Category Archives: Setting the Table

Setting the Table, The Sweetness of God’s Abundance

We are almost to the end of this sermon series, “Setting the Table.” Focusing on Hospitality and some of the food mentioned in the bible has been both fun for me and informative. This week the focus was on figs.

Now what I know about figs revolves around Fig Newtons. I still love those cookies! Fig trees are mentioned in the Bible often enough to be noticed. The parable of the fig tree in Luke is particularly unsettling. Yet in other examples, the fig tree is a sign of abundance and peace.

In her book, Taste and See, Margaret Feinberg does a marvelous job and describing the culture around fig trees, but also the symbolism of their great harvests and longevity. Fig trees produce tens of thousand of figs each year! What a metaphor for our faith and life! During the time with children they were able to taste both fresh figs and dried and of course there was some left over for the adults after the service.

At the end of the children’s time, I gave the children a fig leaf outline and invited them to either draw or write ways they could provide sweetness to the world and to the lives of others. Following worship, I found this:


You may find the whole worship service here.

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Setting the Table: Salt of the Covenant

Today in our sermon series we focused on “salt.” The most well known passage is from Jesus’ sermon on the mount in Matthew where he states, “You are the salt of the earth.” Now salt is found else where in scripture, and we used the Leviticus passage that spells out the salt of the covenant (which means all offerings needed salt to make them holy for God.)

The salt of the covenant was many things, not the least of which it pointed to God’s loyalty and faithfulness and ongoiingn attempts to be in relationship with God’s chosen people. In the twenty first century we often overlook how special salt is because it is so readily available.

Margaret Feinberg in her book, Taste and See, point out that not so long ago, salt was not so easily available. In ancient times we was used as currency and for the Roman soldiers as part of their sal—ary.

I have an opportunity to visit briefly the underground salt museum Stratica to film a promo AND to interview a lovely docent named Brianna. This is still an active mine, although not the part in which the museum is housed.

For the children’s time, before we blessed the backpacks I had a chance to have our children try and figure out the different salts I had. It wasn’t until I got to the white sea salt that they figured out it was salt…all of it salt: black, red, pink and white. They got to try them too!

Salt is an amazing gift….and a challenge for us to live out our saltiness.

You can the worship service at here.

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Setting the Table: Host of Heaven, Bread of Life

After two weeks focused on hospitality, this week we move to “food.” In her book, Taste and See, Discovering God Amon Butchers, Bakers, & Fresh Food Makers, Margaret Feinberg invites the reader into a journey that reflects on six different foods in the Bible. I enjoyed this book and pondered it for several weeks.

The chapter on bread has her visiting Andrew McGowarn, the dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale who specializes in ancient bread making. So in worship, using my phone as a timer, we used the recipe for unleavened bread and I began my sermon, but preparing and baking one piece of unleavened bread while I preached.

I had worked all week to be able to make and knead and bake this bread in the prescribed time. You can read more about the timing and the reason for eighteen minutes in her blog post.

Nothing ever goes according to plan. I had the table all laid out….but unlike other times, instead of two cups of water, one with the right amount of liquid and the other with extra if I needed it, I went with a single cup. I fussed a bit with the toaster oven (as it bakes very differently than my convection oven or the church’s professional ovens.) I practiced and practiced. The oven was hot and ready and I got the timer on the oven set so it wouldn’t go off too early.

When it came time to start, instead of pouring a little liquid into the flour, I dumped it all! Oops! I began with a major mistake, fortunately I had plenty of flour to add, but it threw off my timing. I used local, heritage hard winter Turkey Red wheat from a farmer just a few miles away, who grows it, harvests it and grinds it. I am deeply grateful to Serenity Farms for this flour to use today.

Suffice to say, I was really reflecting on the unleavened bread as the bread of both necessity and affliction. When planning this service I had no way of knowing what a horrible violent week it would be. I thought this could be fun and interesting and yes, what I hoped would be profound.

Since last Sunday there have been 32 people who died and 55 wounded (and perhaps more since this morning.) In less than 24 hours the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio have stunned us yet again. And this is not downplaying the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last Sunday. It seemed appropriate we were not using the sweet hawaiian bread for the sacrament of Holy Communion, instead, we ate the bread of affliction and the bread necessity which is the bread of Passover and the bread that Jesus used for that last supper. I baked it all this week, along with gluten free unleavened bread.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the bread came out finished in 18 minutes! You can find the whole worship service here. There sermon begins about 32: 51 (but listening to Cindy Dantic Watson on the violin and Brett Valliant on piano is treat!)


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Setting the Table: Who is Welcome?

