Sunday, March 3, 2024

 Third Sunday in Lent (III - B)
Saint John 2:13-25 – NRSV

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 

16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Edifice Complex

“If I had my way,

if I had my way

in this wicked world

I would tear this building down.”

[often credited as the folk/blues singer/songwriter "Reverend" Gary Davis;Blind Willie Johnson also had a version of this song…it was popularize in the 1960’s by Peter, Paul & Mary]

The Divine untamed is dangerous

so we create dogma that domesticates

and take the Ark of the Covenant

and brick it in golden laden walls.


Every temple, every steeple,

every building dedicated for worship

becomes an icon

for the Divine Iconoclast.


Every kneeler, every padded pew,

every ornate altar that confines

the Divine will tumble, shatter, crumble;

unveiling the naked God on Golgotha.


May be reproduced with the following attribution:

Copyright 2018 Rev. Kenn Storck @ A Poem a Sunday



Monday, February 26, 2024


Cross Words at the Crossroads

Second Sunday in Lent

February 25. 2024

Mark 8:31-38

The holy Gospel according to St. Mark:

31[Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”


The Gospel of the Lord


Let us take a moment of silence as we prepare to receive the message for this morning. Let us pray:


May we be released,
May we be held dear,
May we listen to the wisdom,
That we didn't want to hear.
May we be released,
May we. [Carrie Newcomer]


This morning we will focus on these puzzling words of Jesus:


35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”


God has a way of turning things inside out and upside down – exposing our folly. What is being turned upside down and inside out in the readings for today? Let’s first take a brief look at the First and Second readings as a backdrop for coming to terms with the Gospel:


In the Genesis account God is making an agreement – a covenant with Abram and Sarai – notice the names. Once the covenant is announced – notice the slight but important change in their names:  Abram becomes Abraham – meaning ‘father of many nations; Sarai is renamed Sarah which means noblewoman or princess. The Hebrew letter for ‘h’ is added to their names which represents God’s grace and power. This encounter – this name change - changes everything and these two old folks are going to change the world – and as we now know they birthed three faiths – three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.


In Romans Paul speaks of the faith of Abraham and Sarah – how they lived out of the promise that God had made and how barrenness and old age were not a determining factor. God turned the tables. This couple trusted God’s promise and Paul says: “this was reckoned to them as righteousness.”


The mind of the divine is revealed in what we consider weakness – two old folks being the origin of three global religions: Judaism, Islam, Christianity -Who could imagine that?


These two readings are a prelude - the backdrop for our consideration of the Gospel for today.


Jesus gives what is often called – his Passion prediction (this is not the only time he says this – but on several occasions). Jesus announces that he is going to die – that he is going to the cross – he will suffer and die and on the third day rise again. This announcement comes right after the disciples answer Jesus’ question – “Who do you say that I am?” Peter blurts out: “You are the Messiah.”


Jesus speaks of going to the cross and Peter is beside himself – this is not how the ‘Messiah’ acts! Jesus hears the voice of Satan, the same voice he heard in his 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, in Peter’s words and responds: “For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”


The mind of the divine is revealed in the cross: lest we forget:  at the time of Jesus the cross was a symbol of corrupt power – the oppression and control of people. It is not our own personal challenges, sufferings, or hardships that we may be carrying.


Jesus reverses the power of the cross. He overpowers this power over in ways that we only begin to imagine. Jesus going to the cross is not a submission but an act of protest against the powers of the world. His mind is on divine things.


Jesus reveals the divine mind: For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.


From the beginning the followers of Jesus were known as ‘People of the Way.’  That is a more apt way of describing Jesus’ teachings than the term Christian. We are indeed people of the Way. The Way of God’s reign is this reversal. This ‘losing life – and saving it.”


John’s Gospel puts it in poetic terms: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit.” John 12:24


Ok Pastor – but what do they have to do with us when we leave this building? What is this teaching meant to open us up to as a faith community? What does it mean for us to have our mind on divine things – not on human things?


