Sermon for the 4th Sunday of Easter and Confirmation Sunday - Isaiah 29; James 1; John 16
Carry and I just got back from a quick trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was our first vacation together, just the two of us, in the last five years. No, I am not counting the fancy trip I took her on to Synod Assembly last year. We usually time our vacations around big anniversaries – 5, 10, 15, 20 years – so on and so forth. I spent part of our vacation apologizing to her because usually, when we go somewhere, my historian-side overrules my husband nature and so I drag her to all these things that I find absolutely incredible, and she might not. Ruins, old churches, museums. Defunct houses in the middle of nowhere. So, I had to say I’m sorry over our anniversary dinner at El Meson because I felt like she was having to put up with my unfortunate whim for anything archeological or historical. She said she liked what we went to see, enjoyed it, so if you are wondering if we need counseling, you might be right, but she and I are good. I think.
Sermon for the First Sunday of Easter - John 20:19-33
Imagine yourself amongst Jesus’ best friends. Friends who had hurt him the most. We’re talking about the disciples. His inner circle. The disciples are hiding in the upper room, possibly the same place they had the “Last Supper.” The same place where we are told that on the night he was betrayed, Christ took bread. That these disciples, these apostles are the very same people who betrayed Jesus. Abandoned him. Denied him. Ran away from him. And the first word he says to them is – “Peace.” Shalom. Greets them with a holy greeting. Not saying “Sup!”, or “how’s it going?”, but “Peace.” Peace in your fear. Peace in your shame. Peace in the midst of your sin. Peace while you yet do not believe. A Peace that does not just rest upon the disciples, but peace that becomes a mission. “As the Father sent me, so I send you.”
One of my favorite scenes in the Harry Potter franchise is from the first movie. Most of us have that sibling or cousin who lives to tattle. The one who lives to see us fail, or to break the rules, and wants to get us in trouble. “Dad, guess what Billy did?”
Well, in the first movie (Yes, I said movie. I’ve not read the books. Mea culpa.) we have Ron, Hermione and Harry heading out at night to visit Hagrid in his hut. Hagrid just got a new egg that he is trying to hatch (It’s a dragon by the way), but Harry is on a mission to find out as much as he can about the Sorcerer’s Stone. It was this stone that could grant eternal life, in a way. The kids are interrogating Hagrid for every detail. Each time one of the children gets a partial confession out of Hagrid, he has to say, “I shouldn’t have told you that."
Sermon for Resurrection Sunday - John 20:1-18
On the first day of the week, that is Sunday, Mary went to the graveyard to see the tomb where her Lord was laid. On the first day of the week she came to a place where no resident walks away in order to have a quiet moment with the one who loved her enough to free her from 7 demons that infested her body. On the first day of the week she came to the realm of the dead to find the expected, but instead found the unexpected. The tomb open. The body gone. Fear set in. She thought maybe graverobbers had come and stole her Jesus. She knew he was dead, which was horrible, but this apparent desecration was worse. On the first day of the week she was surprised and forlorn. Not trusting what he said to be true. That he would be betrayed to the religious. Condemned by lies. Handed over to death by the state. Only to rise the third day for her and for you. The tomb was empty, is empty, because he made it so.
Sermon for Easter Eve - Matthew 27:57-66
We have been taught for much of our lives as Christians that Jesus is one who is preferential towards the poor. That his time was one consumed with the poor, the lost, the broken, the in-need, and yet here at his greatest time of need comes Joseph of Arimathea. Not a poor man, but a rich man. Not the least, but one of the greatest. A member of the ruling council, the Sanhedrin. He was a secret disciple of Jesus (just like Nicodemus) and opposed the trial, the verdict, the execution of Christ. With Jesus dead he comes as who he is, with the prestige and power he has, willing to risk it all to retrieve the body of the Lord. Wealth not being a hindrance to the work of Christ. The wealthy not being ones who have no need for Jesus, but ones who have the very same needs, the very same sins, will die the very same death, and here is Joseph being able to use what has been given to him for the one who gave it to him.
Sermon for Good Friday - John 18-19
Thank God it’s Friday. I say that every Good Friday. Thank God it’s Friday. Fridays, weekends, days off, vacation. Times to forget. Times to try and leave your problems at the office, or the house, or your home country, and go somewhere else, even for a moment. Vacation, or holiday, being that time when you should be able to flee. Unfortunately, you always have to come back, and when we discover that the problem is not work or family or the home, but can be us, leaving town doesn’t solve the problem. The problems follow.
Sermon for Maundy Thursday - John 13; 1 Corinthians 11
I wonder if you heard it. Did you? Only six words. Sometimes eight. We hear them all the time in church, but I do wonder if you heard them tonight, because they matter to the whole focus of this week. If not, let me read them to you again: On the night he was betrayed… One more time: On the night he was betrayed…
On that night, in fact this night, Christ was betrayed. An overlooked fact so often. Or one that we think only of Judas. That the night we see Jesus stoop down to wash the feet of his disciples, including Judas’ feet, he did it knowing Jesus was to be betrayed. To be handed over by one of his own, but even worse he was going to be left all alone as all, but two disciples, run for the hills. One of the two deny his very existence. Denies ever knowing him. The other at least stays within the courtyard to see what happens but didn’t do anything about it. At least that disciple watches and then tells the story later.
Sermon for Palm & Passion Sunday - Matthew 21:1-9, Philippians 2:5-11, Matthew 27:1-54
We have processed and so it begins. The start of Holy Week, the most important time in the church year. Nothing else compares. Not Christmas. Not summer vacation. Not MEA weekend. Holy Week. We begin with the story of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Christ riding on a donkey and entering to throngs of people actually making the sound we as children of God should make each day.
Sermon for the 5the Sunday of Lent (Passion Sunday) - Hebrews 9:11-15
A couple of weeks ago I received a phone call from a woman who was looking for help in finding someone who could build her a home. I gave her a couple of recommendations and then the conversation took a strange turn. She asked me, “Pastor, what Bible version does your church use?”
I told her we had switched to the Christian Standard Bible a little over a year ago. That it was an ecumenical translation staffed by scholars from almost every denomination with the attempt to try and stay theologically neutral, and just have the Word speak in a way that was easy to hear, as easy as God’s Word is to hear sometimes.
She said, “Well, I use the King James only.”
Sermon for the 4th Sunday in Lent - John 6:1-15
The work of Christ in you is one to release you from everything that binds you. All the things that hold you prisoner. For Isaiah this is a picture of those who have so much, and spend all their life on that which wastes away. “Come everyone who is thirsty, come to the water, come buy and eat without cost. Why do you spend silver on that which is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy?” How much of our lives are filled with things that feed us for a moment? Even life itself. You woke up hungry this morning, more than likely. Isaiah here paving the way for you to be fed by that which is more than this life itself. Something more than bread or water or wine or milk.