We continued in worship today with Genesis 18 and Luke 5. Last week we had Abraham offering hospitality to his three visitors, this week Abraham continues his hospitality as he walks with them a bit to bless them on their way. In Luke, Jesus calls Levi a tax collector and is immediately criticized for eating with sinners.

The problem with reading Genesis 18 is that is the the setup for the horrible events that happen with the messengers outside of Sodom at Lot’s home. I could have avoided even mentioning Genesis 19, but somehow that seems wrong. Genesis 19 is used again and again to “clobber” the LGBTQ community.  This passage is not about “sex” but about violence and assault.

Trigger warning….in today’s sermon I use the word rape and note that in just one line that we tend to focus on the sex in a woman’s rape, rather than focus on the power and the violence. I also note in our history as a country, men, white men in particular, have used power and violence against African American men to keep them in their place through beatings and lynchings.

This sermon is as long a sermon as I have preached, but I wanted to do justice to the Genesis passage and focus on the real sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Because of that, I went over the “allotted” TV time, but you get most of the sermon. You can find both the sermon and the whole worship service here.

For those watching live or online I will add what the “manuscript” said, plus the parts I cut out at the end to try and finish up. So, I am sharing the end of the sermon as I wished it had been….

I think it is somewhat easy to look at the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and make very general statements because we think that is not our sin…we have used this story to condemn and make outcast so many people, because it isn’t our sin…the Pharisees or religious leaders found it easy to condemn Levi and the others, because it wasn’t their sin….but when we get right down to the heart of it all….the sin is arrogance, the sin is pride, the sin is the unwillingness to truly do what we need to do for the most vulnerable in our midst. We distance ourselves because “those” people deserve their lot in the life. It is easy to call names, to label, to justify and minimize those who are not like us, those who seem strange and different. So Jesus, when confronted with why he was hanging out with the most unacceptable in society basically says, “you want to know who is welcome at the table, I tell you everyone is. Everyone is worthy of God’s love and grace and I intend to share it with everyone I meet.” Abraham certainly worked to make the stranger welcome and to bless a whole group of people he didn’t even know…Abraham wasn’t perfect, he had deep grief and sorrow, but he followed the call God and even in the darkness of the unfulfilled promise of a child, he brought blessing and hope and faith and love. We are called to do the same.

In the words of John Wesley: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Neither is love content with barely working no evil to our neighbor. Love continually incites us to good: as we have the time and the opportunity in every possible kind and in every possible degree to all….”

It’s time friends, to welcome and accept all people. It’s time to quit building fences to keep people out and time to open wide the doors for the newness of life in Christ to be filling new people with love, with grace, with purpose and with a reminder that each one of us is unique and unrepeatable, we are God’s Beloved children. It is time to lay down the hurled insults, the constant bickering and unbendable positions and begin to find a way to welcome one another and make plans to work toward a community of faith and a world where the love and grace of Jesus is made real not just in the church, but in you and me and in the everyone. This week my friends, We are blessed to be a blessing, to offer new life and hope and love to new people.


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Setting the Table: Hospitality

We started a new sermon series today “Setting the Table.” For those who know me, I love to cook and share dinner with others. This sermon series is drawn loosely from Margaret Feinberg’s book Taste and See, Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers. We will focus later in the sermon series on 4 of the biblical foods she uses in her book.

While they may not “abound” there are many books on food and spirituality. After all the “table” is central to the Christian faith. Before his arrest and crucifixion, the last act of Jesus is ask his disciples to “remember me” every time they eat and drink. In many many Christian traditions the meal of Jesus is shared every week.

In her book, Margaret Feinberg writes,” When we gather to eat, God want to nourish more than our bodies: he want to nourish our souls with transcendent joy and supernatural community and divine presence. When we feed our physical appetites in community, we open our hearts for God to feed something deeper as well.”

In today’s worship service we focused on Abraham feeding the divine messengers and on the call of Simon Peter and James and John. A traditional grace in many homes states: Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blest. In Abraham’s case, The Divine shows up and is literally his guest. The same is true for Simon.

And Sarah and Simon are afraid. They have offered what they have and it is received with grace. The call for Sarah to trust the promise of God and for Simon to follow comes out of blessing. They are blessed to be a blessing and we are too. We are called to set the Table of Grace and Love.

Incorporating the theme of Vacation Bible School: “God is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine by the power of his work within us” was a perfect frame for what God CAN and WILL do in God’s people. You can find the whole worship service here.

If you want to experience some of the VBS music you can find the theme song here. And the kids favorite song “Even When the Lions Roar” here.

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