Puzzle Piece: Preached at Camp Koinonia, Annual Congregation Retreat

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

My sermon from 4th Sunday after Epiphany (January 29, 2017) on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.


Perishing: Take Off the Jacket

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

My sermon from 3rd Sunday after Epiphany (January 22, 2017) on 1 Corinthians 1:10-18.


First Acts

The Gospel Reading is Matthew 5:1-12.

What was the first thing you did when you first publicly met Jesus? For me, I probably giggled, laughed, and spit up since I was a baby who was just baptized. In our baptism, we are washed with water united in God’s promises. We are sealed with the cross of Christ. In our baptism, we meet Christ in a very public way. So, as a baby, my first act after meeting Jesus wasn’t probably the most dignified action. But it was at least authentically me.

Today’s reading from Matthew is Jesus’ first detailed public act of ministry. Matthew tells us how Jesus traveled around Galilee, preaching, teaching, and healing others. Word soon spreads and crowds start to gather around Jesus. As the numbers grow, Jesus escapes up a mountain. His disciples follow. Jesus stops escaping and settles in with his disciples, offering his long Sermon on the Mount. Rev. Karoline Lewis writes in Working Preacher that Matthews takes Jesus’ teaching ministry and discipleship seriously. The first public act of Jesus’ ministry in each gospel helps to illustrate what part of Jesus each gospel writer felt inspired to share. For Matthew, a disciple follows Jesus by being “the consummate student, a learner.”

Discipleship is more than believing in Jesus. Discipleship involves learning. Jesus invites us to be life-long learners. This, at first glance, sounds like an obvious thing to say. But in practical terms, being a life-long learner with Jesus is hard to do. Most of us are over busy. Our schedules can barely fit all the things we need to do. It seems impossible to add one more thing to our days. How can Jesus ask us to add one more thing to our already overloaded to-do list?

But maybe we shouldn’t look at this learning as just one more thing to do. What Jesus is bringing is an opportunity. A relationship with Jesus is something we can never exhaust. We can never fully cross Jesus off our to-do list because Jesus never crosses us off of his. Through the gift of faith, we are connected to to the creator of the universe who is the source of everything. And that God has decided that you matter and you have value. To learn with Jesus is to learn how God sees us and how we can see the world like God does. And to see how God sees is to be just the kind of disciple this world needs.

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 1/29/2017.


The Gospel Reading is Matthew 4:12-23.

Did you notice something familiar but different about today’s gospel reading? We heard John’s version (John 1:29-42) of the same story last week. Today’s reading from Matthew describes Jesus calling his first disciples. Last week’s reading from John told the same story. There are, however, differences. In John’s version, Andrew is a disciple of John the Baptist. Andrew follows Jesus after John the Baptist declares Jesus to be “the One.” After spending time with Jesus, Andrew finds his brother Simon (aka Peter) and brings Simon to Jesus. Today’s reading from mentions the same brothers but tells a different story. Andrew and Simon are fishing when they both encounter Jesus. Jesus tells them to “follow me” and they do. The two brothers drop everything to follow Jesus. Both stories overlap but I’m wondering what to do with two different stories of the same event.

One thing we can try is mix these stories together. This is what we do with Jesus’ birth (i.e. the magi and shepherds are not in every gospel). We could say Matthew’s account is a “big-picture” approach while John’s account has more details. Andrew fishes for a living and is also a disciple of John the Baptist. In Jesus’ conversation with Andrew and the unnamed person, the words about being “fishers of people” comes up. Andrew finds Simon and brings him to Jesus. Both abandon their professions to follow Jesus full time.

The mixing approach can help add details to Jesus’ story but I’m not sure this approach works today. When we mix the stories together, we lose the details that make these call stories life giving. In John’s version, John the Baptist connects Jesus to his Jewish history. Without that connection, we could ignore the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) and focus only on the New. We could forget that Jesus lived in a specific time and in a specific place. The connection with John the Baptist requires us to tie Jesus’ story (and our story) with the story of Israel. God’s activity in history becomes part of our story and our history. Matthew, however, is less concerned with that connection because the Gospel according to Matthew spends a lot of time showing how Jewish Jesus is. From the birth story through the resurrection, Jesus and his family are connected to their Jewish identity. What matters to him is how Jesus’ calling interrupts the priorities we set in our lives. When Jesus tells us to “follow him,” we are his, forever.

When it comes to the Bible, conflicting stories are not problems that need to be mixed and fixed. Conflicting stories show how Jesus’ ministry impacted many different kinds of people in many different ways. Just like the early followers of Jesus reflected on how Jesus made a difference to them, we are invited to do the same. After all, the Holy Spirit gave us four books about Jesus because we need more than one story to see just how God loves the entire world.

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 1/22/2017.

From Pastor Marc – My Message for the Messenger, February 2017 Edition

February is when I start dreaming about other places. The clouds, the cold and the lack of sun make me long for warmer and brighter places. I close my eyes, and I’m sitting on a beach drinking a beverage out of a coconut. Even though the amount of daylight continues to grow each day, the early evenings drag on me. I want to escape to a place where the sun always shines and the clouds are far away.

This dream is probably one reason why I, along with countless others, enter the HGTV Dream House sweepstakes each and every morning. In 2016, HGTV was the 3rd most watched cable TV channel. People all over the country are watching people fix up their homes, decorate new ones and visit flea markets trying to turn a ping-pong table into an armchair. Two or three times a year, HGTV builds or renovates a home and offers it in a contest. All we need to do is enter our email address on a form twice a day. The homes are always well decorated and full of every kind of tech toy we could want. These homes seem to be free and they’re for us. We just need to be declared the winner among the millions and millions of entries cast.

These contests can limit the dreams we think are possible. We think the only dreams worth having are winning highly unlikely events and that this win is all we need to make our lives okay. But the story of Jesus Christ , when it comes to our relationship with God, is that we’ve already won. In our baptism, our name has been selected. We are the winner. We are part of God’s family. This family includes people with homes bigger than ours and homes that are smaller. This family is made up of mansions, apartment buildings, tin shacks and people with no homes at all. God did what we could not do and decided we were worth living and dying for. God wanted to be with you today, tomorrow and always.

So when it comes to Jesus, we’ve already won. So what kind of dreams can dream up with God today?

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.


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.


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.