Eyes Open to A Still Speaking God

A Sermon preached at Broad Bay Congregational United Church of Christ

Readings:   1 Kings 17:8–16; 2 Corinthians 9:6–13; Matthew 14:13–2; Wilda Gafney, Translator.
“Galapagos Penguin” from Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing by Gayle Boss

My to do list is out of control. There is simply way too much to do and each day feels like a failure. There is neither enough time nor money.  And yet, I know I am wrong. 

We’ve been gifted a sabbath.  We’ve been gifted the opportunity to watch penguins and learn with them.  We worship a God of generosity.

The widow who is near starvation has a gift to bring that brings life. 

The penguin brings us back to our creator.

We have enough when we open our hands and hearts.  There is enough food in our community for all to be fed and yet people are hungry.

Who fed Elijah?  A poor widow. 

And who fed the crowd?  Jesus and the crowd fed the crowd and there was enough.

God loves a cheerful giver and there is enough.

It is easy to look at the congregation and think “we’re doomed.”  We’re old. Christianity is dying before our eyes.  All around me I see churches closing and shrinking.  I see clergy burning out, exhausted. Our Lady of Grace, the Benedictine Monastery that has nourished me for over 10 years is closing its retreat center, tearing down the monastery, and building a new smaller energy efficient home for the sisters.

Yet Scripture reminds us that when we open our hearts and our doors, we are able to feed more people and positively impact more lives than seems possible.  The widow did it by giving up on her own survival and letting go of what was left.

Jesus did it by just saying to the disciples “Do it.” 

Matthew Myer Bolton suggests that Jesus saw scripture as a palette and not a portrait.  Not a painting that defines God and sits on the wall but the circular wooden palette in the artists’ hands that we use to create the stories of our lives.   So in times of injustice, we look at the Exodus story.  In times of scarcity, we look at the feeding of the crowd. We look for that miracle.

As most of you know, we are now using a new lectionary.  A lectionary is a proscribed set of readings to help the church and the worship leader reflect more deeply on Scripture.  This lectionary, put together by Episcopal priest and Bible Scholar, Wilda Gafney, titled A Woman’s Lectionary for the WHOLE Church.  Not just for women but for all. She comes to her work as an African American woman and her choice of readings, and her translations are informed by her own experiences.  That doesn’t make her work a niche or fringe reading of the Bible.  Everyone does theology out of their own experiences. Instead, it adds color to the palette of Scriptural interpretation, much of which in our culture has been done by white European and American men.

I am challenged by this lectionary for it links readings together in surprising ways; her translation is just different enough to point to a broader understanding of God and the Christian story.  This translation adds another color to the palette that we use to paint the story of our lives. 

The United Church of Christ statement of faith includes these words, “You bestow upon us your Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ.” Our work to align with the Sprit to create and renew the church of Jesus Christ.

How do we create Christian Community in this day, in this place?

Jesus has given us a palette and not a portrait.  We don’t worship something that sits on the wall and is analyzed from afar.

Instead, let us take these stories from the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible and use them to create a generous community, a community that knows that there is enough.  That even when we are hungry and it seems impossible, there is food to share.

Last week in worship, we prayed a Psalm, read Scripture from the Hebrew and Christian Bible and the Christian Bibles. We read an account of the Red Knot by Gayle Boss, a story of a strong bird, near extinction, a story of resilience and fragility.  Responding to that reading, Joe went to the piano and with silence and notes, created something more.  

In many places, certainly in Maine, the mainline church is like the widow, slowly starving to death. 

By opening her heart to be generous, the widow brought life to Elijah and herself.

What happens to us, as individuals and the church when we share what we have?

What happens when we invite musicians not to play the old hymns from the 18th or 19th century but to play stories of hope and resurrection?

What happens when we allow animals to give testimony?  Can the penguins urge us to envision a world where we care for creation, consuming less, taking only what we need, and leaving grain the fields and oil in the ground?

What happens when we take the commandment of the sabbath seriously as a community, making time to play with one another and embrace the gifts of conversation, observation and unstructured time?

When I was a child, the family portrait of William Schneider or was it Anton Schneider, came to our living room where it hung for decades. The ancestor was an imposing man with bushy beard surrounded by a large gold frame; I never liked him and was delighted when he moved to another branch of the family.  That portrait did not inspire me; it was devoid of the courage of my immigrant family, fleeing from Germany and making a new life in rural Pennsylvania.  That portrait did not convey the stories of a storekeeper who supported the community, or engineers traveling in the western US and to South America building commerce and railroads. The portrait failed to inspire me, but the stories of my ancestors are full of life and inspiration.

