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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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New Chapters

Jesus has exorcised an unclean, demonic spirit from a man within the synagogue.

Afterwards, Jesus and the newly called disciples enter into the home of Simeon (Peter) to find his mother-in-law is in bed ill. This means that Simeon (later Peter) was a married man, who would leave his home, career, parents, spouse, and possibly children behind to follow Jesus.

Jesus does heal his mother-in-law, who responds appropriately with gratitude in service.

As we might imagine, the news of the exorcism and this healing ripple through the small town. The community begins to bring their loved ones who have demons for exorcisms and their ill for healing. Although Jesus does exorcise and heal many, he does not exorcise and heal all of them.

In the night, Jesus escapes to pray. The disciples will encourage him to return and continue exorcising and healing, but Jesus shares that the time has come to end this chapter and begin the next.

This narrative, especially paired with our Isaiah, Psalm, and 1 Corinthians scriptures, is simple but offers profound teaching about the divine character of the Triune God, our appropriate response, and the next chapter.

Our Scriptures include an over-arching truth, God desires life that is truly LIFE for all; and thus, God is life-giving. God is merciful, slow to anger, steadfast in love, and according to our Psalm and Isaiah scriptures it is experienced as:

  • God gathers,
  • God lifts the lowly,
  • God binds up wounds,
  • God heals the broken-hearted,
  • God rebuilds,
  • God sustains,
  • God provides, and
  • God protects.

Within our Christian tradition, we experience this life that is truly LIFE through baptism.

In baptism, we experience a death to the Old Adam, our old selves, or the ending of a previous chapter.
This includes an exorcism through renouncing all forces that defy the Kingdom of God to Come.

In baptism, we are raised as a new creation into this new life and the new chapters ahead.
This is a healing or restoring of our souls through forgiveness, mercy, and of course grace.

Our appropriate response to this new life is to strive for the Kingdom of God that is here in glimpses now, that is near, and that is not yet fulfilled with gratitude in living further and further into our Baptismal vocations:

  • To proclaim Christ in thought, word, and deed through imitation,
  • To seek justice and honest peace,
  • To act with compassion and mercy, and
  • To love and to serve all people, especially the vulnerable.

Unfortunately, this is NOT easy.

We fail. We easily become weary, faint, and eventually exhausted and over-whelmed in faithful service.

When we are weary, faint, and exhausted, it hinders our ability to recognize the creative power of God, which is on-going and sustaining activity fostering the life that is truly LIFE, and our envisioning of a new creation that is the next chapter and beyond.

But, fortunately God does not fail. God does not become weary, faint, or exhausted.

And thus, we can and must rely on the sustaining grace of God.

And so, Jesus and the disciples continue into their next chapter of proclaiming the good news, exorcising demons, and healing people beyond Capernaum and eventually beyond Galilee.

Meanwhile, those who have been exorcised or healed are left behind to continue expressing their gratitude in faithful service through proclaiming Christ, acting with compassion and mercy, while loving and serving especially those whose demons and illnesses remain. Those who were exorcised and healed have been freed to boldly serve the “other”, similarly the baptized have been freed and are subject to the Triune God alone. According to the Apostle Paul (and Martin Luther), this freedom enables us to become servants who boldly serve all persons, grabbing ahold of and expanding upon the glimpses of the Kingdom of God that is here in this time and place. That is their next chapter. That is our next chapter.

May we embrace the life that is truly Life offered by the Triune God.

May we embrace our appropriate response to serve with gratitude
in accordance with our baptismal vocation.

May we embrace the next chapter and beyond.
Amen.

Scriptures were Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; and
Mark 1:29-39.

Originally preached 7 Feb. 2021 for Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, Indiana).

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2021 in Sermons

 

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Baptismal Exorcism

Since the Epiphany, we have emphasized our Baptismal Vocation 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, but especially the Vulnerable.

Our shared Baptismal vocation calls us to utilize our prophetic voice participating in ushering forth the Kingdom of God that is here among us now in glimpse, that is near, and that is not yet fulfilled. Unfortunately, the prophetic voice is often uncomfortable for it is convicting to the hearer while dangerous for the speaker.

