Poetry: Mark 1.1–20

Copy of poetryDelivered at Ames UCC on December 27, 2015
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Sermons are written to be heard rather than read. Please join us for worship at 10:45 a.m. on Sundays.

Our service this Sunday incorporated poetry rather than traditional prayers. They included “Up-Hill” by Christina Rossetti, “The Risk of Birth” by Madeleine L’Engle, “When the World Was Dark” by the Iona Community, “A Short Testament” by Anne Porter, “In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver, “Walking to Jerusalem” by Philip Terman, and “The Work of Christmas” by Howard Thurman.

Although the lectionary has Jesus baptized, in the wilderness, and calling disciples already, I want us to stay a little longer in Christmas.
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Hope, Peace, Love: Christmas Eve 2015

hope, peace, loveDelivered at Ames UCC on December 24, 2015
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Sermons are written to be heard rather than read. Please join us for worship at 10:45 a.m. on Sundays.

For the last few weeks I’ve been asking people what they need to hear tonight. Not just what they want to hear, like the Christmas scripture, but what they need. What you all might need.

Over and over the response was hope, peace, and love.

I wasn’t surprised and I’m sure neither are you. We all know the social, political, and personal pains at hand. So instead of detailing those, let me assure you right away: There is yet hope, peace, and love in this world.

Tonight’s story, and our presence here, tells us so.

Mary and Joseph had a rough start as a married couple. She was pregnant before they were wed and apparently not by her faithful fiancé. Then they are forced to make a trip by an oppressive state that cares not a bit for their well-being or that of their child. Labor pains come on just as housing comes up short. The son, fragile and new, takes his first breath in a stinky barn.
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Christmas Eve Sermon

Published Dec.19, 2015 in the Ames Tribune.

A large part of my job as a Christian pastor is preparing sermons. Sermons, in my branch of the Christian family tree, are 10–12 minute reflections on a piece of scripture. That scripture comes from something called a “lectionary,” a schedule of readings established by different groups of churches that I choose to follow (I can always go “off-lectionary” if so moved).

On a given Sunday I might explore the history of the scripture and its authorship; the political context in which the story we hear is happening; some tidbit about the language and how a word is translated from the Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic; how the scripture might apply to us today; and what kind of picture of God the passage is painting. Some Sunday sermons are done the Monday before, some are completely re-written Saturday night. It depends not only on what I am feeling and hearing about and from the divine, but the events in our larger world, too. So each week is a journey for me as a preacher, and one that deeply enriches my own spiritual life, even when it leads to hair-pulling and worry about whether I will have anything of substance to share.

But writing sermons for Christmas Eve and Easter morning is another matter entirely.

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Keeping Hope for Peace Alive: Isaiah 40.1–11

precious childrenDelivered at Ames UCC on December 6, 2015
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

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Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”

Judah survived the Assyrians only to fall to Babylon in the 580s. The elite, the powerbrokers, are sent into exile but their descendants return in the 530s BCE, about fifty years later. Somehow the exiles and their children maintained their identity as Judahites, as followers of the God of Moses, while in a foreign land. After becoming the widow, the orphan, and the stranger themselves, the ancient Hebrews are reunited with those who were left behind to tend the home fires of faith. Continue reading

Let’s Go to the Governor’s Office!

The week before Thanksgiving, Faith in Public Life put out a petition regarding the statement by many governors that they would not welcome Syrian refugees. This was a knee-jerk response to the bombing in Paris. I signed the petition and responded affirmatively to a request for clergy to participate in an action at the office of Terry Branstad, who was one of those governors, on Monday, November 23.

That afternoon a couple of dozen of us, overwhelmingly from the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ, read statements disrupting the false, bigoted assumptions about fellow humans fleeing a war zone, and Iowa’s moral obligation to refugees. We then delivered the petition and its over 2,000 signatures.

My statement is here, as well as a video of the event.

