• Change Is the Church’s Promise of Continuity, Old First Sermons 11.10.13 (preached at Lincoln Congregational Temple, UCC, Washington, D.C.)

    Proverbs 3:1-6; John 21: 1-11; Hebrews 11:1-3 A word of thanks to begin with. To your Interim Minister, Dr. Tendai, an old friend from our shared NYC days. And to his wife, Dotty who I am glad to see. I think she’d rather not be referred to as the First Lady, but I do hope [...]

  • Exiles and Locals: How Are We Supposed to be Both?, Old First Sermon 10.13.13

    Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 and Luke 17:11-19 Last week, I asked us to think of ourselves as outsiders.  Now, I know most weeks, today’s congregation isn’t the same as last weeks. So only some of you heard last Sunday’s sermon. So then I’m asking you to begin again this week, or asking for the first time [...]

  • The World as a Table with A Place for All, Old First Sermon 10.06.13

    Psalm 137 and 2 Timothy 1-14 Some churches function as a sanctuary, a hideout, really, where saints seek safety from the dangers of the world. I remember a pentecostal pastor from the church down the street from the congregation I served in East Harlem. We were having coffee, – much as I had lunch this [...]

  • When Half-Measures Aren’t Enough, Old First Sermon 09.22.13

    Last Sunday, trying to open a more approachable way to God, I quoted Bill Coffin, Riverside Church in New York City’s former pastor. Coffin’s insight was that in the face of painful and particularly apparently unnecessary suffering, God is always the first to cry. How surprising then when checking my preaching schedule on Monday morning, [...]

  • Start Here and Now, Old First Sermon 09.08.13

    Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Luke 14:25-33 Our Scripture lessons today are both a bit stringent. In our Deuteronomy passage, Moses finishes his sermonizing to the people of Israel on the plains of Moab before they enter into the Promised Land. He has reheated and served up the Law to the people again, and he’s hardly mincing [...]

  • Meet Over Eat, Old First Sermon 07.21.13

    Somewhere in that space between us
    as we open ourselves to one another,
    – in that space that can be even as small as
    the distance we left between ourselves at our first junior high school dance –
    there, in that infinitesimal space,
    we also begin to become more present to God.

  • What If There’s a New Victim Every Time You Pass… Old First Sermon: 07.14.13

    Colossians 1:1-14 and Luke 10:25-37 The “Parable of the Good Samaritan” is one of the most well known, beloved, and influential stories in the New Testament. So much so, it’s taken on in our western culture a life of its own, quite independent of the specific religious tradition that it springs from. A striking narrative [...]

  • “Let the Mint Be the Mint,” a charge to how we are to be

    (At Michael’s installation on Sunday, June 23, the Rev. John D. Vertigan, the Conference Minister of the Indiana Kentucky Conference, gave Michael this charge. By implication, it extends to Old First as a whole…) I like that we are sitting here in historic Philadephia right next door to the US Mint. My sources tell me [...]

  • To Get Out of Solitary, Old First Sermon 05.12.13

    Acts 16: 16-26 and Acts 16:27-34 In last Sunday’s sermon, speaking about Paul’s missionary journey to Macedonia, I said: “God’s counting on us because we’re Christians to go places we can’t foresee, to speak with someone who we aren’t sure of and we certainly don’t really know, to say or do God knows what in [...]

  • What We Offer, Old First Sermon 05.05.13

    Psalm 67 and Acts 16:9-15 I love our passage from Acts. A dream. A trip and a task. A series of surprising twists and turns. And success that’s clearly not Paul and Silas and Timothy’s, but God’s… Let me start by asking, If someone asked after your Christian faith because they were in need of [...]