Audio recordings of sermons and services can be found here.

Rev. Jane Sorenson, Pastor
August 5, 2012

Scripture:

What would you say if I told you, that there is a man down by the Evergreen State Fairgrounds, who is giving away free bread? What is your first thought?

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
July 29, 2012

Scripture:

So here we are. Weíve come to the third and final sermon in this three part series on the language we use for God. In the first two sermons we looked at the nature of that of which we speak when we speak of God and found that God, while always paradoxically present with us in the world, is ultimate mystery, transcendent, beyond, totally other. In the second sermon we looked at what that understanding of God means for language for God and found that our God language is necessarily symbolic not factual. Now we come to the third and final sermon, and I understand perfectly if youíre saying to yourself, or even out loud to others, Why in heavenís name has Sorenson subjected us to these sermons that are more like theology lectures than sermons? I freely admit that these sermons are more like theology lectures than like real sermons; but today I ask you to bear with me one more Sunday, because as heady as the subject of this series has been, this stuff is really important. Today we turn to the necessity of using feminine images for God, and thatís really, really important.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
July 22, 2012

Scripture:

Welcome to the second part of our three part sermon series on the language we use for God. I want to thank Jane for stepping in for me last Sunday and reading the first sermon in the series for me. And I want to apologize to her too. As she said to me after the service last Sunday when we spoke on the phone, that was a very heady sermon. I know, and I know that this whole series is pretty heady. In other words this sermon series is very me. Itís not very Jane, not that she disagrees with the points it makes. In reading it she was definitely giving you me, not herself. So Jane, thank you; and Iím sorry I couldnít be here to give that sermon myself.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
July 15, 2012

Scripture:

There is a question that Iíve wanted to talk to you about for a long time, that Iíve wanted to preach about and not only to discuss in an adult ed. group. It is the question of our language for God. Now, I know that ďour language for GodĒ probably doesnít sound like a question to you. After all, we speak of God all the time without worrying much about the nature of the language we use. But trust me on this one, itís a question. Itís a question for two primary reasons. The first is the way in which Christians always have and still do understand the words we use for God literally. The second is the tragic consequences of the Christian traditionís historic exclusive use of male titles and images for God. I am convinced that both of these aspects of traditional Christian God talk need to be deconstructed and replaced. So I am going to preach a three part sermon series, beginning today, on the question of our language for God.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
July 8, 2012

Scripture:

It doesnít make any sense, does it. Jesus says ďLove your enemies.Ē He says ďDo not resist an evildoer,Ē meaning do not resist an evildoer violently. Heís kidding, right? Weíve got no business loving our enemies. They hate us, and the only sensible thing to do it to hate them back. How else are we going to defend ourselves from them? Donít use violence to resist an evildoer? Nothing else works! Oh, of course all that love your enemies stuff, all that beat your swords into plowshares stuff is very nice and all; but we live in the real world, not in some fairy tale where everyone is nice and peaceful. The world just isnít like that.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
July 1, 2012

Scripture:

Itís Fourth of July weekend. On the Fourth of July we celebrate our nation, its independence and the values that, in theory at least, it represents. I donít usually build worship services around secular holidays, but I thought that the Fourth of July coming this week presented a good occasion for us to consider just what the proper relationship is between our Christian faith and our nation. The relationship that Iím talking about it usually called the relationship between faith and politics. For that way of putting the matter to be correct, however, we need to understand what the word politics really means. As I use the term here politics doesnít mean partisanship, the preference of one political party and its agenda over another political party and its agenda. Our word politics comes from the Greek word polis, which means city. In its primary definition politics means the way human societies structure their life together, how we live together in the city or other political entity. The question I wish briefly to address this morning is what is the proper relationship is between our Christian faith and the way we humans structure our life together as a society, as a nation.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
June 24, 2012

Scripture:

