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Fall and All Saints

Welcome to the mid-point of Allhallowstide!

Allhallowstide is a three-day celebratory festival to honor the saints of all times and all places: past, present, and future.

It began yesterday with All Hallows’ Eve (or Halloween).

Today is All Saints Day, originally designated for the canonized capital “S” Saints.

Tomorrow is All Souls Day, honoring the lower case “s” saints who were, who are, and who will be. 

Death is not often celebrated among those who remain behind for our grief and the memories that will never be weigh heavily upon our minds, hearts, and souls.

Death is associated with the unknown, the fearful, and the permanent.

Although death is one of only two guarantees in this life, it ALWAYS feels unnatural.

But as I stated this is a three-day joyful celebration of the dead rather than a sober affair. 

We can learn from nature and its changing of the seasons. Autumn is a beautiful reminder of death.

Fall teaches us how beautiful it can be to let go of our leaves, preparing ourselves for a death of sorts.

These leaves can be arrogance and pride, hate and anger, pain and resentment, guilt and shame,

toxic relationships and unrealistic expectations, and beyond.

Fall prepares us for a death of sorts that is mirrored throughout creation in Winter.

It is a death to our old selves.

It is a death to self-centeredness and projecting a false self to the world.

It is a death to seeking harm to or fostering ill-will towards another in mind, body, and soul.

It is a death to harming ourself in mind, body, and soul in our desire to
harm or in ill-will towards another.

It is a death to relationships, situations, and expectations that do not serve God’s Kingdom to Come.

It is THIS death that prepares us for a resurrection into new life in the Spring.

Our First John scripture reminds us that we are the children of God, and thus will inherit the Kingdom to Come which is here now, near, and not yet fulfilled. The image of being made pure connects to Baptism and the Revelation scripture (not included in this flashback 1940s service). The particular Revelation verse reads:

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and people and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands”. (Revelation 7:9)

A few Sundays ago, I noted that the traditional practice of Baptism included the individual stripping naked, walking through and being completely submerged in the water to symbolize their drowning death, and came through the water onto the other side where they would be greeted by the Baptized community and clothed in a white robe. The white robe was a sign of having been made clean, or pure, through said waters of Baptism, and thus among the great multitude clothed in Jesus the Christ.

Revelation reminds us that the children of God, this great multitude, includes persons from all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages gathered together at the foot of the divine throne, gathered together in worship and praise.

This means there is no space for nationalism among God’s people.

This means there is no space for racism among God’s people.

And yet, racism and nationalism has historically and continues to remain among God’s people.

Revelation continues with language in our Holy Communion rite, which proclaims that salvation, blessing, glory, and power belongs to the Triune God alone.

This means that salvation and blessing does not come through a person or institutions,
including religious or political leaders, denominations or governments.

This means that said glory is not to be given to a person or institutions,
including again religious or political leaders, denominations or governments.

This means that said power and authority does not belong to a person or institutions,
and yet again including religious or political leaders, denominations or governments.

Ultimately, our First John and Revelation scriptures are about a hope that is rooted in the Triune God, who may be active among persons and institutions but cannot be substituted by said persons and institutions.

We are called to follow the example of the Fall trees letting go of all that hold us captive, including:

Arrogance and Pride;

Hate and Anger;

Pain and Resentment;

Guilt and Shame;

Toxic Relationships and Unrealistic Expectations;

Nationalism and Racism;


and Beyond…

We are called to prepare for a winter death:

to our old self, self-centeredness, and projecting a false self to the world;

to seeking harm to or fostering ill-will towards another in mind, body, and soul;

to harming ourself in mind, body, and soul in our desire to harm or foster ill-will towards another;

and to relationships, situations, and expectations that do not serve God’s Kingdom to Come.

We are called to embrace the impending Spring resurrection:

Into the persons and community that God has, is, and will continue to call us to be;

Into the Kingdom of God that is here now, near, and not yet fulfilled; and

Into the company of all the Saints and saints gathered around the divine throne and the Lamb.

