Saturday, April 1, 2023




The Gospel text of Jesus passion – which we will explore this week, in our Maundy Thursday and in our Good Friday services, is a moving narrative with all of the elements of powerful drama. After all, Jesus is the object of a sinister plot involving betrayal and murder. The woman who later anoints him at Bethany demonstrates the devotion of his disciples. Jesus transforms the traditional Passover meal into the sacred mystery of the Lord’s Supper. Christ is the only character in this drama who fully understands the plot and has already anticipated the ending.

It is a drama in which you might find yourself. The question is, which character are you?

I. There Are Those Who Deny Their Faith Because of Fear

Peter thought that he would never betray Jesus, but he discounted his own fear. His actions betrayed his true belief. Peter feared judgment by the Sanhedrin or the Romans more than judgment by God.

Fear is our greatest enemy. It keeps us from sharing fully of what we have. We are afraid that we will not have enough if we give some away. Or we are afraid that someone, some “friend” or acquaintance, will turn away.

Fear robs us of the power God brings to our life. When we live by faith, we can do all things through Christ. When we live in fear, our timidity robs us and others of the blessing of faithful living.


II. There Are Those Who Will Only Accept God on Their Terms

Fear is involved here, as well. Fear of change. Fear of God acting in new and different ways. Fear of things not being the way they have always been. Fear of life not being predictable. Fear of being challenged to grow and mature. Fear of being moved outside our comfort zone.

Judas had other expectations of Jesus. Judas’ frustration and disappointment led him to betray the one for whom he had been waiting. Judas wanted the messiah to come on his (Judas’) own terms.

Most of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and those of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Council) looked for a messiah who believed as they did. They expected God to meet their criteria. God’s kingdom needed to fit their mold of what was law. Though convinced that they were right, they would prudently wait until after the festival to make their move. After all, they did not want a riot on their hands (JC Superstar). (“Tell the rabble to be quiet we anticipate a riot, this common crowd, is much too loud…”)


III. There Are Those Unwilling to Accept the Radical Nature of the Kingdom of God

Here’s the thing - Christianity can never be faith on our own terms. It is not about building the church as we like it, but it is about building the kingdom as God desires. When we insist on being in control, we are unable to give God the control.

Some people saw Jesus as someone to save them from tyranny and oppression. For them he was a miracle worker and a mystical prophet. He awed them, and they shouted, “Hosanna!”

Some people saw Jesus as a threat to established religion, a manipulator of men and women, and a purveyor of trickery. They shouted, “Crucify him!”

Today, some people see Jesus the way they see the church: with skepticism. Some folks wonder if Jesus can really do anything to save them from injustice, poverty, or a lifestyle of unhappiness.

Some people see Jesus as a good-luck charm. Christ is a “Saint Christopher medal,” which not only protects, but saves us from sin.

Some people see Jesus as a demanding Lord whose expectations are great and whose love we must earn. The notion of grace is foreign to these folks.

Some people see Jesus as the Son of God, a friend and companion, a Savior, Redeemer and Lord who is worthy of a lifetime of commitment.

The question is: Which one are you?

Saturday, February 11, 2023

For Jami


Mourning a friend.

Today it is time to share sadness, and in doing so, perhaps support one another. Yesterday morning I learned that my friend Jami Beck passed away unexpectedly on Thursday. Amazing, full of life, exuberant, delightful, Jami. I did not immediately share a personal Facebook post because I wanted to make sure that it was ok to share on Social Media. 

As I communicated with some friends about this devastating loss, I shared with and for them a few prayers and thoughts which come from my "Pastor Sylvia Mann" calling. This past year, I have had the honor and heart wrenching occasion to comfort a number of families in the loss of their loved ones, and officiate for their services. I am sharing some of those here today.

Here is one of the prayers:

Eternal God, who sends consolation to all sorrowing hearts, we turn to You for solace in this, our trying hour. Though bowed in grief as our loved one departs from our midst to enter into peace of life eternal, we reaffirm our faith in Your compassion and Your ever-present love. 

May we bear our sorrow with trustful hearts, and knowing You are near, may we not despair. Into Your hands we commend the spirit of our beloved. Body and soul are Yours, O God, and in Your presence we cast off fear and are at peace. "There is no death, what we call death. Is but surcease from strife; They do not die who we call dead, They go from life ... to Life." Amen


Whenever I guide people through a memorial service, there is a segment called a "Homily". It is a brief message for those gathered together. And so, here is a 


 We are gathered together in the protective shelter of God’s healing love. We are free to grieve, to celebrate, to laugh and to cry. We can face our emptiness, and feel the fullness of the love of God. We gather to honor and to commend to God with thanksgiving the life of Jami as we celebrate the good news of Christ’s resurrection. For whether we live or die, we belong to Christ.

We are here to hold each other in comfort, compassion, condolence, and even in joy. Joy at having known her, and joy in being a part of each other’s lives.