It seems such a simple little story--and such a miraculous one. Jesus and his friends get in a boat and set off across the Sea of Galilee, headed for the distant, opposite shore. As they sail across this large lake a great storm comes up. Even a large lake can get dangerously rough when the wind blows hard enough. The boat is being swamped, and Jesus and his friends are in mortal danger. Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves, and the storm subsides. Then his Disciples wonder: "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" Iím sure Mark meant the question to be rhetorical. The only possible answer is: God, or at least someone endowed with the power of God. Itís such a simple little story, a miracle story about who Jesus is; or so it seems at first glance. So is that all there is to it? Should I sit down now and be quiet? You can probably guess that I donít think thatís all there is to it and that Iím not about to sit down and be quiet just yet. So bear with me as we explore just what more there might be to this little miracle story about Jesus calming the sea.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
June 17, 2012

Scripture:

What is the Bible? How are we to use it? What is its authority for us? These are central questions of the Christian faith. For whatever else the Bible may be, it is our book. It contains the foundational story of our faith, the story of Jesus Christ. We study it. We use it in worship. Many Christians call themselves Bible believing Christians. More Christians believe that the Bible is or at least contains the word of God. You have probably heard the Bible used as an answer book for life. Iíve heard preachers ask a question and then say ďLetís see what God says about thatĒ as they turn to some passage in the Bible for an answer. For so many Christians everything in the Bible has to be true because, for them, it comes from God, and the Bibleís primary function is to answer our questions about life and about God.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
June 10,2012

Scripture:

Have you ever thought of Jesus as out of his mind? Iíve know about this passage from Mark that says that people were saying he was out of his mind for a long time, but Iíve never thought of him that way. I mean, he proclaimed the true word of God, right? So how could he be out of his mind? If, as we proclaim, he was the Son of God Incarnate how could he be out of his mind? Wouldnít he have to be about the sanest person there ever was? Wouldnít he have to be the exemplar of what human sanity looks like? Youíd sure think so, or at least I would. Yet here we have the Gospel of Mark telling us that his family actually tried to restrain him precisely because people were saying that he had gone out of his mind. How could that be? Were they kidding? Actually I donít think they were kidding. I think they were quite serious, and I think there is something we can learn if we take their charge that Jesus had gone out of his mind seriously and try to understand why the people of his hometown would think that he was mad.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
May 20, 2012

Scripture:

Today isnít really the Feast of the Ascension in the church calendar. Ascension day was actually last Thursday; but we donít gather for worship on Thursday (except Maundy Thursday), and I have some things I want to say that flow from the account of Jesusí Ascension in Acts, so weíre doing Ascension anyway, albeit it a few days late.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
May 13, 2012

Scripture:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ conquers the world. The victory that conquers the world is the Christian faith. The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God conquers the world. It says so right there in the Bible, in the First Letter of John. Christians conquer the world. Thatís what our faith enables us to do. It says so right there in the Bible. And that passage really was prophetic, wasnít it. It was written late in the first century or early in the second century of the common era. Christianity certainly hadnít conquered the world by then, but fast forward fifteen hundred years or so, and Christianity was out happily conquering as much of the world as it possibly could. In the Age of Exploration Christian missionaries followed the military and commercial forces of the European powers all over the world, converting as many people to Christianity as they could. Oh yes, there was that thing about them sometimes resorting to violence to do it, but whatís a little torture when youíre trying to save someoneís soul? They were just doing what the Bible told them to do, werenít they? They were conquering the world just like 1 John says they should, right?

