Text: Sixth Sunday of Easter sermon For May 17 Don’t Fear What They Fear
The points of this sermon besides “History repeats itself” 1. A review of where the Easter Season has brought us 2. Since the resurrection, do you live the faith
The Easter Season has established the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ and the command to forgive. It then addressed the character of Jesus as the good Shepherd who will not lose his flock. Then came Stephen, the first martyr of the faith. This last was just in case you thought the purpose of Christianity was fun and giggles. There are people to be saved by your witness to the salvation in Jesus.
That is where we begin the first lesson. Paul’s great speech at the Areopagus to the Athenians. Thinking people look for the deeper meaning and purpose of life. They usually turn to a religion. The question becomes, what is the right religion? Now Paul does not attack the Athenian’s traditional religion, but uses it as a starting point with the directive to start your commitment to faith in the God who made heaven and earth. Paul is being very Hebraic. The Hebrews hold that God does not abandon us to history, but takes part in it. It is the very historical time where the Romans were very adept at recording history. That’s essential in making an effective government. There are records of the crucifixion of Jesus in non-biblical sources. This God is involved in history
Talk about history; There is great talk that this COVID-19 stuff is a new, different, and historical. It is said that these are unprecedented time. People feel fearful about their lives, their future, their plans.
Now is the time to take history and Christianity seriously. Are you in the hands of the Good Shepherd (remember two weeks ago?) or not? Is the God who went to death on our behalf to take away our sins and join us to his present and eternal purpose just going to abandon us?
St. Peter deals with this directly in our second lesson. The Christians are being manhandled and mistreated by the Romans and neighbor Hebrews. They wonder why are they being virtuous in following Jesus when all they get for it is to be persecuted and beaten!
They are afraid like humans frequently are when their world falls apart. So I ask, “Is your world falling apart?”
It is the same question to be asked in any age. It must be asked. The problem is that when times have been peaceful or bountiful the question is brushed aside because minds are set on more luxuries and progress. When the times are bad, many will turn to fear. Are you afraid? Or do you heed the inspired words of St. Peter; …In your hearts sanctify Jesus Christ as LORD. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you and accounting for the hope that is in you.” What is the hope that is in you?
Here I may be seen as being heartless or mean. Though the purpose is to get to the heart of the Christian life and proclamation. What is the hope that is in you? Is it that the coronavirus will not strike where we live? Or is my hope that whatever happens we will testify Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen from the dead!
I hope you are not swayed by the crowd and follow like sheep the fears of this generation.
What happened 100 years ago? There was the influenza epidemic that spread across the world (maybe not as fast as the Coronavirus, They did not have airline travel like we have had so that we can be much more efficient in spreading disease (be aware and careful about what technologies can bring)) Epidemic of 1917 killed 37 million followed by the Spanish flu in 1918 where 50 million died. No vaccines, no cures, families wiped out. That was 100 years ago. And what happened after that? Then came the roaring twenties. The economy became roaring back. People wanted to make a killing in the stock market. Will history repeat itself?
Wow, what do we want? Are we much different from 100 years ago? Peter and Paul set out a better path. Be aware and willing to defend your faith. May it not be dependent upon how well things are going. “Don’t fear what they fear,” says Peter. “Understand the hope that is in you.”
What is that hope? It is the risen Christ. It is the God who does not forsake you even when we are killing him. And Jesus said in our Gospel, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” And you are not alone. Again, Jesus says “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate….you know him because he abides in you.” The Holy Spirit, God, is IN YOU. Do not fear what they fear. “I will not leave you orphaned. I am coming to you.”
So now I ask you for a moment of faith. If we are thoughtful and careful about how we personally handle this current health issue, don’t you think God will placing arms around us. God loves you. Now live the faith. Do not let the voices of fear turn your attention away from keeping his commandments and making an account of the hope that is in you. You are saved by grace through faith. Amen.