My name is Eileen Gebbie. I am the Senior Minister at Ames United Church of Christ. As the child of an immigrant, the niece of an immigrant, and an ordained Christian minister, I urge the elected leaders of our nation to be the moral authority right here at home that America strives to be throughout the world. From escaped slaves to LGBTQ people, the state of Iowa itself has a long and proud history of standing on the side of the oppressed, those who have been dehumanized and feared. We have demonstrated that it is not only our responsibility, but our honor, to welcome and care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. Let the current Syrian refugee crisis not be an exception. Thank you.

God’s Unending Story: 2 Kings 22.1–10, 23.1–3

open ended storyDelivered at Ames UCC on November 29, 2015
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

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Advent: A new year has begun. Advent: a season of anticipation and preparation. Advent: a reckoning with revelation. Advent: a searching look beyond Easter’s tomb.

Despite what marketers and even our own wishes would tell us, Advent is not a preparation for Christmas. Advent is a preparation for Christ’s coming after the birth, after the baptism, after the miracles, after the revolt, after the execution, and after the resurrection. In Advent we lay the groundwork so that each of our discrete scriptural encounters with Jesus between Christmas and Easter remain within the cosmic context of God’s presence and love.

In Advent, we are reminded of the open-endedness of God’s story.

Which I think it somewhat hard for us. I don’t think human beings do so well with open-endedness, particularly as it relates to something we cannot easily see or feel against our skin, as with God.

Let’s take Josiah for example. Josiah was another king of the southern nation of Judah. They had, fortunately, survived the Assyrians that Hosea and Isaiah worried about so much in our previous weeks’ readings.
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The Crop Will Thrive: Isaiah 5.1–7, 11.1–5

Copy of the wildDelivered on Sunday, November 22, 2015 at Ames UCC.
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

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Today we are celebrating the end of Ordinary Time with this extraordinary feast. For those of you who didn’t come from a tradition that made use of church seasons, Ordinary Time covers the days after Pentecost in the spring and before Advent in the fall.

It has multiple purposes: Scripturally we look more deeply at the church in light of the Easter mystery. What does it mean to be followers of Jesus Christ on this side of the tomb? And then, as we have done since September, we reacquaint ourselves with the Hebrew Bible, the scripture and religion that Jesus was born into and grew up with. That includes the prophets of the last two weeks and today: Elijah who brought proof of God, Hosea who gave voice to God, and today Isaiah who describes the human condition from God’s perspective.
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Some People Think I Hate White People

some people





©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

I have been teaching, preaching, and posting about racism and the unearned advantages white Americans have for a long time.

It is not a comfortable topic for a lot of white people: Low income white Americans aren’t feeling advantaged. High income white Americans attribute their success to their hard work. All of us are taught that whiteness is not a race: people of color have a race, but we are some how race neutral.

And each of those statements is broad generalizations warranting a great deal more discussion and conversation.

However, I have only recently been getting any takers, at least on Twitter, and I would not say that they were really interested in dialogue as much as diatribe.
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Only God Could Be So Faithful: Hosea 11.1–9

gods loyaltyDelivered at Ames UCC on Sunday, November 15, 2015
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

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I had a really good sermon written for today. I started it last Sunday as I went off to Portland, then had it nearly finished as I flew home on Thursday. I was going to talk about the culture shock I experienced when I moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, in 1997.

Coming from Portland State University, with its urban campus and older student body, I had no context from which to make sense of the sea of orange and blue in which I found myself swimming. I thought all of the rah-rah fan stuff was tongue in cheek, ironic, until I went to a game and found out it wasn’t.
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A New Revelation: 1 Kings 18.20–39

prophetic record-smaller










Delivered at Ames UCC on November 8, 2015
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Sermons are written to be heard rather than read.
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These last three weeks of Ordinary Time, the season between Pentecost and Advent, are interesting. We have a series of combative texts, stories of the people resisting God and God’s efforts to get us to finally, and permanently, wake up to faith. We will hear from three prophets: Elijah, Hosea, and Isaiah.

A word about prophets: They are trouble. As my rabbi, Dr. Rachel Mikva, likes to say, “You wouldn’t want to be caught in an elevator with a prophet.” Prophets are driven by their experience of God, with no regard for social niceties or our feelings. They are not fortune-tellers but describe possible future events, warnings of what might come if we fail to listen.

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