Seeing Trees

This sermon was originally preached at Tabernacle United Church on April 22, 2001 as a reflection on experiences at the Witness Our Welcome 2000 conference. Versions were subsequently reprinted in the More Light Update and Open Hands magazine (summer 2002). The sermon is updated here to adjust for shifts in my self-understanding, time-passing and for clarity in making it more relevant to a wider audience.

by Chris Paige
Mark 8:22-26 (Psalm 61:1-5)

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then Jesus sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”

Mark 8:22-26

In August 2000, I attended an event called Witness Our Welcome (or WOW 2000). It was a gathering of the “welcoming churches” movement – organized by several of the (predominantly white) Protestant groups that advocate for the inclusion of LGBT people in our churches – including More Light Presbyterians, the Open and Affirming program of the UCC, the Reconciling United Methodists, the Brethren Mennonite Council, and several others. This was the first event of its kind where we gathered across denominational lines in this way. There were over 1000 people attending the program which lasted several days.

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Starting Over

Tabernacle United Church, Philadelphia, PA
February 28, 1999 (Lent)

John 3:1-17 is read by the liturgist.

[Communion table has a big celtic cross (which is always there), bowl of ashes (for lent), candle, and a row of misc books.]

A reading from the Hebrew scripture: Psalm 121: 1-2

I lift my eyes to the hills
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from God,
who made heaven and earth.

[Amy, who is visiting, gets up from her pew.  Walks to the communion table.  Shoves all the books onto the floor.  Pauses. Approaches the large cross.  Moves it to the center of the table. Returns to her seat]

A reading from the Persian scripture.  The prophet Rumi.

Today, like every other day,
we wake up empty and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the Beauty we love be what we do.
There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

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An Opportunity to Testify

edited somewhat for print
Tabernacle United Church, Philadelphia, PA
November 19, 1995

Isaiah 12:1-6; Luke 21:5-19

Where are we?

In this passage from the gospel of Luke, we find Jesus being asked about signs of the times. And he paints us a pretty dismal picture. My first reaction to being asked to preach on this text was “Oh boy, what have I gotten myself into now!?”

I hate this stuff! I hate it when religion is used to fill us with fear. Stories of cataclysmic ends and final judgements. All the world is a battlefield and we must choose sides–against one another. It just doesn’t seem healthy.

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