A Message for Easter: I don't mean to be political but... and other thoughts on resurrection

If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
— EB White
Photo Credit: Katie Bariel

Photo Credit: Katie Bariel

Sermon Notes

I make reference in this message to a pastor I sometimes listen to in the midwest. He’s a Methodist and the author of Seeing Grey in a World of Black and White — Adam Hamilton. Here’s the talk he gave at the Aspen Institute on partisanship and the pulpit. You will hear familiar words about the difference between politics and ethics in the church. A wortwhile listen…from Aspen Ideas Festival, Offstage.

Sermon for 2/25/18: A Death like His

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Psalm 22:23-31, Mark 8:31-38

Onawa Unfiltered, 2003

Onawa Unfiltered, 2003

If you depend on being emotionally inspired or newly motivated, you will need a new fix almost every day. If it is a true Gospel message, it will be more about regrounding, reshaping and redirecting you from your core.
— Richard Rohr

Sermon Notes

What kind of change does God want from us?  Well maybe that's not the right question. What kind of change is God doing to us in our encounter with Jesus Christ? That's the question we were trying to put answer on Tuesday night with our Lent series, How Men Change.  When God says change, what kind of change is at hand?  

I have found that is easier to talk about what real change is NOT.  And Richard Rohr helped us with this: it is not changing your friends.  Although sometimes real change means new people in your life.  But they are not the change itself.  Real change is not adopting new ideas or new dogmas or a new set of rules or new rituals or new denominations.  Change can bring those things to us...but again, they are not the change itself.  Change is something deeper, more destabilizing, more scary, more humbling, more transforming.  It is a whole lot more about admitting what we do not know than asserting what we do.  And that's the kind of change God does to us in our encounter with Jesus Christ.  And here's the kicker: we have no control over it. 

This is just a taste of the wrestling we have been doing together.  I hope it's challenging you; I hope it's confronting you.  But again, God is entirely responsible for that.  So it's my prayer that you should be confronted with a vision real change in this season. Amen

For a great discussion about change, read this article by Richard Rohr.  It's where I lifted this quote.  And this season, he's how I'm sharpening my understanding of the core biblical message.  Blessings, friends.

10/15/17 & 10/22/17 Two Sermons on Integrity Before God

Philippians 4:1-9, Matthew 22:1-14 and Isaiah 45:1-7 and Matthew 22:15-22

Treasures of Darkness     Cambria 2009

Treasures of Darkness     Cambria 2009

During the day it is hard to remember that all the stars in the sky are out there all the time, even when I am too blinded by the sun to see them....
— Barbara Brown Taylor

Upon Further Reflection...

I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places....Isaiah 45:3 

This week, I noticed I haven’t been taking J to the park after dinner to run out the last of his wiggles because it is too dark.  The nights are getting longer. I can’t sense when it’s time to make meals. I find myself disoriented when the alarm sounds in the morning, unsure of the hour.  Thank goodness for the grain elevator greeting the dawn. 

If I were back in my childhood home in this late October, the darkness would be setting in for the long winter even more deeply than it does here.  And with the change, came the bare limbs of trees, no longer decorated with the vibrant blasts of autumn leaves.  Everything was stripped down: no more lush forest, no more scent of rich soil and blooming things, the land denuded. 

One year, when I was old enough to walk in the woods alone, I noticed something.  With all the trees stripped to pure bark, you could see across the hillside to far horizons; you could see the outlines of distant ridges that maybe I knew were there all along, but were hidden by the dense foliage of summer.  The setting of autumn into the winter meant vistas revealed, it meant landscapes emerging; it meant perspective. Longer nights brought new vision in the little daylight we had. 

Darkness also brought the cold. Sometimes by now in Maine, the driveway ruts were hard with frost in the early morning.  And it was not uncommon to navigate through snow on Halloween to trick-or-treat. And with the cold came the descent into our inner selves, another reorientation of our vision.  Even here in winter, some of us spend more time in reflection, more time inwardly watchful.  In a way, like the land we go dark and somewhat bare as we fall into stillness.  We find we have changed in a year; we find those around us have shifted.  We wonder at the passage of time. We perceive things we did not notice a year ago.

In church come the fall, we experience judgment in some of the harder scripture readings of the lectionary; we are confronted by what we would rather ignore about ourselves.  The Word is working on us, laying on a demand of truth…even if it hard. It too is cold and dark and revealing.

Are these then the treasures and riches of the darkness God intends for us: this honesty, this quiet drawing down, this gaze onto the far ridge lines of our lives? What is this pull toward the subtle, secret Presence of the Holy One? What are these emerging distant horizons if not the invitation to rest in the wideness of God’s mercy?

Sermon Notes for Judgment, Mercy, and the Indestructibility of Love

Quotes on sin come from Defense of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord, Article II (I): Of Original Sin.  Link to full text HERE.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - childhood classic and masterful depiction of anger an mercy.  (Public library and reference HERE.)

