Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sermon: Epiphany 4A

I was once asked to provide what they called an “Invocation” at a political event a few years ago. So I chose for the bible reading the passage we just heard from Matthew’s gospel, popularly known as “The Beatitudes.” I wanted to offer the crowd a different vision than what usually passes for political discourse.

Later that evening, a politician came up to me and thanked me for reading the “softer” Beatitudes rather than the “harsh” Ten Commandments.

I held my tongue, but what I was thinking was, Were you paying attention? There’s nothing SOFT about the beatitudes! The Ten Commandment are a mile easier to live by than these 12 verses in Matthew.

I guess somewhere along the line the beatitudes became domesticated. Pretty little religious words that offer comfort without challenge. Spiritual poetry to calm our anxious hearts.

How we hear the beatitudes depends largely on where we’re sitting when we hear them.

Where are you in Jesus’ list? Are you the poor in spirit, struggling to find evidence of a loving God in a harsh world? If you are, then Jesus says that you are blessed?

Are you mourning? Jesus promises comfort...some day.

Are you being persecuted? Then rejoice in your pain! You must be an awesomely faithful person!

That’s where it gets a little weird, and probably where the he lost the crowd. But he may have lost others a long time before that. Who wants to be blessed the way Jesus says to be blessed?

Theologians struggle with the beatitudes. They wonder what they could possibly mean. Lutherans have...(whole thing here)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sermon: Epiphany 3A

How would you know God’s voice if you heard it? What it be so clear that you could respond with great joy in knowing that you’re part of God’s saving plan for the world? How would explain that call to others? How would you describe that voice?

That’s not an easy question to answer, is it? Most stories of hearing God’s call are met with suspicion, or even laughter. It takes some guts to talk about the voice of the divine. Not everyone will believe you. Few people will take you seriously.

I should know. That’s been my experience.

When I first heard the call to ministry I was...(whole thing here)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sermon: Epiphany 2A

In reading today’s gospel, it’s clear that we shouldn’t be looking to John the Baptist for advice on how to grow a church. He sends his best people over to another preacher, who looks surprised to see them.

“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks these strangers at his door. “What are you doing here? What do you want from me?” are questions that he was probably really asking.

But it’s a good question, isn’t it? It’s perhaps THE question. Especially for those who have a sense that God is doing something in their lives. And for those who have a gaping God-sized hole inside.

“What are you looking for?”

That could be the question for us here at worship. We come to worship looking for something, perhaps we can’t put that something into words.

We come looking for God, or an experience of God. Or we come looking for community. Or we come looking for meaning in a seemingly meaningless world.

Or we just come, not knowing what we’re looking for, but hoping to recognize it when we see it.

I’m sure it was the same with...(whole thing here)