Saturday, June 30, 2018

6 Pentecost Proper 8 Yr B July 1 2018




What would it be like to not be well for twelve years? Some of you have some experience with this, some of you know those who have chronic illness and have good days and bad days. Some of you are there yourselves. What would it be like to be a woman in Jesus’ time and bleed for twelve years, without relief. She’d spent any money she had on physicians and she continued to grow worse. I imagine a body exhausted, listless, unable to really get up and do much of anything; and certainly unable to go far from home. What would that be like when you are a woman who has to take care of a household, as well as caring for children and most likely for your parents. Would everyone leave you? What would they do with you?

And added to the misery of exhaustion and the inability to really do anything, she is unclean. In order to preserve the holiness of God’s people, Jews in Palestine avoided contact with lepers, menstruating women, corpses, and Gentiles, among others. Such contact defiled a person for a period lasting from one to seven days, until purification, ritual washing, and enduring a waiting period. So on top of her exhaustion, she was prohibited from participation in festivals, certain meals, and Temple functions.

What was she doing there? She should not have been there. At the end of her hope, she must have sensed something about this man Jesus. Jesus was by the sea and a crowd of people had gathered around him. One of the leaders of the synagogue came to him and asked him to come and see his daughter who was near death. So Jesus went with him. This crowd followed him and pressed in on him. I’ve been in a crowd like that, these days I don’t much like crowds. Hot, sticky, people, craning their necks, looking for the rock star or the sports star, trying to get a glimpse of the hero. But she had nothing left to loose. All she had was a flicker, a glimmer, of hope. She was at the end of her rope, at the end of her life, at the end of his cloak. She touched it.

You know when your car battery is dead, and you jump it from another car, and it roars back into life? Or when lightning strikes right near you and you feel a jolt of energy? Or when you can’t get out of bed because you’ve got the worst sinus infection of your life, and you finally get the antibiotics you need and you feel like you could jump up and dance? She felt his power surge through her giving her new life. Jesus felt it too. It was as if they were the only two people alive in that crowd. Connected by an umbilical cord of life and power. Jesus moved on to Jairus’ house, and pronounced life for the little girl. “Little girl, get up!”

Jesus’ life and power is connected to us too, what about that jolt of faith?

Sometimes, when I am reading the newspaper, listening to the news, even talking with people, I hear hopelessness, faithlessness, despair, in our community, our country. I hear people wondering what is next? Where or what is the next way people are disrespected, mistreated, and distrusted? What is the next means of exclusion, violence, hatred? Why are we having so much trouble making space in our communities, our lives, our country, for people who are unlike us?

I think it may be because of the blood. This woman’s blood flowed out of her, through no fault of her own, making her unacceptable in the neighborhood in which she lived, and, they believed, unacceptable to God, yes, to God. These rules were to keep God’s people holy, and to keep God holy as well.

But Jesus changed those rules. Jesus said, the commandments now are, love God, love your neighbor, period, no exceptions. And yet we keep doing it. We keep people away, we put distance between us, we inflict animosity, because they are not like us. It is as if we need to keep ourselves unaffected, clean even, and it is as if we need to keep God in our box of holiness.

But we needn’t worry about God; God can take care of Godself, much better than we can. God is found in all sorts of objectionable places, places where hungry people live, places where homeless people live, places where boundaries are erected and walls are built. And yet, we see God in those places, in the faces of men, women, and children who are loved by God. We see God in those places, in the faces of the helpers, those who go running toward trouble, those who go running toward violence and sadness. We see God in the faces of those whose color, language, and culture is unlike our own.

You see, we are the Jesus movement. In Jesus’ life, and in Jesus’ journey to the cross, and in Jesus’ love on the cross, Jesus crossed boundaries. Jesus heals any who need healing, regardless of their status, regardless of who they are, regardless of who they even believe in. And on that cross, Jesus healed the one who hung next to him, who uttered the words, “remember me, when you come into your kingdom”, and who does the same for us, regardless of our status.

Jesus’ life and power is connected to us too, what about that jolt of faith? We are the Jesus movement. We are connected to love, we are connected to healing, we are connected to dignity by that same umbilical cord of life and power. We follow the one who makes people free, the one who unbinds, the one who heals. We follow Jesus who crosses boundaries, who redraws boundaries, who overcomes obstacles in the service of the kingdom of God. We are the Jesus movement, and we are followers who cross boundaries to proclaim the good news to the ends of the earth, and the mission is urgent, because the end of history, according to Mark, will come soon. I’m not so sure that Mark is wrong in his timing.

