Pastors Sermon for June 18th_ 2006 by chenboying

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									Pastor's Sermon for March 2, 2008

THE STRENGTH TO SEE

St. John 9:13ff

       In Jesus‘ day to be born blind or to go blind equaled a tough life. First of all, your
blindness was considered a punishment for sin. So while friends and neighbours may
show compassion to you at the back of their minds were always those nagging questions,
―Who sinned—you? your parents?‖ ―Why is God punishing you in this way?‖ Because
of such superstitious fear real friendship was limited. To be blind also meant a life of
poverty, that is, you lived on what you could beg: while a blind person may have had
food and a place to stay he or she would never know security. Finally a blind person,
because of this affliction, could not serve God as a priest. In short blindness resulted in a
life that was essentially lonely, uncomfortable, and limited.

       One day this blind beggar encounters a man by the name of Jesus. This Jesus,
who the blind beggar does not know from Adam, restores his sight. Wonderful? Well
maybe not as St. John tells it.

       Before he knows it, he‘s in court being interrogated about the man who healed
him. when the blind beggar finally sees that Jesus is no ordinary man but perhaps a
prophet and says as much the court responds with the words, ―You were born and
brought up in sin—and you are trying to teach us?‖ Than they eject him from the
temple. Consider the dynamics. The court condemns his whole life, summarizing his
birth and upbringing as contrary to God‘s Will. Next the court refuses to think it possible
that he could have a relevant insight or opinion. His beliefs are belittled and dismissed.
Most drastic of all he is expelled form the synagogue, this means that he is cut off
entirely from all religious and social fellowship. He is stripped of his membership in the
community; he is now an outsider to be avoided. In John‘s full account of this incident
he tells us that even the man‘ s parents refuse to come to his aid. It seems that the gift of
sight has made his life anything but easier.
       Jesus offers us the gift of sight today. The sight he offers to us his followers is
not a matter of physical ability to see but rather that of spiritual insight. The question is,

―Is spiritual blindness easier to cope with than spiritual sight?‖

       Think about how we make decisions. It is considerably easier to make them
blindly than to use insight. For example take a simple decision like buying coffee. It can
be blindly bought using only the cost of brand a over brand b. Or we can bring to mind
the injustices associated with the coffee trade, in particular, the lack of justice
experienced by many of the producers. With this picture in mind we look to buy a more
costly but more just brand marked ―Fair Trade.‖ Suddenly there‘s questions like, ―Does
this purchase contribute to further environmental trouble?‖ ―Do I really need
another.....or do I have enough?‖ Life is a whole lot less convenient once we decide to
show ethically seeing things in with a ―Jesus perspective.‖

        Furthermore the gift of sight which Our Lord gives causes us to see ourselves as
worthwhile and valuable individuals. This too is troublesome. While on internship I
worked with some young people who were involved in the drug scene. I remember one
youth man saying that he got started because all his friends were ―doing it.‖ Before I
could interrupt he added that this parents who were aware of the problem told him he
didn‘t have to be one of the crowd, to which he retorted, ―They have no idea what the
pressure is like.‖ He‘s right; the pressure to go along to get along is enormous. Spiritual
insight is about resisting peer pressure and mob mentality—easy to say, hard to do.

       Than there‘s the matter of sharing the faith. The gift of spiritual sight causes us to
see opportunities to reach out to others in order to expose them to Jesus—the love, the
forgiveness, and hope he embodies. A psychologist was hired by company here in
Edmonton to help in human resources. At one of the first meetings he attended, those
present were asked about significant things in their lives. When it was his turn he stated
that the Christian faith was extremely important to him—he saw an opportunity to speak
and took it. Spiritual blindness would not only have not seen an opportunity it would
instead see things like snickering, belittling comments being made, or heavy judgment
coming down on a religious nut. Blindness councils the comfort of inaction while insight
shows where the moves need to be made.

        When we do accept the gift of spiritual sight and the responsibility it creates
whether it is reflected in our decision making, bucking the crowd, or making a faith
statement we can anticipate that life will not be easier or smoother.

        Our story ends with the blind man alone and dejected however Jesus finds him
and reveals his identity to him. The blind man in turn believes and worships him.

        Here‘s where the story takes us too. When we live out our faith and do face some
of the difficulties this brings Jesus is present. Our faith is more vital as is our worship.

        Bottom line, seeing with the eyes of faith will not make life easier but life will be
better and fuller.




                                               AMEN




Pastor's Sermon for February 16, 2008

DEALING WITH TEMPTATION

St. Matthew 4:1-11

        ―That sure is tempting‖—we could be referring to a calorie laden dessert, an
attractive stranger across a crowed room, or a much desired item, now on sale, but still
too expensive. Generally speaking, we do have an understanding of what temptation is,
an alluring call to something we feel is wrong. However this social understanding fails to
communicate what temptation is really all about. So our question becomes, ―What is
temptation?‖ or perhaps more importantly, ―How can I, as a Christian, deal with
temptation?‖

       This morning‘s Gospel lesson, St. Matthew‘s account of our Lord‘s trial in the
wilderness, helps us with these important questions.

       So what is temptation? On one hand, temptation can be defined as a testing which
aims at or results in spiritual growth or good. It‘s St. Matthew being invited by Jesus to
leave his job as a tax collector and follow him. On the other hand temptation is any
enticement into evil. Of concern today is this second understanding. It is the being led
away from God to Satan, from good to bad, life to death. It is the thoughts, words, and
deeds that challenge the relationship God wants wit us; it the call to put our personal
desires before the laws of God and the needs of neighbour. Temptation is evil at its most
beautiful. Temptation is evil‘s siren call.

       What do we need to know about this attractive and alluring call?

       First, we need to know that no one is immune to this call. Jesus, our Lord, was
tempted. ―If you are the Son of God prove it, turn stones into bread, and let angels
protect you, worship me and receive earthly treasure and power.‖ Also temptations are
tailor made. Whatever our weakness, that is where the spotlight will shine—possessions?
Sexual misadventure? violence? drugs? ambition? approval? Don‘t be surprised by the
fact you are tempted or that the temptation is so personally attractive.

       Next, remember that sin and temptation are not the same thing. It is possible, as
Sour Lord‘s experience demonstrates, to be tempted but not to sin. Temptation is the bait
and sin is the hook. Sin requires action—a thought, word, or deed must occur for sin to
become real. Temptation exists as invitation only. It is equally important to remember
that because of these vast differences that we need not feel guilt, every time we are
tempted. Guilt is rooted in sin not temptation to sin.
       Third, we need to remember who the source of temptation is and what his intent
is. It is a mistake to suggest that anything other than Satan or the forces of evil are the
power behind temptation. The intent is to sever our relationship with God so destroy us
body and soul. This destruction includes guilt, loneliness, fear, judgmentally, hatred,
self-loathing, and finally a despair that blinds. For me to be any softer would for me to
do you a disservice.

       In a nut shell, temptation—no one is immune; it is not the same as sin; and as a
creation of evil, is bent on our destruction.

       How ought we to respond?

       Jesus shows us by example we can resist, we do in fact have a choice and have
help in making the faithful choice. Jesus, when confronted by the tempter, simply relies
on the Word of God found in Scriptures. Twice He begins, ―It is written...‖ There‘s
appeal to the resources of our faith. When confronted by a temptation, whose first
appearance is generally small, bordering on the inconsequential, we can pause long
enough to ask, ―What does the Bible teach bout such a thing? Is it compatible with my
faith? We can pray –even a simple prayer like, ―God help me.‖ We can ask a friend to
pray with us or we just run the matter by a Christian friend. Bring our Baptism to mind is
another method—remembering who we belong to0 provides strength to resist. We can
wear a cross and touch it when we are feeling weak. We have evidence that no
temptation is irresistible and we have help to resist. There is no such thing as an
irresistible temptation.

       But what happens when we forget to ask for help or refuse it and so succumb and
commit the sin? The teenager steals the CD; the adult utters the life‘, and the senior turns
away from the desperate friend? Has evil won? Of course not. Our Lord is not just a
good example of how evil can be resisted He is victorious over evil and willingly shares
his victory with us. The Power of sin and its consequences are totally eradicated when
we accept the gift of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the freedom to try again—the one more
chance. Remember God is stronger than we are and his ability to forgive is greater than
our ability to sin. Evil wins not by our failure to resist temptation, it is not victorious
when we sin, no, it is only victorious when we refuse to confess and accept the gift of
forgiveness.

          Temptation will constantly come our way. Our Lord offers us help to resist and
should we fail and fall into sin He is ready to forgive. Lent calls us to reflect on such
things.




AMEN




Pastor's Sermon for February 2, 2008

WORSHIP AS TRANSFIGURATION

St. Matthew 17:1-9

          They gathered at the Transfiguration and we gather for worship—the parallels are
striking.

