Walking In Step with God

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In this sermon, based on Mark 12:38-44, I look at Jesus’ teaching about aligning our steps with God’s Word. Putting faith into tangible action is important in our spiritual journey.

In this sermon, I mention the ELCA Regional Bishop’s statement on the 80th Anniversary of Kristalnacht. To read the entire text: https://www.spas-elca.org/solidarity-jewish-community/ The Bishops’ stand in solidarity with the Jewish Community and condemn actions which perpetuate hatred and anti-Semitism.

Broken Hearts Centered in Love

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In this sermon, based on Mark 10:1-16, I reflect upon Jesus’ teaching on relationship and his response to brokenness. Though these passages have been and still are used to exclude people who are divorced, such interpretations are more in line with the Pharisee’s strict legalism. Excluding and shaming people who are in broken relationships is akin to the disciples’ exclusion of children - who were thought at the time to be unworthy. Jesus rebukes them and us. Instead, we are invited to join God in the midst of brokenness and pain. In all situations, we are invited to center ourselves in love.

All Are Welcome?

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I preached this sermon based on Mark 9: 30-37. In this story, Jesus takes the opportunity of a dispute among his disciples to teach them about welcome and hospitality. Christians of every age are invited to consider who is considered to be the least among them and then to show honor and welcome. In so doing, we connect with Jesus’ ministry of including those on the outskirts.

A Good Start

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I preached this sermon on the first Sunday of a new ministry year.  Many churches have a 'start-up' or 'Rally Day' Sunday on the week following the Labor Day holiday.  It is a time to get 'back-to-church' and renew ministries.  Following the beginning of a school year, there seems to be a natural connection with ministries that form faith in children, youth, and adults.  

The scripture reading on which this sermon is based - Mark 7: 24- 37.  In this story, Jesus goes beyond the mainstream and into the margins.  There he encounters a hurting woman, who is labeled 'outsider' by Jesus' traditional upbringing.  Though he gives voice to the biases and judgments of his time, Jesus none the less heals her daughter.  Following this exchange, a deaf man is brought by his friends for healing - we are reminded of Isaiah's vision of the coming kingdom of God - restoration.

A Good Start of a new year of ministry for the church that follows Jesus' lead involves participating in God's restorative work.  It involves being a place where outsiders are welcome and efforts are taken to care for the most vulnerable and excluded among us.  Claiming the identity of Jesus' church, we are invited to build and deepen loving relationships with God, with each other, and with our neighbor. 

From the Heart of the Matter

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In this sermon, based on Mark 7, I explore what lies at the heart of our worship and living with God.  The Pharisees get into a debate with Jesus about Jesus' disciples and their inability to properly follow the tradition and rituals of the time.  Jesus counters by saying that what is most important is what lies in our hearts.  Defilement - ritual disconnect - occurs when we get caught up in the 'holy' motions and forget the sacred relationship that God formed with us.  Our proper response is one of trusting and turning to God anew.  Rituals can actually help with this so long as we don't make them the fixed object of our worship.   

Broken Bodies Coming to Believe

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Based on John 6:56-69, this sermon is the last in my 'Bread of Life' series as I follow the Revised Common Lectionary.  In it, I focus on the experience of living in the transitional times of life.  Faced with change, we need to say goodbye to the past and be open to the future.  Saying goodbye to past understandings of God proved to be too difficult for the majority of the disciples that followed Jesus.  They couldn't imagine a God that would enter human brokenness and offer his body.  Peter, proclaims that Jesus has the words of eternal life.  Around the word of life, we come to believe and trust that God is with us, no matter what we face.    

Fresh, Living Bread

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Once again, the metaphor of Jesus being the Bread of Life comes up in the Revised Common Lectionary.  For the past four weeks, our gospel has dwelt in this image.  Today, my sermon (based on John 6: 35-41-51) focused on the wisdom of God and the meal of communion in which God is present.  In both cases, Jesus offers his life as food for hungry followers like us.  

Fresh, Living bread is a reminder that our faith is alive in the present.  God comes to us in the now and we are invited to respond in the same time frame.  Walking through the streets, we are welcome to feast upon the Bread of Life and share it with others. 

 

Are You Hungry? Connecting Food and Faith.

