Sermon: The Devil You Know

Sunday, June 23, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Second Sunday after Pentecost
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As I was first reading our gospel lesson for this morning, there were a couple of moments in this story that stuck out to me as being kind of odd.  Despite the fact that this is a wonderful story of Jesus performing a miraculous healing, it is filled almost from beginning to end with fear.  In fact, the stage is already set with fear right before we even get to this particular passage. Before this encounter with the Gerasenes, in the same chapter of Luke, the disicples get into a boat with Jesus to cross the Sea of Galilee – and what do you suppose happens?  A massive storm comes up – and just as they are all preparing to die, Jesus wakes up from his nap and tells the storm to cool it.  In response, the disciples are amazed and afraid.

Then they reach the other side of the sea and step out of the boat into Gentile territory.  And literally just as they are stepping out of the boat, they are accosted by a naked man, with iron shackles clanking on his wrists; he falls down before Jesus and starts shouting wildly.  After a brief confrontation, Jesus casts many demons out of the man.  And when the people of his city come running – all his neighbors and family – they find this man clothed and in his right mind and sitting calmly with Jesus.  And then they are afraid.  And when the story is told again of what Jesus has done for this one man, the entire country of the Gerasenes is seized with such great fear that they ask Jesus to leave.

It’s not exactly the reception you would expect for such an incredible miracle of liberation!  You’d think people would be lining up around the block to have Jesus heal their own maladies.  So what is everyone so afraid of??  Is it just that people were so awed and amazed by Jesus’ incredible power over demons that they were afraid of him?  I mean, maybe.  But it seems like maybe there’s more than that going on here.

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Sermon: Ups and Downs

Sunday, March 3, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Transfiguration Sunday
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Our gospel reading for today is, objectively, kind of a weird story.  The transfiguration is one of those moments in Jesus’ life that always seems mysterious to me and a bit beyond my comprehension.  As best as I can understand it, Jesus walks up a mountain with some of his disciples, glows for a bit, has a brief conversation with a couple of ancient Old Testament prophets (as one does), and then they all walk back down the mountain together.  It’s weird.

But, as strange as this story is, it’s got one of my favorite Peter moments in all of scripture.  Peter has a very human reaction to Jesus’ transfiguration.  When Jesus is revealed in all his heavenly glory and Moses and Elijah show up, Peter’s first reaction is, “Uhh, uhh…. tents! Yes, that’s it, we must build tents! One for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah…”  And I love how Luke is like, “he did not know what he was saying.”  And even God Almighty is like, “What are you talking about?  Tents??  This is my son, my chosen.  Shut up and listen to him!”

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Sermon: Blind Healing the Blind

Sunday, October 28, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost
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Many of you know that, before I moved to Schuyler, I spent a year living in Las Cruces, New Mexico, doing my final year internship at Peace Lutheran Church.  Las Cruces is in the way south part of New Mexico, just north of El Paso, Texas, which makes it less than an hour from “old” Mexico.  It was an awesome and eye-opening experience to get to live in the borderlands for a whole year.

One of the most important things I got to do at Peace during my year there was to help develop a refugee hospitality ministry.  We welcomed some of the many, many people from Central America who have come to the US seeking safety from dangerous situations in their home countries. These folks presented themselves to Border Patrol for asylum, and after processing them – getting their information, contacting their sponsor, and giving them an ankle monitor and a court date – ICE actually would actually drop them off right at the door of the church.  And we’d take it from there. Continue reading “Sermon: Blind Healing the Blind”

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!

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Sermon: The Doctor Is In

Sunday, September 30, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost
(Service of Healing)

This is a rough, rough gospel text for today.  With a text like this, instead of, “Praise to you, O Christ!” it kind of feels like a more fitting gospel acclamation would be just, “Wow, O Christ,” or even, “WTF, O Christ?”

And some of us may have already come to worship today carrying some pretty rough feelings.  This has been a very difficult week in our nation.  Many folks who have known the horror of sexual assault have been reliving some of their worst trauma this week.  Many people have seen in these events their own experience of not being believed, whether it be about the truth of their experiences, or about their innocence in the face of harsh accusations.  And I think all of us have probably been discouraged with the reminder of just how viciously divided our country has become.  To those of you who are struggling, who are feeling raw and vulnerable today, I see you.

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Sermon: See Me After Class

Sunday, September 23, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost

As I was reading our gospel for this week, I found myself thinking back to what it was like to be in elementary school.  Do you remember your school days? (I know it was longer ago for some of us than others!)  Did any of you ever get in trouble with any of your teachers? (of course not; I’m sure you were all perfect little angels!)  I’ll admit that I sometimes got in trouble with my teachers, mostly for daydreaming and spacing off — and for doodling all over my homework.  And every once in a while, I’d get an assignment back with those four dreaded words written at the top: “See me after class.”

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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.

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Sermon: Rightness and Reconciliation

Sunday, January 28, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany / Reconciling in Christ Sunday

To eat meat, or not to eat meat – that is the question! Our passage for today from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians probably sounds kind of strange and antiquated to our 21st century ears. We don’t really talk much about religious dietary restrictions nowadays, or worry that the food we eat will somehow impact our relationship with God. But for the Christian inhabitants of first century Corinth, Paul was addressing a very serious concern, one that went well beyond the question about food. Continue reading “Sermon: Rightness and Reconciliation”

Sermon: Paging Dr. Jesus

Sunday, November 26, 2017
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Reign of Christ Sunday

I don’t know about you all, but our texts for today leave me feeling a whole mess of different feelings. On the one hand, we have these lovely images of God as the compassionate shepherd looking after the flock, and caring for the “least of these.” But then we run into all this harsh language about judgment and destruction. It’s like being handed a bouquet of roses, only to have our fingers pricked by the thorns. Our gospel text today is particularly strong. This passage from Matthew is the only detailed account of the last judgment to be found anywhere in the New Testament – but even so, it’s definitely left an impression on the popular Christian imagination. Continue reading “Sermon: Paging Dr. Jesus”

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