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Sermons

Missed last week’s service, or curious about our preaching and teaching here at DCC? Listen to or watch our most recent sermons!

July 26, 2020

This Sunday we continue our series “Unraveled: Seeking God When Our Plans Fall Apart” with a look at the story of the Pharaoh hardening his heart to Moses’ requests for freedom.

Moses follows God’s plan—stand up for justice for the Israelites. Don’t give up the fight. Demand what is right. However, Pharaoh has another plan—keep the Israelites as slaves.

How do we press onward when we receive repeated nos?
What do we do when broken systems—created by human sin—unravel God’s plans for liberation and justice?
How can we counter the myth of scarcity by living a liturgy of abundance?

 

Rev. Todd Atkins-Whitley preaching from Exodus 7. Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozeé-Nichols and featuring Genesis Sixteen and Gospel for Teens

Bulletin available at https://danvillechurch.org/bulletins/.

July 19, 2020

Whose injustice do you remember?
Whose cause do you uphold today?

This past week, we considered the story of Peter walking on the water but quickly sinking and how Jesus stretched his arms out to Peter to rescue him. In times we find life unraveling, Pastor Eric urged us to remember God’s persistent, outstretched hand toward us.

This week, it is another’s hands and voice we consider—those belonging to a woman from ancient times whose life had unravelled, furiously protecting the lynched bodies of her sons from scavengers, railing against the system that took her children from her. The story of Rizpah, found in the book of 2 Samuel, is not for the faint-hearted. The concubine of a monarch, Rizpah is powerless within the system of patriarchy; she is likely violated in the process and her sons pay the price in this ancient game of thrones.

[Read this midrash of the story of Rizpah by Rev. Laurie DeMott.]

Reading on, we discover that Rizpah does not consider herself powerless. In her grief, she raises furious fists to protect the bodies of her children and to demand justice by remembering the dead. An ancestor to all mothers who have lost children to injustice, Rizpah is a foremother of the “Nevertheless, she persisted” movement. Rizpah’s actions, which changed the heart of a king, remind us that injustice may otherwise prevail if we allow ourselves to forget those who are denied justice.

Whose injustice do you remember?
Whose cause do you uphold today?

Is it solidarity with modern-day Rizpahs Mamie Till, Tamika Palmer, Geneva Reed-Veal whose children Emmett Till, Breonna Taylor, and Sandra Bland were murdered as a result of systemic injustice and hate?

Is it the lives of any number of unarmed Black people killed by police or the continued killing of Black transgender women?

Is it the plight of migrant mothers like Yazmin Juarez whose daughter Maree died while in ICE custody or María Reynoso who was separated from her daughter Adelaida 3 years ago and has yet to be reunited.

Before Sunday, we encourage you to prepare a “sign” of some sort—maybe it’s something you hand letter with a name or a photo you print out. Bring it with you to worship so that together, we may persist in pursuit of justice through the spiritual practices of both grieving together and remembering together, refusing to allow ourselves to forget.

This week, let us be like Rizpah and stretch out our arms to meet God’s and demand justice.

Presented in 3 separate videos:

Rev. Todd Atkins-Whitley, preaching from 2 Samuel 21
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozeé-Nichols, Age to Age Vocal Ensemble, and Aretha Franklin ft. the Boys Choir of Harlem

Bulletin and worship notes available at https://danvillechurch.org/bulletins/.

July 12, 2020

What do we do when it feels like, or when quite literally, everything around us is falling apart?

Global pandemic
Racial injustice
Police brutality
Protests
Political unrest
Wildfires
Earthquakes
Floods
Unexpected death
Unemployment
Virtual learning
Canceled vacations

The list could go on, I’m sure, and is quite staggering. It has the ability to overwhelm us and spiral us into a space of uncertainty and fear. How do we press onward when the tightly-knit plans we have created for ourselves unravel into loose threads? What do we become when our identity—or the path we’re on—comes undone?

