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Category Archives: Sermons

Justice as Worship

Our Scriptures, again, are rooted in the seeking of justice but not as a baptismal commitment alone.

Our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, has four statements that have defined her call:

  1. We are Church.
  2. We are Church Together.
  3. We are Lutheran.
  4. We are Church for the Sake of the World.

But, what does this mean? How do we define the ‘Church’?

Is the ‘Church’ this building, this sanctuary, with our candles and pews, our lectern and pulpit, and our altar and stained-glass windows?

Is the ‘Church’ this 60-ish minute worship service with our liturgy and music, our Scriptures and preaching, and our sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion?

Honestly, if you answered “yes” to any of the above, you are wrong.

WE are Church.
WE are Church together.

Church, by definition, is the people who are gathered together to be nourished in the WORD, sustained in the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, and renewed in the Confession and Absolution of Sin that leads to repentance.

We cannot do Church alone.

WE are Church.

WE are Church Together beyond Trinity Lutheran, beyond the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), beyond Lutheranism, for it encompasses all the faithful from all times and all places.

WE are Lutheran.
We gather and experience our lives together through Lutheran-colored glasses.

WE are Church for the Sake of the World, which returns me to our Scriptures.

If we are the Church together, what is our purpose/mission for the sake of the world?
Justice. Justice is the worship that is appropriate for and worthy of God. 

Isaiah instructs us to stop pointing the finger, to stop speaking evil, to feed the hungry, and to satisfy the needs of the afflicted, and thus the most vulnerable. Justice.

The Psalm reminds us that God is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love BUT will provide vindication and justice for the oppressed, and thus the most vulnerable. Again, Justice.

Jesus is preaching in the synagogue, during worship, on the Sabbath, when he pauses to release a woman who has been oppressed by an illness for 18 years. Again, Justice.

The “good”, the “righteous”, the “lawful” Jewish community rebukes Jesus for administering said justice, because it was the Sabbath, a day for rest and restoration without “work”.

Meanwhile, the “bad”, the “unrighteous”, the “unlawful” Jewish community rejoices, perhaps because of Jesus rebuking the “righteous” but perhaps it was because they recognized the healing and restoration of this woman, and therefore the justice.

Micah 6:8 reminds us that ALL God requires of us is to seek justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.

The whole of the Prophets echo that our worship services, our reputation as “good” people of God (for us, “good Christians”), and our ability to uphold the Torah (teaching, law) is pointless and invalid if our worship is not  appropriate for and worthy of God.

This worship is NOT about our physical location and setting.

This worship is NOT about our worship services.

This worship is NOT about the worthiness, or better yet unworthiness, of those gathered.

This worship is about SEEKING JUSTICE for the most vulnerable.
Thus, it is about our lives OUTSIDE OF THESE WALLS AND THOSE DOORS and how it affects the most vulnerable.

Martin Luther stated:
God does NOT need your good works, but your neighbor does.

Anytime we live into our baptismal commitments:
to proclaim Christ in word and, especially, deed;
to act with compassion and mercy; and 
to love and serve all people, but particularly the vulnerable, 
then we are seeking justice.

Are we offering a worship that is appropriate for and worthy of God?

WE are Church.

WE are Church Together.

WE are Lutheran.

WE are Church for the sake of the world  by seeking THE Justice that is THE Worship worthy of God. Amen.

Scriptures were Isaiah 58:9b – 14; Psalm 103:1-8; Hebrews 12: 18-29; and Luke 13:10-17.
Originally preached on 25 August 2019 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

 

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Seeking Justice, Speaking Truth to Power

We have an uncomfortable theme echoed throughout the whole of scripture, but highlighted this morning. That theme is “seeking justice, speaking truth to power”.

“Seeking justice” is one of our baptismal promises, but in the words of Luther:
‘What does this mean?’.

Our Psalm poses the same question in a cosmic drama, involving God before a panel of gods or spiritual beings. God, in an accusative tone, inquires:

  • When will YOU stop judging unjustly?
  • When will YOU stop favoring the wicked?

Honestly, God asks us these same questions.

God, then, instructs the panel and humankind about the proper use of our time, energy, talents, and treasures. In short, to seek justice by

  1. saving the vulnerable;
  2. defending the vulnerable; and
  3. rescuing and releasing the vulnerable from the hands of their oppressors.

Those, including ourselves, with power, authority, and privilege have the call and responsibility to seek justice for the vulnerable.

Those, including ourselves, who benefit from the abuse, oppression, or dehumanization of another, have the call and responsibility to confess AND to repent.

Unfortunately, in order to answer the call and embrace our responsibilities, our eyes, ears, and hearts must be exposed to the truth.