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
May 6, 2012

Scripture:

As most of you know, I spent last weekend, April 27 to 29, 2012, at the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, the denomination of which we are a member, over in Pasco. While there I heard and participated in a good deal of discussion about the church in general, the local church more particularly, and small churches like ours most of all. Our two ďkeynotersĒ both addressed issues relating to local churches on several occasions. The Rev. Ben Guess, Executive Minister for Local Church Ministries of the UCC spoke, preached, and led a workshop on Christian education beyond Sunday School. You heard the sermon he gave at our closing worship on Sunday here last week. The Rev. Elizabeth Dilley, pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Red Oak, Iowa, spoke with passion and humor about the blessings of small churches. This morning in lieu of a sermon, or as the sermon if you prefer, I want to share with you some of what I heard and some of the discernment I did around that hearing.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
April 22, 2012

Scripture:

Most of you have heard me say it before. I've been preaching it here for ten years now. God's grace is free. God's grace is universal. Everyone is saved. No exceptions. Not one. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves. There is nothing we need to do to save ourselves. As far as God is concerned it's already done. It's already done because God has done it. We know that God has done it because we know Jesus Christ. If grace is truly grace and not something else, it is free; and it is for everyone. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
April 15, 2012

Scripture:

All of you, or most of you anyway, come to Sunday worship here fairly regularlyósome more regularly than others, but still, most of you come more or less regularly. You are all, most of you, friends or members of this Christian church. I imagine that if I asked each of you if you believe in God and in Jesus Christ most if not all of you would answer yes, I believe in God and in Jesus Christ. But let me ask you something. Though you may say that you believe in God and in Jesus Christ, do you sometimes have doubts about that? Or do you always have doubts about that? If you doóand frankly I think that if weíre honest we all have to say that we do, at least timesódoes it bother you that you have doubts? Do you wish you didnít? I suspect that we all wish we didnít have doubts about God and about Jesus Christ. In the story of ďDoubting ThomasĒ that we just heard we hear the risen Christ say to Thomas ďdo not doubt, but believe,Ē and we feel guilty because of our doubts, donít we. At least I know I do. We wish we didnít have doubts: Is God real? Is Jesus really the Son of God? Did he really rise from the grave? We wish we could answer all of those questions with an unqualified yes, but in our hearts we know that, at times at least, we canít. We know our hearts and our minds have doubts about those things, and we wish they didnít. Those doubt that I am pretty sure all of us have are what I want to talk about this morning.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
April 8, 2012

Scripture:

We Christians so love to celebrate Easter. Itís the biggest celebration of the Christian year. Itís the biggest celebration of the Christian life. It really is something to celebrate. Jesus the Christ, the one whom we confess to be our Lord and Savior, was dead; and then somehow he wasnít. It wasnít possible, of course. It was just true, thatís all. Jesus Christ rose up from the grave. The grave couldnít hold him. Death couldnít stop him. What could be better than that? Nothing! Nothing at all could be better than that. So we celebrate, and rightly so.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
April 1, 2012

Scripture:

They didnít get it. The crowds I mean. The crowds that greeted Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed burro. They didnít get it. They didnít get what Jesus riding into the seat of political and religious power on a donkey meant. What was going on here? Why would Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey when whenever he went anywhere else he walked? He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey because doing so wasnít just a way to get into the city. It was a prophetic act. In riding into Jerusalem on a donkey Jesus was enacting that scene from Zechariah that we heard. It probably isnít obvious to us that when Jesus rode into the city that way he was precisely presenting himself as a king; but he was, and the people of Jerusalem would have known that he was presenting himself as a king because, I think we can assume, they knew that passage from Zechariah. But what kind of king rides a donkey? Thatís what the crowd didnít get.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
March 25, 2012

Scripture:

Weíve all heard it. A great many people who will have nothing to do with any organized religion say ďIím spiritual but not religious.Ē I always wonder what they mean by that claim. Whatever they mean when they say Iím spiritual but not religious, the claim certainly makes some major assumptions, namely, that spirituality and religion are not the same thing, that they are two separate things, and that it is possible to separate them. The claim implies that it is possible to be spiritual without being religious and that it is also possible to be religious without being spiritual. People do indeed separate religion and spirituality all the time, and the most common form of that separation is for people to claim spirituality and to reject religion.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
March 18, 2012

