P. O. BOX 222811


(831) 624-8595










Rev. Paul Wrightman, Pastor


Independent and United Church of Christ





April 25, 2021


Dear Friends,


The most exciting event coming up in the near future is the Rose Garden Tea hosted by our Women’s Association. ​​ This year’s event will be totally outside – rose garden and breezeway – from 2-4 on Saturday, May 8th. ​​ I consider this the official start of our gradual reopening process.


Our facilities should be ready for the return of our renters during the month of May.


We will return to in-person church in our own sanctuary on Sunday, June 20th​​ at 10:00!


Stay tuned for the May/June edition​​ Beyond Sunday!


Stay Safe, Take Care,​​ 

And Always Remember that Jesus IS Emmanuel – God WITH Us,

Pastor Paul




INTRODUCTORY READING:  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ St. Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274

Sometimes we think what we are saying about God

is true when in fact

it is not.


I have come to learn that the truth

never harms or frightens.


I have come to learn that God’s compassion and light

can never be limited;

thus any​​ God who could condemn

is not a god at all


but some disturbing image in the​​ 

mind of a​​ 



we best ignore, until we

can cure the



SUGGESTED MUSIC:  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ His eye is on the sparrow by Selah

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ Islington Baptist Church  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ You Tube


OPENING PRAYER:  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ David Adam, Contemporary


I weave a silence on to my lips

I weave a silence into my mind

I weave a silence within my heart


I close my ears to distractions

I close my eyes to attractions

I close my heart to temptations


Calm me, O Lord, as you stilled the storm

Still me, O Lord, keep me from harm

Let all the tumult within me cease

Enfold me Lord in your peace.






Our Father,

who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done on earth

as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those

who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory,

for ever and ever.



SCRIPTURE READING: ​​ Matthew 9:10-13


And as he reclined at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were reclining with him and his disciples. ​​ When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ ​​ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. ​​ Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”



Rev. Paul Wrightman


(The underlining indicates what I would emphasize if delivered orally.)


Many Scripture scholars consider the four Gospels to be merely the “tip of the​​ iceberg,” of Jesus’ public ministry.​​ There​​ is also a consensus that Jesus – given the fact that he taught almost every day during his two-and-a-half year ministry – probably​​ repeated​​ himself quite a bit. ​​ We have an example of this in today’s Scripture reading, where Jesus repeats the words, “I desire​​ mercy, not​​ sacrifice,”​​ further on in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 12:7).


I consider this repetition especially important because it gives us direct insight into what​​ Jesus​​ himself​​ envisioned as crucial in his teaching.


And since this authoritative statement “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” is a quotation from the prophet Hosea (6:6), who is presumed to be speaking for God, this same decree, coming from the mouth of Jesus, demonstrates his radical​​ continuity​​ with the prophetic tradition.


Using the principle of interpreting the Bible which I have dubbed “biblical topography,” in which texts perceived to be closer to God’s heart are assigned​​ higher​​ “elevations” than those seen as stop-gap measures,​​ such as “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (Exodus 21:24), Hosea’s proclaiming for God “I desire​​ mercy, not​​ sacrifice,” is one of the very​​ highest​​ “peaks” in the Hebrew Scriptures.


And the fact that Jesus, likewise speaking for God, quotes this passage from Hosea, not just once but​​ twice, makes it one of the​​ highest​​ “peaks” in the Christian Scriptures as well.


We can be​​ sure​​ that this was one of the teachings​​ closest​​ to the​​ heart​​ of Jesus.


Let’s look at the context of this passage. ​​ Jesus is giving a dinner party, probably at the house of Peter and his wife in Capernaum, and to this party he has invited those at the very​​ bottom​​ of the social-status totem pole of his day. ​​ Indeed, it looks as if Jesus has gone​​ out​​ of​​ his​​ way​​ to invite persons to share a meal with him, whom most of the rest of society would consider​​ beneath​​ contempt.


It was understood that to eat with such marginal​​ persons​​ was to bring upon oneself the same ritual impurity and uncleanness that they carried, and in the thinking of the day, transmitted. ​​ Jesus boldly​​ ignores​​ all this.


Jesus never holds a​​ person​​ in contempt, but he does hold in contempt these​​ religious​​ regulations, arbitrary rules that held some people to be​​ better​​ than others; arbitrary rules that held some people to be​​ closer​​ to​​ God​​ than others.


