It's Complicated

Greetings~

Some of you may or may not know of a TV moment that happened decades ago:  A scene wherein Archie Bunker snuck his grandson off to baptize him secretly.  While the whole scene is not good theology, there is something to the dialogue and the interaction that make it unforgettable, and perhaps even sacred in some way.

But my favorite part is the last little bit. Archie looks up to the sky and says, “Well Lord, I hope that took…because they are going to kill me when I get home.” In other words: “God, I hope this faith really does what you say it will, because my death is near.”

All Saints Sunday is the celebration of that very thought. We worship our creator and ask the important question – did it take Lord?  Was the baptism you provided good enough? Good enough for my mom, my son, my friend, my sister, my grandfather and all those that have passed on before me?

The answer is that of course it took, and that was “not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8-9) Thanks be to God for the gift of all the saints, and of our lives too.

Grace & Peace,
Pastor Kevin

Radical

Greetings~

“Self-esteem, esteem, Robert Schuller says, is the ‘new Reformation.’ Feeling good about ourselves is the goal of life… We could say that reducing everything to the level of human judgment is the contemporary form of trying to save oneself by good works. But, this move fails to allow humans the freedom they seek. After all, human judgment is a hard and cruel taskmaster. We ourselves can be as hard on ourselves as anyone….

What Luther discovered in reading his Bible, in his conversation and struggle, was that we can't be saved by works, no matter how highly they may be esteemed by human judgment. A world that thinks to do so is simply irrelevant. So when he heard St. Paul saying that it is not our estimate, not our judgment, but God's that matters, the ‘gates of paradise,’ he said, swung wide open. We are justified before God by faith alone, not by works. That, you will recognize, was the watchword of Luther's Reformation. We are judged righteous before God because of what God has done in Jesus Christ, not by our own deeds. What God wants from us is faith, and if the faith is right, the deeds will follow of themselves.”
~ Gerhard Forde, A More Radical Gospel

Grace & Peace,
~ Pastor Kevin

David's Call

Greetings~

I made an interesting discovery this week. This Sunday’s narrative reading is Samuel’s anointing of David to be the new king over Israel. So I decided to search online to see if anyone had any words of wisdom to share.

The first result to pop up when I googled “David’s call” was the phone number for David’s Bridal Shop! Not expected, but perhaps that’s not a bad connection to make.  After all, God is choosing a shepherd for Israel, someone who will love them and walk alongside them for the rest of his life.  It is not surprising then, that God chooses not the most handsome of the brothers, but the one who was the “best fit.” 

This choosing was merely a taste of what was to come though, when God chose Christ to be joined to his church. David’s strong and honest leadership was a steady help for Israel, and was just what they needed in a difficult time. By the same token, Christ’s death and resurrection is just what we needed – forgive ness and reconciliation with God, and inclusion in the gracious promises of God –peace, mercy, justice, and yes, even eternal life.

Grace & Peace,
~ Pastor Kevin

What is it?

What is it?

That’s what the Israelites asked when they saw manna for the first time. And it wasn’t a polite, inquisitive “what is it?”  It was more like when your six-year-old is poking the plate with her fork and asking about the asparagus. 

In fact, manna is derived from this exclamation of the Israelites. Manna literally means “what is it?” 

And while the standard lesson from the text is “God provides”, another comes to mind: God rarely provides exactly what we have asked for in the way that we have asked for it.

Sometimes we don’t recognize what gifts God has given us, and sometimes we are just repelled by the thought of utilizing them. Once I met a young man who was struggling to pay his bills. I asked him why not go home until he could get on his feet. He admitted that he was too proud to entertain such a notion. Food, shelter, a job…all within easy reach, just not on his terms. 

But blessings come to us on God’s terms. Manna is from heaven, and not from our own hands. Don’t be surprised if it’s not exactly what you were looking for, but trust that it is exactly what you need.

~ Pastor Kevin

Nearer my God, To Thee

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I'd be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

There let the way appear steps unto heav'n;
All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv'n;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I'll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

~ Sarah Flower Adams, “Nearer, My God, to Thee”, Hymns and Anthems, 1841

Knight of Faith

Greetings!

This week is the story of Abraham and the Binding of Isaac. The website for the Narrative Lectionary puts it mildly when it says “this text has long occasioned theological and pastoral problems for readers” (Terrance E. Freithem). I’m going to address those concerns in the sermon this week. No easy outs here! We face the difficult texts head on. 