Sermon Notes for You Can't Have it Both Ways

"If one believes Caesar is due taxes, then pay; if one believes everything belongs to God, then do not pay" from The Jewish Annotated New Testament.  (Reference and public library HERE.)

Thank you, Bishop Gabriel Abdelaziz at The Revival Center in Templeton for your enlivening comments on transformation and touch!

Sermon for 4/30/17: Emmaus - A Pattern for our Lives

Luke 24:13-35

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
— Luke 24:31
Another Templeton Morning  2017

Another Templeton Morning  2017

Sermon Notes: I don't really have any -- I'm sure there are many Bible scholars out there who have written about the liturgical connections in this story.  I don't think I'm saying anything new, but still worth saying nonetheless.  Seeing here the clear sign pointing to Word and Sacrament is a beautiful thing.

I did have some helpers though -- some visual aids and you hear my pointing to them throughout the sermon so thank you for the patience in this second-hand listening experience.

Two Sermons: Easter Sunday and Doubting Thomas

Colossians 3:1-4 and Matthew 28:1-10 for Easter

1 Peter 1:3-9, Psalm 16, John 20:19-31 for April 23

Templeton Sunrise     Photo Credit: Iain Beveridge

Templeton Sunrise     Photo Credit: Iain Beveridge

Sermon Notes

The poem I read by Iain Cowie on Easter comes from the book Eggs and Ashes by Ruth Burgess published by Wild Goose Publications, part of the Iona family.  HERE is the reference and link to order.

Sermon for 7/24/16: Ask the Pastor -- The Glorified Body

Psalm 126, Revelation 1:9-19; 19:11-16; 21:1-8; 22:16-21, Matthew 28:16-20

Naked Ladies of Cambria, 2016

Naked Ladies of Cambria, 2016

Suggested scripture readings are drawn from the alternative lectionary outlined in Brian McLaren's We Make the Road by Walking (reference and public library).  The Matthew text is an addition.

In the sermon, I land on the idea of "change of position" as a bodily discipline of justice and healthy disruption to our spiritual and public lives.  While that's the point of the incarnation, that phrase is rooted in the work of Rev. William Barbour. The following video is his sermon at Wild Goose, 2014 where I first encountered him and his amazing liberation theology.  Please watch...totally life changing experience.  Nothing I say even approaches his power:

Sermon for 4/3/16: Avoiding Other People's Tombs Part 2

Acts 8:26-40 and John 20:19-31

Suggested Scripture readings follow the alternative lectionary outlined in Brian McLaren's book We Make the Road by Walking (reference and library).

A Post-Resurrection Faith Doodle

A Post-Resurrection Faith Doodle

Sermon Notes

This is very much an insider sermon in that I talk about the formation of the church.  I speak very specifically about the inspiration of Christian community. I say this because when I speak about the gifts of forgiveness and the peace entrusted to the first Christians and us by extension, I don't want it heard that these gifts are exclusively Christian.  Maybe it goes without saying, but too many have made that claim.  It's not an issue I take up in the body of the sermon.  However, it's worth stating here.

On my choice of words -- my use of the word "toppled" is a nod to Father Greg Boyle.  Oh my goodness, go out and listen to an interview or read his book.  Just so beautiful.  He has an awful lot of credibility when it comes to bearing up under what would otherwise be despairing. Here's the link to his book Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (reference and public library).

Sermon for 3/27/16: Easter Sunday -- Avoiding Other People's Tombs

Acts 8:26-40 and John 20:19-31

Scripture readings follow the alternative lectionary outlined in Brian McLaren's book We Make the Road by Walking (reference and public library).

A Central Coast Collection

A Central Coast Collection

Question of the Week

When have you found yourself residing in another person's tomb?  When did you come out of it?  What happened immediately before your departure?  What happened after?

Sermon for 2/14/16: Take up your body and follow me

Mark 2:1-12

This week, we return to Brian McLaren's We Make the Road by Walking following in the chapter, "Making it Real."

Lent Begins                                                                                                   Cambria 2016

Lent Begins                                                                                                   Cambria 2016

Question of the Week

My experience on Sunday tells me that the content on the sermon pushed some buttons in the congregation.  They weren't bad buttons: it's just that talking about bodies brings up a lot of stuff for people.  Did the sermon provoke in you a thought, an idea, a bodily reaction? Leave your answers here!!  

PS: This was a sermon that just brushed the tip of the iceberg for possible themes.  There were a million wrinkles and questions I couldn't address.  Again, leave these unaddressed thoughts here and continue the conversation.

The Purple Challenge

I issued a challenge to our congregation and now to you: we are taking photos of things we see in and around our lives that are purple to honor in a fun way and explore the liturgical color of the Lenten season. I start with the image of the tiny purple flower growing up at the edge of my driveway seen here. Join us and email your purple pics to thegodjournals@gmail.com or post on your Facebook page and tag Bethel Lutheran Church in Templeton.