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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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Chaos. Fear. God. Community.

Our scriptures are rooted in chaos and fear, which is seemingly appropriate for 2020. But, our scriptures also communicate the presence of God and community.

Elijah can be overly dramatic and apparently unaware of consequences for his actions. Elijah opposed Ahab, the Israelite King, and his Phoenician Queen, Jezebel. Elijah stood against their national institution of the worship of Baal and he defeated the prophets of Baal in a battle of “my God is better than your God”. Afterwards, Elijah had the prophets of Baal captured and he murdered them.

Jezebel was clearly not pleased and threatened his life. Thus, he fled to the wilderness. Chaos and Fear.

God promises to ‘pass before’ Elijah, in order that he may experience that intimate presence of God.

  • There was a violent wind, a traditional sign of God…
    but God was not in the breeze.
  • There was an earthquake, another traditional sign of God…
    but God was not in the trembles.
  • There was a fire burning, again a traditional sign of God…
    but God was not in the flames.

Afterwards, a deafening, unsettling, and terrifying silence fell upon that place. There was no noise from humans or critters of any size. There was no rustling of leaves in a breeze. And yet, God was present Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Compassion, Generosity, & Abundance

Our scriptures from Isaiah, Psalms, and Matthew are inter-connected with the themes of Compassion, Generosity, Abundance, and … Food.

In the days prior to my grandma Peggy’s death in 2015, she was informing the care-home staff that her husband was hungry and waiting on his plate. My grandpa Bill had died in 1987. Thus, the morning that our grandma died, my sister envisioned that grandpa became impatient and he took her out for breakfast. An uncle, however, informed her that there is no food in heaven, to which she replied “then I don’t want to go there”.

Thankfully for Amanda, myself, and perhaps a few of you, the Gospel of Luke is continually painting the image of heaven as a grand banquet with space, food, and drink abundant enough for all people.

We know that food is important for our physical wellbeing.

Perhaps, the majority would agree that home-cooked, comfort food is important for mental and emotional wellbeing.

But, can food be important for our spiritual wellbeing?
A study may imply, that food is indeed important to our spiritual wellbeing.

The survey asked persons to rank practices or otherwise per their personal sense of spiritual fulfillment. It had surprising results for religious institutions and faith communities, for the practices of prayer/meditation and attending worship were ranked among the least fulfilling. While the most fulfilling would become referred to as the 4 Fs:

  • Family;
  • Friends;
  • Fido (companion pets); and
  • Food.

You might be puzzled, or perhaps amused by these 4 Fs. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Knowledge, Understanding, & Wisdom

Parables, parables, parables. We are in a season of parables.

But, there is a thread throughout the whole of our scriptures this morning.
It is wisdom, from King Solomon to Paul’s letter, to Jesus’ parables.

Solomon, son of King David, is essentially offered a magical Genie lamp.
God comes to Solomon and asks ‘what do you want? Whatever is your heart’s desire, I will give you. I encourage you to ponder, what would your response have been? What is your heart’s desire?

Solomon asked for wisdom, although it was not the language used in scripture. Solomon asked for the ability to discern the ‘right’ (or wise) choices, not for his own benefit but for the benefit of the people that he had been placed in authority over.

Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are not quite the same things.
We can know something intellectually and not understand it.
We can understand something and still not have the wisdom to apply it.

As seen online, but adapted…
Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
Understanding is knowing a tomato is a fruit because of the seeds.
Wisdom is knowing that you do not put tomato in a fruit salad. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Sorting Wheat & Weeds: Cautionary Tale

Our Scriptures are especially intertwined through exploring the nature of God, our identity in Christ, and the theodicy question. Theodicy is the fancy term for the common question: ‘why does suffering and evil exist’, especially if God is all-powerful and all-loving.

Isaiah reminds the exiled Israelites that God is eternal and has a personal relationship with us. Additionally, God is our true King who rescues and protects us.

The Psalmist reminds us that God is our ever-patient, compassionate, and kind teacher of divine truth.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, reminds us that God is our perfect parent.

And thus, we are called into a personal relationship with God, who has named and redeemed us.

We are called to be engaged students seeking to learn the divine truth from God whole-heartedly.

We are called to be children of God, who are co-heirs with Christ in the Kingdom to Come.

Our Parable of the Tares, or Weeds, addresses the theodicy question while rooted in the nature of God and our identity in Christ. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2020 in Sermons

 

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The Sower and the Soil

As I began to prepare for this sermon, I was struggling with the scripture.

The ‘Parable of the Sower/Soil’ is not the most infamous scripture or parable, but it is well known and of importance as it is included in all of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).

The struggle was because as a preacher, it is my responsibility to explore the scriptures and interpret how it might apply to our current time and place. Yet, it seemed the interpretation was done and provided on a silver platter.

Since our lectionary is a three-year cycle, I returned to the first time I preached this parable six years ago and I began it sharing that it was the first parable I preached and the process taught me that I hate preaching on parables. Why? The Gospel authors always include the interpretation of the parable on a silver platter saying “and here is what this means”. Thus, as the preacher, I am left asking ‘what else am I to say about it’.

