We begin the lectionary's reading of James on Sept. 2nd focusing on James 1:17-27. These verses open us up to James' imperative that faith and action cannot be separated. Together we will explore what James might imagine "pure religion" looks like in our fragmented world today.
One of the most famous sayings of the Desert Fathers of the early church goes like this: “A certain brother went to Abba Moses in Scete, and asked him for a good word. And the elder said to him: Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” As our “Responses of Faith” sermon series comes to an end, and as our “yes, no, maybe…” is rounded off by a concluding “so,” we’ll explore what Jesus’ invitation to abide — to stay still – might have to say to teach us. Scripture: John 6:56-69.
Rev. Jen Porter
As we discern the yes or the no, we find ourselves living in between seeking our faithful response and action. We seek clarity and which direction to go. A maybe dwells in the middle and we find ourselves in no way aimless. While we wait and while we discern, we are formed. We find the way. We hear the Word of the Lord.
Rev. Jeremy Bork
We continue our Yes, No, Maybe, So series this week with saying no. The Ephesians text is quite the list of dos and don’ts, and if you’re like me it’s not always easy to engage a passage like this. Join us as we wrestle and wonder together about the connection between the things God might be inviting us to say no to and the deeper yes behind them. Scripture: Ephesians 4:25-5:2
Rev. Laurie Hartzell
On Sunday August 5th, we welcome back to our pulpit Rev. Laurie Hartzell from Benton Harbor First Presbyterian. As we continue to join together in ministry, Kyle Nolan will be preaching in Benton Harbor while Rev. Laurie preaches here. She is preaching on Isaiah 6:1-8 and our continued "Saying Yes" to God. All are welcome.
Rev. Jen Porter
John 6:1-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Feeding the Five Thousand 6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.[a] 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they[c] sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. Jesus Walks on the Water 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles,[d] they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I;[e] do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
Do all dogs go to heaven? What about dinosaurs and dragonflies? Is all life resurrection eligible? And why are we compelled to ask these sorts of questions in the first place? Jeremiah — distinguished among Israel’s prophets by his ability to see beyond the possibility of exile to its inevitability, beyond the “losability” of the land that God had promised Israel to the absolute certainty of its impending loss — casts a hope-filled vision of what human vocation can be when we join God in welcoming all creation home. Join us in worship as Kyle Nolan preaches on Jeremiah 23:1-6.
Rev. David Baak
“Has God ever been mad at anyone?” The reading from Amos 7 begins with a plumb line (a standard or expectation) and ends with a call to be a prophet — and in between God certainly seems mad at the people. We ask, "What else is there to know about this?" as we join in worship on Sunday at 10:00a. Rev. David Baak preaching; Sanctuary Choir.
Rev Jeremy Bork
For the month of July, we're responding to some of the questions we didn't get to in the Q&A last month. This weeks sermon responds to the question, "Are there ideas in the original Greek New Testament that you think got lost in translation to English?" as it pertains to our lectionary text. In these verses, Jesus instructs the newly called and sent disciples with these words, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” While it is easy to limit our understanding of this passage to these English words, let us take another step together in wondering what else Jesus might be teaching through them. Perhaps there's not only a message for those unwelcoming places but also good news for the disciples themselves. Join us in worship at 10am as we listen for how God's Spirit is speaking to us through this question and this passage.
Rev. Jen Porter
In the gospels, the healing power of God is evident and real. God comes to heal and to forgive, to make hearts whole and well. Why does it seems like sometimes there is no answer? As we ask that question, we remember that Jesus often answered questions with questions. This week: "Why wouldn't God answer prayers for good things?" Perhaps the question back to us is "What are we looking for, what are we expecting?"
Rev. Chandler Stokes
The pressures on human beings, whether they are four- or fourteen- or forty-year-olds, can be enormous. The way we wait for children to come forward on Sunday for the blessings is an attempt on our part to remember to honor children as they areand not as we want them to be. That honoring is a part of how we honor all people.
Rev. Chandler Stokes
Sometimes the Great Commission has been taken very seriously by the Church. It reads: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. There was an imperative, an almost breathless urgency in the early church: the doors to God’s community had been flung wide open to the world—the nations, the gentiles were all given access to the transforming love of God. After all these centuries, people still wonder if that word is really for them. And yet somewhere along the way we seem to have lost our urgency.
Rev. Chandler Stokes
In the first year of my ministry at Westminster I wrote about the Six Great Ends of the Church. The sixth is the demonstration of the Reign of Heaven to the world—that is, the church is to be a witness to the Reign of God. People are supposed to be able to look at the church and see the way that God intends the world to be. Oh, my. It is an audacious goal—to demonstrate, to witness to the Kingdom of God, to show the way God intends the world to be. There are serious difficulties on the way to this goal. For one, this is a social reality that we are to point to. It is not an individual reality; it’s a communal reality. This demonstration is not simply a matter of personal morality or integrity. It is a kingdom, a commonwealth, a social reality—something we cannot do alone but do corporately. And to make things more difficult, it is not something we do in isolation from the world. And the world is broken, violent, unjust, inhuman—and we do not witness in isolation from that world but in the midst of its infectious bloodshed and banality. In our Reformed tradition we believe that are not directed to construct little enclaves of heaven and let the rest the world go to Hades. We do not allow ourselves that conceit. We don’t create monasteries or build enclaves behind walls of separation in isolation from the world; we live our communal life in the very midst of a fragmented society. We set ourselves right in the midst of it, right in the craters of a war-torn world. We do not even allow ourselves the conceit of thinking that all that brokenness doesn’t affect us—as Paul says, we groan inwardly; we need help in our weakness. We know that we share in that pain that infects the world. The world’s temperament touches our lives; we are not immune. So…, how do we witness to that Reign of Heaven?
A program to celebrate Rev. Chandler Stokes' 35 years in ministry held at Westminster Presbyterian Church on June 3, 2018.
Rev. Chandler Stokes
The Welcome started with a memorial service in Oakland, California, and was offered at a memorial service here at Westminster some years later. And then through the intuition of Susan Jennings became a hallmark of our worship here. It’s Presbyterian through and through, and it has helped us understand ourselves and our place here in West Michigan.