The good news is right here. Jesus crossed boundaries in his life to bring new life, to heal people, to make people whole. Jesus continues to cross boundaries to bring new life, to heal, to empower, through you, and me.

Just like that woman of so long ago, Jesus’ life and power is connected to us too, what about that jolt of faith? The good news is right here. Do you feel it? Can you feel it? “Little girl, get up!” Jesus says the same thing to us. Get up, be a part of the Jesus Movement. Stand up, be counted as one who is connected to Jesus; whose blood courses through our veins, whose body is broken for us. Stand up, be counted as one who is connected to Jesus. Stand up, be counted as one who loves God, loves others, and shows it.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

5 Pentecost Proper 7 Yr B June 24 2018



5 Pentecost Proper 7 Yr B June 24 2018 Audio 

Tom and Willie, Rick and I, were canoeing and camping in Minnesota’s boundary waters. It wasn’t perfect weather, hot and sticky most of the time. Not unlike the kind of weather we’ve had recently, the kind of sky that you expect to rain down on you. Now rain is rain, you just get wet, but rain accompanied by wind is another matter entirely. As we looked toward the sky, we made a quick decision to bug out, pack up and outrun the storm we sensed was coming. We loaded up our canoes, me in the stern, Willie in the bow, Tom and Rick in the other canoe. We took to the water, and paddled into that wind like our lives depended on it. The water crashed over us, the wind pushed at us, I feared we may not find our way, and I believed for a time that that might be it. I remember clearly praying out loud, because I believe, Jesus transforms our fear into courage.

Jesus has spent the day teaching and tending to the needs of yet another large crowd gathered by the seashore, and the long hours of a hot humid day are coming to a close. Settling into the quiet of the evening as the disciples row toward the opposite side of the Galilee, we can imagine the gentle waves rocking the exhausted Jesus into a deep slumber. He falls fast and soundly asleep, seemingly oblivious to the catastrophe that is about to unfold around him. They watch the wind and the rain come at them across the lake. The waves beat into the boat filling it with water, nearly turning them over. Now, many of Jesus’ followers are fisher people, they’ve felt the wind and the rain before. This storm must have been a dousy given their terror. I’m right in the boat with them, feeling the chaos of that wind. Frightened beyond belief that I’d be at the bottom of that lake in no time.

The disciples are really just getting to know Jesus. I wonder if they assume that they deserve rewards for following Jesus. They clearly expect Jesus to protect them from this storm; they clearly expect Jesus to protect them from suffering. They have yet to meet the resurrected Jesus, like you and I have. In this boat, being tossed on the sea and filled with water, they don’t know what Jesus can and will do. For them, all in the same boat, the immediate future is terrifying; all they want is for Jesus to save them from that storm.

When the disciples awaken Jesus, they say “what are you doing Jesus, don’t you care that we are about to die in this storm?” And they accuse Jesus of being indifferent to their plight; and Jesus chides the disciples for their fear and lack of faith.

So they hold tight to the sides of the boat. But Jesus wakes up, and Jesus does something, Jesus transforms their fear into courage, and Jesus calms those waters.

A couple in their thirties rushed to the emergency room after receiving news that their teenage daughter had been injured while playing on a tire swing. The child arrived with a critical head injury sustained when the tree holding the swing fell on her. On his knees, the father prayed for God to heal his daughter from the crushing brain injury. A devout Christian, he asked, “Where are you, God? Do you not care that our child is about to perish?”

I know you’ve asked a similar question. Where are you God? Do you not care that your people suffer? Where are you God? Do you not care that so many are dying from opioid addiction? Where are you God? Do you not care that so many return from war with wounds of the head, and the heart, and the body? Where are you God? Do you not care that the powerful people have the authority to separate children from their parents? Where are you God?

We, like the disciples, pray that God will relieve us of our suffering, and reward us for doing well. We pray that God will somehow get us out of this boat alive, all the while knowing that none of us do. This world in which we live rocks our boat, the waves crash over us, it begins to feel like chaos. But in the chaos, Jesus transforms our fear into courage.


Who is this Jesus who was in the boat with them? This is Jesus who transforms our fear into courage. This is Jesus who cast out demons, this is Jesus who heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, this is Jesus who cleanses a leper, this is Jesus who heals a paralytic and a man with a withered hand, this is Jesus who feeds people. All of these stories show us how Jesus cares for us, God’s beloveds.

