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Author Archives: Melinda Gapen

Love ALL Your Neighbors

Our passage this morning is perhaps among the most infamous scriptures of all-time, for Christians and non-Christians alike know it. There are churches, schools, social organizations, charities, and hospitals named after The Good Samaritan.

And yet, this teaching of Jesus did not begin with him.
It is echoed throughout the Torah (teaching or law), the prophets of old, Jesus’ life and ministry, and within the letters of the Apostle Paul.

And yet, after all these centuries, we continue to talk the talk but we do not often walk the walk.

Within these past weeks, I have encountered numerous quotes on Facebook, in text messages, and otherwise that communicate this teaching well. But day by day, it seems that our world is becoming more and more divided. We live within a charged environment, where everything is used as a means to divide ourselves.

For example, a friend posted a song with one of its lines on Facebook, neither the line nor the song had political undertones. And yet, Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Discipleship: Rejection and Wrath

I know Jesus’ words last week were harsh and hard to hear or listen to, but I do need to do a short recap for the connection to our texts today. These scriptures demonstrate the difference between the intention of Christianity and what it has become.

Christianity is the only world religion where we can be identified as a ‘believer’ without necessarily being an ‘adherent’ or ‘practitioner’.

Christians are identified as such by our profession alone that Jesus is our Christ, Messiah, and Savior. Denominational Christians are identified by the additional teachings they profess. These do not require specific rituals, spiritual practices, or moral code by which a person lives their life as such with non-Christian adherents/practitioners.

But, this profession of Christian faith with or without denominational affiliation should not be enough. We are called deeper into discipleship and to be ‘practitioners’.

Our texts from these Sundays, teach us about discipleship, or walking in Jesus’ steps.

Last Sunday, we were reminded that God’s grace is a free gift we cannot earn or lose by our own efforts. Paul reminded us, however, to not become intoxicated on said grace and its freedom. Elijah and Jesus reminded us that the proper response to said grace is sacrificial and costly, calling us deeper into our baptismal agreement: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Quote

In the United States of America we associate July with our declaration of independence and the freedom it symbolizes from the British across the pond in 1776. We celebrate each year with family, friends, cook outs, and of course fireworks.

Although Martin Luther was a German monk in 16th century Germany, his teachings and example can guide our faithful freedom and witness in 21st century America.

Martin Luther, rooted in scripture similar to our recent Galatians texts, taught about the freedom of a Christian. Luther argued that we have been released from the chains of sin and the shackles of obligation under the law, in order to boldly live into and live out our baptismal promises.

Luther taught that since we are released from said chains and shackles by God’s pure grace, we are enabled and empowered to respond to said grace by:

  • proclaiming Christ in word and deed,
  • seeking justice,
  • acting with compassion and mercy,
  • loving and serving all people but especially the vulnerable and the ‘least of these’.

Luther taught that we have duel citizenship in the Two Kingdoms:
Civil Kingdom and Kingdom of God.

  • We are called to be involved in our civil, social world but not necessarily to conform to it.
  • We are called to be involved in the political process for the sake of the gospel.
  • We are called to hold governments and their leadership accountable.
  • We are called to usher in the Kingdom of God in the here and now, through boldly living into and living out our baptismal promises.
  • We are called to embody the mercy, compassion, grace, and presence of God to all people, but especially the most vulnerable and the ‘least of these’.

Luther, however, did not simply teach and preach these principles.
He embodied these in his life.

Luther served on the town council. He had a reputation of standing firm for the vulnerable.

  • The town council, with the influence of Luther, established the first joint government-church operated community chest to provide resources to the most vulnerable.
  • On another occasion, Luther feared a town council decision did not benefit the most vulnerable. He applied pressure for the council to reconsider and overturn the decision by resigning. Due to Luther’s popularity and influence, the council reversed their decision and Luther resumed his position.

During 1527, the plague swept through Wittenberg and Luther was questioned regarding who had the freedom to flee and who had the responsibility to remain caring for the ill. Luther argued that all Christians should accept the responsibility to care for the ill, but that government leaders, clergy, and those with medical knowledge had an obligation to care for the ill. Thus, Martin Luther and his wife, Katharina Von Bora, remained in Wittenberg providing medical and pastoral care to the ill in their home.

