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Sermon – Easter Sunday 2017

 

Scripture:  Luke 24:1-12
Rev. Chris McArdle
First Congregational Church UCC of Anoka, MN

There’s a phrase I’ve come across from time to time that describes the activity of God in the world:  “God can make a way out of no way”.  The best example of this is the Resurrection, when God wrenched life out of the hands of death and demonstrated that not even death could separate us from the love of God in Jesus.  On this Easter, I can feel that phrase spreading through my consciousness in other ways, because “making a way out of no way” is known by other names, among them “finding the silver lining” and “making lemons into lemonade.”  In some sense, these notions all convey the same idea:  that a bad situation can be transformed or rewritten into something good.  Read more…

Sermon – Palm Sunday 2017

Scripture:  the Triumphal Entry (Luke)
April 9, 2017
First Congregational Church UCC, Anoka, MN

John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg wrote in their book, The Last Week, that there were two processions that Palm Sunday.  One was the one we recount every year with great joy and fervor, the so-called “Triumphal Entry” wherein Jesus rides into town on a donkey upon a path of branches and coats that his assembled fans have laid down before him.  Though the specific items are pedestrian, they symbolize the crowd’s acceptance of Jesus as a king.  It was a little bit dangerous, to be honest. Read more…

2016…

More friends than I can name have mourned 2016 as a year that has claimed too many lives. They don’t mean, of course, to say that the year has somehow taken on a malevolent sentience that has actively killed people–for all that critics of this perspective have attacked a caricature of this sentiment. They simply mean that in this arbitrary measure of time we call “year” and “2016” it seems a great many beloved public figures have died, with each loss adding to a growing sense of helplessness and despair. Read more…

Sermon – Reign of Christ Sunday

In this sermon I acknowledged the result of the Presidential election in the United States.  My aim was to acknowledge and validate the fear that many people have in light of the race’s outcome, and to also preach a word of hope:  that we have given our allegiance to a Sovereign who is greater than any earthly ruler.  My hope is that no matter who you are or for whom you cast your vote, these words, as insufficient as they surely are, might point to the Good News to be found even in the midst of troubling times.  –C Read more…

To bake or not to bake? That is NOT the question.

It’s not often that I find myself quoting the German theologian Karl Barth, but there’s a good line attributed to him that goes like this:  “one should read the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”  I find that it’s actually kind of a challenging quote, even divisively so.  For just as there are people who do just this—hold their faith in one hand and the world of current events in the other, keeping them in conversation, there are also those who avoid such convergences, who believe that dwelling upon the intersection of faith and public life is a distraction from the Gospel and from faithful Bible study. Read more…

United Church of “I’m a Very Spiritual Person”? Sure.

In recent weeks, my denomination, the United Church of Christ, has been test-marketing a new series of Internet memes as part of a new initiative, as I understand it, to reach the unchurched and let them know what the UCC has to offer.  As an ordained minister in the UCC who also happens to be “cradle UCC” on both sides of my family, I wholly approve of this intention and effort.  I think we have a perspective on faith and Christ that is valid, important, and grace-filled in ways that many folks have grown reluctant to associate with the Church in recent years. Read more…

“Welcome the Stranger”

 

Preached at St. Luke’s United Church of Christ on November 22, 2015 — Christ the King Sunday.  The Narrative Lectionary reading for the day was Isaiah 5:1-7; 11:1-5. Read more…

What makes a hero? (Simon, Caitlyn, Noah, and Lauren)

Originally preached on August 2, 2015 at St. Luke’s United Church of Christ and Gruetli Parish, Columbus, NE

“More Unsung Heroes”.  I couldn’t leave it alone!  The Bible’s a really big book, and there are lots of characters in there who don’t often get their own sermons.  So today, we embark on another stroll through Scripture to find stories of more “unsung heroes”, as we continue our loose exploration of what it means to be a hero and what these characters can teach us about courage. Read more…

Pharaoh’s Daughter, Kim Kardashian, and the Courage to Defy Expectations

Scripture:  Exodus 2:1-10
Note:  This was the fourth and final sermon in a series on “Unsung Heroes of the Exodus”.  The series focused on the Hebrew Midwives (Shiphrah and Puah), Miriam, Moses’s mom Jochebed, and Pharaoh’s daughter.

It would be easy to dismiss Pharaoh’s daughter.  It would be easy to think that she’s just a flighty rich girl with the money and power to satisfy her every whim, not the least of which would be to live a lifestyle free of worry or care what others thought.  It would be easy to think of her as the ancient Egyptian parallel to a reality TV star or the perennial subject of news organizations whose only goal is to publicize scandal among the lives of the rich and famous.  It would be easy to think that as she walked down by the riverside one day and saw the baby in the basket that she thought, “Ooooh!  A BABY!  I must have it!” and proceed to tote it around with her almost like a Pomeranian with a diamond-encrusted collar. Read more…

Black Lives Matter.

On Sunday, June 21, 2015, I was pulled in a lot of directions.  It was Father’s Day (though I never acknowledge that in my preaching anyway), my associate pastor’s 40th birthday, and I was on week 3 of a 4-week sermon series, “Unsung Heroes of the Exodus”.  On this day I had planned to speak on Miriam and her faithful tenacity that helped paved the way for God’s liberation of Israel from Pharaoh.  But then Dylann Roof killed nine people at Mother Emannuel Church in Charleston, SC.  I knew that silence on that event would only perpetuate the culture that gave rise to it.  This sermon is what preached instead–still reflecting on Miriam, but not as I had anticipated.  Inasmuch as it may not say well what needs to be said, I ask forgiveness.  Inasmuch as my white privilege may show through in ways I did not discern, I also ask forgiveness.  But I do not ask forgiveness for naming myself and white people in general as participants in a system of white supremacy.  That is merely the truth, and the least we can do is confess it. Read more…