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A New Commandment

Meditation for Holy Thursday – John 13:1-17, 31-35

We gather soon, as they did in that upper room. Some will take off shoes and socks, and let the warm water bathe tired feet. Some will wash another’s hands instead. Some will receive bread and wine (or juice) and remember, as we were commanded to remember, that night when Jesus said, “this is my body, this is my blood.”

That same night, Jesus also said, “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” Washing feet, wearing a towel, kneeling in front of each disciple, serving. That’s the example Christ shows us.

And he gives a new commandment: “Love each other, just as I have loved you.”

It’s easier to remember bread and cup, Lord Jesus.

I’d rather wear a towel and serve, dear Lord.

But love? The way you love?

Lord help me.

Looking for Resurrection – Sermon for Easter C on Luke 24:1-12

April 21, 2019

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.

The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.

Continue reading

When Jesus Wept – Sermon on Luke 19:39-44 for Palm Sunday C

April 14, 2019

There’s something missing from the passage that introduces the Palm Procession this time. Luke doesn’t mention palm branches. For that matter, he doesn’t have the crowd shouting “Hosanna!” either. Yet, we still call it Palm Sunday, and we still sing “Hosanna.”

It’s easy to get distracted by our traditions, isn’t it? It seems we only have to do something twice before it becomes, “the way we’ve always done it.” And we forget to actually pay attention to the story we’re hearing, because we already have in our heads the story we know. Continue reading

Listen to Him: The ONE Thing – Sermon on Luke 18:18-31

April 7, 2019
Luke 18:18-30

If this story sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because we heard it last October, only from Mark’s gospel instead of Luke’s. The two accounts are almost identical. They both describe the way wealth gets in between Jesus and us – not because money is an evil thing, but because it’s so easy to make money into an idol. The rich ruler didn’t have wealth, so much as wealth had him. His dependence on that wealth was all that stood between him and becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

So as we listen to Jesus, we have to ask ourselves “What am I letting stand between me and Jesus? What’s getting in the way, what’s preventing me from getting closer to Christ so I can listen to him more completely? Continue reading

Listen to Him: Lost and Found – Sermon on Luke 15:1-32

March 31, 2019
Lent 4C

What’s your favorite story? Is it one you read when you were young, or maybe heard your parents tell you over and over? When our sons were young enough we could still tell them what to do, we made them sit through all of Lawrence of Arabia. We kept telling them we wanted them to be culturally literate, so they could get half of the jokes that flew past them when they watched the Simpsons.

Stories shape our worldview. They help us make sense of things we don’t understand. Stories teach us how to get along in the world, how to deal with hardships and challenges, how to behave toward others. It’s how the Inuit raise their children to be gentle and never explode in anger – they use storytelling to help young children understand the consequences of their actions.[1]

Jesus fully understood the power of storytelling. That’s why he used parables so often in his teaching. Stories helped the people who were listening to Jesus get a better grasp of who God is, and just how much God loves us.

So here we are, in the fifteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel, and once again, it’s story time. Here we are, following Jesus toward Jerusalem for the last time, and once again, we find Jesus at a table. Continue reading

When Bad Things Happen – Sermon on Luke 13:1-9

Lent 3C
March 24, 2019

In the Friday from First message, I mentioned a fancy theological term for the question, “How can a good and loving God allow bad things to happen to people?” That term is theodicy. Don’t worry, there won’t be a test. You don’t have to remember the term. But it’s the first thing we think of when catastrophes happen, especially when they happen to us, or to people we know.

Why does God allow evil to thrive? How can God just stand by and watch as hundreds of people are killed by a cyclone ripping through Mozambique and Madagascar, or while dozens of people are gunned down in Christchurch, New Zealand? How can someone who has never smoked a single cigarette die from lung cancer? How does a perfectly healthy young mother, who has devoted her life to ministry, die abruptly from an infection? Where is God in all that suffering? Continue reading

Hope for the Hypocrite – Sermon on Luke 11:37-52

March 17, 2019 Lent 3C

In today’s passage we come to a crisis moment on our road to resurrection. We’ve been endeavoring on this journey through Lent to surrender ourselves in order to “listen to him.” This made sense on the Mount of Transfiguration, when the Father told us to listen to Jesus as his glory was revealed. It made sense when Jesus challenged us to ask, seek, and knock for the “how much more” good gifts of the Holy Spirit.

But if we are honest, we will confess that it is painful to listen to the Jesus we find in these verses we are about to read. And when we are even more honest, we will confess that confrontations with Jesus are always catalysts for significant growth. Continue reading

Lent: The Season of Rotten Snow

This was part of my weekly e-mail message to the congregation of First United Methodist Church, New Ulm, Minnesota for March 15, 2019.

Last night, just as I was turning out the kitchen light, I heard a crashing thump. At first, I thought that Bruce had fallen while getting ready for bed. I called upstairs, “Are you all right?”  “I’m fine, but the gutter isn’t,” he answered. I stepped outside and looked at the roof of our porch. A giant ice dam that had been melting over the past couple of days had fallen, and it had taken a four-foot length of rain gutter with it. 

Years ago, I started calling this time of year The Season of Rotten Snow. Just as we are getting into the season of Lent, when we ask God to reveal to us the dark corners of our souls and the sin we hide there, a winter’s worth of snow is melting away. The pristine white landscapes of December are gone. Now there is only this gray, slushy mess, revealing all the trash and dirt that has accumulated over the winter.

The Season of Rotten Snow reminds us that we have work to do in our hearts. It’s time to clear out the anger and animosity, the complacency and self-centeredness, the resignation and hopelessness that have been building up in our souls. As melting snow reveals all the dirt of a winter, Lent reveals all the sin that we’ve let slide undetected into our lives.

And if we don’t want that sin to bring us to ruin, just as that ice dam brought the rain gutter to ruin, it’s time to acknowledge it for what it is: sin. It’s time to give it over to Christ, ask forgiveness, and be healed. May this Season of Rotten Snow reveal not only your sin to you, but Christ’s abundant, gracious, forgiving love. May you find healing in repentance, and peace in forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.