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: Images of Love

Sunday, June 16, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Trinity Sunday
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Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday – one last white Sunday before a long season of green.  We celebrate the nature of God as three-in-one and one-in-three – the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Now, here’s your pop quiz for the day: does anyone know how many times the word “trinity” actually appears in the bible?

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Sermon: All the Feels

Sunday, April 21, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Easter Sunday

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
[Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!]

This joyful greeting is the same one that Christians have used for centuries to greet each other on Easter morning.  This is indeed a day of great joy!  For many of us, that joy is obvious – the joy of gathering with family, of seeing children and grandchildren, the joy of a time to rest and a time to celebrate with the people we care about.

But of course, the true joy of Easter goes much, much deeper than these things.  Today we celebrate the fact that the fundamental order of the cosmos has been shifted.  When Christ was killed and then rose from the dead, he broke death itself. On Easter, we remember that we have been freed from slavery to sin and death; we have been joined to Christ forever in both life and death, and we too will rise again to eternal life in God’s kingdom.  Surely this is a cause for boundless joy!

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Sermon: Holy Sh*t

Sunday, March 24, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Third Sunday in Lent

Many of you have probably noticed the paper chain that’s starting to spread across the back of our sanctuary.  For those of you who haven’t made it to our Wednesday evening services yet, this chain is part of what we’ve been doing on Wednesday nights.  Each link of the chain is a prayer, and every week the chain grows as we add more and more prayers.  Every week, there are different interactive prayer stations around the sanctuary, as a different way of engaging with the text and with the practice of Lent.  The prayer chain is meant to be a community practice of prayer that shows how our prayers connect us to each other – and how what we do together here leads out into the world. 

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This idea of interactive prayer stations for Lent was actually part of the project work I did at my internship congregation down in New Mexico.  Each week at the midweek service, at least one of the stations we had set up would be some kind of activity to help people to dig into the text for that week in a more tangible, hands-on kind of way.

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Sermon: That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

Sunday, February 10, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Many of you have probably noticed that I have a couple of tattoos on my arm here.  This one here was my very first tattoo; it’s probably hard to see from where you’re sitting, but the design is a rose sitting in the center of a cross.  I got this tattoo the day after I turned in my candidacy paperwork to start the process of becoming an ordained pastor. It has a lot of meaning for me.

I took the inspiration for this image from my time out at Camp Carol Joy Holling, both as a camper and later as a counselor.  There was a beautiful confessional rite that we would do sometimes, especially for our evening worship.  We had this big, wooden cross that had a nail hammered into it so that the pointy end faced outward.  And the way it worked was that everyone was given little slips of paper and invited to write their confession – whatever sins or troubles were on their heart – and then stick it up on the cross on that big nail.  Then, once everyone’s confessions were on the cross, they would light the little bits of paper on fire.  And as we watched everyone’s confessions go up in smoke – almost like incense to God – the edges of the papers curled inward and formed the shape of a flaming rose.  It was beautiful, all ashy gray and fiery orange – such a powerful image.

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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.

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