Holy Week & Easter services

Looking for a place to worship this week? You’re more than welcome to join us at St. John’s! All of our services will be in person and live-streamed; details are below for our Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday services. All services are live-streamed from our public Facebook page (no need to have a Facebook account in order to watch); visit the Virtual Church page on our website for more info.

Wherever or however (or whether) you worship this week, I wish you many blessings and Easter joy! ☀️💐🌈✝️

Watch now!

Maundy Thursday: April 14, 6:30pm; in person and online
Good Friday: April 15, 6:30pm; in person and online
Vigil of Easter: April 16, 6:30pm; in person and online
Easter Sunday: April 17, 9:30am; in person and online

Retelling the Story

In the recent life of the church, there has been a renewed interest in one of the most ancient services/rituals of the church: the great Vigil of Easter. People gather — as they have done for millennia — around the lighting of a fire to tell stories. At the Easter Vigil, the stories we share are the stories of God’s saving acts of love, from the beginning of creation to the death and resurrection of Christ.

If you’ve ever attended a candlelight Christmas Eve service, there’s a lot about the Easter Vigil that may feel familiar. Held on the Saturday evening before Easter Sunday (since, biblically, the new day begins at sunset), the Vigil certainly has some similarities, a kind of “Easter Eve” service, if you will — though practices like remembering and creatively retelling parts of the story of Christ’s life, and even the lighting of small, handheld candles, actually originated with the Vigil of Easter.

There are a whopping fourteen readings appointed for the Easter Vigil service: twelve readings from the Hebrew scriptures, or Old Testament, a reading from Paul’s letters, and a gospel reading. At St. John’s, we usually do no more than six or seven of the readings total, which means a lot of really great stories get left out.

In my ruminations on how we could find some way to work these stories into our shared life of faith, I was blessed with one of those wild ideas the Spirit loves to come up with, and this is the result: a two week daily video series in which I read one of these stories each day, praying an accompanying prayer. The Spirit also gave me the goofy idea to do these videos in different places in and around the Schuyler community that are meant to somehow connect thematically to the text.

I’ll keep updating this list as I do more videos, but I wanted to extend the invitation to join me on this journey through the story — as together we make our way once again to Jerusalem, through the waving of palm branches, through the shadow of the cross, to the joyous news of the empty tomb.

Service of Lament and Hope

Sunday worship, August 1, 2021
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Watch the service below. And follow along here with the special digital bulletin.

I encourage you to follow along with the paper ritual! Find someplace safe to burn the first paper, and then for the second paper you can use this seed paper I found here (it really does grow!), or perhaps write on some compostable/recycled paper before adding it to your compost bin, or whatever kind of paper/writing you can find that makes you feel hopeful!

Continue reading “Service of Lament and Hope”

Easter Sunday 2020

Our joint Easter service, broadcast from Salem Lutheran Church in Fontanelle, NE. You can find the digital bulletin here. And you can also read a manuscript of the four mini-sermons here.

We had some technical difficulties broadcasting this service — as if the coronavirus weren’t enough of a disruption, we had a winter storm with high winds and ice that kept knocking out power and reception! But Christ is still risen — Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!

Continue reading “Easter Sunday 2020”

Vigil of Easter 2020

Night three of the “Triduum Tour,” broadcast from my own congregation — St. John’s Lutheran in Schuyler. The Easter Vigil is one of my absolute favorite services of the entire liturgical year. It is a glorious celebration with fire and water, sacrament and story and song. In some ways, it’s kind of like “Easter Eve” — an Easter version of Christmas Eve — except the Vigil actually predates Christmas Eve and is the inspiration for rituals commonly associated with Christmas Eve. Click here to see the digital bulletin.

Continue reading “Vigil of Easter 2020”

Maundy Thursday 2020

A few of my colleagues and ministry and I have decided to join forces for Holy Week and Easter Sunday this year, in this time of exile. Rather than all reinvent the wheel separately, we decided to do something together that we’re starting to call the “Triduum Tour” — hehe. It has been uplifting and meaningful for us to put together; I hope others will enjoy experiencing it also. If you’d like to follow along with the service, please check out this digital bulletin as you watch the video below.

Continue reading “Maundy Thursday 2020”

Virtual Church

This past week has marked a seismic shift for many of us in how we live our daily lives, and for those of us in ministry, it has meant drastic change in how we gather and connect as the body of Christ.

For anyone who might be looking for resources or some kind of spiritual grounding during this time, I thought I would post a link to the “Virtual Church” page I put together for my own congregation — St. John’s Lutheran Church in Schuyler, NE. On it, you will find updates and links to resources for prayer and meditation, as well as links to participate in our live-streamed worship and bible study.

