Sermon: Surprising Revelations

Sunday, January 6, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Epiphany

Today we celebrate the feast day of Epiphany.  What comes to your mind when you think about what an epiphany is?

The word epiphany comes from ancient Greek and means something along the lines of a sudden appearing or revelation.  An epiphany is often a sudden moment of insight, an “aha!” moment.  In a moment of epiphany, things suddenly become clear, especially when before there has been darkness and doubt.

The Christian festival of Epiphany celebrates God’s revelation in the midst of darkness and doubt.  Even though Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season, it carries forward a lot of the same themes of Christmas.  We continue to celebrate the incarnation of Christ – who is, in himself, the revealing of God in human flesh. On Christmas Eve, we read in Isaiah that “the people who walked in great darkness have seen a great light”; and today we read, “Arise; shine, for your light has come!” Epiphany is the revelation to all people that God faithfully keeps God’s promises.

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Sermon: Perfect

Sunday, December 24, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas!

In my sermon a few weeks ago, I shared a little bit about what Christmas was like with my family when I was growing up.  To me, it was always a magical time.  I told the story of how my brother and sister and I always had to wait at the top of the stairs with our mom while Dad went downstairs to “get his camera” – I still remember the thundering sound of our feet on those creaky old stairs with their ugly brown carpet as we raced down to see what “Santa” had brought us.

My parents always made Christmas special. My mom in particular had a way of making the holiday magical – it seemed like our house was always full of cutout Christmas cookies and felt Christmas crafts and the sound of Christmas carols. And on Christmas Day, we would all gather at my grandma’s house – a whole motley crew of cousins and aunts and uncles, all celebrating and feasting together.  It was perfect.

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Sermon: Mary — Mother, Outcast, Prophet

Sunday, December 23, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Fourth Sunday of Advent

Our gospel reading this morning contains one of the most famous – I’d even say infamous – texts in all of scripture.  In this passage from Luke, right off the bat, we get the sense that something unusual is coming.  This is a story about two women – the whole passage, all seventeen verses, details their conversation – and when you consider the time that it was written, it’s amazing that it was written down at all!  Luke tells us that Mary traveled to the “house of Zechariah,” but Zechariah doesn’t even show up in this story.  If you were here a couple of weeks ago, you can probably guess why that is!  (Exactly right!  Zechariah was stricken mute when Elizabeth’s pregnancy was announced).  This story is about Elizabeth and Mary – not about Zechariah and not even about Joseph.

In this passage from Luke, Mary sings a song we could arguably call the very first Christmas carol.  You have probably heard these words before.  If you’re familiar with Holden Evening Prayer, then you have definitely sung these words before!  This is the song that we call the Magnificat.  Magnificat means “magnify” in Latin – it’s the first word of Mary’s song in Latin.

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Sermon: Wait for It

Sunday, December 9, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Second Sunday of Advent

When I was a little girl growing up, the time leading up to Christmas was my favorite time of year.  Like most kids, I was excited at the prospect of getting a long break from school, and most of all, I was excited to get presents!  My family always had a very strict protocol about the proper time for opening presents.  We waited until Christmas morning.  My brother and sister and I would wake our parents up at an ungodly early hour and be told to go back to bed a few times before they finally got up.  My dad would then shuffle downstairs to get his camera while the three of us waited with Mom at the top of the stairs, until Dad was ready for us to come down.  I have no idea what all Dad was actually doing downstairs – but I do remember that it always took foreeeeeeever for him to give us the go-ahead to come down.  Maybe it just seemed like an interminably long time because I was so small and impatient (as opposed to large and impatient, like I am now).  But I vividly remember sitting at the top of that long, narrow staircase in my pajamas, waiting with my brother and sister, our little butts scooched right to the very edge of the top stair.  I remember the electric feeling of excitement in my whole body, like a coiled up spring, just waiting to bounce down those stairs as fast as my little legs could go.

This waiting, this excitement and expectation, is what the season of Advent is all about.  We are waiting with bated breath – not knowing yet what exactly we will find at the bottom of the stairs, but trusting that it will be marvellous and worth the wait.

