What Do We Do Now?

Biblical Texts: Acts 1:12-26, John 17:11-19

The texts for Easter 7B (the Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost), which often happens to be Mother’s Day as well, are just terrible for that. The general feel in both I would say is one of abandonment. Jesus is ascended and the Spirit is not yet present. Or in the Gospel, it is late Maundy Thursday and Jesus will be taken from them soon and is contemplating very Ascension Day thoughts. On top of that, you’ve got Judas. But it is Judas that gives the Apostles the chance to reflect on what Jesus tells them and to act on it. In real life those “what do we do now” moments often start with a call to mom. This sermon is a meditation on how we are given to act when the world seems to be falling apart.

Father:Son::Son:Us

Biblical Text: John 15:9-17

The text comes from the long Maundy Thursday section of John’s gospel where Jesus issues a new command – “love one another as I have loved you.” And like all things John he turns it over and over. Our particular turning focuses on the direction of that love. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” And it is a meditation of what abiding in the love of God means, what it looks like and what the ends of it are. The sermon develops each of those ideas. It also has an opening meditation on what a sermon is supposed to be.

Vines and Vinedressers

Biblical Text: John 15:1-8

For a second week we have one of the “I AM” sayings in the Gospel according to John – “I AM the vine”. And I think this saying invites us to ponder a couple of things. First what it reveals about God which is central to the mystery of suffering or in this case spiritual struggle. The Father as the vinedresser and the son as the vine with the point being greater fruitfulness invites meditation on pruning coded as struggle and how God prunes or limits himself in some ways. The second revelation is what it says about fruitfulness. Vines and branches are made to bear fruit. It will happen. The deeper question is if the branches stay connected to the vine. Measuring fruitfulness is usually fruitless, because it is aimed the wrong way. If there is fruit you will see it. The main concern of the branch is to stay connected – to abide – in the vine.

Knowing and Being Known

Biblical Text: John 10:11-18

This was “Good Shepherd Sunday”. The Gospel text is from John 10 which includes one of Jesus’ “I Am” statements – “I Am the Good Shepherd.” He says it twice and after each saying expands a bit on what it means. At least that is my read of what John/Jesus is doing with these I Am statements. For me the core of the passage comes from Jesus saying, “I know my own and my own know me.” The I Am statements reveal to us something about God. In this case that God treats his creation and especially his “sheep” like an owner of something precious. The sheep are life and death things to God. The core of the Good Shepherd is that we have a God who knows, but He wouldn’t be much of a God if he didn’t. Although this one went to the extreme of becoming one of the sheep. But we also have a God who has chosen to be known. He has revealed himself. And his sheep harken to his voice. This is a God for whom this relationship with the sheep – his creation – is not some minor thing, but his engrossing mission, life and death.

High Anxiety

Biblical Text: Luke 24:36-49

There are lots of things that can cause anxiety or fear or doubt. WW3 might be up there this week. This sermon addresses that, but not in the way everyone that will get attention would do so. The gospel text for the weeks addresses 4 big things:

  1. The Resurrection of the body
  2. The Role of the OT and Scripture
  3. The call to witness
  4. These things are spiritually discerned

Those 4 things should go a long way to helping our anxiety. And turn our hearts toward the proper requests of God.

Closed Doors to Open Hearts

Biblical Text: John 20:19-31

I tend to think the best titles are intuitive. The more time you spend thinking about them, the worse they are. The title I put on this sermon is not something that appears in the sermon proper, but it popped into my head as encompassing the entire scope. The Gospel reading takes us from Easter Evening through the following Sunday with Thomas and ends with a note that sure sounds like an ending to book. To me there are three scenes. The first scene is a picture of personal spiritual life. The second scene (Thomas) is a picture of how the church works in this world, or how individuals are brought to that point of being born again. The final scene is a reminder of all the ways the church might fail, but where she always finds renewal. It is a text that takes us from Closed Doors due to fear to open hearts living the Christian life even at great risk.

Recording note: In service we had a member of the congregation who had a health issue. He was being taken care of by a couple members of the congregation and as long as it doesn’t seem like a life threatening emergency I tend to continue on. Let people who know what they are doing have the space. But at one point when it started to look worse, I did pause before picking back up.

Confronting Fears at the Tomb

Biblical Text: Mark 16:1-8

So much of Easter is the Hymns. I hate chopping them out, but the truth is they just don’t record as well. The place is not mic’ed up for that. But when the text of the day is Mark’s Easter account, you get to preach on something unique. Mark has the two Mary’s and Salome running from the tomb in fear. And that is where the gospel ends. (The early sermon examines that.) But that ending has a deep existential meaning to all of us. We are all confronted with a couple of fears. The obvious one is fear of death. But without dismissing the dread that creep up, you get to a certain age, you’ve made your peace. But the other one is fear of not being in control. Coming face to face with a man who controls death and who has something for you to do is running right into our lack of control. It is also running into the answer to that. That is the fear Easter addresses in Mark, but we all have to make a decision about that. The sermon expands on that.

Good Friday 2024

The service has its bit of theater – the candles are snuffed one at a time after each reading. But what it really it is a reading of the passion story woven together with the great hymns of the day and short meditations. The theme of the meditations this year was “The Way of the Cross”. The recording is the full service. If you want the service bulletin this link contains that

Where is Christ for Us?

This is the Maundy Thursday service which commemorates and spotlights the Lord’s Supper, because it was on this night the Supper was instituted. These sermon ponders for a bit Bonhoeffer’s question from his last days in prison: “Where is Christ for Us?” His answer only really comes to us in outline for from letters. And it includes a few phrases that I think cloud the picture for those who picked them up and ran with them. What he was talking about in those letters was the cross. Christ for us is always found at the cross. And Lord’s Supper – the body and blood of Christ – is one place we always find the cross. The sermon meditates on this.

Behold Your King

Biblical Texts: Palms – John 12:12-19 Passion – Mark 15:1-47

This sermon has two “movements” (man that is a pretentious term). The first is a bit of history about Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday and how we got to them being together. The second is a meditation upon the two crowds: the one that sang Jesus into Jerusalem with Palms, and the one that cried crucify. The second movement is really the preaching for the day and takes up most of the sermon. And the really interesting thing from these two texts is the interplay of who calls Jesus “The King of Israel” and who calls him “the King of the Jews”. Israel and “The Jews” are always distinct things. And Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday confirms the difference. Israel is the people of God by faith. They accept this King who comes on colt and cross. “The Jews” are the people from every nation that reject this king, who have no king but Caesar. And that is the crisis of the Kingdom. The King has come, but is this Jesus your King?