Sermon: Called into Foolishness

Sunday, January 22, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Third Sunday after Epiphany
watch this service online (readings start around 13:55; sermon starts around 19:55)
(originally preached 1/26/20)

The first verse of our gospel reading for this morning quickly glosses over a very serious bit of news: John the Baptist has been arrested. This news doesn’t exactly send the same shiver of fear down our spines as it would if we lived in the first century instead of the twenty-first century. For one thing, it’s not news – we already know very well that John’s arrest is part of the story. And for another thing, our modern conception of things like “arrest” and “imprisonment” is a very far cry from what these things would have looked like in ancient Rome. 

Being arrested and thrown into jail in Roman times was not like being thrown into jail today. Unlike us today, Romans didn’t really have a practice of putting people behind bars to serve out a certain number of years before being released. In most cases, there were only two ways out of a Roman prison: either succumb to starvation and die in prison, or survive prison long enough to be executed. And as an added bonus, the practice of torture wasn’t considered a form of punishment, but rather just a standard interrogation technique.

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Sermon: If You Don’t Know, Now You Know

Sunday, January 15, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Second Sunday after Epiphany
watch this service online (readings start around 25:39; sermon starts around 33:43)

When I was around middle school age, I used to volunteer sometimes down at the nursing home in my hometown. I don’t remember now if it was for school or church or Girl Scouts or whatever, but a few other kids and I would go down every so often and play cards and other games with the residents. 

There was one woman I played cards with on several occasions – let’s call her Bev (it was so long ago now that I don’t actually remember her real name anymore). Bev was a friendly, chatty woman; she liked to play Kings in the Corner and she had some pretty pronounced dementia. She asked me lots of questions about my life, curious to get to know me better, and I would answer her – I told her all about school, about my art projects and my love for reading, and about playing softball in the summertime. But as we talked, I noticed that she’d ask me a question, and then a few minutes would go by, and then she’d ask the same thing again – sometimes two or three more times. As a kid, that was new to me; I’d never encountered it before.

The day I told her I played softball, I think she asked me probably half a dozen times: “Are you on Richie’s team?” And each time, I kept replying, “No. I have no idea who Richie even is!” Until finally, I just said, “Okay, sure. Yes. I’m on Richie’s team.” “Ah, that’s nice,” she said, “He’s a nice boy, that Richie.” And I said, “Sure, yep. A very nice boy.” And then she finally moved on to a new question! It was kind of like she had already decided in her head the story that she wanted to hear, and she would just keep asking me questions over and over until I gave her the “right” answer.

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Sermon: Water Water Everywhere

Sunday, January 8, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Baptism of Our Lord
watch this service online (readings start around 17:36; sermon starts around 23:44)

Over the weekend, I got the chance to really give my house-blessing muscles a workout, haha. You may have seen the little Facebook Live video I shot on Friday, in which I blessed our house of worship here – or if not, you probably noticed the chalk blessing over the front doorway as you came in this morning. The practice of chalking this inscription over the door of a house is a form of house blessing that Christians have been practicing for centuries. I also did a blessing of the parsonage in the same way.

But Friday evening, we went all out with the blessing. My friends Jacob and Coco just moved into the parsonage house for Jacob’s first call, down by Lincoln; and on Friday they invited a bunch of clergy friends and several members of the congregation over to the house, and they asked me to lead them in a special service of blessing. We did the traditional door chalking, of course. But one of the gifts of our very liturgical ELCA tradition is that we actually have a much, much fuller and longer service of house blessing that we used for the occasion. In this service, you don’t stop at just blessing the house as a whole; you actually go through and bless each individual part of the house from top to bottom – everywhere from the front door to the mud room to wherever it is your pets hang out. 

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A Season for Intention

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 
Matthew 2:1-2

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

One year ago this month, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, or ADHD. Since then, it’s been an interesting and challenging journey of self-examination and of trying to find an effective combination of therapy, meds, and management strategies to help me live well with a brain that doesn’t always do what I want or expect it to do (still working on that one…). Through this diagnosis, I feel like have gotten to know myself in a whole new way – to better know my strengths, like creativity, boldness, and empathy… but also to know my shortcomings, which sometimes feel too numerous to list.

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Sermon: Choosing Radical Love

Sunday, December 18, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Fourth Sunday of Advent
watch this service online (gospel reading starts around 26:44; sermon starts around 28:18 (audio was weird and skippy for some reason this day))

Thomas Anderson was a regular guy, just living his life. He worked in a mid-level job as a computer programmer, and pretty much every day for him was just get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, repeat. The spiciest thing about him was that he enjoyed hacking in his spare time. But one day, in the midst of his mundane life, Thomas is approached by a couple of mysterious people who tell him that basically everything he thinks he knows about the world is a lie – that there is much, much more to the reality of this world than what he has known.

