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!”

Sermon: All Hands (and eyes and ears and pancreases and pinkie toes) on Deck

Sunday, January 27, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Third Sunday after Epiphany

Many of you know that I was a music major in college at Nebraska Wesleyan – and as part of that, I got the chance to sing and play in a whole bunch of different music ensembles, including the university symphonic band.  I played flute in the band for four and a half years. Now, there were a LOT of flute players in the band.  We easily outnumbered many of the other sections, especially the percussion section. And every once in a while, we would play a piece that needed a lot more percussion players than it did flute players, so our director would make some of us switch.

I was second or third chair flute for most of my time in the band, so I usually didn’t get tapped to play percussion – but one time, we played this really unusual and just bizarre-sounding kind of modern piece of music, and I got sent to the back to the percussion section.  The part I was given for this piece was to bow the vibraphone. Yes.  I had to bow the vibraphone – I was just as confused about it as you look now, haha.  Literally, I had a bow like you would use to play a violin or a cello, and while I pedaled the vibraphone, I had to run the bow along the edge of the right keys at just the right angle and it gave off this kind of weird, spooky, resonant sound.

You probably already guessed this, but I was really, really bad at it.  I could not bow the vibraphone to save my life.  And adding to my trouble, I never had any idea when I was supposed to play.  I’d have rests for like 50 measures and then I’d have to play like two notes on the vibraphone.  I mean, I can barely count to begin with, so to keep track of where we were over 50 measures of really weird-sounding music was basically impossible.  So I just kind of went rogue and played it whenever I felt like it – whenever it seemed to me like, “Oh, this part could maybe use some vibraphone.”  Half the time I couldn’t even actually get a sound out of it.  It was pretty terrible.  After we played that piece, I asked the director, “Please don’t ever make me do that again” – and I played flute in the band for the rest of my time there!

Continue reading “Sermon: All Hands (and eyes and ears and pancreases and pinkie toes) on Deck”

Sermon: Recipe for the Kingdom

Sunday, January 20, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Second Sunday after Epiphany

I watch a fair bit of Netflix when I’m at home, and one of my favorite shows to watch is the Great British Bake Off.  Any other fans of the show here?  It’s a great show – it’s shot in Britain, as you might have guessed.  Twelve amateur bakers from around the country gather together and, over several weeks of baking challenges, the show’s judges narrow down their numbers until they’re left with one winner.  It’s amazing to see the stuff they come up with – fantastic creations made with intricate combinations of flour, eggs, sugar, water, yeast, and all kinds of other baking ingredients.  And what I find even more amazing about the show is how the judges evaluate all the different bakes.  They’ll just look at something someone’s made, or maybe slice it open, and just by looking at it, they’ll say, “Oh, that needed 5 more minutes in the oven,” or “You should have added one more egg,” or “You should have added the sugar at such-and-such stage.”  It’s amazing to watch.  They’re like baking wizards.  And it really underscores how every single component of that recipe is needed – it’s needed in the proper amount and at the proper time.  When you do it wrong, it’s a mess, but when you get it right, these ordinary ingredients become something much greater than just the sum of their parts.

Continue reading “Sermon: Recipe for the Kingdom”

Sermon: The Bearable Lightness of Being

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Monday, December 25, 2017
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Christmas Day

Merry Christmas!

We made it! We made it through another year, to Christmas Day. It’s kind of funny – even though this is technically the beginning of the liturgical season of Christmas, for most of us, today actually tends to mark the end of our Christmas celebration. Churches that were packed with people last night on Christmas Eve often look a little sparser on Christmas morning. I imagine folks are sleeping in, digesting their Christmas feasts. Family members are preparing to fly or drive back to the places that they came from.

And tomorrow, everything goes back to normal. The bright, colorful wrapping paper that once held mystery and surprise will get chucked into the trash. Cherished Nativity scenes will be carefully wrapped up and packed away to wait another year. The twinkling lights will be taken down. Before too long, dried out Christmas trees will be dragged to the curb, and even the clearance shelves at all the stores will soon be emptied to make way for the next big commercial holiday. Continue reading “Sermon: The Bearable Lightness of Being”

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