May God’s peace be with you during these uncertain days.

Be safe, and wash your hands!

Sermon: Potlucks of Epic Proportions

Sunday, June 9, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Day of Pentecost

Before I went to seminary, I lived in Lincoln for a few years.  I had just gotten back from the Peace Corps, and I was trying to readjust to life back in the US.  Because of my experience teaching English as a foreign language, I quickly got a job with an organization called Lincoln Literacy.  At Lincoln Lit, we worked with refugees and asylum-seekers and other immigrants – with and without documents – we taught them English and helped them find jobs and adjust to their new life in the US.  I loved working there.  Almost everyone I worked with – students and staff alike – seemed to feel in some way like fish out of water, just like I did.

We had students from all over the world: from Mexico and Guatemala and Venezuela, from Iraq and Afghanistan, from Bosnia, Sudan, Congo, China, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, all over.  In our classes, you would see people of every color, people dressed in hijabs and blue jeans and saris and intricately woven fabric. During one particularly hot summer, one of my colleagues even showed up to work a few times wearing his wife’s skirts to keep cool – and no one so much as batted an eye.  Everyone belonged, just as they were.

Continue reading “Sermon: Potlucks of Epic Proportions”

Sermon: Lights, Camera, Ascension!

Sunday, June 2, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Ascension Sunday

You may have noticed something kind of unusual about our readings this morning – and that is that we actually read the same story twice. Both our first reading from Acts and our gospel reading from Luke tell the story of Jesus’ ascension. Acts was actually written by the very same author as the book of Luke – which means that Luke is the only gospel that comes with its very own sequel!

And, like any good sequel, the story of Acts picks up “where we last left our heroes.”  We read about Jesus’ ascension in the last chapter of Luke, and then we pick up the story again right away in the very first chapter of Acts. The ascension is sort of the hinge between the two books that connects one to the other.  But there are some differences in the stories.

At the end of Luke, the ascension is presented as this mystical, mysterious event; Jesus is taken up just as he is blessing his disciples, and they are filled with joy and start worshiping God, and the credits roll, and they all live happily ever after. But in Acts, this story doesn’t feel like as much of a happy ending.  We have anxious disciples and mysterious strangers and an even more mysterious Jesus. And we get the sense that the ascension isn’t really the end of the story at all – in fact, it’s only the beginning.

Continue reading “Sermon: Lights, Camera, Ascension!”

A Painfully Candid Lenten Reflection

CN – anxiety, depression

Christians around the world began their observation of Lent yesterday on Ash Wednesday.  Lent is a season of repentance and return to God. It’s a season in which we confess that we have not lived up to being the people God created, redeemed, and called us to be.  We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.  We have been neglectful in our care of creation.  We have been selfish and have hardened our hearts to the suffering of the vulnerable around the world.

We read the words of the prophet Joel, who implored his people, “Return to the Lord your God, for God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” We are called to turn back to God with our whole heart, to experience God’s grace and love anew – not unlike the prodigal son returning home to his father’s joyous welcome.

Continue reading “A Painfully Candid Lenten Reflection”

Sermon: Open Heart Surgery

Sunday, October 14, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost

“Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

I think that this verse from Hebrews is a pretty accurate summary of all of our readings for today. From Amos’ dire prophetic warnings to Jesus’ disturbing conversation with the rich man, these are all very challenging texts.  And like a sword, our gospel text for today cuts us open to our very core.  Mark has been pulling no punches – we’ve been working our way through some very difficult passages together over the past few weeks, on hell and death and divorce, and the hits just keep on coming. Let me just say again for the record – I did not pick these texts!

Continue reading “Sermon: Open Heart Surgery”

Sermon: Scope for the Imagination

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Sunday, July 8, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

I’m very sad to say that my time with you all is getting very short.  Next weekend will be my last Sunday as Vicar Day.  And those of you who’ve seen my anxiety over the past week know that I still have a LOT of packing left to do!

So, naturally, with so much to do, I decided this past week that I what I really needed to  do was catch up on my Netflix binge-watching.  I’ve been watching the show “Anne with an E” – have any of you seen it?  It’s really good.  The series is an adaptation of the novel Anne of Green Gables, which many of you have probably read.  The story follows an orphaned girl named Anne who is adopted by a middle-aged brother and sister.  Anne as a child is, let’s say, precocious.  She is a romantic with a free spirit, who loves to use big words. In her words, “If you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them!”