Text: Fifth Sunday of Easter sermon For May 10 Seeing Father on Mother’s Day
The two points of this sermon 1. The move from verifying the resurrection to who is Jesus. 2. A powerful example of our new way of dealing with the world because of the resurrection.
First, a little review: The last four weeks have been about the resurrection of Jesus following crucifixion and getting the disciples to believe it. It starts with the women going to the tomb, finding it empty, an angel announces Jesus is risen and then they meet Jesus. Three weeks ago it was that same Easter day with the disciples hiding and Jesus appearing in their midst. Then Thomas, the twin, who was not there did not believe and wanted physical proof that Jesus has risen and that some imitator or look-alike wasn’t playing a prank on them. Thomas gets to see the real Jesus, put his fingers in the nail marks and his hand on Jesus’ side where Jesus was speared. Two weeks ago, it was another group not in Jerusalem meeting a stranger who explains the Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah, then, at the breaking of bread, their eyes are “opened” and they recognize the stranger to be Jesus. Last week it is the character of Jesus, the resurrected one. Is he awesome powerful person who commands your complete obedience? No he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for us. Belief in any other savior or salvation is perilous and futile.
Today’s first lesson shows how the resurrection is to change us.
Here is a look at what could be a modern way of living life. There was a person I talked to who was really fun, intelligent, strong and would go out of her way to help others. A religious discussion ensued. It got to the point of her saying that if anyone hurt her child she could not forgive. The discussion went further. She said that the death of the one who hurt her child would be warranted.
Is that the normal position of a mama bear? Ever watch on the nature channels what a mama bear does. If anything, or anyone comes between her and her cubs, she turns into a fierce, aggressive attacker of anything that would hurt her offspring.
CS Lewis, the author of the “Chronicles of Narnia” wrote about watch a mom go into tigress mode when defending the brood. So this seems to be the “normal” and even accepted way of human behavior.
Now I don’t want to complicate that with Mother’s Day where the highest notions of caring for the children of the world would follow last week’s Gospel of Jesus being the good shepherd. He positions himself between the wrath of the Father against sin and the lost sinner. In this case Jesus is not attacking, but defending.
Our first lesson is about the first Christian martyr, Stephen. As you may be aware, this is the first book of the New Testament after the Gospels. The Gospels are about Jesus, his ministry, his teachings, his purpose and his identity. The Acts of the Apostles is about the start of the Christian church. You know, that living body of Christ that has you watching a You tube video right now. This is the same Stephen who we commemorate of Dec. 26. Here’s the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslaus looked out, on the feast of Stephen, when the snow lay on the ground, clean and fresh and even”. Today, in the season of Easter we are proclaiming his death.
The connection is: Christianity is dangerous to your health if you think this religion is all about safety and happiness. Christianity is about learning and doing the will of God. That flies right into the face most human action. The church has found it fitting to place Stephen at Christmas time and Easter.
And what happens? Stephen gets murdered. It is not a quick dispatching, it is by stoning, a slow, methodical and torturous process. First, why is he being stoned? One has to read the sixty-two verses before today’s first lesson. Acts 6:8 through Acts 7:54. Stephen is describing the actions of the Hebrews and the prophesies about the Messiah and placing the death of Jesus before the High Priest. Does this remind you of the Gospel two weeks ago? Jesus explaining the same things to the two men on the road to Emmaus. The point is being re-emphasized: Know your Biblical history, the plan of God and your roll in it. Stephen’s reward for telling the good news of the Savior is to be stoned to death.
Stoning is slow and painful. One rock after another hits various places on the body, bruise after bruise begins to cover the flesh. It you are “lucky” a rock hits the head (which is wrapped in a skull to protect the brain, which makes the suffering last longer) and knock the person out so that the stoning can continue without sensation, but usually folks are not that fortunate.
Stephen has proclaimed that he has seen Jesus, standing at the right hand of God. That is a sight to behold. This enrages the crowd. Stephen has to die.
