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Temptations

As we begin our Lenten journey, it is helpful to again pause and rewind.

Our Lenten journey does not begin after Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain, instead it begins after Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordon.

Jesus publicly commits to proclaiming repentance and the Kingdom to Come that is here now in glimpses, near, and not yet fulfilled.

  • Jesus publicly commits to seeking justice and honest peace.
  • Jesus publicly commits to acts of compassion and mercy.
  • Jesus publicly commits to loving and serving all people, but especially the under-privileged.

Immediately afterwards, the Holy Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness alone.

Jesus will be alone in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights while tempted by the Satan.

According to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Satan tempts Jesus with three notable tests.

  • Jesus is tempted to abuse his divine power for the physical nourishment of food.
  • Jesus is tempted to surrender his divine authority for material wealth and earthly authority.
  • Jesus is tempted to ‘test’ God.

These temptations are reasonable.

  • Similar to puppy friends, we (as humans) are often food motivated especially when hungry. Hungry humans are often ‘hangry’ humans.
  • We, as humans, are often motivated by material reward and earthly authority. Studies have indicated that humans, organizations, and companies often do not consider themselves ‘wealthy’ due to the presence of persons, organizations, and companies that are ‘wealthier’. This results in a continual drive to accumulate additional wealth or maintain, perhaps hoard,
    their current wealth.
  • We, as humans, intentionally or not, often ‘test’ God.
    Our intentional tests may be modeled from Martin Luther: “Lord, I will become a monk, IF YOU save me from this storm” or “I will believe in you, IF YOU do this”.

    Our unintentional tests may include our assurance of God’s grace for ourselves despite:
    not proclaiming Christ in thought, word, and deed through imitation,
    not seeking justice and honest peace,
    not acting with compassion and mercy toward another, and
    not loving and serving all people, but especially the under-privileged.

However, the Gospel of Mark does not provide insight into the temptation of Jesus; and thus, it enables us more deeply to discern Jesus’ experience in the wilderness. I envision that Jesus experienced additional challenges during his 40 days and nights.

Perhaps, Jesus heard the Satan whispering lies into his ear.

  • The lie that Jesus was not divine.
  • The lie that Jesus was not the Beloved Son of God.
  • The lie that Jesus was not the long-awaited Messiah or Christ.
  • The lie that Jesus was not a ‘Miracle Worker’ lifting the under-privileged in status.
  • The lie that Jesus was not a Rabbi instructing persons in the Kingdom of God to Come.

Similarly, the Satan whispers in our ear.

  • The lie that we or perhaps another are not beloved children of God.
  • The lie that we are unable to lift the under-privileged for the sake of justice and honest peace.
  • The lie that we are unable to walk in Jesus’ footsteps of compassion, mercy, grace, and love in service to all despite difference in race, ethnicity, or nationality; biological sex, gender identity, or sexuality; socio-economics; political affiliations; religious adherence or lack thereof; and beyond.

Perhaps, Jesus was further tempted to abuse his power, his authority, his privilege.

Similarly, we are tempted to abuse our power, our authority, and our privilege.

  • The abuse of dominating and silencing those who may have less power, authority, and privilege.
  • The abuse of intimidating those whose voice and presence is perceived as a threat to our authority or comfort.
  • The effort of gas-lighting, or creating a false reality, to manipulate another for our own benefit.

The truth is that we, as humans, are tempted to not live more boldly into our baptismal commitments.

We, as humans, sin each second and beyond due to our desire to remain comfortable and un-changed.

We are tempted by thoughts and actions that are self-centered and self-serving. 

We are tempted by less-than-charitable thoughts and actions towards another.

We are tempted by words rooted in ego and pride, frustration and anger.

As I pondered this temptation of Jesus and ourselves, “A Day with the Devil” echoed in my soul. It is a country song performed by a Hoosier boy named Matt Mason. (It is our Offering Video and I encourage you to pause and listen to it at that time.)  

May our eyes, minds, hearts, and souls be open to recognizing the temptations in our own lives.

May we be enabled to boldly renounce all forces that defy God and the Kingdom to Come.

May we be empowered to boldly renounce all temptations that seek to draw us from God and neighbor alike.

May we be emboldened to boldly follow in the footsteps of Jesus through baptism, temptation, and beyond.

