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: 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

Sermon: Bitten Again

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Peace Lutheran Church, Las Cruces, NM
Ash Wednesday

Today, we mark the beginning of Lent, the long, slow march toward Christ’s death on the cross. As I’ve been reflecting on these texts once again this week, I’ve found myself noticing just how many words we encounter this time of year that start with “re-”: repentance, regret, reconciliation, remission, return. Among these words, one word in particular grabbed my attention:  the word “remorse.”  When I read the word in Spanish – remordimiento – it occurred to me that the literal definition of “remorse” is actually “to bite again.” As it turns out, much like my cat, Lent is a season that bites. Continue reading

Prayer 101

This is one of a couple of forthcoming posts inspired by the conversations at the candidacy retreat last weekend — it’s been a good week of rumination and contemplation.  One comment that particularly sparked my interest was about prayer — the speaker (I think it was Bishop Maas) said that he’d never really been taught how to pray.  It made me pause and consider my own prayer life, how I learned to pray.  I remember reading prayers in the bulletin growing up and memorizing table and bedtime prayers and the Lord’s Prayer, and struggling to master the Apostle’s Creed.  But I don’t remember anyone sitting down with me and saying, “Okay, this is how you pray.”  It was just words.

It’s a question my confirmation students have been raising a lot in the past few weeks as we’ve been exploring the Lord’s Prayer: “How do you pray?”  It’s a good question to ask.  We always end our confirmation lessons with a prayer; however, aside from one very vocal student who, sadly, no longer attends confirmation, none of the students has ever voluntarily (and barely involuntarily) prayed at the end of class.  I asked them one day how they could be so outspoken with questions and discussion during class, but then instantly clam up when it came time to pray.  They replied honestly, “we don’t know how to pray.”

Well, how do you pray?  Continue reading

God, by any other name

How well do you know the Lord’s Prayer?  If you’ve found your way here, I’d be willing to bet you’ve at least heard it, if you don’t know it by heart:

Our Father in Heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come;
Your will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
And forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
And deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
Now and forever.
Amen.

In the last few weeks, my confirmands and I have been exploring this prayer, taking it slowly, line by line, to see what Jesus was getting at when he told us to pray this way (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4).  This morning, we discussed the second line: “Hallowed be your name.”  Think about it for a minute.  What do we really mean when we say this?  Continue reading