Now Stephen, under the barrage kneels down and says, “Lord to not hold this sin against them.” This was done by religious folks, protecting their religion.
The Gospel presents another aspect to our Christian life. Like the second Sunday of Easter Thomas displays an vital characteristic. Again Thomas shows his total self honesty, Like three weeks ago when he says, “I won’t believe unless I put my fingers in the holes where the nails went into Jesus,” today he does what we would never dare to say in front of others in middle school. “Teacher, I don’t know the answer.” In this case, he says, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going.”
Like the woman who honestly confessed she would kill the person who would hurt her child. Thomas is honestly confessing, I have no idea what your talking about.
This is met with Stephen’s total honesty about Christianity. While you are killing me, God, don’t hold this sin against them
Is anything more plain than that. When the Holy Spirit works through us and the life of Jesus is our life, we plead for souls of those who wound us because we want them to be saved.
Compare that with the real frustration of doctors who are saying, Stay home, Don’t let the virus spread and those whose real frustration is let us live and walk outside. How do you feel about those who take the opposite position? In Stephen’s case it is the extreme. The sinful normal is expressed in “We hate you and want you to die.” And Stephen says, “forgive them.”
This is Christianity. Forgive us our sins, we ask God, as we forgive those who sin against us. Remember the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Jesus’ first lesson to his disciples is “If you forgive the sins of others, they are forgiven….”
I don’t mean to be anti-progress, but in Christianity, real progress is forgiving others, even those who mean to hurt us.
Do you remember the last line of last weeks Gospel, Jesus said, I am the gate, whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture…. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” So is this what you see as having an abundant life: to forgive others?
Your sins are forgiven in Christ. The new Christian normal is to forgive.
Text: Fourth Sunday of Easter sermon For May 3 The Good Shepherd The two points of this sermon
1. The move from verifying the resurrection to who is Jesus. 2. What does this move mean for us.
First, a little review: The last three weeks have been about the resurrection of Jesus following crucifixion and getting the disciples to believe it. It starts with the women going to the tomb, finding it empty, an angel announces Jesus is risen and then they meet Jesus. Two weeks ago it was that same Easter day with the disciples hiding and Jesus appearing in their midst. Then Thomas, the twin, who was not there did not believe and wanted physical proof that Jesus has risen and that some imitator or look-alike wasn’t playing a prank on them. Thomas gets to see the real Jesus, put his fingers in the nail marks and his hand on Jesus’ side where Jesus was speared. Last week it was another group, not in Jerusalem meeting a stranger who explains the Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah, then, at the breaking of bread, their eyes are “opened” and they recognize the stranger to be Jesus.
So Jesus is risen from the dead. He is the savior. Do you need any more proof? I had a seminary professor, Dr. Ben Johnson, who told us that if we really needed proof in order to believe, God would provide it. One year a student challenged him saying that he never had enough evidence to believe. This student had a hard time believing in Jesus and the resurrection. (Amazing, don’t you think that a person wanting to be pastor, a Lutheran pastor, would not believe in the resurrected Jesus! It does happen. Just make sure that the pastor who is leading the flock is a true believer or else you will get his or her opinion and not the Word of God. The church is in crisis because there are leaders who are not leading to Christ.)
Okay, back to the story. Dr. Johnson asked the student, “Are you sure you never had an experience that would lead you to believe?” The student said, “No.” then he paused and continued. “Well, there was this one time, I was in my room, I was lying on the bed and Jesus walked out of the closet, walked over to the bed, looked down at me lying there, He just shook his head, made a “tsk, tsk,” sound, turned around and went back into the closet. The student went on, “I knew it wasn’t a dream, I was awake, but I figured I had just imagined it because I had just eaten pizza and was full….”
Wow. Dr. Johnson said, what more could Jesus do? Jesus could only shake his head and go “tsk,tsk” There are some who won’t believe, no matter what, no matter how many eye witness accounts we hear in the Gospels.
We have had three weeks of eye witnesses. Jesus is risen.