Jesus offered a glimpse of said Kingdom to Come in the Beatitudes, which was a manifesto for his disciples. The Kingdom to Come is where the needs of all will be met while seeking:

to comfort, or more accurately advocate for, the poor;

to comfort those who mourn;

to be meek peacemakers when possible;

to hold-fast to righteousness; and

to proclaim and reflect Christ in word and deed.

Although we will fail, we have the example of the Saints and saints, who:

proclaimed Christ in word and deed;

sought justice;

acted with compassion and mercy; and

loved and served all people, but especially the most vulnerable.

Martin Luther defined a ‘saint’ as a ‘forgiven sinner’, this includes each one of us.

And I want to share a quote I read and LOVE:

Every Saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

We all have a past, perhaps we can let go of any negative hold it has upon us.

We all have a future, perhaps we can embrace it fully in mind, body, and soul.

May we remember that death does not have the final word. The Triune God does.

Amen.

Scriptures were Revelation 7: 9-17; 1 John 3: 1-3; and Matthew 5: 1-12.

Originally preached 1 November 2020 at for Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, Indiana)  

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Vineyards

The similarities in our Isaiah and Matthew scriptures are undeniable, and yet these have striking differences. These scriptures use the agricultural imagery of a beautiful vineyard provided by a landowner who carefully prepared the ground, cultivated the soil, and planted the best grape seed. This landowner also anticipated a long-term, relational venture with the security of a fence and watchtower and the fore-thought of a wine press.

Isaiah describes a less than desired bounty for despite all the efforts only the sour, wild grapes grew. These were good for nothing, literally nothing; not for eating, not for pressing into grape juice, and not for further fermenting into wine.

In Isaiah, the landowner is God, the vineyard is the entire creation, and the planted seeds is all humans.

The intended bounty from us (summarizing the prophets with Micah 6:8) was justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God. Thus, the intended harvest was justice and grace, compassion and mercy, and love and service. Unfortunately, the harvested bounty was sin (or self-centeredness), injustice, and violence whether individual, communal, or systematic.

God was (and is) disgusted with the state of the vineyard. Thus, God intends to destroy the whole in anger, but does not. God, in accordance with the Scriptures, is steadfast love, slow to anger, and always ready to turn from punishment. Thus, Jesus is teaching in the temple centuries afterwards.

But, I want to pause a moment for the context of this text in our worship differs from in the Gospel.

We have been engaging Jesus’ parables that utilize the image of a field/vineyard.

The Parable of the (Day) Laborers:
Jesus was speaking to the disciples prior to their journey to Jerusalem. The essential lesson is that it does not matter when an individual begins to labor for the Kingdom of God to Come. Similarly, it does not matter who a person is for we all deserve a just daily wage to ensure our basic need is met.

Jesus arrives in Jerusalem to begin the Passover. Christians recognize this arrival as ‘Palm Sunday’. Jesus arrives at the temple and ‘cleanses’ it by over-turning tables and chasing the corrupt money-changers and merchants from it.

Jesus begins to teach in the temple to those who are gathered, specifically the Pharisees, Scribes, and additional religious elite.

The Parable of the Two Sons:
A landowner requests that his sons go work in the field/vineyard. One son refused, but then does go. The other son commits, but then does not go. The essential lesson is that the ‘work’ in the field/vineyard is justice, compassion and mercy, love and service for all people whether the individual self-identifies as Christian, religious, or otherwise. Thus, it doesn’t matter how “messed up” we are, but rather about a pure heart.

These Pharisees, Scribes, and religious elite have not yet realized that Jesus is criticizing them.

So, Jesus shares another parable.

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants/Landowner’s Son:
It was common practice in the Ancient Near East (ANE) for tenants to provide the landowner a portion of their harvest as rent. Since the quality of the harvest is not noted, it indicates no importance in the parable.

