Monday, December 30, 2019

1st Sunday of Christmas Sermon

December 29, 2019
First Sunday of Christmas
Isaiah 63:7-9
Psalm 148
Hebrews 2:10-18
Matthew 2:13-23

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.  

Merry Christmas!  

I’m not gonna lie, this gospel text, in the midst of the Christmas season is a tough one.  It’s hard to hear about the slaughter of the innocents when we are basking in the light of the word made flesh, the prince of peace come among us on a silent and holy night.  

Yet here it is.  

We enter into the birth story with a character that is not excited or hopeful about the birth of a savior.  This Herod is not excited about this birth because it will change the status quo.  And for Herod, the status quo is good, because it benefits him, so he wants to maintain it. 

While we hear of his actions and cringe, yet at the same time, we are almost immune to the same rage and death around us today.  It’s far too easy to fall into the status quo, a place we feel comfortable because any change would mean discomfort for ourselves.  

And so, on the fifth day of Christmas we hear this text and struggle with how it fits into the Christmas season.  

Yet this text, with its discomfort has something to say to us today.    
First, in this season of Christmas, it is okay and holy, even, to pause and reflect upon the evil that exists in the world around us.  That even though God sent Jesus into the world, there are times and places when evil prevails, and it is not of God’s doing, it is of our own doing through our sinfulness and brokenness.  So we need to continually have our eyes opened to stop and see the evil around us and how with God present in the world though the birth of Jesus, we are called to respond to the evil around us.  

Secondly, that we are continually called to put our trust not in humanity, or human rulers, but in God.  How we respond to evil at work in our world and the sadness, anger and death it causes, is our call as Christians.  We are called to speak hear the voices of those weeping and mourning.  We are called to acknowledge their pain and suffering.  And we are called to respond in God’s love and grace working for justice and peace in all the world.  

Our call is to respond not out of fear, but out of love, care and compassion for all of God’s children.  Our call is to see the presence of Christ in our midst – in the birth of a baby, in the feeding of our neighbors, in sharing space at a table with strangers, in a simple act of kindness to someone we don’t know.  

Our call is to respond out of love.  

Friends, we are coming to the end of a year that has been incredibly divisive.   Our culture has seen a shift that makes it okay to put down others for different beliefs, to pick on those who are different than we are and to almost be proud about acting this way.  Friends, this MUST stop.   These actions are not living out of God’s love.  They are examples of living out of fear.  Fear of being wrong, fear of letting others truly be themselves and fear of being vulnerable.  

Not to say that we cannot be fearful, but when we act out of that fear we do so only to protect ourselves and the way things are, just like Herod.  (Oh, that’s a tough pill to swallow, right?)  That it is far too easy to live out of fear to protect what we know and how we fit into the world as we know it because we do not know how to act if the world is different.  We truly become comfortable in the systems in which we find ourselves that we work to maintain those systems, even if they are oppressive to others.  So, the truth is, we all fall victim to sin in the world and in our lives.  

We are not trusting fully that God is at work in the world.  

Yet in those moments, when we respond out of love…amazing things can happen.  

When we respond out of the abundance of God’s love and grace in the world, the world changes.  

The week before Christmas I was finishing up my homebound visits with a trip to Elizabethtown.  I was thankful that Loretta Schneck called and asked if she could join me.  We spend the day together with a good visit with Claude.  Then we were warmly welcomed into the apartment of June Brossman with smiles and tears of joy over our visit.  She gifted us with stories and a small parting gift at the end of our visit.  We chatted as we drove and as we shared lunch.  As we parted ways in the church parking lot my heart was full – overflowing even.  

The parking lot was already filling up for food pantry distribution and as I entered the narthex, I received word that there was already some issues with a patron or two arriving early.  

I took a deep breath and shared my joy filled day with the pantry volunteers.  I encouraged the volunteers to remember the amazing generosity that would happen through the food distribution and that many, many families would be grateful and fed for Christmas.  I encouraged and hoped that the volunteers would shake off the frustration from one incident to see the overall good that would happen as the afternoon progressed.  