Our shared Baptismal vocation calls us to proclaim a call to repentance, or an opportunity for individuals, communities, and nations to turn from their own will to the Will of God. This call is to be proclaimed whether we desire the person or persons to be afforded this second chance.

Our share Baptism invites us into repentance, thus acknowledging our need to turn from our own will and toward the Will of God in a second chance yet again.

Our Baptismal emphasis does continue this morning.

Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. Jesus is impressing the people and teaching with authority.

And yet, Jesus is interrupted by the disruptive outburst from the unclean, demonic spirit within a man. This unclean, demonic spirit recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus quickly silences the unclean, demonic spirit with an exorcism nestled in our passage.

The Gospel of Mark has the ‘Messianic Secret’, or Jesus holding his divine identity secret even from his most intimate disciples until the Transfiguration.

Thus, Jesus silences and removes the unclean, demonic spirit that announced his divine identity.

Exorcism is not often discussed in mainline Protestant denominations, perhaps we are not comfortable with the idea of supernatural evil forces that must be removed from persons. However, our Rite of Baptism and our Affirmation of Baptism does include a minor Rite of Exorcism.

  • Do you RENOUNCE the devil and all forces that defy God?
  • Do you RENOUNCE the powers of this world that rebel against God?
  • Do you RENOUNCE the ways that sin draws you from God?

And, we responded “I renounce them”. This was a minor Rite of Exorcism.

The devil and all forces that defy God, the powers of this world that rebel against God, and the sin that draws us from God and neighbor, whether actively or in silent complicity, are unclean spirits.

But, what are these unclean spirits?

Our Christian Scriptures do support the presence of supernatural evil summoned from the depths of hell, but admittedly this disturbs me and thankfully is rare. Thus, I tend to shy away from the topic.

In the Biblical era, disability or illness in mind or body was often attributed to unclean, demonic spirits. Despite advances in science and medicine, there are faiths and persons who continue to do so. 

And yet, our Rite of Baptism and Affirmation of Baptism does not limit said unclean spirits to supernatural forces from hell determined to destroy our mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.

Instead, these rites intend to exorcise any spirit, force, idea, or action that defies the Will and Kingdom of God in and among the entire creation, our nations, our communities, our synagogues and churches, and even within ourselves.

Prejudice based upon race, ethnicity, or nationality is an unclean spirit.

Prejudice based upon gender, gender-identity, or sexuality is an unclean spirit.

Prejudice based upon socio-economics, education, or age is an unclean spirit.

Prejudice based upon political affiliations is an unclean spirit.

Prejudice based upon religious adherence or lack thereof is an unclean spirit.

The dehumanizing of one another is an unclean spirit. 

The denying persons respect and dignity is an unclean spirit.

All acts of violence and any harm done to another in mind, body, or soul is an unclean spirit.

Silent complicity in the presence of said unclean spirits is also an unclean spirit.

Unfortunately, we are all guilty of said unclean spirits.

And thus, the minor Rite of Exorcism in our Rite or Affirmation of Baptism is needed daily.

It is the daily renouncing of the devil and all forces that defy God.

It is the daily renouncing of all powers that rebel against God.

It is the daily renouncing of all the ways that sin, personal and communal, draw us from God and neighbor.

This exorcism is not for our sake alone. This exorcism is for the sake of our neighbors, places of worship, communities, nations, and the entire creation. 

May we affirm our baptisms daily
including the renouncing of all unclean spirits.

May said minor Rite of Exorcism enable us
to more faithfully follow the Will of God.
Amen.

Scripture was Mark 1: 21-28.
Originally preached 31 Jan. 2021 for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2021 in Sermons

 

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Call to Repentance

I want to pause and rewind for a moment.

Since the Epiphany, our scriptures have emphasized the “light-bulb” moments of vocation. Vocation is our callings, which expand well beyond our profession to our relationships, our public roles, our family roles, and every aspect of our being. These vocations, for baptized Christians, should be firmly rooted in our baptismal callings:

  • To proclaim Christ in thought, word, and deed;
  • To seek justice and honest peace;
  • To act with compassion and mercy in the care of the world that God has made; and
  • To love and serve all people, but especially the most vulnerable.

We heard Samuel called by the voice of God in the night. Samuel was a willing prophet responding “Here I am, Lord, your servant is listening”. And yet, the first prophetic message is one of judgment upon his mentor, the high priest Eli.

