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Why was Jesus Baptized? Why Affirm Our Own?

As I was scrolling on Facebook, I stumbled upon a post inquiring:
If Jesus was without sin, why must he have been baptized?

I love such questions that invite us to ponder our understanding and engage our faith.

The Gospel accounts agree that Jesus’ baptism was the beginning of his public ministry.

John the Baptizer was the one to ‘prepare the way for the LORD’.

  • John not-so-gently invited persons to recognize and acknowledge their own failures and sins.
  • John aggressively encouraged persons to repent, or turn from their sins and toward the Will of God.
  • Then, John would baptize persons in the Jordon River as a Rite of Purification for their new path. Rites of Purification were and remain significant within the Jewish tradition.

Jesus was without sin to acknowledge; therefore, his baptism was not for the forgiveness of sin.

Since Jesus was without sin, he had not turned from God; therefore, his baptism was not an act of repentance. And yet, such acts of repentance symbolize beginning a ‘new path’ ahead.

Thus, Jesus’ baptism was the beginning of a ‘new path’ that was his public ministry and a public dedication to the path, Will, and Kingdom of God.  

This is profound for understanding our baptism into Christ and our public ministry.

According to our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), as an Ordained Minister within this denominational body I am a public figure engaged in public ministry, including but not limited to:

  • [witnessing] to the Kingdom of God in community, in the nation, and abroad; and (C9.03.a.7)
  • [speaking] publicly to the world in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, calling for justice and
    proclaiming God’s love for the world. (C9.03.a.8)

Although ordained June 2014 with the stole placed upon my shoulders as a reminder of the yoke, the burden of my responsibility as an Ordained Minister, the above public ministry was NOT added weight. The weight of public ministry was originally placed upon my shoulders when I decided to be baptized into Christ at seven.

It is within the Rite of Baptism that one accepts the responsibilities of our shared Christian vocation.

If baptized as an infant or child, loved ones accept the responsibility to raise you within said vocation. 

This shared Christian vocation is:

  • To live among God’s faithful people who encourage us to come to the Word and the Sacraments, as well as teach us the Lord’s Prayer, the Creeds, and the Ten Commandments;
  • To engage our faith and nurture our prayer life, in order to grow deeper and healthier in a trusting relationship with the Triune God;
  • To proclaim Christ in our thoughts, words, and deeds;
  • To care for other persons, the world, and the creation that God has made; and
  • To seek and work for justice and peace.

The weight of public ministry and shared Christian vocation intensified when I was confirmed. Confirmation is our initial public affirmation of baptism, in which previously baptized persons accept their own responsibilities in and dedicate themselves to our shared Christian vocation.

All the baptized, especially the confirmed, share this Christian vocation. It is not the ordained alone.

We all should affirm our baptism and re-dedicate ourselves DAILY whether privately or publicly.

It can be as simple as showering,
simply envision the failures and sins of the day being washed down the drain with the dirt, grim, and germs. Then, re-dedicate yourself to the Christian vocation again.

But, why re-affirm our baptism and re-dedicate ourselves to the Christian vocation daily?

  • We are sinful, self-centered critters.
  • We fail to walk the path of God daily.
  • We fail to act in accordance with the Will of God daily.
  • We fail to live into and bring forth the Kingdom of God that is here, near, and not yet fulfilled daily.

Unfortunately, our communities, our nation, and abroad have and continue to suffer from a lack of dedication to, or worse yet a perversion of, our shared Christian vocation, in summary, to:

  • to proclaim Christ in thought, word, and deed through imitation;
  • to seek justice for the under-privileged;
  • to act with compassion and mercy; and
  • to love and serve all persons, especially the most vulnerable.

And so, I would fail as a public figure, an Ordained Minister, and a baptized and confirmed Christian,
if I did not recognize, acknowledge, and boldly renounce the violent and deadly riot, attack, and insurrection of our United States Capital Building on Wednesday.

