A Crowd: a sermon on Trinity Sunday, Jesus, and what a faith journey can look like.

‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

John 16:12-15.

My sermon from Trinity Sunday (May 22, 2016) on John 16:12-15. At the 9 am worship, we baptized an adult (my first adult baptism!)

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A Reflection on Cyrus: a messiah

The First Reading for May 22, 2016 is Ezra 1:1-10.

In the language of the Old Testament, the hebrew word for messiah means “anointed.” This is a word we’ve heard and seen before. When oil is poured over a king in Ancient Israel, they become “the anointed one.” When the altar and special holy vessels used in the Temple are consecrated, they are “anointed.” Even non-Israelites can be described as a messiah (an anointed one). The only reference to a non-Israelite being named as a messiah or “anointed,” is in Isaiah 45:1. God speaks to God’s anointed one: Cyrus. And why does God do this? To bring the people of Israel out of exile and back to Jerusalem.

Our first reading today is Cyrus’ decree to his people to send the exiles from Jerusalem back home. After Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586, the Persians destroyed Babylon. Cyrus spent his time undoing what the Babylonians did. He allowed different religious and ethnic groups to return to their homelands and worship as they chose, as long as they didn’t rebel against their Persian overlords. But in regards to the Israelites, Cyrus does not act out on his own. God stirs up Cyrus, telling him to send the Israelites home to rebuild the city and the temple. Through God’s dynamic word and Spirit, the Israelites are sent home by a Persian king.

As the church, we are also filled with anointed ones. In our baptism, not only are we united with God’s promise through the water, we’re also anointed with oil. Through oil and prayer, the cross is marked on our forever. We are given the mark of Christ, carrying Christ with us forever. Martin Luther famously said that the Christian life is being a Christ for our neighbors. Through God’s Word and Spirit, we’re stirred to make a difference in the world. Like Cyrus, many of us are not Jewish. But, like him, God’s spirit is still stirring in us to love and care for our neighbors.

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 5/22/2016.

More than Two Weeks

Chula, late September 2015

It was the day after Columbus Day when I noticed that our home didn’t seem right. As I was getting my kids ready for school, I wandered the house opening closet doors and checking under beds. I checked all the usual spots but I still couldn’t find her. Chula, our cat, is missing.

We believe she snuck out the night before, when we returned home from an evening out. In the transition from inside to outside, the door was left open and she snuck out. She’s only done this once before and it wasn’t for very long. But this time was different. She didn’t come back. We made flyers, put out food, and walked the neighborhood calling her name. We’ve visited the local animal shelters and alerted all the vets and cat rescues in the area. We even turned my iPod touch into a security camera to keep watch during the night. So far, there’s been one probable sighting by our mailmen and we heard cats (possibly) fighting on our front stoop. But that’s it. The food is being eaten by local cats and raccoons. The weather is turning cold and wet. We’ve run out of options and are just waiting to see if she’ll come back.

It’s maddening. Every time I walk by the front door, I look out to see if she’s there. If I can sneak home in between pastoral visits, I stop by to see if she’s sunning on the back porch. I keep hoping for a glimpse.

While this goes on, of course, life goes on as well. There are still kids to get to school, Halloween costumes to order, sermons to preach, and worship services to craft. Life doesn’t stop but it feels different since Chula isn’t there like she use to be. We’ve gone from two lovable pets to zero in a very short time. Let’s see if, by just writing this and putting it out in the atmosphere, maybe she’ll come back from her adventure tonight.

Goodbye Summer

Today is Labor Day. Summer is suppose to be over. However, I will live in denial about that reality for a little bit and spend some time posting pictures from my recent trip to Ocean City, NJ. Beach, I will miss thee.

K and G, ocean buds.
K and G. August 26, 2015. 8th street beach.

Miss ya Twinkie

Two weeks ago, as we were getting ready to take our annual vacation to Ocean City, we had to put our beloved Twinkie down. For two nights, she was coughing and hacking. By the evening of the second day, she stopped picking up the food that our almost-one year old tossed on the floor. We took her to the emergency vet early in the morning, leaving her in a oxygen cage, waiting to hear what our options were. The morning turned into lunch. Lunch turned into the afternoon. Then, finally, the vet informed us that Twinkie was suffering from heart failure. She might, with an extensive drug cocktail, live for a handful of pain-filled months. We decided it was time to say goodbye and we put her down. Twinkie, our amazing Chihuahua, was almost 12 years old.

Someone's scared during this thunderstorm. #chihuahua #dog

A photo posted by Marc A. Stutzel (@stynxno) on

Will walk dogs.

A photo posted by Marc A. Stutzel (@stynxno) on

I first met Twinkie when K and I went on our first date. K invited me over for dinner at her place before we went out. So after taking two trains and wandering through a part of Queens I didn’t know, I found myself playing with this little dog while K finished cooking potatoes au gratin. I’m a cat person. I never spent time with dogs. But this little tan furball kept bringing me a purple toy to toss across the apartment. So I kept throwing it and she kept bringing it back. I don’t know why she wanted to keep playing with me but she did. And that’s how it was for these last 9 years. The house is now quiet without her barking at random things, the clip-clip-clip of her feet on the hardwood floor, and George misses grabbing at her and she never snapped back. She was a good, feisty, and lovable gal. Take care Twinkie. We’ll see you on the other side.

#RethinkingConfirmation

Last week, Luther Seminary hosted an event where 300+ leaders gathered to Rethink Confirmation. I wasn’t there but others were. Below is just a collection of tweets from participants. Hopefully these thoughts will help me to rethink confirmation too.