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Prophetic Voice

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,
  • QAnon,
  • 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.

And yet, our shared Christian vocation rooted in our baptismal commitments and these renouncements are not divorced from our intriguingly, inter-connected scriptures from the call of the young Samuel to Jesus’ earliest disciples, and from how the call arrives to its embracement and embodiment.

Our baptismal commitments include:

  • to live among the faithful gathered around the Word and sacraments and who teach us the Lord’s prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments;
  • to nurture our faith and prayer life in order to grow in a deeper, healthier, more trusting relationship with the Triune God;
  • to proclaim Christ in thought, word, and deed through embodying His teachings while imitating His public life and ministry as recorded in the Scriptures;
  • to care for, love, and serve others and the entire creation that God has made; and
  • to seek and strive towards justice and peace.

Although I often refer to this as our shared Christian vocation, it is our discipleship.

According to our Old Testament scripture, Israel was in a dark time lacking the experience of the divine presence in voice and vision. Eli was their high priest, who had grown dull, blind, and deaf spiritually while ignoring the actions of his ‘priestly sons’ according to the Torah, or teaching, in ritual practice and basic human decency.

Meanwhile, Samuel is a young boy whose short life has been dedicated to the service of the Temple, who is literally sleeping near the Arc of the Covenant holding the tablets that the Ten Commandments were inscribed. Samuel is not and will never be a priest, for he is not from the ‘priestly’ tribe.

But, Samuel will be awoken by the voice of God. Samuel would be a prophet, for that is not limited to tribe.

Samuel responds to the voice “Here I am Lord, your servant is listening”.

And yet it may seem a cruel calling, for Samuel is initially summoned to deliver a divine warning to Eli that his family’s legacy will be destroyed due to their faithlessness.

Samuel will continue his prophetic, public ministry sharing the messages of God not within the temple but among the common people in the country-side.

Then after centuries had passed, God became incarnated in human flesh and bone as Jesus the Christ, who was raised by a common family within a small country-side town called Nazareth. Jesus was baptized in the Jordon River beginning his public ministry as a teacher and prophet with a public dedication to the path, Will, and Kingdom of God.

Now, we enter into the scriptures with the calling of Jesus’ earliest disciples. Philip and Nathanael.

Philip easily and excitedly agreed to leave his employment, family, and life as he knew it to answer the invitation and call from Jesus to ‘follow me’.

Nathanael, on the other hand, was more ‘skeptical’, but perhaps he had a deeper sense of fulfillment in his employment, family, and life as he knew it. So, he asks ‘can anything good come from Nazareth’?

Philip, perhaps grabs Nathanael by the hand, says ‘come and see’. Nathanael does.

I envision the conversation of Philip, Nathanael, and Jesus was deeper and lengthier than included in Scripture. But, the conversation convinced Nathanael to ‘follow’ Jesus and to ‘see’ for himself.

Jesus always spoke truth. Jesus, similar to Samuel, spoke prophetically.

Jesus called his disciples, including us, to speak prophetically.

Unfortunately, the prophetic voice is often uncomfortable, painful, and convicting to hear.

The prophetic voice can be uncomfortable, painful, and dangerous to speak.

I think of Paul Tillich, a German Lutheran theologian, whose prophetic voice against the NAZI party resulted in the loss of his employment at the University and relocation to the United States of America.

I think of Martin Luther King Jr, a Black Baptist preacher from Alabama, whose prophetic voice against racial injustice in the United States of America paired with non-violent protest and civil disobedience ultimately resulted in his assassination.

These men are examples of Christian persons who spoke prophetically in courage.

These men are examples of Christian persons who paired their prophetic voice with action. 

These men are examples of Christian persons who relied on the Grace of God to do so.

Similarly, we are called to speak prophetically in courage for the sake of justice and honest peace.

Similarly, we are called to pair our prophetic voice with actions of compassion, mercy, love, and service.

Similarly, we are called to rely on the Grace of God to do so. God Help Us.

May we echo Samuel, ‘here I am Lord, your servant is listening’.

May we model Philip and Nathanael, who answered the calling to follow Jesus as disciples.

May we embrace our prophetic voice within and through our shared baptismal, Christian vocation. 

May God help us. Amen.

Scriptures were 1 Samuel 3: 1-10 and John 1: 43-51.
Originally preached  17 January 2021 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN)

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2021 in Sermons

 

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Proclaiming the Word

The Gospel according to John is often the favorite among people, thus people are surprised that it is not my favorite Gospel. It might be due to my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), because it is so different from the Gospels according to Mark, Matthew, and Luke.

However, the difference is beautiful language of philosophy, deeper thinking, and poetry that people love; and yet, this results in difficulty to follow it and to find concrete, tangible lessons to take forth.

This prologue, the opening verses of the Gospel, can specifically be a challenge to find tangibleness to hold on to but it teaches that words are important.

Words have power.

We have been taught, however, that words only compile about 20 percent of our communication while 80 percent is composed of our tone of voice and body language. And yet, words remain extremely important.

According to the Gospel of John and the Christian tradition, Christ is the Word (Incarnated).

This Word brought creation into being when God (the Father) spoke at the birth of all that exists.

But we can become stuck on the meaning of the word ‘Word’.

We often hold that ‘Word’ is simply about what we speak, write, or read and that is definitely part of it. But in the life of the church universal, we understand that the Word comes in three parts.

The first aspect of the ‘Word’ is the Bible or Scriptures. This is words in black and occasionally red on white pages that is the foundation of our worship, fellowship, and discipleship. This is the Word that offers guidance for our lives, which we can read.

The second aspect of the ‘Word’ is Jesus the Christ. Jesus was the Word Incarnate and embodied in his public life and ministry, which we can learn to imitate through the Scriptures.

