Sermon: The Holy Heist

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Sunday, June 10, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Third Sunday After Pentecost

I feel a lot of sympathy for Jesus’ family in our gospel reading for today.  Jesus has been wandering all over Galilee, doing God-knows-what (literally, God knows what!).  But then reports start to reach his family from other people that Jesus has lost his mind. And not only that, but that massive crowds of people have started to follow him around everywhere, just waiting to see what he will say or do next!  And on top of all that, whatever it is he’s been doing has made the religious leaders of the people absolutely furious.  So, naturally, Jesus’ family rushed off to check on Jesus, hoping to reason with him and bring him home.

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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: Are We There Yet?

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Saturday/Sunday, May 12/13, 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Coleridge, NE
Ascension Sunday (/Saturday)

Good evening/morning! It seems that one of this weekend’s themes is surprises.  In case anyone hasn’t guessed yet, the “surprise preacher” for today is me! Surprise!  There are also some surprises in our readings for today.  We read a surprising story about Jesus’ ascension, how he was taken bodily up into heaven.  Most of us here have been church members a long time and we may not think about this as such a strange or surprising story.  But even in a set of scriptures full of all kinds of mystery and miracles, bodily ascension into heaven is not exactly the kind of thing that happens every day. Continue reading

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: Roots and Fruits

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Sunday, April 29, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Fifth Sunday of Easter

This past week, we welcomed our second group of refugees: 12 families from Central America who made the long journey to seek asylum in the US. Some of them traveled for up to a month or more, some with very young children, just to get here. We have been getting a little better and more organized about welcoming them each time we’ve done it. And the volunteers we’ve had helping out have just been awesome. If you’ve helped out with this group or the previous group or have donated anything, please raise your hands. Thank you all for what you’ve been doing. Even the littlest things can make a huge difference. Continue reading

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: Unfinished Business

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Sunday, April 1, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Easter Sunday

Alleluia, Christ is risen! At least… I think he is?  Our gospel reading for today leaves things a little… open-ended.

This is such a weird reading from the end of Mark.  In Matthew, Luke, and John, we get these lovely post-resurrection appearances from Jesus – dramatically appearing in the midst of his disciples, tenderly calling Mary by name in the garden, forgiving Peter for his denials over brunch by the sea, and my personal favorite, walking with two clueless disciples on the road to Emmaus and vanishing the instant they finally realize who he is — hilarious.  But in Mark, this is all the closer we get to the resurrection.*  We’re never really given a big “alleluia!” moment.  And for Pete’s sake, Jesus doesn’t even show up!  It’s an ending that almost seems designed to leave us feeling unsettled and uncomfortable. 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

Sermon: Rude Awakening

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Sunday, March 25, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Palm/Passion Sunday

Keep awake! Enough! The hour has come! At once! Immediately! Now! Now! Now!

There is no time to waste in Mark’s telling of the passion story. Even the language he uses is full of movement and urgency. After Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem, greeted with palm branches and shouts of “hosanna!” things go downhill in a hurry. He teaches in the temple about the kingdom and the true worship of God, but it makes the leaders of the people so angry that, at the beginning of our reading for today, they are already looking for a way to arrest him and kill him. Jesus had only been in Jerusalem for a few days! Continue reading