I was able to do this because I was living out of the joy and love that I had experienced that day.  I was in a place of gratitude and joy and I couldn’t help but to share it.  

Friends, how have you experienced God’s love and grace this Christmas?  
How have you seen and felt God’s love and peace around you?  
How will you let that peace and love and grace guide to you live your life?  

We are called to live out of this love. 

When we do, it is a game changer, not just for us, but for everyone around us.  

(At this point in the sermon I shared with folks that if looking over the last week or so they were struggling to find a moment or experience that allowed them to feel God's love, peace and presence that they should check out the Angel Tree.  This tree holds tags that people take prior to Christmas that list gift wishes for families in need.  As the gifts are distributed the families are invited to write notes of thanks and the tree is transformed into a Thankful Tree.  Of the three tags I read this weekend, this one tugged at my heartstrings the most: "Dear Santa, I love you.")  If you are local to Trinity, come check out this tree.  :)

We are called to live out of this love...and when we do, it's a game changer.  

In the midst of a broken world, where we struggle with violence, anger and hatred, God still calls us to be at work in the world: 
With a heart filled with love…
With words that express welcome and love… 
And with actions that show God’s presence here and now.  

And now may the peace which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.  

Monday, November 25, 2019

Christ the King

November 24, 2019
Christ the King

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 46
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

The alarm goes off.
You get out of bed.
As you are ready to take your first sip of hot coffee on a crisp fall morning you see your phone showing missed calls, multiple voicemails, urgent text messages and you take a deep breath and think, oh rats (although if you’re like me, you probably didn’t say rats)but you still think to yourself, “I have just woken up and the rest of the world is half a day (if not a whole day) ahead of me. Oh boy.”

Ever have one of those mornings?
One of those days? 

They happen, don’t they? 

It happened to me this week and when I arrived at pericope (our weekly clergy Bible study) I sat down and heard today’s gospel reading for the first time. 

Usually when attending I have already read through the text, looked into some commentaries and listened to a trusted podcast to prepare.  Yet with the pace of this week I had not yet done that.  And BAM! 
I’m hit with Jesus’ crucifixion. 

Maybe you thought that, too, as you listened to the reading today. 
We are getting ready for Advent…preparing for Christmas and Christ’s birth…why the crucifixion?  Did I fall asleep in November and wake up in April? 

It’s one of those passages that wakes us up, and reminds us that the Jesus – the messiah – is a king like no other.  Jesus – the messiah – rules through humble service, through teaching and healing, through turning the other check and by showing power by dying on a cross. 

This is one of those passages that wakes us up, and reminds us again and again, that the kingdom of God, the one in which Jesus reigns is NOT one that we expect to see in our world every day. 

We live in a world where power is treasured, and when you have power, the last thing you want to do is give it away or show weakness. 

In the world in which we live, it can be a struggle to recognize and follow a leader, a king, even, who leads and teaches as Jesus does. 

We gather together today and celebrate Christ the King Sunday.
“It is sometimes known as Reign of Christ Sunday and is a relatively recent holy day in the church calendar.  It was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the increasing threat of the rise of fascism. 
Authoritarian leaders of fascist regimes were being lifted up as all powerful demigods, and the Roman Catholic Church created this holy day in an attempt to reclaim power for the church as opposed to the secular nation-state.” (

The reason we celebrate Christ as King is because throughout history, humankind has put more stakes in human rulers than Christ as our king. 

Let me say that again the reason we celebrate Christ as King is because throughout history, humankind, you and me included, has put more stakes in human rulers than Christ as our king. 

It’s nothing new.

Power, control and authority are lifted up in our world and it seems that when you have it, you grasp it and hold onto it, so no one else can have it.  In the case of worldly leaders this is often seen because they do not wish to show weakness or lack of knowledge or inexperience.  Yet, as Princess Leia so boldly said to the Governor Tarkin in Star Wars (A New Hope) “The more your tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”  Knowing that when power is held and gripped, it is not always maintained or kept in control. 

