Second Presbyterian Church, Baltimore

Second Presbyterian Church, Baltimore

By Second Presbyterian Church
A live recording of sermons preached each Sunday at Second Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland, with the Rev. Dr. Tom Blair, the Rev. Amy Carlson, and the Rev. Jenn DiFrancesco. Updated weekly!
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“How Much Baggage Do We Need?” - Sermon for February 9, 2020
Good project managers don't plan a project without know they have the proper resources of people, materials and time. But as Rev. Tom describes today, Jesus also knows what his followers need to NOT have. The baggage that we all carry around with us can weight us down, keeping us from our true calling in Christ. Jesus helps us with holding on to the unshakable faith that truly sustains us, and also removes those parts of our lives that burden us with pain and anxiety. Like Auguste Rodin, who created sculptures like The Thinker and Danaid by removing the parts of the stone that don't belong, Jesus removes the unnecessary parts of us, until only the necessary remains - love and true faith that God will work goodness in this world, whatever we might have to set aside. As Christians, we are called to follow our Lord, who gave up everything - humbling himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Bible reading - Mark 6:1-13, RSVCE) Lenten Devotional Contributors Wanted - Second's Christian Nurture Council, in charge of coordinating education and fellowship, has organized Advent and Lenten devotionals for several years. We're hoping to attract a wider variety of contributors this Lenten season so we're issuing an open invitation. Anyone in the congregation who feels moved is encouraged to contribute. You will be provided with instructions, Bible verses, and a due date. We are open to personal and heartfelt expressions of your faith during Lent - a prayer, a reflection, a picture, etc. What a wonderful way to contribute your talents to our faith community during this holiest of seasons! Please sign up with Shay Herman at herman7003@comcast.net or 410-591-4594. Sisters Circle College Care Package Project - Second is collecting items for Sisters Circle College Care Packages till February 24th. Sisters Circle is a long-term mentoring program beginning in elementary school and continuing to offer support to young women as they pursue college education or post-high school vocational training. We would like to provide each of their 25 young women with care packages as they prepare for spring semester finals. The suggested NEW items we would like to include in the package are: • Post-It Notes • Pens/Pencils/highlighters • Erasers • Fun Socks • Chapstick/lip balm • Herbal Tea and Hot chocolate packets • Granola bars, microwave popcorn and other small non-perishable snacks • Individually wrapped hard candies and chocolate • Travel Size toiletries • Stress Ball • Playing Cards/Uno Cards Please drop off items in the mission corner in the basket labelled “College Care Packages”.
19:21
February 11, 2020
“Interrupting Jesus” - Sermon for February 2, 2020
We are experts at insisting on our own way, but the Love of God is not so intransigent. On this Super Bowl Sunday, people may cheer for a football player who is goal oriented, but Jesus has never followed the crowd. In today's sermon, Rev. Tom describes how Jesus doesn't keep a rigid schedule, but turns from his way to receive a gentle touch from someone in need. In a famous story of Jesus' healing, he heals two people in impossible circumstances - a poor, outcast woman suffering for years, and the daughter of a well-to-do household suddenly and grievously stricken. Jesus does not show favor to what the crowd or his disciples were expecting, but he goes where he is needed, wherever a voice may cry out to him. As Rev. Tom describes, both the unnamed woman and Jairus, the girl's father, had to go outside of their expected paths and society's expectations for them to reach for Jesus, and Jesus is never too busy to interrupt his schedule to reach back in love. (Bible reading - Mark 5:21-43) Peace & Justice Committee - Tuesday, February 4, 6:30 PM, Westcott Room Calling all members with a passion and concern for Environmental Justice. The Peace and Justice Committee is looking for 3 to 5 members to form an Environmental Justice subcommittee. Join with your fellow members at the Faithful Green Leaders Training taking place in Baltimore on Monday, February 17 from 10 AM to 4:30 PM. We need at least 3 members to register. Visit www.InterfaithChesapeake.org/GreenTeams for more information. Please contact Juli Callahan at colojules@yahoo.com if you are interested. Guilford Elementary School HEART Market - Tuesdays, February 18 & March 17 HEART Markets are the Maryland Food Bank’s pilot program to combat child hunger. It is a festive event that creates an inviting environment for children to obtain healthy food and learn about food nutrition. Volunteers are needed: 1 to 3 PM (or any time in between) – Set up; 3 to 4:30 PM (or any time in between) — Break Down/Clean up. Contact Andrew McCormick at amccormick@loyola.edu or (443) 670-2155. Guilford EMS needs your help! 