          Where did the Transfiguration occur? While debate continues over the exact
geographical location, Mt. Tabor or Mt. Hermon there is no debate that it occurred at a
place removed from the ordinary events of every day life. It did not occur in a busy
market place or in a crowded house but on a mountain top. Where does our worship take
place? Also away from the ordinary events of everyday life. A phone call from the boss
won‘t come. Cooking and cleaning are on hold. Even the TV and radio with their hectic
messages are silent. For an hour you and I are on our mountain with the hustle and bustle
of the village left behind.

       Next consider who is there with Jesus. Three fishermen, now on study leave.
They are ordinary people who have responded to Christ‘s call to follow him. Now look
who‘s here at worship with us. Business people, homemakers, retired people, educators,
executives, unemployed, and a vast variety of others. I was a banker and later a railway
worker. We too are ordinary people who have heard Our Lord‘s call and now follow him
as our presence at worship testifies.

       The stage is the same, what about the action?

        At the moment of Transfiguration Jesus‘ full identity is revealed. One of my
favorite plots involves unknown power or authority of an individual being revealed at a
crucial moment. One real life incident of this involved a man by the name of Brubaker.
He found himself a prisoner in a corrupt and brutal prison in the Deep South. Guards
stole food and clothing meant for the inmates and cruelly beat them. One evening a
prisoner grabbed a guard and was going to kill him—a shiv at his throat. Brubaker
stepped up and shouted, ―You don‘t have to do that there‘s going to be big changes
here.‖ When challenged to what he meant he replied, ―I‘m the new warden.‖ And he
was, he had gone undercover to see what was really going on inside his prison. On a
much grander scale that occurred on that mountainside. The disciples knew Jesus as a
man. They knew he had grown up in Nazareth and that he was trained by his father to be
a carpenter. They also knew he had put aside the family business in order to become a
traveling teacher and healer. Today they receive an awesome insight. Matthew says,
―His face shone like the sun and his garments became as white as light.‖—the brilliance
of a flash unit accidentally going off in our face. Than the celestial proclamation, ―This
is my son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.‖ Light and sound announce his
true identity, Jesus is not only a man He is also God. During this time that same amazing
statement is made—Jesus is a man who understands us first hand and He is also God the
author of life and forgiveness and hope. He is revealed in word, Baptism and Holy
Communion. This is sacred space.

       The Transfiguration takes ordinary time and makes it extraordinary. The presence
of Moses and Elijah with Jesus lifted the boundaries established by time and space. The
proclamation of he Gospel, the administration of Holy Baptism and the celebration of
Holy Communion do the same for us. These events are timeless and join us not
justwithot her Christians all over the world they join us to Christians long dead and those
not yet born. I remember my mother telling me that my dad had received communion
beside her—what made the statement noteworthy was the fact that he had died a year
earlier. Her feeling was not wishful thinking. Worship lifts us beyond the mundane.
Time has been compared to a river following by—if that is so, than worship is us
climbing onto the bank, now able to watch it swirl by. This is sacred time.

       After this awe-inspiring, experience Jesus leads the disciples back down the
mountain into the business of life in the world. Upon arriving back into the hustle and
bustle they must deal withal pressing question regarding the prophet Elijah. Next they
encounter a particularly virulent demon which only Jesus can cast out. Finally the cross
is visible on the horizon. They face these trying events strengthened by the
Transfiguration. For you and me the hour of worship ends. We too must leave this
refuge and re-enter the world out there. Perhaps immediately upon leaving we will have
to wrestle with some important or difficult question. It is possible that we will face some
personally demanding problem. And always there is the last cross on the horizon—the
car accident on the way home or pneumonia fifty years down the road. But we have
shared in worship—climbed the mountain, experienced the Transfiguration and know
that we live in God‘s presence. Nothing can overshadow this truth.

                                                     AMEN
Pastor's Sermon for February 2, 2008

MESSAGE IN A MANGER

St. Luke 2:1-14

                And she gave birth to her first born son

                and wrapped him in swaddling clothes

                and laid him in a manger because there

                was no room in the inn. Vs. 7

We slip back through time, look into a cave were animals are kept and see a baby bound
in a square cut cloth lying in a feeding trough and are told, ―Behold, God has stepped into
human history as one of us.‖ And we turn might wonder what this may mean for life
today.

         He was a friend, a parishioner, and later on, an incident from his life, an important
sermon illustration. It is a matter of public record that as a result of drunken recklessness
he would wind up in prison. What was never reported was his fear about coming back to
church. He said, ―When I walked through those doors all I could was ‗will they accept
me?‘‖ Later, at another congregation, a member there referring to this incident I had
mentioned in a sermon said, ―I know exactly how he felt, I‘ve wondered the same thing,
will they accept me?‖ Fortunately both these men did in deed find acceptance in their
congregations. But the question behind the question always is, ―Does God really accept
me?‖

         ―Were you born in a barn?‖ Have you ever been asked that one? Particularly by
an angry parent who has found the front or back door open? The implication being,
closed doors keep in heat and keep strangers out. Further we are expected to make sure
said doors are kept shut. Our Lord‘s response to that question is ―Yes.‖ The implication
is that the door, if there was one, is open—a sign that all are welcome. Than shepherds
found that welcome, today we do. To any one who has wondered, ―Does God accept
me?‖ the answer is always ―Yes, you are accepted by God and welcome here.‖

       What are you afraid of? Public speaking continues to come before death in the
fear department which also includes, failure, any threat to personal or economic well
being, abandonment and rejection and perhaps ―things that go bump in the night.‖ Now
there‘s healthy and unhealthy ways to respond to our fears. In the unhealthy camp there‘s
denial—I‘m not afraid of anything; hostility—go ahead and leave, I don‘t need you; and
projection—―you‘re chicken, aren‘t you?‖ The healthy response begins by identifying
and naming our fears, planning responses, and getting help. Fear and responding to it are
part of life. The good news is that fear doesn‘t need to be part of our spiritual life.
Consider that God Almighty, creator of all that is, sustainer of life here and the life to
come became also a human baby born into a poor family. Now babies are amazing,
demanding, and overwhelming but they are not terrifying. See God as a newborn and
don‘t be afraid.

       I am told that there are barns in Canada with the environment so controlled and
contained that should you visit you must put on protective clothing so as not to bring in
any contaminants. This is not the case that night. Jesus was in a feed trough most likely
set up in a cave near an inn. Forget any romantic notions based on ornamental crèches
you have seen. It was dark, dirty, and it stank. A first century stable was a place you
would not want to enter let alone spend time in. Yet Jesus is right there—why? The
answer is both profound and simple—it is graphic proof that the love of God will go
anywhere. You and I can never go so low, be gone so long, or hurt so much that we are
beyond where God‘s love will go. We matter that much to God.

       That‘s the message in the manger now for that message to have impact; we need
to share it with the world around us. Tear down walls and the signs that say ―Not
welcome, not acceptable.‖ Stand with those who are afraid. Make sure that strangers
around us feel like they matter. The manger changes everything.
                                              MERRY CHRISTMAS




Pastor's Sermon for December 16, 2007

AN ANSWER TO PONDER

St. Matthew 11:2-11

       Have you ever wanted to ask a question but didn‘t? What gets in the way?
Sometimes we consider the question too personal or the answer potentially too
embarrassing. Sometimes it‘s because we believe that we already ought to know the
answer. Sometimes it‘s a matter of fear—afraid we won‘t like the answer. So for what
ever reason we don‘t ask and the question lingers but sometimes we catch a break and
someone else asks our question for us. In today‘s Gospel lesson we catch such a break.
John the Baptist asks a hard question that perhaps we‘ve pondered but, for whatever
reason didn‘t ask.

       Last Sunday you the strange prophet who lived in the wilderness of Judea. He
preached charismatic sermons demanding repentance in mind and deed along with dire
warnings. Today we find that fiery preacher in much different circumstances. He is in a
cell in the fortress person of Machareus, east of the Dead Sea. He had bitterly attacked
the royal family over their immoral and corrupt lifestyle and now was completely out of
circulation with death being a real possibility. A man use to roaming wild is now
confined to a hole underground, his life in the balance.

       Not only is he suffering physically he is sick in spirit. John had some very set
expectations about the Promised One. He believed that the Messiah would be a harsh
judge who destroys his enemies. A judge who would make everyone obey the law or
else. A judge who rewarded the good and crushed the bad, using deeds as a measuring
stick. Instead Jesus comes and He comes preaching and teaching something entirely
different. Instead of punishment He offers love and forgiveness. Instead of demanding
good deeds He asks that people trust God and care for their neighbours. Love trumps
fear in his kingdom. John‘s upset turns to doubt, and the doubt to disillusionment. Jesus
just isn‘t who he expected, more accurately Jesus just doesn‘t do what John had hoped
for.