These are the questions many of us are wrestling with right now. In this wonderment, allow me to wonder further, what if all of this is not the end we fear it will be? In our unraveling, sometimes life surprises us with unexpected joy, love, and hope—with a new beginning we could never have imagined. Sometimes, God is the one who unravels us, for we need to change.

This summer, we will dive deep into this topic Unraveled: Seeking God When Our Plans Fall Apart. We will explore nine different stories found in scripture about unraveled shame, identity, fear, grief, dreams, and expectations. These are stories where God meets us in the unraveling—the loss of control—and creates something new.

Rev. Eric Sherlock, preaching from Matthew 14:22–33
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols

July 5, 2020

This Sunday, DCC will be participating in the UCC’s Mental Health Wellness Sunday Celebration, utilizing our regular Zoom format with a pre-recorded worship and communion service on the theme of mental health wellness created by UCC Conference Ministers from around the country. Our Pastors and Worship Staff have been granted a week of Wellness Time away from their “new-normal” responsibilities for planning and executing virtual worship and pastoral care visits and programs.

June 28, 2020

The month of June—and in particular, the last Sunday in June—represents a season when LGBTQ+ people around the world affirm and celebrate our inherent dignity and advocate the fair and equal treatment of all LGBTQ+ people in every segment of society. For DCC, Pride Sunday is a time for our community to reflect on and renew our now 21-year commitment to being a not only welcoming space but also a safe space for LGBTQ people, many of whom have been rejected by religious institutions that should know better. Adopted in 1999, our Open and Affirming statement holds us accountable to being a church for “people of diverse race, gender, sexual orientation, family status, economic condition, and physical, mental, and emotional abilities” and continues to ground who we are as people of God. Part of our statement reminds us that “we welcome and value all God’s people.” But as we are aware, many in our society do not share this value—particularly as it relates to Black people and other people of color. In fact, people of color who are also LGBTQ+ experience much significantly harsher marginalization and face greater discrimination in the world. [Read this piece by Tiq Milan; this article from NPR; and these statistics about LGBTQ youth.] And so as a church whose legacy includes radically welcoming LGBTQ+ people, we must turn our attention to the plight of the most vulnerable—must hear their voices and must join their cause as a direct response to our faith. To help us do this, we proudly welcome Senior Minister Carmarion D. Anderson, Alabama State Director with the Human Rights Campaign, into our virtual pulpit. (Read more about her below.) We will also feature other queer voices and queer people of color within our worship space. Pivoting from our 20th anniversary ONA celebration last year, we promise you, this will be another service you will not soon forget. Because there can be no ‘open and affirming’ welcome without racial justice.

Senior Minister Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, preaching
Featuring Tiq Milan with the Modern Lesson
Music by John Kendall Bailey, Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols, Sara Davis Buechner, Christian Dante White and Nick Burroughs, and Mary-Marie Deauclaire.

June 21, 2020

This Sunday in worship we open up scripture and find a harsh depiction of Jesus. It’s just after Jesus has summoned his disciples and he is teaching them about the cost of discipleship. Jesus speaks to this cost and how in following him families may be divided—son against father; daughter against mother; daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

I imagine for some of us, such words from Jesus about division within the family unit as a cost of following Jesus just doesn’t seem right. It simply doesn’t add up to the peaceful, empathetic, loving, friend in Jesus we are comfortable with and have come to know. And yet, Jesus’ message is clear in Matthew’s gospel—there is a high cost in being his disciple in the world—so high that your greatest foe, the one you may be at odds with, could be as close to you as your mother or father. And Jesus asks: “are you willing to accept this cost and follow me?”

I hope you will join us Sunday as we consider this challenging text within the context of our present struggle for racial justice and dismantling systems of white supremacy. I pray Jesus’ call for discipleship sheds new meaning and understanding for us.

Unfortunately, this service was not recorded.