Continue reading “Sermon: Scope for the Imagination”

Sermon: Get in the Boat

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Sunday, June 24, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

Our gospel reading for today begins with an invitation.  Jesus says to the disciples: “Let us go across to the other side.”  Jesus had been casting out demons and healing and preaching to the multitudes on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  He’d just finished preaching several parables, including the parable of the sower and the parable of the mustard seed.  By the time he finished, it was evening, and the disciples were probably pooped and ready for bed.  But instead of calling it a day, Jesus decides: no, we need to get in the boat right now and sail across the Sea of Galilee.  And that’s what he and the disciples do.  There is an urgency to this story that we’ve kind of come to expect from the gospel of Mark.

Continue reading “Sermon: Get in the Boat”

Exciting News!!!

This is the 100th post I have made on this blog, and it seems like a perfect opportunity to share some exciting news!

I received the official word this morning that the people of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Schuyler, NE, have decided to call me as their pastor — and I have accepted!!!  I am so excited for this call, which will start on August 1.  We’re still working on pinning down a date, but I anticipate being ordained sometime in the latter half of August!

I am so grateful to God for the privilege of this call and for the movement of the Spirit in bringing all this together.  I am grateful to all the people who have walked alongside me on this journey and helped form me to be the best leader in this church I can be.  And I am both stoked and humbled to get to serve the people of St. John’s — and looking forward with eager anticipation to the ministry we will do together!

God is good!!!

jesus-says-im-excited

Internship Project Report

 

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This is the report from my internship project, which I actually submitted a few months back, but there’s some good stuff in here, I think, and some resources that other folks might be able to use.  In a nutshell, the goal of my project was to start laying some of the groundwork for bilingual ministry at my internship congregation, Peace Lutheran in Las Cruces, NM.  Overall, it was very successful!

• • •

Continue reading “Internship Project Report”

Sermon: Roots and Fruits

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Sunday, April 29, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Fifth Sunday of Easter

This past week, we welcomed our second group of refugees: 12 families from Central America who made the long journey to seek asylum in the US. Some of them traveled for up to a month or more, some with very young children, just to get here. We have been getting a little better and more organized about welcoming them each time we’ve done it. And the volunteers we’ve had helping out have just been awesome. If you’ve helped out with this group or the previous group or have donated anything, please raise your hands. Thank you all for what you’ve been doing. Even the littlest things can make a huge difference. Continue reading “Sermon: Roots and Fruits”

Sermon: Close Encounters

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Sunday, April 15, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Third Sunday of Easter

Our gospel text for today comes right on the heels of the story of the road to Emmaus, which is one of my favorite stories in all of scripture.  You probably remember the story: two disciples are walking along the road to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection and Jesus joins them, but they don’t recognize him until way later that evening, when they are breaking bread together.  I’ve always thought it was kind of a funny story.  And I see that same kind of humor in the story we read today.  The disciples had literally just been talking about this encounter on the road to Emmaus, and also about an encounter that Peter had with the risen Christ, when Jesus himself appears among them and throws them into a panic.  They were already beginning to believe that Jesus really had been raised from the dead, but when he actually showed up in their midst, they totally freaked out – and not in a good way. Continue reading “Sermon: Close Encounters”

Sermon: Battle of Wills

Sunday, October 1, 2017
Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey, El Paso, TX
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

El texto del evangelio que nos toca hoy presenta un encuentro casi cómico entre Jesús y los líderes del templo. Ellos se acercan a Jesús para engañarle y cuestionar su autoridad. Pero en vez de ser atrapado, Jesús les hace una pregunta que los deja en pánico. San Mateo describe la escena entre bastidores de los sacerdotes y los líderes frenéticamente discutiendo entre si cómo responder a Jesús sin reconocer su autoridad ni tampoco ofender a la gente. Continue reading “Sermon: Battle of Wills”

Folks and Yokes

Today was the last day for my friend Erin and me at our Ministry in Context — “MIC” — site.  We bid a fond farewell to the bilingual congregation we’ve been serving part-time in the western suburbs of Chicago for most of the last nine months.  Even though we only got to spend seven or eight hours a week in the church, we really started getting to know people and building relationships with members of the congregation.  It was bittersweet to leave when it feels like we’ve barely begun.

Probably my favorite moment of the day was a part of the special sending they did for us at each of the three services.  The pastor had congregants come forward and lay hands on us, while he prayed, blessed us, and anointed us with oil.  It never ceases to amaze me just how powerful the ministry of touch is.  Just as much as the very kind words of affection and affirmation that we heard from parishioners, the warm, loving touch of their hands on our backs and shoulders was a palpable sign of their care and blessing.

