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.

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Sermon: Not Done Yet

Sunday, May 5, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Third Sunday of Easter

Our gospel reading for this morning picks up right on the heels of the gospel reading we read last week, which is actually kind of odd.  Last week, we read the story of “doubting” Thomas from John 20, a story that ends with Jesus saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  John then goes on to write,

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Now, that really sounds like it’s the end of the story, doesn’t it?  It sounds like it should be the end of the book of John.  All it’s missing is “and they lived happily ever after, the end.”  So it’s kind of surprising then to turn the page and realize that John actually goes on for a whole other chapter.

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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: Beyond Charity

Sunday, November 11, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

What I didn’t expect about this experience was how much I would receive in return.  Over the four years that I spent in the Dominican Republic, I got to meet lots of amazing people.  And I found that, more often than not, the person receiving the generosity and help of others was me!  I almost had to laugh one time when my community received a bunch of canned food from a ministry group that had come down to the island.  I’m sure I probably thought, “Oh how nice that other people are also sending help to this poor community.” Imagine my surprise when members of the community showed up on my doorstep to give me food.  They wanted to care for me because I lived alone and didn’t have any family in the community.

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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: 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!”

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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: Are We There Yet?

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Saturday/Sunday, May 12/13, 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Coleridge, NE
Ascension Sunday (/Saturday)

Good evening/morning! It seems that one of this weekend’s themes is surprises.  In case anyone hasn’t guessed yet, the “surprise preacher” for today is me! Surprise!  There are also some surprises in our readings for today.  We read a surprising story about Jesus’ ascension, how he was taken bodily up into heaven.  Most of us here have been church members a long time and we may not think about this as such a strange or surprising story.  But even in a set of scriptures full of all kinds of mystery and miracles, bodily ascension into heaven is not exactly the kind of thing that happens every day. Continue reading “Sermon: Are We There Yet?”

Sermon: Unfinished Business

Sunday, April 1, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Easter Sunday

Alleluia, Christ is risen! At least… I think he is?  Our gospel reading for today leaves things a little… open-ended.

This is such a weird reading from the end of Mark.  In Matthew, Luke, and John, we get these lovely post-resurrection appearances from Jesus – dramatically appearing in the midst of his disciples, tenderly calling Mary by name in the garden, forgiving Peter for his denials over brunch by the sea, and my personal favorite, walking with two clueless disciples on the road to Emmaus and vanishing the instant they finally realize who he is — hilarious.  But in Mark, this is all the closer we get to the resurrection.*  We’re never really given a big “alleluia!” moment.  And for Pete’s sake, Jesus doesn’t even show up!  It’s an ending that almost seems designed to leave us feeling unsettled and uncomfortable. Continue reading “Sermon: Unfinished Business”

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