Sermon: Come Dance

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Sunday, May 27, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Trinity Sunday

I don’t know what led Nicodemus to visit Jesus in the middle of the night in our gospel story for today. The text never really makes it clear. However, I am pretty confident that that visit did not go as he expected.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee, an important leader in the Jewish community; and even only three chapters into John, Jesus has already made a name for himself as a popular folk preacher who turns water into wine and hangs out with John the Baptist.  Perhaps Nicodemus came to learn from Jesus, or to try to persuade him to reconcile with the other religious leaders.  But he never actually gets to the point of his visit or even asks Jesus a question. He starts off his visit by affirming, “we know that you are a teacher who has come from God.”  We know.  ‘You tick all the boxes: you do signs and wonders, you definitely know your scripture, and oh man, that water into wine thing was just awesome!  Nobody could do that stuff apart from God, so God must be with you.’

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Sermon: Close Encounters

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Sunday, April 15, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Third Sunday of Easter

Our gospel text for today comes right on the heels of the story of the road to Emmaus, which is one of my favorite stories in all of scripture.  You probably remember the story: two disciples are walking along the road to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection and Jesus joins them, but they don’t recognize him until way later that evening, when they are breaking bread together.  I’ve always thought it was kind of a funny story.  And I see that same kind of humor in the story we read today.  The disciples had literally just been talking about this encounter on the road to Emmaus, and also about an encounter that Peter had with the risen Christ, when Jesus himself appears among them and throws them into a panic.  They were already beginning to believe that Jesus really had been raised from the dead, but when he actually showed up in their midst, they totally freaked out – and not in a good way. Continue reading

Sermon: Even Now

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Friday, March 30, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Good Friday

The Passion of Jesus according to John

We’ve read and heard this story so many times that I wonder whether it still sounds as shocking to us as it should.  “Crucifixion” is a word that belongs to ancient history and church rituals; it doesn’t evoke for us the same kind of visceral reaction as “electric chair” or “firing squad” or “hanging.”  And yet it is also a method of execution by the state, one that is a hundred times more bloody, torturous, and painful.  Even before we get to the cross, there is an unbelievable amount of violence in this story.  Jesus Christ is struck across the face multiple times.  He has sharp thorns jammed down onto his head; this was after he was flogged, a practice in which one’s bare back is whipped with a whip that has small pieces of metal or bone at the end, to inflict the most damage.  This story is a horrifying testament to the creativity of human cruelty. Continue reading

My seventh sermon: You Are What You Eat

11880528_1059250310766591_6314628572254871134_nGrace Lutheran Church
Saturday 8/15/15, Sunday 8/16/15

John 6:51-58
Ephesians 5:15-20
Psalm 34:9-14
Proverbs 9:1-6

I had to kind of chuckle a little bit when I read through the texts for today. You all lovingly sent me away to seminary so that I could gain some of the wisdom talked about in the lectionary for today. Now I feel like God has called me home to give you a report on how all that wisdom-acquiring is going!

Well, I have been learning a lot. This past summer in particular has been very formative for me. I just finished eleven weeks of CPE – Clinical Pastoral Education. Basically, I interned as a hospital chaplain on the north side of Chicago. I spent a lot of time sitting at the bedsides of cancer patients and palliative care patients and patients entering hospice care. I listened to their stories and their struggles and their fears about dying. I also had several opportunities to provide them with the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Remembering these experiences, it’s very poignant for me to read Jesus’ words about living bread in today’s gospel reading – “This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” In the context of the hospital, the “living bread” of the Eucharist was very often juxtaposed with death and dying. In fact, many of the patients to whom I fed the Eucharist have since died. Jesus himself spoke these words about living bread on the eve of his own death. It makes me wonder a lot about this life that Jesus has promised and about this living bread that he tells us to eat. Continue reading