This way of the cross – this way of living out our faith is counter intuitive. It is the opposite of what seems to work in the world: human things vs. divine things. The Gospel – divine things are disturbing and always overturn the status quo.


For Christ’s sake we are to lose life. What life are we to lose? It is indeed puzzling and an enigmatic saying. Here is an attempt to put in in practical terms:


Recently I have had conversations with pastors and lay people in our diakonia studies. A couple of their stories:


A tall handsome middle-aged visitor comes to a church. After worship, a well-meaning member of the Church Council approaches him. She reaches out to the visitor with the best of intentions to welcome him:


“We are so glad you are here. Don’t hesitate to stay for coffee” and she in advertently blurts out: “we need people to serve on the Church Council!”


In contrast another incident: A woman goes to a Saturday evening worship. She is alone and knows no one. During the Sharing of the Peace the female pastor notices her and takes time for a moment asking her: “What brings you here this evening?” To which she replies – “Not enough time now to tell you.”  After worship they begin an extended conversation.


Two ordinary incidents – one shares human things and the other divine things. Human things – we need our church to survive – so we need you.

Divine things: “What brings you here?’ An open invitation for a possible deeper conversation. Human things – the status quo. Divine things – an open question.


Story II: I am updating a course on Witness/Outreach for the diakonia program. I had a discussion with Pr. Brent Dahlseng of Grace in Loves Park. We recently spent an hour conversing about Grace Church’s approach to outreach.


Brent opened a large map of Loves Park. He then explained that for several years they have concentrated on a certain number of square blocks. They drive around the neighborhood and simply notice and pay attention to the surroundings.


Are there any physical needs or concerns? Eventually they walk the neighborhood and pay friendly visits to simply get to know the people.


They are able to contact about half of the folks – low key – if a person is out – begin a casual conversation – if Grace members live in that area, they might have an informal neighborhood gathering.


This is an ongoing process – Pr. Brent has been at Grace 18 years and engaged the folks at Grace to this kind of outreach – become a graceful presence in the neighborhood.


“Oh, we haven’t seen so and so and so out in the neighborhood for a while” –––someone who has developed a relationship with her will check on her. “


Oh, ‘Emma’ has lost her spouse – see if she is up to having coffee.’  These are not necessarily members of Grace – they simply live in the neighborhood and are known to Grace.


The agenda of this ministry is to be a listening and caring presence in the neighborhood. Pr. Brent said, “God is in the neighbor – we want to be attentive to God’s presence in the neighborhood.”  He mentioned that Grace does not ‘prey’ upon people to bring them in as members.

[He did mention the Baptist church a couple times a year brings busloads of kids to hand out candy and pamphlets to entice children and adults to come and worship]


No! Grace is present as an anchor of care and hope. They pray for – don’t prey upon visitors.


The conversation included how one has to set aside the desire to preserve one’s church and instead be present with the Gospel of grace – that is: God’s total acceptance and inclusion in Christ. Human things – preserve one’s church. Divine things – be present with the Gospel.


Every church has a unique context and its unique gifts for ministry. – Grace is responding to its context. God calls us to discern our context and carry the love of Christ into it. We are called to be about divine things: namely God’s compassion and acceptance – the Gospel that Christ transforms lives.


The poet, Mary Oliver, gives this Admonition:


Pay attention


Be astonished


Tell about it


Christ has transformed the cross from an instrument of oppression and torture to an instrument of power and love. When we take up the cross, we are taking up that divine love. Amen

Wednesday, January 10, 2024


Tomorrow, But Not Today

I’m not a shoe

tossed in a corner

or an island

lost in the sea.

I’m not an orphan

or an unwanted pet,

but I might as well be,

because I’m alone.


I’m surrounded by people,

but I’m all alone.

Some people laugh with me,

some give advice,

some ask for help

or tell me I’m neat,

but no one seems to stop

and notice who I really am.


