Greeting: What Paul’s Corinth was Like

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

My sermon from 2nd Sunday after Epiphany (January 15, 2017) on 1 Corinthians 1:1-9.

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Come and See

The Gospel Reading is John 1:29-42.

On Sundays, the scripture lessons we hear are from a three year cycle we call the lectionary. The gospels according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke headline their own year in the cycle. However, like every good rock show, sometimes an opening band needs to sneak in and play a longer set when we least expect it. And that’s how the gospel according to John operates in the lectionary. John pops up on different Sundays, sometimes showing up for an entire season and sometimes showing up for only one day. This is the year we focus on Matthew but our reading today is from the very first chapter of John when Jesus tells two followers of John the Baptist to “Come and see.” 

The event that triggers today’s story is the proclamation the Baptist shares. Jesus walks by and the Baptist says, “that’s the guy.” Andrew and an unnamed follower of the Baptist take these words seriously. They follow Jesus, trying to see what he is up to. When Jesus notices he’s being followed, he turns and asks them a “what” question; asking them to name the thing or idea they are looking for. The two respond with a “where” question but the question is really a “who.” They want to know who Jesus is. And Jesus, reading between the lines, invites them both to come and see. 

“Come and see” is more than just an invitation to get to know Jesus because spending time with Jesus causes things to happen. After spending one day with Jesus, Andrew knows. I don’t think Andrew understands everything about Jesus and I don’t think he knows that Jesus’ journey will lead to the Cross. But after just one day, Andrew has to share Jesus. He finds his brother Simon (aka Peter) and invites him to “come and see” too. Jesus’ invitation is more than an invitation to meet Jesus. Jesus’ invitation is an invitation to share Jesus to the people we know and love. Jesus is not only our Messiah. He is a Messiah who calls us to share him with whoever we know because spending even a few moments with Jesus changes everything.

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 1/15/2017.

Waterworld: A sermon on Jesus, experiences, and Ambrose.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:13-17

My sermon from New Year’s Day (January 8, 2017) on Matthew 3:13-17.

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Images of God

The Gospel Reading is Matthew 3:13-17.

One of the strengths of Lutheran Christianity is our love of questions. Even Martin Luther’s Small Catechism is built around the question “what does this mean?” Lutheran Christianity, to me, has always embraced questions because questions help us explore the gifts of faith and grace that God gives us. Questions, in a way, are a gift from God too.

But questions are not always easy; some questions, especially when we ask them for the first time, are very hard. One of these kinds of questions is about our image of God. This isn’t a question focused on what God looks like (or what kind of cloud God sits on, how long is God’s beard is, what eye color does God have, etc). This is a question wondering who God is and how do we experience God. Do we focus on God’s power, control, and might? When we think of God, do we see God like a king of old, with ultimate authority? Or do we focus on God’s use of power through care and love? There are many different images of God and our images of God will change. Our images of God do not limit who God is. Instead our images of God let us relate to God so we can live our lives.

Today’s readings display different images of God. In Isaiah 42, God’s power and majesty is shown through the act of creating everything. This power is tempered because God calls God’s servants to not damage bruised reeds or snuff out burning wicks. The sermon in Acts 10 is about knowing God because we know Jesus. And Jesus’ ministry, life, death, and resurrection paint God in a very human and personal light.

The baptismal story in Matthew shows another image of of God. Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized (because why would God’s Son need to be connected to God?) but Jesus wants to be baptized. Jesus chooses to walk into the River Jordan and let John pour water over him. God lets humans do something to, and with, God. That’s an image where God is not just with us but desires to be impacted by us. That makes God, in Jesus, vulnerable just like we are.

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 1/08/2017.

A Reflection on 8 Days

The Gospel Reading is Luke 2:15-21.

When was the last time you used “eight days” to signify something new coming up? I can’t remember the last time I did that. When I talk about things happening in the future, I might say “next week” or “in one week.” I rarely say “in eight days.” But according to Luke and Leviticus, a baby boy who is Jewish is to be circumcised eight days after birth. So why the number eight?

In the Bible, the number seven represents the idea of wholeness. When God created the earth, it took God six days and God rested on the seventh. The entire creation event took seven days to complete; seven days to be whole. In Leviticus 12, a woman remains ritually unclean for seven days after giving birth. The idea of being ritually unclean is not an easy concept for Christians to understand. We sometimes say being unclean comes from the Israelites lack of medical knowledge and access to modern hygiene (like indoor plumbing). But ritual uncleanness was deeper than that. The Israelites had a sense that certain experiences changed us, making it difficult to approach the holy and perfect God. By following certain rituals, we are made clean, and our ability to approach God is reaffirmed. When a woman gave birth to a baby boy, she’s “unclean” for seven days. It takes time for her to be made whole again. And then, once she’s whole, her son is circumcised on the eighth day.

As Christians, ritual impurity when it comes to childbirth is something we do not teach. But there is something compelling about the symbol of the eighth day. The eighth day is the day after something is made whole and complete. The eighth day symbolizes something new; a new cycle; a new creation. At the end of a week, a new opportunity arises. As Christians, this is who Jesus is. Jesus is a new creation. And as followers of Christ, we are more than just individuals. We are part of Christ himself. We are living in his eighth day. So, in this time of something new, what is God calling us to do?

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 1/01/2017.

What’s in a name? A sermon on Jesus’ name day.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:15-21

My sermon from New Year’s Day (January 1, 2017) on Luke 2:15-21.

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Would God be Born: When does Christmas show up?

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Luke 2:1-20

My sermon from Christmas Eve (December 25, 2016) on Luke 2:1-20.

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Unregistered Hope: Slow tv and the Sacred Everyday

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Luke 2:1-20

My sermon from Christmas Eve (December 24, 2016) on Luke 2:1-20.

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