The third aspect of the ‘Word’ is the ‘preached word’. It is not simply preached from a pulpit or desk on a Sunday morning from the pastor or a guest preacher.

Within our Baptismal Rite, we dedicate and commit ourselves first and foremost to proclaiming the Word (or Christ) in the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and the actions we do. All of our thoughts, words, and actions should embody the light of Christ. This light is hope, peace, joy, and love shining forth into a world that does not always seem illuminated, in a world that far too often seems dark, lonely, hopeless, full of strive, lacking in joy, and lacking in love.

We do not always give thought to our words, especially how our words impact others.

  • When we have and hold negative thoughts, whether regarding ourselves or another, we do damage.
  • When we are disrespectful, rude, inconsiderate, or self-centered (Martin Luther’s definition of sin), those words do damage.

This concept is included in our Lutheran understanding of ‘you shall not kill’, because we are called to not cause harm to another in body, mind, soul, or otherwise.

How often do we think negative thoughts, speak damaging words, or act in destructive means that is harmful to ourselves or another?

This is NOT proclaiming Christ in hope, peace, joy, and love.

Proclaiming the Word in hope, peace, joy, and love in thought, word, and deed is an aspect of being Christ-like and embodying Christ. Unfortunately, it is an aspect that I personally have failed to uphold.

I am confident that we all have and continue to fail to proclaim Christ in thought, word, and deed.
We could all do better.

This week and beyond:

  • I invite us to ponder our thoughts and words.
  • I encourage us to ponder how our thoughts and words influence our actions.
  • I challenge us to ponder how our thoughts, words, and actions impact us, family, loved ones, friends, and even the stranger we pass on the street.

May we go forward with the Spirit of Christmas proclaiming loudly the Word
with the light of Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, and especially Christ.
Amen.

Scriptures were John 1: 1-18.
Originally preached 03 January 2021 for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, Indiana).

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2021 in Sermons

 

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What are You Seeking?

The Gospel according to John differs from those of Mark, Matthew, and Luke.

John begins with creation, which is brought into being through the WORD that is Christ.

John, similar to Mark, does not include a birth narrative.

John does include Jesus’ baptism, but it is through the witness of John the Baptist to his disciples instead of Jesus. This is where we enter into the gospel this morning.

John the Baptist is excited, this is the One for whom he prepared the way.

John’s disciples were excited for the Israelites had been waiting centuries for their Messiah to come.

And Jesus’ first words, his first impression made, in the gospel of John is a question.

As one who is inquisitive, I appreciate Jesus arriving on scene with a question especially the simplistic yet complex and vastly open ended question posed…
What are you looking for? Or better yet, What are you seeking?

These disciples of John respond ‘to know if you are the long awaited Messiah’. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Proclaim the WORD in Deed

The Gospel according to John reminds me of the letters wrote by the apostle Paul. These texts have long, switch-back styled, confusing sentences of deep philosophical and theological language. Honestly, It is easy to get lost.

Our Scripture, the Prologue in John, is perhaps the most challenging.

There was the WORD.
The WORD was with God.
The WORD was God.
The WORD created all things.
All was created through the WORD.

Who else is confused? (Raising my own hand).

I am not ashamed to admit it. It is confusing.

Again, it is has though this journey through John is switchbacks on a mountain road causing us to lose track of north and south, east and west.

And yet, this idea of the WORD is important in the church.

We, as individuals, witness the power of words in our own lives. The words we speak to ourselves, others, and into our world influences all that hear it.

Words have power, and yet, 80% of communication is non-verbal.

Again, 80% of our communication has nothing to do with selecting the correct word. This 80% includes our tone, because there is a difference between:

  • “Melinda” (regular, conversational),
  • “Melinda” (excited), and
  • “Melinda” (angry, disppointed, or questioning conduct of).

 

Trust me, I have heard that often when I was a child and a couple times this last week while in Arizona.

The tone can speak more volume than the words themselves.

THEN, there is body language or the embodiment of our words.
I talk with my hands, which some people would prefer my hands remained at my side and it drives them crazy… but, it is just how I am.

It is claimed that if the person you are speaking with is listening, interested, and engaged, their body language will mirror your own. Thus, if you are curious if one is engaged, cross your arms and wait to see if they cross their arms.

Plus, we are able to discern the difference in body language from a friendly gesture or one intended to intimidate, assert power, or is aggressive.

The idea of our words, tone, and body language is involved in the Scriptural WORD.

The WORD, within the church, has three separate expressions.  Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Our Mission, Shall We Accept It.

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Hello. We doing a two for one deal this morning.

On January 8th was a feast day, the Baptism of our Lord Jesus (the) Christ. On January 15th, we cancelled church, but the texts are deeply connected and intertwined with the Baptismal texts of January 8th.

On January 8th, our texts were Isaiah 42, where Isaiah talks about the servant (we associate with Israel) as being a light to the nations. In Matthew 3, we have Matthew’s account of the Baptism of Jesus (the) Christ; where the heavens open, the dove/Spirit descends, and the voice says “this is my Son” leaving us to wonder whether Jesus was the only one or not, who witnessed these events.

This past Sunday (January 15th), the text was Isaiah 49 which is included in the servant songs and the servant, again, is being told to be a light to the nations and that this is a mission, a calling, that existed prior to their birth. In John (John 1), we have a text about John the Baptist, who is pointing the way towards Christ telling people ‘this is the one who I saw the Spirit rest upon during his Baptism’.
They (the people) go to Jesus and ask, ‘Rabbi (teacher), where are you staying’.
He (Jesus) replies ‘come and see’.

The thread that goes through all four of these texts is the thread of mission. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2017 in Sermon Summaries

 

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