Sermon: Eyes of Faith

Thursday, April 27, 2017
James Kenneth Echols Prize for Excellence in Preaching Event
Augustana Chapel, Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago

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My friend Anna and I were finalists for the winners of our seminary’s annual preaching prize, and we both had the privilege of preaching our sermons, based on the road to Emmaus story, in chapel last Thursday.  Here is mine, and here is Anna’s.

Manuscript follows below.

s463025724710779803_p176_i66_w600Luke 24:13-35 (The Walk to Emmaus)
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,  but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.  Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

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Cancer, Evolution, and a Creation Stumbling Forward

636108839739494027-1837980528_Pink-Breast-Cancer-Awareness-Wallpapers.jpgI have been taking a particularly fascinating (and challenging!) course this semester called “The Epic of Creation: Scientific, Biblical, and Theological Perspectives on Our Origins.”  While many of our class sessions have been (to my mind) thickly scientific and technical and rather over my head, last Monday, we had a deeply engaging conversation about theological and pastoral perspectives on cancer as an evolutionary phenomenon.  Given my family history of cancer — most notably, my mother’s death from breast cancer in 1994 — this is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.  I rushed home after class to write my reflections about all that we had discussed, and after re-reading what I wrote, I decided to share some of it here.  I hope it’s meaningful for others as it is for me. Continue reading

Sermón: Palmas y perspectivas

Domingo de ramas / Palm Sunday
9 abril, 2017 / April 9, 2017
Mateo 21:1-11 / Matthew 21:1-11
First Lutheran Church of Lutheran Square

(I also submitted this sermon as an assignment for my preaching class, so I experimented with a different approach to writing a sermon.  I hope you enjoy it!  It also preceded an action with the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance, supporting reforms of Chicago’s Welcoming Cities Ordinance.)


(sermon starts around 2:04)
(manuscript is below)

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Sermon: Truth from the Margins

Third Sunday of Lent / Tercer domingo de cuaresma
March 19, 2017 / 19 marzo, 2017
John 4:5-42 / Juan 4:5-42
First Lutheran Church of Lutheran Square

0e6ef653fa10cdcb6a77686873a70189La única cosa que le interesaba a Kenny era Bionicle – un mundo de ciencia ficción y fantasía creado por Lego, con ciborgues, robotes, y monstruos. Le conocí a Kenny durante el verano de 2006 cuando trabajaba como consejera en un campamento luterano de jóvenes. A mi me tocaba cuidar a un grupito de siete campistas: 3 niñas, 3 niños, y Kenny. Kenny era un niño muy amable. Le gustaba mucho dibujar y contar historias – mayormente sobre Bionicle – pero le costaba enfocarse en las actividades del grupo. Dentro de pocos días sus peculiaridades empezaron a molestar un poco a los demás niños, y Kenny se convirtió en un marginado.

Este cuento de la mujer samaritana, me recuerde un poco de Kenny. Como Kenny, la mujer samaritana parecía ser una marginada de su pueblo. Vino sola al pozo a sacar agua durante las horas más calientes del día. En su conversación con Cristo, revela que ha tenido cinco maridos y que ya vive con uno que no es su marido. Posiblemente era adúltera, pero no lo sabemos por seguro. Puede que fuera viuda o hasta divorciada cinco veces. Quizás le obligaron a casarse con varios hermanos de la misma familia por una práctica que se llamaba el matrimonio “levirato,” y ya se quedó sola. Sea lo que sea su historia, el hecho de que estaba sola en el pozo, conversando sobre agua viva con un hombre ajeno, probablemente indica que era un poco diferente a los demás de su pueblo.

Por lo tanto, imagino que cuando ella vino corriendo del pozo, llena de emoción, la última cosa que esperaba su pueblo era que les traía la palabra de vida de Dios. Y yo lo imagino así, porque cuando Kenny vino corriendo a nuestro grupito, lleno de emoción, yo tampoco lo esperaba. Continue reading

My Own Independence Day

CW: diet talk, weight loss, profanity, disordered eating

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Me rocking a new winter coat that actually fits well and looks nice

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I quietly celebrated an important anniversary yesterday.  It’s been exactly one year since I gave up dieting and stopped trying to lose weight.  I had been resistant and afraid to do it, terrified that I would lose all control over my eating and constantly gorge myself on all the fatty, fried, and sweet foods I so desperately craved.  I felt like a crazy person around food and even thought that perhaps I was a food addict.  I used to hide my eating from those closest to me who I knew would disapprove: hiding candy in unlikely places (like my closet or behind books on a shelf), hiding myself in the bathroom to sneak my little treats.  I felt guilty and hungry and ashamed all. the. time.

