Monday, November 23, 2020

Christ the King Sunday Sermon

November 22, 2020
Christ the King Sunday
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 95:1-7a
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

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. 

I’d like to share a few stories…and I would like you to let me know if you see Jesus in these stories, okay…and all of these are true.

First story – A friend of mine has been diagnosed with cancer.  In the midst of her journey and treatment, she has continued as teacher, mom of two, wife, and awesome friend.  For those of you diagnosed with cancer and other life changing diagnosis, life around you continues in the midst of your own health journey.  This past week was a tough week for her.  At the beginning of the week she heard the town leaf collectors, so she rushed out to rake as much as she could…she barely made dent in her yard and was exhausted when the truck passed and she learned that this was the early drive by.  Nevertheless, she was done. 
The next day her yard was filled with over 20 people, masked for her safety and theirs, to tackle the family’s yard. 

This week was also her birthday, and her wish was to raise $200 for American Cancer Society.  The day after her birthday friends and family had donated over $3000 in honor of my friend. 
Did you catch Jesus in those stories? 
In the friends armed with masks and rakes? 
In the generosity of friends and family? 
In the groups seeing a need meeting it? 

Yup.  Jesus was there.  In the young and the old.  In the active and the generous. 
Jesus was there responding to an individual and family that was in need of help. 
Jesus was that family in need. 

Story number two: 
My father, great guy that Klaus, attended Muhlenberg College and following graduation headed to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia to become an ordained minister in the Lutheran church.  He served his first call in the Bronx and shortly after he stepped down from the roster of ministers.  It was a heartbreaking moment for my grandmother, but even as he stepped away from leading in the church, the church still impacted his life.  We went to church as a family all through my childhood, if friends slept over on a Saturday night, they knew church was part of the plan on Sunday morning.  It was a part of our family life.  Since then…my father drifted away from the church, although he’ll attend when he and my mom are visiting in Robesonia. 

He now meets regularly (at least pre-COVID) with a local atheist group.  It’s funny, because the way he describes himself is as a Lutheran atheist…the only way he can describe his disconnect from the church is through the churchy language he grew up with.  A while back, my father was sharing one of the activities that his group does…once a month (again, before COVID).  This group would prepare and provide a meal for a group of homeless women.  And the location of this meal?  Yup…the local church’s social hall. 

So, there is a group of women being fed, in a church, by a group of atheists. 

Do you see Jesus there? 
In the church that opens its doors for this ministry? 
In the actions of a group of atheists?
In the women receiving the gift of a meal and company once a month? 

Jesus is everywhere in that story…at least he is for me. 

Was it easier for you to see Jesus at work in the story of my friend? 
Not even knowing the beliefs of those who showed up to help and serve? 

Was it harder to see Jesus in the second story when I told you my dad was an atheist? 

And does it even matter? 
No seriously, does it even matter? 
When we see the love of God shared in service and care for our neighbors…
When we see actions taken to feed those who are hungry…to (safely) visit those who are imprisoned…to give water to those who thirst…to clothe those who are naked, to heal and work for the health of those who are sick…
Does it matter who is reaching out in those actions? 

I don’t think it does. 

In our gospel reading today, we hear about the sheep and goats. 
While they are separated after doing or not doing certain things…they aren’t even aware of how they were active in God’s kingdom and how they were inactive. 
The sheep didn’t recognize when they had cared for the King in their midst. 
The goats didn’t recognize when they had not cared for the King in their midst. 

It seems that both of these groups had just been living their lives. 
Some with care for others and some neglecting care for others. 

As we talked about this passage in our weekly clergy Bible study on Wednesday, we felt that on any given day, any one of us could fall into the category of sheep or goat.  It’s like we say in the confession….we ask for forgiveness for the things we have done and the things we’ve left undone.  The sins of commission…the ones we know we committed and the sins of omission, the ones we don’t realize that we’ve done and ways that neglect or ignorance have kept us from loving and serving our neighbors. 

We could sing about how we just wanna be a sheep – you’re welcome for getting that one stuck in your head…sing it all you want on the way home 😉…but if that’s our song?  Our everyday actions – words AND deeds should reflect that, right? 