So here we are on Christ the King, wrestling with the image of Jesus as King. 
A king who walks with the sick, the oppressed and the untouchable. 
A king who speaks of love and peace, grace and forgiveness. 
A king who enters the city riding on a donkey.
A king whose crown is one of thorns.
A king who shows power by dying on a cross.

In a day and age when we struggle to seek power, to claim power and to know in whom we can and should put our trust, we need this King of Kings.  We need Jesus, this savior whose kingdom is going to transform the world as we know it. 

Because that’s the reality, this Jesus, this King, will reign in a way that we cannot comprehend in our world today, because he is flipping the world upside down.  Throughout the gospel of Luke we hear of Jesus’ kingdom as one that lifts up the lowly, puts the wealthy in their place and is one where Jesus continues to reach out to teach, touch and love the least of those in the communities through which he travels. 

Think of those who are cast aside in our world today.
Think of those who are not treated fairly, not welcomed in, not given the time of day, or respect or health care or a fair wage. 
These are the folks that Jesus is welcoming into the kingdom here and now. 

Yup.  Jesus is like, hey you, feeling lost, lonely, forgotten, come, sit with me. 
Hey you, have you been treated unfairly throughout history? 
Have you been hurt and neglected because of who you love or who God created and calls you to be? 
Have you been cast aside because people do not understand your mental illness? 
sit here,
with me
in the kingdom,
right now. 

Friends, that is what the reign of Christ looks like. 

Every so often we get glimpses of it. 

It creeps into our world, and reveals itself in a way that we do not expect it to and when it does it is holy and beautiful and sometimes causes us to say, NO WAY!  Because it is a place of love and welcome, grace and forgiveness that does not fit into the structure of the world as we know it. 

When I was serving a congregation in Indiana, I was not always able to make it home to New England for Thanksgiving.  One year I drove up to Chicago to spend a few days with my friend Casey from high school.  He and his partner hosted an orphan Thanksgiving. 
The turkey brined overnight on the porch, Casey, Ira and I stayed up late on Wednesday peeling apples, making pies, watching Food Network videos on how to properly truss a turkey, and fit as many chairs around their extended kitchen table as we could. 

As Thanksgiving afternoon approached, the apartment was filled with friends, food, laughter, some bubbly drinks and warmth. 

We sat around the table ready to eat, and I was the one asked to say the prayer.  I was ‘the’ pray-er.  I remember blessing our gathering, the people around the table which included people of the Jewish faith, people who did not believe in God, people in partnered relationships, people who had no family, and our hosts who opened their apartment to us all, no questions asked. 

I prayed for the food, the friends, the overflowing glasses (to which one person chimed in – she means the drinks! and I said, you bet I do!) we all chuckled and were thankful to be together, to be fed and to just be ourselves. 

That, to me, was one of those kingdom moments.  The motley crew gathered around that table…Jesus was there.  Joining us in the toast and the feast. 

And here’s the thing, it happened without all of us knowing it would.
It happened in spite of a wild mix of people each accepting invitations on their own.

The kingdom of God is meant to transform the world.
Jesus, our king, is transforming our world.

Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus has made a place for you….at this table with a feast of bread and wine - the body and blood of Christ.  

Led by Jesus’ model of welcome, grace, peace and love, may we be so bold and empowered to seek spaces and places to model that welcome, grace, peace and love this day and all days.  

And now may the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Sunday's sermon (The one about faith)

October 6, 2019
17th Sunday after Pentecost
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-10
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen.

Increase our faith! 
How often have we said something like that?

Increase our faith! 
That apparently the faith we have is not great enough. 
Like faith comes in different sizes.  Small, medium, large….super sized? 
Is it a muscle that we can increase? 
Have you ever met someone and thought…wow their faith is amazing…I wish I had faith like that. 