15:33
February 3, 2020
“What Have You to Do with Me, Jesus?” - Sermon for January 26, 2020
What's the worst thing about demon possession? Is it that demons are spooky and threatening in an Anne Rice or Stephen King kind of way? In today's sermon, Rev. Tom describes how the evil influence of demons terrify us most because of their control over our lives, forcing us into self-destructive actions and separation from others - a situation that is just as familiar in the modern day as in Jesus' time. By curing the demoniac, Jesus performed both an individual act and a commentary on the wider society. To the first listeners of the story, the "Legion" of demons who retreat into a herd of swine would be an obvious representation of the Roman army - an outside controlling force as gruesome as any demon nightmare. As Rev. Tom describes in two modern stories, the demons of alcoholism and racism can also possess us and force us to live "among the tombs." But these demons can be overcome. The way of Jesus is to come to the sick where they are, to overcome the fear of their presence, and to show how much the Lord can work in their lives - in acts of mercy and words of love. (Bible reading - Mark 5:1-20) Children & Youth Peace Choir Second Presbyterian’s Peace Choir returns in 2020 to prepare “Hosanna”, an original composition by Peace Choir & Handbell Director, Beau Lochte. “Hosanna” includes parts for singers, ringers, and percussion/solo instruments and will be premiered on Palm Sunday, Sunday, April 5. Rehearsals will begin Sunday, February 9 following the Time with Children (around 9:20 am) and will take place in Smith Hall. For more information, email Beau at bells@secondpresby.org. GEDCO CARES Valentines for Sale We have made lots of lovely Valentines as well as birthday cards, thank you notes, etc. and will sell them on Sundays, January 26, February 2 and 9 after worship to support GEDCO CARES food pantry. Join us after worship on February 16 from 12 Noon to 1:30 PM to make more cards! Bring a lunch. Souper Bowl of Caring Youth of all ages will be collecting canned goods for CARES Food Pantry and dollars for Manna House before and after both Sunday worship services on February 2.  Each year, Second collects hundreds of dollars and cans to help feed some of the most vulnerable in our city.
18:02
January 28, 2020
“Far More than Parables” - Sermon for January 19, 2020
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, we take a special look at someone who also embodied the promotion of justice and deep spirituality - Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Rev. Tom describes how the fame-loving young Íñigo had his life undone and reformed by what has become known as a "cannonball moment." Severely injured in battle, Ignatius turned from his military career to a long period of rigorous asceticism, praying for hours in a cave and begging on the streets in Catalonia. It was this time that spiritually prepared Ignatius to be a great worker for Christ and founder of the Jesuits. As Rev. Tom explains, this was like the time when a sower sows his seeds onto the path, rocky ground, thorns, and good soil. He does not know what is happening deep under the ground to decide which plants grow into abundance, which mustard seeds will burst forth as the greatest of shrubs. He must trust that God is working through the good works, to bring forth life from unexpected beginnings. Likewise, we must trust God to use the dark times of our lives to build, within the deep secret areas of our lives, a spiritual practice that brings abundant life - to ourselves and to others. (Bible reading - Mark 4:1-12, 21-25, 30-34)
16:51
January 20, 2020
“Can You Keep a Secret?” - Sermon for January 12, 2020
What truths does a secret hide? If the secret only hides itself, it can be used for good or ill. But sometimes, a secret can be used to reveal a greater truth. Such is the case with the secrecy that Jesus kept around his identity during his ministry. As Rev. Tom describes, Jesus did not seek the limelight as a healer. Many came to him to be healed, but this pointed the way towards Jesus' deeper ministry — the healing of people's spirits in selfless love. Not only did he quiet those whom he healed, but also those who would proclaim him king. To quote C. S. Lewis: "Enemy-occupied territory — that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed — you might say, landed in disguise." As Rev. Tom notes, the works of the Christian community — if they follow the works of our Lord — are formed in a new Spirit that is "healthy, creative, caring, peaceful and generous." This Kingdom of God comes in secret, to subvert the ways of this world with the ways of love. (Bible reading - Mark 3:1-12) Churches of Charles MLK Day of Service, January 20, 2020 The community of churches along North Charles Street are coming together to serve our community. This is a great way for us to learn about local mission programs, meet new people, and be the presence of Christ in someone else's life. To learn more or to sign up, Please visit: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090a49a4a829a57-mlkday6 Meatless Mondays Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative founded in 2003 in partnership with our hometown Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center. If you are not familiar with the reasons for participating, here is a great article with “19 Reasons Why.” Michael Pollan, a long-time New York Times Magazine contributing writer and author of many books on food including The Omnivore's Dilemma, says this about the benefit of this change: “Even one meatless day a week - a meatless Monday, which is what we do in my household - if everybody in America did that, that would be the equivalent of taking 20 million mid-size sedans off the road.” And finally, here's a link to recipes to help support this change. The Peace and Justice Committee hopes you join us in this step of Environmental Justice for our planet. Every meatless meal makes a difference.