Jonah is instead a reluctant prophet of sorts.

Jonah was an Israelite prophet, who spoke from and among his people.

Jonah spoke confidently that despite the failures and sins of the Israelite people, God would pardon them in abundant grace without their recognition and acknowledgement of it.

God would pardon them in abundant grace without their accountability and responsibility.

God would pardon them in abundant grace without their repentance and change of mind, heart, or behavior.

The grace of God is beyond our comprehension, but the idea of pardon through grace without recognizing and acknowledging our own personal and collective failure and sins, without holding ourselves and another accountable and responsible, and without repentance that leads to renewed commitment to our baptismal vocation is simply cheap grace.

Please note, however, that we must rely on the abundant grace of God for we are not without failure and sin to be recognized and acknowledged, to be accountable and responsible, and to be called into repentance that changes our minds, hearts, and lives to more fully reflect the path, Will, and Kingdom of God. This is a lifetime process and every second is a second chance.

So, God sends Jonah to Nineveh, in order to proclaim a call to repentance. Jonah is reluctant because:

  • Jonah did not like those in Nineveh.
  • Jonah did not want these to have the opportunity to repent.
  • Jonah knew that in abundant grace, God would be true to the divine characteristics of steadfast love and being merciful.

Jonah delivered the shortest sermon in history, under his breath, and prayed none heard the warning. And yet, they did.

The people enter into a fast of repentance, including wearing the grain sacks for clothes.

Their leadership declared and ordered the observation of this fast of repentance, although unnecessary for the people were already participating.

And then, it becomes the comedic commentary intended when the livestock and animals are included in the fast. Can you envision the cows wearing grain sacks?

God does pardon Nineveh to the dismay of Jonah. Perhaps, Jonah was sent as a reluctant prophet to Nineveh to grow more deeply in his understand of God abundant in grace, merciful to a fault, and always steadfast in love towards us and the ‘other’, whether it is to our dismay or our celebration.

And yet, one day the people of Nineveh will invade and occupy a non-repentant Israel.

Jonah was not the only prophet sent from and among Israel to proclaim a call to repentance.
John the Baptizer held the same vocation, which led to his arrest and beheading.

And then, Jesus places the mantle upon his shoulders proclaiming a call to repentance for the Kingdom of God is here now in glimpses, it is near and coming, and it is not yet fulfilled.

Jesus invites Simeon (Peter), Andrew, John, and James to leave behind their professions, their possessions, and their loved ones in order to gather more persons into relationship with the Triune God in hope, honest peace, divine presence in joy, and unconditional love through repentance and reconciliation.

Unfortunately, Jesus and his disciples would also suffer violent death for their prophetic voice and call to repentance for none take pleasure in looking at the mirror to see our sin, our failure, our shadow-side staring back. And yet, we are precisely called to confront said sin, failure, and shadow-side with a repentant heart seeking reconciliation with neighbor and God as able.

May we hear the call to repentance.

May we look into the mirror and confront our sin, failure, and shadow-side.

May we recognize and acknowledge it.

May we be accountable and responsible for it.

May we repent for our sin, failure, and shadow-side and
recommit to our shared Christian, baptismal vocations.

May we seek reconciliation with neighbor and God.

May we experience abundant, but true, grace.
Amen.

Scriptures were Jonah 3: 1-5, 10 and Mark 1: 14-20.
Originally preached 24 January 2021 for Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, IN).

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2021 in Sermons

 

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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,
  • 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.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2021 in Sermons, Uncategorized

 

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Peace Making

Isaiah foretells of a voice in the wilderness calling for us to prepare the way of the LORD, to prepare a highway that is straight with mountains and valleys leveled, rough places smoothed, and pot holes filled.

John the Baptist is said voice in the wilderness.

John the Baptist is the bridge between the prophets of old, sharing fashion with Elijah echoing their voices, and the new, as Jesus’ cousin who foretells of his ministry and identity as the Christ

But, John the Baptist is not the biblical person I would associated with peace.

John was brutally honest, extremely vocal, and lacked tact.
John made waves among the common persons.
John rocked the boat with the political leadership and social elite.
John stirred the pot among the religious leadership and elite. 

Again, we do not often associate said persons and actions with peace.