Because of that, we must also acknowledge another bit of the text that is hard. We implicitly seem to believe in the omniscience of God. God knows all things, nothing is hidden from him. But the Genesis text reveals that God’s response to Abraham is “now I know that you fear God.” NOW God knows? Before, God…didn’t know?

In Abraham’s movements, external and internal (did you notice that Abraham in unusually quiet?), God perceives the faith of Abraham. And yet God has also prepared in advance – a ram, stuck in the bushes, ready to be used for that moment when God perceives. Does God know all things or know all possibilities?!

Want to talk more about this? Come to Word Up Wednesday! You have questions, and I have answers to share!

~ Pastor Kevin

September 10, 2017


The account of God creating the universe is one that is normally confined to Sunday School or the rare church holiday where it is overshadowed.  But this week, as we start the Narrative Lectionary, we begin at the beginning, both of scripture (Gen 1) and of our Gospel for this year (John 1).  

This is, to borrow an old term, creation ex nihilo – out of nothing. God’s ability to create something good out of nothing is what makes him the Lord God Almighty.  It’s a thought that shouldn’t be far from us as we experience this broken world on a daily basis, because it gives us some measure of comfort and hope for the future.

But as nice as it is, the poet, writer, and Lutheran theologian Soren Kierkegaard had another thought, equally as comforting.  A frame that was intensely personal for him and for us as well:

“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.”

Soren is not talking just about himself, but also about you! May that reminder stay close to you, wherever you may wander.

~ Pastor Kevin

Turn Around

This coming week, we are back at it again with Peter in the Gospel lesson. Last week, Peter was blessed to get the right answer. This week, he delivers the wrong one.  Jesus, it seems, will not conform to his expectations. The same will be true for Jeremiah in the first lesson, lamenting that God is fickle, and not at all what Jeremiah thought He would be like.

Despite these speed bumps, God once again promises to be on hand for them. In this passage, Jesus promises to Peter and the disciples that he will “come in His kingdom.” If that sounds like a clunky translation, it’s not the fault of the translator.  The passage is in the middle voice, which is one we don’t have in English.

The middle voice is essentially reflexive.  It is used when the subject and object are fluid – when something is both the subject and the object.  Jesus will come in His kingdom. The kingdom will come in Jesus. When Jesus, elsewhere in the Gospels says: “the kingdom of God has come near to you” he isn’t joking.

Where the Word is, there the kingdom is also. 
~ Pastor Kevin

The Canaanite Woman

This week’s Gospel has an optional component on the origin of evil, which I had originally intended to preach on.  Something happened to change my mind though, which you will hear about on Sunday morning. Until then, I hoped you might ponder this week what is in that optional piece: 

“For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.”

~ Matt. 15:19

I once told someone this, that the root of evil is in the heart. My listener responded: “The heart is where love and compassion comes from! What idiot said that?” Well, turns out, Jesus is that idiot! This text is him speaking.

I think this passage scares us. The world has coached us to lead with the heart in our lives. There is a feeling that this is more trustworthy a source than any other. To call that idea into question makes us nervous.   

But it also encourages us to put our trust completely in God. Since there is no part of us that is not “mistake prone” then we need outside help to get by.  And God grants it. Broken hearts or broken minds or both, God still has decided to be our shepherd, and to pull us into his fold.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Kevin 

Face to Face?

We take a detour this Sunday, thanks to the alternate texts in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), which we will depart in a few weeks for our chronological lectionary.   These alternate texts are “semi-continuous,” meaning the same book is covered for several weeks – ideal for sermon series on a particular book.   In this case though, we are just using it to bring a fresh focus to the Gospel reading, which is the well-known feeding of the five thousand.  

Ultimately, the goal of all texts on Sunday (including, ideally, the Psalm) is to point to a single theological expression.  A reminder of something God has done, is doing, or will do for you His people.  And while Jacob wrestling with God might seem to be a far cry from feeding a large crowd, we will see this week that, from God’s perspective, they accomplish the same goal of ministry.  

I can’t tell you what that goal is right now – you should come Sunday to get that!  But I can tell you that it might have something to do with the very famous psalm we will recite together that morning:  

“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”  

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Kevin