       Can you identify with the Baptist? Life takes a turn for the worse—our job is
threatened, our home life is in crisis, or our health fails. We turn to Jesus wanting him to
set it right or at least provide a cushion. But our situation continues to deteriorate—we
loose our job, home life break down, we get sicker. Than comes the hard, if not terrifying
question, the one we might want to ask but don‘t; the one that John the Baptist asks for us
all at such times, ―Are you the One who is to come, or are we to wait for another? Does
my Faith in Jesus make any real difference?‖

       Jesus‘ reply to the Baptist‘s question and to ours is challenging. He doesn‘t give a
simple ―yes‖ or ―no‖ instead he quotes the prophet Isaiah, ―... the blind receive their
sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the
poor have good news brought to them.‖ In short Our Lord says; examine the evidence
than make up your own mind.

       So too with you and me. Every time we find ourselves disillusioned and asking
the fearful question about our Lord, our faith, and our church He tosses the ball back into
our court saying, ―Examine the evidence and make up your own mind.‖

       So out of our pain, darkness, or despair, we ask the obvious question, ―What
evidence would that be?‖

       Ex-team mates, a 50th wedding anniversary, and AA—can you identify the
common thread? It‘s shared experience. Ex-team mates remember how they made it
through the program. A couple endured life‘s ups and downs together. Members of AA
know what each other means as the pain of addiction is described. Shared experience
creates real understanding that those who haven‘t been there just don‘t have. The point
of the Incarnation—God entering the human race as a human, is just that. God
experienced our life and so really understands us up to and including horrific death.

       A marriage counselor reported that getting understanding from our spouse now
the chief reason we argue—we treasure understanding. God offers us treasure in the face
of our crisis and problems.

       Next, in the face of crisis and problems there is a tendency to withdraw from
others. Jesus offers us a healthier alternative—community. On one hand there‘s the
assurance that He will not abandon us. He comes to us as we gather for worship, in the
sacraments, and in quiet times of prayer. On the other hand, He brings us into his body
the church. Here, when we share our problems and hurts we encounter sympathy if not
understanding and often camaraderie as others share stories of similar trials. Being in
community reduces the power of our troubles.

       Jesus‘ resurrection also frees us to expect the unexpected and so to recognize that
change is always possible. He‘s the one whose action s shows us that pain, personal
crisis, or just the blues don‘t last forever: but we do need to be reminded of this when it
seems that way. To put it another way, without Faith troubles last forever and the future
is governed by despair. With Faith troubles have a limited life span because the future is
governed by hope.

       ―Is He the One or should we look for another?‖ It‘s never just ―yes‖ or ―no.‖
Instead we are invited to examine the evidence and make up our own mind. What is the
evidence today—understanding, community, and hope.




                                                      AMEN
Pastor's Sermon for December 9, 2007

FIRST THE BAD NEWS

St. Matthew 3:1-12

        There‘s a certain genre of humour that uses a ―good news/bad news‖ formula. It
works this way. A young boy comes home and says, ―Dad, I have some good news for
you and some bad news. Which do you want to hear first?‖ The father thinks it over for
a minute and than says, ―Well, let‘s make it the bad news.‖ So the boy says, ―I have
failed the year at school.‖ The dad, now upset asks, ―And the good news?‖ To which the
boy proudly announces, ―Of all them that failed, I got the highest grades.‖ Today‘s
Gospel lesson follows this format, except it‘s no joke.

        Our Gospel lesson introduces the message of John the Baptist. The sermon he is
preaching centres on the command that we repent. This command involves two basic
actions. First, stop sinning. In particular, for John, this means stop taking advantage of
those who have less power and influence than you have. Second, there needs to be a
change of attitude. In particular, for John, this means turning away from sin back to God
evidenced by the keeping of his commandments.

        John also demands that this listeners ―b ear fruity worth of repentance.‖ That is
the words and deeds of his listeners must reflect their changed attitude. Now after
discounting their heritage as children of Abraham, God‘s chosen ones, he concludes with
a stern warning, ―Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree that does not
bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.‖ John pictures Jesus as One whose
chief interest lies in keeping that fire stoked.

        Should John the Baptist be preaching here this morning, his sermon might sound
something like this.
        ―People, I‘m disgusted. Why are you here this morning? Is it because you are
afraid you are going to get what you deserve from God? Well if not, it should be! If you
want to escape the destruction that you have created for yourselves change. Your attitude
towards the poor, whether here or in the heart of the Third World stinks. God knows how
y9ou operate, tending to yourselves and minding your own business while others cry out
in misery. God demands justice and you have to get with the program. Talking about
justice is not good enough. There are certain things, which you must do if you are to
escape punishment. If I were you, and I‘m glad I‘m not, I would commit the Ten
Commandments to memory and than make sure I kept them. Be sure that if you fail you
will end up in Hell without hope. Now you say, ―But I am Baptized‖—God can baptize
these chairs. My friends, just because you are wet doesn‘t‘ mean you can‘t burn. Now if
you think I have been tough, just wait until Jesus get his hands on you. And be certain—
He‘s coming to get you. Amen.

        Without a doubt John the Baptist is a man who knows how to pour on the bad
news.

        What about the good news? Particularly as it relates to Our Lord‘s first coming in
Bethlehem and second coming at the end of time?

        It is important to recognize that the Baptist more or less fulfills the function of the
Law. Here Law refers to the rules and guidelines Our Creator has given us. These rules
and guidelines not only function to give us an orderly and safe society but are the tools
that show us just how miserably we fail to God‘s Will. Because of our failures we stand
convicted and deserving of punishment. We ought to be uneasy about today and
frightened about tomorrow. Now once this sinks in we are ready to hear some good news
and hopefully respond to it.

        First and foremost, Jesus is not how John pictured him—and angry God full of
vengeance. One who although He has every right to deal harshly with us is instead
loving and forgiving. His first coming introduces us to a God who says ―The punishment
you deserve is too terrible for you to bear so I will bear it for you‖ and on that Cross He
did. You and I stand beneath it assured that we are loved and forgiven.

       What we wait for in his Second Coming is that time when every one of us will
live without fear, loneliness, or guilt as God‘s intentions become clear and tangible.

       The demands of the Law, that you and I care for the needy and do justice, remain
binding. But the reason to live our faith is not because we are afraid, as John the Baptist
would have us be, but out of a sense of gratitude. Be good, kind, and caring not because
we have to but because it is our thank-you for what Our Lord‘s first and second Coming
mean for us.

       Now for the good news and bad news.

       The bad news is any religion that uses fear; the Good News is that because of
Jesus we don‘t have to be afraid.                                   AMEN




Pastor's Sermon for November 11, 2007



WHO ARE YOU?

       ―Who are you?‖ The most usual response is our name. ―I‘m Tim Posyluzny‖ and
than perhaps we add some special identifying feature: ―I‘m Carol‘s husband,‖ ―I‘m a
pastor,‖ and ―a fan of CSI.‖ Not too difficult to do. But what about when the question
becomes, ―Who are you spiritually?‖

       Today we celebrate the Rite of Affirmation of Baptism or Confirmation of five of
our young people, commemorate All Saints‘ Sunday and for us, our 15 th anniversary of
belonging to Holy Spirit was last week. Each of these events suggests an answer to that
question, ―Who are you spiritually?‖

       Confirmation is our public affirmation of the relationship God initiated with us at
Baptism. This ―yes‖ joins us to Christ‘s death and resurrection and is our initiation into
the Christian Church. How is this experienced in real life?

       On the Thursday night before his arrest Jesus and his friends were celebrating the
Jewish festival of Passover—reliving their miraculous escape from slavery in Egypt.
While they partied Jesus took bread, gave it to them saying that this is my Body and later
a cup filled with wine which he shared with them adding that this was also his blood shed
for them. This event coupled with his new commandment that we love one another as He
loves us changed how we see everything. We get to see ourselves as personally
welcome, part of a community which rejects violence and the dog eat dog of the world
around us.

       A guilty conscience has symptoms. Mine are crabbiness and troubled sleep. I‘m
sure you know what yours are. Ignoring what we‘ve done, denying it, or blaming
someone else will ease our conscience in the short run. However slowly but surely the
guilt breaks through and we suffer. The one sure help is confession knowing that we are
forgiven even before we asked. This assurance is based on a historical incident—Jesus‘
death on that cross. And while dying, his words directed to us, ―Dad, forgive them, they
don‘t know what they are doing.‖

       What scares you? The two things that scare me most are ―failing and so looking
foolish‖ and ―being alone in a large darkened building at night but feeling that I am not
alone.‖ Interestingly enough no matter what we name the root cause of all fear is the fear
of death: these other things are simply foretastes of this one event. On Easter morning
when Jesus rose from the dead He opened the door to eternal life for us all. This
becomes our source of hope and hope is the best antidote to fear that there is. Sure things
can do frighten us but we face them knowing that there power is limited.
       In Baptism God made us his own and gave us the name Christian—with it a
welcome, forgiveness, and hope. Today this is affirmed.

