Author Archives: Melinda Gapen

Affirm Baptism

While in Arizona, an uncle was asking his siblings if they recall him being baptized. It was decided that he probably had not been baptized and his face seemed concerned. He is older with health concerns and married to a Catholic women.

As Christians, Baptism is significant in our faith journey.

I often note our appropriate response to Baptism through commitment to our shared baptismal, or Christian, vocation, which is to:

  • Proclaim Christ in word and deed;
  • Seek justice;
  • Act with compassion and mercy; and
  • Love and serve all people.

But, it is often at the expense of discussing the purpose of and the Triune God’s activity in our baptisms.

Baptism, at its most basic, is an initiation rite. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 21, 2020 in Sermons


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Proclaim the WORD in Deed

The Gospel according to John reminds me of the letters wrote by the apostle Paul. These texts have long, switch-back styled, confusing sentences of deep philosophical and theological language. Honestly, It is easy to get lost.

Our Scripture, the Prologue in John, is perhaps the most challenging.

There was the WORD.
The WORD was with God.
The WORD was God.
The WORD created all things.
All was created through the WORD.

Who else is confused? (Raising my own hand).

I am not ashamed to admit it. It is confusing.

Again, it is has though this journey through John is switchbacks on a mountain road causing us to lose track of north and south, east and west.

And yet, this idea of the WORD is important in the church.

We, as individuals, witness the power of words in our own lives. The words we speak to ourselves, others, and into our world influences all that hear it.

Words have power, and yet, 80% of communication is non-verbal.

Again, 80% of our communication has nothing to do with selecting the correct word. This 80% includes our tone, because there is a difference between:

  • “Melinda” (regular, conversational),
  • “Melinda” (excited), and
  • “Melinda” (angry, disppointed, or questioning conduct of).


Trust me, I have heard that often when I was a child and a couple times this last week while in Arizona.

The tone can speak more volume than the words themselves.

THEN, there is body language or the embodiment of our words.
I talk with my hands, which some people would prefer my hands remained at my side and it drives them crazy… but, it is just how I am.

It is claimed that if the person you are speaking with is listening, interested, and engaged, their body language will mirror your own. Thus, if you are curious if one is engaged, cross your arms and wait to see if they cross their arms.

Plus, we are able to discern the difference in body language from a friendly gesture or one intended to intimidate, assert power, or is aggressive.

The idea of our words, tone, and body language is involved in the Scriptural WORD.

The WORD, within the church, has three separate expressions.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 20, 2020 in Sermons



Ordinary Holy Night

Welcome to the holiest night of the year…

and yet at first glance, it might seem ordinary.

Once upon a time, the entire world was covered in darkness that allowed hopelessness, injustice, corruption, oppression, misery and hate to flourish within its shadows.

Until our story begins with a young, pregnant, engaged but not yet married woman named Mary traveling with Joseph to Bethlehem per government census. They were Israelites, whose land was occupied by the Romans.

As the Gospel according to Matthew wrote, Joseph had reasonably questioned Mary regarding her condition and claim to not engaging in the necessary activities with him or another man. Joseph came to believe Mary after an angel appeared in his dream assuring him to take Mary as his wife and shared God’s plan for redeeming all humankind and the entire creation. But, I imagine that doubters remained who whispered to one another about Mary, Joseph, and this baby. I also imagine God did not send an angel to each doubter.

Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, the couple is not able to find a room for the night and I would imagine with a little hesitation but with gratitude accepted the offer to stay in a stable.

In the fields that surrounded Bethlehem, shepherds were watching their flocks as was normal.

I imagine that the night sky was darker than dark polka-dotted with beautiful but distant stars offering little light for them and their sheep.

But on this ordinary night, God would use these ordinary people, place, and event for a holy drama. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 25, 2019 in Sermons


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Joseph’s Story

The Winter Solstice (Dec. 21) marked the shortest day and longest evening of the year.
Thus, the light is beginning to return with increasing days and shortening evenings.

Our Advent emphasis has also shifted in direction from the Second Coming of Jesus to his original arrival as the baby in the manger.

As we await the baby in the manger, we are aware that Jesus brings with him the light that is Hope, Peace, Joy, and LOVE which the darkness of hopelessness, conflict rooted in injustice, misery and suffering, and hate cannot overcome.

It is during the Winter Solstice, Yule, Kwanzaa, Hanukah, Christmas, and various religious and cultural celebrations encourage the entire world to join in a conspiracy of LOVE without the boundaries and confides that often separate us, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, culture, religious or non-religious affiliation, political affiliation, socio-economic status, sexuality, and etc..

And that LOVE is our emphasis this morning. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 23, 2019 in Sermons


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John the Baptizer

Our theme this morning is PEACE…
but peace is not what comes to mind when I hear our Gospel this morning or of John the Baptizer.

John is an interesting, but significant and complex, character in Scripture.

John, according to the Gospel of Luke, is Jesus’ cousin, but that is not his significance in Advent. John serves as a bridge between the Advent emphasis on Jesus’ Second Coming AND the Advent focus on Jesus as the baby in a manger. In fact, the middle two Sundays in Advent shine a spotlight on him.
(Due to the Children’s Program next Sunday, we will have one opportunity to explore John).

John the Baptizer was a PREACHER. 
His passionate, emotion-driven, fire and brimstone sermons attracted people into the wilderness from the surrounding towns. His message was simple: “Repent! Prepare the way for the Messiah who is to come”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 10, 2019 in Sermons


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Hope in the Second-Coming

Happy New Year!

You might think I am a little early, but this morning is the beginning of Advent and another church year.

Advent is a season of paradox, but our human experience and Lutheran theology is rooted in and filled with paradox. Advent, similar to our scriptures this morning, is a time of anticipation and waiting, but also awakening and preparing.

We are preparing for Christ to come and enter into our hearts, lives, and world. We are preparing for Christ to enter in as the baby born in the manger on Christmas morning AND the Second-Coming at the end of days.

We begin Advent with a focus on that Second-Coming.

Our text alludes to the unexpected hour, but most of our images are derived from the Revelation of John (aka Revelation). We know it is proceeded by continually increasing trials and tribulations, natural disasters, and evil human and non-human forces gaining power, authority, and control of the entire creation.

It is a time that I pray to never witness.

Yet, the Revelation of John is intended to be a book of hope. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 3, 2019 in Sermons


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Weary in a Broken World?

I have a confession… I struggle with our 2nd Thessalonians text.
I struggle particularly with the “those who do not work, should not eat”.

But, it is not rooted in a far too often misrepresentation of my generation, the millennials, lacking in work ethic.

It is also not rooted in a gracious acceptance of persons who abuse the charity and generosity of others.

It is, however, rooted in the reinforcement of a non-Christ- like sentiment and an American myth…. that we can simply pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

And I state this as one who experienced and witnessed my mother struggle, fight, and improve our financial standing. But it also taught me, if you are in a position to help another, you do it.

The reality is that vulnerable persons are not always vulnerable due to their lack of work ethic, poor choices, or because they are a sinner outside of God’s grace, mercy, compassion, and LOVE.

The reality is that vulnerable persons are often survivors who have (and continue) to be victimized by our broken, messy, and sinful world rich in the sins of oppression and injustice. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on November 18, 2019 in Sermons


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