Now this is where it gets tricky…because the truth is – we don’t need to do anything to earn God’s love and grace and forgiveness.  Those are all free gifts from a God who loves us unconditionally. 

So do we need to do what the sheep do? 
Not to earn God’s love we don’t. 

But to live in the kingdom here and now…and to bring the presence of Christ into a broken and hurting world?  You bet we do! 

We have an amazing opportunity to take action today and, in the weeks to come, that will help care for our neighbors in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. 

The simple act of wearing a mask shows everyone around you that their wellbeing, safety and health is important to you.    

When you wear your mask around the community you show your love for friend and stranger and the care you have for both of them. 
When we give space between ourselves now like physical space…and not gathering with friends or family for Thanksgiving (even though it’s stinkin’ hard).  We do it so that when this season of pandemic passes that we will all be here to hug and high five one another in celebration. 

Seeing Christ in our midst is sometimes hard…I could give you a list of people that cause me to really struggle and squint even…to see the image of God in their faces…but that’s exactly where Jesus shows up…in the places least likely. 

So you need to know, that even as a pastor, this is a good but challenging gospel lesson. 
And some days, your pastor will be the best sheep in the flock. 
And other days, your pastor will be a goat.  (And not the greatest of all time.)

But, BUT, because we live in this community – together – we will continue to love and care for one another…and we will help one another live out the call to love and serve our neighbors as best as we can. 

And as we do, they (our neighbors, friends, family and even enemies) will know we are Christians…by our love. 
By our love of God and love of neighbor. 
By our love of this world and care for creation.
By our love for the health and wellness of this nation and the hope for its future. 
By our love. 

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. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Holden Evening Prayer Homily

The readings and homily from Holden Evening Prayer...

A reading from Philippians,

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

A reading from Psalm 34,

Come, O children, listen to me;
   I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Which of you desires life,
   and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
   and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
   seek peace, and pursue it.

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. 

Over 4 years ago, I found myself at Conrad Weiser High School in the classroom/studio of Stef Schneck.  I was watching the morning announcements happen as I was waiting for the first block to begin.  I was there to be interviewed for a film by then student, Matt T.   After I finished that interview, Stef asked if I could stay around for another quick interview.  Sure, I replied. 

Then student, Adam S. was working on a film about the course of the upcoming election and asked about what I thought was needed for the future. 

Even though I can’t remember the specific question, or my specific response, I remember responding with the importance of healing…that whoever was elected in 2016 needed to work to help unite a divided country. 

I think if anyone asked me that same question today, I would have a similar answer…and then some more to add.  

While I think healing is deeply needed and peace, yes peace….

I think it takes more than just the leadership of the country modeling it and leading us into it. 

When I asked folks earlier this week to share their hopes and their prayers for this week for our nation.  The overwhelming response was for unity and peace. 

Unity and peace. 

One friend asked for double shot of the peace that passes all understanding.  😉

I mean…who couldn’t use that these days?

But seriously, there is a deep, deep desire for unity and peace. 

But friends…while we can actively pray for that, it will take more than that to see it come to fruition. 

Not that we can’t pray for it…but friends, we are the Body of Christ.

We are…the hands and feet of Christ…here and now. 

We were created and called for such a time as this. 

If we are praying for peace and unity, we must voice these prayers in our hearts and bring them to life in our actions. 

I don’t believe when an outcome is announced that we can just dust off our hands and say, okay here we go, it will all be good now. 

We – all of us – need to be actively involved in the healing of this nation. 

Friends, this is the hard stuff when it comes to being church, but friends, you are equipped to do this hard stuff. 

You were created, called, baptized, claimed and now sent…into the community, into the nation and into the world to proclaim God’s love and grace and peace. 

It is our words and actions that will show and share God’s love and God’s peace in the world around us. 

Irish poet, Padraig O’Tuama was talking about working towards peace – and he knows the long tough journey it is living in Ireland.  Yesterday, he said this about peace, “Peace takes every fiber of your being to stay in the same room.”  He was explaining that it is much easier to walk away, to leave a tough situation and just hope for the best. 

Staying in the same room is where the hard work of peacemaking is done. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they find themselves in hard conversations, difficult situations and world transforming opportunities. 

Blessed are those working towards and for peace – talking not only with random folks about differences, but talking with those we love about our differences and learning about what unites us…and our faith…and our communities…and our nation. 

