sermons, songs, etceteras
This sermon was originally preached on January 7, 2024 at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Hopkins, MN. The livestream of our contemporary and traditional services may be viewed here and here.
Read today's gospel text (Mark 1:4-11) here.
Breath and Water.
The two elements apart from which we literally cannot survive are the primal roots of today’s text. And with these two elements, time begins to collapse, as Mark invites us into Jesus’s story through his rebel cousin John, who is the radical and revolutionary fulfillment of Malachi and Isaiah’s ancient prophecies. A crazy man who lives in the wilderness on locusts and wild honey, clothed in camel hide and leather, and whose head will eventually be delivered on a platter to King Herod’s stepdaughter. Were he born in our era, he’d be the kind of revolutionary you might hear preaching on a street corner or leading a protest for revolution. He lives his life on the margins, preaching radical transformation of people and culture, ritualized in baptism. And, as God’s messenger and the forerunner of Christ the Mightiest, John has traction with “all the people” joining him at the Jordan from throughout the land of Judea and Jerusalem.
Which I say to underscore the simple, if implied, fact that there is a significant socio-political & cultural shift in progress that makes John’s radical presentation and message attractive and enthralling to “all the people.” We know from other texts and histories surrounding Jesus’s birth and early life, including his mother’s own song in Luke 1, that Palestinian Jews like Jesus and John lived under the harsh and heavy boot of Roman occupation.The occupation was so cruel, in fact, that by just a few decades after Jesus’s death and resurrection, Jews rose up in violent rebellion against the Roman Empire waging the first of three major Jewish-Roman wars. Point being, revolutionaries rise when revolution is needed; radicals rise up when roots need tending. And both John and Jesus are among the rising.
Good morning, Beloved of God and welcome to the season of Advent, the season of waiting and wondering and wandering. As I prepared to share with you this week, I was lost until late Friday night into yesterday morning, not just because we’re moving away from the gospel and into Isaiah, but because the Spirit was moving me away from my norms and into murkier, more personal territory.
So I spent more time than I ever have just…waiting. Pondering, listening, thinking, making notes on my phone, deleting notes from my phone, worrying that I might show up this morning with nothing, and waiting some more.
Which, it turns out, is perfect for this day. Because while Advent heralds the Coming of Christ, Christ has not yet come. The holy mother is only 37 weeks along, and the Christchild is not yet ready to be born. There is still so much stretching, moving, and transforming to do before she’ll be ready to deliver; before her holy son will be ready to leave the warm safety of her womb and be born to a world that will eventually crucify him.
Now, as a mother who endured what felt like a 13-year pregnancy, let me just say that these last weeks -- from 37 onward -- are perhaps the longest, most excruciatingly drawn out days of pregnancy, even for someone like me whose pregnancy began and remained a dream:
This sermon was originally preached on November 5, 2023 at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Hopkins, MN. The livestreams of contemporary and traditional services may be viewed here and here.
Read today's gospel ext (Matthew 5:1-12) here
Good morning. I come to you this morning with a heavy, broken heart — with the kind of grief I can neither deny, diminish, nor divert, even for the sake of a sermon. I am tasked with preaching about what it means to be “Blessed” according to Jesus’s teaching, and what’s ringing in my ears, as we enter a season of stewardship and accountability, is how often we’ve heard it said that these beatitudes are promises for individuals seeking personal holiness and heaven, when what I see with today’s eyes are promises of grief and oppression to a group of people - Jesus’s disciples - who will all suffer unimaginable pain and persecution before their lives are over.
It’s no accident that The Beatitudes are the gospel for All Saints Day: a day when the veil between the living and the dead is thinned, when we remember and commune with all the saints who’ve gone before us, and light candles in honor of all who now surround us in the great cloud of witnesses.
And this particular All Saints day is a day to grieve all the lives taken over these last weeks, days, and hours by the escalating genocide of Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank.
Now, beloved, as much as I hate that word, as risky as it is to say, and as clear as we are that it must never be thrown around flippantly lest it lose its gravity, on this day of all days, as the dead surround and call us into communion, we must not provide coverage for evil through the words we choose and the ones we avoid.
This sermon was originally preached on October 1, 2023 at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Hopkins, MN. The livestreams of contemporary and traditional services may be viewed here and here.
Gospel Text: Matthew 21:23-35
Good morning, beloved of God.
Since this is my first week preaching here at Gethsemane and just my second week as your pastor, I thought I might give you a little background about who I am and how I walk in this world, and the things that trouble and move me as a queer bisexual woman and pastor who whose faith has shifted in some truly monumental ways over the last six years, to such an extent that I still follow Jesus, albeit in a different -- I say resurrected -- way.
