Scraps of Hope – Dec. 10, 2017

Melissa preaches at Raleigh Mennonite ChurchThis second Sunday of Advent Melissa preached from Ezekiel 37:1-14, the story of the valley of dry bones. She tells the story of Lila and of Mansour Omari, artfully weaving all three stories together.

Perhaps the Bible is written in our blood. Our life scraped out onto these scraps of a story.  Our deepest fears. Our violence. Our desires for vengeance. Our helplessness. Our need. Our world of exile and war.  And hope…and hope…and hope….  Always coming back to life. Bone to bone, covered with our flesh; mine and yours. A body called alive.

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Bowing Down, Standing Up – Dec. 3, 2017

Jon Mark preaching Sunday, Dec, 3, 2017 Dramatic reading and acting out of the story from Daniel 3, performed at RMC on Dec. 3, 2017Jon Mark preached from Daniel 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to bow down to the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had created. Before he preached, there was a dramatic telling of the scripture passage. Jon Mark also referenced a Russian Orthodox image depicting the three young men in the furnace.

Russian Orthodox image of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furance.

This story, along with others in the old testament, show us that the Lord is a God of grace. There is death, but there is also grace.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego exemplify non-violent resistance against Nebuchadnezzar’s self-appointed godhead.

Jon Mark tied the story in with the season of Advent by encouraging us not to think the Christmas or Easter are the “only” significant religious holidays just because a majority of the nation is Christian. When we think that everyone is just like us, we make the same mistake as Nebuchadnezzar not understanding why these three would stand up to him and his order to bow down.

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Our Wholeness is Their Wholeness – Nov. 26, 2017

Melissa preaching on Oct. 29, 2017Melissa brought the sermon based on Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14. “You’re going to live here and you’re going to die here,” is not what those taken from Jerusalem and living in exile in Babylon wanted to hear. They ended up being changed by their neighbors in the process of living among them.

Our faith is tied up in the flourishing of our neighbors. As we live out our faith, the boundaries between “us” and “them” fade in and out of view.  While it’s easier to build up our own tribe than to be enmeshed in the lives of those around us, our wholeness is bound up in the wholeness of others we encounter.

When it comes to the end of the story though, we will discover we are not Judah. We are Babylon. We are here today as a Gentile people, grafted into the life of God’s chosen  people because God made the boundary between God’s people and those of us outside the covenant porous. In Jesus’ body and blood, we have been brought here.

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Longing for Light – Nov. 19, 2017

Joy leading worship on Oct. 8, 2017Joy brought the sermon this morning based on Isaiah 9:1-7, a passage often reserved for Advent season. Isaiah was talking about King Hezekiah, the 13th king of Judah, rather than the coming of Jesus as we typically interpret it.

God’s wild spirit has been bringing light into the world since the beginning of time.  Isaiah, along with many other old testament characters, dared to believe in the light that can bring about a new world.

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Guns to Garden Tools – Nov. 12, 2017

Mike Martin speaks at RMC Nov. 12, 2017Mike Martin, director of RAW Tools from Colorado Springs, brought the message as part of RMC’s Guns to Garden Tools event. He shares how RAW Tools got started and how Jesus lived out a life of nonviolence, putting into practice the concept of beating swords into plowshares from Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3.

In church today we had 3,000 lights strung in the front, commemorating the more than 3,000 deaths by gun violence reported in North Carolina last year.

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Worship service on Nov. 12, 2017 with 3000 lights strung up front.

The Language of Crackle, Fire…and Silence – Oct. 1, 2017

Joy leading worship on Oct. 8, 2017Joy’s message reflected–or shed light on–Moses’ experience with the burning bush from Exodus 2:23-25, 3:1-15, 4:10-17.

Moses observes the burning bush curiously rather fearfully. Little does he know that fire and smoke will follow Moses for the rest of his life.

Most of us won’t encounter a burning bush, but we do encounter little flickers that remind us that God is with us. God’s light breaks into our lives, often in unexpected ways.

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Blessings and Relationships – Sept. 24, 2017

Melissa preaches at Raleigh Mennonite ChurchMelissa preached from Genesis 27:1-29, 28:1-10, the story of Jacob stealing his father Isaac’s blessing from his twin brother Esau.

In this world there are the winners and losers. Those who have and those who are left behind. At the outset of the story, Jacob is out to be one of those who has, and his mother Rebekah is going to help make it happen.

Maybe the story of Jacob and Esau is a chance to see God’s sovereignty in a new way. God’s ability to move in the world can coexist with us being wrong. Maybe this story helps us to see that God’s sovereign work is not just to undo this wrong, but to undo us. Jacob then spends the rest of his life undoing what he’s done; returning the blessing he stole back to Esau. That’s how God works in world, setting things right.

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Held by Something Larger than Ourselves – Sept. 17, 2017

Rachel Taylor speaking April 19, 2015Rachel brought the message on a very tough scripture, Genesis 21:1-2; 22:1-14, about God commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The point of the story of Abraham and Isaac is not to draw people in to worship a God who would do this, but rather to help people who are already in to stay in relationship with the one true God even when their world is turned upside down. This is the story of being in the habit of being in conversation with God even when things don’t make sense.  To illustrate her message, Rachel showed several pictures by famous artists depicting this story.

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Take Up Your Cross – Sept. 3, 2017

Melissa preaches on Sunday, April 9, 2017Melissa spoke today from Matthew 16:21-28 and Romans 12:9-21.  In the Roman empire, the cross was the public warning against dissent. A symbol of the human ability to crush revolution. Today, the cross of Jesus Christ is the black hood of Abu Ghraib, it’s the gun that killed Trayvon Martin, it’s every lethal cocktail used in capital punishment, it’s every lynching tree in the North Carolina woods, it is every cage for bail-held prisoners.

We don’t need icons of paint or wood; we don’t need depictions of Jesus on a cross.  We have one another. We have living icons. Bodies shouldering crosses everyday, showing us that we are strong enough, that the world cannot crush us,  and even if it does, that we will rise again.

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Why do we Worship? – Aug. 27, 2017

Melissa Florer-BixlerUsing Romans 12:1-8 as her text, Melissa talks about why we worship. Worship is for us. Worship is always about God, but it’s not something that God needs. We’re here to celebrate; to celebrate the life we have through Jesus.

Worship is not something you do and leave behind. You take it with you wherever you go. Worship is done in community. We come here–among other reasons–to discover how to like each other, even with our bizarre particularities!

 

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