May 29, 2016
Luke mentions authority more than any of the other gospel writers. Usually, Luke is referring to Jesus and the way he teaches with authority, or heals with authority, amazing the people who gather around him. Sometimes it’s the Jewish leaders who question Jesus about his authority to do these things.
But in today’s story, Luke tells us about someone else who holds authority, and this person is an outsider, a Roman centurion. He’s a mid-level military leader who knows his own place in the chain of command. A Roman centurion is about the last person you might expect to come to Jesus, asking for help, and yet, that’s exactly what happens. Continue reading
May 22, 2016 Trinity C
We viewed this clip from The Hunger Games to introduce the sermon.
Just to be clear, even though he may look sweet snipping roses, President Snow of The Hunger Games is a bad guy. He is evil personified. And while his reasoning may be based on false assumptions about what hope actually is, he does make a good point when he says, “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.” And a lot of hope – that’s a dangerous thing. President Snow likes his hope in small doses. He uses hope to get people to do exactly what he wants them to do. But he doesn’t really understand what hope is.
At least a dozen times in Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, we find him talking about a particular kind of hope, and today’s passage gives us one of them.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. – Romans 5:1-5
The thing about Romans is that you have to hold the entire thesis in your head in order to examine a small chunk of it so it makes sense. This passage is a perfect example. Paul starts off with the word, “Therefore,” and that’s a sure sign we’d better go back and read chapter four, so we’ll know what he’s referring to. Continue reading
May 22, 2022
We began celebrating this season of Resurrection on Easter Sunday, with the first few verses of Luke 24. Today, we hear the end of that chapter. The gospel writers aren’t clear on how much time passes between the joy of Easter morning and Christ’s ascension into heaven. In fact, only Luke and Mark actually describe Jesus’ final leave-taking, and Luke gives two different versions of the story. But all four Gospel writers agree that Jesus gave his disciples an assignment before he left them. He passed the baton, so to speak. “I’ve done what I came to do,” he tells them, “Now it’s your turn.”
May 1, 2016 Easter 6C
Did you ever try to run away from home when you were a kid? Do you remember why you wanted to run away? I remember the time I got so angry at my mother that I decided I just had to leave. I think I was about eight years old.
I had some vague notion in my head that people who ran away from home had to tie up all their belongings in a bundle and hang it on the end of a stick. But I didn’t have a stick, and I didn’t know how to make a bundle, so I settled for the next best thing: A plastic doll case. I couldn’t squeeze very much into it, so I took just the essentials: a favorite stuffed toy, some socks, a comb, a small box of raisins in case I got hungry … that was about all that would fit.
As I made my way across the back yard, I ran into our neighbor, Mr. Perry. “Where are you going?” he asked me.
“I’m running away.”
“Oh, well I was hoping maybe you could help me crank the ice cream.”
Mr. Perry made peach ice cream that was to die for. As I turned the crank on the ice cream freezer, we talked. To this day, I do not remember what had made me mad enough that I thought I had to run away from home, but by the time Mr. Perry took the paddle out of the ice cream and handed it to me to lick, I wasn’t mad anymore. I took my plastic doll case back up to my room and unpacked it.
My mother never even knew I’d left the house.
Like my eight year old self, Jonah got so mad, he decided to run away. I really was surprised when I realized that the story of Jonah was missing from our 31-week walk through the Bible. How can you skip Jonah? It’s a universal story. Every known religion has some version of the Jonah story in its mythology. Continue reading
April 24, 2016 Easter 5C
Will your mourn with me? Will you rejoice with me? Twice before I have preached on this text from the book of Revelation, but they were both funeral sermons. Twice this week, we have gathered in this sanctuary to celebrate the promise of eternal life for members who have gone to be with the Lord.
Friday night, as I finished one funeral sermon and sat down to review my notes for this one, I was listening to a live broadcast of The Minnesota Chorale and the Minnesota Orchestra performing the Brahms Requiem under the direction of Helmuth Rilling. Some of you know that I sang under Herr Rilling’s direction for eight years, and we performed this beautiful work by Johannes Brahms at least twice in that time. I knew what to listen for on Friday night. “How lovely is thy dwelling place… blessed are they who die in the Lord …”
Brahms didn’t use the standard Requiem Mass Latin text, but put together selections from scripture, using the Luther Bible. He wanted the words to be easily understood in the language of the people. It was a new way of presenting a Requiem. No composer had ever done something like this before. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. All flesh is grass.” This beautiful music has given comfort to many who grieve.
But something stood out to me this week, as we laid Mike and Florian to rest, and as I listened to Brahms. Continue reading