Rev. Jeff Mansfield

Standing with Women

It’s very likely that some of us here this evening have been through a divorce. And almost certainly everyone here has been touched in some way by divorce. For many of us, the divorces that have touched our lives have been deeply painful. And for many of us, the divorces we have been through have been incredibly liberating, life-affirming, and God-blessed events. Whether you feel traumatized by divorce or healed by divorce or a little bit of both, our scripture reading this evening is difficult.

It pops up in our lectionary cycle every three years, but I will confess I have never preached on it before. Most of the pastors I run with preach on something else on this Sunday, or edit out the divorce stuff and focus on the welcoming children stuff or World Communion Sunday or anything – anything really – besides this doozy. It’s a huge can of worms and big pain in the butt to preach on this passage.

#GOAT

I wouldn’t mind being great. I think I could handle it. I’ve got the right temperament for it, I think. I wouldn’t let it go to my head. I certainly wouldn’t start bickering about who’s greater than who. And I wouldn’t be on Twitter constantly shouting about how great my everything is. And I wouldn’t humble brag on Facebook. I’d just keep it to myself. I would be so great that no one would have any idea how great I was. Maybe that’s exactly what’s going on? Maybe I’m the GOAT (the Greatest Of All Time) at hiding how great I am. No one will ever know.

Well, hold on now. What’s so great about that? I mean if I am, in fact, great, and I hide it so successfully that nobody would ever suspect my greatness – how does that do anybody any good? Maybe if I am great, I shouldn’t brag about it, but maybe I should have some sort of drive to DO GREAT in some way, some sort of drive to grow in greatness, and put my greatness – whatever it is – on display so that the world can benefit from it.

Extraverting the Gospel

When I look back on my Sunday School education as a kid – aside from warnings that my apple juice might be laced with LSD (which I talked about this summer) the overwhelming sentiment I got out the experience was “God is nice. So, you be nice too.”

I don’t know if any of you received a similar message at some point. But part of growing up and moving forward into adult spirituality, involves confronting whether the statement, “God is nice,” really captures the full picture of the God of the universe, the God of the Bible, the God of our hearts, the God who calls us to action.

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, Ready to Act

Labor Day Weekend is the powerhouse long weekend. It looms large on our calendars and in our imaginations – no other national holiday transitions us so completely. Summer fun is almost over, to be replaced with September’s seriousness: School back in session, sand blowing across the deserted beaches, the sounds of children’s laughter replaced by accusation and outrage in wave after wave of political attack ads. Oh. After Labor Day, we sober up, we’re not allowed to wear white anymore, the carousels and the ice cream stands pull down their shutters.

God’s vacation is over. She’ll be back on the job soon! We realize we can’t get away with slacking off anymore – at least not until after Christmas. We come back to church en masse and we are ready. Ready for what?

On Kindness

Have you ever overheard someone talking on their cellphone nastily to some loved one? You only hear the one side of the conversation, but you start to imagine yourself on the other end of the phone. And you start to feel wronged. You imagine that you’re the one on the receiving end of all that venom. And you start to feel it pumping in your veins.

Has someone ever sat down on the spot on the subway you were patiently waiting for? You’re a New Yorker, your face doesn’t even slip. You take it on the chin. “I didn’t really want to sit there anyway! After all, I’m getting in off in just 17 stops! Nothing you can do can phase me!” And two days later. Brushing your teeth before bed. You can still feel it.