       Today is also ―All Saints‘‖ Sunday. This day has been set aside by the church to
remember with thanksgiving men and women recognized as Saints have no special feast
days along with martyrs, named and unnamed who died keeping the faith. Today we also
include all the Christian dead and in our parish we take special note of all members who
have died in the preceding year. However both St. Paul and Martin Luther stress that
saints also include the living who are baptized. Saints are expected to be holy. Holy,
spelt with a capital means pure and is only correctly used in reference to God who alone
is pure. Holy, spelt with a lower case ―h‖ means ―in God‘s service.‖ It is in this sense
that we are to be holy. How we might do this best is outlined in the ―Affirmation in the
Presence of the Assembly‖ taken from our confirmation service. There are five elements
or promises sighted.

1. That we hold onto our identity as a Christian and gladly remain in community while
regarding all people with care and respect.

2. That we worship regularly.

3. That we share the faith by being a person who loves, forgives, and encourages our
neighbour.

4. That we care for those around us lending ears and hands.

5. That we are just—willingly standing up to the bullies on behalf of those who are
weak, poor, and ignored.

       As Lutherans we strive to be ―holy‖ not to earn a reward or to escape a
punishment but simply as an expression of gratitude to God for all the good things we
enjoy especially his love, forgiveness and promise of eternal life.

       Thomas Wolff wrote that ―you can never go home again.‖ He wasn‘t writing
about Holy Spirit Lutheran Church on 51 st Ave. Look around you. This is our home
away from home—a place where we are always welcome and safe. The people around us
are our extended family. A place were we care for our own—one family needing
financial care got it and another needing respite care for an overwhelmed caregiver got
it. A place where we care for those around us—a long established ―Parish Pantry‖ and
more recently a commitment to provide socks for the inner city for a year.

       So who are you spiritually? With assurance and thanksgiving, we can say, ―I am
a Christian, a saint within the Lutheran tradition, having Holy Spirit Lutheran Church as
my home.

SO WHY PRAY PERSISTANTLY?

St. Luke 18:1-8 HSL

       Tommy loved basketball. At Junior High he played on the school team and was a
star. This year he changed school and decided to go to try-outs fro their basketball team.
He went into shock moments after arriving at the gym. The shortest guy there was six
inches taller. All were at least a year older. ―They were so good‖ Tommy reported that
evening at supper adding that he did not believe he stood a chance of making the team.
That evening as he prepared for bed he prayed and prayed that he wouldn‘t be cut. This
was his single prayer for the next two weeks. On Wednesday of the following week the
coach called him aside and in a gentle way told Tommy maybe next year. And Tommy
in his bitter disappointment wondered about the usefulness of prayer. Have you ever
thought been there and found yourself wondering about the usefulness of prayer? If you
have, like me, than today‘s Gospel lesson, the story of the Unjust Judge has something
important to say to us.

       Essentially prayer is the time when we focus pour attention on God—it‘s when
we converse with our Lord and Saviour. These conversations come in all sizes, styles,
and forms ranging from formal liturgical acts in worship to random thoughts as we drive
along. Sometimes the themes are set by history and tradition to our own current personal
concerns. This morning though our focus is on prayer which is like Tommy‘s. A prayer
in which we persistently bring a specific problem, issue, fear, or concern to Our Lord—
the type suggested in today‘s lesson.

        The judge we encounter is probably one appointed by Herod or the Roman
governor. These men were notoriously corrupt. If a person wanted a case resolved he or
she would have to pay a bribe and the more one paid the more favourable the outcome.
These judges were called the ―dayyaneh gezeroth‖ which means Judges of the Prohibition
but the people called them the ―dayyaneh gezeloth‖ which means Robber Judges. Such is
the one character.

        The other character is a ―widow.‖ Widows than in real life and in stories stood
for all those who are weak and poor. She has no money for a bribe. All she has is her
persistence.

        The story ends with the judge acting on her behalf lest she drive him crazy with
her constant demands.

        Now the message seems to be if you nag God enough God will act on your
behalf. The dangers of such a conclusion are legion. First, what ought to be meaningful,
if not enjoyable conversations become tedious and boring. Second and worse, if
unanswered, can be sources of huge guilt—I didn‘t pray hard enough or long enough.
Finally, such a view of persistent prayer shows Our Lord in an evil light—is He that hard
to please? Is He expecting some sort of perfection before God will act? Or simply, is He
unable to act?

        No, the message of this story is not that persistent prayer will force God to act but
rather that persistent prayer is in itself help from God. This help is concrete. Consider
this.

        Our widow approaches the judge over and over again in the hope that she‘ll get
justice. Hope is the first concrete help resulting from persistent prayer. Marcie‘s parents
had to deal with heartbreak of their daughter‘s drinking problem. She was fifteen.
Marcie had dropped out of school, lost her part time job, was stealing, and worse hanging
with older men. She refused treatment and was staying away from home for longer and
longer periods of time. Her mom and dad prayed that she would seek the help she
needed. This was their daily prayer. What this prayer did for them was keep hope alive.
The minute they would quit, their dream of their daughter‘s recovery would die and so
would part of them. Their prayer kept a door open.

       There are larger issues. The instant we stop praying for a changed world where
peace, not war, holds sway all hope will end marked by our confession that we no longer
care. And should this happen change is no longer seen as either possible or necessary.

       For a defenseless woman to take on a judge took courage. Persistent prayer
generates courage. Courage involves facing our fears and than hanging in. When Bob‘s
friend Frank‘s nagging cough was diagnosed as cancer he prayed for a medical miracle
which didn‘t materialize. Frank wound up in palliative care which also signaled an
ending to visits from many friends. Bob kept visiting. His prayer for Frank‘s healing had
changed to well being, enabled him to keep showing up.

       Perhaps most importantly persistent prayer keeps in community. A natural human
response to ongoing troubles is to withdraw from family, friends, and anyone else who
can help. Isolation only makes matters worse. Ongoing prayer reminds us that God is
present and that we are not alone. It also opens the door to asking others to pray for us.
When you ask someone to pray with you or for you or someone makes that request of
you the relationship deepens and loneliness created by isolation is undone.

       The invitation to persistent prayer is not the call to nag God in difficult situations
but the rather the opportunity to let God carry us.




                                                      AMEN
Pastor's Sermon for October 28, 2007

OF SLAVERY AND FREEDOM

St. John 8:31-36

       It‘s God‘s will that we be free. To this end God sent his Son to make us free. To
really appreciate this we need to ask two basic questions: what enslaves us today and
what does freedom look like?

       Slavery is defined as ―being under the control of another‖ and ―having lost control
of oneself including freedom of action.‖ So, what is that enslaves us or takes our control
from us today? Luther might point us to the evil trinity of sin, death, and the devil.

       Sin can easiest be defined as ―Me first at the expense of God‘s laws and my
neighbour‘s needs.‖ Enslavement involves addiction. That is, our sin of choice never
stays the same; we always need more to get our high—higher stakes, more drugs or
alcohol, more graphic violence and pornography. Guilt being the consequence. However
the guilty heart fears discovery and possible rejection or punishment so with draws into
isolation and loneliness. Slaves to sin are restless, guilty, and alone.

       Death is not just experienced as our physical cessation of life but also in terms of
disappointment and fear. Disappointment is experienced in two ways. Have you ever
really wanted something and not got it? Have you ever really wanted something and got
it only to feel ―it just wasn‘t as satisfying as imagined?‖ Disappointment is also
experienced as desperation—my situation is hopeless. Fear is about feeling we are in
danger which maybe real or imagined. Slaves to death just give up too soon.

       The devil is the great adversary—the one who ―speaks against‖ or accuses. The
constant accusations of 20007 North America are ―you are less than acceptable being too
young, too old, too ugly, too weak, too poor, too too.‖ The other one is ―you are bad‖
never have ―you done bad.‖Because―you are bad is about creating shame. Slaves to the
devil are inferior in body, mind, soul, and mirror.

       While the words ―sin, death, and the devil‖ maybe uncommon and unfamiliar
bordering on the archaic they continue to make us slaves bound for destruction.

       But the Son has set us free. What does this feel like?