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Food is essential.  All living things on this planet need to eat to survive and thrive.   In this sermon, based on John 6, I look at the power of food to connect life.  In particular, I focus on the Bread of Life - a title that Jesus claims for himself in John's Gospel.  Jesus offers his life to connect the world to God.  When we look closer at this bold claim, we see that Jesus' life consists of compassion, grace, kindness, humility, generosity, peace, and a desire for justice.  I share a few stories from a Meal Share experience that the youth from St. James had at the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston - as we leaned into Jesus' love and sought to share a simple meal with others.  Jesus shares his life through acts of love and invites us into the same kind of life-connecting living.

 

 

Feeling Empty? Afraid you Don't have Enough in Your Tank?

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This sermon, based on John 6:1-21, starts with that horrible feeling of not having enough.  Jesus' disciple, Philip, reports that there are not enough resources to feed the large crowd that gathers around Jesus at the time of Passover.  Fear causes us to narrow our focus on ourselves and we forget to trust in God.  Philip is afraid and he can't see any way out of the situation of scarcity.  Andrew, on the other hand, sees things differently.  Although he seems to dismiss the suggestion almost as quickly as he makes it, Andrew mentions that a boy has two fish and five loaves of bread.  In his suggestion, a small crack of possibility is opened.  What follows is miraculous.  For everyone who has ever found their spiritual tank on the low side, this sermon offers a bit of encouragement.  

Where Are You From?

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In this sermon, based on Mark 6: 1-13, I proclaim God's steadfast love for all people.  Jesus invites the people in his hometown to turn toward God and embrace the welcoming message of love that God has for all.  It is not well received among those who want to claim special access to Jesus.  The message is one that continues to ring true today.  As one who is called to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, I am deeply disturbed by those who have adopted a Pharisaic approach to scripture in our national conversation over immigration.  We need to claim our baptismal identity and the grace of God as we navigate the turbulent waters of our time.

Is God Asleep in the Van?

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In this sermon, based on Mark 4: 35-41, I look at the chaos that surrounds us - both as individuals and as a nation.  In the midst of turmoil, we might wonder if God is asleep?  Does God care when it seems like we are perishing?  These are the same questions that the disciples asked when their boat was tossed by the wind and the waves.  Jesus rises and rebukes the chaos and speaks a word of peace.  Life is created anew.  As followers of Jesus, we are invited to trust in God's steadfast love and presence.  

Beyond the Frost: The Kingdom of God is as if a group of people held V.B.S

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In this sermon, based on Mark 4: 26-34, I look at the miraculous way that God's Kingdom is known among us.  It is AS If someone scattered seeds by holding a neighborhood Vacation Bible School.  The kingdom of God can also be compared to a tiny seed that will grow to provide shelter to birds.  God's kingdom comes with great joy and it jumps into our lives and into the life of our church.  It brings with it great potential.  Sure it takes work, but when you look back on it, the work seems unimportant and certainly second to the miraculous work of the Spirit that takes over and makes things flourish.  How might this spark our imagination for daily ministry?  How might our hearts be opened so that they might consider impossible scenarios - like an insignificantly sized seed or crops left to grow on their own?      

The Kingdom of God is near - full of love and grace - and able to bring about unimaginable peace and abundant joy. It also awaits our participation. 

 

 

This sermon was originally preached on June 17, 2018 at the closing worship of Vacation Bible School - Polar Blast.  

Working On A Sunday

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In this sermon, based on Mark 2:23-3:6, I look at the ways that we find ourselves frozen, immobile, and non-responsive to God's invitation to participate in the work of the kingdom.  Like the Pharisees of old, we obsess about following and enforcing rules instead of reaching out with love to others.  By the grace of God, Jesus forgives our inaction and frees up our movement.    

This sermon was originally preached on Holy Trinity Sunday, May 27, 2018.

Can We Dance?

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In this sermon, based on John 3:1-18, I look at God's gracious invitation to take part in the "dance" of the Trinity.  By the law of love, Jesus teaches us dance steps and pulls us out on the dance floor.  As a community of the baptized, the church is responsible for taking the dance into the streets - so that God's love for all might be experienced.   

This sermon was originally preached on Holy Trinity Sunday, May 27, 2018.

To Places We Can't Even Pronounce

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This sermon, preached on Pentecost, 2018, is based on Acts 2:1-21.  In it, I wonder what gets in the way of us pronouncing God's grace, love, and forgiveness?  This is a question that I pose both to the church and individuals.  How might the Spirit increase not only our vocabulary of love but also the way in which we speak to others?  

The Spirit, alive at Pentecost, remains active in our lives and seeks our active participation in the growing and expanding love of Christ.