And this is Jesus who calms the storm. Just see him do it. Jesus had been sound asleep in the back of the boat; head on a pillow no less. The boat is rocking and swaying and filling with water. Just hear him do it, “Peace, be still!” Did you see that? Did you hear that? “Peace, be still!” Not like Moses when he raised his staff to part the waters. No, “Peace, be still!” In the middle of that chaos, that wind blowing, that water raging, Jesus, says, “Peace, be still!”

Jesus shows up and calms the storm. There are many storms, there is much suffering. Jesus doesn’t remove any of that, but Jesus shows up and cares for those he loves. Jesus doesn’t take away the pain, the sadness, the heartache. But Jesus transforms the disciples fear into courage. They can get to the other side of that lake; they can do what they must. Jesus transforms our fear into courage, so that we may also follow Jesus.

What I would have given to have Jesus in my boat with me that day. I was afraid, that day in that canoe, in that storm. My prayer calmed my fear, and gave me courage to go on. We did get to the shore that day, wet, tired, grateful.

The doctors came to that couple, whose daughter lay in that hospital bed, to say they had done everything within their power – she was not going to survive – and now was their chance to say good-bye. With faith-filled strength, they let go of their expectation that God would “fix” their daughter, that God would spare them from the heartbreaking chaos. Instead, they stepped into it and gathered her broken body in their arms, surrounded her with their love, and spoke the words she needed to hear: “Go to Jesus. He is waiting for you. Peace, be still.” For this family, Jesus transformed their fear into courage.

The good news is not that Jesus rescues us from our difficulty, or suffering, or pain. We know that because we know about Jesus’ journey to the cross. We know that because it is for love that Jesus hung on that cross. The good news is that Jesus does not leave us in the storm. The good news is “Peace, be still.” You see, it’s not so much the water that needs to hear “Peace, be still.” It’s you, and it’s me, it’s the disciples, it is this mom and dad and child. It is that promise of peace that calms our fears, and gives us courage to go on or to let go. It is the reality of God’s love that calms our fears, and gives us courage to step up and speak out. It is the truth that love wins that calms our fears, and gives us courage to embrace even what is hard.

Do not be afraid, have courage.

Story from Feasting on the Gospels

Saturday, June 2, 2018

2 Pentecost Yr B Proper 4 June 3 2018



2 Pentecost Yr B Proper 4 June 3 2018 Audio

This is the sermon for 2 Pentecost Yr B Proper 4 June 3 2018 rewritten for my preaching class at Luther.  Mark 2:23-3:6

Here we are, on a Sunday, on the Sabbath day, and here we have this passage from the gospel of Mark, about the Sabbath. Seems like it may very well be the proverbial preaching to the choir, you’re all here, observing the Sabbath, what more is there to say? There actually is a lot more to say in this Sabbath story. Jesus makes us whole. In this world that pulls us apart, that breaks our hearts, Jesus makes us whole.

Jesus was taking a big risk, a huge chance in this Sabbath story. One Sabbath Jesus and his disciples were walking through the grain fields, and his disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. No big deal you and I think, we do it all the time. At least I do, on a Sunday afternoon, walk around my yard and my garden and pluck the weeds right outa there. But the Pharisees are watching Jesus so carefully. In fact, they seem to be doing an awful lot of hanging around just to catch him in the act.

You see, Sabbath observance was one of the fundamental characteristics of the Jewish people, marking them off from other groups of the day. So a challenge at this point is no small matter. And that’s essentially what Jesus is doing here, intentionally or not; Jesus and his followers are challenging the Pharisees. It seems that the Pharisees care more about their custom than they do about their brother: they are more eager to bring Jesus down than to restore this man’s useless hand.

In Mark’s gospel, argument about the Sabbath played a critical role in the life of Jesus; indeed, it was one of the factors that led to his death. And, Sabbath observation was a burning question at the time the gospel was written, when the Christian movement was still separating from the synagogue.

So these questions about what is lawful on the Sabbath at the time were legitimate questions. Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, to save life? Or, by ignoring the need for healing, to harm life? This drove Jesus to anger. Jesus regards the Pharisees attitude as hardness of heart, they were stubborn, closed minded. They placed religious vigilance above concern for human need. They place the law above the wholeness and healing that Jesus offers.

So what does this Sabbath story have to do with us?