Similar to Isaiah, the landowner is God and the vineyard is the entire creation. However, instead of the humans being the grown grapes, we are the tenants.

The parable is about the tenants and their stewardship, their responsibilities, and their conduct. We, humans, have been given such stewardship of creation, its resources, and all within it. We, humans, have been given such stewardship of our energy, time, talents, and other resources.

But, how are we stewarding?
Are we willing to share?
Are we willing to pay our rent?

The ‘Wicked Tenants’ desired to hoard, not share, the land and the harvested bounty.

Slaves were sent to collect the agreed upon portion but were captured, beaten, and a few murdered.

The landowner chose to send his son, the heir, to collect the agreed upon portion expecting a different result, but the son was also captured, beaten, and murdered.

Jesus asked the religious elite about the appropriate response of the landowner. These religious elite responded culturally correct that the landowner shall come, get rid of the wicked tenants, and replace these with good tenants who will care for the vineyard and freely offer their agreed upon portion.

Jesus informs the religious elite, again, that the “sinners” will enter the Kingdom of God ahead of them. It is in this ‘light-bulb’ moment that the religious elite realize they are the son that commits to work in the field but does not and the wicked tenant who mismanages the entire creation.

Again, these religious elite are displeased with Jesus, who continues to teach while turning the parable upside-down. Jesus reminds the religious elite that Scriptures foretell of the elite rejecting the cornerstone, which Christians consider to be Jesus the Christ.

We are the ‘Wicked Tenants’.

We have destroyed those children working for and towards the Kingdom of God to Come.

We will (and have) killed the divine Son of God, Jesus the Christ.

Jesus had previously questioned the religious elite regarding the authority of John the Baptist, which they did not answer for fear of the crowd who beloved him and regarded him as a prophet. These religious elite are similarly silenced for fear of the crowd who beloved Jesus and regarded him as a prophet, the Messiah, and/or the divine Son of God.

Thus, the religious elite stood there convicted while considering how to get rid of this Jesus.

We know the events of Holy Week. Jesus is arrested, beaten, crucified, murdered, and buried.

We also know that it concludes with Jesus defeating death itself with his resurrection.

Through this lens, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants/Landowner’s Son has another perspective. In addition to a parable teaching, it is a foretelling of the next several days.

I once read: Jesus was not crucified for being a nice guy.

The truth is Jesus was crucified for standing against those misusing positions of power and authority.

The truth is Jesus was crucified for criticizing the religious elite aligned with those not doing God’s Will.

The truth is Jesus was crucified for standing against the sour, wild grapes of sin, injustice, and violence.

The truth is Jesus was crucified for standing with the oppressed, under-privileged, and vulnerable.

The Gospel does not always sound like “good news”, but:

  • Jesus, rooted in these truths, sought to warn and inform all people;
  • God is steadfast love, slow to anger, and always eager to turn from punishment; and
  • The vineyard has not yet been destroyed (and it will not be).

God sent Jesus, the divine Son, into the world for the sake of the vineyard and its people. Thus, Jesus continues to warn and inform all people holding a mirror before our eyes, in order to evaluate our own work in the field/vineyard, the grapes we are producing, and how we are stewarding the creation, humanity, and all the gifts God has given us.

May we produce the grapes of justice and grace, compassion and mercy, and love and service.

May we be the children working in the world
to bring forth God’s Kingdom to Come.

May we be the good tenants, the good stewards,
of all that God has rented to us.
Amen.

The Scriptures were Isaiah 5: 1-7 and Matthew 21: 33-46.
Originally preached on 4 Oct. 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, Indiana).

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Justice & Privilege

Jonah is paired with Jesus’ parable about the vineyard laborers, in order to teach us a difficult truth, calling  us to confront it rather than sticking our fingers in our ears repeating ‘I can’t hear you’, and to  encourage us to live further into the Kingdom of God that is here in glimpses, near, and not yet fulfilled.

