October 13, 2019

I Am Not In Control

Genesis 12:10-20

Do you know what we see in Abram ?  --  Like so many people in the Bible, he is a mirror held up for us to see ourselves. In old Abram we see so clearly our human tendency to believe that the future depends on the skin we have in the game right here and right now.  This means that we are tempted to think that God's gifts are what life is about, rather than God the giver of those gifts.

September 29, 2019

Purchase of Hope

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

Long ago, when the 5th HARRY POTTER book came out, my daughter Margaret got a copy at midnight on a Friday, the minute it was released in the west. She finished the 800 page tome by Sunday afternoon. Now, I remember that fact always in the context of a story connected with another girl her age and the release of the 4th book in the Harry Potter series; The Goblet of Fire. It’s a story that has moved me deeply ever since ...

September 22, 2019

Two Cheers for Shrewdness

Luke 16:1-8

Look: the majority of people in this town stayed in bed this morning. Or they got up and are reading the newspaper, maybe sipping their Cariboo coffee at an Einstein’s. That’s why good church-going people might call them “children of this age.” But, unlike them, you got up, got dressed, and came here to Wasatch – certifying you as the closest thing in Salt Lake City to “children of light.” And some of you are expecting me to say, “Relax. You can all thank God that when faced with a perplexing parable like this one, you are in the hands of a qualified professional with an advanced degree or two.”

September 15, 2019

Lost & Found

Luke 15:1-10

More than once I’ve reminded us of how our Amish brothers and sisters handle the problem of disunity in their family units. You will remember that it has to do with members of the family who are missing. Each and every mealtime the family will set a place for a son or daughter who is gone for any reason, even for those who have willingly abandoned the family. Nobody else sits in their place. Nobody else uses those dishes or utensils. They are waiting there for that person from the beginning of the meal to the end. This is repeated three times a day, so that person is remembered regularly and always with the placing of each fork, each knife, every plate, or bowl, or spoon. And here’s the most important part: the missing person knows very well this is happening, every mealtime, as well. That is one powerful ritual.

September 8, 2019

Counting the Cost

Luke 14: 25-33

Two mornings a month I sit on these steps here, below the pulpit, with about 70 children at a time from our Wasatch Presbyterian Preschool. We look at a Bible story together for a few minutes. A few years ago, while waiting for all the classes to gather up here, one by one, I was visiting with one of the four-year-olds. He was asking about our stained glass windows and we looked together at the one over here of Jesus on the cross. And he said, (and I quote), “Jesus is always dying.” It was one of those times, you know, when you realize it takes a child to sum something up for you. I don’t know where he went to church or what books he’d been looking into but he knew the odd and awful fact that when you see Jesus he’s most often hanging on a cross and it’s sure …. not … pretty.

September 1, 2019

When God Says, “I Miss You”

Jeremiah 2:4-13

As I said, Jeremiah speaks of how we have a habit of substituting cracked cisterns that won’t hold water, for God, the original fountain of living water.  It made me think of Jeffrey Epstein, the sexual predator who took his own life in federal custody.

Some people said he did it out of despair, knowing that he was facing spending the rest of his life in prison. I imagine it was despair all right, but if you’ve read a bit more about him, you know it’s more complex than that.  Here was a man who lived in the largest single family dwelling in Manhattan, who owned his own private jet and even his own island.  He had this little empire, but he built it on being very open and candid about his sins. He was even somewhat proud of being made a pariah because of them.  He was open about his taste for young girls and, early on, this led the very wealthy who either wanted to live like him or did live like him, to befriend him.

August 25, 2019

Youth Sunday!*

On Sunday, August 25, the youth led all aspects of the worship service. They read scripture, led an interactive Call to Worship, and gave the charge and benediction. They served as ushers, announced the passing of the peace, and welcomed people into the service and worship. Additionally, they led the time for children, the time of prayer, and a song. It was beautiful to see our church’s youth engaged in these leadership roles. In the sermon slot, seventeen of our youth reflected on their summers of service and connection. Over the summer, they volunteered as a youth group at 13 different local nonprofits, participated in a service trip, Camp Tuttle, Triennium, and a four-day rafting trip. They went out to lunch together, participated in youth fundraisers, spent a day at Lagoon, and invaded the Fleishman’s home for movie and pizza night.

*There is not a print copy available for this service.

August 18, 2019

The Crisis of the World

Luke 12:49-56

A sermon by Andrew Fleishman.

Division amongst people is a challenging reality of the world that we live in. Our decisions divide our values and when we say yes to something, we necessarily say no to something else. Jesus speaks of the division that he causes and those who follow him come face to face with a crisis, a moment of decision. The people of God are left asking "What are we to do?", and it is in this questioning that the people of God are changed.

August 4, 2019

Do you really need to hear this parable?