12:45
January 13, 2020
"Beyond Boundaries" - Sermon for January 5, 2020
This Epiphany Sunday, we’re following the Narrative Lectionary as it shows us a more profound manifestation of Jesus than just a baby boy that the Wise Men visit. Beginning our journey through the Gospel of Mark, Rev. Tom describes several stories when Jesus healed the sick and troubled. These manifestations are not merely to display Jesus’ power, but also to show how the mercy of God works within our lives. Jesus’ acts of healing were focused on the outcast and the unclean – people pushed to the margins of society. As Rev. Tom reminds us, when Jesus makes the unclean clean, he is crossing boundaries that we make to divide ourselves from others. But in truth, there are no such boundaries. The breath of God comes to all of God’s creations – binding all things in an interconnected whole. It is within this interplay of “Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female” that the reconciliation brought by Jesus to us is fully manifested. Churches of Charles MLK Day of Service, January 20, 2020 The community of churches along North Charles Street are coming together to serve our community. This is a great way for us to learn about local mission programs, meet new people, and be the presence of Christ in someone else's life. To learn more or to sign up, Please visit: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090a49a4a829a57-mlkday6 (Bible reading - Mark 1:21-45, NRSV)
14:52
January 6, 2020
“An Orderly Account” - Sermon for December 22, 2019
Back when the Gospel writer Luke was a physician, he might not have had orderlies, but he definitely had an orderly ... account of the good news of Jesus. In this Sunday’s sermon, Rev. Tom leads us into the New Testament with a birth narrative – but John the Baptist’s, not Jesus’. This story of John’s birth sets an orderly foundation of how the Messiah would come to the world to save it. John’s parents – Elizabeth and the priest Zechariah – were elderly, and were not expected to bear a child. But it is in such circumstances that God’s word flourishes. As Rev. Tom describes, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ message of peace comes to those who have lost all hope – the poor, the abandoned, the ones who are lost beyond recovery. But all things are possible for God, and in the depths of poverty and loss, there the true light of Jesus’ birth shines. (Bible reading - Luke 1:1-25, 57-80) Christmas Eve Candlelight Services Family Service - 5 PM (Children’s preludes begin at 4:45 PM). Please note that parking restrictions are in place on Christmas Eve until 6:30 PM on Charlcote Road on the west side of the church, and on the northbound lane of St. Paul Street. Don’t get ticketed or towed! A Service of Lessons & Carols - 8 PM. A Service of Christmas, Communion & Candlelight - 11 PM. Holiday Worship Schedule December 29 - 10 AM. Single worship service in the Sanctuary - 5th Sunday Mission Day. During worship you will receive a t-shirt with easy instructions to turn it into a reusable bag at home. Bring the bag back to church full of non-perishable foods for CARES on Epiphany Sunday, January 5. January 5 - 10 AM. Single worship service in the Sanctuary. Serving Breakfast at Manna House January 5, 7:45 AM to 10:30 AM. 435 E 25th Street, Baltimore. We need 5 to 6 volunteers to serve breakfast to homeless men and women at Manna House. Email Rev. Jenn DiFrancesco at jdifrancesco@secondpresby.org. Guitar by Olivier Hecho
16:06
December 23, 2019
"A Welcome 'Welcome Home'" - Sermon for December 15, 2019
"You can't go home again." This may be a sad saying for many people, but God's ways are about creating all things new - new blessings for a new generation of God's people. In today's sermon, Rev. Tom describes how Israel received a blessing of restoration from captivity in Babylon. They received not just freedom, but the means to recreate the Temple and altar of God, to bring back worship in Jerusalem. However, this restoration was painful to many older people, who remembered the glory of the first Temple. Rev. Tom relates this to the Christmas story - how the young couple of Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem in expectation of a new beginning for God's people. This was not just the restoration of the Kingdom of David, but "good news for all people". This Christmas, may we all find a new "Welcome home" - one that expands the blessings of God, welcoming ones who might have never seen such blessings before. (Bible Reading - Ezra 1:1-4; 3:1-4, 10-13) Service for Wholeness & Healing, Advent Vespers - Wednesday, December 18, 7 PM, Chapel. If you are you feeling loss, lost, harried, or harrowed this holiday season and “jolly” isn’t part of your holiday spirit, this service for wholeness and healing is a respite to feed your soul and still your mind. Angel Tree: Our annual Angel Tree is up in the Rotunda. Once again, we will provide gifts for people who are clients of Glenwood Life, a non-profit drug treatment center in Woodbourne-McCabe. Clients collect tokens throughout the year, for things such as participating in programs and