Sermon: The Devil You Know

Sunday, June 23, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Second Sunday after Pentecost
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As I was first reading our gospel lesson for this morning, there were a couple of moments in this story that stuck out to me as being kind of odd.  Despite the fact that this is a wonderful story of Jesus performing a miraculous healing, it is filled almost from beginning to end with fear.  In fact, the stage is already set with fear right before we even get to this particular passage. Before this encounter with the Gerasenes, in the same chapter of Luke, the disicples get into a boat with Jesus to cross the Sea of Galilee – and what do you suppose happens?  A massive storm comes up – and just as they are all preparing to die, Jesus wakes up from his nap and tells the storm to cool it.  In response, the disciples are amazed and afraid.

Then they reach the other side of the sea and step out of the boat into Gentile territory.  And literally just as they are stepping out of the boat, they are accosted by a naked man, with iron shackles clanking on his wrists; he falls down before Jesus and starts shouting wildly.  After a brief confrontation, Jesus casts many demons out of the man.  And when the people of his city come running – all his neighbors and family – they find this man clothed and in his right mind and sitting calmly with Jesus.  And then they are afraid.  And when the story is told again of what Jesus has done for this one man, the entire country of the Gerasenes is seized with such great fear that they ask Jesus to leave.

It’s not exactly the reception you would expect for such an incredible miracle of liberation!  You’d think people would be lining up around the block to have Jesus heal their own maladies.  So what is everyone so afraid of??  Is it just that people were so awed and amazed by Jesus’ incredible power over demons that they were afraid of him?  I mean, maybe.  But it seems like maybe there’s more than that going on here.

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Sermon: To Love and Be Loved

Thursday, April 18, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Maundy Thursday

About a month before my 24th birthday, I was starting my second year of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic.  I got sent to the next town over from mine to spend the night with a family there, to see whether I thought they would be a good host family for the new volunteer who was coming.  They turned out to be really sweet, lovely people who welcomed me with open arms.  Esmeralda, the mom, made a delicious meal for us, while her husband Manyango told me all about their community, Jánico.  They were curious to get to know me as well – and when they found out that my birthday was less than a month away, they insisted that I come back and celebrate with them.

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Sermon: Over the Cliff

Sunday, February 3, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Our gospel reading for this morning picks right up where we left off last Sunday. If you remember, last week, we saw Jesus just beginning his ministry in Galilee and making his public debut in his hometown, Nazareth.  We heard the very first words that Jesus speaks as an adult in the gospel of Luke – and he reads these words from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

And at the beginning of our gospel text for today, we hear him say again, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  That’s a pretty bold claim!  Like we talked about last Sunday, Jesus is laying out the scope of his mission: he has come to bring good news to the poor, to liberate captives and the oppressed, to give sight to the blind, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. And the people are all for it – Luke says that “all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth”

But then this story takes a really unexpected twist.  Jesus predicts that the people will reject him and what he has to say. And sure enough, by the end of this story, he manages to make them so angry that they actually grab him and try to throw him off a cliff!  What happened??

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Sermon: Divorce and Division

Sunday, October 7, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Twentienth Sunday After Pentecost

This morning, we continue our journey through the gospel of Mark.  We’ve been walking with Jesus and the disciples on the way to Jerusalem and the cross.  And it seems like the closer we get, the harder Jesus’ teachings become.  In the last few weeks, Jesus has told us we must be last of all and servant of all; he’s told us that we must lose our lives in order to find them; and just last week, he told us that if our eyes or hands or feet cause us to stumble, we should cut them off!

Today’s reading from Mark hits us even closer to the heart with this difficult passage about divorce.  Continue reading “Sermon: Divorce and Division”

Sermon: See Me After Class

Sunday, September 23, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost

As I was reading our gospel for this week, I found myself thinking back to what it was like to be in elementary school.  Do you remember your school days? (I know it was longer ago for some of us than others!)  Did any of you ever get in trouble with any of your teachers? (of course not; I’m sure you were all perfect little angels!)  I’ll admit that I sometimes got in trouble with my teachers, mostly for daydreaming and spacing off — and for doodling all over my homework.  And every once in a while, I’d get an assignment back with those four dreaded words written at the top: “See me after class.”

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Sermon: Sweet Corn for the Soul

Sunday, August 12, 2018
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

Taste and see that the Lord is good!  The psalmist exults in the graciousness and generosity of God.  Today is the third of five Sundays that focus on the theme of the bread of life, as we continue our gospel journey through John 6.  All of our texts for today are full of stories of the good gifts that God has given to God’s people.  It’s a very bready Sunday!

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Sermon: What Is Love? (Seriously, though, what is it?)

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Saturday/Sunday, May 5/6, 2018
Grace Lutheran Church, Lincoln, NE
Sixth Sunday of Easter

Good evening/morning! It is such a delight to be here again at Grace Lutheran.  I have missed you all.  I bring you greetings from the people of Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces, NM, and also from Pastor Mike and Kristin Ostrom, who are now at Oregon State University!

It’s so good to be here with you all again.  And it seems very fitting that love is such a prominent theme in our texts for this weekend. Grace has always been a community in which I have experienced great Christian love.

Our gospel reading from John especially highlights this theme.  This text is part of Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” to his disciples before he is crucified, in an ultimate act of love.  And his words about love raise for us a very important question. This question has one, immediate, right answer, so I want to see if any of you know what it is.  Are you ready?  What is love? Continue reading “Sermon: What Is Love? (Seriously, though, what is it?)”

Sermon: Path of Life

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Sunday, March 4, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Third Sunday in Lent

I have to confess, dear congregation, that one of my first reactions to the texts for this week was a very human one: “Ah, the ten commandments… hmmm… rules… yaaaay.” All of you are probably much better Christians than me and didn’t have that kind of reaction, haha. But still, there is definitely something about reading the commandments that makes us brace ourselves to be reprimanded. We anticipate all those finger-wagging thou-shalt-nots almost as a kind of public scolding. And I mean, come on, we’re three weeks into Lent – we’ve already admitted that we are dust and we’ve heard the call to rend our hearts and to repent of our wicked ways and to return to God with fasting and weeping and mourning. At this point, reading the ten commandments almost seems like the lectionary is just rubbing our noses in how much we have fallen short. Continue reading “Sermon: Path of Life”

Sermon: Rightness and Reconciliation

Sunday, January 28, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany / Reconciling in Christ Sunday

To eat meat, or not to eat meat – that is the question! Our passage for today from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians probably sounds kind of strange and antiquated to our 21st century ears. We don’t really talk much about religious dietary restrictions nowadays, or worry that the food we eat will somehow impact our relationship with God. But for the Christian inhabitants of first century Corinth, Paul was addressing a very serious concern, one that went well beyond the question about food. Continue reading “Sermon: Rightness and Reconciliation”

Sermon: Blessings of Thanksgiving

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Thanksgiving Eve

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is a truly joyous festival day in our calendar. The work of this year’s harvest is over and now we can celebrate the bountiful, abundant gifts that God and the good earth have given us. Where I grew up in rural Nebraska, my little hometown was surrounded by a patchwork of of cornfields and soybeans and alfalfa, and around this time of year, the air was always filled with the warm, golden scent of freshly harvested crops. At my family’s house, this was always salsa-making season. Our garden produced fruits and vegetables by the bucket load, and our house would be filled with the aroma of roasting tomatoes, and freshly chopped onions and garlic, and spicy jalapeños. Continue reading “Sermon: Blessings of Thanksgiving”

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