Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reformation Day Sermon

If someone asked you what a Lutheran was, how would you respond? I posed that question to the confirmation class a few weeks ago and they looked as blankly then as you do this morning.

For most of us, that’s a tough question to answer. Lutheranism has such a rich and diverse tradition. But it’s also very specific. How do you sum up a whole faith history in a few words?

Those of us initiated in the deeper workings of the Lutheran theological tradition would throw around weighty words such as “justification” and “sanctification” before lapsing into latin spewing phrases such “sola fide” “sola gracia” “sola scriptura;” high sounding words to explain what is a really tremendously personal faith. “Why,” ask Lutherans, “would you use a 50 cent word when a $100 word will do just as well?

Others, more narratively minded, will tell the story of Martin Luther, from whom we derive our name “Lutheran.” 

You’d mention his...(whole thing here)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sermon: Pentecost 22C

I think I can sum up today’s gospel reading in one short sentence: Jesus says not to be a smug, arrogant, self-righteous jerk. So, there it is. Now I can go sit down and enjoy the rest of the service having preached the shortest sermon of my life.

But if I do that I will have fallen into the trap that Jesus set for us. We think we know whose side we’re on in Jesus’ little morality tale. Especially in the way Jesus tells it. And that is dangerous territory. We better watch were we step.

In Jesus’ story we have two people praying. We have the smug, arrogant, self-righteous jerk of a religious leader who thanks God that he’s not like the dirty, disgusting sinners and moral midgets that he has to deal with all day. He thanks God that he’s better than them. 

And in contrast, we have a hated tax collector, who grew rich off of collaborating with the enemy, collecting taxes for the Roman empire, taking more than he needed to, and pocketing the difference. He was a thief and a collaborator. He helped God’s people under the Roman boot. He was NOT welcome at worship. And now he has the audacity to ask God for mercy.

The story says that the Pharisee held the tax collector with contempt. And I’m sure the feeling was mutual. There are no innocent parties here.

The thing is, the Pharisee isn’t...(whole thing here)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sermon: Pentecost 21C

On Friday a group of us from Good Shepherd went to the Good Samaritan Society’s Spirituality and Wholeness workshop, and the presenter had us do an interesting exercise. 

He first asked us to assume the posture of someone who is happy. So, we all sat up straight in our seats, shoulders back, chin square, and lips smiling. 

Then he asked us to assume the posture of someone who is depressed. So we hunched over, slouched our shoulders, put our heads down, fixed our eyes at the floor, or in some cases, closed them.

Then we went back to our natural posture.

Then, he said, “Let us pray...” and we assumed a prayer posture, which soon became obvious to many people in the room that our prayer postures looked a whole lot like the posture of a depressed person.

Interesting, isn’t it? We say that prayer connects us to God, but does our body language say something about that connection?

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard some criticize the way we morph our bodies when we pray. Some say that when we pray we try to make ourselves smaller in a false humility. And prayer is supposed to enlarge us, deepen our relationship with God, and broaden our vision of how God works in our lives and in the world. We don’t have to make ourselves smaller for God to be larger. God already is.

Others say that closing our eyes while praying pulls us inward rather than pushing us outward, creating a mass of self-centred Christians whose eyes are shut to the suffering of others. Closed-eyed prayer becomes all about ME and MY needs rather than about US. Open-eyed prayer helps us see the world that needs more of God.

I don’t know if any of that is true. But I do find it...(whole thing here)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Sermon

(NB: These are heads made from bread. Didn't mean to creep anyone out)

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but work for the food that endures for eternal life...”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? It sounds like something we’d expect Jesus to say. Work for the food that endures for eternal has the aroma of holiness, sacred words we come to church to hear because we don’t find them anywhere else.

We know these words are true. They even sound correct. Like something to which we SHOULD aspire. Eternal food verses perishable food. Light verses dark. Sacred verse secular. 

But one thing that makes me crazy about John’s Jesus is that he...(whole thing here)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Sermon: Pentecost 19C

“Lord, increase our faith!” the apostles plead. 

A reasonable request. Especially when they saw Jesus work many signs and wonders and heard him preach endlessly about the kingdom of God. If they wanted more of God in their lives, and if faith was the entry point in connecting with God, it makes sense that they’d ask for more faith.

And who could blame them? As people of faith, isn’t that what we all want? A larger faith to make us more than we already are? Better at being Christian? Greater confidence about what we believe? A stronger witness to what we see God doing?

My guess is that the apostles’ prayer is your prayer today. That’s why you’re here this morning. “Increase our faith!” we ask, or even demand of Jesus, because we feel that...(whole thing here)