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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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St. Patrick & Gathered In

On this day, the entire world celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day.
It is especially celebrated in the United States as a day of Irish Pride.
Although there are historical reasons for that, today I lift Saint Patrick up as an example of Christian witness… and his story closely matches with the scriptures.

Our scriptures echo human distress and pain:
emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Our scriptures also echo human lamenting, or deep cries, to God.
God not only is able to handle our laments, but desires these because it signifies an intimate relationship and holds God accountable to God’s promises.

Our gospel is Jesus aware of and being warned of the danger that awaits in Jerusalem including his arrest, passion, crucifixion, and death. After all, Jesus is a prophet and that is the fate of the prophets.

Jesus, however, would not be deterred (distracted) from his mission/ministry:
to heal, to release, to forgive, to love, to serve, and to gather ALL people/creation
into God’s protective and maternal love, like that mother hen.

But, what does this have to do with Saint Patrick?

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2019 in 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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