At one of the services, as I stood there before the altar, feeling the light pressure of their hands on my shoulders, I was suddenly reminded of Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew 11: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  This is the vocation to which I have been called: to be “yoked” to the church, “burdened” with love for this community and for its Lord.  And I am so grateful for it.

My eighth sermon / mi octavo sermón: Wisdom from Above / Sabiduría de lo Alto

(El sermón en español sigue el sermón en inglés)

James 3:13-4:3, 4:7-8a
Mark 9:30-37
St. Andrew Lutheran Church in West Chicago
Sunday, September 20, 2015

Good morning! I have to say, it’s a little intimidating to be standing up here after that tongue-lashing from last week’s reading from James: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for those who teach are judged with greater strictness. And all of us make many mistakes.” Well, I can promise you I’ll make at least a few of those, haha.

All throughout James’ letter, he is very straightforward in pointing out our human brokenness and our tendency to sin. That’s not the kind of stuff that’s always very pleasant to read or hear. But James isn’t writing these things in order to make us feel bad about ourselves. Neither is James writing to give us a reason to think better of ourselves than others. Rather, James is trying to inspire us to live more deeply into relationship with God. Continue reading “My eighth sermon / mi octavo sermón: Wisdom from Above / Sabiduría de lo Alto”

Please help me go to seminary!

Well, folks, I made it unscathed through the first stage of Candidacy in the ELCA — I’ve officially been “Entranced.”  Since then, I’ve been setting about finding a way to fund my seminary education at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.  While I have been granted a full tuition scholarship along with generous support from my church, Grace Lutheran in Lincoln, I still find myself coming up way short for living expenses; and am also finding that scholarship opportunities are incredibly slim for first year seminary students.  For that reason, I have started a gofundme.com page, hoping to cover more of the deficit I anticipate in my living expenses in Chicago.  I’ve received my first donation of $20 and am grateful for any contribution of any size.

As I’ve written many times in this blog, I am so excited to be part of the future of this church, and I really do feel like I have been blessed with many gifts that I will put to good use in ministry.  Please consider helping me fund my education so that I may become a more effective leader in the ELCA.  Thank you.

My fifth sermon (ish): Do. Love. Walk.

January 19, 2014
Middle School Gathering closing
Micah 6:8

All this weekend, you’ve all been getting to know each other and getting to do some really great stuff.  I heard about some of the service projects you did yesterday and about some of the really neat people you’ve gotten to talk to.  I hope it’s been a wonderful, and maybe eye-opening experience for all of you.

The theme of this weekend has centered around the verse Micah 6:8 and has been about exploring what it means to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.  This is really important stuff!  And the reason why we focus on it isn’t just that we all want to be nice people — it’s more than that.  These are the things that make us who we really are — they’re the things that set us apart as children of God. Continue reading “My fifth sermon (ish): Do. Love. Walk.”

Fear? Not!

Alleluia!  Sing to Jesus; his the scepter, his the throne; Alleluia!  his the triumph, his the victory alone. Hark!  The songs of peaceful Zion thunder like a mighty flood: “Jesus out of every nation has redeemed us by his blood.”

This is the first and last verse of hymn #392 in the ELW (Evangelical Lutheran Worship), which we sang last night at the observation of Christ’s ascension into heaven.  I like hymns that use this convention of repetition; the text strikes you a certain way when you sing it the first time, then the two or three verses in between expand and explore the theme and give the text a greater depth when you repeat it in the final verse.  More than anything, though, with this particular hymn, I was captivated by the last line:  “Jesus out of every nation has redeemed us by his blood.”  What a beautifully inclusive vision!  It speaks of grace that transcends the artificial boundaries of nations, politics, denominations, etc.  We are all one to Christ.  We are all one in Christ.  This is our calling as a church. Even our Gospel reading for this Sunday, John 17:20-26, reflects this call to universal oneness and love:

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me…”

Following worship last night, I hung around in the atrium for a little while and found myself reading the bios of our 11 new members, posted on the bulletin board.  I was gratified and a little taken by surprise to see that over half of them specifically mentioned our refugee resettlement project as something they wanted to be involved with.  In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all, since I’ve been working with these folks on the refugee resettlement committee, but it had never dawned on me that the committee is made up of new members, attracted to Grace by our sense of mission. This, to me, is an example of the very best kind of evangelism — in truth, the only kind of evangelism — the spreading of good news about something you truly believe in.  It goes much deeper than just trying to convince people that they should come to your church.  It’s inviting people to be a part of something that really matters, inviting them into works that reflect Christ’s glory and victory, like in the words of the hymn.   Continue reading “Fear? Not!”

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