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Category Archives: Sermons

On the Road (Again)

The Road to Emmaus is an understated, but beloved, post-Resurrection account of the Risen Christ.

It beautifully interweaves distinctive characteristics of the Gospel of Luke, for example the Holy Spirit is the force that drives Jesus further down the road towards places of hospitality and shared table fellowship – or road trips, friendly faces, and yummy food!

The Road to Emmaus happens on the evening of the Resurrection.

There are two disciples on a seven-mile road trip from Jerusalem to Emmaus. These seven-miles might not sound adventurous, or be considered a legitimate road trip, but it was on foot alone and wearing sandals in a hot, sandy desert. We do not know the purpose for their road trip, but perhaps the disciples found it therapeutic; similar to how a Jeep, a dirt country road, and the radio turned up is for me.

These disciples, during these seven-miles, were not on the road to Emmaus alone but also grief recovery.

These disciples are processing the grief of witnessing the arrest, passion, crucifixion, and death of their beloved rabbi and friend.

These disciples are processing the grief of hope lost, for they had hoped Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2020 in Sermons

 

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“Doubting Thomas”: Science & Religion

I have a deep appreciation for our scripture, known as “Doubting Thomas”.

The disciple Thomas is forever identified by this moment of so-called ‘doubt’ that is often embraced as a simple narrative about a contentious relationship between said doubt and faith.

And yet, it is not. The narrative before us is more complex and layered. It echoes with a truth that our world, our lives, and thus our faith does not exist in black-and-white alone, but rather upon an infinite gray-scale.

This complexity, and my appreciation, is rooted in a respect for the disciple named Thomas.

One. Thomas is practical and willing to speak difficult truth.
After the death of Lazarus, Jesus decides to return towards Jerusalem, and thus his own passion, crucifixion, and death. Although the disciples attempt to discourage Jesus, he is determined. It was Thomas, perhaps mimicking Eeyore, who said “Fine. Let us go to Jerusalem and die with him”.

Two. Thomas is not too proud, or ego-sensitive, to admit a lack of understanding and to ask questions.
Prior to Jesus’ arrest, he foretells of his death, resurrection, and ascension to the disciples. Although the disciples are confused, it is Thomas alone who raises his hand to pose questions; thus confessing his own lack of knowledge and further seeking to understand.

Three. Thomas does not demand more than the other disciples. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2020 in Sermons

 

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A Different Easter

Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

This is our proclamation of the Resurrection on Easter morning!
And yet, this Easter is different.

  • We postponed the Community Easter Egg Hunt.
  • We postponed the Congregational Breakfast.
  • We are not gathered together within the church building adorning our Sunday best, including Easter dresses and suits, for an elaborate worship experience adorned in lilies and tulips.

Perhaps, you are in comfortable jammies, drinking coffee, and listening along.
I hope you are.

And yet, THIS might be the most authentic Resurrection morning of our lifetime.

As read on Facebook:
“Maybe, for once, we celebrate Easter differently. Maybe, we celebrate the Resurrection just as the Disciples did: Alone, in the silence, hoping the faith outweighs the fear.” (Casey Kerins).

After the arrest, passion, and crucifixion of Jesus the Christ, the disciples are frightened.

We are frightened Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Jesus’ Final Mandates (Maundy Thursday)

Again, welcome to the Great Three Days of Jesus’ journey from death into life.

It begins with Maundy Thursday.
Maundy is derived from the Latin for mandate (command).

It is on this evening that the church universal reflects on the three final mandates that Jesus the Christ gave to his disciples during their final Passover, final dinner, final evening before his arrest, trial, conviction, passion, crucifixion, and death.

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) differ from the Gospel of John.
Since our assigned scripture is John and offers two of the mandates, let us begin with it.

Jesus and the disciples gather for the Passover celebration.

Foot washing was a common practice of hospitality in the ancient near east, but it was an extremely dirty task which causes me to physically cringe due to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It was not merely feet, but rather feet that had walked miles, in sandals, in the hot desert sand and dirt. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2020 in Sermons

 

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A Different Holy Week

Lent is coming to an end as we enter into Holy Week.
Reflecting on this Lenten season, I must echo two sentiments from Facebook.

  1. I had not planned to give this much up for Lent; and
  2. This is the most Lenty Lent I have ever Lented.

These are honest, authentic statements and honest authenticity is why I love Lent.

