Lent 5 – Who Do You Say That I Am?

“Jesus as Wisdom Teacher,” Susan Ryder

This week, as we continue our Lenten series on “who do we say that Jesus is,” we consider Jesus as Wisdom Teacher. One of the things that made Jesus different from other teachers of his time is that he embraced and taught alternative, or subversive wisdom, not the conventional wisdom taught by the Scribes and Pharisees. Here are a few examples from Matthew’s gospel.

Matthew 5 (selected verses)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Matthew 7:13-14
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. [Read more…]

Lent 4 – Who Do You Say That I Am?

“Jesus as Boundary Breaker and Movement Founder,” Bob Ryder

Mark 8:27-30
Jesus went with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ They answered, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah; and others say you’re one of the prophets.’ Then he asked, ‘And who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And Jesus sternly ordered them not to tell anyone what they knew.

Richard Rohr “We worshipped Jesus instead of following him on his same path.  We made Jesus into a mere religion instead of a journey toward union with God and everything else.  This shift made us into a religion of belonging and believing instead of a religion of transformation.” [Read more…]

Lent 3 – Who Do You Say That I Am?

“Jesus as Healer,” Susan Ryder

 As those of you who have been here the last two weeks know, we’ve been exploring a Lenten theme based on this passage from the Gospel of Mark 8:27-29: Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” Jesus then asked them, “But who do YOU say that I am?” This morning we will consider Jesus as healer, and begin with a few readings, and a question for you to consider. First, the question: Have you had an experience of healing in your life? What was it like, how did you experience it? How were you healed? [Read more…]

Lent 2 – Who Do You Say That I Am?

“Jesus as Social Prophet,” Bob Ryder

Mark 2:23-28 One sabbath Jesus was walking with his disciples through the fields. As they made their way the disciples began to pluck heads from stalks of grain and ate them. The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’  And Jesus replied, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.’ Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath. [Read more…]

Lent 1 – Who Do You Say That I Am?

“Jesus as Spirit Person,” Susan Ryder

The season of Lent is traditionally observed as a time of prayer and spiritual commitment to prepare us to walk with Jesus to Jerusalem. On this first Sunday of Lent, we hear the story of Jesus’ baptism, followed by a 40-day wilderness sojourn, a version of which is found in all three synoptic gospels – Mark, Matthew, and Luke – wherein Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. The experience prepared him for his ministry of preaching, teaching and healing, which ultimately led to his death on the cross for the sins of the world. According to that interpretation, Christians traditionally view Lent as a time of preparation, contemplation, and sacrifice. We usually observe Lent a bit differently at NCC, and this year is no exception. Our theme for the next six weeks will stem from the question Jesus asked his disciples in Mark 8:27-29: Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” Jesus then asked them, “But who do YOU say that I am?” [Read more…]

Evolution Sunday

“For the Love of Science,” Bob Ryder

What are you curious about? Is there a question you have about the world, something you’ve always wondered? What causes you to say, “How did they do that?” “How does that work?” “Where does this or that come from?” “How did they figure that out?” And if you find out the answer to your question, how might it change you? How might it leave you the same – for better or worse?

One of the benefits available to humanity living in the age of Google is that you can type the words, “How do gravitational wave detectors work?” and within a few seconds find this… [Read more…]

In Good Faith

“In Good Faith,” Susan Ryder

Mark 1:21-34
They (Jesus and his first disciples) went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching — with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” [Read more…]

Back to the Future

“Back to the Future,” Bob Ryder

A few quotes …

“I thought I was a bad Christian. I found out I’m a progressive Christian.” Scott

“We’re going to have to be light on our feet.” Chris

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead [Read more…]

A Stone of Hope

“A Stone of Hope,” Susan Ryder

Micah 6:6-8
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Matthew 17:20
For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

Martin Luther King, Jr. – “I Have a Dream” speech
With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. [Read more…]


“Home By Another Road,” Susan Ryder


Isaiah 60:1-6 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD. [Read more…]