How do we share the stories of Jesus with those who have lost their way and seek something bigger than themselves?  How do we share the stories of faith in ways that could sustain others in times of want or scarcity, in times of oppression or danger. 

May we be like the widow, willing to share with the prophet.  May we be like the disciples sharing bread and fish. May we be generous and cheerful givers. 


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To the Church

A Sermon Preached 9/4/22
Rev. Nancy Duncan, based inspired by 1 Peter

To the People of the Broad Bay Church.
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus, the one who healed the sick and outcast, called women and men on the margins to service, and who showed us the way of love.  

Over and over again, you, the people of small churches are faithful and creative in your service to God. I see God in you in the ways in which you care for one another. In the ways in which you accept people as they are while also setting boundaries and expectations which bring out the best in people.  

I am heartened by the inclusion I see as you bring children, elders, people with dementia, visitors, into the work and mission of the church. You embody the belief that every voice matters.  Each expression of faith brings into view a more expansive vision of the grace of God.

I am excited by the vulnerability you demonstrate, particularly as you share the worries on your mind thus breaking down stigma about mental illness, dementia, suicide, domestic violence, family conflict, or addiction.

I worry as well.  I am not proud of the worry for worry strikes me as unfaithful. But Churches, including this our own are shrinking as we struggle to find our voices and meaning.

So what now?  It is the story of our faith that will sustain you on the journey.  We are people of hope: a rainbow in the midst of environmental destruction.  We’ve survived plagues.  Jacob found a way forward after stealing his brother’s birthright. When a crowd gathered, Jesus fed them with a few loaves and fishes.  And there was enough.

It was people on the margins who Jesus chose as his friends and followers including a despised tax collector and a disgraced woman getting water from the well in the heat of the day.  He brought healing to lepers and an unclean and bleeding woman.

Lean into the stories of faith. Our people, your people, have been where we are before. Lean into the Biblical accounts, not because they are the only truth, but because they are a sacred guide.  The Bible is not a book to be decoded with one set of correct interpretations, but a story to be engaged. The Bible is packed with accounts of people in dire situations who find a way, and who experience the power of God in all kinds of scrapes.  And it ends and begins with an empty tomb.

Let’s tell and live the stories of Jesus.  Let’s share our faith, not because everyone has to believe what we believe to be Godly people, but because there is power and comfort in our tradition and our practices. There is strength in prayer and community.

Our people have been working for justice, from those following Moses out of slavery to Jesus stopping the stoning of a women caught in adultery. We work for justice with a rainbow flying outside, with school supplies for children, with food in the help yourself shelf, and with concern about racial minorities.

Creativity is part of your DNA as a church, a reflection of the one who created us.  From the confirmation banner crafted under the leadership of Evelyn Clowes to the art of Anne Morlan to the new entry way envisioned by the Building Committee with help from Barba and Wheelock, you embrace the creative spirit.  

The church is not this building or these rituals, important as they are. 

The church is wherever rest, sanctuary, or healing are found. Church can be a sunset, a mountain top, a well, a garden, a table, a river, or the sea. 

The church is where people are fed with loaves and fishes or bread and wine.

The church is where tears are wiped away, where relationships are healed and where the kingdom of God, the kingdom of justice and mercy takes root.

The Bible is a road map, or perhaps a series of bread crumps in how to build loving and hospitable communities.  The author of ! Peter was all about bringing hope. About generations working together. About hospitality.

You, the people of the Broad Bay Church are charged with bringing hope. 

Remember your covenant, your vision statement.  

Remember the accounts of so very many people in the Bible and in our tradition.  Sarah and Abraham, Ruth and Nami, David the author of the Psalms, Paul and Sias in jail, the woman at the well, the good Samaritan, the widow and her mite, the prodigal son, and the forgiving father. 

These stories of our faith and have power.  They bind us together.

I don’t know what the future will hold.  The format for church will likely shift but God’s spirit will continue to hold us together, bringing us to places of grace and mercy and peace.

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Sabbath for Reproductive Justice

From a sermon preached at the Broad Bay Congregational United Church of Christ
Waldoboro, Maine
January 23, 2022
Rev. Nancy R. Duncan
John 3:1-21

Churches opposing the right to choose an abortion are far more vocal than those who support the right to choose. It is time to break the silence.

In the decision to either choose to end a pregnancy or carry a pregnancy to term, women and their trusted family and friends grapple with life. Not simply the life of the fetus, but life of the mother and the family. Whatever choice is made, it can be life giving.