One of the two people he meets, a man named after the Greek god of dreams, offers him a choice – two different pills that he can take: a blue pill that will return him to his life as he’s known it, where he can forget any of this ever happened; or a red pill that will wake him up to see the world around him as it truly is.

Most of you have probably clocked by now that I’m talking about the late 90s hit movie The Matrix. Heh, it’s not at all the most up-to-the-minute pop culture reference, but it’s still a great story. Thomas Anderson – AKA Neo – is pulled out of his ordinary life and “down the rabbit hole.” This choice he makes draws him into this whole epic adventure he could never have imagined.

Nowadays, this whole idea of being “red-pilled” has taken on some really unfortunate associations in popular culture, not intended by the filmmakers. But this is still a powerful scene. And I find that this choice that Neo makes resonates with our gospel reading for this morning in some interesting ways.

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Sermon: News of Radical Joy

Sunday, December 11, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Third Sunday of Advent
watch this service online (readings start around 30:09; sermon starts around 36:24)

I went to a barbecue this summer that some old friends of mine were hosting to celebrate the fourth of July. Some of you might remember my friend Jacob, who was just ordained last weekend – this gathering was out at his folks’ place. It was a really fun time – we ate hamburgers and hotdogs and ran around their yard playing croquet. We all discovered together that even if a game only barely qualifies as a sport, I will still be terrible at it. We lit off a whole mess of fireworks and just generally had a good time hanging out together. 

However, what most sticks in my mind from the event is sitting and talking all evening with my dear friend Coco, Jacob’s wife. Coco is ordained as a deacon, and our conversation was particularly memorable, because while everyone was gathered there to celebrate and to blow stuff up and have a good time, Coco and I spent several hours talking almost nonstop… about funerals – and death. Heh, chalk that up to occupational hazard, I guess. 

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Sermon: Never Beyond Reach

Funeral of Pamela Legler
December 9, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
ObituaryBulletin
watch this service online (readings start around 7:44; sermon starts around 12:23)

Readings: Psalm 139:1-14, John 10:27-29, Luke 15:11-24

The story of the prodigal son is a very familiar parable – but it’s not one you tend to hear very often at funerals.

But as LuEtta and I were sitting down to go through the service for today, she was telling me a little bit about [her daughter] Pam’s life and her experiences.  And when we got to talking about possible scripture readings, this story immediately leapt to mind.

From what I can tell, there’s some resonance between Pam’s story and the story of the prodigal son. Like the prodigal son, Pam set off on her own at a fairly young age to make a life for herself. I see in her a similar spirit of independence, a determination to do things on her own terms. She worked as a flag person for road construction for about 15 years. She also spent time working with animals at a business that specialized in pet training and grooming. Beyond these things, there’s a lot that’s just… unknown. There are the years in there when, like the prodigal son, Pam was simply off on her own, out of touch with the folks back home.

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Sermon: Gentleness and Quiet Beauty

Funeral of Denise Dubsky
December 7, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
ObituaryBulletin
watch this service online (readings start around 12:38; sermon starts around 17:53)

Readings: Lamentations 3:21-25, Luke 6:27-36

The first thing you’d notice when you met Denise Dubsky is… well, actually, at first, the truth is you might not have noticed Denise Dubsky at all. Denise was a quiet, soft-spoken person – she was never really the person you would find standing out in front, the center of attention, making all the noise. You’d much more likely find Denise behind the scenes, making sure all the work got done. 

But the second thing you’d probably notice about Denise is her warmth – both physically and in terms of personality, haha. Denise’s hands were always warm when you’d go to shake them – it was always nice to share the peace with her during worship in wintertime! – and her family remembers her always complaining about being too hot! But Denise also had a warm and caring soul. She had a spirit of kindness and gentleness and quiet joy that you could just see reflected on her face.

However, [her daughter] Sara does argue that your mileage may vary on this if you’d happen to wake Denise up from a nap. I believe her exact quote was, “I have never seen someone with more murder in their eyes.” It’s always the quiet ones you’ve got to watch out for. 

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Sermon: Practicing Radical Peace

Sunday, December 4, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Second Sunday of Advent
watch this service online (readings start around 25:00; sermon starts around 31:58; and yes, video is sideways and I don’t know how to fix it)

John has such harsh-sounding words for the Sadducees and the Pharisees in our gospel reading for this morning. He calls them out for being a bunch of hypocrites – calling them a “brood of vipers” which is even saltier in the original Greek – not exactly what you expect to hear in this joyful season leading up to Christmas!