Jonah is sent to the people of Nineveh, these were non-Israelites and thus the ‘unworthy others’ who Jonah would prefer to witness God’s wrath upon rather than their pardon.

Jonah was spit out upon the shore and in whispered tones, hopeful none would hear and heed, delivers God’s message that if the people of Nineveh did not repent it would cease to exist in 40 days.

The people of Nineveh heard. The people of Nineveh repented. God did not destroy the people.

Jonah was angry. Jonah goes outside of town, finds shade, and throws a temper-tantrum cursing God.

God sends a worm to kill the bush providing said shade.
Jonah, again, throws a temper-tantrum cursing God.

God can handle our anger, but God will also hold us accountable for the root of said anger.

Jonah is angry because God did not punish the other and is not offering him the relief of shade. Jonah’s anger is rooted in sin, or self-centeredness, and not against injustice.
 

God teaches Jonah (and us) that these “others” are also God’s children, whom God created and loves deeply.

Jonah (and us) should NOT be angry. God’s steadfast love, mercy, compassion and grace is abundant enough to be extended to all persons, including the “other” in Nineveh.

In Matthew, we have a parable taught by Jesus.

There are day laborers hired to work in a vineyard, but despite hired at different points of the day all received a full day wage. The laborers hired earlier, thus having worked more hours,  were angry.

As I pondered the scriptures, I realized that since living in California, Washington, and Indiana I cannot recall encountering day laborers. In Arizona, it is a common sight for day laborers to be in the parking lot of the local Circle K and home improvement stores. These individuals are often Hispanic or Latino men, documented or undocumented, who depend on being hired for the day to complete a task. Their labor is cheap, in fact cheap enough you can argue that their ability to met basic needs of food and shelter tomorrow depend on their opportunity to work today. 

In the biblical era and our modern day, it highlights an economically flawed system rooted in injustice. It is not limited to our day laborer siblings either, but extends widely in the United States where prior to COVID19 it was estimated that 75% of Americans were only one to two paychecks from homelessness AND most minimum wage employment at 40 hours a week cannot cover rent let alone other basic needs.

This includes our seasonal migrate agricultural workers who serve in the fields and the factories for minimal wages in often unsafe and unregulated environments.

It is the waitress, whose hourly wage is below minimum wage, who must depend on tips to survive.

It is the single mother, who works a regular 40-hour job plus two additional part-time positions.
It is her tips from  the waitressing gig that provides food on the table for her two children.

It is the young adult who heard their entire life “college, college, college” and instead of economic advancement are drowning in student loan debt that was a necessary evil for said education.

It is the school teacher who must work an additional job in the evenings or on the weekend, but still sleeps in her car unable to afford rent.

It is the associate pastor who lives in her local homeless shelter unable to afford food and shelter.

It is the children of the impoverished working-poor, who depend upon their school for food each day.

The reality of socio-economic injustice is all to real within our world, our nation. The American notion that one can climb said economic ladder easily is a myth.

Jesus’ parable includes the earlier hired laborers as satisfied with their agreed upon full day wage, but that was until those hired later were given the same full day wage. The previously hired become angry, throw a tantrum, and perhaps curse the land owner for his generosity to the other.

Similar to the day laborers in Arizona, these laborers and their families probably depended on said wage to provide their basic need of food and shelter for tomorrow. The land owner, arguably God, reminds these men that the land owner has the choice to be abundantly generous.

We, as the followers of Christ, are called to likewise be abundantly generous in sharing love, compassion, mercy, and grace to our vulnerable siblings.

Again, God can handle our anger, tantrums, and cursing but will hold us accountable for the root of it.

Again, these laborers’ anger is rooted in their own sin, or self-centeredness,  and not against injustice.

These laborers (and us) have a sense of entitlement, perhaps at the harm to a vulnerable sibling.