reaching certain milestones, which they can use to “buy” gifts for their family members. Bring gifts by December 19th. Gift Shopping & Wrapping at Glenwood Life - December 20, 10 AM to 5 PM: Mission Council is looking for volunteers to help folks shop at Glenwood and wrap presents. We are looking for gently used gift bags, wrapping paper, bows, etc. as well. Please join us for the annual fellowship tradition of decorating the church for the season. Saturday, December 21 at 9 AM meet in Sanctuary to place poinsettias. Contact Janet Short (jesasc73@aol.com) if you have any questions. Children's Christmas Eve Preludes: Children who play an instrument or sing are invited to contribute their musical gifts during the 5 PM family Christmas Eve service. Children are encouraged to select music that celebrates the birth of our Savior. (i.e. no Frosty or Santa) Please fill out the online form to register your child. Children should arrive in the sanctuary at 4 PM on Christmas Eve. Pecans: Schermer Pecans is a 73-year-old family-run Georgia company. This year’s crop will be available for sale each Sunday from 10 to 11 AM in the Coffee Café. Guitar by Olivier Hecho
15:06
December 18, 2019
“Finders Keepers” - Sermon for November 24, 2019
"Ignorance is bliss" may be an often-quoted proverb, but it's not in Proverbs. It definitely doesn't apply to King Josiah of the kingdom of Judah. As Rev. Tom describes, Josiah was a righteous king, but was missing out on essential information. During renovation of the Temple, the high priest Hilkiah found a book of the law of God. It didn't take Josiah long to realize that the people of Israel had strayed far from the ways of God. What is a person to do when they learn something that changes everything about them - when the foundations of their lives are pulled out from under them? Rev. Tom walks us through the actions that the wise king takes. First, Josiah repents. He hears the words of truth and recognizes the error that he and the nation of Israel have maintained. Second, he verifies the new information with another authority - the prophetess Huldah. We know almost nothing about Huldah other than she's a prophetess. But God often acts through the lowly and obscure - she can accurately hear and interpret the words of God, and that is enough. And lastly, Josiah acts. He tears down the false idols and the false ways of worship. On this Christ the King Sunday, Rev. Tom shares a story in which we see that God cannot be grasped by our own striving, but can be accepted into our hearts when all our idols and our vain efforts are set aside for the way that God knows is peace. (Bible reading - 2 Kings 22:1-20)
19:00
November 25, 2019
“Brokenhearted God” - Sermon for November 10, 2019
Does reading the Bible seem dry to you sometimes? The paragraphs of who begat whom? All those numbers in Numbers? Even the lessons in Proverbs can seem distant and esoteric. Then the book of Hosea is the one for you! Here, God's emotions are shown in deep relief. As Rev. Tom describes, the prophet Hosea showed God's anguish over Israel in the most personal of ways - through his own family. By marrying a scandalous wife and giving their children scandalous names, Hosea was deliberately shocking his community, to show them that their unfaithfulness to God was even worse. Of course, people prefer to see scandals in the yellow press than recognize them in their own lives; that way, it's far easier to condemn the people involved. But does God eagerly condemn Israel? No. Hosea's example is one of continuing faithfulness, despite the pain Israel causes God. As Rev. Tom shows, this painful faithfulness is one of the greatest acts of support and compassion that we can give to our loved ones - whichever scandal or crisis they may be in. (Bible reading - Hosea 11:1-9, NRSV) On Friday, November 15, 2019, 7 – 9 PM, Second Presbyterian Church Mission Council is sponsoring a night to make Christmas cards for CARES! We will be making handcrafted Christmas and Holiday Cards. All you need to bring is your imagination and creativity! We will supply all of the materials and bling to make beautiful handcrafted Christmas and Holiday Cards, that support the mission of GEDCO CARES - handcrafted cards that are unique and great to send to family, friends and business associates! Make as many cards as you like and take home your favorite 3. (You may purchase an additional quantity that evening.)  The remainder will be sold as bulk-ordered cards and at the Second Presbyterian Alternative Gift Market on Sunday December 8. We will have for your enjoyment: Christmas music, wine, cheese and crackers, fruit, soft drinks, hot and cold apple cider, cookies …and most of all: FUN! Tickets for this event are $25.00 per person. All proceeds benefit GEDCO CARES programs. Sign up at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/countdown-to-christmas-creating-cares-cards-tickets-77126139359
16:09
November 11, 2019
"If It Is of the Lord, Then Follow" - Sermon for November 3, 2019