The place of this choice is holy ground. Too often the church has been silent or absent. Worse yet, churches have heaped shame upon the women and their families with turned backs or open condemnation.

The abortion landscape is packed with loud and angry voices when what we need is quiet, respectful, and open-hearted listening.

Listening to an addict who is pregnant. 

Listening to one in an abusive relationship.

Listening to stories of rape or incest.

Listening to one who just learned that her fetus, will die in utero or at birth.

Listening to one who is mentally or physically ill.

Listening to one whose relationship is on the rocks.

Listening to one who is exhausted and afraid.


Listen, knowing that God is in the decision to choose an abortion or to choose against abortion.

Nicodemus went to Jesus in the darkness of night, in secret to ask questions. To understand what it might mean to be born again–to be born again in the Spirit.

All too often women with unwanted pregnancies or problem pregnancies struggle alone in the dark, with no one to bless them as they choose life—whether they are choosing life for a fetus or life for themselves and their families.

God is present in that choice. As access to abortion is becoming increasing difficult and is likely to become more so, we need to be even more attentive.

Many of us carry some ambivalence about abortion but I can’t imagine that most of us want the government making those decisions for us and our families.

We, the church, can provide the metaphorical womb for one another by simply listening and trusting that each of us has the moral agency to make life giving decisions—whether the decision is to carry a fetus to term or to end the pregnancy.

When we hold one another in love and when we listen closely to one another, we build a framework to make holy, life affirming decisions. We provide holy space for another to listen to the wisdom that lies deep within.

When we shame one another, we retreat into the darkness where the shame takes root with bitter consequences. When we hold one another in the light, it is more likely that there will be an experience of rebirth.

We can bring abortion decisions out into the open—naming them as holy, though often difficult decisions, where life is affirmed. 

Let’s create sacred spaces so that the choice to terminate a pregnancy or not to terminate a pregnancy is a life giving holy choice.

May women not carry shame around the decision to end a pregnancy but be left free to engage life and love with new energy and purpose.

May we bless the women who have chosen abortion as we bless the mothers who have born children.

Nicodemous went to Jesus in the darkness.  And found light. And rebirth.

May we be people who shower love upon one another. May we be the people who listen with love and embrace the complexity of choosing life and love. Amen.

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All Saints Day: Zoom Version

I “zoomed” and “facetimed” with a number of family members in celebration of my father’s birthday.   We talked with people in Florida, Montana, Colorado, and Vancouver.   Call me crazy but as soon as I saw a cousin with her funny hat, her birthday decorations, and her wide smile, I knew I was also in the presence of her long deceased parents and grandparents and it was good.  

November 1, 2021 Broad Bay Church

Death is part of life; the stories of our ancestors and nurturers live in us and through us.  It is good to pause and remember and be bound together with our wider community as we celebrate the lives of those we’ve loved. 

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All Saints Day: Stop

We gathered to remember those who have gone before us by lighting nearly 100 luminaries–each with a different name listed.

Stop: Remember

When I first looked at the above image, I thought that it was quite jarring with a large red stop sign standing above nearly 100 small luminaries set out to remember those we have loved.

But then I looked again. STOP.


Stop and remember all those whose lives have touched our own lives.

Remember those who have loved us, taught us, and challenged us.

Stop and remember that life and death and grief are part of the mystery that is God.

Remember that even as we weep in times of loss, that we are not alone. Each candle represents a different family who has loved and lost and continues to love.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.

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Slow Me Down

I pulled into the Quarry Hill Preserve and walked up the hill to blueberry fields.

My expectations were low. At first glance there were no signs of berries until I really looked. I stopped and look carefully.

There were plump berries everywhere.

After awhile, I filled the bottom of my quart container. And then it was half full. It takes time to fill a container even when there are plenty of berries. I had to slow down, enjoy the quiet and feel the breeze. I confess that I became impatient which was silly.

It was abundantly clear that there were far more berries than I would ever pick.

Lesson from God:
Look closely for there may be more wonder, more abundance, more love, and more generosity than we can imagine.

Could it be that our job is simply to slow down, look carefully, and take the time to pick one berry at a time?

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On Purchasing a New Mask

I just purchased a new red elephant print mask. The Everyday Mask 2.0 (Around Ear) – Proper Cloth It fits well and I love the print design which makes me smile.

Does a new mask make me look like a crazy worry wart? Why am I buying a new mask when all around me people are discarding them? Why am the only masked person in a store–particularly when we know that only 67% of the state is vaccinated?