However, the bulk of what John has to say isn’t actually about these leaders themselves; it’s a warning to them about what’s coming. It’s a warning about the radical changes that the kingdom of God will usher in – changes that will massively upset the balance of the status quo. 

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A Season of Radical Hope

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Isaiah 2:2,4

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
Psalm 146:5-8

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11:6-9

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.
Matthew 11:2-5

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Sermon: The Gospel According to Mary Poppins

Sunday, November 27, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
First Sunday of Advent
watch this service online (readings start around 25:52; sermon starts around 31:08)

I was having dinner recently with my good friend Heidi – and she was giving me grief because I spent a good 20 minutes digging through my bag, trying to get my hands on something I absolutely could not find. I tend to carry a lot of junk with me. But, you see, I have this goofy theory – which I had shared with Heidi – that at the end of the day, there are really two kinds of people in this world: there are the people who always walk around with their handbags and their pockets overflowing with stuff that might be useful… and there are the people who depend on the people with the pockets and the bags to be carrying the useful things that they need. Heh, I definitely belong to the first group – and so does Heidi, for that matter! – we’re sort of like aspiring Mary Poppinses, and I suppose it takes one to know one. 

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Sermon: A Christian Guide to Destroying Your Enemies

Sunday, November 20, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Reign of Christ Sunday
watch this service online (readings start around 32:06; sermon starts around 38:32)

What comes to your mind when you hear a word like “power”? What is power? What does power look like? What does it look like to be powerful?

When we think about being powerful, most of us probably think about power in terms of authority and money, control and strength. We think about people who have the ability to impose their will on others, perhaps by persuasion, but usually by force – in the same vein, we probably think immediately of military might, people who have access to the nuclear codes. We see the leaders of nations as powerful: presidents and prime ministers, kings and queens and so on. 

Power is a major theme for us this morning, because today is the Sunday we celebrate the Reign of Christ – the last Sunday of the liturgical year. We celebrate that Christ is the king of all creation – now that’s some serious power! That’s a heavy business card right there. And our texts all reflect this power in various ways:

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Sermon: Keep Up the Good Work (No, Really.)

Sunday, November 13, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost
watch this service online (readings start around 21:31; sermon starts around 27:25)
(another reprise, but I hope it still speaks)

If you’ve been following any of the news lately about what’s been happening with social media – with Facebook and Twitter in particular – you know that there has been a lot of drama. It kind of feels like we’re seeing what happens some of the worst and most petty impulses that humans have are given free rein to cause havoc online.

But, admittedly, I spend a lot of time on social media, especially on Facebook – I basically live on Facebook, haha – and because of that, I know that there are also a lot of good things that social media can make possible, like networking with other clergy folks, doing ministry, and keeping up connections with my friends and family who live all over the country/globe. 

And every once in a while, I get to see some really beautiful and awesome things happen on social media. During the height of the pandemic especially, there was (and continues to be) this whole informal network of people online who have found ways to help each other out in times of need. I think of it as a sort of “Facebook Underground Railroad.” A friend of someone’s friend reaches out asking for help, usually needing money, and this network of people in all different places, from all different backgrounds, mobilizes to respond. One time, we helped a single mom in Chicago who was struggling after her car was impounded over a ticket. A while back, I put the word out on facebook to help a friend of mine who was trying to escape an abusive partner. We raised over $6,000 for her in a matter of weeks. 

There’s no formal organization at work here, no mission statement or central command. It’s just a bunch of regular people who are connected by compassion, by the recognition that as humans we need each other and that none of us is in this alone. And the folks who volunteer their time and resources don’t ask a lot of questions about the requests that come through for help. People just trust that the need is there and they give if they can. And I often see the same people stepping up again and again to chip in and/or spread the word. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times the Facebook community gets called on or what else people have going on in their lives – someone is always ready to step up and help however they can.

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Sermon: Blessed Are the Maladjusted

Sunday, November 6, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
All Saints Sunday
watch this service online (readings start around 23:51; sermon starts around 30:37 (my mic kept cutting out for some reason, so sound isn’t great))
image source

Many of you know this already, but back in January of this year, I was diagnosed with ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. I was diagnosed by the therapist I’ve been seeing for a little over three and a half years, and almost everyone I’ve shared this information with has had pretty much the same reaction, which is: “Huh… actually yeah… yeah, that makes a lot of sense.” 😅

For most people, ADHD is the kind of thing that you associate with hyperactive little boys who can’t sit still or pay attention – it’s not something you expect to find in an adult woman, so it’s often overlooked. Our hyperactivity tends to get internalized as anxiety (100% me), and we get pretty good at hiding the way we struggle with things like concentration and impulsivity and time management – largely because it’s embarrassing; there’s a lot of social stigma around struggling so much with these things. 