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Sermon: Anchored in Hope

Sunday, November 18, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Our texts for today are full of chaos and trouble.  There are times of anguish, conflicts with cosmic enemies, destruction, war, earthquakes, famine, and pain.  These are texts that point us ahead toward the future unraveling of creation – the end of all things.

These seem like kind of jarring themes for us to be focusing on now.  Right now, the rest of the world is gearing up for the bright season of Christmas – with candy canes and silver lanes already aglow! In contrast, the end of the Christian liturgical year – which actually ends next Sunday – is a bit darker and a lot more apocalyptic.  As the days get shorter, we are preparing ourselves to begin a new year with the season of Advent.  We are still waiting in the darkness for a light to shine.

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Sermon: Caution – Spirit at Work

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Saturday, December 9, 2017
Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey, El Paso, TX
First Sunday after Christmas / Primer Domingo después de la Navidad

Nuestra lectura del evangelio para hoy está llena del movimiento del Espíritu Santo. Se ve como el Espíritu ha movido a cuatro personas a venir al templo para tener un encuentro divino con Dios encarnado. Hoy, quiero ofrecer una pequeña reflexión sobre cada uno de estas personas. Y también quiero ofrecerles unas preguntas meditativas para ayudarnos a buscar el movimiento del Espíritu Santo en nuestras propias vidas.

Our gospel lesson for today is full of the movement of the Holy Spirit. We can see how the Spirit has moved these four people to come to the temple for a divine experience of the incarnate God. Today, I want to offer a brief reflection about each of these people. And I also want to offer a few questions for meditation to help us look for how the Holy Spirit might be moving in each of our own lives. Continue reading “Sermon: Caution – Spirit at Work”

Sermon: The Bearable Lightness of Being

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Monday, December 25, 2017
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Christmas Day

Merry Christmas!

We made it! We made it through another year, to Christmas Day. It’s kind of funny – even though this is technically the beginning of the liturgical season of Christmas, for most of us, today actually tends to mark the end of our Christmas celebration. Churches that were packed with people last night on Christmas Eve often look a little sparser on Christmas morning. I imagine folks are sleeping in, digesting their Christmas feasts. Family members are preparing to fly or drive back to the places that they came from.

And tomorrow, everything goes back to normal. The bright, colorful wrapping paper that once held mystery and surprise will get chucked into the trash. Cherished Nativity scenes will be carefully wrapped up and packed away to wait another year. The twinkling lights will be taken down. Before too long, dried out Christmas trees will be dragged to the curb, and even the clearance shelves at all the stores will soon be emptied to make way for the next big commercial holiday. Continue reading “Sermon: The Bearable Lightness of Being”

Sermon: Clash of Empires

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Saturday, December 9, 2017
Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey, El Paso, TX
Fiesta de Las Posadas

María y José eran personas ordinarias, gente como nosotros. Vivían sus vidas entre su pueblo. José trabajaba como carpintero y los dos cuidaban a sus familias. Pero sus vidas fueron cambiadas drasticamente por dos eventos. Uno fue que el emperador romano, César Augusto, mandó que toda la gente fueran a los pueblos de sus ancestros para inscribirse en el censo. Esto lo hizo para poder sacar más impuestos. El otro evento, claro, fue que un ángel apareció a María y le dijo que daría a luz al Hijo de Dios. Y de repente, esta pequeña familia se encontró en medio de las acciónes de dos grandes poderes: el imperio romano y el reino de Dios.

Mary and Joseph were ordinary people, regular folks just like us. They lived their lives among their people. Joseph worked as a carpenter and both of them worked to care for their families. And then two events happened that drastically changed their lives. One event was that the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, ordered that all people should return to their ancestral homes in order to be registered in a census. He ordered the census so that he could wring more taxes out of the people. And, of course, the other event was that an angel appeared to Mary and told her that she would give birth to the Son of God. These events left this tiny family in turmoil, caught up in the middle of the actions of two great powers: the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God. Continue reading “Sermon: Clash of Empires”

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