So what difference does it make, especially when you remember today’s Gospel.
At the moment, the image that comes to mind is that of the Harry Potter movies. If you are familiar with them at all, the evil character is Lord Voldemort. He is totally self absorbed, evil and treacherous. He is the most powerful wizard, seeking the most powerful wand and doing things to make himself immortal.
The main message is that with the power over death, people can turn evil, because nothing can stop them. If you don’t like that example of Voldemort, look to the story of Faust or the Portrait of Dorian Grey, or Guardians of the Galaxy. The characters of Faust, Dorian Gray, Thanos, Ego, Ronin, all of them are immortals or have a protection against death and all of them are BAAAD characters.
Who is to say that this Jesus, who has conquered death will not be an immortal Hitler or Stalin or any other tyrannical figure?
Notice how this resurrection predates all of those examples.
If you had great power and nothing could stop you, what would you command, Coronavirus or no Coronavirus? Upon your command all the stores will open, not one will be required to wear a mask. Or would you command them to be closed, everyone keep a six to ten feet buffer zone so not one would come down with this bad virus?
So we go to John 10:1-10. I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. The good shepherd goes ahead of them. And sheep follow him.
Do you know that since your baptism you have been in the hands of the Good Shepherd? He keeps you safe. He opens and closes the gates. Those know him follow his voice and listen to his voice.
Are you afraid? Whose voice have you been listening to? Have you spent more time with television than with the Bible. Who will protect you? Wolf (my that’s an unfortunate name for the sheep, isn’t it) or Trump. But if you listen to Jesus,confide in Jesus, follow the Good Shepherd then you will come and go out and find pasture.
Personally, and you know I do this every fourth Sunday of Easter, because the fourth Sunday of Easter has been Good Shepherd Sunday for generations. My sister Sharon was baptized the fourth Sunday of Easter in 1949, My brother Paul was baptized the fourth Sunday of Easter in 1951, I was baptized the fourth Sunday of Easter in 1954 because my mommy wanted Sharon, Paul and David to know that they were held and will forever be held in the loving arms of the Good Shepherd.
For you wise guys out there who say, what about your sister Judith? She was Born in October, so she got baptized at Christmas in 1952. She should know she was a gift from God and she is also in the hands of Jesus.
He is risen. His power is infinite, his love unstoppable. Jesus has destroyed the power of death. You and your beloved who are baptized are safe in God’s arms, coronavirus or no coronavirus. Now read John 10:1-10 again. Listen to how there are folks who are trying to come into the kingdom another way. They are thieves and bandits who come to steal and kill and destroy. Don’t listen to them. “I am the gate, whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture…. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Amen.
Text: Third Sunday of Easter sermon For April 26 The New Normal
The two points of this sermon What is going on with us. What does this story of the road to Emmaus have to do with us?
First, what is going on with us? It is the New Normal, right?!
We hear that a lot if we listen to the news. How are things going to change. Of course you think this is about the change in society due to the coronavirus. Do you think we will ever see a face again? Or will folks forever don masks for fear of the the viruses.
So how is your life? We are behind closed doors. You may have seen the end of the door to door salesman. Maybe not.
Hey pastor, what does this have to do with the Bible? Or more pointedly, what does all this have to do with the lessons for the third Sunday of Easter? I can imagine lots of folks out there who have opened up this internet download to hear some religious insight, when all this guy with the clergy shirt and glasses is doing is just talking about the coronavirus stuff.
