August 4th Sermon-The Kingdom of God Now

Sermon Audio

Sermon Text:

Luke 12:13-21 New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Rich Fool

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

 

July 28th Sermon-More than How-To; Who-To

Sermon Audio

Sermon Text:

Luke 11:1-13 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer

11 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father,[a]
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.[b]
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.[c]
And lead us not into temptation.[d]’”

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

July 21st Sermon-Martha and Mary; Service and Learning

Sermon Audio

Sermon Text:

Luke 10:38-42 New International Version (NIV)

At the Home of Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a]Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

July 14th Sermon-The Good Samaritan; Who is your Neighbor

Sermon Audio

Sermon Text:

Luke 10:25-37 New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Deuteronomy 30:9-14 New International Version (NIV)

Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

The Offer of Life or Death

11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

July 7th Sermon-Jesus Sends Them Out 2 by 2

Sermon Audio

Sermon Text:

Luke 10:1-11 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’

Luke 10:16-20 New International Version (NIV)

16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

June 30th Sermon-Freedom in Christ

Sermon Audio

Sermon Text:

Galatians 5:1 New International Version (NIV)

Freedom in Christ

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

 

Galatians 5:13-25 New International Version (NIV)

Life by the Spirit

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

June 23rd Sermon-Slow Transformation: When we’re afraid of hope

Sermon Audio

Sermon Text:

Luke 8:26-39 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man

26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes,[a] which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission.33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them,because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

June 16th Sermon-A New Narrative: Hope Instead of Shame

Sermon Audio

Sermon Text:

Romans 5:1-5 New International Version (NIV)

Peace and Hope

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b]boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Sunday May 26th Sermon-The New Jerusalem

Sermon Text:

Revelation 21:9 New International Version (NIV)

The New Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

 

The Sermon:

On Revelation 21:9 – 22:5 (expanded lectionary)

 

As John takes us on a tour of the new Jerusalem,

there’s a sense of needing a tour guide for the text,

for thinking about these images and their implications.

Because as much as I have a new-found appreciation

for the “old” Jerusalem, John’s vision is not just about

a luxurious remodel in that corner of the world.

It’s bigger than that.

 

“I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb,” says the angel,

before taking John to the mountain top.  In the New Testament, marriage is a metaphor for the intimacy between Christ and the church.  So all that John tells us next is a vision for the believing community.

 

If you want to be literal, one of the verses you heard read

describes this city as being fifteen hundred miles on a side.

I always take great pride that Alaskan “cities” top the list

when ranked by land area.  Anchorage, where I grew up, is fourth;

with an official land area of 1,704 square miles.

But Alaska’s cities are dwarfed by the new Jerusalem.

To try to imagine this kind of area:

if Jackson was one corner of this new Jerusalem,

another corner might roughly be across the Mexico border

in Cabo San Lucas, another in Cancun, and another in Cleveland, Ohio.  To John’s listeners back in the day, this kind of size

was almost the whole of the known world.

To have this kind of view and perspective today, in the spirit one of the angels would have to carry you away to the moon.

 

The measurement speaks on other levels.

One scholar says measurement was a customary way of saying something is under control.   Further, in the original language

the distance is 12,000 stadia on each side.

As a multiple of 12, a number that had significance in Hebrew thought and tradition, 12,000 is another way of speaking of community.

 

So in this vision, John sees a new community,

gifted to the world by God, reigned by God, and big.

Big enough for you and me.  Big enough for lots of people.

 

And then the tour takes us inside.

The passage highlighted by the lectionary

emphasizes that there is no temple in this city.

This is a huge contrast to the “old” Jerusalem.

Even today, Jerusalem is often recognized

by the Dome of the Rock shrine, which sits on the Temple Mount.

When the temple was previously destroyed by the Babylonian empire, there had been a dream (and eventual realization) of rebuilding it.

So rebuilding the temple had to have been a preoccupation of believers

now that Rome had sacked Jerusalem.

But John says that in this new Jerusalem there is no temple,

and further says there is no need for one.

He offers an explanation:

“for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”

One scholar reflects,  “If a temple separates divine presence from

the rest of the world, then here the divine is immediately present, without a preserve to guarantee and identify holiness.

Christ’s presence in the world, found in a variety of places,

takes the place of the temple in sharing the holiness of God.”   Although I would remind them of the communal aspect of this vision,

I think my spiritual-but-not-religious friends would resonate

with this part of John’s vision.

 

The city has walls, which are traditionally symbols

of safety and security.  But there’s something funny about these walls.  They have lots of gates – in the general description we are told there are 12 in total.  And now we learn that these gates are all open: they “will never be shut by day and there will be no night there.”

Rather than a fortress, this city is a welcome center.