I feel so lonely inside

that I’ve started spinning

a shell to cover myself

and hid

that strange something inside me

that is me.

I don’t want to hide,

but I must.

Otherwise people will see

what I’m really like.

Then they will smile and say:

“What a funny kid.”


Tomorrow I’ll try and leave my shell…

tomorrow, but not today.


I’m surrounded

by friendly people

who seem so happy.

I pretend to be happy

and warm and comfortable, too.

I don’t know what else to do

when I’m with other people.

I’m all alone then…

And yet, I can’t talk about it

or explain why.

It’s like being trapped.


I fell like a withered left hand

hiding behind someone’s back.

I’m wearing a glove

to hide myself

I need my glove,

but I hate it

because it’s not really me.


Tomorrow, I’ll take it off

and exercise my hand…

tomorrow, but not today.


I’m so lonely sometimes

I could run away

and just disappear into the air.

But I want those people around me.

I want their love

and their joy in me.

Still they keep slipping past me,


slipping away

and never really touching me.

They just see my mask

and slide slowly by.


Tomorrow, Lord, tomorrow,

I’ll remove my mask

and people will have to stop

and notice me…

tomorrow, when I’m older and stronger

I’ll remove my mask…

but not today,

please, not today…

because today I’m too alone

with so many people around me,

so many people

in this place called

a church.


from Interrobang 

by Norm Habel, pages 26-27

Saturday, December 23, 2023


“Divine Prepositions”

Lessons & Carols


Grace and peace to you from the Prince of Peace.  Amen.


Tonight we hear once again the ancient story of the birth of Jesus.  We try to ‘word’ the living Word; we try to put into language the mystery of God becoming one of us. 


Our attempts at wording God are not futile. However, our language only creates glimpses – flares shooting up that for a moment reveal a piece of the mystery of God hidden in the darkness. 


So tonight during the darkest days in the Northern Hemisphere we bring in evergreens and light them.  Christmas trees are a reminder of the evergreen Creator and their lights tell us that we are not abandoned to the darkness.  We are not alone.


We light candles and sing ‘Silent Night’ because we stand in wonder of the Word made flesh and our response is silence.  How do we put into words God’s love?


For your reflection tonight we hear both the Biblical witness and the poetry of our Christmas hymns which touch the divine mystery of God among us.


One way we can talk about God that is simple, yet profound is through prepositions.  Tonight’s reflection is “Divine Prepositions.”


Preposition:  A preposition is a connecting word showing the relation of a noun to some other word in the sentence.  Prepositions connect words and show a relationship.


For, With, In – three prepositions that describe our relationship to God.

God For Us:


The universe is hostile.  Our small pale blue dot supports life that so far seems unique and a once chance happening. 


However, God’s story tells us that God-creator offered an original blessing by calling life out of the chaos. 

Holy Writ tells us that we are not alone – that we are made in God’s image and bear God’s likeness.  That God is on the side of life – human life.  That God is for us.


The ‘God For Us’ is the God who created the universe and us, who set Israel free from slavery, and now makes a universal commitment in the Christ.


A voice will sing tonight - the mystery of the ‘God For Us’ echoing off the Appalachian hills: 


“I wonder as I wander, out under the sky,

why Jesus the Savior did come forth to die,

for poor ordinary people like you and like I,

I wonder as I wander, out under the sky.”


Divine Prepositions – “God With Us”


‘Emmanuel’ – O Come, O Come Emmanuel is what we sang this past Advent Season.  Emmanuel means God with us.  We are not talking about a distant deity or a disembodied spirit.  No, the ‘God with us’ became embodied in Christ. 


I can’t explain it – I can only bear witness to it. 


Jesus is the decisive revelation

of what a life full of God looks like.


Imagine the “God With Us”:


God with us in all our birthing,

God with us in all our joy.


God with us in all our suffering,

God with us in that infant boy.


God with us in all our confessing,

God with is in all our blessing.


