Texts: Luke 4: 21-30, 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
“The more we curve in on ourselves, the more we stick to our own notions of what is good, the more we desperately need God to break in from the outside. The more cracked open we are, the more room for God to flood our lives with an expansive, unfathomable Love that we could never concoct for ourselves.
That’s good news, I promise, although it might not seem like it at the time—when reality as we conceived of it slips through our fingers and we are left only with our breath and open hands. It’s good news that was so hard to hear that Jesus’ friends and neighbors drove him out of town, intending to shove him off the cliffs.”
Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Texts: 1 Kings 17:8-16, Mark 12: 38-44
Today we find ourselves in a time of moral failure; of people suffering the consequences of their leaders' corrupt and idolatrous ways… I speak, of course, of the time of the Kings, 850 years before the birth of Christ, the setting of our first reading.
A theme in the history of Israel as recorded in Joshua, Judges, the books of Samuel, the books of Kings, is the failure of Israel’s leaders to follow the law of Deuteronomy. Introduced just a handful of verses before our reading for today, King Ahab was the worst of them all.
He did, according to the book of Kings, “more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than had all the kings of Israel who were before him” by introducing the worship of the Canaanite God Baal. Baal was believed to control the seasons, the cycles of plenty and of scarcity. But you don’t need to know anything about Baal to know that Israelites weren’t supposed to be worshiping him.
Think back to the first commandment carved deeply into Moses’ tablet: You Shall Have No Other Gods. That commandment has a very important subscript. It goes like this. “Or else.”
Gospel: Mark 10:17-31
As many of you have heard, when I first moved to Minneapolis I worked at a business that doubles as a service helping people empty their homes, and as a thrift store. As customers flooded the store every Saturday morning our job was to restock the shelves as quickly as possible. Plush chairs, dining room tables, wooden chests, ice skates, and boxes upon boxes of knick knacks. The supply was endless.
While it was at times overwhelming, it was also a ministry to find second homes for things that once held or made meaning in another person’s life. If you have been to a baby shower or a wedding, if you have moved homes or emptied the home of a loved one, you have experienced how we make meaning with our belongings.
We are ritual beings.
We use outward signs to mark inward experience.
Texts: Jeremiah 11:18-20, James 3:13 - 4:3, 7-8a, Mark 9:30-37
A friend of mine is a music teacher, who leads middle school kids in writing and conducting their own compositions, with titles like “Juice and Potatoes” or “Anti-Chicken Nugget.” When a student conducts their piece, they get to put on the coat—an extra extra large men’s suit jacket that goes to their knees or the floor, the sleeves dangling well past their hands. They stand at the front of the class, waving their arms to conduct their peers. I’ve heard the recordings. They are cacophonous, and beautiful.
I love the image of the child conductor, because it’s how I feel every time I put on this robe. And if we’re being honest, it’s how we should feel looking around at each other. Just kids in grown up’s clothes, waving our arms to the liturgy, waving our arms at our lives, as if we had any influence over what comes next.
“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name,” says Jesus, “welcomes me.”
Texts: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9, James 1:17-27, Mark 7:1-8, 14-23
"At Trinity we have the deep desire and the deep need to call all creation good, our neighbors and ourselves, especially if we have been called unholy too many times, or even once. If we have been called anything less than God’s child, by the church and by the world. We need to remember and remind each other that we are always beloved in God’s eyes.
And still, there remains Jesus’ warning that, 'It is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.' We are asked to hold a paradox: we are each of us created good, and we are each of us capable of evil. Paul Tillich has written that 'Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt.' In this case, the answer hurts."
Pentecost B-6, Lectionary 13, ‘18
Trinity Lutheran Congregation
I always like a two-for-one deal. BOGO as it is known in some places – buy one get one. But you can’t go into the store and ask for the second one – for free – without getting the first one first. You have to get them both.
That is what we have in today’s gospel reading from Mark. A two-for-one-deal. Mark does that a lot. And when he does he is always trying to make a point.
In today’s reading Mark describes Jesus healing two daughter of Israel. In the verses just before these Jesus had performed an exorcism on a non-Jewish person. Here Jesus returns to the other side, the Jewish side of things and heals two daughters of Israel.
