All posts by Pastor Karl Hanf

Hear the Middle of the Story This Holy Week

Worship is about storytelling. Every week there is a theme and we unpack that theme with scripture, hymns, preaching, prayers and meaningful ritual that tie all of it together. Worship needs to be good storytelling to be effective. The best storytellers begin their story with something that grabs you and draws you in. Their endings are satisfying, but not too neat. But, the real secret to a great story is what is in the middle. The middle isn’t just a straight road between the beginning and the end. It is the heart of the story, the part that engages the listener, so they can see themselves in the story being told. Worship relies on the middle for us to get the most out of it. What is in the middle makes all of the difference in the world. Continue reading Hear the Middle of the Story This Holy Week

The Ten Suggestions?

I was driving on Friday and I saw a bumper sticker that said, It’s the Ten Commandments, not Ten Suggestions. It was on the back of a blue Mustang that I had been behind for over ten miles on US 23. We were both going 70 MPH, which is okay except of course it is 65 MPH on that stretch of US 23. This guy seemed pretty sure there was no wriggle room on the commandments, but common traffic laws, those obviously felt like suggestions to him. If we are honest, don’t we all treat commandments and laws as suggestions? Continue reading The Ten Suggestions?

The Promise of God

Who do we believe God is? All of us should have some sort of answer for this. And what we say sometimes needs to be more specific than God is love. Often this is more than enough. Especially since so many religious people believe their God is made of love, but for them that means their God loves people that look and think like them, and hates and wants violent vengeance over everyone else. Just to say I believe God is pure love, all of the time, is saying a lot. Continue reading The Promise of God

From the Pastor’s Desk

Four years ago in 2011, we spent time as a congregation dreaming together. In this year long process, we talked with a lot of  different groups in the church, had dinners with  leaders of the
congregation, and held forums in the church where we heard from people about what would be  new additions to existing ministries at Messiah that we would want if money were not the issue. Continue reading From the Pastor’s Desk

Loving strangers, outsiders and enemies

All of the thoughts and stories in tonight’s homily and even some of the sentences are taken from the second chapter of Philip Yancey’s book, Vanishing Grace. It is a book about how the one place that should be the great dispensers of grace, the church, is failing at the task. Glenn Harris is leading a study of the book at 6:30 Wednesdays, right before this worship service throughout Lent. My homilies will be taken from this book, too.
All of humanity longs for two things. First, a sense of meaning or purpose for our life. We want to believe our life matters. Second we long for a community where we belong, where we are accepted. We want to believe that our lives matter to someone else. Yet, even though these are exactly the longings Christian faith preaches they fill, the majority of people do not trust us to do this. Why not? It is not because our answers are not “right” or right sounding. It is because our presentation is not convincing. Church ends up turning more people away from God instead of to God. The perception is that outsiders are welcomed if they would make good potential new members. Those who do not fit into our preferred demographic or our sense of moral “goodness” are ignored or made to feel unwelcome. Continue reading Loving strangers, outsiders and enemies