I’m reminded of a scene from The Empire Strikes Back.  (It was a bit long for worship, but you can watch it here.)
Luke is in the swamp with Yoda and his Jedi skills are being honed. 
He is lifting stones, backpacks, even the droid, R2D2….
Luke wants to get his ship out of the swamp…he tries to use the force to do so, but he lacks the force or the faith…he lifts is up a little, but can’t seem to get it out of the puddle.  He gets all pouty…and says,

Luke: I can’t. It’s too big.
Yoda: Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.

Yoda then demonstrates by focusing on the ship and using the force to move the craft out of the water and onto the land, next to Luke.
Amazed, Luke says:

Luke: I don’t, I don’t believe it.
Yoda: That is why you fail.

To the apostles in our gospel passage this day, faith is something that they want more of.  They feel that they do not have enough…that more is needed…

Would you really want to say to a mulberry tree be uprooted and planted in the sea…and have it do so?  If we had faith to uproot trees and move mountains, clean up days around the church would be much easier…not to mention moving from one house to another.  But that’s not what it’s all about. 

Perhaps this is similar to the person who states: "I can't do it," and a parent/mentor type insists: "Yes, you can." They try and discover that they can do it.
I see this often in my 5-year-old nephew. He’ll be half way across the monkey bars and he’ll say, “I can’t do it!”  And his dad replies…”But you are doing it!!”

How many of us have said, "I can't do door to door evangelism."
"I can't talk to him/her about the hurt they have caused me."
"I can't forgive him/her." It would seem to me that the issue in such statements is not that of "can't do," but one of fear -- which is the opposite of faith.

How do we, in our everyday actions do things that we do not think we are capable of doing? 

Or maybe a better question is how many of us are gifted in ways we cannot see, but are living faithful lives through small and simple actions?

We are invited to take part in simple actions so often that we may even overlook them.  I received this message from a Trinity member who took part in a simple action:

This person wrote, “I just dropped off a meal.  There had been a lot of visitors and people at that house today…I sensed their tiredness and stayed for just a short time…yet in that time, I deeply felt Trinity’s ministry of joyfully giving and thankfully receiving.  There was such a loving connection between us as member of our church family.  I saw and felt God today…right in the center of our gathering of 3.  Thank you for that opportunity to serve.”   

What simple action have you been invited to take part in? 
How might this action be God showing faith to you and to others? 

A brief prayer I read recently is related to this text:
"O God, I don't pray for enough faith to uproot mulberry trees. I can get enough dynamite and bulldozers to do that. What I need and ask for is enough faith to move me.” 

What I need and ask for is enough faith to move me. 

Because here’s the thing…
God has given us all the faith that we need. 
Sometimes we just forget how amazing that gift and blessing is. 
We are given the ability to do exactly what God calls us to do through simple acts of love and service. 

This faith is a gift.  And it’s not just free-floating faith…that is just out there…it is faith and trust in Jesus Christ. 

Faith isn’t something that is ours alone that we can change and grow and increase…it is through God’s promise in Jesus Christ that we receive the basic forgiveness we are called to share…

What if, instead of asking for more faith, the question or request from the disciples was this:

Lord, draw us deeply into your creation and resurrection…into that forgiveness and grace. 

Instead of us asking for our faith to be increased, what if we asked God to draw us more deeply into God’s creation and resurrection…into God’s forgiveness and grace. 

That’s really what it’s all about. 
Being drawn in to God’s promise, God’s love, God’s forgiveness and God’s grace. 

Knowing that God calls us to tasks that we may not be ready for…but we go anyway, trusting in the promise of the resurrection….and knowing the forgiveness and grace we have already received and will continue to receive. 

How are we drawn in week after week?  At the meal at this table. 

This is the table that speaks to us and says…
All are welcome.
No matter where you think you are in your faith journey, no matter what your sins…there is a place for you. 
No matter what your questions, problems, fears, doubts….there is a place for you. 