Jami Nichole Beck, daughter of Kim and Janine (DeMers) Beck was born August 11, 1981, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota was a gift of love. Left to cherish her memory are her parents, Kim and Janine Beck of Sioux Falls; horses Tigger and Franny; and a host of additional family and friends.  She was preceded in death by her grandparents, Orville and Kaye Beck and Lawrence and Louise DeMers; and cousins, Justin DeMers and Kari DeMers.

As many of you know, I was privileged to be able to sometimes enjoy making music with Jami. She was a blessing to all of us.

I missed her when she traveled back to South Dakota, and, Sometimes when I thought that maybe we had lost touch, we were  brought together again. Jami enriched our community, and brightened all of our lives with her smile.

Jami’s life MATTERED, and it still matters. She touched so many, many people; and simply be being here she brought more love into the world. One life - so many ripples …we are all connected.

Let us pray together:

Holy God, whose ways and whose thoughts are not our thoughts, grant that your Holy Spirit may intercede for us with sighs too deep for words. Heal our wounded hearts. Through the veil of our tears and the silence of our emptiness, assure us again that ear has not heard, nor eye seen, nor human imagination envisioned what you have prepared for those who love you; Remind us that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen

Now – take a breath -

We are here for many different reasons - because we’ve lost someone special and want to celebrate and honor his memory…  So we all have something in common. We all love deeply, and hurt deeply because Jami is no longer here with us in the way to which we’d grown accustomed.

There is a reading I would like to share with you. A reading about that time when we move away from this plane, this existence. It’s from Job 19: 25-27

o   I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last will stand upon the earth; and after my body has wasted away, then without my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.

We’re also all here because we believe that life is more than this flimsy skin and bones. More than our imperfect earthly bodies. We’re all here because we believe that love extends beyond this physical being. We want to reconstruct, to re-member those who are no longer with us in their bodies.

As we are present with each other, we can find the inner strength that comes when we share something deep and meaningful and tender with others who are going through similar pain. One of the things we learn through this time, is the truth of the interconnectedness, the inter-relationship of all life.

In case you didn’t already know it, the emotions that come when somebody you love dies are not always recognizable as grief. Sometimes you feel disbelief. You may find yourself still looking for your loved one …and sometimes even “see” them in a crowd, or hear that wonderful voice. Sometimes you feel irritated or depressed or guilty. Sometimes, you feel numb, or even like you might be going crazy. Sometimes you may even feel hatred, betrayal, or a sense of abandonment.

Grief is like a tidal wave that picks you up and tosses you around and bumps you into unidentifiable surfaces, and then casts you out onto an unfamiliar beach, devastated. And just when you think you might be recovering, the wave sweeps over you again.

Sometimes you think that no one in the whole world, the whole, entire world, could ever have felt this kind of agony. And yet we’re all here, we’re all together, because we have all loved and lost and we are all suffering from it. We are connected in life and breath, to the entire universe.

And that - that means we’re not alone.

 So whatever you’re feeling right now, just notice it and allow it to be.

You’ve been through a lot. Love is all around us, in the disguise of all these feelings. All of these feelings you’re having since your loved one died are because you LOVE so deeply.

Today, let us recognize that we don’t hurt alone. We can allow ourselves time to share memories and tears with others who also know love and how it hurts. And we can cling to the assurance that as we re-member our Cillian by stating again how he lived and changed our lives JUST BY BEING, death will not have the final word.

As I close these remarks, let us pray once again…

We thank you, God, Great Creator, for your loving trust in us. In creation, you first clothed us in dignity; called us not things, but you beloved children, and said that we were very good. And you love us and promise never, never, never to leave us or disown us.


Today, in all of our frailty, sadness, and groping in this seeming darkness; in doubt, in love, in feeble hope, we stand in your presence—not lifted from what is human, but as we truly are: the work of your loving hands. We stand God-touched and frail, yet possessing the dignity that your acceptance of us and presence with us gives to us.


Give courage and faith to us in our sadness, that we may have strength to meet the days ahead in the comfort of a reasonable and holy and joyful hope of eternal reunion with those we love.


Help us, we pray, in the midst of the sting of brokenness and death, to believe and trust in your loving presence and forgiveness, in the goodness of true fellowship of others who believe, and in new life that springs from death.


We pray these things in adoration, gratitude, and awe.  Amen.


Here is a link to Jami's online obituary: 

My prayers are with all of you. May Jami's memory be a blessing. 

Pastor Sylvia Lee Mann

Sunday, December 25, 2022

 Blessed Morn - Christmas Day 2022


I do want to share with you a few thoughts for today -
This is a day of warmth, togetherness, giving, loving.

But let us also remember that this is not really just our day or just the family’s day. This is about Jesus. First and foremost, this is the day when the distance between heaven and earth was removed and God set up camp among us; God moved into the neighborhood or “tented among us,” which is what the Gospel of John says (John 1:14 – lived among us literally is tented in our midst). It is about the closeness of the living presence of God, incarnate in the one we call Jesus.