However, humanity has been taught, continues to teach, and far too often embraces a lie. It is the lie that all strife, all unrest, all conflict is unhealthy and destructive; thus, it must be avoided. This lie is the foundation for a dishonest and false peace.

This dishonest and false peace is embodied in the notion of Pax Romania, or Peace of Rome. This Peace of Rome was ensured through oppression and fear. This Peace of Rome was ensured through violent, military force at the mere murmur of unrest.

Dishonest peace avoids differences, disagreements, strife, and conflict at the expense of meaningful but uncomfortable conversations, necessary but challenging changes, and honest peace.   

Dishonest peace maintains the status quo and its systematic injustices.

Dishonest peace protects the privileged and harms the under-privileged and vulnerable.

Dishonest peace affords opportunities to those with authority, power, wealth, and privilege at the expense of those without said authority, power, wealth, and privilege.

Dishonest peace creates ‘Peace-Keepers’, who discourage the ‘Good Trouble’ of John Lewis, the civil rights moment, and those who have and continue to prepare the way for the LORD seeking to level the mountains and valleys, smoothing the rough places through establishing sustainable equality and equity.

In the words of Martin Luther: “Peace when possible. Truth at all costs.”

Honest peace rejoices in the truth and prepares the way of the LORD.

Honest peace dispels unhealthy, devastating strife, unrest, and conflict through those honest meaningful but uncomfortable conversations.

Honest peace establishes the necessary but challenging changes that level the mountains and valleys, which continue to distinguish persons based on positions of authority and power, amount of accumulated wealth, social status, and privilege.  

Honest peace encourages the ‘Good Trouble’ that continues to demand and establish sustainable equality and equity that smooths the rough places.

Martin Luther King Jr., spoke that the arc of history is long but always bends towards justice.

Honest peace is a force that bends the arc of human history towards said justice.

Honest peace is a force that prepares the way of the LORD through mountains and valleys leveled, rough places smoothed, and pot-holes filled.

John the Baptist was not a peace-keeper. John the Baptist was a peace-maker.

John the Baptist was creating honest peace, rather than maintaining a dishonest peace.

John the Baptist demonstrated that peace-making may include brutal honesty and being vocal,
but hopefully with more tact.

May we, similar to John the Baptist, be peace-makers who are willing to make waves, rock the boat, and stir the pot for the sake of ‘Good Trouble’ establishing an honest peace upon all the earth for the sake of preparing the way for the LORD. Amen.

Scriptures were Isaiah 40: 1-11 and Mark 1: 1-8.
Originally preached on 13 Dec 2020 for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2020 in Sermons

 

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New, but NOT Charmed, Life

Before we get into our texts this morning, I want to recap or highlight a couple things from our Ash Wednesday service.

1) We are now in Lent, which is a solemn time in the church year. Thus, many see it        as a gloomy, depressing, or sad time. However, I love Lent and find it renewing            and life-giving.

2) I shared in the past year a couple people have referred to me as a unicorn. BUT, if
I am a mythical creature I do not want to be a unicorn, I would want to be a
phoenix. The phoenix rises out of the ashes stronger than they were before.

The gospel of Mark, during this season of Lent, focuses on covenant agreement between God and people.

Human history repeats itself, be it in scripture or outside of scripture. In scripture, we see patterns of God creating a covenant with people, WE break the covenant, and God continues to reach out despite being upset, angry, and/or frustrated to establish yet another covenant with us.

We think of a covenant as a binding mutual agreement, usually associated with our conduct and being in relationship with one another. However, in the ancient world it was their legal contract which carried more weight and consequences than we tend to think of today.

The covenant that we hear this morning in our scriptures revolve around baptism, its water, and what that means for us.

Our first story comes from Genesis and is beloved. We decorate nurseries with Noah’s Ark, which seems odd since it was the genocide of all creation minus 8 people (Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their three daughters-in-laws) and two of each kind of animal.
After the flooding, for one reason or another unknown to us, God decides “I am NOT doing that again”. In fact, this covenant that God made in Genesis is NOT with Noah, his sons, or their descendants. This covenant is NOT conditional because there are no “if” statements. This covenant has NO time limits. This covenant is literally a covenant between God and ALL people, ALL flesh (animals), and ALL creation for ALL time. That is INCLUSIVE.