And it's all about drawing people in to this place.  
It’s drawing people in, to feel God’s love and grace.
It’s drawing people to this table…to receive the gift of God. 
It’s helping all humanity to see our imperfections, our faults and our struggles…and the reassurance that we are not alone.  That no matter who we are, God loves us.
And that no matter what we do, God loves us. 

That is what is at the root of faith…A loving, compassionate, forgiving and saving God.  Who wants the world to know that it is loved. 

So, we ask God together, draw us in…
Dear God,
Draw us into this place for forgiveness and fellowship, for honesty and love for one another. 
Draw us into this table…where bread and wine overflow for everyone, where sins are forgiven and grace is poured out….
And draw us more deeply into you…in our homes, in our schools, in our places of work…that you may guide our hearts and minds to share this redeeming love and grace with those whom we meet. 
And may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and let all God’s people say, Amen. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

St. Michael and all angels sermon

September 29, 2019
St. Michael and all Angels
Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3
Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22
Revelation 12:7-12
Luke 10:17-20

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable and suitable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Well, here are, celebrating St. Michael and All Angels, and BOOM, a reading from Revelation. 

I have to say, as I looked into the texts today and sat at pericope (our weekly pastors’ bible study) my colleague and friend, Pastor Mark Rigg said, you should preach on Revelation…and I said…okay. 


Revelation, a text when even just mentioned brings fear or worry or confusion to many. 

It is unique to the New testament, as an apocalyptic text, yet even at the beginning of the book, we are enlightened to what message it has to proclaim. 

It begins with “The revelation of Jesus Christ,” so in essence we are told at the very beginning of this book that ‘revelation’ expresses the idea that God, through Jesus Christ, and through this text will share secrets about heaven and earth, past, present and future.  Yet, isn’t that in essence what the entire Bible does for us? 

As we read the word of God, we listen to and look for how God’s love and salvation is extended to all of God’s people time after time after time. 
Throughout the Old Testament it was the sweeping saga of salvation.  God creates humanity, humanity messes up, God swoops in to save them, they praise God, then inevitably humanity messes up again, God swoops to save them again, they praise God, then they mess up…you get the gist. 

As the New Testament begins, we hear the stories of Jesus’ life, teaching, healing, saving, dying, his resurrection and how the church is called to go on in Christ’s absence.  And as the New Testament wraps up, we have the Revelation to John.  What an ending, right? 

A book filled with imagery, wars, angels, dragons, Satan and all sorts of other interesting characters. 

Even today’s passage has Michael and his angels fighting against a dragon in a war in heaven.   

But the reality, for us, even as we hear a text containing warring angels and dragons, it’s a passage that speaks to us today.  We hear a story of the battle of good vs. evil.  That’s not a new story. 

From the beginning of creation, all that God made was good, yet evil entered in and with it sin and a fall from grace and with it our continual need of God’s presence, God’s love and God’s grace in our lives. 

I used to think that evil just lurked in dark places, that I could just stay in well lit places and avoid evil all together.  Not the case, right?  A friend mine in high school gave be a pin that said, ‘lead me not into temptation, I can find it myself.’  Funny to think back on that now. 

In the movie the Usual Suspects, one of the characters says, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.” 

The devil, evil is here.  And so, the fact that God’s angels battled evil, too, provides some comfort.  Yet the way they battled was one with a message of peace and hope and love.  Picture a fight like that. 

When the host of angels appeared to announce the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, they were an army, but they were an army gathered to bring about peace on earth. 

That’s a fight that we are still part of this day. 

When we sense evil, when we see the devil at work, we are called to respond with acts of love, grace and peace.  It’s not always easy, but 99.9 percent of the time, we know the right thing to do, yet we struggle to speak words of love to words of hate. 

We struggle to take actions that will lead to justice and peace when they go against the norms of society. 

We struggle to have civil conversations with one another when it is far easier to put up a wall, to block someone on Facebook or just ignore those who have different opinions than we do. 

The war is here and now. 