Then, I read this quote on a colleague’s Facebook page providing a little motivation and inspiration.

Jesus’ parable did not deliver prepackaged meaning but challenged the hearer to respond. Parables are open-ended narrative metaphors that generate new meaning in new situations. While a parable cannot mean simply anything (it is not a Rorschach ink blot), it “teases the mind into active thought” in such a way that the hearer himself or herself must actively participate in deciding what the parable means, i.e., how the hearer should respond to it. Parables thus often function by beginning in the familiar world of the hearer but then presenting a different vision of the world that challenges the everyday expectations of the hearer.

So, how do we hear a familiar parable paired with an interpretation handed to us on a silver platter in a ‘new’ light that relates to our time and lives? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Yoked

Available on YouTube, simply click here.

Our scriptures reflect a tension that exists within our discipleship, vocations, and lives in general. It is a tension that is held between rest and restlessness, between rest and service.

In the previous weeks, we have explored our co-mission and its high cost, for the cost of discipleship can shatter valued relationships, cause scorn, and for a few physical death.

This morning, we have the yoke of discipleship.

A yoke is a device that joins two or more creatures, often oxen, together as partners in mission and labor. It is used to increase their cooperation in sharing the labor of pulling heavy equipment or a burdensome load. Thus, the yoke has become symbolic of constraining, burdensome labor and servitude.

Within our Matthew scripture, Jesus utilizes the yoke as a metaphor for our relationship, particularly regarding our shared mission, ministry, and baptismal vocation to proclaim Christ in word and deed, to seek justice, to act with compassion and mercy, and to love and serve all people.

Perhaps, we may understand it best within our own personal, human-human, Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Rippling Welcome

Our Gospel this morning, concludes a trilogy:

Installment one was Jesus commissioning the disciples into his ministry and mission, because Christ was compelled by compassion and overwhelmed with the abundance of human need. This initial commissioning, however, was limited to the lost sheep of Israel but would later be extended in the Great Commissioning in ever-expanding ripples of God’s inclusion, grace, and love of all people, all creatures, the entire earth, and the whole universe. Thanks be to God!

Installment two was Jesus informing the disciples of the high cost of discipleship, because discipleship is to follow in the footsteps of your teacher mimicking (or proclaiming) them in word and deed. As disciples of Christ, we are sent forth to seek justice, to act with compassion and mercy, and to love and serve all people but especially our most vulnerable siblings. This ministry challenges the status quo, especially those who benefit from injustice, and can lead to sharp divisions and conflicts among our most valued relationships. This ministry can also lead to rejection, scorn, and for some persons physical death.

Installment three is about hospitality and welcome. As you might recall, Jesus sent the disciples forth without extra clothing, food, or money in order that they would be vulnerable and completely dependent upon the hospitality and welcome of strangers. Additionally, the act of hospitality was of the upmost importance in the Ancient Near East, including Jewish culture.

Our countdown video begun with a profound observation about our scriptural commandment to ‘welcome the stranger’ and our human nature, stating:

Sometimes our worse nature gets activated by people from other lands, from other cultures, by people we don’t immediately understand when they are in the neighborhood with us and that we maybe don’t get the chances to know well. And it can activate something about our human response to difference that isn’t a very attract quality. So you go back to scripture and you say, ‘oh, that is why this is a commandment that repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats because it is hard to do’.

This commandment, as in our countdown video, is often associated with immigrates and immigration policies, but it is not intended to be so narrowly applied.

The unfortunate truth is that we, as sinful critters, have an unflattering response to difference. Thus, we are most comfortable in social circles and situations that mirror ourselves.

Additionally, it is this unflattering response to difference that manifests as bias and prejudice in word and deed that divides and conquers us as a human family.

The apostle Paul, by the grace of God, reached out to the “strangers” across those divides and embraced the ever-expanding ripples of God’s inclusion, grace, and love. He understood and taught that we have been freed from the “law”.

  • This freedom, however, does not encourage an increase in our sinful, self-centered conduct.
  • This freedom, however, does not incite unlawfulness or moral anarchy.

Instead, it liberates us from justifying and rooting our bias and prejudice in and through the “law”.

But, even within a nation that highly values freedom, the freedom from the law is intimidating. The law offers order, meaning, and identity, but Christ calls and will continue to call us into divine order, deeper meaning, and a truer identity as beloved children of God.

Similar to Paul, we were, are, and will continue to be called into freedom from the law in order to embrace the “stranger”, for he wrote later in Romans, “love is the fulfillment of the law” (13:10). This ‘love’, however, does not only fulfill the letter of the law but the intensified spirit of the law.

Yet, we continue to permit our bias and prejudice to distract our hospitality, welcome, and love, whether based upon:

race, ethnicity, or nationality;

gender identity or sexuality;

socio-economics;

social circles;

political affiliations;

religious adherence or lack thereof; and

numerous other invalid reasons,
for difference does not necessarily equal division.