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, understood that the political powers, their prophets, the religious authorities, and the people (including ourselves) do not desire the truth. We prefer the sunshine and rose filled illusions provided by the false prophets. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Where Treasure and Heart Rests

The author of the Gospel according to Luke has been long accused of being anti-wealth and anti-money which is not only counter-cultural, although it certainly is, but it also is irrational because money is required for our basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter plus the extras. Within the church, that translates to the building and its maintenance, the worship, the pay of staff, which I am grateful, and our programming.

This accusation has long shone a spotlight on the tension of speaking finances within the church, but especially during a stewardship drive, or worse a capital campaign.

Yet, this accusation of the author is unfounded. The author does not oppose the tool of material resources, particularly for the sake of advancing the kingdom of God in all times and places. In fact, this is the Gospel that addresses how Jesus’ earthy ministry was funded… and it was wealthy women.

But, this author does reject the misuse, mismanagement, and hoarding of resources.

Our scripture this morning is infamous:
“Where your treasure is, there too is your heart”. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Sodom: a Disturbing Tale of Inhospitality

We have been on a multiple week journey that concludes today, but in an intense, dramatic, and quite disturbing tale.

Lets pause and take a quick glance back.

A lawyer, like us, asks Jesus to define who is our neighbor in order to justify his lack of care and hospitality towards another, especially if they look, sound, act, think, believe, and/or love differently than us.

Jesus’ response is the parable of the Good Samaritan, confirming that we are to love ALL people and, according to the Gospel of John, it is as Jesus first loved us. (sermon)

Then, we have examples of hospitality through the traditional means of Abraham and Martha, who greeted, invited, provided safe rest, and prepared food. We also had the less traditional hospitality of Mary dwelling, undistracted, in the presence of her guest. (sermon)

Hospitality, or the welcoming of the stranger, was of the up-most importance in the Ancient Near East. Again, it did not matter if you were Greek, Roman, or Israelite. It did not matter if you were Pagan, Jewish, or a follower of Jesus. We know this from the number of stories that echo the theme of reward or punishment based on the hospitality or lack thereof offered.

Before diving into this disturbing tale, I must warn you that it includes sexual violence. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Hospitality: Abraham, Martha, & Mary

This time after Pentecost is an extended time of green to symbolize (1) growing into discipleship and (2) the healing of the nations, or diverse persons.

I note this because our scriptures from last Sunday, today, and next Sunday are connected in their themes and, therefore, the intended message/lesson. This lesson is significant with the repeated efforts to re-enforce it. It also demonstrates that although it may seem ‘simple’, it is not easy because for the whole of human history we have and continue to fail to embody it.

So, quick recap:

Last Sunday was the parable about the Good Samaritan, a lesson about a “bad” Samaritan providing loving care to a man despite personal risk or offending the cultural expectations and norms. He was a neighbor to the vulnerable.

It was the undesired response to the lawyer, who (like us) seeks to justify our lack of care, of hospitality, and of love to those who may look, sound, act, think, believe, and/or love differently than ourselves.

So we continue to learn about being a neighbor and extending hospitality as an act of discipleship. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Love ALL Your Neighbors

Our passage this morning is perhaps among the most infamous scriptures of all-time, for Christians and non-Christians alike know it. There are churches, schools, social organizations, charities, and hospitals named after The Good Samaritan.

And yet, this teaching of Jesus did not begin with him.
It is echoed throughout the Torah (teaching or law), the prophets of old, Jesus’ life and ministry, and within the letters of the Apostle Paul.

And yet, after all these centuries, we continue to talk the talk but we do not often walk the walk.

Within these past weeks, I have encountered numerous quotes on Facebook, in text messages, and otherwise that communicate this teaching well. But day by day, it seems that our world is becoming more and more divided. We live within a charged environment, where everything is used as a means to divide ourselves.

For example, a friend posted a song with one of its lines on Facebook, neither the line nor the song had political undertones. And yet, Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Discipleship: Rejection and Wrath

I know Jesus’ words last week were harsh and hard to hear or listen to, but I do need to do a short recap for the connection to our texts today. These scriptures demonstrate the difference between the intention of Christianity and what it has become.

Christianity is the only world religion where we can be identified as a ‘believer’ without necessarily being an ‘adherent’ or ‘practitioner’.

Christians are identified as such by our profession alone that Jesus is our Christ, Messiah, and Savior. Denominational Christians are identified by the additional teachings they profess. These do not require specific rituals, spiritual practices, or moral code by which a person lives their life as such with non-Christian adherents/practitioners.

But, this profession of Christian faith with or without denominational affiliation should not be enough. We are called deeper into discipleship and to be ‘practitioners’.

Our texts from these Sundays, teach us about discipleship, or walking in Jesus’ steps.

Last Sunday, we were reminded that God’s grace is a free gift we cannot earn or lose by our own efforts. Paul reminded us, however, to not become intoxicated on said grace and its freedom. Elijah and Jesus reminded us that the proper response to said grace is sacrificial and costly, calling us deeper into our baptismal agreement: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2019 in Sermons

 

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