So, this is a day of praise. If part two of our two-day celebration, then now is when the trumpets blow and the shouts go up. This is “Joy to the World” time; this is “Hark! The Herald Angels” time. It is hard to be too loud or too happy today. It is hard to be too exuberant or overly playful today. Let it out as you sing, as you pray, as you greet one another on this glorious Christmas morning.

Please, also keep in mind those who are struggling today—those who are grieving and feel the loss of a loved one most keenly today. Accept their sadness, even as you welcome them with joy today. And don’t expect to replace what they are missing, but remind them in tangible ways that they are not as alone as they feel today.

Let us bring forth the light of love and grace today, let it emerge from our souls. For we have it within us, to share.

Today's Gospel lectionary reading is from the Gospel of John, Chapter 1, verses 1 - 14.
I am sharing it with you here, and I am including thru vs. 18, to complete the segment:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.

Pastor Sylvia

Sunday, January 2, 2022

 Rev. Dr. Sylvia Lee Mann's sermon for January 2nd, 2022 (The 2nd Sunday after Christmas, Year C). "Gladness for Sorrow" (Focus Scripture Jeremiah 37: 7-14)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

I am a Christian but...

I am a Christian, but…

… I have a hard time saying that lately, because I know what you’re probably thinking about me the moment I do. Many of you watch the news and you see what’s happening in America, and you have an image in your mind of Christians which I fear you probably automatically lump me into by default.

I understand why. I know that the loudest voices often carry the greatest weight, and right now those voices speaking for my faith tradition are heavy on acrimony and painfully short on compassion. Those voices reek of bigotry and entitlement and manufactured martyrdom. They speak with cruelty and malice and malevolence—but they do not speak for me.

I absolutely don’t believe they speak for Jesus either. These voices are the false prophets and teachers we were warned about so long ago.

I need you to know that what you witnessed outside the courthouse in Kentucky several years ago now, and at that “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and everything that has recently paved a path of hate here in America, does not represent me or millions of people like me. I need you to know that Mike Huckabee and Kim Davis and Fox News, and Betsy DeVos and Mitch McConnell and Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson and those anonymous people espousing white power and killing trans people and yes, and Donald Trump do not speak for us or for the Christianity we have devoted our lives to. They do not reflect our hearts for all people, or many of the things we aspire to do and be in this world.

I really miss my Kid Christianity.

I was raised on the stories of Jesus. They were the sweet milk of my childhood. Long before I ever knew what a political party was, before I ever heard the words Conservative or Liberal; long before I knew what denominations or media bias or culture wars were, I had this Jesus:

He was the one who was born into barren smallness, amidst the smell of damp straw and animal dung.

The one who called people to leave security and home and livelihood behind, in order to model the truly blessed life together.

The one who lived in homeless humility, living off the generosity of those whose thankful hearts gave a home to his words.

The one who defied rules of decorum and purity and tradition in order to bring healing and comfort and hope.

The one who spoke of relentless forgiveness for wrongdoing, of praying earnestly for enemies, of lavishly loving the least, of radically showing mercy.

The one who fed thousands of strangers on a hillside, not because they were deserving or morally fit, but because they were hungry.

The one who preached about the Kingdom of God; a way of being rooted in selflessness and sacrifice; one in direct, defiant opposition to the greed and power and inequality of the day.

The one who spoke unflinchingly into injustice and corruption and religious hypocrisy, and into the hearts and the systems that created and nurtured them.

The one who regularly ate with the priests and the prostitutes, treating both with equal dignity.

The one who endured wrongful imprisonment, brutal violence, and excruciating execution to show the world what love looks like when it pours itself out completely for others.

This is the Jesus that first spoke to me and inspired me and gripped my spirit, and the one that still compels me today even as I struggle to find my place in the faith tradition of my childhood.

It is this Jesus that I cling desperately to when hope in my people and our religion is failing.

It is this Jesus I fear you’re no longer able to see in so much of the faith that bears his name.

Yet I am still fiercely burdened to show you this Jesus; to remind you that there are people just like me still out there, who believe that faith is never meant to broker power or position, to exclude or exploit.

I want you to know that there are people who believe that defending equality in all forms is a non-negotiable for someone who claims Christ.

I want you to know that there are still people who believe that the Bible is a tool to help us personally encounter God, not to publicly bulldoze those we disagree with or fear.

I want you to know that there people out there who believe that the sacred way is to take the lowest place and to give to those who have less and to rescue those held captive.

I also know that part of this is my fault; for being complacent and passive and silent; for being complicit in this gradual hijacking of Jesus by allowing it—but I won’t make that mistake any more.

I am going to be much louder with this love, until it shouts out the angry taunts and insults and war rhetoric of those who have commandeered Christianity and turned it into something far less beautiful, far less hope-giving, far less deserving of Jesus’ name.

This is my hope and prayer.

Yes, Dear World, I am a Christian.