Firstly, I’m a bit of a bleeding heart rebel and always have been. From the time I was a kindergartner evangelizing to my teachers about Jesus and heaven, to my advocacy within my north Minneapolis community for my marginalized neighbors, what concerns me most is never “am I following the rules” but “who wrote the rules and who do they help and harm?” In other words, I have always been willing and ready to question authority, and I expect that wherever I might have or be given authority, including here, I will also BE questioned and held accountable to acting as if I believe what I say.
This sermon was originally preached on September 17, 2023 at
Christ the River of Life Lutheran Church in North Minneapolis, MN.
Gospel Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Good morning, friends, neighbors. My name is Amy Courts Koopman, my pronouns are she, her, hers, and as Pastor Kim wrote in today’s bulletin, this is the first church my family and I visited back in 2011 when we first moved to North Minneapolis. The years have taken me many places, including to Redeemer where I’ve worked the past five years, and next to Gethsemane Lutheran Church where I just accepted my first call. So this is a full-circle kind of moment for me, and I’m grateful to be here on this last Sunday before I officially start my first call.
Fair warning, I’m going to be spitting out a lot of numbers, but for good reason, I promise. So let’s look to Matthew 18:21-35, a parable about accountability and pardon, which goes something like this:
An enslaved man is brought before his lord to settle a 10,000 Talent debt, and because he cannot pay it, his lord is going to sell him and his family and all their belongings. But the man begs for mercy. His lord is filled with compassion and releases him from massive debt. Literally, his debt is pardoned, the account is settled, and he is freed to leave.
With his newfound freedom, this man goes to another enslaved person, violently grabs him by the throat and demands repayment of 100 Denarii. Like the first, this second now-choking person can’t repay his debt. And like the first, he begs for patience and mercy. But instead of pardoning this second debtor, the first throws him in prison til the debt can be repaid.
This sermon was originally preached on July 9, 2023 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in North Minneapolis, MN . The recorded service may be viewed here.
Lectionary Texts: Psalm 145:8-14 | Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Good morning, church. Once again and as ever, I am grateful to be with you today and really glad I finally get to lead worship with Pastor Jen! I’ve filled in for her in the past when she’s been gone, but this week we are here together because I asked for the opportunity to preach and she said yes. Woo hoo! Not only that, but it happens to be good timing for me to take up this burden while Pastor Jen takes a deep, much deserved breath.
I’m also excited to be here preaching when Pastor Alissa is here, since she was one of the first people to welcome me back in 2016, and offer me a place of ease and rest at a moment in my life when I was ground down to dust and wanted nothing to do with church. She is also the one who invited me in the summer of 2017 to apply for the admin position. The rest, as they say, is history we are living, in this very moment.
Lest you think I’m going on for no good reason, trust me for a moment and let’s go to today’s text, which is, at its end, all about the collaborative laying down and taking up of burdens.
Our gospel begins at the end of a conversation between Jesus and the followers of currently-incarcerated John the Baptist who sent them to ask if the man who’s been healing people and calling his own disciples is still the One Who is To Come, or if they should look and wait for another. John, it seems, is weary and doubting if all his ministry had come to naught or if maybe he’d heralded the wrong guy.. .
May we be met today as the blind men were on the road to Jerusalem, and our eyes opened; May we be filled today with food that nourishes and satisfies the hunger of our bodies, our minds, our spirits, through Jesus Christ who is all and is in all, Amen.
Good morning, Redeemer. It’s good to be with you again, last minute as it is while Pastor Jen is resting and recovering at home. I come to you frazzled and harried as my family navigates all kinds of potential changes to our lives in this first call journey. We often find ourselves with frayed nerves, doing our best to stay in the moment, but often failing.
So this story about a cursed fig tree hits close to home. Which is funny, because on first read, it just seems weird, random, and out of place. In fact, when I saw this was today’s text I audibly sighed and sent an “oh no” text to Pastor Jen. It is -- no lie -- a passage that we joked about in Seminary. No one wants to preach about it because it’s like squeezing blood from a stone -- or like pulling figs from a tree that’s not yet in season to produce fruit.
Not only that, but when I searched for wisdom from my go-to preacher's, like Dr Wil Gafney, Rev. Otis Moss, and Rev Traci Blackmon, they were quiet. It seems none of the progressive, womanist, or liberationist voices I follow find this passage particularly remarkable.
Old conservative white men, on the other hand, have lots to say, mostly about judgment and performance and how we can tell “real” christians from fake ones who “bear leaves” but not fruit and whom, therefore, God will doom to everlasting withering, and while that’s all very interesting, it’s actually not. Not to me, anyway, and not today.
This sermon was originally preached on March 8, 2023 at Augsburg University.