In some ways everything we do is the new normal. We are always faceing a new normal. Most of you do not work on or live on a farm. Farm life was the normal for thousands of years. Lets go back 106 years, that sure changed millions of lives, that was World War I. Millions of families lost their sons and fathers, it was one heck of a new normal and we sure didn’t want to repeat that, Oops, less than thirty years later the world did it again, World War II. Millions of families lost their sons and fathers. Wait, we already said that, but the truth is, every generation has a new normal. Wars, diseases, technologies, new inventions, all of these bring a new normal. Get used to it. Pastor, how can you be so mean? Corona virus is death for hundreds of thousands. That is bad, but it is not new. Go back a paragraph and right after the World War I was the great influenza outbreak. In the 80’s came the AIDS epidemic and the “Free Love” era of carefree open sexuality and experimentation was over. No, it wasn’t but it meant a “new normal.” Well, the new normal in today’s Bible lessons is those two guys walking the road to Emmaus. Just like last’s weeks Gospel, it involves those folks who followed Jesus and they saw Jesus killed by crucifixion. We have a problem. What do we do now? They killed Jesus, are they going to kill us? Today we wear masks for fear of the germs, they cowered for fear of the Romans or for fear of their neighbors. It was all Jewish guys who were in fear of the so called religious authorities who got Jesus killed. But this week we have a couple of guys taking about a seven and a half mile walk to go from Jerusalem to Emmaus. But what was on their mind was Jesus’ crucifixion. What do you do when your world crumbles? Their world crumbled. They had spent years following Jesus. They believed he was the messiah. Their hopes, their vision, their spiritual life was tied up with a guy who they now thought was dead. Did you ever have a dream that died suddenly? It sure means you have to make a new normal. That is exactly where we are. Are you in the same place you were two months ago; economically, socially, spiritually? So they walk down the road and a stranger asks them what they are talking about. Of course, “Haven’t you heard about Jesus and what has happened the last couple of days?”
I rarely meet people who enter into a conversation and say, “tell me more.” We are either afraid of being seen a not being up to date and unaare of the latest news. (Don’t you just love when the show you are watching is interrupted with “Breaking News?” We always a have to have the latest news.) Now when you get into a conversation like that its usually I’ll share my opinion, you share yours, we will rehash some facts. But not today. Jesus then explains scriptures, beginning with the prophets.
WOW, wouldn’t it be great if the way we dealt today’s problems is by going to the Bible and understanding the work of God. We are so illiterate when it comes to God’s word. The best way of dealing with any new normal is to build our foundation on the Word of God. And of course you know that is St. John’s description of Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God, Jesus is the Word made flesh. When we understand Jesus, we understand the way God talks to us. And what does God end up saying? God says, “I take your sins, I take death and transform it into eternal life.”
Now when do these two guys understand all this? It just might be a slow process. It takes time. It takes a hike of several hours. Even then they do not know it is Jesus talking to them.
It is okay if you don’t get it at first. It is okay if you don’t get it at first.
God is patient and loving.
When do their eyes see Jesus? In Holy Communion. Right there in verse 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened…..
Some folks tell me they don’t need a church to worship God. They are right. But you do need holy communion. You do need the living God inside you. In communion with the believers you are fed with the living God. Now these disciples are empowered to live a holy life, beyond normal
The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be yours, now and forever. Amen.
Second Sunday of Easter Second Sunday of Easter sermon Peace Be With You Just because Jesus rose from the dead, it does not mean that you are doing okay. Yes, we had the celebration, the astonishing news that the tomb is empty, the women saw Jesus, they touched him he is alive. But, according to our Gospel, the disciples are hiding in a locked house for fear that they may be next to be betrayed by their own people and crucified.
So, anything going wrong with your life at the moment?
What’s wrong with you David? Have you been living under a rock. People are in intensive care units, unable to breath. People have died, there is no stopping this virus unless we lock ourselves into our houses like the disciples and avoid social contact. And businesses are closed down. Millions are not getting paid, millions have lost their jobs and the government can’t even process the number of claims. What’s wrong with you pastor?
Don’t you just love these sermons. How many preachers are saying “have faith”? And I would say, have faith in what. Here is the center of the problem. Faith means very little. Now don’t get me wrong, don’t tune out just yet, but there are messages out there that faith is the most important thing. Again I ask, “Faith in what?” Faith in Faith? Faith that things will be better tomorrow? What do you want to have faith in.
