A sampling of Pastor Laurie’s sermons are found on this website. Contact the church office if you’d like a copy of a specific message not found here.
I am standing for love. In the midst of uncertainty, fear, greed, inequality, distrust, even failure, I am standing for love. Like that first Easter 2000 years ago, not everyone can see this; not everyone can see love. It takes people standing for it, testifying to it, for others to see. And I invite you to join me in this endeavor. Will you testify to love in the face of all the hatred, violence, selfishness and shortsightedness that has the world in its grip? Will you testify to love in the face of the negative stereotypes that have been painted of religion and Christianity in particular? Will you show a different face, be the witness to grace, and peace, and compassion, and loving your neighbor?
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” How many versions of that mistaken belief, do we say in our heart of hearts to God? “Lord, if you had been here — if you were real — if you loved me — bad things would not happen.”
I found this verse staring me in the face and thought about how I have lived so much of my life trying to keep my finger in the dike to hold back the force of death, particularly the death of the Church, telling myself, if I am there, it won’t die.
What Jesus showed me anew, in this story, is that death does not have the final word, that I don’t have to keep plugging the hole, that he’s led the way, and there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Paul doesn’t say, “you once were in darkness” and “now you are in light;” he says “you were darkness” and “you are light.” Like “you are what you eat,” these are ontological claims. Paul asserts that our being is transformed as a result of faith, or as a result of grace. He goes on to note that there is a connection of truth, goodness and justice to light. These are things we become, not just things we believe or even practice. In the Lord, we are light. We are truth. There is a power in fearless visibility that attracts and inspires and brings “light” to others. However it may be manifested, it takes one out of oneself into new territory, and unleashes God’s light, reflects it into the world.
Perseverance is the quality God is growing in me right now, through the regular encountering of obstacles which I could meet with fear, and then flee from with procrastination or numbing behavior, but which I am determined to face instead as opportunities, doorways into new possibilities, signs that I’m not living my life too small, that God isn’t finished with me yet, and that peace and hope are things I can get to, both at the end of a long and arduous process, and that I can access right now.
I think we often imagine this spectacular drama (i.e. Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness) as something that is beyond our ability, evidence that Jesus was superhuman. Yet the Spirit leads us into situations in which we face need and fear and “alternative facts” and empty promises and the temptation to take the easy way out or to get instant gratification — and we are called in obedience to love, worship and trust God alone, to wait, to take the long, hard slog of faithfulness and challenge and courage. Is this story, then, written here to prove how Jesus isn’t like us, or how he is — and how we can be like him?
One interpretation of the Song of Songs is that it’s an expression of the love between God and God’s people, or between Christ and the Church. Like the love between bridegroom and bride, full of longing, gentleness, respect and passion, God’s love is pure and enlivening. We need to be people of love in these times, demonstrating it in our actions: in kindness, in giving, in solidarity — both with those for whom we feel affection, and for those whom God has placed in our circle. And our circle needs to keep getting wider.
Hosea is called to the ultimate in “performance art,” embodying love through a troubled relationship with a prostitute, and it’s an incredibly strange story. I invite you to look at this crazy love story as a metaphor for the relationship between God and God’s people. Even when we’ve lost that loving feeling, when we’re at our unlovable worst, God chooses love. God will go down in the trenches, and God can even empower us to go down in the trenches.