Quaker Sermons The Biblical

The Company We Keep: Empathy and Reading the Bible Together (Acts 8)

This is the message I gave this past Sunday.


The Bible is, for better or for worse, one of the most influential documents in the history of the Western World. We sit here together in worship this morning largely because of the Bible. Many of us have grown up hearing the stories, memorizing the verses, and reading it in the privacy of our own homes. Many of us have turned to the Bible as a book of comfort in desperate times, have relied on its words to help us make sense of what to do with our lives, and have found within its pages the challenge to be transformed into more loving, peaceful, forgiving people.

Countless expressions and idioms in our culture today come from its pages. In an article, I read this week, about this year being the 400th anniversary of the KJV, the author pointed out numerous idioms we use in the English Language today (Can you Think of Any? Slide): “eat, drink and be merry,” “the apple of his eye,” “an eye for an eye,” “it came to pass,” “fight the good fight,” “can the leopard change his spots (Jer 13:23),” and of course “Am I my brother’s keeper.”

But we also know that the Bible has been abused and misused often against God’s beloved creation that the Bible teaches us about. It’s too often only given slogans status, as is often the case at sports games and on bumper-stickers. It’s been used to justify atrocities that should never happen. And the recent Florida pastor burned one people’s holy book, the Koran, in the name of our holy book, the Bible.

Featured Sermons The Biblical

The Res. Community Pt. 4: The Last Breakfast, or First Potluck (John 21)

This is the message I gave that is a part of a longer series on the resurrection community from a few weeks back.

_The last breakfast on the beach

Post Easter we’ve been talking about the res. appearances of Jesus. We thought it would be interesting to see what Jesus’ appearances have to say about who the church is to become in its earliest incubation stages.

This morning we’re sticking with this final scene in John 21 (3 sections). Where the other Gospels feature the last supper late in their narratives, this scene might well be called the last breakfast. It comes not on good Friday but after Res. Sunday and has some unique features to it.

Query: What are some of the unique features of this ‘last breakfast’ in comparison with ‘the last supper?’

There are a number of ways to understand “communion” in the NT, and this scene gives us a different reading then the one we’re used too with the bread and wine, “the do this in remembrance of me.” What has come to be called communion, that we take from the Gospels, and in the early church, was always meant to be, I think, a real-live meal with many people where Jesus is present. It was to stress two things:

His open table policy, everyone is welcome to come and eat at this table. And his economic policy, God gives enough food for everyone at this table. These two are held together by the very presence of Jesus in the midst, stresses that by doing these two practices, the church gathers around the living Spirit of Christ.

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GMO OMG! Jeremy Seifert’s New Sizzle Real

My friend Jeremy Seifert, the guy behind the popular documentary Dive!, which I have reviewed here in the past, is beginning work on a new documentary about GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). I am really excited about the new project and have posted it a few times in various places, but I haven’t shared the “Sizzle Reel” that Jeremy’s put together. You need to watch this. And if you can support the film that would be awesome too!

GMO Film Project Sizzler from Compeller Pictures on Vimeo.

Quaker Sermons The Biblical


A couple weeks back we discussed how the resurrection community is a participatory community, that is that Jesus invited his disciples to bring some of their fish and add it to the pile that he brought. The work of the church is to be actively involved in participating in God’s ongoing work in the world: it’s not solely up to us, nor is it solely up to God. Active Christianity is about a partnership between the two. Similar to the way a newborn child enters into an already pre-established history of family life, we as God’s children enter into an already active community that has been part of God’s story for thousands of years. To say that we are a participatory community is to recognize that we each have a part to play in that ongoing story.

But how are we to actually practice this participation? How are we to think about it what it means to enter into that larger ongoing story, especially when many of us are new to even knowing what this story is at all? In the next few Sundays, I want to lay out some ways we might think about being participants, co-laborers in this already, ongoing, work, and how we might understand what our role is in that work.

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The Res. Community (Pt. 3): Success and The Famous Catch of John 21

This is the third part in a five-part series looking at the final resurrection appearances of Jesus in the book of John.
The text this morning is the first part of John 21.


There’s a lot of silliness in this passage.
It would be easy to write a farce on this passage:

  • Not knowing what else to do, what does this group of men do? Go fishing.
  • Fishing Naked?
  • What’s all this about the last super, what about “The Last Breakfast!”
  • Etc.

One thing I keep going to where the numbers in the passage and then I remembered a passage in the book the River Why by David James Duncan:

–{Read David James Duncan’s piece p.14-15}

My attention is initially drawn to the abundance and the numbers. Then I got to thinking about why this is and it seems that the reason is because this is how we understand a “community” or business, etc. to be successful.

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Lord, Lord, Open Unto Me: Howard Thurman (Prayer)

I was recently given a prayer book from a friend in our meeting called Prayers from the Heart by Richard Foster. ((Books in this post use an affiliate code to a local, independent bookstore close to where I live in Portland.)) It’s a lovely collection of prayers, and the other day I came across this prayer by Howard Thurman. Thurman was among many things an influential Baptist minister, theologian,  and civil rights activist, who worked for non-violence and started a multicultural church in 1944 (he is also well-known to Quakers for having studied philosophy with Quaker Rufus Jones at Haverford College). Thurman has written more than 20 books, one of his most famous being Jesus and the Disinherited. He is well-worth reading if you’re interested in reading books by people who have lived lives well (find out more here). Here is one of his prayers.

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A Prayer of Interdependence

God of the body of Christ,
organs and limbs,
feet and hands,
the weak and the strong,
the broken and the suffering,
we recognize our dependence on you,
we see how you knit us together as one. 

We confess our own independence,
our own individualism and self-centeredness.
We too often say:
I don’t need you
I don’t need others
I can only rely on myself.

We see this has a crippling effect
not only on our society
not only on our churches
not only on our families and friends
but on our very souls.

Help us to be open to our needs,
help us to nurture into our lives
the very things necessary to see our
own interdependence.
May you also strengthen this community
and draw us together as one.

Featured Sermons The Biblical

Celebrating Our Interdependence (1 Corinthians 12:12-26)

This is the text to the message I gave on July 3, 2011.

_intro: (dis)membership

I was reading in a magazine called the Christian Century the other day and they recently put out an issue that deals with issues related to church membership. The title of the main article is: “The Dismembered Church: Attending Without Joining

I was interested in the statistics of the articles, and what the authors saw as national trends in people’s (un)willingness to join churches, largely because we’ve recently done a membership class and have been talking about what it means to belong to the “Resurrection Community.” One of the many things I’ve learned about membership from the article is that it has numbers around membership have not always been very high in the US. There have been two periods of growth in church membership: once in the 19th, and once in the 20th. In the 19th century there were many frontier revivals led by Charles Finney and others who “brought religion to ordinary people. Some historians think that 1 in 3 Americans were members of a church by 1850, which was twice as much as it was in 1800. And the 2nd big membership growth period was during the, post-World War II. For this group “belonging to a church was a primary means of social belonging; church membership marked one’s place in the community.”