  • It was disturbing to bear witness to this event unfolding on my television screen.
  • It incited sighs of lament deeper than words could express but the Holy Spirit alone can understand.
  • It was not appropriate or excusable. It was not patriotic or American.

On Thursday, a friend asked for my thoughts on the situation to which I simply replied “disturbing”.

He asked what I found most disturbing. I replied that I could not prioritize the disturbing elements.

And yet, there is a disturbing element that our shared Christian vocation demands I address.

  • It is the presence of Christian symbols boldly, proudly displayed during the violent acts.
  • It is the twisting and perverting of Christian identity intertwined with American politics.
  • It was a violent flashpoint of Christian Nationalism on full display for America and the entire world.

Our Christian vocation includes reflecting, imitating Christ in thought, word, and deed.

Jesus was not ignorant of the social and political realities of his Roman occupied time and place.

  • It was a time and place of chaos.
  • It was a time and place of normalized violence justified to maintain Pax Romania, or Peace of Rome.
  • It was a time and place of abuses of power to maintain authority at the expense of the vulnerable.

Jesus was not silently compliant.

Jesus opposed the injustice of Israelite religious elite without violent riots or attacks.

Jesus opposed the injustice of the Roman Empire without violent attacks or insurrection.

Instead, Jesus drove out the darkness of injustice with the divine light of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

Instead, Jesus opposed the injustice in life and ministry defined by mercy and compassion, grace and love, and humble servant leadership.

Instead, Jesus provided a ‘new’ commandment to love one another as he loved his most intimate disciples (John 13: 34-35). Our love is how we will be identified as Christ-followers.

The Apostle Paul would later write:
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10)

Hope. Peace. Joy. Compassion. Mercy. Grace. Humble Servant-Leadership. LOVE.

  • These are the tenants of our reflection and imitation of Christ.
  • These are our Christian Identity on display even without visible symbols of Christianity.

Injustice. Abuse. Violence. Riot. Attacks. Insurrection.

  • These are NOT tenants of our reflection and imitation of Christ.
  • These are a perversion of Christian Identity.
  • These should NEVER be associated with Christ, his teachings and symbols included.

And so, considering the state of our communities, our nation and abroad paired with our shared Christian vocation in public ministry, I invite us all to affirm our baptism and re-dedicate ourselves.

Thus, our services in this Time after the Epiphany will begin with an Affirmation of Baptism.
This provides a weekly opportunity to not only give thanks for baptism, but to reflect upon our baptismal responsibilities, Christian Identity, and shared Christian vocation.

May we affirm our baptisms and our responsibilities daily.
May we re-dedicate ourselves to our shared Christian vocation daily.
May we imitate Christ in thought, word, and deed daily.
May we reflect the hope, peace, joy, mercy, compassion, grace, and love of Christ daily.
Amen.

Scripture was Mark 1: 4-11.
Originally preached on 10 January 2021 from Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, Indiana).

Statement of Recognition, Acknowledgment, Repentance, and Renouncement:
After the sermon “Why was Jesus Baptized? Why Affirm Our Own?” on January 10th, it was brought to my attention that despite direct renouncing on social media and the generalized renouncing of violence in previous sermons, I had failed to directly renounce previous violence, riot, and attack from the pulpit.

I recognize and acknowledge this failure. I publicly repent.

I bravely and boldly renounce all acts of riot and violence as contrary to the Will and Kingdom of God.

I bravely and boldly renounce all acts of riot and violence despite the associated gatherings, person or persons, organizations or institutions, including but not limited to:

  • Antifa,
  • Black Lives Matter,
  • Child Abuse,
  • Domestic Violence,
  • Gender-based and Sexual Violence,
  • Proud Boys,
  • Qnon,
  • Sport Championship Wins,
  • and otherwise.

This brave and bold renouncement is rooted in our baptismal commitments and re-commitments in our Affirmation of Baptism, through renouncing the devil, all forces that defy God, the powers of this world that rebel against God, and draw us from the path, Will, and Kingdom of God. This requires the help of God.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2021 in Sermons, Uncategorized

 

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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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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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