Shame on all the churches that want you to have faith in faith. The disciples are hiding because they did not know what to do, how to handle fear of death, what they should be trusting. That is what faith is. Faith is trusting. Some believed Jesus is alive after his death, but it did not change their fear.
Bad, unsettling thing have happened. Turn on the news. We are waiting for flattening of the curve. The officials are looking at the numbers and are hoping that the number of deaths from Covid-19 will level. Do you want an obnoxious, sarcastic statement? Here it is-The rate of deaths are not climbing, so its nice that the number that died yesterday is about the same as the day before. That sound terrible, and of course the news agencies get more folks to watch and listen if they play up the bad news.
Death is real. Covid-19 brings more death. Our response is to be in hiding and avoid life. There are some good medical reasons to isolate. But that is missing the point. Again, in what do you have fair. The disciples still believed that death is inevitable and that it was coming soon. Call your neighbors, text your neighbors, communicate with the relatives. Are they afraid.
So back to the Gospel. Jesus appears in the middle of a group of frightened people. What does he say? Here are some statements we would like to hear. The virus threat is over. Everything will be okay. The stock market will rebound, your 401K and retirement plan are secure. Businesses will open. You won’t need to wear masks or gloves and there is toilet paper for all.
He says, Peace be with you. He says it again. Sometimes when a dead person talks to us it’s a little hard to be in our right mind. Peace be with you. Peace, yeah, be, be? Why be? It is an active verb. It is a working verb. It is the word that mean that peace previously mentioned is working and working in you, with you.
When you are dealing with Death we humans don’t have peace. It hurts so much that even our eyes try to wash it away with tears. Now the one who came back from the dead is bringing peace.
So what do you have faith in? We can go back to that list I mentioned a couple of minutes ago or we can trust, have faith in, the one who came back from the dead after he had taken our sins upon himself so that the creator has no judgment against us.
Jesus now does two astonishing things. After anointing them with peace twice, He sends the Holy Spirit. For you Lutherans out there, there was guy named Martin Luther who wrote Luther’s Small Catechism. In it sets out the Christian explanation of the three articles of the Apostles Creed. The last, the third article says, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” The explanation in the catechism says, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in the Lord Jesus Christ or come to him, But the Holy Spirit calls me by the Gospel, enlightens me with his gifts.” I cannot make faith, I cannot have faith, but the Holy Spirit’s job is to give me faith in Jesus.
These disciples were locked away, we are locked away, they were afraid, we are surrounded by fearful people. They were grieving, some of us are grieving.
He bestows on them the Holy Spirit, whose job is to lead us to faith in Jesus, not faith in positive thinking, not faith in a good attitude, not a faith in karma, but trust in the one who went to death for us to make us holy and give us eternal life. Now comes the second thing that Jesus does after anointing them with peace; Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins they are forgiven.” He gives us something to do. NO, not just something to do to keep us busy. He gives us the main thing that will end wars, establish peace, have us work together as a nation, a people, a neighborhood, a city- we forgive one another. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.
Instead of cowering in fear, we have life giving mission. It is life giving because it reconnects us. It dissolves sin through Jesus’ death. If we forgive, they are forgiven. Could imagine what progress could be made in Washington DC if those powerful rich politicians could bring forgiveness simply to each other? That would echo into our homes. How would your homelife be heavenly with forgiveness filling each room?
The very core of life and purpose is given by the one who just came back from the dead. No news about what it’s like, what’s on the other side. Will we see our loved ones. Not that those aren’t important questions, but our job right now is to have Faith in Jesus who bring peace, conquers death itself and set us on the most meaningful endeavor, to be agents of God’s forgiveness.
God ahead, be optimistic, be cheerful, but above all be forgiving. Your sins have been destroyed, your eternal life is set, we have a job of working together, all competition and animosity is set aside. We are not afraid. Life is opened to us all.
At the end Jesus asks, “Do you believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book But these are written so that may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God and that through believing you may have life in his name. Peace we with you.