Keep Saying: a sermon on Jesus, the Sabbath, and what matters.

Now[Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Luke 13:10-17

My sermon from the 14th Sunday After Pentecost (August 21, 2016) on Luke 13:10-17.

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A Reflection on Jeremiah 32

Our First Reading is Jeremiah Jeremiah 32:1-2,6-15.

Jerusalem is under siege. The armies of Babylon have surrounded the city. The prophet Jeremiah is imprisoned by the King of Judah because Jeremiah keeps saying “Jerusalem is going to fall.” The king questions Jeremiah, and he responds with the story in our reading today. Jeremiah’s cousin needs to sell a piece of property. He comes to Jeremiah with an offer. Jeremiah, as a member of this extended family, has the opportunity to buy the land first. If he buys it, the land stays within the family. Jeremiah buys the property, and he goes into detail on how he legally makes the sale happen. The deeds are stored in a jar so that it will last a long time. In the middle of a war, with Babylon storming the gates, Jeremiah buys a piece of land. The Kingdom of Judah and all its laws about property rights are about to fall, yet Jeremiah buys a piece of land. Judah’s way of life is over and, yet, Jeremiah buys a piece of land. The future looks bleak but Jeremiah doesn’t let fear rule him. He knows the kingdom will fall but he trusts God’s promises more.

Jeremiah is not a beloved prophet. The kings of Judah do not like this man of God who says that the Kingdom is going to fall. But every promise of destruction is met by the promise of God’s future. Babylon might destroy God’s temple but they cannot destroy God’s promises to God’s people. The inhabitants will be sent into wile but God’s relationship with them will not end. God will go into Exile with the people. God will be with them, no matter what. And, as the wheels of time move and the world changes and grows, God will rework God’s people to bring them into a future where injustice, pain and tears are no more. And that’s why Jeremiah buys a piece of land. He’s doubling down on God’s promise even if he doesn’t see the promise fulfilled in his lifetime.

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 8/21/2016.

Division: a sermon on the Olympics, expectations, and Jesus.

[Jesus said:] “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

Luke 12:49-56

My sermon from the 13th Sunday After Pentecost (August 14, 2016) on Luke 12:49-56.

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A Reflection on Jeremiah

Our First Reading is Jeremiah 1:4-10.

There are very few “kind” passages from the book of Jeremiah which is full of the words attributed to that prophet. He was only a “boy” when God called him to be a prophet, around the year 626 BCE (BC). This was a very chaotic time for the kingdom of Judah. War was everywhere. Political powers such as Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon battled for supremacy, installing puppet kings in Judah and throughout the area. By the year 605, Babylon defeated Egypt and Assyria in battle. Babylon was left as the supreme military and political authority in the Near East. In 597 BC, the first exile of leaders from Jerusalem took place. That was followed by a much larger exile 10 years later after Jerusalem rebelled against Babylonian authority. Jeremiah died the following year.

In such a violent and vicious time, it would be surprising to find may words of comfort from God’s prophet. However, even in the first chapter, the ground for hope is laid. God comes to a little boy, appointing him as a prophet for Jerusalem and all the nations of the world. We tend to romanticize our view of children, viewing them as special, precious, and innocent. And they are. But in Jeremiah’s time, childhood wasn’t romanticized. Children had few legal rights, many died before the age of five, and they worked in the field as soon as they were able. Children were powerless and it’s a child that God calls to bring God’s word to kings. God promises to give Jeremiah the words he needs. Jeremiah will preach a word to all those in power and authority, showing them their shortcomings and bringing God’s call for justice. God’s word will pull injustice down and, in the same instant, plant the seeds for reconciliation, love, and hope.

By the end of Jeremiah’s life, his messages of doom were matched by his messages of hope. He would never live to see the restoration of Jerusalem but he would proclaim that God does not give up on God’s people. God will come to all of us, in many different ways, to form us into the people God wants us to be. God’s desire is for the end of fear, injustice, and hopelessness. That what’s God begins in us through our relationship with Jesus Christ. And what God begins in us, we are called to do in all that we say and 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 8/14/2016.

A Short Wedding Homily

I presided over a wedding on August 7 at a small restaurant. The marriage was a second marriage for each with the bride and groom having adult children. The reading I picked was Song of Songs 2:10-13:

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

So J. and S., I wanted to share a shot word on this special day. When you came earlier this week to talk to me about today, what stood how was just how grounded you two are as a couple. And I found that remarkable because, the more we talked, the more I realized you two don’t stay grounded very long. You’re always on the move, traveling, flying, visiting at 45 countries so far with several more already in your sight for the future. And one thing I love is that when you visit some place new, you both keep moving. You both love to experience new sights and places – and you experience those new things in a similar way. Where others might enjoy a leisurely lunch, savoring the cuisine and atmosphere of some small country cafe, you don’t sit. You keep going. You know your limitations and your strengths, your passions and what gives you life. You both have a strong sense of who you are – and that strength lets you visit and experience so many new things. My belief is that both of you discovered in each other a kindred spirit. It’s not something you planned. It’s not something you expected. But the journey of each of your lives made sure that you two would find each other. And we’re here to honor, celebrate, and pray for this next step of your journey together. We might not know which country you’ll explore next or which foreign capital you’ll send your next postcard from, but we do know that you are traveling with the best possible person for you.