The truths of these passages include:

  1. God created and deeply loves ALL persons, including the Nineveh “other” and these “other” laborers.
  2. God deeply cares about the well-being of ALL persons, especially the vulnerable. 
  3. God has provided the world, this nation with an abundance of resources that we do not share well.
  4. We are called to share resources, love, compassion, mercy, and grace to bring forth God’s Kingdom.

These truths are not limited to discussion within this sermon or the church universal, for it is a conversation throughout our world, our nation. It is a conversation about ‘privilege’, who has it, and how might it be used justly for the sake of the world and for Christians the sake of the Kingdom to Come. 

We must pull the fingers from our own ears and listen to the reality that we have privilege, which does not mean that our lives have been without challenges or that we have a home on easy street. Privilege simply means that certain aspects of our identity and lives have not further challenged it.

For example:
As a white American who self-identifies my gender as my biological sex, who is romantically attracted to the opposite gender/sex, and who is a Christian…
I have privilege that is not granted to our brown, black, LBGQT+, and non-Christian siblings.

Now, they have never asked for an apology, simply that I acknowledge my privilege and stand with them in their struggle for equality and equity.

As a non-wealthy woman, I do not have the privilege of being a person of wealth or a man. I have never asked the wealthy or men to apology, but to simply acknowledge that I lack said privilege and to stand with me for equality and equity.

Our privilege or lack thereof also includes our physical, mental, and intellectual abilities and otherwise.

One challenge we face is the urge to become angry, such as Jonah or the laborers, when an under-privileged person or persons is offered the same opportunities as the privileged. Those opportunities, the steadfast love, compassion, mercy, and grace is JUSTICE and a glimpse of the Kingdom to Come here and now.

The anger that may arise is rooted in sin, or self-centeredness, and the fear that our comfortable entitlement and privilege may be diminished… However, it is not a pie.

Our sinful humanity, has taught us and poisoned our souls to believe that justice, compassion, mercy, grace, and love are limited resources afforded to some at the cost of another. Justice, compassion, mercy, grace, and love are NOT limited resources, but God reminds us that these are abundant enough for all persons, all creatures, and the entire creation. The beauty is that justice, compassion, mercy, grace, and love does  not cost our privilege a thing, in fact it draws us further into God’s Kingdom to Come here now in glimpses, near, and not yet fulfilled.

May we recognize our own privilege and
stand with the under-privileged in their struggle.

May we rejoice when justice, compassion, mercy, grace, and
love is further extended.

May we become angry at the injustice and
the lacking compassion, mercy, grace, and love that harms a sibling.

May we be a divine presence of abundant compassion, mercy, grace, and
love to ALL persons.

Amen.

Scriptures were Jonah 3:10-4:11 and Matthew 20: 1-16.
Originally preached on 20 Sept. 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN)

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Pondering Church (COVID19)

It is worthwhile to continually discern our understanding of church, its essential elements, and the priorities it communicates, but the global COVID-19 pandemic offers a crucial opportunity as it challenges us to be creatively adaptive.

Holy Grounds, our informal faith-based discussion, was held digitally. I invited us to ponder church, the defining elements grieved in social distancing, and how our in-person gatherings will be different (at least temporally).

In regard to the national dialogue, our discernment is increasingly appropriate.

The church is indeed essential, but the church has never been closed despite the closed buildings because it is not a building or a specific community gathered at a specific location and time.

Martin Luther defined the church in The Papacy in Rome, writing: Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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Holy Wednesday: Stump the Rabbi

15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away…
34When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22: 15-22, 34-40)

After Jesus’ authority is questioned, the religious elite conspire to terminate his popularity, public ministry, and the revolution it was inciting. These religious elite knew that it would require Jesus’ death.

