Sermon for First Week of Advent

Advent 1

First week of Advent. Bio-regional wreath by Sarah Holst

By Rev. Denise Griebler
St. Peter’s Episcopal
Dec. 2, 2018
Advent 1C & Homecoming

An earthquake in Alaska, fires in California, hurricanes, flooding, draught, the wars – especially the war in Yemen – refugees at the border, people living under constant threat of deportation or eviction or water shut-off or exorbitant rent increases and more auto plants being shut down. The Rev. Karen Kerrigan (who was just ordained a Roman Catholic Woman Priest here at St. Peter’s) observed that we don’t even need to read the gospel this week – we could just read the newspaper! Continue reading

Sermon: As One Who Was There

25299574_10214858114229862_8841640536640516071_o.jpgBy Rev. Denise Griebler
1st UCC Richmond, Michigan
January 28, 2018

Mark 1:21-28
Psalm 111

Well, I will tell you this: I went to worship that evening with the usual expectations – which is to say, I wasn’t expecting anything unusual.  It was just after sunset – which is when we worship. By our way of thinking, sundown is the beginning of the new day – a time to rest in God’s presence – a time to rest in the company of family and friends and neighbors. Continue reading

Strange Liberators

DeniseDay 12 of our Lenten Journey through Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1954—in 1945 rather—after a combined French and Japanese occupation and before the communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony. Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not ready for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination and a government that had been established not by China—for whom the Vietnamese have no great love—but by clearly indigenous forces that included some communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.
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By Rev. Denise Griebler (photo above), the pastor of First United Church of Christ in Richmond, Michigan

We do not tell the truth about ourselves.   No wonder we and others are confused. Perhaps we have refused the long look in the mirror for so long that we simply do not know. But I think it is also true that we do not want to know.

Listen. Begin with the genocide. Indigenous people, communities and cultures crushed by colonial greed and settler-culture that took whatever it wanted with the twisted and absurd notion that this was all preordained, a manifest destiny set forth by a false-god in their image. Listen.   You can hear the sounds of an economy built on enslaving human beings and extracting their labor with the blessing of this false-god. Listen, as the ever-expanding economy gobbles up land and with it the gifts below the surface of land, waters, species, human life and labor and leaves in its aftermath spoiled land, air and water. They say a sound goes on forever. Listen. The cries of the indigenous and enslaved people and of the earth, our Mother, can be heard. Continue reading

Sermon 4th Sunday Advent: Joseph’s Yes

joseph.jpg Written and preached by Denise Griebler

Matthew 1:18-25
Isaiah 7:10-17

So Mary and Joseph are engaged.

To get to an engagement – there’s been, well, engagement. Mary and Joseph have been engaging with one another. They’ve been engaging each other’s families. There have been a long series of yeses.

But it’s not a straight line. It rarely is.

Matthew is so sparse in his description of events that it’s difficult for brain and heart not to search out Luke’s account and collapse the two. It’s not good exegetical form to do this. But I’m afraid my heart cannot resist the temptation. In the passage that comes just before this one we get a long list of fathers and sons (with a few interesting mothers thrown in the mix – Tamar the prostitute, Rahab the spy, Ruth the immigrant – outsiders, upstarts, all outrageous and unexpected) – and then at this long list of sons begat by fathers, comes the promise of a child, who will be God with us, God’s own and Mary’s. Continue reading

The Woman with an Issue of Blood

clayBy Denise Griebler. Part of a continuing series on badass women in the bible.

“If I could but touch the hem of his garment.
If I could but touch a part of his robe
I know I’d be healed, my sins all forgiven.
If I could but touch him I know I’d be whole.”
– the chorus of a gospel song by Rev. George A Rice

Matthew 9:18-25; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:41-56

The story goes that while Jesus was walking through a crowd, she touched him and was restored to herself.  Imagine that gutsy move.

She’d been hemorrhaging for twelve years.  Her search for a cure had bled her of everything she had and after all that, her condition was worse not better.  Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza says through this woman we glimpse of  the impoverishment of the permanently ill.  And she didn’t just suffer an incurable illness, but she was also permanently unclean and impure.  Whomever she touched would also be made unclean.  Imagine 12 years of untouched isolation. Continue reading

Witnesses to the Resurrection: I know Hope in Clay

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Photo Credit: Denise Griebler

By Denise Griebler, Detroit, MI

I know hope in clay.
Soft and cold in my hands, I turn and pat wedge to ball.  A tender rhythmic caress.
Alongside radiator clangs and spews,
window pours in sunlight, together they warm my shoulder.
Sit and slap a mound of mud to wheel.
Breathe.  Lean in.  Center.
Who Knows what will rise up? Continue reading

Good Earth to Good Earth

deniseBy Denise Griebler

I’ll shake these bones and shout and sing my life away,
It won’t be long before these bones turn to clay.

— from Shake These Bones, by Malcom Dalglish

“Good earth to good earth.”

It’s one of the things we’ll say graveside when we offer back the earthly remains of beloved Bea Wylie. Her ashes will be buried in the UP, alongside her husband, the good bishop, Sam Wylie.

A week ago I rolled out the slabs of clay. And few days later I fashioned the urn. A sprig of lavender harvested from Manna Community Garden along with grasses sporting well-defined seedheads, pressed into the clay. There’s a cross on one wall. And a bird in flight on another.   I’m told for 60 years Bea wore a bird like that on a silver chain that rested upon her heart. Unbeknownst, I made the mark of the bird in upward flight, imaging her home-going and the welcome she received as she crossed over to God. Continue reading