Should you put God to the test? Deuteronomy 6 clearly says no, but Malachi 3 says that the children of Israel should do just that, by seeing how God responds abundantly to faithful tithing. In today’s sermon, Rev. Tom describes how one prophet tested God, in a competition against hundreds of other prophets of false idols – with stakes far higher than any season of “American Idol”. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest on Mount Carmel at a time when the Hebrew faith was at one of its lowest points ever, under the reign of the sinful King Ahab and in the midst of a devastating drought. Elijah’s triumph was complete, a flawless victory. This cemented his legacy as a prophet without equal. But as Rev. Tom explains, on this All Saints Sunday, we should remember the many people in our lives whose achievements were not overwhelming successes, but little acts of kindness. These people – whether softly singing to us in a time of distress, or teaching us lessons of responsibility – are the everyday heroes who spread the love of Jesus – not through astonishing acts of fire that end a drought for an entire nation, but through simple acts that nourish our faith and bring the soft rains of compassion to a single person in need. (Bible reading - 1 Kings 18:17-39 NRSV) 1 Kings 18 Glossary Ahab Ahab was the ninth king of the northern kingdom of Israel since Jeroboam I, the son and successor of Omri, and the husband of Jezebel of Sidon (9th century BC). The Hebrew Bible presents Ahab as a wicked king, particularly for condoning Jezebel's influence on religious policies, among other evil deeds. Elijah Elijah (or the Latinized Elias), meaning “My God is Yahweh]”, was according to the Books of Kings, a prophet and a miracle worker who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of King Ahab. Baals or Baalim Any of various local fertility and nature gods of the ancient Semitic peoples, considered to be false gods by the Hebrews. A false god or idol. Jezebel Daughter of Ithobaal I of Sidon and the wife of Ahab, King of Israel, according to the Book of Kings. Jezebel, along with her husband, instituted the worship of Baal and Asherah on a national scale. She ruthlessly sought to purge the prophets of Yahweh from Israel. Asherah Ancient West Semitic goddess, consort of the supreme god. Mount Carmel The name is derived from the Hebrew kerem (“vineyard” or “orchard”) and attests to the mountain's fertility even in ancient times.
19:09
November 4, 2019
"The Best Advice of All" - Sermon for October 27, 2019
There's a saying: "Don't give advice. The wise don't need it, and the foolish won't heed it." Of course, humans almost always fall somewhere in between wise and foolish. So we need to seek out advice, and judge that advice apart from what our desires may want to be true. In today's sermon, Rev. Tom describes when the foolishness of a king split a nation into two. King Rehoboam of Israel unfortunately did not inherit the wisdom of his father Solomon, his grandfather David, or his great aunt Abigail. Instead, he dismissed the good advice of experience, and listened to the foolishness of the quick fix. Ten tribes of Israel rebelled against this decision, and chose Jeroboam to lead their revolt. Sadly, this king quickly listened to bad advice, too - setting up a sacrificial altar opposing God. Rev. Tom describes how such advice - both in the Bible and in our own lives - can ripple for years, even centuries. Through a story with a quick, simple reaction to unexpected misfortune, Rev. Tom shows how a person's character can be revealed not in decisions of nationwide consequence, but in small reactions of compassion. It is through this compassion that true wisdom is grown. (Bible reading - 1 Kings 11:42-43; 12:1-17, 25-29)
19:00
October 28, 2019
"A Link in a Chain of Life; Not the Key" - Sermon for October 20, 2019
No understanding of how God and humans interact in the Bible is complete without studying the life of King David. As Rev. Tom describes, David was a person of faith unlike any who had come before. Here was a leader confident in his abilities and his connection with God. When David inquired of God, God responded. However, this self-assurance of David's came crashing down, right at the threshold of his greatest accomplishment - the recovery of the Ark of the Covenant and the establishing of Jerusalem as the City of David. The seemingly arbitrary death of Uzzah made David question the benevolence of God. But Rev. Tom explains that David came to realize that it's not all about David. We - like David - can give our abilities for God's work, without our abilities being the one key needed for God's work to flourish. Our work is a single link, included in a tapestry of love, far greater than we can see within our own lives. And it is within the Church where this love can be expressed across generations. (Bible reading - 2 Samuel 5:1-13,17-21;6:5-16) Next Sunday, Second Presbyterian will have one combined service at 10:00 AM, followed by our annual Fall Festival at 11:00 AM. The festival will have trunk-or-treating, food trucks, musical entertainment, and creative car trunks decked out in Halloween finery! Find our more at our webpage or by contacting Rev. Amy Carlson at acarlson@secondpresby.org!
