Author Archives: Melinda Gapen

Sheep and Shepherds

Did you notice the common theme in ALL of our Scriptures? (Shepherd)

It is the Shepherd. This fourth Sunday in Easter is informally known as “Good Shepherd” Sunday, which always reminds me of the relationship between the sheep and the shepherd.

Although it sounds odds, it also always reminds me of our understanding and use of language. There is a reason.

My internship was served at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, which included working with the senior high youth. I created a Facebook page for our youth group featuring a picture I took in Ireland of sheep resting in a field. It was a beautiful and peaceful image, but the communications director was in my office 30 minutes later informing me that it needed to be changed because ‘we’re NOT sheep’.

In our time, place, and culture a person called a ‘sheep’ is often one that has seemingly turned off their logical minds, closed their eyes, and are being blindly led… perhaps led stray.

BUT, have you been around or worked with sheep?
Do sheep turn off their minds and do as they are told?
(They don’t do anything you tell them to do.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on May 12, 2019 in Sermons


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Responding (to Grace)

Our Scriptures this morning are interesting and significant with much that could be unpacked, but it all comes down to one central concept, rooted in grace.

A Martin Luther quote was shared on Facebook, which read:

If grace depends on our cooperation then it is no longer grace. 

It is true.
Grace, by definition, cannot be deserved, earned, or obtained by our merits/works.

Grace also cannot be kept, maintained, or even lost by our merits/works.

Grace is not grace if we have to “do” anything.
But, the question remains how do we respond to said grace?

That is the central concept and foundation of our Scriptures this morning.

Jesus, a rabbi (teacher), had been arrested, beaten, crucified, died, laid in a tomb, AND resurrected.

Although we do not know all of Jesus’ post-resurrection experiences, we do know Jesus visited the disciples but did not ever-linger at their side. This is a post-resurrection account.

Thus, the disciples have witnessed Jesus risen from the dead but do not know where Jesus is at the moment… so what do the disciples do?

Peter says, “I am gonna go fishin’. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Sermons


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The Phoenix: Raise into New Life

Jesus’ resurrection is a single moment in human history, but had and continues to have profound significance that cannot be contained in an annual one day celebration. Thus, Easter is a seven Sunday season, which emphasizes the post-resurrection accounts of Jesus and the emerging Christian community.

Yet, Jesus’ resurrection is the foundation upon which the church universal and our Christian claims are built. Thus, our Sunday worship is always a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, even during the season of Lent.

Furthermore, Jesus’ resurrection invites and calls us daily, as individuals and the church universal, to die to self and be resurrected into a future that is brighter than we can imagine.

Resurrection is not possible without death. It is the tale of the Phoenix. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 30, 2019 in Newsletter Articles


Curiosities, Questions, Doubts?

Earlier this week on Facebook, I saw a cartoon that was perfect for this morning.

It depicted three disciples standing together.
The middle disciple says “Am I ever going to live it down?”.

Another disciple says, “Thomas, are you still on it?”.

Thomas replies:
“I don’t get it. We do not call Peter ‘Denying Peter’ or Mark ‘Run Away Naked Mark’. 

There must be a reason that this ‘doubt’ remains central to Thomas’ character as we have and will continue to forever intertwine ‘doubt’ with ‘Thomas’.

There must also be a reason that this is one of a few scriptures read in church EVERY SINGLE YEAR and always the Sunday after the Resurrection (Easter).

I think this reason is that it speaks to our own journeys of faith as well as our own faith development and formation, but also our natural human character.

Please raise your hands:

  • if you were or continue to be the inquisitive one?
  • if you were or continue to always ask questions?
  • if you, perhaps, got into trouble for asking ‘too many’ questions?

Although I see a few hands, these are slightly lifted and hidden as though there is shame.
There is NO SHAME in being the ‘inquisitive one’.

We misunderstand ‘doubt’ as the opposite of ‘faith’, or even ‘belief’.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 29, 2019 in Sermons


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Victory: Notre Dame and Easter

He is Risen! (He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!)

THAT is our proclamation this morning, but it is also our proclamation every Sunday when we gather.  It is our constant reminder that Christ has been raised victoriously.

This Holy Week begun with the destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral in France and a picture of destruction laying before the altar and the golden cross behind it has been featured on news and social media.

This imagine has been shared as a ‘miracle’ and the question ‘how can one not believe in God after seeing this picture’. I have a friend raised in a Jewish family, but identifies as atheist shared a version of the post that noted it was a wood fire that would not have burned hot enough to melt the gold.

Thus, there is a scientific and natural explanation, but I think that God most often works within natural law and order for God’s purposes.

I commented on her post: “True, but it is an amazing image especially for Holy Week”.
She simply replied “agreed”.

It is a powerful image for this week. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 24, 2019 in Sermons


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Maundy Thursday: the Mandates

We entered into Holy Week, the journey towards Jesus’ arrest, trial, passion, crucifixion and death on Sunday welcoming him into Jerusalem as our rabbi, prophet, and king.

According to scripture, Jesus entered into the Temple chasing out those conducting business, flipping over the tables of the money changers, and teaching that the Temple had been transformed from a house of prayer into a den of robbers.

Historians argue that the account is embellished because of the ‘Pax Romana’ (Peace of Rome) policy paired with increased military presence due to the Jewish festival of Passover. If the account is not embellished, Jesus would have been arrested and contained immediately for disputing the peace.

Yet, Jesus acted in a manner that incited the religious elite, because the chief priests and scribes spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday attempting to entrap Jesus in a punishable teaching, hopefully one punishable by death.

Thursday was the Passover, Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 18, 2019 in Sermons


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Anti-Authority for a Cause

As I read the scriptures earlier this week and while listening again to Luke’s account of Jesus’ final week, days, and minutes, I was reminded of its anti-empire and anti-authority tone.

This tone is not intended to paint Jesus, Luke, or his community as anti-authority punks or rebel without a cause.

The cause was shared in the opening pages of Luke’s Gospel.
The cause is central and foundational throughout the whole.
The cause is the Grand Reversal.

You may recall the Magnificat that Mary sung, which proclaimed it.
You may recall Jesus reading Isaiah in his hometown synagogue, which proclaimed it.
You may recall Jesus’ teaching of the blessings and the woes, which proclaimed it.

But, the Grand Reversal is not a simplistic inverting of the entire field. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 14, 2019 in Sermons


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