COVID is not done with us. Maine just moved to “High Risk.”
Maine (ME) – COVID Vaccine & Risk Tracker – Covid Act Now

While the risk of serious illness to those of us who are vaccinated has decreased significantly, cases are rising. The unvaccinated and frailest in our midst are the most vulnerable.

You’ll see my smiling face in small groups where I want to be heard. I’ll be the one opening the window or urging people outside.

Wave when you see me in my red elephant print mask. It is a sign of my love for you and all in our community. We’re in this pandemic together.

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Christmas is Here

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,

stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Dr. Seuss

Christmas 2020

Christmas is here.

Christmas comes without large family gatherings, without gatherings in sanctuaries, without presents.

Christmas comes in times of sickness or health, in times of social distancing and masks.

Christmas comes in times of plenty and want.

Christmas comes with Skype and Zoom and facetime and cards.

With love and prayer, and family and friends.

Christ is born in our hearts.

We are the manger.

We carry the light. Amen.

You are invited to join the Broad Bay Church online at 7:30 on Christmas Eve for our first ever virtual Christmas Pageant. FMI: Broadbayucc@gmail.com.

May you sense the light and love of Christ in the midst of whatever this season brings.

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St. Brigid: Healer

St Brigid: Healer

John 11:17-44

Healing. We all want it. Few of us understand healings power and complexity.

To heal from old wounds, we need to let go of old ways.  We know that medically.  After I suffered a concussion, the health care professional said, “you will not heal until you rest.”  No getting back to normal by staying in normal.

In the story of Lazarus, Jesus paused and wept. Jesus went to the tomb, the place of death.  Jesus didn’t just go poof and make it better. Instead, Jesus went to the place of death and suffering. It was from the place of death and sorrow that there was healing.

In these days of COVID, conventions, economic collapse, racial reckoning, and deep division, we are surrounded by death, heartache, hurt, grief and fear.

God knows we need healing.  Nerves are frayed. These are the times when we come face to face with so many truths. Perhaps these are times to turn inward and allow ourselves time to heal—to put own homes and relationships in order.

Healing work is transformational and is slow.  For most, the pandemic changes so many of the daily actions and assumptions. We are being formed and re-formed by a refiners fire.  We can resist the fire and focus on “back to normal” which is unlikely to happen any time soon.  Or we can go deeper and rest in God’s love.

Are there things we need to let go of in order to focus on what is most important?

Are there projects, that we no longer want to or need to complete?  Is it time to take them off the list? 

Are there projects that are really important to us?  Do we need to put them first?

Do our daily habits support what matters most? Do they support a sense of God’s presence in our lives.

Be gentle with yourself.  St Brigid healed with milk and holy friendship.  Be friends to one another, listening to where you see God in the eyes of another or in your own heart.

Jesus went to the place of pain and death.  And so must we—but gently.  What is it that is dying in us and what is being reborn?  What learnings are coming from this time of COVID? There are lessons to be learned. Individually and collectively, we’ve been challenged to re-think so many things.

Lives have changed. Some relationships have been strengthened.  Some have fallen away.

Always, God is calling us to places of healing and wholeness.  To let go of that which leaves us fragmented and hold on to that which helps us to sense wholeness.

We will always need to go to the places of death and sorrow.  And in those places, there is often light and joy when we take the time to focus on God and let the Holy Spirit in.

Look at your day.  Take time to grieve what is being lost and take time to rest and reflect. Take time to celebrate. Do the things in ways that sustain and heal your heart and soul.  This doesn’t need to be complicated.

It may be a sandwich eaten on the porch or by the water.  A pause to watch a child play, the birds chirp or the rain fall.  Enjoy the satisfaction of washing dishes, mowing the lawn, or writing a letter.  Find and do the things that feed your soul. 

Take time to say I’m sorry.  Take the time to laugh with another. Take the time to notice the humanity of a perceived enemy.

God wants healing for us. Amen.

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There is a time for silence: black lives matter

It is past time to listen to the voices of people of color. Art, music and poetry help us to tell and glimpse the truth.

Enjoy this video of art painted on damaged buildings in Columbus, Ohio coupled with a hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette and produced for worship at the Columbus Mennonite Church.

Words: Carolyn Winfrey Gillette (carolynshymns.com)
Music: Phil Hart (pahart.com)
Video footage and editing: Elisa Stone Leahy (noondayfilms.org) https://vimeo.com/428897516

For more info about the murals: https://radio.wosu.org/post/columbus-artists-paint-plywood-murals-amid-downtown-protests#stream/0

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