“His Eye is on the Sparrow (Why Should I Feel Discouraged)” performed by Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols

Video montage of “This Little Light of Mine” (arr. Moses Hogan) performed by the Boston Trinity Church Choir


June 14, 2020

On Tuesday many of us watched, listened, or read news reports about the funeral of another Black man killed at the hands of violent police. Mourners from across the country gathered in Houston to grieve with and support George Floyd’s family. While mourners grieved, protestors continued to gather in city and suburban streets around our country demanding justice and reform. Each day as we open our eyes and ears to be present to the sufferings of the Black community, some of us may feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable, or unsure of how we will respond and endure not just this moment, but the movement and work that is before us.

In our scripture reading for this Sunday from Paul’s letter to the Roman church, he writes that we are to “boast in our suffering.” Interestingly, the word boast as it is translated in the text, more literally means rejoice. Now, while my intention is to not confuse the sufferings of the Black community with the discomfort we may be feeling, I do wonder what it might mean to boast or “rejoice” in a time of suffering. If we are being honest, boasting or rejoicing in a time of suffering sounds utterly ridiculous, especially now. And what exactly is Paul talking about here in his letter to the Romans?

We hope you will join us Sunday as we reflect on these words from Paul’s letter, as we pray for the human sufferings of the world, and as we gather to worship God.

Rev. Eric Sherlock preaching
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Gozée-Nichols

Bulletin at www.danvillechurch.org/bulletins


June 7, 2020

Lines 14–16 of the Preamble of the Constitution of the United Church of Christ read:

It [the United Church of Christ] affirms the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God. A

fter an overwhelming week of emotions, social media newsfeeds, protests, pain, grief, and demands for justice, your worship leadership team (Pastors Eric and Todd and John Kendall Bailey) reflected on these words, and wondered together about our responsibility right now to make this faith our own, collectively, in reality in worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God.

After prayerful discernment, and after listening to our Black siblings, along with everyone calling for justice, we believe that right now we as white people, and as a primarily white congregation, are being called to listen—to listen to the voices of the Black community. In worship this morning, we are taking a step back as we listen together to the amplified voices and stories of Black people—our Black siblings in faith.

This moment in our collective history demands such a response from us. Beloveds, this is our moment to be present. Let us be present. Let us listen with open hearts and open minds. And let us pray and work for the transformation of our church and world.

Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, preaching
Music by Odetta, Chanticleer & Bishop Yvette Flunder, Keedron Bryant, Mark A. Miller, William Grant Still, Alton Eugene, and James Weldon Johnson and James Rosamond Johnson
Bulletin at www.danvillechurch.org/bulletins


May 31, 2020

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound
like the rush of a violent wind,
and it filled the entire house
where they were sitting.
(Acts 2:2)
Do you hear it? Do you hear that sound?
You see, that rush of wind—also translated as breath—was experienced by a group of people who had been effectively sheltering in place for seven weeks and a day. Undoubtedly still shell-shocked by the execution of the one they called Messiah, fearful for their own lives, and unsure about the future, this group had nonetheless been, the text tells us in 1:14, “devoting themselves to prayer” when they experienced this moment of Pentecost. Sound familiar?
The week that leads up to Pentecost 2020 has been a difficult one for many people. The murder of George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota, by an officer of the law and the brazen racism of a woman toward a Black man in Central Park were captured on camera and circulated widely. Today we awoke to news that Covid-19 has claimed 100,000 lives here in the United States and over 350,000 worldwide even as we learn that the total number of confirmed cases here in California has also exceeded 100,000. And safety regulations out of Sacramento confirm that large in-person gatherings like Sunday worship will not reconvene any time in the near future.
But…do you hear it? Do you hear that sound?
You see, the sound of that rush of wind is still audible some 2000 years later! The very breath of God is still rustling among God’s people, still rousing us toward our best impulses, still inspiring our imaginations to see something new happening to and within Christ’s church! Given our 73 days of sheltering in place and counting, we assemble this Sunday in an “upper Zoom” to behold the Pentecost moment of our forbears and consider what it is we have heard…what ‘language’ we might now be better prepared to understand…and what the church might be being prepared for.
We hope to connect with you this Sunday. Your grief, your uncertainty, your fatigue—all of the feelings you are feeling—are welcome.