But just like those hyperactive little boys, our brains are literally wired differently. Our brain biology is different from the average person’s. My brain has neurological differences that affect things like: the way I perceive and experience time, the motivation and reward centers of my brain, and my ability to block out stimuli and resist impulses so that I can direct my focus where I want it to go. (As most folks with ADHD will tell you, it’s actually not really the case that we have a deficit of attention; on the contrary, we often have an overabundance of it – and in my case, at least, that abundance of attention behaves a lot like a large, poorly leash-trained golden retriever 😜)

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Sermon: The Punchline

Sunday, October 23, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
watch this service online (readings start around 26:41; sermon starts around 32:12)

The parable that Jesus tells in our gospel text for this morning almost sounds like the setup to a joke: a tax collector and a Pharisee walk into a bar temple. But the punchline to Jesus’ parable is one that his listeners probably did not see coming. Two men go up to the temple to pray, but only one of them comes away justified – and it’s not the one you’d expect! It’s the tax collectornot the Pharisee. Scandalous!

Of course, this story hits a bit differently for us now, reading this in the 21st century. We’ve gotten all of our ideas about what a Pharisee is from these texts written centuries ago by early Christians trying to distinguish themselves from Jewish religious leadership. So when we hear this Pharisee’s prayer, in which he actually thanks God that he is not like this scummy, tax collector guy, we are already primed to hear what a hypocrite he is and to have a poor opinion of him. And I mean, honestly, who prays like that?? It’s true we may not always be the most saintly of saints here – but at least we can be thankful that we’re not like that guy, right?

Ha! And there’s the punchline of the joke. Even for us, it’s almost impossible to hear this story and not go away thinking some version of, “God, I thank you that I am not like that pharisee!” It turns out, being judgmental and hypocritical is something that just seems to run deep in our human DNA. 

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Sermon: MARCO!

Sunday, October 16, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
watch this service online (readings start around 23:27; sermon starts around 28:43)

(From outside the sanctuary)
MARCO!
[POLO!

MARCO!
[POLO!

(Gradually moving into the sanctuary)
MARCO!
[POLO!

Oh hey, there you all are! You guys really shouldn’t wander off like that; it’s so weird.

Hehe, evidently enough of you played that game as kids – or had kids of your own who played it – that you remembered how it goes. For the sake of anyone who might be totally confused right now, could someone offer an explanation of what this game is and how it’s played?

[Marco Polo: it’s a kids game named after a 13th century Italian explorer (for some reason), usually played in a swimming pool. A variety of tag – one kid is “it” and has to tag the others – but unlike regular tag, whoever’s “it” must keep their eyes closed; they locate the others by calling out, “MARCO!” to which other players must respond, “POLO!”]

Exactly – it’s kind of a call-and-response sort of game, a swimming pool version of tag or blind man’s bluff. I don’t know if kids still play it much these days, but when I was growing up, it was definitely a summertime staple. 

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A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 12:1-2

Whenever I set out to write a funeral sermon, one of the first and most important questions I consider is: How did this person’s life point us toward God? Or, put another way, how do we know and love God better as a result of knowing and loving this person? Because all people were created in the image of God, each and every person, each life, has something to teach us about who God is.

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Called to Something(s)

For as in one body we have many members and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the encourager, in encouragement; the giver, in sincerity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Romans 12:4-8

The image of the body with many members is an image that Paul uses often in his letters to talk about the body of Christ and the multitude of different gifts God gives to each of us as members of this body. It’s an image that comes up often in our life together as church, walking together in the way of Jesus. And it speaks to a gift from God of which Lutherans have a rich understanding: vocation. This is a theme that we are especially focusing on this year at St. John’s, through our worship life, stewardship, and Christian education.

A word like “vocation” may call many different things to mind. You might immediately think of vocational schools – job-focused education for practical occupations like plumbers, mechanics, hairdressers, and so on. Or vocation might take your brain to more churchy places – it comes from the Latin word vocare, which means “call,” a word that might instead evoke a job more like mine, where people wear schmancy robes and talk about God a lot.

In truth, however, every single one of us has a vocation – usually vocations! – to which God has called us: some kind of calling toward which we are drawn and for which God has equipped us. But, to ask the Lutheran question, what exactly does this mean?