Scripture:

Weíve all heard it countless times before. Weíve heard it read. Weíve heard it sung. Weíve seen the citation held up on signs in football stadiums. Itís often called the most famous verse in the Bible. Many of us, I suspect, can recite it from memory, probably in its King James version. Itís John 3:16, which in the NRSV translation we heard reads:. ďFor God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.Ē On the one hand itís so familiar to most Christians that itís almost trite. On the other hand it is for many Christians a concise summary of the entire Christian faith. John 3:16 is so familiar that Iím afraid most Christians who hear it never stop to think about what it really means. Most of us donít take the time to delve into the verse to discover its depth and its different shades of meaning. Beyond that, for many of us in the more progressive Christian churches we dismiss John 3:16 because it has become so associated with conservative, evangelical Christianity that we think that the only meaning it can have is one we donít much like, namely, that if you believe in Jesus youíll go to heaven, and if you donít believe in Jesus you wonít. I actually think that we make a mistake when we dismiss John 3:16 or react negatively to what we think it means. You see, John 3:16 is actually one of the most linguistically and theologically complex verses in the New Testament. It is also one with immense power and spiritual potential. So letís take a closer look at it and see if maybe John 3:16 doesnít turn out to be worth our while after all.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
March 11, 2012

Scripture:

Paulís kidding right? The cross the wisdom of God? The cross the power of God? I mean, either heís kidding or heís an idiot. Some of us may have some problems with Paul, but I donít think heís an idiot; so he must be kidding. Or maybe heís saying something absurd to make some kind of point. His point canít really be that the cross of Christ is the wisdom and the power of God, can it? After all, what was the cross? It was a Roman torture and execution device. The Romans used it essentially as an instrument of terror to scare off anyone who even though about defying or threatening Roman power. Besides getting rid of a troublemaker, the purpose of the cross as far as the Romans were concerned was to terrify people into passivity, into compliance with Roman domination. How does that get to be the wisdom and the power of God? Isnít the cross pretty much the wisdom and the power of the world on full display?

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
March 4, 2012

Scripture:

Last week PBS ran a documentary about the Amish, that Christian sect mostly in Pennsylvania characterized by their horse-drawn buggies, plain, old fashioned clothes, and their practice of nonviolent living. Part of that documentary told the story of the time a few years ago when a man shot and killed several young Amish girls at their school. Several of the Amish, including the parents of some of the children who were killed, went to the funeral of the killer. They didnít go to protest. They went to forgive. One of those parents said of that experience that he felt such a sense of relief because he had given up all need to judge the man who shot those children and could leave judgment entirely up to God. I honestly donít think I could have done what he did or said what he said; but there is, I think, a powerful lesson for us in what that Amish man said. He had gained a great blessing by losing something. He gained the blessing of peace in his soul by losing his need to judge another, even another who had done great evil.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
February 26, 2012

Scripture:

The Christian calendar is big on preparation. It has two fairly long seasons of preparation in it. The first is Advent. Advent, of course, is the season of preparation for receiving Jesus Christ at his birth on Christmas. The second season of preparation in the Christian calendar is Lent, the season we now enter. It is the season of preparation for the commemorative days of Holy WeekóPalm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Fridayóand the joyous celebration of Christís Resurrection on Easter Sunday. This second season of preparation is longer than the first, six Sundays (counting Palm Sunday, which is technically the sixth Sunday of Lent) rather than the four Sundays of Advent. Nonetheless, both Advent and Lent are seasons of preparation for our commemorative marking of major events in the life of Jesus Christ, first his birth and then his death and resurrection. The Christian calendar does indeed spend a lot of time on preparation before it gets to actual commemoration and celebration.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
February 22, 2012

Scripture:

