Reformation – Build, rebuild, repeat – Sermon for October 27, 2013

Save big Money at. _____________ Menards,

More saving, more doing that’s the power of ____________Home Depot,

Get in, get out, get done — get your weekend back.  __________ Ace Hardware

 

 

I think there’s two kinds of people. The first who enter a store like Home Depot or Menards and feel energized, like they can tackle any challenge. I bet King Solomon would have been that kind of guy.  While, he didn’t build the temple all by himself, he is credited as the one who got it done.   So there’s that kind of person–you know the handy ones, who like to tinker, fix, and build things–the ones who look at a building a home and eagerly say what project, what improvement, what next,–repair or build with just the right tool, just the right stuff.

 

And then there’s the rest of us, Who when thinking about a home improvement or repair, just get the willies, and pray that nothing breaks, that nothing will need fixing. Bbecause when we walk through those doors of those big or little hardware stores, those palaces to home improvement we automatically  feel lost and overwhelmed, unsure of where to turn, where to go, what the name of the do hickey it was they came in there for to begin with.

                         

Faith, life, being the church isn’t it all about confidence at knowing we got the right stuff, the right tools to tackle whatever life throws at us.  Because no matter who we are life is going to give us plenty of trials and tribulations. 

 

Martin Luther, now I don’t know how handy he was with the hammer, nails, and saw, but Martin Luther was one of the men who led this Reformation, this tearing down, tearing away at the abuses of the church to repaired and rebuilt God’s church.

 

However, and I feel we can not say it too many times, this room this building, is just another building.  It is not the church.  In a sense, we can call it God’s house, like the temple that we read about that King Solomon built thousands of years ago.  But you want that it’s not around anymore. a temple that no longer stands, even in Jerusalem there is disagreement about where it once stood.  These walls, these beautiful stained glass windows, these pews (you know the churchy name for the benches you sit on) while they feel so solid and permanent are not the church.  As any good handyman, property guy like Bob, or others know, they will slowly ever so slowly fall apart, they will be replaced or hopefully reused or recycled. That is really and truly what happens with these temples, these houses of worship we build.  It doesn’t mean they are not important.  No, they like any good tool, serve a purpose.

 

for King Solomon and the people thousands of years ago it gave them a central place to be able to come and pray, to bring their offerings, a place for the people to gather in times of joy and in times of terror and pain.  That is what made it holy, that is what makes this place holy, because we use it to gather together. In our disconnected world have a sense of connection to God and one another; in our violent world, where schools and streets have become shooting galleries we come together here to feel a sense of safety in this sanctuary with God’s people.  That is what makes this God’s house, that is what makes it holy.  But it is not the church.  As a hymn, a song we sing tells us, the church will stand even when all steeples have crumbled.  Because the believers, the faithful, the family of God, we have lots of names, but the one true name for you and me is the church.

 

And you know what, we are being built, torn down, repaired, and rebuilt all the time.  Sometimes it’s the events of life, the challenges and the tragedies, sometimes it’s our joys, but most importantly it happens when we come here together.  You see, just like in the days of the Reformation. Over 500 years ago, we need to have our faith repaired.  As many of us know, the church seems to be disintegrating.  Fewer and fewer people find any meaning within these walls, fewer and fewer people know Jesus, know who he was and is, experience feel his love and forgiveness, that amazing grace of God.

 

The answer is not to just pull out some old blueprints for how we did things years ago, because the world has changed–I’m not saying we tear everything down, and build a Jesus shopping center.  What we need is to rebuild our passion for Jesus, and our passion for one another.  Sure there’s lots of things we could do gives us all sorts of tools, we could have the best organ in the world, an elevator, a Greet parking, lot, could move out of this neighborhood, a great web page and Facebook, a blog, or an app, all that is built on a weak foundation of just survival.  We need a real cornerstone, we need something so solid that it will not bend, or break, or rust, it can not be stolen, and that  it is Jesus radical life changing love.  Love that compels us to share it wherever and with whomever we have a relationship.

 

That’s at the heart of the Reformation; that is what makes us Lutheran Christians, not the songs we sing, not the language we speak, but the gospel, the good news that Jesus is Lord, and Jesus gives us freely the love, the forgiveness of God.  If that good news could repair the church, change the whole church in Europe, for hundreds of years, it can repair us, and build us up, it can build us into a church that can overcome evil, we can be the church in an age of indifference, and violence, we can be the church in society of haves and have nots, the church in a world of pain, looking for pleasure, we can be people of peace.  Through prayer, through listening to God, though following Jesus, reading and studying the bible together, though worshipping together, coming together to set this time and space apart we declare it! we are declared holy, God gives us all so many tools, so together let us build the church.  Amen

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Sermon for Easter 5

 

You are what you eat. Well, this was probably more true to the people of Peter and Paul’s day than it is for us. I don’t know about you, but when I read about a sheet full of food animals floating down from heaven, I’m thanking God for delivery.

