Sermon: In the Flesh… AND the Spirit

4991036_origSixth Sunday after Epiphany /
Sexto domingo de Epifanía

Sunday, February 12, 2017 /
Domingo, 12 febrero, 2017
First Lutheran Church in Logan Square

Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Augustana Chapel,
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 (16-17) / 1 Corintios 3:1-9 (16-17)

For better sound quality:

(Manuscript follows below) Continue reading

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Sermon: On Baptists and Prophets

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Sunday, February 15, 2017
First Lutheran Church of Logan Square

1918-004-16347ac7johnthebaptistpreaching

John 1:29-42
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

(I never finished translating this sermon, nor got to preach it, as I was quite sick for several weeks)

Today, we celebrate the legacy of a great leader and prophet – a visionary who led a movement that forever transformed his nation. His name was John the Baptist. Just kidding. We are, of course, talking about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

However, it does seem profoundly fitting that we should celebrate Dr. King’s life and legacy with a reading about the prophet John. In many ways, Dr. King was a prophet very much in the line of biblical prophets like John: Continue reading

Sermon: Hope in the Dark

africa-baby-jesus-refugee-egyptPrimer domingo de Navidad /
First Sunday after Christmas
Domingo 1 enero, 2017 /
Sunday, January 1, 2017
Iglesia Luterana Nueva Esperanza /
New Hope Lutheran Church
Aurora, IL

Mateo 2:13-23 / Matthew 2:13-23

Merry Christmas! Today’s gospel reading seems a little jarring and out of place on the first Sunday of this joyous season of Christmas. After our celebration of angelic hosts and jubilant shepherds, this passage from Matthew feels like a rude awakening. It’s like Joseph, being woken up in the middle of the night by the angel of the Lord – “Get up! Get up, Joseph, and flee for your lives!”

When I first read this text, I immediately thought of the millions of refugee children out in the world right now. Some of them, like Jesus and his family, have been able to flee their countries, and then struggled to find a welcome in other, safer places. But many others are like the young children slaughtered by King Herod – victims of violence and poverty.Al-Azraq Refugee Camp Marks A year Of Housing Syrian Refugees

This text is a stark reminder that, no matter how bright and shining our Christmas celebration may be, the world is still full of darkness and tragedy. Civil war still rages on in places like Syria and South Sudan. Gang violence and corruption drive people north from Central America and Mexico, seeking safety. And even here, where we are relatively sheltered, homelessness and economic inequality abound, and disease, addiction, and death destroy the people we love. Continue reading

Sermon: Signs of the Kingdom

john_the_baptist_in_prison_350Third Sunday of Advent /
Tercer Domingo de Adviento
December 11, 2016 /
11 de diciembre, 2016
First Lutheran Church of Logan Square

Matthew 11:2-11 / Mateo 11:2-11

In our Gospel reading for today, John asks Jesus a question that I find really surprising: “Are you the guy we’ve been waiting for, or should we keep waiting for someone else?” I mean, this is John. The. Baptist. If anyone knows who Jesus really is, shouldn’t it be this guy? You’d think that seeing the heavens cracked open and a dove descending on Jesus and then hearing the voice of God when he baptized Jesus would be pretty convincing proof that Jesus is the Messiah.

But John had hit some really hard times. I mean really hard. After a wildly successful prophetic career, he made the wrong people angry and wound up in prison. And prison in the days of the Roman Empire wasn’t quite like prison is now. Most Roman prison sentences ended one of two ways: with exile, or with execution.

Last week, we heard John’s fiery preaching from the banks of the Jordan; he declared that one was coming who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire! This one would separate the wheat from the chaff and take an axe to the trees that no longer produced fruit! John was waiting for a powerful savior who would liberate his oppressed people. But when Jesus started his ministry, it wasn’t what John expected. There was no fire, no axes. There wasn’t even any wheat, except for the bread that Jesus kept breaking and sharing with everyone.

And so John wondered – “Has my whole ministry been in vain? Did I devote my life to the wrong thing?” Continue reading