May we, freed from the chains of sin and the shackles of the law, boldly live into and live out our baptismal promises in the Two Kingdoms, for the sake of the gospel. Amen.

Christian Freedom in the Two Kingdoms

 

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But, Why the Pigs

Earlier this week, I had a text message conversation with my mama.

Me: I have your favorite Bible story this Sunday.
Mama: Yea?
Me: When Jesus casts the demons into the pigs and then they jump off the cliff.
Mama: No!!! Bad!!! Possessing and killing pigs is bad!!!

My mama can intimately relate to the pig farmers in our passage, who are displeased by the actions of Jesus resulting in the loss of their hogs and lively-hood. My mama was and is proud to have been an Indiana pig farmer, who also unfortunately lost the entire herd in one night when lightening struck the metal silo where the pigs were cuddled together.

So, my mama always asks: Why the pigs? What did they ever do to deserve it?

And so, I decided to explore ‘why the pigs’ more deeply this week and I learned there are multiple, significant levels of symbolism.

So, why did Jesus allow these demons to enter into living things instead of an one-way ticket back to the fires of hell? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2019 in Sermons

 

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The Holy Spirit (a sermon)

We hold to many mysteries within our Christian faith which we do not understand, cannot fully comprehend, and cannot fully explain or describe to another.

Next Sunday, we will explore a HUGE mystery of faith attempting to more fully understand the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as a whole. But, this morning we will focus on one piece of the Trinity, which is a piece we do not tend to focus upon.

One day in seminary, we were discussing the Holy Trinity and our Christian claim that it should be ‘balanced’, meaning that the three “persons” (due to a lack of appropriate term) should be balanced and equaled, thus no one “person” of the Trinity should be given more attention or precedent.

One classmate stated “well, you know those Pentecostals have an unbalanced Trinity”.

I responded, “I suppose you are arguing the idea that Pentecostals focus heavily on the Holy Spirit compared to God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ)”.

After he confirmed it, I continued “if we want to hold that criticism of the Pentecostals, we need to accept the same criticism of ourselves and the Lutheran tradition as practiced”.

It was an unpopular opinion. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2019 in Sermons

 

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What is Truth?

We often hear about Scripture as black-and-white and clear cut, but is it?

Jesus tells the disciples that he will send them (and us) the Holy Spirit to remind us of Jesus’ teachings of truth and arguably lead us on the right pathways.
But, what is truth?

Scripture might be black and red ink, depending on the Bible, printed on white paper, but that does not make it black-and-white.

We all come to Scripture with an understanding or particularly tinted lens, which colors Scripture in a particular light for better and for worse.

We can “justify” nearly any stance or ideology we desire, even if it is only a verse or two from the whole and often irresponsibly out-of-context.

For example, I had a Social Studies – English joint course in High School with an assignment to argue for or against a controversial topic. It was prepared in conversation with a classmate, who shared the topic but was your opposition. It was intended to build skills in logic, reason, and debate.

My controversial topic was capital punishment. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Diversity and Love

This morning we encounter two of my favorite passages paired together.

In fact, it was this pairing three years ago that the message continued to burn within me after the service and I recorded a Facebook video, which led to recording sermon summaries and now full sermons.

These complement the previous two weeks and simplifies an over-arching theme in Scripture, but I will attempt to avoid this becoming a long-winded rant.

This weekend I have been at A World A’Fair in Dayton, which is an annual festival of histories, dance, items, and foods from 30+ different nations. It was a rich sampling of the beautiful, unique, and diverse experiment that is the United States. Yet, this richness in races, ethnicities, and cultures have an unfortunate and continued history of tension and conflict due to said diversity.

This is not unlike the experiment that is Christianity. Christianity is practiced in virtually every nation, by individuals of every race, ethnicity, nationality, and culture as well as every socio-economic status, gender identity, sexuality, political affiliation, etc.

Christianity is beautiful, unique, and diverse with billions of Christian practitioners, in millions of congregations, and in thousands of differing denominations. Christianity had, has, and unfortunately will continue to experience tensions and conflicts due to said diversity.

Yet, Christianity was almost not so rich. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2019 in Sermons

 

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