My fourth sermon: Picking up Stitches

November 27, 2013
Thanksgiving Eve service
• Deuteronomy 26:1-11
• Psalm 100
• Philippians 4:4-9
• John 6:25-35
Grace Lutheran Church, Lincoln

Do you remember how awesome Thanksgiving was when you were a kid?  Well, I don’t know how it was for you, but for me, it was one of those days of the year when I got to stay home from school and tear around my grandparents’ house with my cousins and stuff myself silly with mashed potatoes and at least three kinds of dessert.  At school, we made hand-turkeys and learned the story of the “first” Thanksgiving — the legendary 17th century feast shared by pilgrims and native Americans.  The way we celebrated made life seem altogether wonderful, especially with the prospect of Christmas just around the corner.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that, for me, the charm of the holiday has faded a little.  Don’t get me wrong, I still look forward to green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, and time with family — not necessarily in that order — but find I myself really turned off by certain aspects of the holiday.  For starters, there’s the mass consumerism that seems to have invaded every aspect of the whole holiday season.  It feels almost like Thanksgiving Day has been reduced to being Black Friday Eve, a superficial holiday wedged somewhere in between Halloween and Christmas.  It’s also hard to be comfortable spending a whole day feasting, surrounded by people I love, when I know that so many people will go hungry today and so many are lonely, or separated from the people they love.  Even the blessing of a day with family can bring its own tensions — for many people, the pressure of keeping up with tradition and expectation can really get in the way of just enjoying the day, let alone feeling gratitude.  And for those who have experienced the loss of loved ones, seeing those empty places around the table tends to make us think less about what we have and more about what we’ve lost.

These are all the things that swam into my head as I sat down to start writing this sermon — all my cynicism about the holiday season.  Then I read through the texts and Paul’s words from his letter to the Philippians leapt off of the page at me:  “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  Oh.  Right.  Okay, Paul, fair enough — I suppose maybe I’m coming at this whole Thanksgiving thing from the wrong perspective. Continue reading

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My third sermon: Kings in Unexpected Places

November 24, 2013
Christ the King Sunday
Luke 23:33-43
American Lutheran Church, Lincoln

Good morning!  As was mentioned earlier, I’m Day Hefner and I work for the Nebraska Synod office.  And I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to share a little bit with you about our work through Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries in Omaha.  To be honest, I’m a little new at this whole preaching thing — actually, this is the third sermon I’ve ever preached!  (I hope you like it!)

I’m still sort of wading my way out into the deep end of Lutheran theology.  So when I first read the Gospel text for today, after learning I’d be preaching on “Christ the King” or the “Reign of Christ” Sunday, I was a little perplexed.  I mean, yeah, it talks about Christ as a king, but it’s nothing like the image that a “king” brings to mind.  In this story, it’s a joke — a cruel mockery of the strong, conquering military leader that the Israelites had been hoping for.  This isn’t King Christ laying waste to enemies and reclaiming the promised land.  This isn’t Christ resurrected, victorious over the grave, laughing in the face of those who killed him.  This isn’t even Christ riding triumphantly into Jerusalem, knowing he’s going to be killed.  The image we’re given today of Christ the King is Christ crucified.  Christ weak, vulnerable, dying.  It’s heartbreaking.   Continue reading