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Sin Boldly… Pray Boldly

“Sin Boldly” is perhaps the most infamous Luther quote with the exception of “Here I Stand”. Yet, it is unfortunately removed from its context and often misunderstood.

On August 1, 1521, Martin Luther wrote to Philip Melanchton, whose contributions to the Protestant Reformation and its Lutheran tradition is undeniable. Melanchton was the ‘soft footed’ reformer who attended conversations with the Catholic Church on behalf of the ex-communicated Martin Luther, who feared execution. Melanchton was well-written, mild mannered, and a systematic theologian who provided the future Lutheran tradition with its own confessional writings.

In this letter, Luther wrote the following to Melanchton, his friend and colleague:

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly (or bravely), but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly – you too are a mighty sinner.

Martin Luther taught that ‘sin’ is being curved in on the self, which is a condition of our being and not necessarily our poor actions. Therefore, we are always in a state of sin for our focus and intentions are never purely spent on God or Christ reflected in our neighbor, particularly the most vulnerable among us.

Since sin is a constant state of being, the sins of fornication and murder mentioned are not the literally acts of sex outside of marriage and murder alone. The sin of fornication would be the lustful thoughts, glazes, or acts while the sin of murder would be any thought, word, or action that ignores, criticizes, or harms a person in body, mind, or soul. Thus, Luther’s assertion that our shadow side (sinful nature) commits “fornication and murder a thousand times a day” may not be an exaggeration.

Luther understood this shadow side of humanity, which should be acknowledged and not hidden.

The shadow side is always present, yet always forgiven by the pure grace of God.

The truer the shadow side the truer the grace that is needed and appreciated.

Remember, Sin boldly… but pray more boldly – you too are a mighty sinner.

But, may we pray and act more boldly for the sake of our neighbors, the world, and all creation. Amen.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2019 in Newsletter Articles

 

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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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Celebration of the Dead

I have often told people that there are only two guarantees in our life:

  1.  Everything will change.
  2. We will die.

Seriously, beyond these I am not aware of any guarantee we share will all of humankind.

Change is a challenge for us, because it does require us to step out of our comfort zone and step into the unknown.

Death is often another change for us, perhaps since it defies the above guarantee and is permanent.

Yet, All Saints Sunday is not a sober, sad ‘celebration’ of our deceased loved ones but a celebration in joy, which may seem unnatural and counter-productive (pointless). This celebration, respecting and honoring our departed loved ones seems to transcend culture and religious faith, but more intriguing is that the majority occurring the autumn, and more specifically between October 31 and November 2.

I am intrigued by this time of year, the autumn seasonal changes are beautiful and yet it is preparing the earth for a long, deep sleep or death. Perhaps, that is the reason for our acknowledgement of our own dead.

This morning, we celebrate All Saints Day, which is actually November 1. It is the center-point of a three day Christian festival celebrating our dead. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Persistence

Our scriptures are about persistence, Persistence, and PRESISTENCE…
for a cause.

Jesus teaches in parable about the importance of persistence in prayer.

But, I admittedly struggle with the notion “PUSH: Pray Until Something Happens”.

I am well aware that I do not always utter prayers that are in accordance with God’s will, such as the frequent Sunday prayer “please let there be a caution” or worse yet “please let [a] and [b] crash” (NASCAR reference).

I am well aware that my prayers may not always led down the best path for me.

Therefore, in the words of Garth Brooks “sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers”. Honestly, hindsight is 20-20 and sometimes I do thank God for saying “no”.

But, Jesus does teach about being persistent in pray for the sake of justice and the kingdom to come, not for unjust and selfish gains. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Milwaukee Reflections

I intended to craft a collection of reflections from the 2019 Church Wide Assembly, but I have decided to compile extremely brief reflections into a single post. Why?

  1. The Church Wide Assembly was August 5-10, 2019.
    Thus, reflections have been shared by those most impacted or vocal.
    Thus, my reflections are not “timely”, “pressing”, or necessarily unique.
  2. The Church Wide decisions, in my opinion, were not ‘out of character’.
    Thus, these do not require in-depth analysis.
  3. Due to the lack of joy writing brings me, I procrastinate and prefer to be short.

What is the Church Wide Assembly?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the largest Lutheran denomination and the seventh largest Christian denomination in the United States of America based upon self-identification and reported membership. It is composed of 9,000+ congregations and approximately 3.4 billion baptized members.

The ELCA  is composed of three expressions in an inter-dependent relationship:

  • Congregations (9,000+)
  • Synods (65)
  • Church Wide (National expression)

Congregations conduct business by an elected Church Council and an annual meeting.

Synods conduct business by an elected Synod Council and a Synod Assembly.
The frequency of Synod Assemblies may vary, but are often annually or biennially.

The Church Wide expression conducts business by an elected Church Wide Council, the Conference of Bishops, and a triennially held Church Wide Assembly. Therefore, the Church Wide Assembly conducts business on behalf of the ELCA as a whole. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2019 in Church Wide Reflections

 

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Grace and Gratitude

Our 2 Kings and Luke Scriptures are deeply intertwined this morning.

Naaman is a non-Israelite commander with significant social net-worth, authority, and power.

The Samaritan leper in Luke is also non-Israelite, but is unnamed.
Thus, he is without social net-worth, authority, and power.

And yet, these men are plagued with the disease of leprosy.
Leprosy does not discriminate based on social net-worth, authority, or power.
But, it does isolate the infected from the community, especially holy men, such as Elisha and Jesus.

However, these men do seek the assistance of the holy men, who give each a simple task. Naaman is instructed to wash in the Jordon River. The unnamed lepers are instructed to show themselves to the priests, who could declare them healed.

Although we may not have leprosy or been miraculously healed, we have a shared experience with these men and all of humanity. We ALL have been infected with a disease simply known as “sin”. Sin does not discriminate based on social net-worth, authority, power, race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, biological sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, political leanings, or otherwise. But, sin isolates, divides, and separates us from God, loved ones, and neighbors far and near alike.

I envision sin less as a list of behaviors and more as a state of being. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Faith or Faithful? (the Mustard Seed)

We have an infamous and beloved scripture this morning.

The disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith (or trust) in him.
Jesus, seemingly frustrated, responds that if the disciples had faith even the size of a small mustard seed, they could order a tree uprooted and planted into the sea.

Although a number of persons, probably including a few sitting in these pews, find these words comforting and inspiring, I wish these words were never uttered especially recorded and attributed to Jesus. Why?

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and High-Functioning Anxiety, which both offer the great gift of being a perfectionist…
Plus, this passage and similar have been used against me in spiritual abuse.

Therefore, when I hear or read these words I can sense my anxiety rising,
because if I read it literally…
well, I have not been able to order a tree uprooted and planted elsewhere.
How about you?

Thankfully, I do not read it literally BUT it still causes questions of self-doubt: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2019 in Sermons

 

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