The earth and all its inhabitants are not at peace, which is why this text speaks to us today. 
This good vs. evil is ongoing, until we all gather together at the great heavenly banquet. 

So, how do we take part? 

We do so armed with love, with words of forgiveness and grace, with arms open, and with a readiness to change the world. 

Little do we know how ready we actually are, but we’ve been ready for a while.  We’ve been ready since we were washed in the waters of baptism. 

Welcomed into God’s family, we are siblings in Christ, loved by God and gifted with words and actions to proclaim God’s redeeming love to all the world. 

You may not have been ready on your baptism day to proclaim God’s love, you may have been in the mood to cry and nap…even if you were baptized as an adult, but that day we were ready.  And since then we have lived and learned and grown in the grace of God to love and serve our neighbors and to bring God’s peace here and now. 

Creation is crying out for peace.
Our world is crying out for peace.
Our nation is crying out for peace. 

It’s time. 

The hip hop group Arrested Development, that has been together since the late 90s seems to respond to the cries for peace that are surrounding us today. 
In their song, “Each Generation” the chorus goes like this…

'Each Generation must have their own revolution
You can’t create one for me and I can’t create one for you
And we gotta move onward at the pace of love
let truth be your fighters, let peace be your guns.

we gotta move onward at the pace of love
let truth be your fighters, let peace be your guns
we all have our own race to run'

Let God’s truth be our fight,
Let God’s peace be our guns,
We gotta move onward at the pace of love.

Let God’s truth, peace and love reign in this place, in our communities, nation and world through our words and actions. 

And may the peace, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Reaching the Beach...again!

Hey all,
I'm very excited to be participating in Reach the Beach again this year. 
Can you tell from the picture?  
No really, I took this selfie last year just before my nighttime 9 mile run.  I was a bit nervous, but I have to say it was the most holy run ever.  The sky was clear and was full of stars and the road contained the blinking lights of vests of runners who ran in front of me.  It was quiet, serene and amazing.  
Reach the Beach is an over 200 mile relay race in scenic (aka - hilly) New Hampshire.  The experience was amazing last year and I’m looking forward to another memorably experience this year and another opportunity to raise money for the campership fund for Camp Calumet Lutheran. 
For me, camp has been and continues to be a place where I can truly be myself.  It’s a place where I learned about the love of God, the value of honest friendships and gained leadership skills that have transformed and shaped the way I do ministry today.  
Another big thing for me, especially when it comes to overnight camp, is the important place it has in the lives of youth and young adults.  We are connected to one another so often through social media and screens more than we see each other face-to-face, which works for some things, but hinders others.  
When you go to camp, you get to live with people you may not choose to live with.  You may be in a cabin or a tent with campers or a co-counselor that are much different than you are.  During your week, two-weeks or entire summer together, you learn to live with others.  You learn that your personal behaviors and actions impact those in closest proximity to you.  In a day and age when we are more ready to speak rather than to listen, living with others at camp forces us (in a good way) to live in the context with care and concern for those around us.  
As I enter into the last week leading up to Reach the Beach, I hope you can help in one or more of the following ways.  
1)  Please check out my fundraising page.  See the video of me in my staff shirt from the 1990s and learn more about why I’m running this year.  
2)  Share my fundraising page with people you know love camp and want to help more kids experience camp.
3)  Pray for the group of runners, drivers, chaplains and luggers (they help get mattresses and sleeping stuff situated for our runners & drivers) who will be participating in Reach the Beach on September 13 & 14.
4)  Make a donation of any size on my fundraising page. (Options to donate offline are there, too.  If you are local to me, you can hand me a donation in person.) 
Last year as I trained and ran, I helped raise funds for the campership fund for Camp Calumet Lutheran (the camp that shaped my faith and life as a kid and young adult.) Last year our runners, chaplains, drivers and luggers helped raise enough money that Calumet was able to lower the cost of camp by $100 for every camper. Imagine that!?!  If you can help in any way, it is deeply appreciated.  
Thanks for reading. 
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for your support.