“Generous Peacemaking”

A Sermon on Isaiah 11:1-9 and Romans 15:5-7 by Kimberly L. Clayton for Covenant Conference 2015, Friday, November 6: “‘The church is called blessed because it is a peacemaker.’ I am intrigued by this slight difference in wording. This second image does not say what we are called to be, but instead declares what we are. A peacemaker. This clause in the Confession does not call us peacemakers—a bunch of individual peacemakers, each one of us doing our part, making peace in our own little sphere, as helpful as that would be in our individual families, my neighborhood, your school, her workplace, his circle of friends.

No, listen to it again: The church is called blessed because it is a peacemaker. A big ol’ unified peacemaker. We are in this together, united, one, with one another. These days, I’m afraid, the church is called a blessed many things—but I’m fairly certain that a peacemaker is not our best known characteristic.”

“Better Than a Hallelujah”

A Sermon on Isaiah 65:17-25 and 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, 6:1-2 by Marci Auld Glass for Covenant Conference 2015, Saturday, November 7: “The Belhar Confession reminds us that we are called to proclaim this new heaven and new earth that God is about to create. But we can’t do that in a way that tells people to be okay with the pain they are experiencing NOW, or with the injustice that is breaking their backs and their souls NOW. We aren’t called to be Pollyanna and deny the truth of people’s lived experience. As Paul Roberts said the other night, we are not called to just be nice. We are called to disrupt.”

“Of Truth and Love”

A sermon by the Rev. Brian D. Ellison at the NEXT Church Conference, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago:

“Speaking the truth in love. This is the change on which the church depends. Our growing up, by speaking the truth in love.”

A Prayer for Courage

The Rev. Margaret LaMotte Torrence, Interim Pastor of Black Mountain (NC) Presbyterian Church, preached this sermon the day after the Presbytery of Western North Carolina affirmed Amendment 14-F. Her comments at the presbytery meeting are included: “I cannot imagine our marriage apart from the church. And how much harder it must be to nurture and sustain a relationship that runs against the grain of society’s norms. Yet we have told our gay brothers, our lesbian sisters—up until now—that their desire to live in covenant faithfulness has no place in the life of the Church. In so doing, it seems to me that we have robbed them of the companionship and the counsel of the Church, and we have robbed the Church of the full measure of their gifts—and their companionship—and their counsel. For anytime we are withholding part of who we are from our community, we are offering less than God would have us give. And anytime we have cut off part of the body, we are not fully the church.”

Going to the Chapel

A Sermon on 1 John 4:7–21 by the Rev. Tricia Dykers Koenig at the Philadelphia Regional Conference, Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church, February 7, 2015: “Friends, we don’t welcome other religions because we believe they are true – we welcome them because we believe our own Lord and Savior. We are not kind to others because they particularly deserve it – we are kind because it is our call in Christ. Welcoming all, especially the marginalized, is not about who they are. It’s about who we are. Or perhaps more precisely, because we know who we are – children of God because God loves us unconditionally – then we know we can never deny that identity to another.”

We Journey Together

A Sermon on James 2:1-17 by the Rev. Bertram Johnson at the Northwest Regional Conference, Mercer Island Presbyterian Church, 30 January 2015: “Through our acts of partiality, of favoritism, of judgment, of limitation on not just LGBTQ people, but on all God’s people, we pit the truth of God’s grace against itself and show our hypocrisy and lack of faith. As these first century believers dishonored the poor by favoring the rich, we continue to dishonor God’s people by creating divisions and obstacles to God. Through our biases the Church becomes a stumbling block and an exclusive club to those who seek to know God. We do this because we fail to believe that Christ’s sacrifice is big enough, wide enough, and deep enough to heal all our human-made fears and prejudices. When I’m faced with such opposition from my brother and sister Christians, like James, I ask do we really believe that the power of God is for all or is it that we think it’s only for some?”