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

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

ORDINARY TIME
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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A REALLY GOOD SERMON
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

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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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NEXT THREE WEEKS
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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AMOS and Ames

First published Oct. 26, 2015 in the Ames Tribune.

A significant element of my faith life is striving for integrity: to practice what I (literally) preach. One of the things I regularly preach is allowing faith to lead us to engagement, to embody our faith in practical ways. So, at the end of October I will be participating in a forum for Ames City Council candidates. It is being hosted by the Ames Progressive Alliance, but I will be there through a different organization: AMOS, A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy.

AMOS is one of the many reasons I am so excited to pastor at Ames United Church of Christ. About 10 years ago I was involved in an AMOS sister organization in my hometown of Portland, Ore. Both organizations are part of a nationwide network called the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). The IAF was founded in the 1920s in the packing house district of Chicago, which was at the time a place of great impoverishment and poor living conditions. Unions and churches gathered together to demand (and win) improvements to workers’ conditions. Nowadays, IAF affiliates bring together faith-based institutions (of all kinds), labor unions, social service agencies, and even medical practices to unite around shared issues. What those issues are varies by affiliate because they are determined by the member institutions. In other words, there is no national agenda, only the identification of local pressures.
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Hesed: The Book of Ruth

Our work iDelivered at Ames UCC on October 18, 2015
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

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REDEMPTION
As Christians, the word redemption has had a pretty specific meaning, historically: that Jesus paid for our sins through his death and resurrection. As we learned a couple of months ago, that definition is not the consensus in the United Church of Christ at large or Ames UCC in particular. But I would hazard a guess to say that most of us, at least on first hearing the word, associate redemption with sin and our souls.

That is not the case in today’s story or the world it reflects. In the Hebrew Bible, the Bible Jesus knew, redemption is part of a larger social contract for the needy. The most detailed information comes in the book of Leviticus, chapter 25. Essentially, kin are obliged to buy land from family members if those family members need to sell it due to hardship. Those struggling kinsfolk then have the right to buy it back, at any time, at fair market value. And, while the more affluent kinsfolk own that land, the poorer family members who had to sell it still get to make money off of it. Essentially the rich uncle owns the land but the poor nephew still lives off of and makes profit from it. If the poor family members are unable to eventually buy the land back, it will be restored to them during the year of Jubilee. Jubilee was to occur every 50 years, with land laying fallow and all wealth redistributed and debts released. We have, in Leviticus, a Biblical mandate to keep the rich from getting richer and the poor from getting poorer.
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Shootings and the Table: Deuteronomy 5.1–21, 6.4–9

shootings and the tableDelivered at Ames UCC on October 11, 2015
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

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TORAH
Today we end our quick trek through the Torah. The Torah consists of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. In Greek it is known as the Pentateuch.

In Genesis, God recognized the human need for relationship. We then sat with Abraham’s and Sarah’s longing for children. That longing was fulfilled and two generations later, their grandson Jacob made bargains with God and was given the new name of Israel, God Rules.

In Exodus, though, we found that Pharaoh was ruling. The ancient Hebrews had become enslaved and God promised them a new land. Moses saw and heard this promise through a burning bush and recognized that he was standing on holy ground. Our youth shared their own experiences of holy ground and God’s presence in their lives last week.
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Jacob’s Greed and Our Pledges: Genesis 32.22–30

Delivered at Ames UCC on September 27, 2015
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

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FAMILY OF ORIGIN
Unlike so much of the gospels, which have pretty discrete stories, Jacob’s saga is long and complicated. We cannot read any of the episodes independently as we might a parable.

Jacob is the child of Isaac and Rebekah. Remember, Isaac is the miracle child of Abraham and Sarah. So Jacob is part of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah: that they would have a home and a great many descendants.

Jacob was born a twin. His brother is Esau. Esau was born first, with Jacob holding onto his heel as if to hold him back or shove him aside so that Jacob himself might be first born. Even as they grew, Jacob wouldn’t let the issue go. Esau came home very hungry one day. Jacob offered him some lentil stew on the condition that Esau give up his birthright. Esau did.
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Building without Worry

Building without worryBUILDING WITHOUT WORRY

The litany below is based on the charge that The Rev. Theodore Jennings gave to the Chicago Theological Seminary 2012 graduating class. I have since modified it, both in content and format. You are most welcome to use it in your own settings. –The Rev. Eileen Gebbie, Ames UCC

Voice 1:
Our Good News comes to us through old languages translated across many tongues and cultures. It can be confusing, contradictory, and even painful. Our scripture has been used to justify all manner of atrocities and ignorance. Need we worry?
Respondent:
Do not worry: the Word is stronger than the contempt shown it. If we clothe ourselves in its poetry and anoint our lives with its tales, we will radiate the light and truth of God’s holy word.
Voice 2:
Our world, nation, towns, and even our own churches, harbor cruel edges of racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy. Need we worry?
Respondent:
Do not worry: the God that freed the Israelites, the God that cared for Hagar the slave, the God that empowered the Canaanite woman to challenge even Jesus gives us strength to name such violences and the certainty that they will end.

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Infertility and Righteous Women: Genesis 18.1–15, 21.1–7

Infertility & the Company of Righteous WomenDelivered at Ames UCC on September 20, 2015
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Sermons are written to be heard rather than read.
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VERY HARD
Sarah’s story can be among the very hardest for women who are struggling with fertility.

Pregnancy, for the majority of women, comes without much effort. Have sex with a fertile man at the right time of the month and, nine months later, you have a baby. But it is not that easy for all women. Not all women’s bodies are able to carry every pregnancy to term.

Current data from the National Institutes of Medicine show that 15–20% of women who know they are pregnant will lose that pregnancy. That’s a pretty large percentage, and one that begs the question of why the church has not yet developed good rituals for such losses.
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