Friday, December 2, 2016

Sermon for November 27.



The reading  Daniel 6:6-27

So the presidents and satraps conspired and came to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an interdict, that whoever prays to anyone, divine or human, for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions. Now, O king, establish the interdict and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and interdict.

Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously. The conspirators came and found Daniel praying and seeking mercy before his God. Then they approached the king and said concerning the interdict, “O king! Did you not sign an interdict, that anyone who prays to anyone, divine or human, within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions?” The king answered, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Then they responded to the king, “Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the interdict you have signed, but he is saying his prayers three times a day.”

When the king heard the charge, he was very much distressed. He was determined to save Daniel, and until the sun went down he made every effort to rescue him. Then the conspirators came to the king and said to him, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no interdict or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

Then the king gave the command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!” A stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, so that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no food was brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

Then, at break of day, the king got up and hurried to the den of lions. When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?” Daniel then said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.” Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

The king gave a command, and those who had accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. Before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

Then King Dari.us wrote to all peoples and nations of every language throughout the whole world: “May you have abundant prosperity! I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel:

For he is the living God,
    enduring forever.
His kingdom shall never be destroyed,
    and his dominion has no end.
He delivers and rescues,
    he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth;
for he has saved Daniel
    from the power of the lions.”


The summary

We divided the reading into parts and had 4 readers. This story is popular with Sunday school. (we take out the nasty part about the king throwing Daniel’s accusers and their families in the pit) It allows for good coloring pages and a good lesson, God is with you when things are scary.   This is however, my first time talking to adults about Daniel and lion’s den.  Like several other readings over the past few months, I have never heard this story shared at Church during a Sunday worship 

I wanted to talk about 3 things

1-How Daniel ends up in the pit: Daniel does his job well. He is an outsider, an exile from Judah. He has remarkable abilities to interpret dreams and to do government work.  The other authorities get jealous and annoyed at the outsider showing them up and winning increasing favor with the king. They want to get rid of him but that is impossible since Daniel is very good at his work and has the king’s support.  They go after him through his religious beliefs. This law was made to get rid of him

2- Where our lions dens are today.   Today, Christians around the world will be excluded, tortured, or killed for practicing their beliefs or trying to share them (two things we are fully free to do here, let’s do more with that freedom).  I invite you to find out about them on your own.  (There are website like opendoors.org, and people you can talk to in the churches that share the space with us).  Instead of sharing their stories, I wanted to talk about people who are in other lion’s dens, people surrounded by anxiety, poverty, addiction, abuse, violence and things they cannot overcome alone, people living in constant fear of collapse in the dens of unemployment, poverty, and sickness.  Our work as God’s church to find, welcome and invite those who are suffering into the joy of knowing God is with them.  Often times, this work can simply mean being open when they are ready to come in.

3- What this has to do with Advent.  We are waiting for the time when God comes down to us, to the lion’s den of sin and suffering, God is born of as one us in a dirty stable, with no place else to go. God is in the lion’s den with us

Sermon for November 20



The reading  Jeremiah 36:1-8, 21-23, 27-28, 31:31-34

In the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today.It may be that when the house of Judah hears of all the disasters that I intend to do to them, all of them may turn from their evil ways, so that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.

Then Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at Jeremiah’s dictation all the words of the Lord that he had spoken to him. And Jeremiah ordered Baruch, saying, “I am prevented from entering the house of the Lord; so you go yourself, and on a fast day in the hearing of the people in the Lord’s house you shall read the words of the Lord from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the people of Judah who come up from their towns. It may be that their plea will come before the Lord, and that all of them will turn from their evil ways, for great is the anger and wrath that the Lord has pronounced against this people.” And Baruch son of Neriah did all that the prophet Jeremiah ordered him about reading from the scroll the words of the Lord in the Lord’s house.

Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary; and Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. Now the king was sitting in his winter apartment (it was the ninth month), and there was a fire burning in the brazier before him. As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a penknife and throw them into the fire in the brazier, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. Now, after the king had burned the scroll with the words that Baruch wrote at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah:Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which King Jehoiakim of Judah has burned.

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

 Summary

The book of Jeremiah is heavily edited, redacted and uncertain. Things jumps from theme to theme and time to time, It can be a challenging to look at.  We do know Jeremiah served as a prophet at one of the worst times in the history of Isreal, the time when the Babylonians invade the Southern Kingdom of Judah and eventually destroy the temple in Jerusalem (586 bc).  

Recently I have noticed that a lot of people have a difficult time expressing ideas in ways that people can relate to, understand and remember.  We need more great stories to share God’s love and vision for the world with.  Jeremiah has great stories, he uses 2 metaphors to communicate with the people of Israel about their keeping of the promises made to God. First, is as an unfaithful wife and second is as a rebellious child. 