I read a sign that read:
“Hospitality is when someone feels at home in your presence”.

I also read one that read:
“Hospitality is simply an opportunity to show love and care”

These are beautifully stated truths.

We are called to be a safe, comforting home for all persons.

We are called to care for, love, and serve all people.

May we reach across those bias and prejudices to extend a hand to the stranger.

May we be an embodiment of God’s ever-expanding ripples of inclusion, grace, and love.

May we be examples of hospitality that welcomes the “least of these” or “little ones” as Christ himself.

May we use our freedom from the law to fulfill the more challenging spirit of it…
for LOVE is its fulfillment.

The ministry and mission that Jesus commissioned the disciples and us into is not easy, it is costly, but it is worth it. Amen.

 

Scriptures were Romans 6: 23-23; Romans 13:10; and Matthew 10: 40-42.
Originally preached on 28 June 2020 at Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, Indiana)
 
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Posted by on June 29, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Cost of Ripple Discipleship

Let’s rewind for a moment.

The Gospel of Matthew has two, separate commissioning narratives.

The initial commissioning was to the Israelite people alone, specifically noting to NOT interact with “those” Samaritans and Gentiles. However, the second or “Great Commissioning” sent the disciples forth specifically to “those” Samaritans and Gentiles originally prohibited. This demonstrates a truth in our Holy Scriptures that God’s inclusion, grace, and love is an ever-expanding ripple effect until all people, all creatures, the entire earth, and the whole universe is included.

I encourage you to remain mindful of these ever-expanding ripples of inclusion, grace, and love despite our return to the initial, limited commissioning story.

The disciples have now been drawn more deeply into Jesus’ earthly ministry and co-partners in his mission. The disciples had previously left behind their employment and careers, their homes, and their families. However, discipleship is even more costly than that, as they are instructed to be completely vulnerable without the resources of extra clothing, food, and money; thus, requiring their complete dependence on the generosity of those encountered along the journey.

Discipleship is NOT easy.
Discipleship is costly.
Discipleship can cost you EVERYTHING. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Ever-Expanding Ripples (NASCAR)

I had to make you uncomfortable, otherwise you never would have moved.
-Universe-

This quote recalled conversations with a friend in Washington, who often spoke about how if we are comfortable, we have no reason, no desire to move which pairs with a common saying of a cousin ‘do something every day that scares you’.

Similar to the lack of comfort I experience with our Matthew scripture, this sermon was uncomfortable to prepare, it will be uncomfortable to preach, and it will be uncomfortable to hear. However, this is how we are moved, how we grow, and honestly how we are formed into the persons that God has, is and will continue to call us to be. This discomfort is compounded with our social crises, but perhaps that increases its necessity and urgency.

In our Matthew 9-10 scripture, Jesus is completely engulfed in his earthly ministry.

Jesus’ earthly ministry, according to Luke 4 (14-21) and his reading from Isaiah, is to:

  • Bring good news to the poor;
  • Proclaim release to the captives;
  • Return sight to the blind;
  • Free the oppressed; and
  • Proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    including debt forgiveness and the restoring of family lands.

Returning to our Matthew 9-10 scripture, the tasks of Jesus’ earthly ministry also included teaching and curing every disease and illness.

Jesus, God in human flesh and bone, is weary but moved with compassion for the multitude of people in need.

Jesus, God in human flesh and bone, is overwhelmed by the abundancy of human need.

Jesus commissions the disciples into his earthly ministry, that is Jesus invites and enables the inter-most circle of twelve to actively participate in the curing of every disease/illness and the casting out of unclean spirits. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Trinity Teaching: What is it?

Our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, has pre-recorded a sermon (click here).

I have chosen to preach, actually teach, on this Trinity Sunday. I am more a ‘teacher’ than a ‘preacher’ anyways.

In an ecumenical text study, I was met with facial expressions questioning my sanity as I shared that I would probably not be utilizing the Presiding Bishop’s sermon in the service.

Then, I had a conversation with my mama. She had been ‘blowing the mind’ of a colleague while discussing our sacred history in scripture and the Trinity, primarily her questions. He asked if she was the annoying child who questioned the pastor, but she admitted that she did not have these questions until adulthood including:

  1. If Jesus is God incarnate in human flesh, who is Jesus praying to in the garden?
  2. If Jesus is God incarnate in human flesh, who does he scream out to from the cross?
  3. If Jesus is God, how can he be seated at the right hand of himself?

I, however, was proudly the annoying child questioning the pastor and faith formation leaders. Now, as a supposed adult, I continue to question and can speak hours and hours and hours on religion and theology… if only given the opportunity, but when I begin with the “-ologies” and “-isms”, my mama reminds me to ‘break it down potato head style’ for her.

Yet, I cannot sufficiently offer an understanding or image of the Trinity, but it is a significant mystery of faith that I LOVE to ponder often. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2020 in Sermons

 

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