RSS

Category Archives: Sermons

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 »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 3, 2019 in Sermons

 

Tags: , ,

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 »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 18, 2019 in Sermons

 

Tags: , ,

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 »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 5, 2019 in Sermons

 

Tags: , , , , ,

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 »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 21, 2019 in Sermons

 

Tags: , , ,

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 »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 14, 2019 in Sermons

 

Tags: , ,

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 »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 8, 2019 in Sermons

 

Tags: ,

St. Michael & All Angels

We, Lutherans, often do not celebrate the feast days unless it happens to land on a Sunday, which means approximately once every seven years if a leap year does not interfere. But, today is Saint Michael and All Angels!

Saint Michael and All Angels offers the opportunity to learn about the angels according to Scripture and tradition.

But, SPOILER ALERT:
You might discover that our depictions, such as Touched by an Angel, art, and your figurines at home may not be accurate.

As Lutherans, we tend to not focus on the angels although we do acknowledge them in our liturgy, notably in Holy Communion, when we gather with the heavenly hosts (angels), the faithful departed, and the faithful in congregations throughout the world to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy”.

So, what or who are the angels?
According to Crazy Talk: A Not-So-Stuffy Dictionary of Theological Terms (p. 7-8),
angels are:

Divine beings, heavenly servants of God, know as purveyors of godly messages, such as recipes for light and delicious food cake and impossibly fine pasta, or the somewhat rougher tradition of motorcycle fellowship. 

Neither fish nor fowl, an angel is a messenger who bears a tiding from God. In art angels are most often depicted with wings upon their back – sometimes two, sometimes six – but it should be noted that in the Bible, angels are most often do not have wings and seem to appear much like people. There is one biblical passage that describes a type of angel that has six wings – Isaiah 6. If you’re wondering whether a  six-winged angel flies faster than the other varieties, the answer is no, as two wings are used for flying and the other four to cover eyes and ensure decency (Isaiah 6:2). (Now, whether a laden or unladen angel makes better time remains a separate matter.)

The angel has long been  one of the most compelling biblical creatures, inspiring artwork throughout the centuries, lines of collectible figurines, and the occasional melodrama. Despite the fascination, or perhaps because of it, there are many misconceptions about angels. The angel is not, primarily, one’s “wingman,” some sort of divine insurance policy or airborne, side-winding muscle-for-hire (although the Bible does attest to God sending angels to watch over God’s chosen people or person: see Genesis 24: 7, 20; Psalm 91:11). Neither is an angel the next stage in human evolution, what good little boys and girls morph into when they die. Every time you hear a bell ring, it means … it’s lunchtime, or break’s over, or Pavlov’s messing with his dog again, not that an angel gets his wings. Angels are creatures made by God, much like human beings, only of a slightly different order. Maybe an equation would be helpful at this point: as chimpanzees are to people, people are to angels – as far as the human creature is above the lovable chimp, so are angels that much higher than humans.

First and foremost, angels are messengers, beings who have been entrusted with the task of delivering God’s word. With their winged harking (or is it harping?), angels herald important events, give instruction, or issue warning. The messages angels deliver vary: Hagar is promised well-being for her son; Abraham and Sarah are promised a son; Joseph is convinced to stick with Mary; and of course Jesus’ birth and resurrection were declared first by angels. In short, angels communicate God’s will to their fellow creatures, and in this regard Shakespeare is right when he says human beings are like angels (Hamlet, act 2, scene 2), for this is the point at which normal, everyday dopes like us are at our most angelic – when we share the message of Jesus with our fellow creatures.

Question(s):

  1. How often do we envision angels are our little guardians?
    Those guardian angels who follow our cars and we want to be sure not to drive faster than they can fly.
  2. How often do we envision the faithful departed as “gaining their angel wings”?

These ‘visions’ are misconceptions.

Angels and humans are different species, like cats and dogs.
Angels may appear human (to deliver a message), but will never be human.
Humans will never be angels.

The Courts (or Choirs) of Angels
There are nine ‘courts’, or types, of angels.
Since we are speaking about angels as a species, the courts would be different breeds with their own responsibilities. 

  1. Seraphim
    The seraphim, or ‘fiery one’, is the highest court of angels with the task of attending to and guarding the throne of God. These are the angels that Isaiah describes has having six wings: two to fly, two to cover their face, and two to cover their feet.
  2.  Cherubim
    The cherubim is the fat, little babies who fly around shooting people with arrows to force them to fall in love with one another… right?