This experience of social distancing, isolating, and quarantining during Lent is leading to a Holy Week and Easter that is unprecedented within our time and place, BUT perhaps biblical and authentic.

On Palm Sunday, I often invite us into the experience of Holy Week through the scriptures of both Palm Sunday and the Passion, which ignores Jesus’ final week. Thus, I invite us to experience the fullness through services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and this year an Easter Vigil on Saturday evening. And yet, if we are honest, our lives remain oddly normal with the exception of those minutes or hours.

But, this year our lives and our world are not normal.

  • We are social distancing.
  • We are social isolating.
  • We find ourselves locked away within our homes, alone or with limited companionship.
  • We are uncertain about the next days, weeks, or perhaps months.
  • We are uncertain about employment, businesses, and the economy of our communities and beyond.
  • We are uncertain about medical supplies, food supply, and other essentials needed.

Yes. This year is not normal, but neither was the first Holy Week.

Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival.
He was received as the main attraction for a welcoming parade with the shouts of ‘Hosanna’, but ‘Hosanna’ is literally ‘Save Us’. It was as much a lament and demand for revolution as it was a celebration.

And that was only the beginning…

After this welcome, Jesus goes to the temple and proceeds to cause quite the scene.
Jesus forces those conducting business in the temple out.
Jesus flips over tables and proclaims they have turned the temple into a den of robbers.

And I thought I had a temper.

Then, the lame and the blind enter into the temple where Jesus heals them.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Jesus is teaching in the temple to the dismay and increasing contempt of the religious authorities, who question Jesus’ authority to teach. This intensifies the desire of the religious elite to end Jesus’ public ministry and the revolution it is inciting, but due to his popularity it would require his death.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Jesus is also intensifying his teaching of the disciples.

Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, anoints Jesus with costly perfume to the dismay of Judas, who decides to betray Christ.

Thursday begins the great Three Days.

Jesus demonstrates humble service to one another through the unpleasant task of foot washing, despite knowledge that an intimate friend as conspired to betray him into the hands of those who will put him to death by the brutal means of crucifixion. And yet, Jesus remains the teacher not in word alone but also in deed.

Then, Jesus gives a so-called ‘new’ commandment to love one another, not as we love ourselves because that has a loophole for we do not always love ourselves, but rather as HE, unconditional love incarnated into human flesh and blood, first loved his most beloved, intimate disciples.

Then, speaking of flesh and blood, Jesus institutes Holy Communion, by which the common elements of bread and wine become his body and blood in an everlasting covenant that is a force of grace nourishing, energizing, and encouraging us to lovingly serve the world at all times, in all places.

That night, Jesus is betrayed by Judas, abandoned by all, and denied by Peter.

Friday, Jesus is convicted. Jesus is beaten until near death.
Jesus is hung upon a cross: condemned, mocked, and crucified.
Jesus died. Jesus is laid in a tomb.

Saturday, the disciples are small in number.
The disciples are hidden in a small, dark room fearful and uncertain about the future.
Their desires, hopes, and dreams of salvation, of being saved, all those sweet ‘Hosannas’ were laid in a tomb with Jesus, their beloved friend, Rabbi, and hoped Messiah.

Perhaps, the differences of this Holy Week…

  • our intimate families,
  • our isolating rooms and homes,
  • our fears and uncertainties…

may be the most honest and authentic Holy Week, similar to early Christianity, within our lifetime.

May we embrace the opportunity in mind, body, and soul
to more deeply experience Holy Week,
connecting with the disciples and
with Christ during his final days before crucifixion and death.
Amen.

Scriptures were Matthew 21: 1-11; Matthew 26:14 – 27:66.
Pre-Recorded (4-3-2020) for digital use (4-5-2020) by Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN)
 
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Posted by on April 5, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Dead Enough

As the entire world is impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic, practicing social distancing and isolating, we are consumed with concern for the increasing confirmed cases and those deceased. Our scriptures are also consumed with the concept of death.

Ezekiel has a vision of dry bones within a valley, which I envision to be a remote desert similar to familiar spots in Arizona. These dry bones are the most extreme depiction of death, and yet God orders Ezekiel to prophesy that these may become covered in flesh again. But, something is missing.