22:47
October 23, 2019
"Where You Go, I Will Go" - Sermon for October 13, 2019
The old expression, "You don't know what you have until it's gone," may apply to many people, but some folks just know how to hold on. As Rev. Jenn describes to us today, there are countless things in our lives that we can't control. But we can control how we love, and how we respond to each other - graciously and with commitment. In the story of Ruth and Naomi, their tragic and unexpected circumstances would lead Naomi to bitterness at her loss and isolation. But Ruth would not let her go. Her vows to cling to Naomi sealed a new relationship that had no immediate or clear advantage for Ruth. This fierce faithfulness is not often seen in humanity, but it is a reflection of the faithfulness that God has for us. For even if we don't cling to God, God - in true divine love - clings always to each one of us. Rev. Jenn shows us that God will go where we go, God will live where we live - even if it is in loss, fear, anger or hopelessness - to show the love of God that never lets go. (Bible reading - Ruth 1:1-17, NRSV)
15:44
October 16, 2019
"Written on Our Hearts" - Sermon for October 6, 2019
We have a guest speaker at Second Presbyterian Church for today's services - the multi-talented MaryAnn McKibben Dana! When Moses brought down the laws from Mount Sinai, it can feel like a New Year's ball-drop might as well come down with him. The laws of God are an inspiration for us to seek goodness in our lives, but they can be as impossible for us limited humans to follow as those New Year's resolutions we always break before February. Rev. MaryAnn describes how all these things we are called - and desire - to do are so often interrupted by life's curveballs, they can be overwhelming. But if we step back, we can reframe those obstacles and speed bumps in life as opportunities to rehearse what our responses to this world's needs can become. Whether these ordinary opportunities are found when we're sitting in our house, talking to our children or walking, or they're found on our doorposts, tied around our hands or written on our hearts, each moment calls us to find joy in building a habit of expressing how we follow and trust in God. That way, wherever our lives reach out to the world - even if it's only the 3 feet just around us - we can bring the law of God to fruition in love. (Bible reading - Deuteronomy 5:1-4; 6:4-9) Learn all about MaryAnn McKibben Dana's work as author, speaker and improv artist at her excellent blog! You can order her latest book, "God, Improv, and the Art of Living" from IndieBound, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble! Are you looking for a personal or running coach? MaryAnn does that too! See more at this link!
16:18
October 7, 2019
“Salvation in the Reeds” - Sermon for September 29, 2019
We humans tend to look for salvation in grandeur and radiant splendour. Rarely do we consider salvation sleeping in a simple manger, dying on a cross, hiding in a valley and being fed by ravens... or being placed in a basket in the mud and reeds of a river. Today's Lectionary story is the famous one of the Pharaoh of Egypt ordering the deaths of every male Hebrew newborn, and he would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for those meddling kids. For after a desperate mother trusted her son to a tiny ark upon the Nile, it is the children who took the risks of making a new, liberating outcome where hope seemed hidden beyond recovery. As Rev. Tom describes, both Pharaoh's daughter and the baby's sister, Miriam, took actions against a system that kept the Hebrews oppressed. It's not only in the Bible that we see a minority population treated as "other" - second class citizens, foreigners speaking a different language, who can't be trusted. But these two - females with no political power and no hope of changing the system - would save the child Moses, and draw out salvation from the unlikeliest of circumstances. (Bible reading - Exodus 1:8-17; 2:1-10)
21:08
September 29, 2019
“Holy Wrestling” - Sermon for September 22, 2019
Not everyone who wrestles with you is an enemy. This Sunday's Lectionary reading is about that epic "Fight to the Dawn" - a match between Jacob and... someone. A man? An angel? God? There isn't an obvious answer. But that uncertainty of a clear meaning is much like the lesson of the story itself. As Rev. Tom explains, a part of life is the struggle. Whether it's on a personal, interpersonal, or international level, the interactions we face in life can be trying, so difficult that all we can do is to hold on until the sun rises and the trial is over. But in these times of contention, there is victory, even blessing. Even Jesus submitted to the hardships in life, even to death. Likewise, "Coach" Tom gives us four messages from this story - not for obtaining a clear and easy victory, but to continue in the work, to trust in God that there is goodness in the struggle - for ourselves and for others. (Bible reading - Genesis 32:22-30)
14:33
September 24, 2019
“While We Wait” - Sermon for September 15, 2019
This week's Bible reading, from the Narrative Lectionary, Year 2, is Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7. Do we need to protect ourselves from God? Can we keep ourselves safe by running away like Jonah, or hiding like Adam and Eve? In today’s sermon, Rev. Amy looks at when the story of Abraham and Sarah takes a bit of a dark turn, when Sarah laughs at God’s promise that she will have a son. The story begins with faithful generosity to three strangers. But is Sarah‘s laugh protecting herself from hope? Can she risk disappointment yet again? And if this disappointment comes from God, what else is left for her? Rev. Amy describes how we are all in that season of waiting, daring to hope in God. But that hope is not in a specific outcome we desire from God, but in God’s presence itself. The promise will never fade that God will always be with us - in sorrow and in happiness - when we laugh to protect ourselves, and when we laugh in holy joy. 