Blessed are those who do this hard work.

Blessed are you…who pray for peace.

Blessed are you…who work towards peace. 

Blessed are you…who pray for unity. 

Blessed are you…who work for unity. 

Together, let me say that again, TOGETHER, is how we move forward. 

Washed in the waters of baptism,

            We are ready to pray and respond.

Washed in the waters of baptism,

            We are ready to listen and then speak.

Washed in the waters of baptism,

            We are able to do the hard work of peacemaking…in our own hearts, in our own homes, in our own community and in our nation. 

My mom shared this me this week…she saw it shared on Facebook:

"Out beyond these discussions of the right and the left, there is a place. 
The place where we listen, understand, respect each other, work towards harmony and a shared sustainable future…Let’s meet there."

Friends, lets meet in that place…that place of sanctuary…where we are safe to talk with one another, not about one another…as we listen and respond with grace and love. 

Friends, let’s meet where we can work towards harmony and a shared sustainable future…

Friends, let’s meet to do the hard work….to model to friends and family and community and nation to how it is done. 

Just a heads up, it’s gonna take some time…it won’t be a quick and simple process, but healing never is. 

It takes time.

It takes work. 

It takes willingness.

It takes learning.

It takes falling and getting back up again.

But friends, in the long run, it will be so worth it. 

And in the short run…do you even say that…no…in the meantime, we will be modeling the kingdom of God here and now.  Bringing moments of peace and glimpses of hope to our nation and the entire world. 

I’m glad to be in this with you…because we’ll need each other, desperately.

And the good news, is that we have each other, because God has called us into this one family, together…and together we can do the hard work of peacemaking. 

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Election Day Prayers of the People

Noon devotion for Election Day

A reading from Ecclesiastes,

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Today’s devotion is a time and space for us to pray, on this election day. 

The prayers shared today are from young and old, those connected to Trinity and those connected to other faith communities, those in our state, across our nation and around the world.  You may not connect with each prayer, but such is the way when we pray the prayers of all of God’s children. 

Each section will end with God of mercy, and your response is hold us in love. 

Let us pray,

We pray for those who will vote today and for those who have already cast ballots.

We give you thanks for the freedoms we are given to go to the polls today…

We hope that people vote for what they believe in and feel is right, and not what they feel pressured to vote for.

We pray that people head to the polls prayerfully – that they have looked at all the candidates and are not just bound to their own party. 

God of mercy, hold us in love.

Loving God, our hearts are heavy,

We pray for those who may feel overwhelmed and anxious about what is to come.

We pray that we do not judge others, for their political stances or their occupations. 

We are concerned with the reactions of either outcome... will it cause more anger/riots, fighting, violence, or will we accept the decision and try to live with it.

We worry about the future of and for our children.  It is something that tugs at us more than ever before.    We pray for our daughters, their lives and their futures. 

We pray for families, that they don’t write off concerns of others just because policies may not affect them directly.

We worry that we’ve made enemies of each other and that whichever candidate wins, there may be violence.  We hope that can see Jesus in each other and remember that each face we look into is a child of God. 

We pray for honest agendas. 

God of mercy, hold us in love.

We pray for peace and unity

For peace for the whole country.

For peace no matter what happens

May our Lord help our Nation come together in harmony and compassion for one another.

For peace in our community and peace in our hearts.

God purposely created us with differences and designed us to work together.  Whatever the outcome, help us overcome our divisions and work toward a nation of unity. 

That when the election is over that we remember we have more in common than we are different. That we remember the kind in humankind.

For the country and wise decisions for peace and unity, and calm – no matter what.  

That people may see the good in each other and move forward united.

That we can make it through this period in peace.

God of mercy, hold us in love.

We pray that all lives are valued

God, we are scared that some of our friends— Your Beloved children— will be physically, emotionally, and legislatively hurt regardless of the outcome of today. Protect them and wash over us with overwhelming peace.

Open our eyes to truly see how the actions of our government and communities can shape a person’s dignity. May we find reverence in each person’s humanity regardless of the value society places on them.

For LGBTQ folks. That their rights remain protected and that they feel safe and supported.

That we use our voices for those who feel voiceless.

