A sermon preached at Grinnell College
for the Interdenominational Christian Worship Service at Reunion 2018.
Sermon preached on June 3, 2018.
Good morning, dear friends.
It is a terrifying honor to be with you this morning.
The honor part should be self-explanatory:
I’ve always felt fortunate to be in this line of work,
And I’m grateful that it has led me to this opportunity
to lead worship today, here at the close of Reunion.
A college reunion gives us a unique opportunity to reflect on where we are
this very moment,
our past, and our future
So good to see you again! What is it you do these days?
Are those your kids? Wow.
How is life treating you?
Can you believe that the dorms are exactly the same as they used to be?
What are you hoping to do in the next ten years of your life?
A liminal moment in anyone’s life, going back to college,
The threshold between past and future.
For my part, this reunion has reminded me
Of how young I really was when I first stepped on campus
And how old I feel now, twenty years later
And how much Grinnell has shaped me.
Grinnell: with its twin pillars of academic excellence and social witness
The responsibility to apply our learning to the common good
Fits quite nicely in the daily work of Christian ministry.
I’m so glad to be back.
And it’s a terrifying honor, also, to be sure.
The single most important word of advice you hear in seminary
When you’re learning how to preach
Is to get to know and love your congregation.
You preach with the bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, they tell you,
Asking the questions your congregation asks,
Speaking a Word the congregation might need to hear.
So how do you create a pop-up worship service and do that?
In this room we have people who follow God on the way of Jesus
Through all sorts of styles, convictions, and conventions.
High church, low church, video screens or contemplative prayers
In your pew every single Sunday, or long walks in God’s majestic creation
Most Sunday’s instead.
And there are others who maybe aren’t on that path but who are interested
In what word might be spoken,
Or, lets face it, probably there are some of us
Who want to hear the incredible Alumni Choir one more time
Before heading out to a final Grinnell lunch.
So this is a bit like turning in your first paper for your first-year tutorial,
If I’m honest with you.
Where most students, religious or not, might just mutter a little prayer
Hopeful that the seeds land on good soil, take root, and grow.
It is a bit of a leap of faith. But lets try, anyway, shall we?
Whether this fits your style, with robes and hymns and printed words for prayer
Or if this is all just novel to you, lets turn toward what the word for the day might be
As we reflect on it, together, Grinnellians from all over the place.
The gospel assigned for the day
Is from the Gospel according to Mark
I invite you to open your heart and your mind to this reading from the Scriptures:
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the cornfields;
and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.
The Pharisees said to him,
‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’
And Jesus said to them,
‘Have you never read what David did
when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?
David entered the house of God,
when Abiathar was high priest,
and ate the bread of the Presence,
which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat,
and David gave some to his companions.’
Then Jesus said to them,
‘The Sabbath was made for humankind,
and not humankind for the Sabbath;
so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.’
Again Jesus entered the synagogue,
and a man was there who had a withered hand.
They watched Jesus
to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath,
so that they might accuse him.
And Jesus said to the man who had the withered hand,
Then Jesus said to them,
‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath,
to save life or to kill?’
But they were silent.
He looked around at them with anger;
he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man,
‘Stretch out your hand.’
He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired
with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
And may God bless to us
and our understanding
And our applying of this word, to how we live our lives. Amen.
I want to share with you a story.
You may have heard about it.
Late last year, the New York Times reported
About an extraordinary moment of kindness.[i]
The story was about Abraham Davis, of Fort Smith, Arkansas
Who was convicted last year of vandalizing
Fort Smith’s Al Salam Mosque.
Abraham, just shy of his 21st birthday,
borrowed his mother’s white minivan,
shared a bottle of Kentucky Deluxe Whiskey with a friend
and the two of them went and painted obscenities,
symbols of hatred, and bigotry,
on the Mosque’s windows and doors.
He was caught, on a nearby surveillance camera,
and they arrested him a few months later.
He faced up to six years in prison. [Read more…]