14:06
September 17, 2019
“Living with Blessings and Boundaries” - Sermon for September 8, 2019
It's a new season at Second Presbyterian! With the return to regular church services (remember - back to 9:00 and 11:00 AM next Sunday!), we leave our journey with Paul and instead join our fellow Christians following the Narrative Lectionary - Season 2. The narrative begins at the first moment when God became intimately connected to humanity - God's personal interaction with the first man and woman. This story challenges us to ask: what has God given to us, and how does that show what God wants from us? As Rev. Tom describes, God has given us both blessings and boundaries. The first human had a face-to-face relationship with God, but still needed something else - a "sustainer" to be by his side. God's solution? A woman. Two people can sustain each other, and be partners in life. Even in our limitations, we can share our gifts. In that way, all of us are Adam and Eve - created by God, and given limitations that offers us a way to turn to each other - to find a blessing, and to be a blessing, in joyous life together. (Bible reading: Genesis 2:4b-24)
18:46
September 9, 2019
Sermon for August 11, 2019 - "Should We Then Sin?"
When we receive grace, does it leave us unchanged? The apostle Paul uses such a rhetorical device to engage his audience - and us - in understanding the nature of dying to sin. It's not just disliking sin, or sinning a bit less... we have died to sin, completely. In our third Sunday reading from Romans, Rev. Tom describes how Paul sees baptism not just as a single event, but a life-long process for a believer. We are baptized into Christ not only to die as he did, but to live in a newness of life as he did. Tom illustrates how this new life begins even before death - We don't need to wait for the resurrection to live in Christian fellowship, to love unconditionally as God loves, and to open ourselves to others in joy and giving. So please come to a worship service at Second Presbyterian when you can, and enjoy the podcast's new bumper music! (Bible reading - Romans 6:1-11, NRSV) Please join us in our "Fit in the Faith" quest to make an 8,700-mile journey like Paul! Visit This Page to share how far you've traveled in Paul's footsteps!
14:54
August 12, 2019
Sermon for August 4, 2019 - "Unbelievable"
What qualifies as a good bet, an investment that has an acceptable rate of return for the risk involved? In this week's text from Romans, Paul describes how God made an unbelievable investment of love in us - taking an impossible risk for people who showed no qualities worthy of that extravagant expense. Rev. Tom highlights this extreme generosity through Jesus, telling two stories that touched his heart recently about where one finds true giving of oneself, and treating others with mercy and love. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "Fame in [heaven] and fame on Earth are two quite different things." And to be known and loved by God is the greatest type of fame there can be. As Rev. Tom describes, when God gives an outpouring of Spirit to us, God invests not in the "right" people, but in sinners. And it is in this grace that gives us our greatest hope and our greatest strength to be gracious to others. (Bible reading - Romans 5:1-11, NRSV)  Please join us in our "Fit in the Faith" quest to make an 8,700-mile journey like Paul! Visit This Page to share how far you've traveled in Paul's footsteps!
13:39
August 6, 2019
Sermon for July 28, 2019 - "Faith Enough?"
Our Sizzlin' Summer Sermon Series enters the dog days of summer as we begin the book in which Paul writes his most dogged pursuit of a systematic review of Christian life - the epistle to the Romans. Rev. Tom starts off by reminding us that Paul was no lone wolf, but saw faith as a feature of the community as a whole. Thus, his letters were not the work of a solitary figure scribbling in a Rembrandt painting with a black background. They were a community project - from the people he called his brothers and sisters, to others he hoped to meet and form the same relationship with. But this loyalty to the Christian movement comes with a price. To claim Jesus as Lord and Savior, the early church needed to reject the emperor in that role for their lives. So Paul starts his letter with the basics - the Gospel is the power of God for salvation, for the righteous to live by faith. Rev. Tom reminds us that God's expression of faith to us is revealed fully in Jesus, and it is this faith that sustains ours. (Bible reading - Romans 1:8-17, NRSV)  Please join us in our "Fit in the Faith" quest to make an 8,700-mile journey like Paul! Visit This Page to share how far you've traveled in Paul's footsteps!
16:06
July 30, 2019
Sermon for July 14, 2019 - "Reconciling Into Community"
Our Sizzling Summer Sermon Series heats up as Paul dives into the very core of what it means to be a community. As Rev. Amy explains, the new life in Christ is not a blank canvas or a perfectly clean slate where any problems are smoothed over. As ambassadors for Christ, believers in Corinth receiving Paul's letters and believers here today have a rough, uneasy task - the ministry of reconciliation. Just like how God reconciled with humanity, Paul needed to reconcile with the Corinthians with their doubts, fears and conflicts. To rebuild relationships, we need to go beyond forgiveness - to repair our lives together. Rev. Amy describes how picking up the broken pieces of our bonds of unity and living into a new creation is the way that we can be most like Christ, and our love for each other can be most like God's love for us. (Bible reading - 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 NRSV)  Please join us in our "Fit in the Faith" quest to make an 8,700-mile journey like Paul! Visit This Page to share how far you've traveled in Paul's footsteps!
