top of page

5/12/24 Sermon

View today's sermon on our YouTube channel:

Deuteronomy 29:10-15

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition, adapted

10 “You stand assembled today, all of you, before the Lord your God—the leaders of your tribes, your elders, and your officials, all the people of Israel, 11 your men, your children, your women, and the aliens who are in your camp, both those who cut your wood and those who draw your water— 12 to enter into the covenant of the Lord your God, sworn by an oath, which the Lord your God is making with you today, 13 in order that They may establish you today as Their people and that They may be your God, as promised you and as sworn to your ancestors, to [Sarah and] Abraham, to Isaac [the son of Sarah], and to Jacob [born of Rebekah]. 14 I am making this covenant, sworn by an oath, not only with you 15 who stand here with us today before the Lord our God but also with those who are not here with us today.

Acts 18:24-27

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

24 Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos from Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the Way of the Messiah, and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross over to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. On his arrival he greatly helped those who through grace had become believers,

As often happens, these scriptures seem to dovetail with what we are doing in church this morning. Entering into covenant. Welcoming newcomers. Emphasizing the inclusivity of God’s love for all created beings.

These scriptures simultaneously instruct us on how to be in right relationship with God and one another – and remind us to hold a mirror to ourselves to reflect on how we are doing. 

In Covenant 

This morning we renewed our vows to covenant with God and one another. Jane and Brian did this by reaffirming their baptismal vows and entering into an intentional relationship with this community of the United Church of Christ. 

By Welcoming

This morning we welcome Jane and Brian as we have welcomed so many hundreds before them, as we ourselves were welcomed, as others will be welcomed in the future. Those that are already members reached out their hands in fellowship and affirmed with their voices a warm reception to Jane and Brian, bringing them fully into our embrace. 

Emphasizing Inclusivity

The scriptures remind us that all are not yet equal. We still have work to do to ensure that as all are equal in God’s sight, all are to be included fairly and equally in this earthly realm, here and now.

One would be right to question the hierarchy of humanity and the possessive cultures that permit and perpetuate ownership of servants and slaves, and relegates women, or immigrants, or any other subset of people to be “less than” another. 

It is glaringly obvious when I read our ancient scriptures that many were not given proper respect; that certain subsets of people, based on how they were born, where they were born, to whom they were born, or the language they spoke, or how they worshiped God, were abused and denied basic human dignities; and that abuse and denial of worth and dignity of  women, slaves, aliens, servants, was normalized. It is sometimes the omissions that are glaring. I asked Vicky to include Sarah and Rebekah in her reading of Deuteronomy when citing our ancestors, although they do not appear in the text. 

Reading these scriptures opens my eyes to the same injustices continuing to be perpetuated today. Harm has been and is done by some churches, the state, and by dominant cultures everywhere.

Why is such egregious behavior in our Bible? Is it because God wishes it or condones it? No. We read our ancient texts as instructive but not as a user’s manual.  It is because our Bible is a reflection of the faults and failures present in our ancient societies. Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” We know better than to treat others as property, to de-humanize them. And so, we must continue to do better. 

What might that look like?

Inviting and including any and all of God’s people to join in our fellowship. 

Welcoming the stranger – and sometimes harder still – welcoming those closest to us – and striving to be in right relationship.

I am proud that we welcome all in our wider community to join us in all that we do. Yes, we are a majority white, middle-upper class, retired, heterosexual population but we are welcoming of all. We do not hold that out as a standard for belonging. That is who our majority are. However, our minority are every bit as important. There is equality in leadership roles, in participation, in the heart and soul of this congregation. 

Of course all are welcome! All ethnic backgrounds are welcome here. All ages and abilities are welcome here. All skin tones are welcome here. All genders, gender expressions and transgendered souls are welcome here. All socio-economic backgrounds are welcome here. All who identify anywhere on the LGBTQi spectrum are welcome here. Independent voters, Republican voters, Democratic voters, non-voters are all welcome here. 

It feels redundant to speak about who is welcome. However, by naming who is welcome we may be more likely to notice ways that we are, or are not, living into our words. 

What are the ways that we can put our good intentions to action? Remember, or imagine, being the one on the outside looking in, and then act accordingly. Small gestures matter.

Offering a special invitation to a neighbor or newcomer to help make them feel not only welcome but safe in our midst. Offering rides to church or other events to those who do not drive or do not have transportation, reminding them that their presence is important and that they are missed when they are away. Having walkers and wheelchairs to assist with mobility and having properly working microphones and earphones to accommodate those needing hearing assistance, to uphold our desire to be inclusive of many needs. Speaking up and out when witness to discrimination or injustice in the workplace, in public places, or within the walls of our church. It is imperative to remember that our silence signals our complicity. When we do not speak up because it is uncomfortable to do so, how much more uncomfortable, and often dangerous it is be to be on the receiving end of antisemitism, Islamophobia, sexism, racism, queer slandering or any other bias. 

Our texts remind us to be in covenant with God and with one another… with our ancestors, with those living beside us, with those who come after us. The Deuteronomy scripture reads, “those who cut your wood and those who draw your water.” We can take that to mean to be inclusive of both men and women, as those tasks were once divided. We can also understand that to encompass our non-binary siblings. We are not limited to the either / or choices sometimes presented in our world. Inclusivity is better achieved when we accept both / and realities. We are to be in covenant with all, including, our scripture says, “the aliens who are in your camp.” Welcome the foreigner. Offer aid to any in need. Ours is an expansive covenant – inclusive of all – past, present, and future. 

These scriptures, when overlaid in any aspect of our lives can be our guiding light. They emphasize – 




Bringing the outsider in. Removing barriers. Becoming one in spirit.

May it be so for us. May it be so for all. 


Rev. TJ Mack – May 12, 2024


0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page