Rev. Todd Atkins-Whitley, preaching
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Gozée-Nichols

Bulletin at www.danvillechurch.org/bulletins


May 24, 2020

This week, I gathered virtually over Zoom with my leadership development program, the UCC’s NGLI (the Next Generation Leadership Initiative), to catch up and share with one another all that we are doing in our ministry contexts. In total there were about 60 young(er) UCC pastors on the call. The theme of the call was centered around the adaptive challenges we are experiencing in this moment of COVID-19 as it relates to our work as ministers in local church settings. There was profound sharing and I left the call feeling affirmed of the work we are doing together at DCC.

For our closing meditation, Wendell Berry’s poem “The Real Work” was read, and I’d like to share it with you in this space.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

This poem written by Wendell Berry reminded me of this coming Sunday’s scripture text from the book of Acts 1:6-14. Up until this point in Acts, the disciples have been certain of what they are to do as it relates to their work—Jesus has risen from the dead and they are to follow him. In this moment in the Book of Acts, however, we read about Jesus being taken up on a cloud to the heavens and is suddenly gone. Before they could grasp what was happening, everything the disciples had known, all that was certain to them in their life and work, had been taken away once again. And the disciples are left behind, unsure of what to do and which way to go.

In Berry’s poem, he writes how in moments such as these—both in the uncertainty of the disciple’s future as well as our own—the “real work” begins and we have come to “our real journey.”

We hope you will join us Sunday as we turn and look at this passage from Acts a little closer and reflect on the “real work” and “real journey” that is before us.

Rev. Eric Sherlock, preaching
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Gozée-Nichols

Bulletin at www.danvillechurch.org/bulletins


May 17, 2020

For many, these times feel unprecedented, disorienting, filled with uncertainty. And yet, as some of us were reminded during this week’s Family Devotional, life is still happening all around us. Folks are facing challenges and joys, flowers are blooming, babies are being born—same as always. All around us, people are reaching milestones, beginning journeys, and dreaming new dreams—all of this within the space of a pandemic.

One such group consists of young people who are preparing to leave the familiar realm of secondary school and move into a space where something new can take shape. Absented many of the familiar rituals and milestones that would have ordinarily commemorated this stage of their lives—these young people are nonetheless about to begin something new.

It is here where both uncertainty and hope are mingled that we encounter our text for this week from John 14, picking up where we left off last week. Jesus, sensing the disciples’ uncertainty, seeks to stoke the hope that had been planted in their hearts by offering them a couple of “pro-tips” for moving through the uncertainty of the present moment and into a future characterized by hope and abundance. [Spoiler alert: we are not alone!]

This morning we support our graduates and commemorate the milestone they prepare to encounter amid such a time as this and see how Jesus’ words—his “pro-tips”—might not only encourage these young people but also inspire the hope that lies within us all.

Rev. Todd Atkins-Whitley, preaching from John 14:15–21
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozee-Nichols
Bulletin at www.danvillechurch.org/bulletins.


May 10, 2020

During this shelter-in-place, it feels like one day is blending right into the next. There is Sunday and then there is every other day of the week. Five weeks ago, we celebrated Easter and I wondered with you what it would be like to focus not only on Easter joy but also Easter fear. Remember, the first Easter was not all trumpets and Easter eggs. The women discovered the empty tomb and ran away afraid for the body of Jesus was no longer there.

We, however, are fortunate enough to know the end of the Easter story. We know that Jesus has risen. We know that Jesus appears to his disciples and friends. We know that death does not win, that life ultimately wins.

This Sunday in our scripture text, we are taken back to that night before Jesus is crucified. It’s Jesus’ final moment with his disciples around the supper table when Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

I imagine in this moment many of us have troubled hearts. There is so much going on in our lives and world for our hearts to be troubled. Perhaps that is why each day is blending right into the next. My heart is troubled with the state of the world and I need to find my way back to the center.

I hope you will join us Sunday, whether your heart is troubled or not, so that we may join together once again in community to be a support and encouragement for one another.

