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The Lenten Journey

Richard Rohr, a Roman Catholic theologian, wrote:

We worshiped Jesus instead of following him on his same path.
We made Jesus into a mere religion instead of a journey towards union with God and everything else.

This shift made us into a religion of “belonging and believing” instead of a religion of transformation.

Ash Wednesday begins Lent, a transformational journey toward union with God, neighbor, and beyond.

Ash Wednesday reminds us that our physical bodies, minds, and lives are temporary, a blink of the eye, for ‘from dust [we] came and to dust [we] shall return’. And yet, we strive to extend our delusional existence built upon pride, ego, and presumed righteousness.

The honest truth is simple. We are beautifully flawed and broken people, who live among our beautifully flawed and broken human siblings, in our beautifully flawed and broken communities, nations, and creation. It is our flaws and brokenness that separates us from our neighbors and God.

Lent is the life-giving journey into the darkest depth of our flawed, broken, and sinful messy selves.

It is a journey that demands vulnerability as we confront the reflection in the mirror proclaiming:

  • I am human.
  • I am flawed and broken.
  • I am a sinner.

Lent is a literal ‘Come to Jesus’ journey re-prioritizing our time, energy, resources, and entire life toward reconciliation with God and neighbor through vulnerable soul searching, re-directing our attention to the cross of Jesus the Christ, and responding to the grace of God beyond comprehension.

Lent is a journey that burns our pride, ego, and presumed righteousness into ash.

Lent is a journey that burns our personal flaws, brokenness, and sin into ash.

Lent is a journey that burns our communal flaws, brokenness, and sin into ash.

These flaws, brokenness, and sin, includes but are not limited to:

  • Injustice and Oppression;
  • Heartlessness and Indifference,
  • Prejudice and Hatred,
  • Frustration and Anger;
  • Violence and Suffering; and
  • Self-Centeredness or ‘sin’.     

It is from these ashes that our authentic, beautiful, and still flawed selves can rise anew.

It is from these ashes that our authentic, beautiful, and still flawed communities can rise anew.

It is from these ashes that our authentic, beautiful, and still flawed world can rise anew.

Lent is a transformative journey. 

Although still flawed, we are raised from the ashes stronger and bolder in new life with Jesus the Christ.

Although still flawed, we are raised from the ashes stronger and bolder into the persons, communities, and world that the Triune God has, is, and will continue to call us to be.

As a proud daughter of Arizona, I cannot deny the imagery of the Phoenix who self-combusts, becomes ash, and then rises again from the ashes stronger than before. And so, we came from ashes, we are called to die to the self, we return to ash, and we rise from said ash by the grace of God alone transformed further into the one God has, is, and will continue to call us to be.

And yet, this process of burning our pride, ego, presumed righteousness, self-centeredness (sin), and distractions in order to be resurrected again is a re-occurring, life-long process until the moment of our earthly deaths.This transformational journey is new life, a resurrection, more deeply into our baptismal vocations to:

  • Proclaim Christ in thought, word, and deed through imitation;
  • Seek justice and honest peace;
  • Act with compassion and mercy; and
  • Love and serve all people.

Lent is a life-giving, ‘Come to Jesus’, transformative journey.

As we enter into this journey, may we reflect upon our need for God and God’s transforming grace.

As we enter into this journey, may we repent from pride, ego, presumed righteousness, and sin.

As we enter into this journey, may we reconcile with God and neighbor alike.

As we enter into this journey, may we be restored by the love, mercy, and grace of God.

Similar to the Phoenix, may we be raised from the ashes stronger and bolder by God’s grace alone.
Amen.

Scriptures were Isaiah 58: 1-12 and Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21.
Originally preached 17 February 2021 for Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, Indiana).

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2021 in Sermons

 

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SALT Shaker!

The gospel is an excerpt from Jesus’ infamous ‘Sermon on the Mount’.

Jesus speaks of being a light, which is the emphasized imagery of this Time after the Epiphany that perhaps you have grown weary of hearing…
Well, pause and take a deep breath.

I am not talking about the light, instead the SALT.

Jesus tells the gathered crowd to be the salt of the earth,
but what does that mean?

I am intrigued at times about how language changes throughout the decades, not to mention the centuries and the millennia. For example:

If someone is ‘salty’, they are upset of bitter about something minor.
But, does Jesus want us to be bitter about insignificant things?
I don’t think so.

Or reflecting on my Western States Youth Gathering adventure with a friend from church, I can not help but recall ‘salt’. We noted youth, sorry ladies but primarily female youth, who were sweet as sugar when chaperone eyes were watching but behaving inappropriately and vindictively when those eyes were not. We nicknamed them ‘salt’, because although appearing to be sugar, they were something different. We might say they wore a mask, were two-faced, or the popular and often deserved criticism of Christians as being hypocrites.
But, does Jesus want us to be two-faced, hypocrites? I doubt it. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2020 in Sermons

 

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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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We’re Salt & Light: But are we?

We’re Salt & Light: But are we?

YouTube Video

Our texts this week built upon our texts from last week and I asked each of us to discern what it means to do true worship in our time and in our place. The worship to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with our God.

In Matthew 5, we get the second piece of the Sermon on the Mount, the call to be the light and the salt of the earth. Isaiah builds upon what that means, and it is to break the bondage of oppression, to break the yoke of burden, to feed the hunger, to shelter the homeless.

This week I came across commentary and songs that spoke to this text better than I could summarize. I apologize in advance if this is a little longer than normal (which it is).

The first comes from Christian Century, where the author holds a powerful mirror in front of us, in order to convict us of our short-comings and show us a better way. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2017 in Sermon Summaries, Sermons

 

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Remember Sabbath! Stop, Rest, be Restored!

YouTube Video

Transcript:
Our texts this week are Isaiah 58 and Luke 13.

In Isaiah, we are told to feed the hungry, to satisfy the needs of the needy, and to honor the Sabbath.

In Luke, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue and he heals a woman who had been crippled by a demonic spirit for eighteen years. The leader of the synagogue is annoyed by this and argues that this man had six other days in the week to heal and that he should not have healed this woman on the Sabbath. Jesus calls him a hypocrite and says how many of you would not untie your ox to get your ox water, essentially saying making that your ox’s needs are met. How much more important is it for the needs of this woman, this daughter of Abraham, your sister in faith, for her to be heal, for her to be released on the Sabbath.

Sabbath literally means to stop.

I felt awkward preaching about Sabbath, because as a pastor and as an American, I tend to be a workaholic. We are a nation of workaholics. I know the Sabbath and I know the important of the Sabbath, and yet I am horrible about keeping Sabbath. I am horrible about taking rest. I am horrible about giving myself the time to be restored. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2016 in Sermon Summaries

 

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