A sermon by Reverend Catherine Putnam-Netto

This parable really isn’t about your money; whether you have too much of it or too little; or give it away or don’t. It’s not about inheritances or possessions at all.  David Brooks, the NY Times commentator, in his book, The Road to Character suggests our adult lives are sandwiched between two documents: our resumes recounting our skills and external success, and our obituary or eulogy, recounting the virtues at the core of our being. And he essentially says, ‘Life is about reconciling the two’. I think this parable is about that….

July 21, 2019

The Better and the Less-Better Parts

A sermon by Luana Uluave

In this version of the story, each of the women is what’s called a trope - a trope is a sort of short cut writers use in literature, to make readers think of a particular stereotype and all that goes with it. We know lots of tropes. Princesses are helpless and wait to be rescued by handsome princes. Nerd girls get contact lenses and turn out to be secret beauty queens. Grandmas are Mrs. Piggle-Wiggles and give you cookies and read you books. But real women are not tropes. Real women are practical and faithful, grumpy and serene, active and contemplative, homemakerly and ministerial. I prefer to read Mary and Martha as real women, and that means that I can’t be content to treat them as tropes. How can I make room for a fuller reading of both sisters?

July 14, 2019

The Compassionate One

A sermon by Reverend Catherine Putnam-Netto

In classic form, Jesus turns the lawyer’s question back to him and asks, “Now think clearly dear lawyer, who of the three was the neighbor to the one half-dead in the ditch?” “Wait” says the lawyer, “I asked you who is my neighbor? Who is the one who would be worth my time to care for?” Good grief, all he wanted was to know the limits on whom he is to love - and Jesus hits him with this. The term ‘question’ comes from the shorter word ‘quest’, meaning ‘to search out,’ ‘to go on a journey’. And Jesus takes the lawyer on a quest beyond the reaches of his belief and the boundaries of his compassion, and then shoves him over the limit!  After a moment, the lawyer grudgingly replies – “I guess, I suppose it was the one who had compassion.”  He can’t even use the term ‘Samaritan’ it’s so hard for him.

July 7, 2019

I Send You Out

A sermon by Andrew Fleishman.

The gospel of Jesus is intentional and reciprocal. It is never a one-way transaction, it is deeply connected. Reciprocity is a vehicle by which creation is restored and a conduit where the love of Jesus is conveyed in most powerful ways. As I reflect on this I am reminded of the protestation that the apostles gave to Jesus when he bid them to come to him so that he might wash their feet. The Apostles responded exactly how I would have responded. Surely not!! No way Jesus, I’ll wash your feet but you should never wash mine. I mean, you are Jesus, surely you aren’t thinking clearly right now. And Jesus hit them and us with these revelatory and haunting words. “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

June 30, 2019

Jesus on a Road Trip

A sermon by Luana Uluave.

If I were on the road trip, would I stay or would I go? Notice who stays with Jesus, and who doesn’t. The ones who stay are not in any way perfect or perfectly fit for the service they have taken on. But they are willing to stay the course, walk the path, traipse through unfriendly Samaria, learn to make good time on the road.

This part of the story reminds us that Jesus - the Jesus of the text - is a radical, intense leader, and if we’re getting too cozy with Pleasant Jesus we might be missing out on our own call issued through Revolutionary Jesus.

June 23, 2019

A Meeting at the Edge

A sermon by Reverend Catherine Putnam-Netto.

The world is no longer a place where seas split and donkeys talk, and where water turns into wine. Now, instead of instantaneous miracles, we live mostly in an age when God’s presence and healing touch are made known much more ploddingly… though our hands, our prayers, through medicine and healing therapies.

It was Jesus’ humanity that first touched the man’s soul and invited him into a safe place – a place where God’s love for the man could be heard. And it was then – once the man was in this space - that Jesus’ divinity could offer a cure to the ails of his mind and body.

June 16, 2019

“The Furious Struggle”

A sermon by Andrew Fleishman.

I ask this question. What does one do when light has shined into one’s soul and the light within is darkness? Heavy words I know. Darkness could mean many things, resistance, hesitance, skepticism, stubbornness… The question I am asking is where do we go while in the midst of the furious struggle of our heart when light is shined upon it?

June 9, 2019

Pentecost for Today

A sermon by Luana Uluave.

I think by taking a look at the “they” and the “where” in this story, we can commemorate them in that faraway place—but as important, I hope we can take a moment to find the us, in this place, as we celebrate Pentecost for today. Here we are, fifty days past Easter, together in a place, in this place—and I want you to look around right now and see the “we” that we are. What is being born among us, as we gather all together in this one place today?

May 26, 2019

“Do You Want To Be Healed?”

You know, Jesus is often identified with the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus is, in fact, often stamped with the authorship of that phrase, but you can find a number of versions of it cropping up in cultures all around the globe. And listen, there are limits to the Golden Rule.  For my money, if Jesus is the author of any “rule” it would have to have been what is becoming known today as the Platinum Rule. That one goes this way –  “Do unto others as they would be done by.”  That is to say, don’t just do for people what you would like – take the time to find out what they might really like before you “help” them.