Not only is it a two-for-one deal, it’s like a sandwich. Mark begins with Jairus coming to Jesus and asking him to heal his daughter. The lesson then moves into the healing of the woman with the flow of blood for twelve years. It all comes to a close with Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter, whom many agree just happens to be around twelve years old. Like any good sandwich you can’t have one without the other. Peanut butter and jelly. Ham and cheese. Or an Oreo sandwich cookie – crunchy chocolate cookie with creamy filling inside.
Pentecost B – 4, Lectionary 11, ‘18
Trinity Lutheran Congregation
Caroline Lewis wrote about today’s Gospel reading – “The earth produces on its own.” Thank God, literally, she says.
At this time of the year I tend to believe that. The earth produces on its own. Around here, at least we just have to look around. Green everywhere. Flowers blossoming. Vegetable gardens growing. My uncle used to say that on hot days like today the corn was growing so fast you hear it. I think I heard it once.
Yes, thank God for creating a world where the earth produces on its own.
Of course, after the thanking comes the trusting and that is not always so easy. I might trust that things will grow, but not always in the places or in the way I want them to grow. The volunteer elm tree that snuck in next to the fence, all of a sudden three feet tall. The raspberry bushes that keep showing up in the middle of the yard and garden. Not to mention the things we have decided are weeds because we did not put them where they are.
On the other side, we don’t trust the grass, the tomatoes, the flowers to grow without help. Fertilizer, mulch, weed killer are applied. As thankful as we are, we mess with the things that produce on their own.
Third Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 3: 20-35
Earlier this week I told a friend that I was preaching this week and really struggling with the text. To which they responded, “Scripture, or text message?” Which is a clue that I don’t have very “churchy” friends. But it did strike me that if the gospel Mark were composed today, it might read more accurately like a stream of tweets. Mark, the roughest gospel, a kind of live-action report, was clearly composed orally long before it was written down. I can imagine sitting around the campfire with a storyteller, as they build suspense:
Jesus family has heard he’s possessed and is on their way to restrain him… Meanwhile Jesus, surrounded by so many people that they barely fit in the house, denounces the rumors about him… And by the time his family gets there, he’s so worked up that he denies that he’s even related to them. Who are my mother and my brothers? he says.
This is not the compassionate shepherd we like to think about, certainly not the baby in a manger. Jesus is saucy, rude—a little nasty. Why is he so angry?
Pentecost B, ‘18
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Trinity Lutheran Congregation
Today is Pentecost. The red in our midst is a reminder to us of the tongues of fire on everyone’s heads in the Pentecost story in Acts we often read on this day. Red is the color representing the Holy Spirit at work . Today we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit
Today’s reading from John is sadly lacking in drama, really. It is part of a three-chapter sermon that Jesus is sharing with his followers. He has been talking about his leaving. Even though this moment has been coming for some time, his disciples have been stunned into silence by this. In their shock and grief they simply don’t know what to think or say.
These heart-felt words from Jesus are partly words of comfort. The tensions were rising and it was becoming clearer every day that Jesus’ time was getting shorter. The authorities weren’t going to tolerate his teaching and challenging of the system much longer. Jesus was explaining that he had to leave, so that the Spirit would come so that they could continue following Jesus and teaching the way of Jesus. . They are also words of hope.
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Gospel: John 17: 6-19
Imagine with me. It is the night of the Last Supper with Jesus, and we his disciples have just heard a lengthy sermon from him, talking about the most important commandment to love one another; about himself as a vine and we as branches; about abiding in God’s love. It seems like Jesus is nearing the end of what he has to say, but suddenly, his expression changes and he looks up to the ceiling—no, to the heavens—and we realize he is not speaking to us anymore, but to his Father.
“All mine are yours, and yours are mine,” he says. Like walking in on someone’s private conversation, we have been given a window into the relationship of God to Godself; the holy dance of Spirit, and parent, and child.
I do not know from personal experience what the intimacy between a father and son is like, but I do know the intimacy between a mother and a daughter. It is a blessing I don’t take lightly, in part because I came to understand it through the loss of another mother in my family—Ruth, my mother’s sister.