The rainbow, a sign of this covenant, is NOT a reminder to Noah, his descendants, or us but it is a reminder to God of God’s covenant and promise to us.

The waters of the flood are destructive and chaotic, which leads to our 1 Peter text. This letter, similar to the others, are to a community that is suffering; perhaps persecution, although we do not know the extent or frequency. The community is facing challenges and are reminded of their own baptisms and therefore they have died to their old selves, their old ways, and their own lives in order to be resurrected with Christ in his ministry and his mission.

1 Peter further builds on water and washing as an act of purification. Our baptisms purify us.

Note:
I find it interesting that when the Israelites would return with the spoils of war to be brought into the community, it had to be purified first. The first and preferred method, if possible, was to pass the item through fire. If it could not pass through fire, then it would be passed through water to cleanse it. We, human beings, pass through the waters of baptism because we do not do well with passing through fire.

But, 1 Peter claims that Christ’s mission did not end which his death because he descended to Sheol (the Pit) or the dead. This is not the fire and brimstone hell depicted in modern culture, but instead a place of separation from God where all people went after their earthly death while awaiting the final judgment.

In Christian Iconography (art), there are icons (imagines) of Jesus with one foot literally in the land of the dead and the other outside. Jesus is depicted helping Moses, Abraham, and beloved ancestors of faith out of Sheol. The covenant in Genesis (linked through water) is not limited or confined by death; that is a powerful covenant.

Then, we have Mark which is a fast-paced gospel. In these few verses, we have the baptism of Jesus when he heard the words “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased”.

Then, immediately afterwards the Holy Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness. I love that verse, especially on a Daytona 500 Sunday. The Holy Spirit drives him into the wilderness. The Holy Spirit does not lead him into the wilderness. The Holy Spirit does not suggest he goes into the wilderness. The Holy Spirit DRIVES him into a wilderness. It was a physical wilderness, but it was also an emotional and spiritual wilderness. He had to discern those words heard at his baptism and the future of his ministry. (There are debates about how much Christ knew about his own future at that moment, which we do not have an answer.)

We do know from Mark’s account that Jesus was tempted by satan. Satan is an adversary and a force that defies God but not necessarily a little red man with horns, a tail, and a pitchfork (that is Sparky from Arizona State University). Jesus was tempted for 40 days.
The number 40 is significant in scripture including the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years. (Lent is also 40 days minus Sundays).

Afterwards, Jesus emerges to learn that John the Baptist has been arrested.
What does Jesus do?

Jesus continues to preach essentially the same message that John the Baptist was preaching:

REPENT.
TURN from your old ways.
TURN towards new life.
The kingdom of God has come, it is near, and it is not yet fulfilled.

Our Lenten journey is about that.
It is about new life.
It is about being restored and being a new creation.

A couple of years ago, I was asked if I had led a charmed life. I thought it was an odd and oddly worded question. In fact, I remained silent because I was not sure what was being asked when another person replied “no, she has had some struggles and challenges”. Then the intention of the question dawned on me.

A charmed life, by definition “charmed” is something that protects and is usually associated with supernatural or magical properties used to protect the item and its carrier.

There are people who believe that by coming into faith, coming to the waters of baptism, and if they live into their baptismal promises that their lives will be ‘charmed’ and they will be sheltered, guarded, and protected against the broken, messy, and sinful world that we live.

This idea is reinforced in a variety of phrases, including one of my favorite to hate: “God won’t give you more than you can handle”. I HATE that phrase, for me it invokes an image of God as a bully in heaven with a magnifying glass we are the ants. BUT, I came a sign one day that read: “God does not give us what we can handle. God helps us handle what we are given.” Often the difficult situations we find ourselves in, those burdens we carry, and the challenges we deal with are the result of our own brokenness, poor choices, and sin or that of another.

Our lives are not protected from that brokenness, poor choices, or sin. We do NOT have a magical charm, which can be a challenge for us to accept.

BUT, we do have covenants. We do have promises. We do have reassurance that no matter how dark it gets God is ever-present (and if you watch the news you know our world is dark). Similar to how the Holy Spirit was ever-present with Christ in his own wilderness and temptation.

So, we are beginning our Lenten journey.

