Monday, January 17, 2011

The Deliberate Cultivation of Beauty

I refer you to my last sermon for the caveats about my sermons. Especially in these next few months, my sermons are focused intently on our tiny community and the discernment process we are undertaking. I am delighted to say that as of this Sunday we have gathered enough committed individuals to form our discernment group. If you are a praying sort, please keep us in your thoughts as we consider how our church will serve the community in the coming years.

Love to you all!

Sermon, Sunday, January 16, 2011
by Katie Mulligan

Scripture Readings: Genesis 1 and 2 Peter 1:1-12  

Tomorrow is the day we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. He was born January 15, 1929 and was assassinated April 4, 1968 at the young age of 39 years old. Were he alive today, he would be 82; he would be a contemporary of many of the people who attend this church. 

There is so much to be said about this man who provided leadership to civil rights movements in the 50’s and 60’s. This book, Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch, is part one of a series of books on the U.S. and Martin Luther King, Jr.; it is the first of 3 books on this time period and by itself numbers 1064 pages. Dr. King won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts and was joined by hundreds and thousands of other activists in the U.S. and abroad. He was a preacher who preached almost every Sunday, despite his other commitments. He was an advocate of non-violent solutions, but an advocate who was becoming increasingly frustrated with the incalcitrance* of racism in the U.S. and the pain of our wars abroad. It is not easy to paint an accurate picture of Martin Luther King, Jr., because he was also a human being—endlessly flawed and endlessly beautiful. So today I honor him as a gardener: a deliberate cultivator of beauty.

Our reading from 2 Peter today gives us a taste of what a virtuous Christian life might look like: for the sake of the one who gave us everything (Jesus), including his life, we are to support our faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. So goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. Goodness without knowledge leads to trouble as surely as knowledge without love. There is something in this picture of lasting intent—the careful intent of a gardener who contemplates where and how and when to plant and trim, deliberately creating beauty over long periods of time. Our lives as Christians, like Dr. King’s life as a preacher and activist, are lived out as a long term project—justice, beauty, love, and kindness are not one time accomplishments, they take constant attention.

Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco, Golden Gate Park

 A few photos from the Tea Garden from my visit on January 13, 2011.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Knock at the Door

I hesitate to share this sermon publicly for several reasons. Let me share a few.
1. My thoughts are not fully formed around yesterday's murders in Tucson, because:

2. The facts of the situation have not been fully established.

3. A sermon gives the appearance sometimes of a single coherent narrative but what you are reading is a piece of performance art offered to a specific congregation for a specific time and place.

4. The sermon is only one part of our ritual of worship. You were not there with us for hymns and prayers, to shake our hands in love, to eat with us. You were not there to shift uncomfortably in your seat when the preacher cut close to the bone.

5. So if you want to really know how it is with us and what this sermon means to us, you are welcome at our tiny church. And if you'd rather peek in as voyeur you are welcome too. Just know that you do not have all the angles.

Finally, for those who don't know, my theology and politics lie far to the left of this tiny congregation. For now this is where I am called to preach. For those of you who prefer a more strident call for justice, I challenge you to remember that I am not preaching to you.

Love to you all.

Sermon, Sunday, January 9, 2011
by Katie Mulligan

Scripture Readings: 1 Thessalonians 5 and Revelation 3:14-22

Yesterday afternoon, a gunman opened fire in front of a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona. According to news reports the gunman's name is Jared Lee Loughner. He shot and killed six people and seriously wounded several others, including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The six people who died were John Roll, age 63, a federal district court judge; Gabriel Zimmerman, age 30, director of community outreach for Rep. Giffords; Christina Greene, age 9; and three senior citiziens: Dorwin Stoddard, Dorthy Murray, and Phyllis Scheck. Rep. Giffords had planned a public event in front of the grocery store—a time for constituents to meet her and share their concerns. The event was well publicized on her website, and she’d even tweeted about the event, inviting people to come see her or contact her later with their thoughts. At this point it seems likely that Rep. Giffords was the primary target, but there is still a lot unknown about yesterday’s events.