The list of so-called contemptible people in Jesus’ day, which included the very poor, the physically handicapped, the homeless, women who were forced to sell their bodies in order to stay alive, unethically rich tax collectors, and, I suspect, persons of same-sex sexual orientation who were indiscriminately included in the vast category of persons labelled “sinners,” is – surprisingly and shockingly –​​ not​​ that​​ different​​ from the list of persons judged by many to be “beneath contempt”​​ today.


I say “surprisingly and shockingly” because we are living some​​ twenty​​ centuries​​ after​​ Jesus taught us that​​ Gods​​ kingdom is​​ diverse​​ and​​ inclusive, excluding no one.

Sad to say, the Christian church has in many ways simply taken over the role of the scribes and Pharisees in the time of Jesus. Judging and excluding pretty much the same persons that they did.


Jesus’ response to the criticism of the Pharisees in verse twelve: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick,” is heavy with​​ irony, if not downright​​ sarcasm. ​​ We know this from the parable of the prodigal son, where it is obvious that the sinful younger brother is much closer to God’s kingdom than the self-righteous older brother.


For some Christians, it has seemed obvious that a text like “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” or, as Eugene Peterson beautifully puts it: “I’m after​​ mercy, not​​ religion,” is​​ all​​ that is​​ needed​​ to affirm women’ equality, restorative justice for the poor and homeless, and the validity of gay marriage. ​​ 


Sadly, the Christian church as a whole often lags far behind our secular legal system in affirming the rights of those on the margins. ​​ The Christian church as a whole has yet to “Go and​​ learn​​ what it means, I desire​​ mercy, not​​ sacrifice.” ​​ All​​ too often, the church has been in the​​ forefront​​ of those all-too-willing precisely​​ to​​ sacrifice those on the margins in the name of “religion.”


In this context, today’s introductory reading, from one of the greatest thinkers in the entire Christian tradition, St. Thomas Aquinas, takes on deep significance:


“Sometimes we​​ think​​ what we are saying about God is​​ true, when in fact it is​​ not…I have come to learn that the truth never​​ harms​​ or​​ frightens. ​​​​ I have come to learn that God’s​​ compassion​​ and​​ light​​ can never be​​ limited; thus any god who could​​ condemn​​ is​​ not​​ a God at all, but some disturbing image in the mind of a child we best​​ ignore, until we can cure the dark.”

.  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ .  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ .


As we have seen time and time again, the message of Jesus is social​​ and​​ personal, personal​​ and​​ social. ​​ Historically, Christian ministers and priests have erred in two major ways: emphasizing the personal while ignoring the social, and emphasizing the social while ignoring the personal. ​​ Having talked about the​​ social​​ implications of today’s text, let us now consider its​​ personal​​ implications.


The major personal application in our Scripture reading for today concerns learning how to be compassionate toward​​ oneself, in contrast to the judgmental and condemning attitudes that many of us carry around toward ourselves.


It can be said that at the very​​ heart​​ of the teachings of Jesus, and in this case, at the very​​ heart​​ of the teachings of the​​ Buddha, lies the virtue of​​ compassion-in-action.


To illustrate what compassion-in-action might look like when applied personally to ourselves, I would like to share with you a story I’ve used before by Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist monk.


Brahm writes: ​​ “After we purchased the land four our monastery in 1983 we were broke. ​​ We were in debt. ​​ There were no buildings​​ on the land, not even a shed. ​​ Those first few weeks we slept not on beds but on old doors we had bought cheaply from the salvage yard; we raised them on bricks at each corner to lift them off the ground. . .


“We were poor monks who needed buildings. ​​ We couldn’t afford to employ a builder – the materials were expensive enough. ​​ So I had to learn how to build: how to prepare the foundations, lay concrete and bricks, erect the roof, put in the plumbing – the whole lot. ​​ 


“I had been a theoretical physicist in lay life, not used to working with my hands. ​​ After a few years, I became quite skilled at building, even calling my crew the BBC (‘Buddhist Building Company’). ​​ But when I started it was very difficult.


“It may look east to lay a brick: a dollop of mortar underneath, a little tap here, a little tap there. ​​ But when I began laying bricks, I’d tap one corner down to make it level and another corner would go up. ​​ So I’d tap that corner down. ​​ Then the brick would move out of line. ​​ After I’d nudged it back into line, the first corner would be too high again. ​​ Hey, you try it!