        Freedom is rooted in forgiveness. Forgiveness means that our wrongdoings and
the pain we have caused is forgotten by God. Therefore we are able to forgive ourselves
and let the guilt go. We are able to not only try again or make a fresh start we are able to
rejoin community. There‘s no fear in letting people know us—who we were and who we
are. A.A. seems to have really have captured this theological understanding. I‘m sure all
of you know, either from personal experience or courtesy of Hollywood, how their
meetings start. It‘s, ―Hi, I‘m Tim, I‘m an alcoholic.‖ Their response is ―Hi, Tim.‖
While we use the order for Confession and Absolution what we need to hear is this same
exchange: ―Hi, I‘m Tim. I‘m a forgiven sinner‖ with the response being ―Hi, Tim.‖ The
truth is announced, community recreated, and a new chance supported.

        Freedom is also rooted in the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, not
just signals the defeat of death, it is the defeat of death. While we will all die, the gift of
eternal life is made available to us. Life not death controls the future. Ultimately we face
the future with a hope that overshadows despair. This means we get to face life‘s ups and
downs with optimism. Joe wanted the regional manager‘s position which would move
him and his family from Saskatchewan to Calgary ( I know). It went to a younger guy.
Joe seemed okay about this and when asked by his secretary about this he said, ―Sure it‘s
a kick in the head, but there‘s more to me and life than a new job.‖ Optimism gives us a
healthy prospective to operate from.

        Freedom is rooted in Christ‘s teaching that we are to love our neighbour as our
self. Meaning we are to see ourselves as loveable—worthy of respect, trusting our
opinions to be valid, and that no one has the right to hurt us. This view is shaped by
Jesus‘ love for us. It‘s the power to confront manipulating employers and colleagues,
leave abusive relationships, and walk away from bullies. It‘s the power to look those
institutions and individuals who would demean us in the eye and say, ―You are wrong.‖

       We are free to choose a life that is free from guilt, free of despair, free of those
accusations that tear us down. At the heart of the Reformation is the message that this
freedom we are invited to enjoy is a gift, unearned and undeserved, given by God through
Jesus: we simply accept it trusting that it‘s all true. The Son has truly set us free.




                                                               AMEN




Pastor's Sermon for October 21, 2007

                   SO WHY PRAY PERSISTANTLY?

St. Luke 18:1-8 HSL

       Tommy loved basketball. At Junior High he played on the school team and was a
star. This year he changed school and decided to go to try-outs fro their basketball team.
He went into shock moments after arriving at the gym. The shortest guy there was six
inches taller. All were at least a year older. ―They were so good‖ Tommy reported that
evening at supper adding that he did not believe he stood a chance of making the team.
That evening as he prepared for bed he prayed and prayed that he wouldn‘t be cut. This
was his single prayer for the next two weeks. On Wednesday of the following week the
coach called him aside and in a gentle way told Tommy maybe next year. And Tommy
in his bitter disappointment wondered about the usefulness of prayer. Have you ever
thought been there and found yourself wondering about the usefulness of prayer? If you
have, like me, than today‘s Gospel lesson, the story of the Unjust Judge has something
important to say to us.
        Essentially prayer is the time when we focus pour attention on God—it‘s when
we converse with our Lord and Saviour. These conversations come in all sizes, styles,
and forms ranging from formal liturgical acts in worship to random thoughts as we drive
along. Sometimes the themes are set by history and tradition to our own current personal
concerns. This morning though our focus is on prayer which is like Tommy‘s. A prayer
in which we persistently bring a specific problem, issue, fear, or concern to Our Lord—
the type suggested in today‘s lesson.

        The judge we encounter is probably one appointed by Herod or the Roman
governor. These men were notoriously corrupt. If a person wanted a case resolved he or
she would have to pay a bribe and the more one paid the more favourable the outcome.
These judges were called the ―dayyaneh gezeroth‖ which means Judges of the Prohibition
but the people called them the ―dayyaneh gezeloth‖ which means Robber Judges. Such is
the one character.

        The other character is a ―widow.‖ Widows than in real life and in stories stood
for all those who are weak and poor. She has no money for a bribe. All she has is her
persistence.

        The story ends with the judge acting on her behalf lest she drive him crazy with
her constant demands.

        Now the message seems to be if you nag God enough God will act on your
behalf. The dangers of such a conclusion are legion. First, what ought to be meaningful,
if not enjoyable conversations become tedious and boring. Second and worse, if
unanswered, can be sources of huge guilt—I didn‘t pray hard enough or long enough.
Finally, such a view of persistent prayer shows Our Lord in an evil light—is He that hard
to please? Is He expecting some sort of perfection before God will act? Or simply, is He
unable to act?

        No, the message of this story is not that persistent prayer will force God to act but
rather that persistent prayer is in itself help from God. This help is concrete. Consider
this.
       Our widow approaches the judge over and over again in the hope that she‘ll get
justice. Hope is the first concrete help resulting from persistent prayer. Marcie‘s parents
had to deal with heartbreak of their daughter‘s drinking problem. She was fifteen.
Marcie had dropped out of school, lost her part time job, was stealing, and worse hanging
with older men. She refused treatment and was staying away from home for longer and
longer periods of time. Her mom and dad prayed that she would seek the help she
needed. This was their daily prayer. What this prayer did for them was keep hope alive.
The minute they would quit, their dream of their daughter‘s recovery would die and so
would part of them. Their prayer kept a door open.

       There are larger issues. The instant we stop praying for a changed world where
peace, not war, holds sway all hope will end marked by our confession that we no longer
care. And should this happen change is no longer seen as either possible or necessary.

       For a defenseless woman to take on a judge took courage. Persistent prayer
generates courage. Courage involves facing our fears and than hanging in. When Bob‘s
friend Frank‘s nagging cough was diagnosed as cancer he prayed for a medical miracle
which didn‘t materialize. Frank wound up in palliative care which also signaled an
ending to visits from many friends. Bob kept visiting. His prayer for Frank‘s healing had
changed to well being, enabled him to keep showing up.

       Perhaps most importantly persistent prayer keeps in community. A natural human
response to ongoing troubles is to withdraw from family, friends, and anyone else who
can help. Isolation only makes matters worse. Ongoing prayer reminds us that God is
present and that we are not alone. It also opens the door to asking others to pray for us.
When you ask someone to pray with you or for you or someone makes that request of
you the relationship deepens and loneliness created by isolation is undone.

       The invitation to persistent prayer is not the call to nag God in difficult situations
but the rather the opportunity to let God carry us.
                                                      AMEN




Pastor's Sermon for October 14, 2007

GRADTITDUE: ESSENTIAL TO FAITH

St. Luke 17:11-19

       Those lepers had good reason to be grateful. In New Testament times ―leprosy‖
not only included the frightening and painful disease we associate with Hansen‘s disease
but all skin disorders including psoriasis and ringworm. The tragedy ob being labeled a
―leper‖ was not so much that you suffered from a brutal and disfiguring illness but that
you were labeled ―unclean.‖ To be ―unclean‖ implied that you were personally
displeasing to God who had singled you out for this punishment: no one wanted to be
associated with you lest they too received the very same treatment, guilty of
sympathizing with someone under judgment. In some cases family and friends helped by
leaving food and clothing out for you but personal contact was avoided. Furthermore
your condition was regarded as contagious. In short you were very much one your own.
.Your companions were only those who shared your affliction. The bottom line being
your exclusion from family, homes, and friends—in a word ―outcaste.‖ This was
reinforced by the fact that the law demanded that you live outside of town and should
someone unwittingly approach you, you were to warn them by covering your face and
shouting ―unclean.‖ These people were disowned, rejected, and stripped of dignity—in
out terms, ―dehumanized.‖

       But on this day everything changed. A young rabbi from Nazareth, instead of
fleeing them gave them their hearts desire. He healed them. In that moment he not only
restored them physically but socially. They were no longer outcastes. Of the ten, only
one returned to give thanks. I can only admire his self-control. I‘m sure that I, like the
others, would have been too excited, thrilled, and pleased to be going home to remember
to say, ―Thank-you.‖ Any way, what that leper showed is nothing less than true
gratitude—a thanks rooted in deep appreciation, understanding, and joy.

       Consider how much you and I have in common with those lepers before their
encounter with Jesus.

       There‘s the constant pressure to look good. We are surrounded by messages and
pictures that say eat smart, dress well, and exercise more. The paper is full of this stuff
(show an example). Now this appears all good and fine except there is a serious flaw.
That flaw being the message that if you aren‘t physically fit and sexually appealing you
are substandard and of less value than those who are.

       Than there‘s the more subtle but stepped up materialism of our age. Materialism
is the old belief that things can satisfy spiritual longings. The cult of things can take over
our lives. I would love a new car. I read about cars and go to car lots to ―kick tires.‖ But
the reality is that I can‘t afford one and I don‘t need one, however I still feel bad.
Materialism though is not just about feeling ―bad‖. because you don‘t have something it
says you are ―bad‖ because you don‘t. And if you did, there would be something new
and better out there to get. Bottom line, those with the most toys are better.