That wasn’t the case for the first followers of Jesus. You see they were Jewish, Jesus was a Jew, Peter was a Jew, Paul was a Jew. And one of the things about Jews is that they didn’t eat certain things. Now it wasn’t just a custom, like most of us tend not eat horse in this country. No, what Jews did and didn’t eat was decided by God. It ‘s part of the commandments, the laws of their faith, that Jews do not eat anything from pigs, no pork and no bacon. And that’s just one of a great very many animals that the people of God we forbidden by God to eat.

But it’s more than just a restricted diet. It defined who they were, with whom they ate, and with whom they didn’t. So, it wasn’t like they just skipped that particular part of the first century Middle East buffet table. The point was to actually make the Jewish people, God’s chosen people different, the laws were meant to make them distinct and stick out from their neighbors. They were to be ritually, clean, holy. While everybody else wasn’t. This was God’s commands. What they ate and what they didn’t defined their faith, defined who they were, kept them, the chosen people of God, separate and holy. So you were holy or not depending on how you followed God’s laws, and a big part of that was what you didn’t eat.You literally were what you ate.

And the Jews were not be like everyone else. Everyone else was doing it, was not a value, carried no importance for God’s Chosen People.

Everybody’s doing it, didn’t work with my parents either. But we tried it. When we wanted to do something, like were blue jeans to school or go to the dance on Friday night, we’d remind our parents that well, “everybody else is doing it”. My parents had their own phrase, they had their own comeback, do you know what it is? “We’ll, we’re not like everyone else”.

As I was growing up, that message was crystal clear. It was shared with us in the Winzer household in so many different ways, even if my parents didn’t use those exact words. The message was clear: we’re German, we’re bette than that, we’re better than them, Germans are superior. Driving into the cities of Allentown or Philadelphia, going through the neighborhoods, my parents didn’t keep their judgmental, prejudiced, and bigoted comments to themselves. They freely degraded the African Americans and the Latino family’s we saw. Of course, my parents didn’t actually call them African Americans, Latino’s or even Puerto Rican’s. It wasn’t till I went to college that I learned that Puerto Rico is not a foreign country, but a territory of the United States.

In so many ways, big and little, conscious and unconscious, I was told that I and my family, that people like me were better, we’re superior, more intelligent and that meant there was something wrong with people who were poor, or who looked different, who spoke differently, ate differently than me.

One day, years later when my parents were visiting my husband Brad and I early in our marriage living in Chicago we went shopping at a local grocery. This was something we did with a bit of fear and trembling because my father in particular didn’t keep his thoughts to himself but spoke his mind out loud. So we’re walking down the aisles, and he’s making comments about all the “ethnic” food until he sees his favorites, tripe, souce , head cheese, whatever right there next to the pigs feet and the chitlins. It was as if a sheet from heaven came down, and on it were not just these foreign things but his favorites as well. Here he was and he was as ethnic as those of whom he was just laughing at. He wasn’t the norm, he wasn’t special. He was the same as everybody else.

When it comes down to it, that’s one if the things we read in these verses. God wants all God’s children at the heavenly picnic blanket, around the table. The Holy Spirit was going even out to the Gentiles, among the unclean. And what’s really radical is that all these other people didn’t need to change, didn’t need to become like the Jewish Christians, didn’t need to eat, didn’t need to change who they were, they didn’t need to hinder the Spirit.

We too can ask ourselves as individuals as a church, who are we to hinder God’s Holy Spirit. Because God’s Holy Spirit is moving, in this place, and among us, God is calling for us all to make room around all our tables, whether it’s at this table of Holy Communion (our worship table), whether it’s downstairs at the Lao New Year Party, our fellowship tables, around our bible study, our council, and committee tables we are to be asking, checking ourselves, are we hindering God? Because this church isn’t here because of you, it isn’t here because of me or some church program. The Holy Spirit is here. The Holy Spirit is in our neighborhood, in our lives. The Holy Spirit is calling us to be the church right here. So, if as a church we ask only one question,it needs to be, who are we to be hindering God?

Now, I’d like to be able to tell you that my dad’s heart softened, that his eyes were opened. But in this life, I didn’t see that. However our faith tells us, and I believe that God can do great things. I believe that even my father’s prejudice and bigotry could not ultimately hinder the Holy Spirit. My belief, my hope is that in the new life pictured for us by John, from the reading from the book of Revelation that my father is gathered together and is standing before the throne of God, around the table of the feast of the Lamb that has no end, and he is rejoicing that next to him are all God’s children. That my father Donald Paul is with those he loved well, in this life, and most I importantly with those he did not, all joined together in the forgiveness, the love, the grace of God in Christ. Amen.

Sermon for Easter 6, May 13, 2012

First of all, it’s good to be back.  I haven’t posted in a while.

Secondly, this is basically my sermon from yesterday.  I sometimes, add, change, delete, etc. during the oral event of sermonizing.

