job. And sometimes we use it for more ordinary everyday things – good weather, a beautiful sunset, time with dear friends, or the delighted laughter of children we love.

For a lot of us "blessing" has come to simply mean something that makes us happy or contented. And it's a way to indicate that we're grateful for what we have. Giving gratitude for God's gifts is a good practice. Naming an occasion for celebration as a blessing can be a way of naming God as the giver of all that is holy and beautiful and good.

But when we name only the good things in our lives – the successes – as moments of God's blessing, we risk communicating – and believing – that God is only with us when we are see tangible signs of God's presence. We risk reinforcing the idea that God's blessing is with those who prosper, but not with those who suffer. We risk coming to the conclusion that God is not with those who wait - for weeks or months or years or generations - with no resolution to their longing.

We risk concluding that God has abandoned us when we grieve, that God's blessing is not upon those who struggle every day to pay for the basic necessities for themselves and their families, that God is absent when our life is filled with loss and anxiety and need. We risk equating God's generous and life-giving presence with our own success and happiness, and equating failure, despair, illness, grief, and trouble with the absence of God's blessing.

At first glance, it may appear that the blessing that God is promising to Abram is the kind that brings prosperity and security.

"I'm going to make your descendants into a great nation," God tells a very ordinary, unremarkable man who was living with his extended family in Northern Mesopotamia – that's present day Iraq – around 2000 BCE. "I will make your name respected and widely known. I'll be on your side in whatever threats or challenges you face – blessing those who are good to you and cursing those who aren't." It sounds like the kind of blessing that is going to make for some really great future Facebook posts, right?

But Abram's story doesn't really play out that way. "Go!" God tells him. And so he leaves his country, his family, his home and he goes – with no idea where he is going. He takes his wife and his nephew and all the people who are a part of his household, and all his possessions, forms a big caravan, and heads off toward Canaan.

And suddenly, he no longer has the protection of his extended family. Overnight, he becomes a migrant in a foreign country, a stranger without a home of his own or a set destination. Suddenly, he has to face every day the difficulties of life as an outsider – the cultural differences, the language barriers, the great vulnerability to exploitation and violence, and the loss of home, family and friends.

And it doesn't always go well. Yes, he prospers financially. But he also struggles to navigate life in a foreign country. Twice, Sarai is taken as the wife of another powerful man. Abram faces famine, the threat of violence, the kidnapping of his nephew, and terrible family conflict – all while continuing to lead his growing caravan of family, herds and slaves through the desert without any identifiable destination.

And nearly 25 years later, Abram – now renamed Abraham – has received this promise from God three more times – and has led his household through hundreds and hundreds of miles of desert- and yet he is still waiting for the promised child who will make his descendants into a great nation.

By this time, Sarah has gone through menopause and can no longer bear a child. And yet Abraham and Sarah are still waiting for the one thing they most long to receive – a child who will be the fulfillment of God's promise to them.

And finally – finally – after any reasonable human hope is long gone, when Sarah and Abraham are near the end of their lives, Isaac is born.

Abraham and Sarah welcome him with great joy, as God's gift. And yet, God's promise was far from fulfilled. God promised to make Abraham and Sarah's descendants into a great nation. And then, to this couple whose culture valued abundant fertility as one of the greatest signs of God's blessing – he gave one tiny baby boy, born in a dangerous foreign country, hundreds and hundreds of miles from their home.

God promised to give Abraham a homeland for his descendants. And yet, in a cultural where identity was so intimately connected to land, the only land Abraham and Sarah owned was the burial plot Abraham bought from one of their temporary hosts.

God promised to give Abraham a great name – but to the people who mattered most to Abraham – the people of his homeland – Abraham had been entirely absent for a quarter of his life. Abraham and Sarah never returned home to see the family and friends they left behind. They lived out the rest of their lives in tents, without ever having the security of a walled home to call their own. They never met the grandchildren born to Isaac.

Abraham and Sarah didn't live to see more than a glimmer of the fulfillment of God's promises to them in their lifetime. So were they blessed?

By most measures, there were few signs of it.

But the heart of the blessing God promised was to be with Abraham and Sarah. And not just to be with them, but to be alive within them and bringing abundance and life for the whole world through them – through their deepest desires and longings. Through their bodies. Through their most intimate joining with each other. God promised to be at work accomplishing something abundant and generative for the whole world through the ordinary everyday stuff of their lives. God promised that blessing would indwell them and be born into the world through them.

Abraham and Sarah's only baby boy grew up, and despite the obstacle of infertility, his wife – Rebekah - gave birth to two more little baby boys. And those boys – Jacob and Esau - grew up and, despite the obstacles of infertility, their wives gave birth to more babies. From body to body, life to life, from longing to longing and desire to desire, the promise was handed down through the generations.

