Skip to content


Mark Scott’s Sermon

Mark’s Sermon

by Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch

Phil. 4: 4-9
John 15: 1-13

Mark’s sister Sue says that when Mark was about 11, he decided he wanted a desk for his room. He cut a deal with a local furniture store to buy himself a very nice desk for which he’d pay a dollar a week. So far as I know it’s paid off. Anyway, his mom wanted to check his desk drawers to find out what was in them, I suppose for the usual reasons moms do such things; and discovered to her chagrin that even though there was no lock on the drawer, she could not open it! And though she demanded an explanation, or a key, Mark never let her open it. It turned out that Mark had taken a drill, drilled holes on both sides of the drawer from underneath, and stuck nails in either side so it couldn’t be opened.Read More »Mark Scott’s Sermon

Law and Transcendence

Law and Possibility
by Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch
Exodus 20:1-4; 7-9; 12-20
October 5,2014

“We are not alone.” You may recall that was the tag line for the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in the late ‘70s. Richard Dreyfus plays a man who has had a “close encounter” with a flying saucer and he begins to act crazy, building mountains out of mashed potatoes and so forth. It turns out that the mountain he is imagining is the meeting place—the point where aliens at last reveal their presence to the Human Race. It is ultimately a benign encounter, but what the movie gets at so well is the confusion—the sense of being mad, of cracking up—that one would experience when first confronted with that terrifying reality—and the sense, most of all, that you will be forever changed, that the individual, and humanity itself, will transcend its limitations when we discover that “we are not alone.”

Read More »Law and Transcendence

Enough God?

What is the What?
By Rev. Fritz Ritsch
September 14, 2014
Exodus 16: 2-16

In Exodus, a couple of chapters before the chapter we’re reading today, Pharaoh watches his former slaves, the Hebrews, starting to leave Egypt, and cries: “what is this we have done, releasing Israel from our service?” (14:5). But on the other end of the spectrum are the Hebrews themselves, free at last from slavery, but wandering seemingly lost in the desert, and they demand of Moses, who freed them, “What have you done to us?” (14:2) “Why are you crying out to me?” responds God, frustrated. “What shall we eat?” the people complain, and Moses and Aaron, his co-leader, respond in disgust, “What are we that you should grumble against us?” Once the Israelites have escaped their Egyptian slave masters, they have a serious case of corporate Buyers’ Remorse: “Why did you bring us up from Egypt?” they cry. And Moses responds, “Why are you in a contest with me? And why do test God?” Then Moses turns to God in exasperation: “What am I to do with these people?” (Zornberg, Avivah Gottlieb. The Particulars of Rapture. New York: Shocken Books, 2001. P. 206.)Read More »Enough God?

Cry and Response

Moses Begins
by Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch
August 24, 2014
Exodus 1: 8-14; 22; 2: 1-10

“[Rabbi] Reshi gives credit to [the Egyptian Princess’] way of seeing; she ‘sees It, the Presence of God, with the child.’ Her way of seeing makes room for the ‘hidden sphere,’ the ‘complex ferment’ that is The Presence of God in the crying voice of a child.” Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Particulars of Rapture

If you noticed that the title of this sermon sounds a lot like “Batman Begins,” there’s a reason for that. Moses Moses is the first true hero of two faiths. Even Jesus based his ministry on Moses’ model. Moses begins it all. Before Moses, there was no Hebrew people. Before Moses, the Hebrews had no coherent identity. Sources from Egyptian times, sources far more ancient than the Bible, tell us that a group of disparate tribes arrived in Egypt about the time of the Great Famine. They may not have seen themselves as connected to one another at all. But the Egyptians referred to them as a collective, much as we tend to call all people from the south of the border Hispanic or Latinos, whether they are Mexican or Guatemalan or Colombian. The collective term the Egyptians used was Habiru. And it’s likely that is the source of the term Hebrew for the people who Moses saved.Read More »Cry and Response

“I Thirst”

The Last Words of Jesus: “I Thirst”

John 19:16-20

Last week, one of our scriptures was a story from the Exodus. The Hebrews, having escaped slavery in Egypt, were now wandering in the desert, feeling lost and confused and suspicious of their leader Moses. They were thirsty. They demanded that Moses gives them water. Moses cries out in frustration to God, and God tells him to strike his staff on a stone. When he does, water pours out. The people have enough to drink. But Moses calls the place massah and meribah, because the people questioned, “Is God among us, or not?”Read More »“I Thirst”

Let Us Go to the Other Side

November 11, 2012
St. Mark 4:35-41

Several years ago when I lived in Virginia, I paid a visit to an interesting little church, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Roanoke, VA. Fifth Avenue is a historically African American church, founded over a hundred years ago. When I visited, it was a small struggling church, and maybe it still is, but when I was there I was struck by a stained glass window in its sanctuary. It’s a picture of a beautiful, calm, river scene with, of all things, Civil War tents on one side and a wooded area on the other. I asked what it was and discovered to my surprise that this stained glass window depicted the Rappahannock River going through the Civil War battlefield of Chancellorsville, and that the window was dedicated to one of the Confederacy’s greatest generals, Stonewall Jackson.Read More »Let Us Go to the Other Side