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Sermon: Scaring Is Caring

Sunday, September 25, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
watch this service online (readings start around 16:53; sermon starts around 24:11)

Once upon a time, there once was a very rich man. He lived in a fine house and wore expensive clothes; his table never lacked for any good thing. He had amassed more money than he honestly knew what to do with. But rather than even entertain the idea of giving up some of his wealth in order to benefit others, this rich man chose to be tight-fisted and hoard all his money away. He didn’t care at all about the suffering of the neighbor (or the neighbors) literally at his doorstep – in fact, he hardly seemed even to notice they were there. This man is selfish and miserly and cruel. And his name is: Ebenezer Scrooge. 

Heh, I just can’t seem to read this particular parable of Jesus without being reminded of the familiar story of A Christmas Carol. There are just so many points of connection between these two tales. In Jesus’ story, the rich man is already dead, but he pleads with Abraham to try to save his five brothers by sending Lazarus to them back from the dead – what he’s asking for is basically the plot of A Christmas Carol: Scrooge’s whole ghostly adventure starts off when the ghost of his old partner, Jacob Marley, shows up to warn him about the damage he is doing to his own soul by his selfish behavior. 

Neither of these wealthy men in these two stories care about anyone but themselves. Just as the rich man ignores Lazarus begging and dying at his gate, Scrooge is completely indifferent to the struggles of his impoverished employee, Bob Cratchit, and his family (in fact, he is very much the reason they are impoverished to begin with!). But with Scrooge, we do get a glimpse a little deeper into the psyche. As mean and uncaring and just plain unlikable as Scrooge is, it’s hard not to also feel pity for him. He is clearly not a happy man. He has achieved the goal to which he has devoted his life – the goal of accumulating great wealth – but it has left him feeling empty inside, isolated from other people, miserable and alone.

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Sermon: Sometimes Even the Found Are Lost

Sunday, September 11, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
watch this service online (readings start around 20:05; sermon starts around 26:32)

Whenever I’m introducing myself in churchy kinds of settings, I often describe myself as a “lifelong Lutheran” – but in truth, that’s not a completely accurate description. I mean, sure, I was born, baptized, raised, and confirmed in an ELCA church – there are even several Lutheran pastors in my family, going back at least as far as my great-great-grandfather Friederich Hefner. But for me personally, the relationship has been a bit more complex.

When I was quite young, my heart wandered away from the church out of anger at the idea of a God who thought He needed my mom more than nine-year-old me did… But then an experience of the Spirit I had at confirmation camp brought me back.

In college, I wandered away from the church in confusion when it seemed to me like I always heard Christians talk about stuff like condemning gay people or judging others they disagreed with way more than they talked about Jesus or about loving their neighbor… But then I went back to camp as a counselor, and the Spirit helped me see and experience that love really is at the center of faith. 

After college, I didn’t mean to leave the Lutheran church. Ironically, it was actually my zealous enthusiasm for reading the bible and for growing in faith that led me away again. It led me down a bizarre two-year path of study during which I nearly became a Jehovah’s Witness. Suffice it to say, it was a very weird period of my life, and I totally understand now why people join cults. That experience left my faith in such a twisted and broken and vulnerable state that it was several years before I could bring myself to go back to church at all.

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Sermon: Parenting Is Hard. Even When You’re God.

Sunday, September 4, 2022
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
watch this service online (readings start around 18:21; sermon starts around 24:58/25:17)
image source

I’m curious to know – nearly all of you here are parents – when your kids were growing up, did you set rules for them? (I’m guessing you definitely did.)  
What were some of the rules you gave your kids?
Why did you make these rules? What was your goal in setting these rules?

Good parenting involves setting healthy boundaries and guidelines for your kids. You make rules because you care. The purpose of making rules isn’t just to be arbitrary or controlling, or to suck the fun out of a kid’s life – it’s to keep them safe and healthy, to teach them values like responsibility and respect, and to help them grow into flourishing adults.

In our first reading, Moses is reminding the people of Israel about God’s rules. Almost the entire book of Deuteronomy is basically one long speech from Moses to the people of Israel as they are finally about to enter the promised land. And one point that Moses keeps hammering on again and again and again is the importance of abiding by God’s law – especially the ten commandments. It starts to sound kind of onerous. I don’t know about you, but I know for me, almost any time people start talking about the ten commandments, I tend to get this mental image of a distant, celestial, frowny-faced God, whose finger is perpetually hovering over the “SMITE” button, just waiting for us to screw things up.

Continue reading “Sermon: Parenting Is Hard. Even When You’re God.”

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