“Being a monk, I had patience and as much time as I needed. ​​ I made sure that every single brick was​​ perfect, no matter how long it took. ​​ Eventually, I completed my first brick wall and stood back to admire it.


“It was only then that I noticed –​​ oh no!​​ – I’d missed two bricks. ​​ All the other bricks were nicely in line, but these two were inclined at an angle. ​​ They looked​​ terrible. ​​ They spoiled the whole wall. ​​ They ruined it.


“By then, the cement mortar was too hard for the bricks to be taken out, so I asked the abbot if I could knock the wall down and start over again – or even better, perhaps blow it up. ​​ I’d made a mess of it and I was very embarrassed. ​​ The abbot said no, the wall had to stay.


“When I showed our first visitors around our fledgling monastery, I always tried to avoid taking them past my brick wall. ​​ I hated anyone seeing it. ​​ Then one day, some three or four months after I finished it, I was walking with a visitor and he saw the wall. ​​ ‘That’s a nice wall,’ he casually remarked. ​​ ‘Sir,” I said in surprise, ‘have you left your glasses in your car? ​​ Are you visually impaired? ​​ Can’t you see those​​ two bad bricks​​ which spoil the whole wall?’


“What he said next changed my whole view of that wall, of myself, and of many other aspects of life. ​​ He said, ‘Yes, I can see those two bad bricks. ​​ But I can see the 998 good bricks as well.’

“I was​​ stunned. ​​ For the first time in over three months, I could see other bricks in that wall apart from the two mistakes. ​​ Above, below, to the left and to the right of the bad bricks were good bricks, perfect bricks. ​​ Moreover, the perfect bricks were many, many more than the two bad bricks.


“Before, my eyes would focus exclusively on my two mistakes; I was blind to everything else. ​​ That was why I couldn’t bear looking at that wall, or having others see it. ​​ That was why I wanted to destroy it. ​​ 


“Now that I could see the good bricks, the wall didn’t look so bad after all. ​​ It was, as the visitor said, “A nice brick wall.’ ​​ It’s still there now, twenty years later, but I’ve forgotten exactly where those bad bricks are. ​​ I literally cannot see those mistakes any more.”


The personal application of this story is clear. ​​ I can hear Jesus say “With regard to​​ yourself, go and​​ learn​​ what this means: I want you to be​​ compassionate​​ toward yourself,​​ not​​ judgmental and condemning.”


I like the implications that Ajahn Brahm draws out of his own story: ​​ “How many of us become depressed or even contemplate suicide, because all we can see in ourselves are ‘two bad bricks.’ ​​ In truth, there are many, many more good bricks, perfect bricks – above, below, to the left and to the right of the faults – but at times we just can’t see them.


“Instead, every time we look our eyes focus exclusively on the mistakes. ​​ The mistakes are all we see, they’re all we think are there – and so we want to destroy them. . . We’ve all got out two bad bricks, but the perfect bricks in each one of us are much, much more than the mistakes.”


Brahm concludes with a little story about builders. ​​ He writes: ​​ “After one occasion, a builder came up to me and told me a professional secret. ​​ ‘We builders always make mistakes,’ he said. ​​ ‘But we tell our clients that it is ‘an original feature’ with no other house in the neighborhood like it. ​​ And then we charge them a couple of thousand dollars extra!’” ​​ (Ajahn Brahm,​​ Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?)


We have seen how the teaching of Jesus and the Buddha on compassion-in-action not only includes compassion-towards-others, but compassion-towards-oneself.


Another way of saying this is that for Jesus original​​ goodness​​ is much​​ more​​ original than original​​ sin.






  • ​​ What are some things often done in the name of religion that contradict Jesus’ teaching on mercy?











  • What is one social issue/concern that you feel is calling out for “I want mercy, not religion?”












  • How does Ajahn Brahm’s extended illustration apply to you personally?












CLOSING PRAYER:  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ David Adam, Contemporary


You, Lord, are in this place,

Your presence fills it.

Your presence is peace.


You, Lord, are in my heart,

Your presence fills it.

Your presence is peace.


You, Lord, are in my life,

Your presence fills it.

Your presence is peace.




SUGGESTED MUSIC:  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ How Can I Keep From Singing – Audrey Assad  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ You Tube




Patiently and persistently, God loves.


Relentlessly and unconditionally, God loves.


Now and forever, God loves.



Independent and United Church of Christ