17:52
July 16, 2019
Sermon for July 7, 2019 - “Our Life's Treasure”
We continue our Sizzling Summer Sermon Series with Paul's letters by moving on to his follow-up letter to the Corinthians. Rev. Tom describes how Paul's preaching was revolutionary, insisting that the church was called to be a counterculture. This brought great hardship to the church (and Paul too!), in its day-to-day working out of a new society of radical welcome and love. Such a great gospel, given to fragile and struggling believers? Yes, like a treasure in clay jars, this world-changing message has been entrusted to imperfect humans. Paul's words give comfort that, despite trials, we are all given God's strength as well as God's call to sharing. (Bible reading: 2 Corinthians 4:1-12, 16-19 REB) Please join us in our "Fit in the Faith" quest to make an 8,700-mile journey like Paul! Visit this page to share how far you've traveled in Paul's footsteps!
14:46
July 11, 2019
Sermon for June 30, 2019 - "If Love Is the Answer, What Was the Question?"
Paul didn't write the "Love Chapter" in 1 Corinthians so people could have a convenient Bible passage to read at weddings. The church of Corinth knew how to do weddings. What they didn't know was how to live in a new Christian community that was brought together in love. Rev. Tom describes how Paul debunks the idea that the variety of the believers' spiritual gifts - such as glossolalia - could be used as a "status indicator." The church is not a talent show; it's a fellowship where extraordinary graces are given for the work of love. And just as love is a gift available for all Christians, Tom tells us how love can start with an important talent we all can do - listening. (Bible reading - 1 Corinthians 13)
16:52
July 1, 2019
Sermon for June 16, 2019 - "The Cross-Shaped Good News"
After a week off for a special presentation on Pentecost, we continue our journeys with Paul. This week, Paul writes to the church in Corinth with a message that can be summarized: "Shape up!" Corinth was a newly rebuilt city with a mix of people - Romans, Greeks, slaves, free - and the church included that diversity and also its difficulties. Rev. Tom teaches us about how the shape of our lives - whether hectic or orderly or messy - can, like Paul, reflect the cruciform-shaped life of Christ. Such a life of suffering can be foolishness and a stumbling block to others, but it makes sense in the heart. The cross stands as a sign that God wants to be with us and to shape us into vessels for God's message to the world. A focus on the cross that Jesus accepted can reshape our divisions - both in Corinth and in our own lives. (Bible reading - 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 NRSV)
19:07
June 19, 2019
Sermon for June 2, 2019 - "A Sure and Certain Arrival"
This week, we start off our Sizzlin' Summer Sermon Series! Through the summer, we'll be looking at the letters of the Apostle Paul. Rev. Tom begins with Paul's first letter, written to the believers in Thessalonica. We often imagine Paul as a solo preacher, a lone ranger in his many travels. But Paul was always working within and for the Christian communities. And as a practical theologian, he was concerned about addressing a community's needs. Here, he faces a question that has troubled Christians throughout the ages - how we are to live while we await the day when Jesus comes again "like a thief in the night." Rev. Tom describes Paul's assurance that there is hope for all who trust Jesus; alive or dead, we are saved, now and always. (Bible reading - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 NRSV)
20:06
June 5, 2019
Sermon for May 26, 2019 - "The Last Full Measure"
This Memorial Day weekend, Rev. Tom Blair discusses the choices made by others which have added to our Christian faith. First, of course, is Jesus, who laid down his life for for his friends, and for us. And there are countless others who have made profound sacrifices that, unseen by them, now benefit and enrich our faith. Through a "chain of heritage," we are connected to the first people who gathered together as Christians. As we live out the gift of love that began with Jesus, our own acts of reconciliation and invitation can make a lasting difference - in the Church and in the world around us - and extend that chain with "fruit that will last." (Bible readings - Psalm 67, John 15:12-17 NRSV)
18:05
May 30, 2019
Sermon for May 19, 2019 - "Marvel"
Welcome to the first episode of the podcast for Second Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland! This series will be updated weekly with the sermons preached at our Sunday services. Today, we're starting off with an end... or rather, an Endgame. Rev. Amy describes how she's become a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how each hero adds their own distinctive story that can change the world. In the early church, Peter had a radical story of a vision, and in the church today, we have our own stories - which have the power to bring radical and welcoming change that can bring a new beginning to our world. (Bible readings - Acts 11:1-18, John 13:31-35)
15:43
May 20, 2019