That each one feels they have value. That each one feels they are deserving. That each one feels they can participate. That each one wants for the other to enjoy a life of fairness.

For all law enforcement.

For care givers and healthcare workers.

For the lives that are taken unjustly, due to their color, gender, sexual orientation, beliefs or status. 

Bring silence to the to the minds of those dealing with mental health issues, and not let this election unrest continue to be one more trigger that causes pain and suffering to those afflicted and to their families who are trying to support them.

Guide us to care for one another this day and into the future. 

God of mercy, hold us in love.

We pray for the care of God’s creation and all who inhabit it

That we vote for people who will help us take better care of the earth and make sure that people know that they shouldn’t litter.

We pray that leaders wish to serve others, work for the environment and lead with integrity and compassion for all.

We pray that even though one candidate will win, neither has a plan to save the world.  We pray that we are able to unify and work together towards God’s plan of salvation.

God of mercy, hold us in love.


We pray for healing and an end to violence. 

That regardless of the results of the election, that we all remember compassion and empathy for one another and that we treat others with kindness and look out for one another.

That whatever the outcome is, that everyone accepts it, without anger.  We long for no destructive behavior and please let us come together in peace and love for one another.

That no matter who wins, we can come together as a nation to work for the wellbeing of ALL of our citizens.

That those who are hurt and angry may find safe spaces to grieve the loss of a future they had envisioned.

We pray for patience.  

That the nation starts to heal and come together, creating unity instead of divisiveness.  That the president has the good of all in mind. 

For those suffering from COVID19 and its spread, it makes it hard to see friends. 

God of mercy, hold us in love.

We pray for the future…

For tolerance to listen to others views without violence; wisdom to express viewpoints of love, care, and compassion for ALL people; peaceful transition to the next term, no matter the outcome; no boasting or threats on either side; healing the division of our nation and end the divisiveness and hatred.

For a peaceful transition, no matter which way the election goes. This country it too divided and needs to come together no matter their political views.  May God watch over us all and keep us safe from harm, may God unite us as one and help to bring us together for the sake of our beautiful country.

That people stop politicizing everything.  People’s health, safety and well-being should not be a two-sided political debate.

That we all try to communicate better by first listening and being willing to compromise with each other and most importantly respect our differences.

We pray for kindness. 

We pray that those who are joyful may express these feelings with humility and understanding for those who are not.

May our new leader embody those same considerations and may we all give ourselves the time and space to feel all the feelings knowing how much we will always be loved.

For unification and acceptance. That no matter the outcome we remember that we are still one nation under God at our foundation and regardless of who wins.  We are not each other’s enemy.

That all may feel loved in the days and weeks that follow.

God of mercy, hold us in love. 

Together, let us pray as Jesus taught us,

Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. 

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever amen. 

Receive God’s blessing,

May you carry a look of grace and acceptance,

May your hands help others and be folded in prayer,

May your heart be filled with love,

May your feet walk towards those who are in need,

May your voice speak and live in truth,

And may the God of steadfastness and love keep you this day and all days, amen. 



Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday Sermon - October 18

October 18, 2020
20th Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 45:1-7
Psalm 96:1-9 (10-13)
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

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.  

Alright, friends, it’s another wonderful gospel reading this Sunday. 

As we first read it at our weekly clergy Bible study, we all shuddered just a bit to think about how to preach the good news of Jesus Christ that we hear shared in this text. 

So, let’s get to that good news, shall we? 

It’s going to take a little bit to get us there, but we will get there, together. 

We are still in the Gospel of Matthew and now the Pharisees and the Herodians are trying to entrap Jesus…so they pose this question, that is exactly that: a trap. 

The question, is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not? 

If Jesus says it’s lawful, then he is siding with and supporting the Roman control at the time. 

If he says it’s not lawful, then he’s not following the rules of the land. 

It’s a no win, really.

As General Akbar says in Return of the Jedi, It’s a trap! 

No seriously…it’s a trick question. 

They are trying to entrap Jesus…to find a way to snare him. 

In the words of the Beastie Boys, listen all y’all it’s a sabotage! 

They are looking for a way to catch Jesus off guard, to make him say something that gives them reason to arrest him, to turn him over to authorities and to stop his preaching and teaching. 

But Jesus doesn’t fall for it. 