The adult education hour imagined the angels at the gates

as greeters and visitor guides, rather than as sentries.

 

It seems to have a lot of visitors – the nations stream in

to walk by its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it.  And the visitors aren’t just foreign dignitaries and distinguished guests – John says the people of the nations bring in glory and honor.

This is expansive vision is shared with Paul’s carrying the gospel

to Macedonia, and with the psalmist’s including

of all the nations on earth.

In God’s community, this city image seems to suggest,

openness is a real way to safety and security.

 

But here John pauses.  He holds this image of universal hope

in balance with a clear warning of exclusion.

Nothing unclean; nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood will enter this city.

We have some understanding of how sin makes one unclean;

and what it means to practice falsehood seems fairly straightforward.  But today, “abomination” is less clear – it seems to be a label applied

to things we don’t understand or like.

But in New Testament usage, this word is more specific.

It occurs in three other places.

In Matthew (24:15) and Mark (13:14), the word is translated

as “sacrilege,” and is used when Jesus warns the disciples about the troubled times “when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be.”  Scholars comment that the “saying might have referred to the emperor Caligula’s unfulfilled plan to set up his statue in the Jerusalem temple in 40 CE, or as a reference to the presence of the Roman general Titus standing in the temple in 70 CE as it was destroyed.”   In Luke (16:15), Jesus uses the term when he is arguing with lovers of money.  He says, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts;

for what is prized by human beings

is an abomination in the sight of God.”

So this is a call to reject some of the particular ways of empire

and to follow the rule of God.

 

We need this call, this vision of community, today

just as much as believers in the Roman world did.

I am struck by the contrast of the New Jerusalem

with policies around the world

that want to deny entrance to displaced people –

just as the United Nations Refugee Agency reports that we are witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record,

with 68.5 million people around the world forced from home.

For me, some of the statistics shared at the immigration presentation this last Monday – of refugees’ repayment of loans being off the charts, of work ethics – corrected the practiced falsehoods

I hear all too often in this country.

I am struggling with the news that an ELCA pastor from Wisconsin

is scheduled to be deported next Tuesday.

What abominations are we practicing?

When do we perpetuate or allow false narratives to stand?

How do we justify ourselves and our money?

After giving his warning, John returns

to the promise of this new Jerusalem.

He continues his tour, inviting us in, giving more details.

I like John’s big open city because the cities I have known,

even the sprawling ones, sometimes make me claustrophobic.

The nature lover in me wonders why couldn’t John have seen a new Garden of Eden descending out of heaven from God.

 

And then John evokes exactly that first paradise.

New Jerusalem is no concrete jungle.

The angel shows John “the river of the water of life”…

and “on either side of the river is the tree of life

with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month;

and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

This is no ordinary tree.  I love that it bears not just one kind of fruit, but twelve, and that it is ever-bearing throughout the year.

I love that healing happens in this city –

that we don’t have to wait to be whole to get in.

Each of us has a street address in this city,

“with grace specific to each one’s needs.”

God’s provision is ceaseless.

This is a city of abundance.

 

And finally, John celebrates the source of all this peace and abundance: the same intimacy with Christ marked by not needing a temple.

In the New Jerusalem, the distance between God’s people and God

is erased.  As Jesus’ promised in the gospel reading,

the Father and the Lamb have come and made their home

with those who love him and keep his word (John 14:23).

God’s servants gather together to offer service and worship,

and God’s people even see God and the Lamb’s face –

an ultimate privilege that not even Moses was granted.

And John says that they will reign forever and ever.

“At a time when Rome claimed to reign forever,”

Revelation expert Barbara Rossing comments,

“Revelation boldly proclaim[s] that it is God who reigns –

not the Empire – and that God’s servants will also reign with God.  Note, however, that there is no object of the verb “reign.”

God servants do not reign over anyone else.  The text invites us to explore ways to understand our reign not as domination over,

but as sharing in, God’s healing of the world.”

 

Dear church, bride of Christ,

may that intimacy with the God who comes close,

whose life, death and resurrection split the temple curtain,

be reflected in the ways we live and move in our world.

May the image of the new Jerusalem give us vision

of who to be and become,

as well as give us comfort, courage and healing.

 

AMEN.

 

 

Sunday May 12th Sermon-“Lessons from sheepish dogs”

Sermon Audio

Sermon Text:

John 10:22-30 New International Version (NIV)

Further Conflict Over Jesus’ Claims

22 Then came the Festival of Dedication[a] at Jerusalem. It was winter,23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[b]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

 

Revelation 7:9-17 New International Version (NIV)

The Great Multitude in White Robes

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robesand were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the eldersand the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’[a]
    nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’[b]
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’[c]