Thus, the Pharisees and Sadducees (religious elite) sought to entrap Jesus in his teaching, in order that he might be arrested, condemned, and crucified per the Roman Empire. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Holy Tuesday: Authority Questioned

23When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. (Matthew 21: 23-27)

After Jesus ‘cleansed’ the temple, it was able to once again be the house of God, a house of prayer. Therefore Jesus, who was the presence of God in flesh and blood, was teaching and healing all who gathered despite the dismay and increasing contempt of the religious elite.

The chief priests and elders were not simply the religious elite, but also the religious authority. Thus, they choose to confront Jesus about his authority to teach and heal. However, their inquiry was founded upon neither the desire for deeper understanding nor innocent curiosity, but rather it was built upon the dangerous cornerstone of jealousy and fear. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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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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Burn It Down! Arise!

While pondering Ash Wednesday, our Lenten journey, and the Resurrection at Easter, I am captivated by the imagery of fire and flames, the ashes left behind, and the mythical Phoenix.

We are temporary.
Ash Wednesday echoes to each person ‘remember that you are ash and to ash you shall return’. It reminds us that our physical bodies, minds, and lives are temporary, for in the grand scheme of time our existence is a mere blink of the eye.

Despite this brief existence, we are tempted to extended it through becoming legends and lifting ourselves onto a delusional pedestal built of pride, ego, and presumed (self) righteousness.

Burn it Down!
Lent is a journey of burning that delusional pedestal down to nothing but ashes.

Lent is a journey forged with vulnerability and honest self-reflection seeking to destroy that pedestal and additional barriers distracting from, challenging, and hindering our relationship with God, neighbor, and self. These barriers include, but are not limited to: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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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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Quote

In the United States of America we associate July with our declaration of independence and the freedom it symbolizes from the British across the pond in 1776. We celebrate each year with family, friends, cook outs, and of course fireworks.

Although Martin Luther was a German monk in 16th century Germany, his teachings and example can guide our faithful freedom and witness in 21st century America.

Martin Luther, rooted in scripture similar to our recent Galatians texts, taught about the freedom of a Christian. Luther argued that we have been released from the chains of sin and the shackles of obligation under the law, in order to boldly live into and live out our baptismal promises.

Luther taught that since we are released from said chains and shackles by God’s pure grace, we are enabled and empowered to respond to said grace by:

  • proclaiming Christ in word and deed,
  • seeking justice,
  • acting with compassion and mercy,
  • loving and serving all people but especially the vulnerable and the ‘least of these’.

Luther taught that we have duel citizenship in the Two Kingdoms:
Civil Kingdom and Kingdom of God.

  • We are called to be involved in our civil, social world but not necessarily to conform to it.
  • We are called to be involved in the political process for the sake of the gospel.
  • We are called to hold governments and their leadership accountable.
  • We are called to usher in the Kingdom of God in the here and now, through boldly living into and living out our baptismal promises.
  • We are called to embody the mercy, compassion, grace, and presence of God to all people, but especially the most vulnerable and the ‘least of these’.

Luther, however, did not simply teach and preach these principles.
He embodied these in his life.

Luther served on the town council. He had a reputation of standing firm for the vulnerable.

  • The town council, with the influence of Luther, established the first joint government-church operated community chest to provide resources to the most vulnerable.
  • On another occasion, Luther feared a town council decision did not benefit the most vulnerable. He applied pressure for the council to reconsider and overturn the decision by resigning. Due to Luther’s popularity and influence, the council reversed their decision and Luther resumed his position.

During 1527, the plague swept through Wittenberg and Luther was questioned regarding who had the freedom to flee and who had the responsibility to remain caring for the ill. Luther argued that all Christians should accept the responsibility to care for the ill, but that government leaders, clergy, and those with medical knowledge had an obligation to care for the ill. Thus, Martin Luther and his wife, Katharina Von Bora, remained in Wittenberg providing medical and pastoral care to the ill in their home.

May we, freed from the chains of sin and the shackles of the law, boldly live into and live out our baptismal promises in the Two Kingdoms, for the sake of the gospel. Amen.

Christian Freedom in the Two Kingdoms

 

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