Scripture Texts: Jeremiah 6:13-20; 7:3-11 | Matthew 22:1-14
Good morning, Beloveds. Thank you, Pastors Hannah and Babette, for inviting me to be here today, and for your lovely introduction. I am honored to be with you all, and to explore together what it looks like to be God's people: that is, how to be people of Peace in an active, deliberate, and just way. I paired today's gospel lesson in Matthew 22 with the prophecy and Temple sermon to the people of Judah in Jeremiah 6 and 7. The two narratives may seem incongruous or mismatched, but I have come to see then as mirror images of each other, and mirrors for readers, cautioning us about the ways God's people are prone to behave when circumstances or Spirit challenge our assumptions and practices, and each offering a different, better way. So let's dive in.
In Jeremiah 6, we see the people of God on the verge of invasion and being warned by the prophet that for all their keeping of certain rules and regulations regarding Temple worship, they've utterly missed the mark and are on the verge of disaster: The oppressed have themselves become oppressive toward the vulnerable and careless with the wounded, declaring "peace peace when there is no peace!" They follow Laws of the Temple while defying the Law of Love toward others, and so their sacrifices and offerings turn to rot in God's nose.
So Jeremiah gives them clear directions in the Temple Sermon of chapter 7, on how to avoid their own doom: Amend your ways! Do justice! Welcome foreigners! Take care of orphans and single mothers! And put an end to the violence --
THEN, he says, God will inhabit both God's people and God's place, and be blessed. But so long as they sow injustice and oppress the vulnerable, declaring peace when there is none, the destruction awaiting them will be the fruit of their own schemes.â
Hold on to that as we move over into Matthewâs Parable of the Wedding Feast.
Firstly, many Disabled, Queer, Black, and other Non-Black People of Color and marginalized identities have already underscored the oddities of a “revival” or “awakening” that excludes bodies and experiences like theirs from the physical and spiritual location of the event. Alicia Crosby Mack said on Twitter, “A mass unmasked event in a pandemic that’s racially & culturally homogenous is not a revival. …We cannot speak about an event being a revival when the most vulnerable among us are excluded & at minimum the lack of covid safety precautions render this place unsafe. The Scriptures teach that where the Spirit of God is, there is freedom. If we hold that to be true, how can a revival in which this Spirit is present take place when disabled & medically vulnerable people are not free to engage without significant risk of harm? …If their Imago Dei is excluded what exactly is being revived?”
Plenty of disabled people have underscored similar issues with this hyper-located “revival” that will undoubtedly act as much as a superspreader event as anything else. So it is hard (okay, impossible) to affirm the idea that this is a true movement of the Holy Spirit when it is at best excluding oppressed people and at worst placing them at increased risk of illness and death.
Secondly, I’m moved by what Zach Hunt noted yesterday: “Why is [it] that ‘revival’ and a ‘sudden outpouring of the Holy Spirit’ are only ever used for worship services and never to describe things like fighting injustice and caring for the poor?” To me it is rather curious that the 2020 Global Uprising for Black Lives -- which began in the streets and was marked by the literal fire of the Spirit against the powers of oppression and injustice and was led by (masked) people fighting for the Life and Liberation that flows from the outpouring of the Spirit -- was never called a “revival” or an “awakening.”
This sermon was originally preached on February 5, 2023 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in North Minneapolis.
The service may be viewed here beginning around the 27:00 mark.
Morning Texts: Psalm 110:1-10 | Sermon Text: Genesis 16
**I am indebted to womanist scholars, in particular Rev. Dr. Wil Gaffney, Renita J. Weems, and Monica A. Coleman, whose explorations of the Hagar-Sarai narrative have so profoundly guided and shaped my own understanding of these texts. For further reading: Making a Way Out of No Way (Monica A. Coleman), Womanist Midrash (Rev. Dr. Wilda C. Gafney), and Just a Sister Away (Renita j. Weems) **
May the God who Sees, who Is, and who is Love + go before, hover over, root our feet, and have our back as we consider the message of Their first prophet, who spoke truth to the one who is Truth and gave to God Their first personal name. Amen.
Good morning, Redeemer! It is a joy to be back with you today. In every real way it is a coming-home, and I am honored to return in this capacity, leading worship with Pastor Babette, a prophet in her own right, and exploring the God Who Sees with people who see me in ways I didn’t fully understand and still cannot fully appreciate, much as I may try. I am grateful.
Today I want to talk about my favorite prophet. But first I think it’s important to establish how I understand “prophecy.” It is not future- or fortune-telling but rather, Truth telling -- specifically, prophecy is speaking Truth to Power. For a long time, I heard “speaking truth to power” as “speaking truth in a powerful way.” But I now understand that Prophecy is speaking Truth to those who have power, and challenging how they use it in relation to those without. It is always subversive to the status quo, and it is always creative in its challenge to those who are so comfortable with what is that they have no need to imagine what could or should be.
And so it is crucial that when we encounter the Biblical prophets or explore their modern expressions we locate ourselves rightly in the social, cultural, religious, economic, and ecological power structures that form and inform the world around us.
So with that said, I want to talk about a prophet who isn't usually called one but definitely is.
Sermons + Songs + Poems