In the Christian tradition Lent is a time of fasting. Thatís why we have that tradition of giving up something for Lent. Fasting is an ancient and universal spiritual tradition. It is practiced to take a personís mind off of worldly things and put it onto spiritual things, the things of God. Lent with its tradition of fasting and deprivation is supposed to be a time of introspection, a time of personal soul searching, a time of confession and thus a time of drawing closer to God. The emphasis in Lent tends to be very personal, focusing our attention on the state of our spirits and the health of our souls.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
February 19, 2012

Scripture:

When youíre talking about spiritual things you just canít use simple, declarative language. When youíre talking about connecting with the spiritual dimension of reality, that is, with God, ordinary factual language just wonít do the trick. So we use a lot of metaphors. Metaphors are words or phrases that talk about a thing by saying something else. They are using images expressed in ordinary words to point to an extraordinary experience. For example: For as long as there have been humans, humans have had extraordinary experiences of the presence of God, experiences of an unusually immediate presence of the spiritual, of the holy, of the numinous. There are no words to describe those experiences directly, so people created metaphors for them. One of those metaphors is ďmountaintop experienceĒ. A mountaintop is of course a real, physical place. In a prosaic sense standing on top of Mount Rainier is a mountaintop experience, an experience of being on a literal mountaintop. Used as a metaphor, however, the phrase mountaintop experience doesnít really have anything directly to do with being on top of a mountain. You may a metaphorical mountaintop experience of feeling the immediate presence of God on top of a mountain, but you can also have that experience in the deepest valley. It is still, metaphorically, a mountaintop experience. As a metaphor, mountaintop experience points to a closeness of God. The ancients thought that being up on a mountain brought you literally closer to God, which is, I suppose, where the metaphor comes from; but for us the phrase is a metaphor that conveys a spiritual experience, not a literal one.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
February 12, 2012

Scripture:

We just heard stories of the healing of a person we have always called a leper, as if a disease someone has defines that person. It doesnít, of course, so letís call it the healing of someone suffering from some sort of skin disease that the ancient world called leprosy. Maybe Naaman and the unnamed man from the story in Mark had what science today would call leprosy, or maybe they had eczema, psoriasis, or acne. The ancient world didnít make distinctions between different kinds of skin disease. They just called them all leprosy. Having leprosy in the ancient world was a pretty big deal, especially in Israel. It made you ďunclean,Ē impure. It made you an untouchable, an outcast, someone shunned by society, even by your family. Having a skin disease in that world excluded you from society, from family, from friends, from the synagogue or temple. Having a skin disease was a very big deal in that world. It excluded you from fullness of life. Those poor souls afflicted with it were in a sense the walking dead.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
February 5, 2012

Scripture:

I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden
Along with the sunshine
Thereís got to be a little rain sometime.

Iím not a big country and western fan, but sometimes country and western songs express quite profound truths in very simple words. Maybe it isnít what the lyricist intendedósee my handout from a couple of weeks ago on how texts have an excess of meaningóbut I can hear God singing that song to us. Our culture tries to sell us on an image of life as a rose garden. Just buy these diamonds, use this make up, take this dietary supplement, wear these clothes, drive this car and your life will be all roses and no thorns. Our Declaration of Independence says that all of us have as an ďinalienableĒ right the pursuit of happiness, claiming happiness as one of the goals of life and at least implying that we can indeed attain pure happiness in this life, otherwise why would we bother to pursue it? Yet we all know, donít we, that life doesnít consist only of happiness. We all know, donít we, that however much they may claim that they can do it all those products we see advertized all the time wonít bring us into a land of uninterrupted bliss. Life just isnít like that.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
January 29, 2012

Scripture:

So today we come in where Jesus has just called the first disciples, and they have come to Capernaum, a town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Mark tells a story about what happened. Jesus went into the local synagogue, the house of prayer and study for Jews who were not then at the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus, being I guess a sort of visiting rabbi, began to teach the people in the synagogue. Mark says that the people were ďastoundedĒ at his teaching and with the authority with which he did it. Mark doesnít explicitly tell us what Jesus taught them, but we can assume I think that it was something along the lines of Jesusí first public proclamation in Mark. It comes a few verses earlier, where Jesus says ďthe time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.Ē Surely Jesus was teaching about the Kingdom of God, which, after all, is what he teaches in all three of the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Then Mark says that as Jesus was teaching there was a man ďwith an unclean spiritĒ in the synagogue. The unclean spirit recognized who Jesus was, then Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. It did. Then the people in the synagogue reacted to what they had seen and heard by saying ďWhat is this? A new teachingówith authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.Ē

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
January 22, 2012

Scripture:

Christianity is about believing in Jesus, right? Itís about believing the right things about Jesus, right? Christianity is about believing that Jesus is the Son of God Incarnate who came to earth to die as an atonement for human sin so that we could go to heaven when we die, right? Christianity is about creeds, about complex statements of right belief To be a Christian you have to be able to recite the Apostlesí Creed without mental reservation. ďI believe in God, the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ his Son our LordĒ etc etc. We get saved when we say that we believe that Jesus is our personal Lord and Savior. Isnít that pretty much what we were all taught? That Christianity is about belief, and that belief means taking certain statements about Jesus to be factually true? I know that at least quite a few of us were once that all of those things about what Christianity is.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
January 15, 2012

Scripture:

Today we mark the Baptism of Jesus Christ. We actually are dealing with an historical event here because there really is no doubt that Jesus of Nazareth was baptized by John the Baptist. The first three Gospels, Matthew Mark and Luke, all tell a story of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. The fourth Gospel, and the latest, John, tells a story of an encounter between Jesus and John the Baptist, although in that one Jesus doesnít actually get baptized. Still, we can safely assume that Jesus was indeed baptized by John the Baptist.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
January 8, 2012

Scripture:

The life of faith is, or at least should be, a life of questions. Faith raises so many questions. We all have questions, lots of questions. Very conservative Christian churches to the contrary notwithstanding, asking questions about the faith is good. It is necessary. The Letter of James says that faith without works is dead; and, Martin Luther to the contrary notwithstanding, there is a sense in which that is true. But I believe that it is more true that faith without questions is dead. It becomes passive acceptance and acquiescence, not a vital, living faith. Sometimes, however, we find ourselves asking the wrong questions. That happened to me this last week as I grappled with Matthewís story of the visit of the magi to the infant Jesus. I thought: The star led the magi to Jesus, and I asked: What is our star? What, if anything, guides us to Jesus? Is it the Bible? Or the church? Is it prayer? Itís not that those are bad questions. Itís not that there are any impermissible questions. There arenít. But as I pondered that question of what our star is that leads us to Jesus I thought of one answer that made me think that I had been asking the wrong question all along. I wondered if our star were the lives of the saints of the Christian tradition. That is, was our star the witness of Christian people in their lives to the truth and the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? And I thought: Wait a minute! We shouldnít be asking ďwhat is our star.Ē We should be asking ďAre we a star for others, and how can we be a star for others, guiding them to the truth and the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?Ē So thatís what I want to talk to you about this morning, about being a star.

Rev. Tom Sorenson, Pastor
January 1, 2012

Scripture:

One of my favorite movies is The Blues Brothers, starring John Belushi and Dan Akroyd. In that movie John Belushiís character Jake Blues has just been released from the Illinois state prison at Joliet (which is why he is called Joliet Jake). He discovers that the Catholic childrenís home where he grew up is about to close unless it can raise some significant amount of money in short order to pay off a tax lien. So he sets out with his brother Elwood, played by Dan Akroyd, to put his old band back together and make some money for the childrenís home. The brothers have a whole string of misadventures, running from the law and from a mysterious woman who is out to get them played by Carrie Fisher. They encounter Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, and others. The movie has a sort of happy ending. The orphanage is saved, but the Blues Brothers and their band end up in prison back in Joliet.