He doesn’t skip a beat. 

He shifts the conversation on a sharp pivot. 

Leading them to leave amazed…probably thinking what just happened? 

We were asking him about taxes and the emperor…and now we need to think about what is the emperor and what is God’s? 

He sends them of…heads spinning, minds whirling, and thoughts set on fire. 


And maybe after initially hearing this passage from the gospel that’s where you are too. 

You heard the words - entrap, Jesus, taxes, hypocrites…maybe other words jumped out for you and you heard them and just started pondering, your head starting spinning, your mind started whirling…and you’re not sure what the right answer is to the question asked of Jesus and what is the gospel lesson about anyway!?! 

Let me stop you right there…because guess what? 

It’s a trap! 

As they ask this question of Jesus, he realizes…I mean he already knew, but here Jesus names that the temple, the holy space, God’s house, is being occupied by the values of the world. 

Let me say that again…the image of the world…through coins, and emperors and taxes are finding their way into the church, and this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, Jesus pushes back. 

Jesus pushes back, as Jesus always does. 

Against the ways of the world that wiggle their way or drive their way into God’s holy space.


Jesus pushes back, as Jesus always does.

Against the ways of the world that wiggle their way…or drive their way into God’s holy space. 

In case you didn’t hear it yet, Jesus pushes back…

Against the ways of the world…

Against evils of the world…

Against the devil and all the forces that defy God…

Against the powers of this world that rebel against God…

Against the ways of sin that draw us from God…

Did those last three sound familiar? 

They might have. 

They come straight out of the baptismal liturgy. 

And the cool thing about today?  There will be a baptism, yup. 

Following the service, with just immediate family, to maintain the health and wellness of the littlest among us, we will welcome Owen Henry Brown into the body of Christ…

into the family of God….

into a community of faith that seeks to live out our baptismal calls daily…

into a community of faith, that like Jesus works to reclaim church as a holy and sacred space. 

But to do that…I mean really do that; we need to work together. 

So, let’s work together, right now to claim the holiness of this space, the Body of Christ, the church, gathered together, today. 

Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God? 

If so say, I renounce them.

Do you renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God?

If so say, I renounce them.

Do you renounce the ways of sin that draw us from God?

If so say, I renounce them. 

Yes…for this space to be holy and sacred…we must remember to constantly cleanse our hearts and our minds as we are drawn together each week. 

And when this space is sacred…

And when this space is holy…

We are able to actively respond to God’s word and God’s call in our lives and in our world. 

When we are able to gather together in a holy and sacred space, we are able to talk about things that weigh on our hearts and our minds in a place that is guided and guarded by God’s love and grace. 

When we are able to gather together in a holy and sacred space, we are able to listen to and respond to challenging questions, enter into difficult dialogue and work together for the sake of the gospel being at work in the world. 

Friends, if this sacred space doesn’t allow us to hear God’s call for justice and peace…

If this sacred space doesn’t allow us to wrestle with our faith and how to be a faithful Christian in the world today, then the evil is still here…and the devil is at work.

But, big but, BUT….when we gather, on holy ground….open to the world of God and how it may challenge us or comfort us or call us…or do all three to any number of us on a Sunday morning, then we are church together. 

When this ground is holy and sacred, the work of God can be done. 

When this ground is holy and sacred, together, we can live out our baptismal vows. 

Together, we can…

live among God's faithful people,

hear the word of God and share in the Lord's supper,

proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,

serve all people, following the example of Jesus,

and strive for justice and peace in all the earth. 

That my friends is our response as we were washed in the waters of baptism…

That my friends is who we are called to be, together.

That, my friends, is who we are able to be when we gather on holy ground…

With ears to listen to one another…

With words to respond out of care and compassion to one another…

With hearts to love one another…

And with actions that live out God’s love and God’s grace in the world around us. 

Together, we come to this space. 

Together, we are washed in the waters of baptism.

Together, we are called into the Body of Christ, to live out our baptismal calling. 

Together, we are called to reclaim this place as holy and sacred space…where the cares and worries of the world can be civilly discussed, prayed about and acted upon as we respond to a world in need with God’s love, forgiveness and grace. 

Together, we are church…in the world, where a message of love, forgiveness and grace is so desperately needed. 


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