Jeremiah is not pleasant to listen to, he confronts people as things fall apart around them, declaring that this is the consequence of disobedience and calling them to repent.  

A few weeks ago, we saw that the King of Nineveh repents when confronted with God’s word. Today, we see how the leaders of Judah respond, they burn it. They pretend things are okay, that God’s promises are not real, not relevant or not powerful.

This reading challenges us to ask “What do we do with God’s word” , do we put it aside or let it direct us, keep it from others or let it bring comfort, whisper is quietly to like-minded people within these walls or go tell it on the mountain.

Today is the feast of Christ the King. It marks the end of the church year. This is a new holiday, well it started around 70 years ago (new for church).  At that time, Mussolini was starting to rise to power in Italy. The church was late or powerless to prevent this. The Pope starts Christ the King, so that people would know God, not us and not our leaders, is ultimately in control of the world.   
  
Today also marks Drew’s 5th year with us as our musician and my 7th year here as our pastor.     As we look back at what we have done, accomplished and changed and forward to the future we must constantly ask ourselves,  “What do we do with God’s word here”. 

Sermon for November 13th



The reading: Isaiah 6:1-8 

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

The summary

Today, we continue with our journey to Christmas, which started 8 or 10 weeks ago. We have gathered around the stories of major events in the Old Testament and experienced the words and stories of many of the prophets.  Today, we have the prophet Isaiah (or the prophets Isaiah, The book is composed by multiple prophets and covers around 600 years).

The words of Isaiah can be dived into 3 oracles
 
            oracles against the enemies of Israel.  God has heard the cries of the people and will defeat their enemies. (these are the prophesies that are welcomed with cheers and joy) 

2-       The oracles against the people of Israel, God knows their disobedience and is angered.  (there are the ones that are ignored or cause people to tell him “shut up”

3-       After 50 chapters of condemning words against everyone, there is a series of promises from God that a savior would come, bring peace and true restoration.

Today, we have the call of Isaiah. At first, this event is tragic.  He has a vision of God and God’s throne room. Initially he is scared, he has seen God and because of that, he should die. He is also  worried about doing the work, about being trusted with the awesome responsibility of sharing God’s word.   Two things happen that bring Isaiah comfort.

1: He is set free from sin and guilt.  The angel touches his lips with the coal and says “your guilt is removed, your sins are not held against you”. Isaiah is set free to go and this work.

2: We often miss this one, we think of prophets as talkers, sharing God’s direct word, but the second thing Isaiah does is that he listens, he absorbs this news, he is loved and cared for, then and only then he can answer God’s call by crying out  “Here I am, send me”.   

Today, we get a vision of heaven, in communion, in baptism, in community, love and welcome, in seeing someone in need and helping them.  We get God’s word of forgiveness, our guilt is removed, we are made new, we are strengthened to answer God’s call “Here I am, send me”

Sermon for November 6



The reading Jonah 1:1-17; 3:1-10

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. The captain came and said to him, “What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.”

The sailors said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” “I am a Hebrew,” he replied. “I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.

Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.” Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, O Lord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.”

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

The Summary

This is the first time I can remember hearing the story of the prophet Jonah, read at church.  It is a large contrast with last week’s reading on the good and faithful prophet Elijah who trusts God’s word.  Jonah is something else entirely.

Like many of the prophets, Jonah is sent by God to a certain place to share a message with the people there.  Jonah is sent to Niveveh, a large and powerful city, He was supposed to tell them God has seen and condemned their wickedness and they will be destroyed.  To this job, Jonah says “Im glad of thought of me for this work, but no thanks”. Actually he does not even do that much, Jonah just sneaks off to the small, friendly town of Tarshish instead.  On the way, there is a Great storm, the people on the boat figure out its Jonah’s fault, and throw him overboard to stop the storm and save the ship.  Once in the water, Jonah is famously swallowed by a large fish and lives inside of it for 3 days.   At that point, he is spit out onto dry land and once again, God says “Go to Nineveh”.  This time, Jonah listens.    

When Jonah arrives, he announces “40 days more and Nineveh will be destroyed”. To Jonah’s shock and disappointment, the people there listen, repent, put on sackcloth and ashes and seek mercy. Even the king of Nineveh listens, repents and commands the people to stop their evil ways,  God decides to spare them. If the story ended there, Jonah would be seen as a heroic prophet, hesitant at first but gets his stuff together.  But it does not end there. Jonah gets upset at God’s mercy, he wanted the destruction of that city, he wanted to show those people.   Jonah is not exactly an all star amongst the good and faithful prophets but then again, neither are we.  A lot of us have more in common with Jonah that we care to admit.

