Sermon: Choices

Sunday, June 30, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Third Sunday after Pentecost

I was flying home one time to visit family, back when I lived in the Dominican Republic.  My flight had a six hour layover in Miami, and the Miami airport isn’t exactly the most fun place to spend six whole hours (not that any airport is!).  So I decided I’d call an old Peace Corps friend of mine who lived in Miami to come pick me up.

I had been living in the Dominican Republic for about three years at this point, and I found that being back in American culture was a little overwhelming.  Between the heat and the sensory overload, I stepped out of the Miami airport with a massive headache.  So my friend and I headed to the nearest Walgreens to pick up some aspirin.

Now, in the DR, I had gotten used to just going down the street to the little corner store whenever I needed something for a headache.  I could usually count on having one or maybe two options for painkillers.  But the painkiller aisle in that Miami Walgreens seemed to stretch all the way to the horizon, painkillers as far as the eye could see.  They had aspirin and ibuprofen and acetaminophen and naproxen; they had tablets and capsules, bottles and packets and boxes of every size and quantity imaginable.  It was ridiculous.  I just wanted to feel better – but by the time I finally picked something out, I felt like my head was literally going to explode.

Continue reading “Sermon: Choices”

Sermon: Good Shepherd, Bad Shepherd

Sunday, May 12, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Fourth Sunday of Easter

In case our readings for this morning didn’t already give it away, today is the Sunday in the church calendar when we celebrate “Good Shepherd” Sunday.  We celebrate that God in Christ is our good shepherd.

And even though most of us have little or no experience with actual, real-life sheep or sheep-herding, we have at least some idea of what a shepherd does.  We know that shepherds are responsible for the wellbeing of their sheep, which is a 24/7 job.  Shepherds guide their sheep to food and water, they protect them from predators, and they find shelter for them when things start to get stormy.  They help the sheep to survive and flourish.  It’s a position of trust; like Jesus says in our gospel reading, the sheep learn to recognize the voice of their shepherd and they follow it.

Continue reading “Sermon: Good Shepherd, Bad Shepherd”

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!

Continue reading “Sermon: All the Feels”

Sermon: No Going Back

Sunday, April 7, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Fifth Sunday in Lent

As most of you – or probably all of you – know, I used to be a Peace Corps Volunteer once upon a time.  I served for four years in the Dominican Republic.  And as you might expect, there is a lot of training and preparation that goes into becoming a Volunteer.  In training, you learn the skills that you will need to do your project work; and you also study the language and the culture of your assigned country to try to prepare yourself to live and work for two years – sometimes more – in a different country.

But one aspect of Peace Corps that doesn’t get talked about very often is the fact that they also actually train us for how to come back.  We actually spend time in Close of Service (or CoS) training before coming back to the US.  They help us update our resumes and teach us how to condense our years of service into concise stories – literally, we had to practice that.  But even more than these practical bits of training, they tried to prepare us for the strange reality of reverse culture shock.

Most people know what regular culture shock is – you move to a new place and find yourself constantly bumping up against a different culture with different values and different ways of doing things than what you’re used to.  Reverse culture shock, on the other hand, is when you come back again and the culture is the same one you’re used to, but you are a different you.

Continue reading “Sermon: No Going Back”

Sermon: A Circle Unbroken

Sunday, November 4, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
All Saints Sunday

When I was in seminary in Chicago, I took an intensive class with a small group of people from all different faith backgrounds.  One of my classmates was finishing his studies to become a Catholic priest and a monk. He used to describe the monastery he was going to live in to us.  It sounded beautiful, but the one thing that most stuck with me was his description of the communion rail around the table.  They had a polished wooden railing – like a lot of sanctuaries do – that ran all the way around the chancel in a big semi-circle.  All the brothers could fit around it together as they gathered for communion.  Outside the sanctuary, on the other side of the chancel wall, the circle was continued in stone, and it came together to make one big ring around the table.  On this side of the circle was the monastery’s cemetery.  Every time they gathered for communion, this circle reminded the living brothers of the monastery that they were also gathered with the dead brothers of the monastery.  And they remembered that no matter which side of the wall they were on, they were all part of the one, same community.

Continue reading “Sermon: A Circle Unbroken”

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.

Continue reading “Sermon: The Doctor Is In”

Sermon: Lights on the Way

Monday, August 13, 2018
Funeral of Bill Swanda
Svoboda North Chapel, Schuyler, NE
cover image

Psalm 23
John 14:1-6

One summer, many years ago, I drove through a terrible, terrible storm.  It was the fourth of July.  My family and I had driven down to Norfolk, about an hour from my hometown, to go watch the fireworks.  The show ended up getting cut short by a tornado warning, so we decided to hightail it out of there to try to get out of the storm’s path.  By the time we finally got out on the highway, the rain was pouring down in thick sheets and the wind howled around us as it ripped through the darkness. It was pitch black and almost impossible to see anything, even the road.  It felt like all I could do just to keep my car between the fog lines.  But up ahead of me, I realized I could just make out two little red lights in the darkness – the taillights of my dad’s SUV. As I gripped the steering wheel of my car with white-knuckled hands, I kept my eyes on those lights and followed them all the way through the darkness to home and safety.

Continue reading “Sermon: Lights on the Way”

Sermon: Close Encounters

image 0

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”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