I remember the days, I don’t think they are so very far in the past, when Sundays, were for church and for Sunday dinner. I’m from a mixed marriage. Some of you remember the days when mixed marriage, that was marriage between a Lutheran and a Catholic, meant that the Lutheran signed a promise to raise the children in the Catholic church. Now I come from a large family, I’m five of eight. My mom would pile us all in the station wagon, and we were putting on our shoes and our hats and probably our gloves, as she was yelling at us to get in the car. We’d get to church; we’d empty the car like the Shriners at a parade, file into the church and take up a whole pew, just like all the other families. After church we’d all pile back into the car for the very short ride home. My dad never came with us on those Sabbath Sundays. Years later, when he did decide to be a Catholic, I learned that his agreement to raise us Catholic was to stay home with the very youngest ones so that my mom could get the rest of us to church. The Sabbath Sunday wasn’t necessarily relaxing, but it was part of church and family that was joyful and broken and messy.

And, the culture of the time supported this. There was no shopping on Sabbath Sundays, because there were no stores open, because the law wouldn’t allow it.

This is a rather nostalgic story, but I do think there is something to it. The human body and psyche need regular times of rest for rejuvenation, and for getting put back together. And it’s not just about the law even though Jesus challenges every form of legalism that reduces religion to the keeping of rules. It’s also about all the stuff that fragments us.

Sometimes, family and friends disappoint, maybe even break our hearts. Sometimes, work is impossible, maybe even breaks our spirit. Sometimes, the violence perpetrated in our schools makes us fearful, we may even despair. And even with our broken hears, our broken spirits and our despair, Jesus makes us whole.

The good news is that this passage from Mark isn’t all about making you feel guilty about church attendance; actually, it’s not about guilt at all. It’s about what God does in and through Jesus. It’s about God’s gift of wholeness, of healing, and of love. The good news is that Jesus makes us whole.

Within this story is Jesus’ story about David. The point of Jesus’ story about David is that scripture itself admits of exceptions to the law. The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath. This grounds Sabbath law in the welfare of humankind. It challenges every legalism that makes of the Sabbath a burden to bear rather healing, wholeness, and love.

Jesus is lord even of the Sabbath – this not only affirms the authority of Jesus, the son of man, to reinterpret Sabbath law, but asserts also that the Sabbath remains God’s day. Jesus determines the proper use of the Sabbath. Jesus best knows human needs; as God, Jesus has the authority to say how the Lord’s Day should be used. Jesus shows us that the Sabbath is created for healing, for wholeness, for love.

Risen lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread. You see, what we do when we gather in this place, and in places around the world, has everything to do with the lord of the Sabbath, the Lord who heals, the Lord who makes us whole, and it’s not so much about law as it is about love. We come, we make room, space is opened in our hearts, sometimes by choice, often because our hearts are broken. The ways of the world have left us broken, pulled apart, isolated, and love seeps in. It seeps in with bread and wine. Love seeps in through song and prayer and hugs and handshakes. We come with broken hearts, we come with streaming tears, and those tears remind us that in the waters of baptism we die and are raised with Jesus. Jesus makes us whole, Jesus actually makes us new on this Sabbath.

You who are broken by the ways and wills of the world, Jesus makes you whole.
You who are broken by the cares and concerns of this community, Jesus makes you whole.
You who are broken by the extremes and excesses of economy, Jesus makes you whole.


Take the Sabbath story out with you. God shows up in this place, and for a time we rest in these pews, and then we are sent out. We bring our new selves, our selves that Jesus has put back together, out into our work, our schools, our neighborhood. We bring our newly constituted selves, put back together in the bread and the wine, the body and the blood, our holy selves, made so by the one who is risen. Thanks be to God.

Following is the original.

Here we are, on a Sunday, on the Sabbath day, and here we have this passage from the gospel of Mark, about the Sabbath. Seems like it may very well be the proverbial preaching to the choir, you’re all here, observing the Sabbath, what more is there to say?

Jesus was taking a big risk, a huge chance in this Sabbath story. One Sabbath Jesus and his disciples were walking through the grain fields, and his disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. No big deal you and I think, we do it all the time. At least I do, on a Sunday afternoon, walk around my yard and my garden and pluck the weeds right outa there. But the Pharisees are watching Jesus so carefully. In fact, they seem to be doing an awful lot of hanging around just to catch him in the act.

You see, Sabbath observance was one of the fundamental characteristics of the Jewish people, marking them off from other groups of the day. So a challenge at this point is no small matter. And that’s essentially what Jesus is doing here, intentionally or not; Jesus and his followers are challenging the Pharisees. It seems that the Pharisees care more about their custom than they do about their brother: they are more eager to bring Jesus down than to restore this man’s useless hand.

In Mark’s gospel, argument about the Sabbath played a critical role in the life of Jesus; indeed, it was one of the factors that led to his death. And, Sabbath observation was a burning question at the time the gospel was written, when the Christian movement was still separating from the synagogue.