       Also there‘s the debilitating philosophy of self-sufficiency and independence in
our society. It‘s reflected in words of praise like ―He‘s a self made man‖ or ―she‘s the
first woman to achieve this position.‖ And those of us who aren‘t powerful leaders and
economic pioneers are tempted to see our selves as failures.

       The artificial barriers erected by advertisements, materialism, and success centred
philosophies of this age do make us lepers: people who are no longer regarded as fully
human, perhaps even, cursed by God. And just as we are tempted to accept the verdict,
―unclean‖ Our Lord speaks his healing and restoring message. The message of the Cross,
the message which says, in the most graphic terms possible, ―You are so valuable, so
loved, so worthwhile, I died for you.‖ By his death He gives us the gift of true
humanity. God did not let his son suffer and die for things but for people, people he calls
Children. God takes outcastes and those who feel that way, and makes us all family.

       While we may never be numbered among the breath takingly beautiful, we may
never have all the toys, and we may never be self-sufficient, we are always human, men
and women of profound value provided by Our Lord. People enabled to live lives of
dignity and in mutual respect. Now when we realize what Christ has done for us—taken
society‘s pressure off and restoring us to community we may very well be like the other
nine lepers, just to amaze to say ―thank-you.‖ But we also have the privilege of being
that one who returns, kneels, and give thanks.

       Our Lord‘s response, spoken also to us, is ―your faith has made you well.‖ Must
not be heard in terms of superstitious economics—enough faith results in miracle cures.
This is not only wrong and naive it is dangerous. The example being the parents who
pray for their child‘s restoration to health and it just doesn‘t happen feeling profound
guilt that they don‘t have enough faith. Just don‘t go there. Rather gratitude brings us
into right relationship with God. Faith is best expressed in terms of thanks giving.

       Jesus restores us to humanity and community. We respond with thanksgiving.
He tells us, we have it right.




                                                      AMEN




Pastor's Sermon for September 23, 2007

THE STRATEGY AND THE DISHONEST STEWARD
St. Luke 16:1-13

       Have you ever faced a crisis and been overwhelmed by it? Not knowing what to
do you prayed for guidance? If like me, you have, today‘s Gospel lesson, the parable of
the dishonest steward, reads like an answer to prayer. Before we look at this, it is helpful
to review, this most controversial parable of Jesus.

       Jesus has been teaching a crowd but now turns to his disciples and addresses them
alone. That is, this parable is not for the public at large but specifically for those already
initiated into the faith. It is a teaching meant to provide insight for his followers than and
for us today. It is for behind closed doors.

       Most scholars agree that the material Jesus based his parables on was drawn form
everyday life and current affairs. Most likely the talk of this day concerned a scandal at
one of the large farms in the vicinity. Often the actual landowner lived away in some
urban centre and would leave a manager in charge of the farm. However it had been
brought to the owner‘s attention that his manager was swindling him. The owner
confronts his manager demanding an audit. His subsequent actions testify to his guilt.

       Our guilty steward is not immobilized by this turn of events. He quickly reviews
his situation having an eye to the future. He says, ―I am not strong enough to dig.‖ A
manual labor has never been his strong suite and after a life of relative ease he‘s not
about to start breaking his back. Another alternative that comes to mind is begging but
he concludes that ―I am ashamed to beg.‖ Not only does his pride get in the way begging
will hardly keep in the style to which he has grown accustomed. So he concludes that if
he is to survive in style he must ingratiate himself to his master‘s debtors. You can
almost imagine his delight as he hits upon the plan to further swindle his employer.

       He immediately sets his plan into motion. He calls all the debtors together.
These people can be compared to share croppers who pay the owner of the land so much
of the produce. Two examples of what he does are given. He writes new contracts
containing significant discounts. In Israel at the time a reduction of 50 measures of oil
and 20 measures of grain would be worth about the same amount.
       Some commentators same that by reducing the debt he was actually just canceling
out what was his take. By doing this the share croppers would hopefully conclude, ―He‘s
not such a bad guy‖ and when he would ask for a place to stay the people would
remember his kindness and accept him as a guest. However other commentators
understand this deal in an entirely different light. They see a real operator involving
share croppers in a dishonest scheme in which they become partners in the steward‘s
ongoing fraud. This partnership makes them potential victims for blackmail. He‘s not
amateur.

       Now comes the lesson‘s most difficult verse ―And his master commended the
dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly...‖ Who is the ―master?‖ Some
suggest the owner is meant. However logic doesn‘t support this conclusion—who would
commend a thief for further stealing from them? ON the other hand, the Greek word
from which ―master‖ is translated is ―ho kyrios.‖ In St. Luke this term is used 18 times
and refers exclusively to Jesus. Also in later in Luke (18:6) a similar analogy is found
where ―master‖ or ―Lord‖ commends an unjust judge. The most likely conclusion is that
―his master‖ refers to Jesus.

       So, ―What is it that Jesus is praising about the dishonest steward?‖ and ―How is
his story an answer to prayer?‖

       The red-letter word appears to be ―shrewdness‖ sometimes translated
―prudence.‖ It is not the cheating and lying which is praised but rather his ability to size
up a crisis situation, make a plan, and than boldly carry it out. One possible conclusion to
this parable which seems to underscore this interpretation is, ―for the children of this age
are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.‖

       We are in crisis and pray for help—one response is a workable strategy to help us
deal with the crisis. The dishonest steward‘s action becomes a blueprint for us. His
model involves taking three steps.

       ―What am I to do, now that my manager is taking the position away from me?‖
The first step is to analyze the crisis, the problem, or issue. The best way to do this is to
create a single sentence description of what we are dealing with. Take job loss as an
example. I am loosing my job, how will I pay my bills? Or, I am loosing my job, what
will my spouse say? Or I am loosing my job, and feel ashamed. By being specific is that
the issue has an identity—it is no longer a vague threat but something we can focus on.

        ―I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to
do...‖ Step two, make a plan. Good planning always involves a. listing all possible
responses to the issue; b. identify the responses most likely to work; and, c. marshal the
available resources. Back to our example of job loss—likely responses—UIC
application, counseling, honest discussions, congregational support. All seem likely to
help.

        ―So summoning his master‘s debtors...‖ Perhaps the most important step—take
action, ―Just do it.‖ There really is something quite liberating in making a move. We
move away from being victims and that changes our self image when we need it most.

        Just because we are Christians doesn‘t mean we won‘t face crisis. The Good
News is that we don‘t face them alone and unarmed.

                                                             AMEN




  Pastor's Sermon for July 29, 2007



LORD TEACH US TO PRAY

St. Luke 11:1-13
           This past Monday Joel Zimmerman, Pastors Richard Reimer, Orlow Lund, Paul
Eriksson, and I attended a meeting called by our bishop to discuss our synod‘s future—
the need for prayer was mentioned several times. Prayer, while recognized as crucial to
the well being of the church at large and our own individual spirituality, is not something
we do naturally. That ancient request, ―Lord, teach us to pray...‖ might very well be ours
today. Learning to pray involves answering three basic questions: Prayer—what is it?
Prayer—how do we do it? And prayer—what should I expect?

           Prayer—what is it? A solid Lutheran definition is ―a gift and invitation to
privileged communication with God.‖ Reflecting this, my personal definition is
―conversation with God who is also my friend.‖

           One of the first lessons I learned about prayer was based on the word ―ACTS‖
with each letter standing for an element of this communication. ―A‖ stands for
―adoration‖ meaning our prayer is shaped by the realization we are in the Presence of our
Creator who shows his strength chiefly as an ideal Parent—loving, forgiving,
encouraging, and nurturing. The Ruler of the time and space is paying attention to us.
―C‖ stands for ―Confession‖ Prayer needs to begin with us ―getting it off our chests.‖
I‘m referring to the naming of all those things that would separate us from God and each
other. ―T‖ stands for ―thanksgiving.‖ Prayer needs to include words of appreciation.
―S‖ stands for ―Supplication.‖ This is the opportunity to tell God of our needs and
worries and concerns for others. ―ACTS‖ is a wonderful working definition of prayer
and a great model, especially when we don‘t know what to pray about or just don‘t feel
like it.

           A couple of related questions are ―When to pray?‖, ―Where to pray?‖, and ―Best
position for prayer?‖ There is no ―best time to pray especially since the need often
determines the when. However it is helpful to pray when we aren‘t distracted by
tiredness, telephones, and life‘s demands. Jesus would often pray early in the morning.
Any place works—but where in our life is most conducive to a private conversation with
a best friend? Jesus withdrew from people for prayer. While in worship posture does
make a statement—we rise as a sign of joy and reverence and kneel as a sign of
supplication and reverence. However there is no specific prayer posture so the answer is
personal, so what works best for you—laying, sitting, kneeling, standing, walking?