God with us in all our crosses, 

God with us in all our losses.


God with us in all our crying,

God with us death defying.


Divine Prepositions:  “God In Us”


The mystery of God’s presence is not confined to a one time birthing in Mary.  But through the promised Spirit a re-birthing in each of us.  Yes, you heard me correctly – this Christ is being born again in you. 


I cannot explain it – I can only bear witness to it – the birthing of Christ in us through:


-        The cup of cool water given to a thirsty stranger,

-        Silent Night echoing across a battle field during World War I and enemies laying down their arms crossing no man’s land to remember the birth of the Prince of Peace,

-        the persistent advocate who refuses to live in a world where people go hungry,

-        the spouse faithfully caring for the sick or dying loved one.


‘God in Us’ – I cannot explain it.

I can only bear witness to it.


For the first several centuries of the Christian movement – the Holy Spirit was referred to with feminine pronouns – ‘She.’ The church imagined the Spirit re-birthing Christ in each believer!


Meister Eckhart, a 13th century Dominican monk and mystic, known for his philosophical writings and mystical revelations, wrote: “What good is it that Christ was born 2,000 years ago if he is not born now in your heart?”


We do far too much celebrating of Christmas as a past event. I believe in God, but do I believe in God-in-me? I believe in God in heaven, but do I believe in God-on-earth? I believe in God out there, but do I believe in God-with-us?


Yet, tonight we will sing and give voice to the ‘God In Us’ when we sing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem.”


“O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.”


The Christ-child is – a divine preposition – connecting us with God, showing us our relationship with the Divine.


Christmas Eve – “Divine Prepositions”


God FOR Us / God WITH Us / God IN Us



Saturday, November 25, 2023


A Leaf Does a Universe Make

A leaf does a universe make

a myriad of fissures, caverns, and shapes.


Ice age born of fertile moraines,

the trees from stardust rain


down autumn colors; origin: the skies

celestial spheres that catch our eyes


tie us into a tapestry of creation:

leaf, an eye, and our oblation.


written by Kenn Storck

August 18, 2010

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

 Thanksgiving Story

*The Holy Place by Belden C. Lane

Time before time, when the world was young, two brothers shared a field and a mill. Each night they divided evenly the grain they had ground together during the day.

Now as it happened, one of the brothers lived alone; the other had a wife and a large family. One day, the single brother thought to himself, "It isn't really fair that we divide the grain evenly. I have only myself to care for, but my brother has children to feed." So each night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother's granary to see that he was never without.

But the married brother said to himself one day, "It isn't really fair that we divide the grain evenly, because I have children to provide for me in my old age, but my brother has no one. What will he do when he is old?" So every night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother's granary. As a result, both of them always found their supply of grain mysteriously replenished each morning.

Then one night the brothers met each other halfway between their two houses, suddenly realized what had been happening, and embraced each other in love.

The story is that God witnessed their meeting and proclaimed, "This is a holy place--a place of love--and here it is that my temple shall be built."

And so it was. The holy place, where God is made known, is the place where human beings discover each other in love.

*We borrow this version from Wilkie Au, By Way of the Heart (New York Paulist Press, 1989), p. 46, who cites Belden C. Lane, "Rabbinical Stories: A Primer on Theological Method," Christian Century 98:41 (16 December 1981), pp. 1307-8. Versions of the story also appear in William Bausch, Storytelling: Imagination and Faith (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1984), pp. 68-69, and Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight (New York: Doubleday-Image, 1990), p. 60.


Tuesday, October 24, 2023


Per *Soren

Pabulum Preachers

chicken soup for shriveling souls

with ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’

sung from padded pews

by aging Caucasians


Timely worship allows for brunch

and the rites and liturgy

of football frenzy

in the local

stadium cathedral



another Pleasant Valley Sunday

where white privilege reigns

and Jesus


on a nearby

park bench…


while the latest

model SUV’s


from the church

parking lot




Kenn Storck

October 23, 2023