Invocation and Benediction for an Eagle Court of Honor

I participated in an Eagle Scout Court of Honor on August 6, 2016. 2 young men were honored. After digging around the internet, I compiled the following prayers for the ceremony. I stole much of this but I forget where – though the Benediction comes mostly from the Unitarian Universalist church.

Invocation
God, we thank you for the opportunity to come together as family, friends, leaders and fellow scouts on this significant day in the life of <_____> and <_____>. Today is a celebration of a journey, a journey full of challenges, friendship, struggles, and, occasionally, a little fun. Today, we think of all the Merit Badges earned along the way, the oaths committed to, the character these young men developed, and the service to our community these two worked so hard to bring about. Little by little, month by month and year by year, they were faithful and we celebrate their faith, commitment, and hard work.

So we ask for your blessing on <_____> and <_____>, their families who supported and encouraged them, and their fellow scouts who helped them along the way. Bless the scout leaders, Troop #, and all those who are here physically or in Spirit. Continue to walk with <_____> and <_____> as they take these next steps in becoming the scouts and the people you desire them to be.

Amen.

Benediction
Dear God,

An Eagle Scout Court of Honor marks the end of one journey, and the commitment to another: a commitment to better Scouting where all may participate, a commitment to better citizenship, and a commitment to be an example of leadership to all.

Bless all of <_____> and <_____> future endeavors. Walk with them wherever their lives take them and give them your strength, your compassion, your wisdom, and your love.

And may all of us gathered here be committed to Scouting’s ideals which instruct us to lead better lives. May we, like <_____> and <_____>, always follow our own trails, discovering who we are by striving into the unknown;

May God be with us all, until we meet again.

Amen.

Heart: a sermon on Jesus, treasure, and gold medals.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Luke 12:32-40

My sermon from the 12th Sunday After Pentecost (August 7, 2016) on Luke 12:32-40.

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A Reflection on Isaiah 42

Our First Reading is Isaiah 42:1-9.

Our Year with the Bible has brought us to Isaiah, the longest of Scripture’s prophetic works. About 1/3 of the Bible is associated with prophets: men and women who speak God’s word to kings and queens. The prophets imagine the world as God would have it be and remind political leaders their responsibility to practice justice and peace. Many scholars believe that Isaiah contains the words of several different prophets, spanning the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC (BCE) through the Exile (587-583) and after. The first 39 chapters are centered around the collapse of the Northern kingdom and the threat to Jerusalem caused by the Assyrian empire. Chapters 40-55 are told by a people who is in Babylon, exiled from Jerusalem. The people watched Babylon destroy their city and God’s Temple. They are far from home and do not know if they’ll ever return home. They are stuck, weak and powerless, wondering where God is.

What’s striking about these words from Isaiah 42 is that they are delivered to a people who are in exile. The Israelites are oppressed yet they are called God’s servant. They cannot go home yet God calls them to bring forth justice. The people’s faith and culture have suffered a deep blow when Jerusalem fell yet God promises them God’s spirit. The people hearing these words for the first time would have identified themselves as the servant. As God’s chosen people, God is their king and they are God’s servant. These verses affirm their relationship to God even though they saw God’s Temple fall. Even in Babylon, God is with God’s people and God’s people have a job to do.

So what is that job? God is calling people to reorder “social life and social power so that the weak (widow and orphans) may live a life of dignity, security, and well-being.” (Walter Brueggemann, Isaiah 40-66, Westminister 1998, 42). The people of Israel are vulnerable. Babylon has power over them, breaking weak reeds and dimming candle wicks because that’s how power over others works. But God is taking God’s broken people and telling them to “reorder social relations for the sake of the vulnerable.” The community is no longer purposeless and isolated. They are called to be a servant for justice in the world.

As Christians, we see Jesus in Isaiah 42:1-4. When the disciples of John the Baptist asks Jesus who he is, Jesus points to the blind gaining sight, the sick being cured, and the prisoners being sent free (see Luke 4 where Jesus quotes Isaiah 61 but it is similar to Isaiah 42). Christ’s mission to reconcile the world through love, sacrifice, and mercy rather than brute force or war, is our call too. The servant isn’t reduced to one person or one identity. All of God’s people are called to be God’s servant even if they feel powerless, weak, and find themselves far from home.

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 8/07/2016.

Treasures: a sermon on Jesus, wealth, and being bigger than a universe of one.

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Luke 12:13-21

My sermon from the 11th Sunday After Pentecost (July 31, 2016) on Luke 12:13-21.

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