       Prayer—how do we do it? Again this question has many answers but three
methods need to be highlighted. We can pray liturgically. Here either privately or in
community, we recite the ancient prayers of the Church—the Lords Prayer, the Creeds,
and others found in the various orders handed down to us. They offer core theology and
a sense of timelessness. We can pray conversationally. It‘s a personal sharing with the
One who knows us best and cares most. These need not be painfully time consuming,
just honest. Next is meditative prayer. Here we would read a portion of the Bible and
ponder the question, ―What is God saying to me right now?‖

       In this vein, prayer is both exercise and recreation. Like exercise, it‘s a discipline
that requires effort and like recreation leaves us refreshed. Both equip us to carry on.
Bottom line, it‘s never the ―how‖ but rather the ―doing‖ that‘s important.

       Prayer—what are we to expect? First of all, let‘s identify what we should never
expect from prayer. One, don‘t expect magical results like the little boy who closed his
eyes and reverently prayed for a bicycle than opened them fully expecting to see one.
This approach unfortunately follows many into adulthood. Like dark magic it rests on
the belief that by reciting certain formulas we can obligate supernatural forces to do our
bedding. Prayer is not incantation and God is master and friend never servant. Two,
don‘t expect nothing to happen. Prayer is conversation with the Almighty—it‘s never
empty words bouncing off the sealing. So what do we expect? One of life‘s truths is
―good fortune and misfortune are easier faced in the company of others.‖ Prayer brings
this truth to life because it immediately creates community. Prayer reminds us that we
are never alone—God goes with us every step of the way. Similarly prayer reminds us
that we are part of the Church. Prayer is the activity that destroys isolation and
loneliness. Prayer is the fuel of hope. A counselor structured a strategy around that
premise that ―If it is mentionable it is manageable.‖ Prayer enables us to name whatever
it is and so restore perspective. The simple fact is that as long as we can pray about it we
haven‘t given up hope. This is the strength that keeps us from giving up too soon.
Finally prayer opens us up to divine inspiration. God‘s inspiration often results in new
ideas and visions of how things can be. Such inspiration renews our spiritual, moral, and
physical strength—kind of how seeing a finish line inspires athletes.

       ―He said to them, ―When you pray...‖




                                                      AMEN




Pastor's Sermon for March 25, 2007

ANATOMY OF A HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY

St. John 12:1-8 (Isaiah 43:16-21, Philippians 3:4b-14)

       What contributes to a healthy lifestyle? I‘m sure a general consensus exits.
Things that top the list include eating right. This means more vegetables and fruit and
less fats and junk food. The new villain on the food scene is pop. Drinking water is a
must. Rest and relaxation are essential. We need to get our eight hours: sleep not only
gives our bodies a chance to recuperate, our subconscious time to sort out events, it is
crucial to our ability to cope. Regular exercise is a must—recently the Journal did a
feature on exercise programs for people in their 70‘s and 80‘s. Sexual fidelity is key.
We know to see our doctors once a year and dentists twice a year. We know smoking is a
serious no-no and drinking in moderation with the exception of pregnant women who
shouldn‘t at all. Now whether or not we embrace all that contributes to a healthy lifestyle
we all know what it takes.
       But what about a healthy spirituality? What does it take? This might not be so
evident. However the lessons chosen for this, the Fifth Sunday in Lent, provide some
basic insight into this important matter.

       God chose and formed the children of Israel, now in exile, writes the prophet
Isaiah, that they might declare his praise. The willingness to praise God is basic to a
healthy spirituality. But what is it? In an old movie staring Dudley Moore dealt with a
man who sold his soul to the devil for a woman. Once scene stands out for me. In it,
Moore‘s character and the devil‘s get into a discussion about why he devil rebelled. The
devil perches on a fire hydrant and gets Dudley to dance around him shouting out
compliments. Pretty soon Dudley is out of energy and bored to which the devil says to
the effect, ―See what I mean?‖ I think too often this is how people interpret the invitation
to praise God—a kind of monotonous exercise involving the words, ―Yeah God!‖ Not
so. Praising God actually combines awareness and thanksgiving. When you hear the
word ―creation‖ what comes to mind? The Rockies glowing gold at sunset? A sailfish
leaping out of blue ocean water? A mom smiling and crying as she holds her new born
for the first time? God‘s work and we say ―Thank-you.‖ When you hear the word
―Jesus‖ what comes to mind? Love that gives us worth? forgiveness that sets you free?
Hope that makes getting out of bed a possibility?—all gifts from God. And we say,
―Thank-you.‖ Look at where you are—in a church, a place and community where you
are welcome, safe, and accepted. A gift created by the Holy Spirit and in receiving it, we
say ―Thank-you.‖ Gratitude is essential. Meister Eckert, a medieval mystic, taught that
―Thank-you‖ was paramount of prayer.

       The word ―tomorrow‖ has two basic connotations for me. One being my last
tomorrow—the day I die and the other being all those days between than and now. How
we face ―tomorrow‖ is profoundly spiritual, an understanding dealt with in our second
lesson taken from St. Paul‘s letter to the church in Philippi. In part, he writes, ―Beloved,
I do not consider that I have made it my own but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies
behind and straining forward to what leis ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize
of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.‖ He writes this after listing his faith
credentials and good works. The point being that new life in Christ after death is not
something we earn but is gift received in Faith. A healthy spirituality faces death
hopefully and with anticipation. Further this confidence is rooted in what Christ has done
and not what I have done or must do. In essence, the pressure is off and Heaven waits.
This hope effects how we face the tomorrows in between. Last Monday I saw the movie,
―Children of Men‖—what a gloomy future it features. Tanks patrol city streets as the
army and terrorists collide. Fresh water is in very short supply. The landscape is smoky
and huge piles of burning cattle litter the country side. Worst, we have become infertile
as a race. Such a future is a possibility—however because we trust God is in charge and
we are in his hands we don‘t let this possibility reduce us to despair. Instead we guided
by an optimism do what we can to create a positive life affirming future for our children
and their children.

       Over against a spirit of fear and despair a healthy spirituality, rooted in Jesus
Christ, is hopeful and optimistic.

       Last Thursday a former colleague took me out for lunch. The lunch cost $41 to
which my friend added a $10 tip—not 10%, not 15% the new 10%, not 20% but an
outrageous 25%. The Gospel story recorded by St. John is about outrageous generosity.
Mary, sister of Martha and Lazareth, spent a year‘s salary on an exotic perfume extracted
from the spikenard plant. She than poured it over Jesus‘ feet—it‘s scent filled the air.
Judas criticizes her act however Jesus both defends her action and sees important purpose
in it. Why is generosity so important to healthy spirituality? First of all, generosity is not
just limited to the sharing of material things but includes words of praise and
encouragement. Now beyond something good happening for someone else it is an
expression of freedom. If I give money away I am saying I am not enslaved by it. If I
give a compliment I am saying I am not enslaved by ego.

       What contributes to a healthy spirituality? Or more to the point, what are the
earmarks of a healthy spirituality? Gratitude. Optimism. Generosity. Gifts from God
designed to make life fuller, lighter, and brighter.
AMEN
Pastor's Sermon for March 11, 2007

IT‘S NOT ABOUT PUNISHMENT

St. Luke 13:1-9

       One of my closest friends at seminary shared an interesting point of view. He told
me of how his father, a farmer, wouldn‘t work on Sundays but how a neighbour would.
One Sunday, while out ploughing his tractor was hit by lightening leaving him badly
injured. My friend than expressed the opinion that God must have punished him for
breaking the Third Commandment by failing to observe the Sabbath. Right after I had
arrived in my first parish the local funeral director called to inform me that a Lutheran
had died and would I come and meet the family. In the counseling that followed, the
widow, lamented time after time that she sure must have done something terribly wrong
for God to punish her by taking her husband. Than there was the time I was calling at the
hospital. I happened into a room where a friend was being treated. After some kidding
around we got serious. My friend, after some time said, trying to smile, ―What do you
think God is punishing me for?‖ Can you identify with these stories? Have you ever
wondered, after experiencing some personal disaster, whether or not, God was punishing
you for something? It‘s common enough.

       Today‘s Gospel lesson addresses this very matter. It begins with Our Lord
sighting two recent disasters and asking about them. In away you can hear Jesus asking,
―That soldier accidentally killed in his tent in Afghanistan, do you suppose that he
suffered like that because he was the worst sinner of all those soldiers over there?‖ And
He goes on to ask, ―The twenty-two killed in the plane crash in Djakarta, do think that
they were the worse offender than all the others flying that day?‖ Or ―Do you suppose
that the farmer struck by lightening was more guilty than all other farmers?‖ Or ―Do you
suppose that the widow was more guilty than all other married women?‖ Or ―Do you
suppose my sick friend was more guilty than all my other friends?‖ Do you?
       Our Lord answers for us. His answer is a categorical ―No!‖ Clearly Our Lord
does not link personal hurts, failures and losses to the wrong we do and divine
punishment and neither should we. Now sometimes there are painful outcomes to the
things we do but this is logical consequence and not to be confused with punishment
form God. If I step out of a moving car I will get hurt. If I drink too much I can get liver
disease. If I rob a bank I will go to ail. If I act irresponsibly I can loose my job. The
point being, never confuse logical consequences with a punishment from God.

