Genesis 2.4b–7, 15–17 and 3.1–8: The Problem of Creation

applestoryDelivered at Ames UCC
on September 11, 2016
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

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heard rather than read.
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IN THE BEGINING
In the beginning two female girls were born. There was land, but no one knows how long it was there or where it came from. The girls were born underground, in darkness, and so they took a long time to grow and only knew each other through touch. As adults a spirit came and fed them and they learned to think for themselves. The spirit also explained that when they were ready, the women would get to go into the light.

Much time passed and the women learned their language. They also found baskets filled with seeds and images of animals. The spirit said they were gifts of their father that they would take into the light by planting four seeds and climbing the trees out of darkness.

The spirit taught the women prayers and after a very long time out they climbed. The sisters were named Life and More. After praying and singing the creation song they asked the spirit why they were made. “Your father made the world but was not yet satisfied. So you he made in his own image and gave these baskets to bring more life.”

Initially scared by the dusk, Life and More understood that above ground had cycles of days and nights. They learned how to plant and watch food grow. They learned to cook corn and eat it and now they were dependent on food to live. They created animals and food for the animals, mountains and the trees that cover mountains.

Life and More were competitive. They became selfish. Through the spirit, their father told them not to even think about having kids, that other humans would be born at the right time. But a snake told More if she had a child of her own she would be happy. The snake sent her to a rainbow and she became pregnant and had two boys.

Her sister, Life, asked why More had disobeyed the father. “For your sin, he is taking me away. You are alone now.”1
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Job 42.1–7: Let God be God and Care for the Needful

wombofgodDelivered at Ames UCC
on August 28, 2016
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Sermons are written to be heard rather than read. Please join us for worship at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays.

RIGHT/WRONG TIME
I was a little worried about starting a series on Job in the summer. Summer is a happy, sunny time and Job is such a bummer. His is a winter tale, not a lure to come to church when you could be out on a kayak or hike.

But over the last few weeks our church has experienced a surge in suffering: cancer diagnoses, cancer treatments, emergency surgeries, housing loss, relational loss, imminent death, and death itself through disease or depression.

I have never believed life is or should be easy, but the particulars and the volume combined have shaken me at times. And more than one of you now have either asked, “Does this make me Job?” or otherwise referenced this sad and serious story.

There is no right time to study Job because the trauma the poem describes will always come at what feels like the wrong time.
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Hope in Poetry: Job 14.7–15; 19.23–27; 31.35–37

hopestillatworkDelivered at Ames UCC
on July 31, 2016
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Sermons are written to be heard rather than read.
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THE MADNESS OF JOB?
Has Job gone mad? I ask this not in a lighthearted way, not in a way demeaning of mental illness and trauma. But, really, has Job disconnected from reality?

He has lost everything in his life. He is grieving the death of all of his children and children’s children. His wife has left him. He has no money and no capital. His body is decaying. His friends stood by him for a time, but bailed when Job refused to accept any blame. And so he sits in the trash heap, yearning for death:

Would that You hid me in Sheol,
concealed me till Your anger passed,
set me a limit and recalled me.

I think we can all understand that. I think we can sympathize with his desire to be done, to ask God to limit the pain he must endure. But then here’s where Job seems to go beyond the rational: he expresses hope.
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Loving Job: Job 1.1–22

releasegodDelivered at First Christian Church
on July 3, 2016
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Sermons are written to be heard rather than read. Please join us for worship at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays (except in July, when we worship with First Christian Church at 9:30 a.m., alternating between FCC and Ames UCC).

LOVE–HATE
Show of hands: Who loves the story of Job? Who really dislikes it? I was wary of it for a long time because it sounded so mean: God letting someone lose their whole family to prove a point. It seemed to reinforce notions of God wanting suffering and suffering somehow being redemptive—what I consider the worst of our tradition’s contribution to understanding the holy.

And I think I felt like having faith in God would require me to accept that ugliness, that somehow becoming a Christian meant accepting and professing a characterization of God that I found grotesque.

Now Job is one of my favorites. Job gives us glimpses into other times and cultures; it reminds us that our religion is a hybrid. Job asks the fundamental questions of this life, without the Christian distraction of afterlife.

And, as I hope you will see, in the end the story of Job offers a portrait of God that denies all of our efforts to humanize the divine. In Job, holiness is at a scale that truly inspires awe and justifies our faith, hope, and love.

God in Job is not grotesque, but glorious.

So, as our Bible itself does, let’s begin at the beginning, with the context and main characters.
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As If: Acts 3.1–10

Delivered at Ames UCC on April 10, 2016
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

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ACTION
Remember how last week I said that in light of Jesus’ death and the Easter mystery, the disciples are now trying to find and make meaning of Jesus’ work, life, and death, as well as their own? That’s not how the Acts of the Apostles actually reads. I believe it is true. I believe that they had to have had a crisis of faith after Easter, one that made them rethink everything. But we don’t get to hear those words or attend those meetings. What the author of Luke–Acts, again about 50 years after Easter, offers is a lot of public action.

Here is what has happened up until and just after today’s passage:
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When Jesus Becomes Christ: Mark 2.1–22

when jesus becomes christ(1)Delivered at Ames UCC on
January 10, 2016
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Sermons are written to be heard rather than read.
(Listen to this one
here.)
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WILBUR HELD
I once knew a man named Wilbur Held. He just died last year after one hundred years of life. Wilbur was many things, including a world class organist, composer, and arranger of organ music. It is safe to say that thousands of churches are hearing one of his tunes today.

Well, after hearing me preach for a few months Wilbur gave me a call. Wilbur said he didn’t want to be one of “those congregants,” meaning complainers, so I could ignore him completely, but something was eating at him. When a 98-year-old says something is eating at him, I listen. Continue reading

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.

POETRY
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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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
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.

JOSIAH
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

Sermons are written to be heard rather than read.
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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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Only God Could Be So Faithful: Hosea 11.1–9

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

Sermons are written to be heard rather than read.
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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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