We can learn 3 important things from this story

1:  God’s word works.  It was certainly not Jonah’s inspirational example that changes the people of 
Nineveh, It is God’s word that exposes their sinfulness and drives them to God’s mercy.     

2: God’s mercy for the people of Nineveh is full and complete. In Jewish traditions, Jonah is the afternoon reading for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  Jesus refers to the story of Jonah in 2 of the gospels ( Matthew 12:  38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.)  There is a similar text in Luke 11:29-32 

3: The people of Nineveh were mere days away from inescapable destruction, the wrath of God that they would be powerless against.   At first Jonah would have simply let them be destroyed.  He did not want to give them another chance (after all they could have repented any time they wanted).  Jonah also felt like God’s word was not something they felt like they needed or wanted.  Jonah does not want to go because the people in that city did not deserve God’s word and he assumed they wouldn’t accept it anyway. 

There are people all around us that are in Nineveh, people on the edge of falling part, people trapped in addiction, anger, anxiety and fear, people who struggle to see ways out of poverty, abuse or violence. There are people who are lost and trying to find joy in bad or stupid places.  We have news for them, good news that changes things, the message of Jonah, that all people are loved by God.  Instead of making Jonah’s excuses, let’s talk to them  

sermon for October 30



The reading 1 Kings 7:1-16

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the wadi. But after a while the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.”As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

The summary

Happy Reformation Day. This is an unusual reading for the occasion.  In some ways, that is our first lesson.  Luther  saw God’s grace everywhere, all of scripture told the story of God’s saving work through Jesus, every verse, every chapter and every book (expect James, Luther didn’t like that book since it does not clearly proclaim Christ crucified and risen and could be easily manipulated to teach works righteousness. Revelation was also on the not so good list since it was very confusing and could lead people astray).

At church, we are on this journey from creation to Christmas. We are in the time of the prophets, this morning, we meet Elijah, who served the Lord about 8 or 900 years before Jesus birth. Elijah is best known for confronting the prophets of Baal, the god of neighboring people. Elijah is also known for a series of miracles, of feeding many people with a little food and even raising the dead. In each case, Jesus does the same miracle only bigger (Elijah feeds hundreds, Jesus feeds thousands, Elijah raises the newly deceased, Jesus raises someone dead for days and buried).  

This morning, we see what makes Elijah one of the great prophets. He trusts God. God sends Elijah to the middle of nowhere, with the promise that ravens will feed him.  Elijah trusts God’s promise and goes.  After this, God sends him to a small city in the midst of a famine.  Again, he goes, Elijah trusts God’s promise for himself and this widow and her family.  For the prophet Elijah, God’s word is enough, he stakes his very life on it.   

That is what this reading has to do with the protestant reformation. In the early 1500’s the Roman Catholic Church had major issues with corruption, greed and seemed unable or unwilling to share the comfort of the Gospel.  Luther was a monk and professor, a respected part of the church. On October 31, 1517, he posts the 95 theses,  a series of complaints and call to debate church practices.  A majority of the theses are on the process of selling indulgences, certificates that take years off your time in purgatory, an intermittent stage believed to exist between dying and heaven.

The Roman Catholic Church was confusing people, adding things to the faith, creating rules, laws, requirements and policies to the experience of God’s grace and forgiveness.  Like Elijah knew God’s promise of food was enough, Luther knew God’s promise of salvation was enough.  All the other things added were at best, unnecessary and at worst, deceitful, misleading practices that put people’s salvation in jeopardy for human power and profit.

Luther taught that scripture was enough, the word of God, inspired and carried down to us, was enough to know what God says.  

Luther taught that we can know our sins are forgiven because Christ died and rose again.  This was enough. The complicated mess of confession and repentance developed by the church could be done away with.   

Luther taught that Jesus was enough. The growing role of Mary and the saints as intercessors could be done away it.  Christ was our way to God, whether or not saints could intercede for us, it was not necessary.  

Luther taught that Baptism and communion were enough. We are claimed as God’s children, we can come back to our baptism every day if we have to for encouragement. In Holy Communion, we encounter the presence of the risen Christ, that was enough to know God is here with us.  

What I know about the reformation is 500 years ago news.  The Roman Catholic Church has changed. Today, we talk about not celebrating but commemorating or marking the Reformation.  We are looking to ways we can work together and serve God together, caring for the poor, educating others and bringing peace.  As we do these things, we must be mindful of Luther’s concern that the word of God be clearly shared.