Rev. Eric Sherlock, preaching from John 14:1–14
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols

Bulletin at: danvillechurch.org/bulletins


May 3, 2020

This Sunday, we turn our attention to another inspiring image—the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd found in John 10. In this text, Jesus describes his presence with us in terms of not only the trustworthy voice of a shepherd (“He calls his own sheep by name”) but also as one who is a gatekeeper—both protecting the sheep and also leading them into abundance.
 
As people who belong to a society that values independence and autonomy, perhaps we can relate to what it might be like to be penned up like sheep looking wistfully at what lies outside the gate. And as we contemplate what several more weeks of sheltering might mean for us, along with the potential for a gradual loosening of restrictions, this texts invites us to imagine the abundant life the gatekeeper—the one who knows us each by name—is preparing to lead us into. With the world forever changed by Covid-19, we hear anew the words spoken by that familiar voice,
 
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
 
This Sunday, we invite you to wonder what this abundant life might consist of for ourselves, for our communities, and for our world.

Rev. Todd Atkins-Whitley preaching
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols
 

April 26, 2020

This Sunday we are met with a familiar story, a story that we’ve heard before. Our reading for Sunday comes right after the road to Emmaus story. The story when on Easter evening two disciples are walking alone on a road, exhausted and defeated by the news of Jesus’ death and confused by the rumors of Jesus’ resurrection. And it is there, on the road, along the way, that the Resurrected Jesus appears to them as a stranger. They don’t recognize him. It is a story that gives us that great promise that Jesus can still be with us even when we do not recognize him. Today we are reminded of this story and the promise it holds—that God is always with us, accompanying us on whatever road we may travel on.

Rev. Eric Sherlock, preaching “Scars” from Luke 24:36b–49.
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols

Bulletin at www.danvillechurch.org/bulletins.


April 19, 2020

Fresh from our Alleluia-filled experience of Easter Sunday, we turn our attention to that room of fear-filled folks Jesus appeared to not long after his resurrection and to one disciple—Thomas—who was missing that day. Thomas gets a bit of a bad-rap for his response to the appearance of Jesus he missed and has been forever nicknamed Doubting Thomas. But this week, Pastor Todd wonders whether doubt might actually be a moment of discernment that can lead to a deeper faith. Afterall, the text tells us, Thomas eventually believed.

Rev. Todd Atkins-Whitley preaching “Redeeming Thomas” from John 20:19–31
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozee-Nichols


April 12, 2020

The original Easter Sunday was not one of joy and celebration. There was no brass quartet. There was not decorated communion table and chancel area bursting with colorful flowers. There was no egg hunt. Instead, there were people who loved Jesus most, filled with grief at the state of their world, trudging toward the tomb. We, my friends, have the fortune of knowing the end of that story. Let us gather together this Easter Sunday, during a season of pandemic, and remember the promise of resurrection—the promise of God’s new life for us.

Rev. Eric Sherlock preaching, “Joy and Fear”
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozee-Nichols


April 5, 2020

Today’s Palm Sunday Worship Service at DCC follows Matthew’s telling of the events of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem to his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, highlighting a few narrative moments in between. A hybrid of worship and dramatic reading, this service engages us in new ways using the ancient tradition of midrash, helping teach and immerse us in the narrative flow of the Passion story.

Our gratitude to the folks at “A Sanctified Art” for this beautiful service, to our liturgists and midrash readers, and to UCC pastor Rev. Maren Tirabassi for her communion liturgy and healing prayer for those serving in medical professions and healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.


March 22, 2020

March 15, 2020

Our worship for this third Sunday of Lent was fully online and streamed via the web. The sermon was preached by Senior Pastor, Rev. Eric Sherlock, entitled Surprising Connections, and was based on John 4:5-42.

March 8, 2020

The sermon for this second Sunday of Lent was preached by Senior Pastor, Rev. Eric Sherlock, entitled Certain Uncertainty, and was based on John 3:1-17.

March 1, 2020

The sermon for this first Sunday of Lent was preached by Senior Pastor, Rev. Eric Sherlock, entitled Consumer Temptations, and was based on Matthew 4:1-11.