In our gospel, Jesus receives word that a friend, named Lazarus, is ill. Jesus, however, waits several days until after Lazarus’ death before returning to Bethany, which is on the out-skirts of Jerusalem. Upon Jesus’ arrival he is moved, disturbed in spirit, and weeps in grief before ordering Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, to rise and come out. Lazarus does, but he is still bound.

As I pondered these scriptures, in light of these times, I recalled a segment from True Terror with Robert Englund. It shares historical reports and accounts of strange events, this particular story occurred in New Orleans in 1875 during the small pox epidemic.

A young man was declared dead, but he was alive and aware of his surroundings although unable to communicate. He was placed in a wooden coffin, loaded into a wagon, and it was departing for the local cemetery. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2020 in Sermons, Uncategorized

 

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Open Our Eyes: Pandemic Edition

The Scripture begun with a question of the people.

  • It is a question that was pondered for centuries before Jesus and continues to be centuries after Jesus.
  • It is a question that influences not only the human-God relationship, but also the human-human relationship.
  • It is a question rooted within Theodicy, the ‘fancy’ language for
    ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ or ‘why does suffering exist?’.

The people had presumed (and we often continue to presume) that suffering is caused by God as a punishment for sin, or even for a lack of faith. Therefore, the people inquire if the man born blind was punished for his own sins or those of his parents.

It is significant to note, Jesus denounces that the blindness was a result of sin, whether his own, his parents, or even his ancestors.

Jesus heals the man, in order to demonstrate the glory and the power of God.

Unfortunately, the man and his parents are extensively questioned by the religious elite. According to John, the religious elite are seeking an answer or witness that would condemn Jesus as a demonic and not the Messiah. Their argument is that Jesus must not be from God, because a holy man would never heal on the Sabbath in accordance with the law, or teaching.

Jesus shifts the dialogue in the Scriptures from physical sight to spiritual sight. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Social Distancing: Woman at the Well

I previously shared that Lent is a beloved season, in part because Jesus’ humanity is more apparent.

Jesus and his recently called disciples are traveling through Samaria.

Jesus is hungry, perhaps hangry, and exhausted.
He sends the disciples into town for food.

Jesus essentially clasps at the well in exhaustion without the energy to draw a drink of water.

BUT, a Samaritan woman comes to the well during the mid-day heat and alone, because of social distancing.

The historical and cultural nuances are essential to this scripture.

Jesus is a man, Jewish in ethnicity and religious adherence, and a Rabbi (teacher).

Jesus’ disciples are men, Jewish in ethnicity and religious adherence, but considered ‘sinners’ by the religious elite.

She is an unnamed woman. She is a Samaritan.
She is not socially accepted among Samaritan ‘polite society’. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Jesus Tempted?

Welcome to Lent, a personally beloved season.
It is not so because of the sober tone and doom and gloom, but despite it.
It is so beloved because it is authentic, reflective, and emphasizes Jesus’ humanity.

The Christian Church professes that Jesus is fully divine and fully human, but it is challenging to wrap our minds around and communicate this divine mystery. Therefore, we have consciously or unconsciously decided to evaluate the divinity of Jesus at the expense of his humanity.

Honestly, it is hard as a helpless, worthless, sinful critter to deeply connect with the divine nature of Jesus.

Yet, this morning we witness Jesus within an universal human experience… temptation.

But, was Jesus really tempted? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Vulnerable Authenticity (Ash Wed)

WELCOME to my most beloved church season… Lent.

It is not beloved because of its sober tone or the gloom and doom, but despite it. It is beloved because of its authenticity.

Generation X and younger have especially demanded that those identifying as Christin, their faith communities and denominations, as well as the church universal be authentic and transparent. Their participation or lack thereof is often rooted in these demands.

It is not about ever-changing, energy-charged, entertaining worship.
It is not about the music, sound system, or multi-media.
It is not about coffee bars or accommodations.

Again, it is about authenticity.
But, it is challenging because it requires vulnerability and self-reflection.

Thus, Lent is our annual emphasis on removing the masks that hide our self-centeredness, insecurities, flaws, failures, and less than Christ-like thoughts, words, and deeds which harm our relationship with God, neighbor, and self.

This focus includes NOT practicing our piety and presumed righteousness before others. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2020 in Sermons, Uncategorized

 

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