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  2. Texts:

    1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21

    Galatians 5:1, 13-25

    Luke 9:51-62

     
  3. As if Your Life Were at Stake

    I was listening to the radio on my way into church one Sunday morning, and I tuned in to an interview from NPR’s On Being conducted with Christian Wiman, a poet who often writes about life, faith, joy, and doubt. At one point during the interview, Wiman was speaking of his religious upbringing and how that is contrasted by his current religious community. Wiman was raised in a very large west Texas Baptist church. His home church was very large, charismatic, and vibrant. Later, the interviewer, Krista Tippett, asked him, “How is that experience different [from your current faith community]? Wiman answered,

    I wish I were able to let myself go in ways that those people did in my childhood… I don’t agree with their theology and I don’t like a lot of the ways that they commercialize their services, but it is an incredibly diverse church and the people are intensely involved. They’re treating it as if their whole life were at stake. The churches I go to, liberal Protestant churches, it seems pretty casual. I wish there was some credible middle ground. I wish there was some way of harnessing the intensity that I felt in my childhood in more sophisticated ways.

    His comment, “They’re treating it as if their whole life were at stake,” grabbed my attention. In a very real sense, our lives are at stake outside of God’s care. We do depend on our relationship with God for our very lives, and I think that many churches do in fact treat that lightly. Our lives are so inextricably tied to the loving will of God yet we fail to live out the significance of this truth.

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  4. I’m preaching on Jesus’ question to Peter, “Do you love me?” There may or may not be a clip from this favorite scene played during the sermon.

    Here’s the Gospel text.

     
  5. In honor of today’s Gospel reading.

    Luke 13:31-35

    31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’

    (Source: Spotify)

     
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  7. Loving Commandments

    Last month, both the Adult Catechism and the Confirmation class spent a good deal of time exploring the 10 Commandments and Martin Luther’s explanations for them. We discussed many aspects of the Commandments such as the numbering of the Commandments (Lutherans number them differently from Jews who number them differently from Catholics), the question of whether some Commandments are more important than others (Luther argued that they were written in descending order of importance), and other interesting and challenging questions. One of the most interesting conversations that came up in both classes involved Luther’s expansive understanding of the Commandments. By this I am referring to Luther’s creative interpretations for what the “heart” of a Commandment might be. For example, in his explanation of the fifth commandment, “You shall not murder,” Luther says not simply that we must not “endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors,” but he also adds, “instead [we are to] help and support them in all of life’s needs.”

    This expansive practice was not unique to Luther. Jesus too understood the commandments of God to be more extensive than their surface meanings. In his sermon on the mount Jesus teaches, “You have heard… it said… ‘You Shall not murder…’ but I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment… and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Mt. 5:21-22).

    I think that Jesus was teaching his disciples that our anger and destructive words can be as catastrophic as physical murder. In fact, our anger and words can lead to death in a literal sense. Destructive words often dehumanize others in the guise of jokes or a “venting” of anger. Our anger can turn our brothers and sisters into something that is wholly other and it is easier to ignore, abuse, or kill that which is other- what we cannot identify with ourselves. I believe that this is what has happened to Jews in the early 20th century; Palestinians and Israelis; Irish Catholics and Protestants; whites, blacks, and latinos in America, and countless others. Jesus saw that not murdering others by your own hands was not enough to encompass God’s will. We have to love our neighbors by our own hands too.

    Luther’s Small Catechism is nearly 500 years old, yet it contains lessons and principles that continue to challenge us today. It teaches that our understanding of God’s will in our lives is not so limited as to encompass merely our own personal piety. God’s will is not for us to remain pure, yet isolated. We are not just to avoid murder, go to church on Sunday, avoid stealing, and have sexual relations with only our spouse. Instead, God wills us to be in loving relationship with our neighbors. Those previously mentioned virtues are important, but they are not all that God wills in our lives. God desires us to care for each others’ “life needs,” to listen for God’s word, to support others in their financial troubles, and to love and honor our spouses or partners.

    Jesus said that the most important commandments are to love God “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mt. 22:37-39). Jesus and then Luther understood that all of God’s commandments must read in light of an imperative to love God and our neighbors. Love is no static force, but it is dynamic and engaging. Love demands that we not only avoid harming our neighbors, but that we actively support goodness in their lives. The Commandments as understood by Luther and interpreted by Jesus call us to integrative and loving action with the world.

     
  8. Hope and Hopelessness

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    In the hours after the elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT, I watched as bloggers and friends on Facebook added their thoughts, frustrations, and prayers one after another. Some posted prayers for healing and comfort. Some admitted that they had no words to say in the face of such tragedy. Some saw this event as a call to action.

    Their messages addressed a few different ills of our society.

    "We need better gun control."

    "We need better mental health treatments."

    "We need better security in public places."

    I hear that. I respect that call to action. I agree with the stances of most of what my friends and colleagues had said. Guns get out too easily, no civilian has a pressing need for a handgun with a 40-round clip, and we don’t care for our most vulnerable. Those things do need to change.

    But part of me feels like giving up on our own solutions.

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  9. Incarnation

    Advent is here and the church will be celebrating the awaiting of Jesus’ arrival. At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation- God has taken on human flesh and has dwelled with us on earth. God is not merely some invisible deity who casually observes the mundane and petty happenings of our world like a child observing his or her ant farm, but God “…lived among us…” (John 1:14).

    Jesus Christ draws near to God’s people and fully shares in their joys and their sorrows. During his life, Jesus taught, healed, ate with others, and cried with others. Jesus’ ministry was perhaps most noticeably defined by his compassion for the poor. He called them blessed and assured them comfort from their ills, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted… Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-4; 10). Jesus himself bears the plight of the poor during his ministry. In his passion, the Son of God is “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” as his message of peace and a rejection of oppressive religious and political authorities provokes the powerful to nail him to a cross.

    Christ is incarnate today with those are suffering.

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  10. How I Feel When I Put On My Alb

    Every single week I think of this.