So these questions about what is lawful on the Sabbath at the time were legitimate questions. Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, to save life? Or, by ignoring the need for healing, to harm life? This drove Jesus to anger. Jesus regards the Pharisees attitude as hardness of heart, they were stubborn, closed minded. They placed religious scrupulosity above concern for human need.

So what does this Sabbath story have to do with us?

I remember the days, I don’t think they are so very far in the past, when Sundays, were for church and for Sunday dinner. I’m from a mixed marriage. Some of you remember the days when mixed marriage, that meant marriage between a Lutheran and a Catholic, meant that the Lutheran signed a promise to raise the children in the Catholic church. Now I come from a large family, you all know that, I’m five of eight. My mom would pile us all in the station wagon, and we were putting on our shoes and our hats and probably our gloves, as she was yelling at us to get in the car. We’d get to church; we’d empty the car like the Shriners at a parade, file into the church and take up a whole pew, just like all the other families. After church we’d all pile back into the car for the very short ride home. My dad never came with us. Years later, when he did decide to be a Catholic, I learned that his agreement to raise us Catholic was to stay home with the very youngest ones so that my mom could get the rest of us to church. The day wasn’t necessarily relaxing, but it was all part of this messiness that was church and family.

And, the culture of the time supported this. There was no shopping on Sundays, because there were no stores open, because the law wouldn’t allow it.

I don’t think this is all about nostalgia, but I do think there is something to it. The human body and psyche need regular times of rest. It’s not just about the law even though Jesus challenges every form of legalism that reduces religion to the keeping of rules.

We are so busy, and so much calls our attention away from rest and listening. You all know this; in fact, I’ve heard many of you speak of it recently. The 24-hour news cycle that is driving us all crazy. Your phone pings every time a news report comes in. You are updated every time one of your friends posts a picture, or eats at a new restaurant. We have to remember to turn our phones off when we come to church, or go to a concert. And it is increasingly difficult to discern the real from the fake.

Our electronic lives tend to pull us apart, we are pulled apart from one another, and we are fragmented and isolated.

The good news is that this passage isn’t all about making you feel guilty about church attendance; it’s not about guilt at all.

Within this story is Jesus’ story about David. The point of Jesus’ story about David is that scripture itself admits of exceptions to the law. The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath. This grounds Sabbath law in the welfare of humankind. It challenges every legalism that makes of the Sabbath a burden to bear rather than renewal for the road.

Jesus is lord even of the Sabbath – this not only affirms the authority of Jesus, the son of man, to reinterpret Sabbath law, but asserts also that the Sabbath remains God’s day. Jesus determines the proper use of the Sabbath. Jesus best knows human needs; as God, Jesus has the authority to say how the Lord’s Day should be used.

So to rightly observe the Sabbath is not only to rest and worship but also to do good, to save life, to make life whole, both our own and that of our neighbor. The principle suggests to followers of Jesus that Sundays be spent not in self-indulgence nor in self-denial, but in renewal and in service, in healing, as Jesus did on the Sabbath.

Risen lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread. You see, what we do when we gather in this place, and in places around the world, has everything to do with the lord of the Sabbath, and it’s not so much about law as it is about love. We come, we make room, we open space in our hearts, sometimes by choice, often because we have been broken, and love seeps in. It seeps in bread and in wine. Love seeps in through song and prayer and hugs and handshakes. We come with broken hearts, we come with streaming tears, and we are reminded that it is in the waters of baptism that we are risen with Jesus.

And we are healed, we are actually made new on this Sabbath.

And we take the Sabbath out with us. God shows up in this place, and for a time we rest in these pews, and then we are sent out. We bring bread and wine to those who cannot leave their homes to come here. We bring our new selves, our selves that have been put back together, out in the world in service to others. Our newly constituted selves, put back together in the bread and the wine, the body and the blood, our healed selves, made whole by the broken body of Jesus, our holy selves, made so by the one who is risen, go out into the world to stand with those whose healing is not yet. We stand with those who have been held hostage by the letter of the law, waiting to be freed by the love that wins.

We, are not perfect, sometimes we want the letter of the law, because love is so messy and hard. But we are perfectly loved, perfectly forgiven. Go out, on this Sabbath Sunday, carrying your healed broken heart, your healed brokenness, to love God, love others, and show it. Amen.

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Yr A Proper 9 July 5 2020

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Yr A Proper 9 July 5 2020 Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67, Psalm 45: 11-18, Romans 7:15-25a, Matthew 11:1...