According to Matthew's accounting of the genealogy, this promise was handed down from generation to generation for 42 generations, until the birth of Jesus the Messiah.

And, 42 generations later, a tiny baby boy grew in the womb of Mary - a woman who, by any accounting, should not have been pregnant, a woman living under the reign of a dangerous and threatening government, a woman who, with her husband and son, was forced to become a refugee in order to protect her child.

When Mary learned of her pregnancy she was an unmarried, pregnant peasant girl from a remote small town. And yet she proclaimed that because of the tiny life growing in her "all generations will call me blessed."

And her baby boy grew up to be a man who proclaimed, "Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake."

Jamie Wright – who blogs at Jamie the Very Worst Missionary – writes about just how absurd those claims sound in light of our popular understanding of blessing.

She points out that "You would never come across a status update that says, "Feeling lost and alone. I wonder if Got is even listening. #PoorInSpirit #Blessed"

Or, "Terrible accident killed half my family. Funeral is Monday. #mourning #blessed."

Or "Wish I could kick this…porn habit. I want nothing more to live a life that honors my spouse and my God and my covenant with them both #Blessed #Desperateforrighteousness"

And yet that is the vision of blessing we have been given – from Abraham and Sarah, handed down from body to body, longing to longing, until Mary, the peasant girl from Nazareth. God's blessing comes to us in longing, in need, in desperation and desire that is often met only with glimmers of what is to come.

And that is the vision of God's blessing that Jesus gives us. Not that God causes or wills our suffering – but that God is especially close to and indwelling those whose bodies and lives are filled with longing and need. God is with those who ache for a lost homeland. God is with those who need protection from threatening and powerful people every day. God's life-giving presence is with those who mourn and who long for freedom from the habits and addictions and sin that keep them bound.

Some of us do not feel very blessed right now. Some of us are waiting in anguish and anxiety and need. Some of us feel the ache of unfulfilled desire in every cell of our bodies. We are waiting for a job. A clean bill of health. The peaceful release of a dying loved one. The safe birth of a longed-for child. Some glimmer of hope for wise leadership of our country and protection of our earth. Some moment of relief from anxiety or depression. Some strength to resist what keeps us from wholeness.

The promise of Abraham and the promise of Jesus is that, when we turn to God in our need, continuing to wait and long for a glimmer of God's promise, God is with us. God indwells us, making a home within our ache and longing and need. And when we open ourselves to go, as Abraham and Sarah did, into the unknown land of grief or need or desire, trusting in God's faithfulness, we open our lives to be a part of God's generous, abundant, overflowing blessing to the whole world.

The promise of Abraham and Sarah, the promise of Mary, the promise of Jesus, is that God's goodness and love and abundance flows through us – through the ordinary everyday stuff of our lives – overflowing from generation to generation, from country to country, and culture to culture, cascading from life to life. And what is only a tiny glimmer of light held in our hands becomes a river of light, marking the path through the desert for those who come after us and who continue to wait, as we do, for the day when God's greatness will break forth like the dawn, flooding all the people of the world with God's generous, abundant, life-giving love.

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 09/04/2016: Where the Good Way Lies

September 9, 2016 by cmc_admin


Crossroads by JudiLynn

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson Getty

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 7/17/2016: Walk in Wisdom

July 29, 2016 by alisha.huber

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty.

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 05/22/2016: Dancing Wisdom

May 24, 2016 by alisha.huber

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 04/04/2016: Alpha and Omega

May 19, 2016 by alisha.huber

Revelation 21 by Karen Goetzinger

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 2/21/2016: A Deep and Terrifying Darkness

February 23, 2016 by alisha.huber

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty.

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 11/01/2015: Our Sacred Stories

November 4, 2015 by alisha.huber

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty.

Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.

To learn more about CMC podcasts, listen to other podcasts, or subscribe, check out our main podcast page!

Sermon 9/13/15: The Road Home

September 15, 2015 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty

Sermon 8/23/15: "Schooling Jesus"

August 24, 2015 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty

Sermon 6/28/15: God Rested

June 29, 2015 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty

Sermon 5/24/15: "A Might Wind, A Gentle Breath"

May 26, 2015 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty

3/29/15 Sermon: Triumphal Entry?

March 31, 2015 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty

Sermon 2/8/15: Study and Sing

February 9, 2015 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Pastor Dayna Olson-Getty

Sermon 1/4/15: Chosen, Holy, Beloved

January 5, 2015 by cmc_admin

Sermon by Dayna Olson-Getty

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