It is a calling into new life whether we are emerging from the waters of baptism or the ashes of our own pervious lives, but that does not mean it is free from temptation, sin, or suffering. However, as our Psalm reminds us, God is faithful and steadfast in God’s love continually establishing and re-establishing those covenants with ALL flesh, ALL creation for ALL time.

That is the good news. May that be where our hope lies. Amen.

Scriptures were Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Peter 3:18-22, and Mark 1:9-15.
Originally preached on 18 Feb. 2018 at Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, IN).
 
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Posted by on February 19, 2018 in Sermons

 

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Healing for Vocation

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Last Sunday, I talked about there being a common theme in Mark you would hear a lot this year. The theme is that the Kingdom of God has come, it is near, and it is not yet fulfilled.

Mark has a second common theme that was in our passage last week, this morning, and will be many times this year. We call it the Messianic secret because Jesus heals people and casts out demons but will not allow them to identify Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One that they (the Israelites) have been awaiting.

I also shared that Mark’s first chapter is extremely busy…
Jesus is baptized.

Jesus is tempted in the wilderness (by Satan).

Jesus preaches his mission to proclaim the Word, and to release the prisoners and those held captive. Afterwards, he is chased out of his hometown.

Jesus calls the disciples into new vocations, into a new way of being, and into relationship with him.

Jesus performs his first exorcism in Mark.

This morning, we now have three stories that may seem disconnected and yet are deeply intertwined with one another.

When Jesus called Simon (who will become Peter), Andrew, James, and John from their boats to become “Fishers of Men”, he was calling them to leave behind their professions and their families. Thus, we often imagine that they were single men.

BUT, did you notice who the woman healed in our text today is? Simon’s mother-in-law.

Now, it is not a secret that at Jesus’ time the majority of the community believed if a person was sick it was one of two reasons either (1) the person had an unclean spirit/demon or (2) the person was being punished for their own sin or the sin of their previous generations.

Ponder that for a moment. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2018 in Sermons

 

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Divine Authority: Jesus and Demons

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The Gospel of Mark has a theme that you will hear A LOT this year…
It is that the Kingdom of God has come, its near, and yet not fulfilled.

This is a theme that we get as early as the first chapter in Mark, which has been busy:

Jesus was baptized.
He went into the wilderness and was tempted (by Satan).
He called his disciples.
He preached in his home synagogue, where he was chased out of town.
AND now, we have the first story of a healing or exorcism in Mark.

As I shared with the children, I struggle with any scripture that refers to unclean spirits (or demons) in part because I do not know how to preach it.

When we say “unclean spirits”, what are we talking about…
the “demons” that haunt us personally and are metaphoric?
mental illness and the stigma that remains around it?
the “unclean spirits” in our society and our culture as a whole?

How do you preach it?

Last night, I told my mother and sister that I struggle preaching these texts about demons. My sister asked “why” and I replied “because I do not know what to do with demons other than to cuddle with them”.

The truth is WE ALL have our own personal demons and at the very least, even if we do not cuddle with them, we become comfortable, content, complicit with our own prejudices, guilt from something we did or did not do in the past that keeps us up at night, or another unclean spirit/demon. WE ALL have our own demons that haunt us. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2018 in Sermons

 

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Invitation to Follow

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I have previously said that this Time After Epiphany is a series of God’s manifestations in Jesus as the Christ and Christ’s ministry. We see these manifestations in various, distinctive ways.

Last week, we heard the story of Jesus calling Nathaniel and a few other men to be disciples. The story was not (necessarily) dramatic… Jesus basically says:
“Hey, I saw you sitting under the fig tree. Come, follow me and do something with your life”.

Today, we have very different call story in our gospel.
Simon (who later will be “Peter”) and Andrew are in their boats fishing. They were fishermen by trade. We also have John and James (Sons of Zebedee) are in their boat mending nets, because they too were fishermen by trade.

Jesus is standing on the shoreline and shouts to them (in their boats) saying “Follow Me”.
We do not get this ‘sense’ in the English, but in the Greek it is a command: “Follow Me”.

It is not so much a question and not so much a pleasant invitation, but it is a ‘forceful’ one.

BUT, in the philosophical writings of the era “to follow” meant “to be in relationship with”. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2018 in Sermons

 

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