Amen.

Scriptures were Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; and Mark 1:9-15.
Originally preached 21 February 2021 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

A Day with the Devil
Matt Mason

I left here this mornin’, my feet hard on the ground,
swore I wasn’t comin’ back, we’d fought our final round.
Then a stranger, offered me a ride.
So I took him up and climbed on inside.
He said I’ve got some things to do, I hope that you don’t mind.
I figured what’s the difference? I had lots of time.
When I seen his eyes, I sank in disbelief.
I was ridin’ with the devil, and I watched him do his deeds.

He told that lonely man to keep drinkin’,
simple child to just quit thinkin’,
and begged the wife to cheat,
and he cursed the farmers land,
told that sick old soul to just give up,
teenage boy to take that puff,
and whispered to me let go of her hand.

He said I can’t keep you here, no not against your will
but go ahead and leave that girl and see how good it feels.
Boy you know, this world’s a big ol’ place
and loves not really real anyway
Life don’t last forever, so you oughta roll the dice.
You know I’d never tell a lie, just take my advice.
But I’d seen enough and I told him we were through.
I said go to hell, there’s some things I need to do.

I told that lonely man to quit drinkin’,
simple child to just keep thinkin’,
and begged the wife to pray, God bless the farmer’s land,
told that sick old soul to not give in
the teenage boy to run from sin
and came back home to take you by the hand.
I know I can be a better man.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2021 in Sermons

 

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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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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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Why Lent

Confession: Lent is my favorite season.

It is not because I enjoy suffering or even sober events.
It is, however, because it is honest and authentic.

We are beautifully flawed and broken people, who live among beautifully flawed and broken people in a beautifully flawed and broken creation. Our flaws, our brokenness, and those of others and the creation separate us from one another, from neighbor, and from God.

Ash Wednesday humbly reminded us that we, our neighbors, and all of creation are temporary. It all was created from ash/dust and to ash/dust it will all return.

As a girl from the ‘Valley of the Sun’, I am aware that the phoenix dies, becomes ash, then rises again stronger than before. Similarly, we (as individuals, communities, and institutions) are called to die, to become ashes, to rise by the grace of God stronger and further shaped into the one that God has called us each to be.

THIS is the work of Lent.
It is about becoming aware of the distractions
that separate us from God and neighbor…

in order for vulnerable soul-searching…

in order for uncomfortable ‘Come to Jesus’ moments…

in order to return our attention to the cross, to Jesus the Christ,
and to the Triune God…

in order that we may be reconciled and reconnected to God and neighbor alike. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2019 in Sermons

 

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Lenten Meditation: the Word Sustains & Shapes

“Since that day God has been at work toward the meaning of the creation… The kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, stands for a mended creation with people and things – a social, economic, ecological reality. Thus, Jesus’ miracles were not primarily signs of his power but acts of mending the creation, pushing back the frontier of Satan, healing minds and bodies, feeding, even counteracting the devastation of the premature death of the young and needy.”
Kister Stendahl, Meanings

“The nature of water is soft, the nature of stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung above a stone letting the water drip down, it wears away the stone. It is like that with the word of God; it is soft and our heart is hard; but if someone hears the word of God often, it will break open his heart to the fear of God.”
The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks, p. 191.

This evening, we have two qualities or actions of the Word of God instead of one, however how it ‘sustains’ and ‘shapes’ us go hand-in-hand.

There a variety of images that came to mind as I prepared for this evening. One selected is humorous and the other more serious, so we will start with the serious.

While in the final year of Seminary coursework prior to internship, I was also the dorm proctor. One day early in the academic year, a professor had let us “go free” for an hour to read an article and then return ready to discuss it. I was sitting at a local coffee shop, enjoying a coffee, and reading the article when a first year Seminary dorm-mate saw me. He inquired about the article I was reading, which was exploring the different visions of salvation, such as (1) who is saved, (2) how are we saved, and (3) how do we know. Then he asked for my opinion, I gave it to him, and he informed me that I was WRONG. After a few intense moments of discussion, I told him that he would not change my mind and we would have to agree to disagree. His response was to lean over the table between us and start pounding his fist on the table saying “NO! I CANNOT DO THAT”. I replied “I don’t know what to tell you”.