    The cherubim is actually the second highest court of angels who hold intimate knowledge of God and reside in God’s glory. These angels are described to be human-like in appearance with two sets of wings.
  3.  Thrones
    The thrones are not well-known but are angels that embody pure humility, peace, and submission… It sounds a bit ‘perfect’, doesn’t it?
  4. Dominions
    The dominions, who again are not well-known, are the angels of leadership.
    These angels are responsible for communicating God’s will and commands to the other courts of angels by regulating their duties.
  5. Virtues
    The virtues, who yet again are not well-known, are the angels within nature who control and govern the earthly elements. The virtues are described as the “shiny ones”, which may provide for the visions of angelic ‘glow’.
  6. Powers
    The powers, who yet again are not well-known, are the warrior angels primarily responsible for engaging in the cosmic battle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’.
  7. Principalities
    The principalities, who yet again are not-well known, are those angels who are hostile towards God and humans. These are those who may have rebelled against God and are referred to as “demons”, because angels and demons are indeed the same species simply involved on opposing sides of the cosmic battle.
  8. Angels
    The “angels” are the generic, well-known messengers, who interact most intimately with the physical world, including humans, on behalf of God and the other courts of angels.

If there are nine courts of angels, who have I ‘skipped’? 

The Arch-Angels
The arch-angels are the angelic princes, chiefs, or commanders who lead the angels.

Do you know the number of arch-angels?
It is a trick question, because there is no agreed upon number.
The number, depending on source and tradition, ranges from about 3 to 13.

However, there are five widely accepted arch-angels although one is often not discussed as such….

  1. Michael
    Michael is the most well-known and the primary name of our feast. Why?

    Michael is the supreme, number one angel with authority over ALL the angels.
    In fact, Michael means “the one who is like God”, which you can often discover written across his shield in Christian art.

    Michael is the ultimate Warrior Angel, who was tasked with managing the infamous rebellion and removing Lucifer from heaven.
    (This is referenced in our Gospel and in John’s Revelation.)

  2.  Gabriel
    Gabriel is your supreme, ultimate messenger.

    If you need a message to be signed, sealed, and delivered… Gabriel is your angel.

    Gabriel is primarily focused upon in Christianity at Advent and Christmas, because Gabriel was the angel would came and asked Mary to bear God Incarnate.

    Gabriel, according to Islamic tradition, was the angel who dictated the Quran to the prophet Muhammad.

  3.  Raphael 
    Raphael is widely accepted as an arch-angel, although his narrative is grounded in texts not included in the ‘common’ Bible. However, Raphael is recognized as the supreme, ultimate healer.

    If you have seen depictions of a boy, a dog, and an angel walking together, it is most often a depiction of Raphael with Tobias (Book of Tobit). It is an interesting story.

  4. Uriel
    Uriel is often accepted as an arch-angel, who is known for knowledge and wisdom.

    Honestly, it seems that Uriel may have been tasked with replacing Lucifer.

  5.  Lucifer
    Lucifer, also known as the Morning Star, the Light-Bearer, and later Satan or the Devil, is an arch-angel whom we struggle to acknowledge as such.

    Lucifer led a rebellion in heaven.
    Lucifer was cast down from heaven.
    Lucifer rules over the rebellious angels, also known as ‘demons’.

    According to the narrative, Lucifer was not pleased with God’s affection and love of his little creatures on earth called ‘humans’. Then, God told Lucifer and all the courts of angels to bow down, guard, protect, and guide us.

    Lucifer asked ‘you want me to bow down to THAT?’.

    As the definition above states, it would be as if I told you to bow down to a monkey.
    How many of you would say, ‘you want me to bow down to THAT?’.
    You would probably have some questions, wouldn’t you?

    Thus, Lucifer was, is, and will forever remain an arch-angel (breed) but he is on the opposing side of the cosmic battle.

In summary, the angels are a species of messengers who also are warriors engaged in a cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil fought here upon the earth and among the humans.

What can we, humans, do about this cosmic battle?
I offer to you a portion of The Prayer of Saint Michael as written by Pope Leo XIII:

 Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against
the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host –
by the Power of God –
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

“The Prayer of Saint Michael” is for protection against all evil, negative spirits who seek to cause harm and suffering. It is utilized in house blessings, house cleansings, and in exorcism (although rare, the rite of exorcism does continue to be performed).

We, Lutheran, do not often ‘invoke’ angels (and definitely not the Saints), but I do invite you to ponder the words of the “Prayer of Saint Michael”, as well as the angels in Scripture and tradition… may this offer you an excuse to explore them more deeply.

But, I want to offer you an intriguing puzzle…. 
Theologians throughout history have argued that humans are ‘above’ the angels because humans have free-will while the angels do not…
but, if angels do not have free-will, how can a group ‘rebel’ against God?

 

The Scriptures were Daniel 10:10-14, 12:1-3; Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22; Revelation 12:7-12; and Luke 10:17-20.
It was originally preached on 29 Sept. 2019 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN)
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 2, 2019 in Sermons

 

Tags: , , , ,