A year ago, I was lying face down on my bed, sobbing uncontrollably, feeling like the most miserable life form in the universe.  I don’t even remember what set me off, if indeed, there even was anything.  I was so sick of dieting, so sick of constantly denying myself the pleasure of eating.  And most of all, I was just unbearably sad.  The ideal of the thin (or even the thinner) me seemed impossibly far out of reach, and getting further by the minute.  I had legitimately given it my best.  I have lost as much as 70lbs in a single go in my life, but without fail, it always comes back, and when it does, it brings along reinforcements. Continue reading

March 7 Resist Trump Tuesday

International Women’s Strike Chicago: Global Wage Justice
March 7, 2017

I was honored to be invited to speak at the March 7th Resist Trump Tuesday rally as a leader with Seminarians for Justice and The People’s Lobby, fighting for the global minimum wage movement and for the rights and dignity of women and workers everywhere.  Following are some photos of the event, a video of our multilingual call for global solidarity, and a video and manuscript of my speech.

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Sermón: Renunciando el renunciar

ash_weds_cross-1“Domingo de Ceniza” / “Ash Sunday”
5 Marzo, 2017 / March 5, 2017
First Lutheran Church of Logan Square

Mateo 6:1-6, 16-21
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Hoy, empezamos el tiempo de la Cuaresma por observar el Miércoles de Ceniza – o en este caso, el Domingo de Ceniza. La Cuaresma es un tiempo de arrepentimiento, en que renovamos nuestra devoción a la vida de fe. Pero para muchas personas, este tiempo se ha convertido en un tiempo de abnegación solamente. Ha vuelto a ser un tiempo de castigarnos a nosotros mismos y de sentirnos culpables por fallar en vivir vidas perfectas. Igual que los “hipócritas” en nuestro evangelio para hoy, muchos de nosotros pasamos la Cuaresma orando y ayunando – tal vez renunciamos al azúcar o chocolate o a otras cosas que nos gustan. Pero a veces puede ser fácil perder la razón *porque* hacemos estas cosas.

Tal vez ustedes no. Pero yo sé que para mi, ha sido difícil. Por muchos años, mi práctica cuaresmal ha sido renunciar algún tipo de comida. He renunciado al azúcar y al soda y carbohídratos. El año pasado, para la Cuaresma, comí sólo verduras crudas y nada más. Fue muy poco saludable. Y siendo honesta, lo que quería hacer en realidad era continuar mi resolución del Año Nuevo de bajar de peso.

Aunque intentaba convencerme a mi misma que lo hacía para Dios, la verdad es que lo hacía para mi y para quedar bien con los demás. Como los hipócritas en nuestro texto, me preocupaba más por lo que pensaban los demás que por lo que pensaba Dios. Para mi, la Cuaresma no era un tiempo de arrepentirme y volver a Dios, sino un tiempo de castigarme. Continue reading

Sermon: Breaking the Cycle

ash_cross(Early) Sermon for Ash Wednesday
February 22, 2017
“Sermon Design and Delivery” course
LSTC

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you fast, do not look gloomy, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, annoint your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“Do not be like the hypocrites,” Jesus warns us in our gospel text for today. Unfortunately, it seems like there’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around these days – especially if you’re attuned to what’s happening in our country’s political discourse. Politicians and public figures claim to be pro-life, while adamantly supporting the death penalty and opposing gun regulation, despite tens of thousands of gun-related deaths annually. Others claim to be advocates for a quality public education system while proposing plans to dismantle the entire Department of Education. Still others are doing everything in their power to slam the door on refugees and other immigrants seeking safety and opportunity, while ignoring their own families’ personal – and recent – histories of immigration. Hypocrisy is the bread and butter of our world. Continue reading