People understand the role of a pastor includes “saving” you, “sustaining” you spiritually, and to correct your misbehavior (sin) transforming each into righteous (Old Testament) law-abiding Christians. Well, I have news for you:

The last time I checked that was NOT within my job description. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2018 in Sermons

 

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New Healing

In preparation for Sundays, there are weeks when I struggle to find a message to preach and then other weeks it is difficult to discern the message because there is a wealth of material and possible directions. This week, I could have easily prepared multiple sermon messages on each of our scriptures.

But, there is a concept that continued to stay with me and it is being healed or healing. We are familiar with the term ‘healing’, but we tend to confuse it with being ‘cured’. There is a difference between being ‘cured’ and being ‘healed’. When one is cured the aliment has been eradicated or removed and thus is not present, while healing does not necessarily require that the illness/trauma is gone or the situation is done (ex. after a cut is ‘healed’ a scar remains).

This difference might be a challenging concept, but I have a few examples to demonstrate.

Highlander, my dog, is diabetic. Yes, dogs can be diabetic.

Will he be “cured” of his diabetes?
No. He will be diabetic for the rest of his life.

Is he being “healed”?
Yes. He receives insulin twice daily. Since beginning the insulin, he is back to his crazy ‘old’ self.
Thus, Highlander is not cured but is healing as there has been restoration to his well-being.

In our time and place, we focus on the “cure” and often ignore the “healing”. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2018 in Sermons

 

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Lent Meditation: the Word Commands

“This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At the present, everything does not glam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.”
Martin Luther, Defense and Explanation of All Articles (1521)

On Sunday, we heard two scriptural passages that can be fun to explore.

The first scripture was Exodus 20 (1-17), the Ten Commandments and it never hurts us to be reminded of these commandments.

1. You should have no gods above me.
2. You should not use my name in vain or use it wrongly.
3. You should remember the Sabbath, or day of rest, and keep it holy.
4. You should honor your father and mother.
5. You should not murder.
6. You should not commit adultery.
7. You should not steal.
8. You should not bear false witness or lie.
9. You should not covet your neighbor’s house.
10. You should not covet your neighbor’s… well you name it.

The last commandment includes everything from your neighbor’s wife and children, to their slaves, to their livestock… it literally covers it ALL.

The Ten Commandments are imagined as the foundation of the law; thus, we envision these as the Word ‘Commands’ us.

The Ten Commandments are standards by which all people, all societies, and all faiths embrace, therefore it is a common code of conduct that we ALL struggle to fully live into. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2018 in Sermons

 

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New Standard

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Our scripture this morning is different than those we often encounter about Jesus and his ministry, perhaps that is why I love this passage. It portrays another side of Jesus that we do not often have the chance to explore.

We, as humans, enjoy and seek comfort in our lives. Comfort can be achieved with everything being black and white. Thus, we prefer black and white instructions and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that are easy to follow exactly.

BUT, life is not black and white. Life has countless shades of grey.

Our scriptures are not black and white either.

In fact, I am drawn to Lutheran theology/teaching because we acknowledge the grey within our lives, within our faith lives, and within our scriptures. Thus, it requires more discernment rather than simply reading and living it word for word. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2018 in Sermons

 

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Lent Meditation: The WORD Calls

“For in truth we are not called once only, but many times; all through our life Christ is calling us. He called us first in Baptism; but afterwards also; whether we obey His voice or not, He graciously calls us still. If we fall from our Baptism, He calls us to repent; if we are striving to fulfill our calling, he calls us from grace to grace, and from holiness to holiness, where life is given to us.”
John Henry Newman, “Divine Callings” in Callings

Our callings/vocations are among the few components that are the firm foundation of Lutheran theology and teaching. This foundation, along with “Saved by Grace Alone” and the authority of Scripture (alone), is vocation. Thus, it is among few components that are too important to be considered Adiaphora, a fancy term for “things indifferent”.

However, in our time and place, we tend to imagine our calling/vocation as our professional lives or how we provide for our families and ourselves. BUT, vocation goes much deeper.

Our vocations begin from before we are born and continues until the moment of our death. We ALL have vocations as sons/daughters, nieces/nephews, cousins, and friends.

We, the baptized, have been baptized into Christian vocation. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2018 in Sermons

 

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