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photo by Ramsey everydaypants, creative commons

It’s Mother’s Day today, right, so I get to say something about myself, right. Well, I’m not going to talk about being a mother except to say that my kids can tell you.  They’ve heard this hundreds of times.

I liked to go to school.  As a kid, I really did.  I didn’t like these next few weeks as school was about to end, and I couldn’t wait for September to come.  I had some friends I wanted to see, but besides that I actually enjoyed my classes, well most of them—math wasn’t that great but. Anyway.

I even enjoyed gym class—with one exception.  It wasn’t swimming, or wrestling, or gymnastics –it was picking teams.

First of all, I dreaded being ever chosen “team” captian.  Some folks would have relished and sought out that power.  But not me; nope if you’ve ever been with me while I’m fretting over a menu at a restaurant, or even standing at the counter at say McDonald’s or Taco Bell—I can’t make up my mind.  It’s tough to make that choice.

Now just imagine, there I am faced with other students—some friends, some maybe not so much.  But there I am, and I know what’s like to not be chosen, I know how it feels to if not be last, to be pretty close.

So, the one time I was chosen to make the choices—well let me tell you that team wasn’t going to win any championships.  I didn’t base my calculations on the hopes of winning.  I went the opposite route.

That’s the way it was even when I wasn’t captain.  I still stressed, not because I wanted to get picked first (ok that would be nice), but not also because I wanted to be on the winning team.  No, I wanted to be on the team that would get me playing the most.  That’s what I wanted the most, I wanted to be where the action was, and to get my hands on the ball.  Winning, who cares it’s jr high or high school.  I wanted to play!

I think that’s why I really like the words of Jesus we heard this morning from John’s Gospel – words that are for some of us—well pretty familiar.

Jesus is talking about love, and it’s not like we haven’t heard this before.  It seems like all he’s been doing, and all that we’ve heard from the other passages is love, love, love.  Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining.

I know how we work; I know how our brains work; I know what it’s like to live in the real world.  We need to hear something often and in several different voices or different methods for it to actually begin or have any chance of sinking in, and getting stuck in our hearts, and actually sticking in our heads, our mouths, our hands.

So yeah Jesus loves everybody, absolutely, unequivocally everybody.  There’s no stopping this love; we don’t have to ask for it, earn it.  It’s definitely not about winning it.  It’s a forever deal for everyone.  And I’m talking each and every one of us—whether we sit in a Lutheran pew, a Roman Catholic, or a Mormom, or kneel for prayers as a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or even say there is no such thing as God as atheists do; it doesn’t matter—God still loves each and everyone of God’s children.

The thing about these words of Jesus today, is that there’s something else going on.  And it has to do with Jesus calling his disciples (his followers) friends.  And unlike Facebook, this status of friendship comes with real meaning.  Jesus is asking us to be mere aquaintences.

What is a friend?  What’s a friend do?

The thing about us being Jesus’ friends is that it’s not based upon what we like.  In our world, we like to make friends with—well folks who are like us—share the same work, or interests, who talk, eat, dress, same political, or cultural, societal views, how live, look like us—we base our friendships on commonalities—right—that’s how the world does it, and well Jesus is doing something different than how the world works.

But Jesus is choosing us as Friends not based upon how similar we are whether we are like one another.  No, Jesus chooses us to not just be friends with some benefits, but friends with responsibilities.  We are being chosen to be on the Jesus team.  What that’s all about—the point of the team—is to accomplish something—to work, do, play together towards a goal.

And again unlike the world the goal is not necessarily for us to win.  We don’t have to worry about winning.  Jesus has done that in the cross and resurrection.  The decision has been made, for the power of Jesus life over the forces of death.  So as a team we’ve got a different goal and that my friends is to simply play.

God is calling each of us as God’s beloved child, calling us together to be on the Jesus team to get that love that we talk about so much in here, to get that love we taste, see, feel, we learn about we, practice, we sing about to get that love we share in here—to get it out there—wherever we live as individuals, but teams play together and this is where we are together—so it’s most certainly our purpose, our mission to do that love thing out there.

Now of course, no team is good if one person is handling the ball all the time—hogging it.  We have to always be checking, are we dropping the ball, are we equipping everyone to be part of the team.  And here me now, everyone is part of the team.  Maybe you just physically can not get out there, but everyone (no excuses) can welcome warmly, you can exercise these muscles –these mouth ones to smile, you can use your ears to listen openly, you can support the team in all sorts of ways—with the words you say, the offerings you give, and most importantly the fervent and strong prayers you say.

As I said we are loved, there’s no doubt about that.  God loves us so much, that Jesus is choosing us to be on his team—the church—not to just come here occasionally, but to be in this relationship, to exercise all of our gifts, our talents, our mad skills—to be God’s church in here and out there.  And you know what it is hard work, but it is fun; it’s all about God’s joy—So hey, let’s play!  Amen.