       However our Lord does link a certain disaster with a failure to turn to God. That
is, certain disaster waits should we refuse to repent. The disaster is the ruin that guilt
wreaks in our lives. Guilt hurts us on every level. Because the guilty need to cover up-
they withdraw from others. We are not talking about healthy solitude but destructive
loneliness. Guilt disrupts our spiritual lives because it erects a barrier between us and our
God—prayer, worship and Bible study all become depressing exercises to be avoided.
Guilt even attacks on a physical level as sleep, appetite, and energy levels are all
adversely affected. Ultimately there‘s Hell, eternal separation for God and all we love.
Unresolved guilt is as harmful as having a tower fall on us. But God provides us will all
we need to escape this destruction. The help He offers is the possibility of repentance.
You and I are constantly invited to turn back to Him, to apologetically name the wrong,
accept forgiveness, and with help try to change. And when we do destruction is averted.

       But what if we refuse to accept the possibility of repentance and the gift of
forgiveness and instead persist in our sin and guilt? Does God than seek to hurt us? In
response to this logical question Jesus reworks a popular parable about a fig tree.

       The original parable went something like this. A man owned a fig tree. This fig
tee enjoyed good soil near a stream but bore no fruit. So the man goes out to his fig tree
and says, ―Today I will cut you down and burn you.‖ The fig tree suddenly gains voice
and cries out, ―Please don‘t cut me down but transplant me than I will surely bear fruit.‖
The farmer shakes his head and says, ―No, if you haven‘t done well here you won‘t do
well elsewhere‖ and proceeds to cut it down and burn its branches.
       But you have just heard what Jesus did with that parable. Instead of the tree being
cut down a gardener pleads for another year and another chance. The focal point has
radically changed—instead of the hopelessness of used up chances there‘s the hope of
more chances to come.

       To always refuse the gift of forgiveness does ultimately lead to disaster but it is a
disaster we have chosen. God never leaves us without hope though. The reworked
parable of the barren fig tree reveals a Lord and Master constantly willing to give another
chance. A contemporary writer rightly referred to Our Lord as the great God of the
Second Chance.

       Today is the Third Sunday in the meditative season of Lent. Take time to reflect
on the truth that God doesn‘t hurt his children and even when punishment is deserved
forgiveness is offered.




                                                      AMEN
Pastor's Sermon for March 4, 2007

HANDLING THREATS

St. Luke 13:31-35

       ―Threat or to threaten‖—the concept is defined as ―the expression of an intention
to inflict evil or injury on another.‖ It has Anglo-Saxon roots and literally means ―to
crowd, or to oppress.‖ To feel threatened is not only discomforting, it can be
debilitating. Unfortunately most of us, at one time or another, have found ourselves
living under its cloud.

       The good news is that today‘s Gospel lesson provides us with practical, hands on,
Christ-centred insight into how we can handle this painful aspect of every day life.

       St. Luke tells us that Jesus and his disciples are heading towards Jerusalem. As
they travel those dusty roads Jesus stops to teach and to heal. This day he‘s interrupted
by some concerned Pharisees. The warn him of Herod‘s intention to kill him. Their
advice is ―Get away from here.‖

       Running can be the best response. Sometimes we need to run away from
something. Consider the situation of the battered spouse—experts tell us that left to itself
domestic violence only gets more brutal. Get away to a shelter is a good move. Bullies
invade our schoolyard and make life unbearable for a particular student. The best
response is get away from them and tell somebody. Sometimes we need to run to
something. A nagging cough ought to cause us to run to a doctor. A troubled conscience
ought to cause us to run confession and Holy Communion. Sometimes we do need to
heed the Pharisees advice and run away. But sometimes the threats aren‘t so clear cut
and it‘s just not possible to run from what crowds and oppresses us—than what?

       Jesus, in his response to the threat posed by Herod, provides us with a solid, four
step response.
        Jesus begins by identifying Herod as ―that fox.‖ An aside is that ―fox‖ in the
Greek context stands for ―cunning‖ while in the Hebrew, it refers to ―destruction.‖
Whatever the case Jesus doesn‘t deny the threat, rather He identifies it. This needs to be
our first step when feeling threatened. Don‘t deny it but rather identify it. Identify it in a
sentence. ―I‘m afraid that I‘m being excluded by my friends.‖ ―I think my job is in
jeopardy,‖ It seems that life is just passing me by.‖ A threat hidden in the fog of our
psyche is more detrimental than one in the spotlight. Naming the threat lessens both its
power and influence on us.

        Jesus than states his intention to continue to ―cast out demons and perform
cures.‖ He refuses to let the threat derail him. This is profoundly important to not let
threats distract and immobilize us. Keep working and playing. Working and playing
have two wonderful side-effects. One, our attention and energy is focused on someone or
something other than the threat. This is in itself a relief. Two, something good gets
done.

        Next Jesus sees his destiny being in Jerusalem. What he would accomplish, he
would accomplish there. He absolutely refused to let the threat Herod posed to dissuade
him from his mission and ministry. He kept the perspective right. Each one of us is
called to participate in the priesthood of all believers—we have something to accomplish
as Christians. God has a purpose for each one of us and acts through us. Now sometimes
this might be giving a frazzled young mother a smile of understanding. Sometimes it is
helping load a truck for a neighbour. Sometimes it is inviting a family member or friend
to worship. And in each of these Gospel moments history shifts towards God. Such
moments won‘t happen if we choose to hide under a blanket curled up in a fetal position.
Keep focused on what‘s truly important and it is not the threat.

        As the last step, Jesus speaks of the importance of saying, ―Blessed is the One
who comes in the name of the Lord.‖ The critical element though, in handling any threat
is tapping into the spiritual resources God makes available to us. One resource is
conversation with another Christian. In describing the threat to another we are reminded
that we are part of a community that cares. We get feedback, encouragement, and hands
on support. More importantly we have prayer. Pray with expectation. Pray about the
issue specifically—actually name the threat and ask for help in dealing with it. Expect
reassurance that you have worth as a child of God whom He refuses to abandon. Also
expect a renewed sense of courage that leads to new insights. The Holy Spirit is a
powerful ally.

       Threats are all around us. They have the power to turn us into victims. So
sometimes we do need to ―get away from there.‖ But more often than not we need to
follow Jesus‘ pattern—name the beast, keep busy, remember you are a priest with a
purpose and reach out to Christ and his people. It is God‘s intention that none of us be
victims.




                                                            AMEN
Pastor's Sermon for Feb. 25, 2007

ON BEING TEMPTED

St. Luke 4:1-13 HSL y07/01/95/86

       The wilderness, since ancient times, was regarded as the haunt of evil spirits. A
place where eyes saw strange things and the ears heard frightening things. A place where
it seemed nature was bent on destroying all who ventured there. It was in such a place
that our Lord wandered for forty days and nights. It is here that He is approached by our
chief enemy, the devil. The devil is here to tempt him.

       The temptations range from the bold to the subtle.

       Recognizing that Our Lord is starving, the evil one whispers, ―Prove who you are,
turn these stones into bread, you‘re hungry aren‘t you?‖ Our Lord refuses to uses his
power for selfish ends and instead quotes, ―One does not live by bread alone.‖

       The devil persists, after showing Our Lord the riches and glory of political might,
hisses, ―Just compromise yourself and it is all yours.‖ Again Our Lord stands firm and
from Scripture recites, ―Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.‖

       Then the devil challenges Him to see if God will really look after Him. To do this
our Lord is transported to a high pillar in the temple and there is urged to throw Himself
down, after all, ―If you are the Son of God, angels will protect you, won‘t they?‖ Again
Our Lord resists, relying on the word of Scripture that we are not to put the Lord Our
God to the test.

       The devil St. Luke notes, leaves to bide his time.

       What makes this encounter so intriguing is that you and I are involved. We
continue to hear the Tempter‘s siren song. Because you and I are involved we need to
understand the nature of temptation and the help to resist that is available.
       So what is temptation? Basically it is a test designed to separate us from God.
The format of the test never really changes.

       1. Satisfy self regardless of the cost. The invitation to believe and act in ways
that say ―me first‖ regardless of any potential hurt and shame—steal, cheat.

       2. Compromise for gain. This is the invitation to ignore what we believe is right
or wrong in order to get ahead. It is as simple as laughing at the boss‘s demeaning joke
in order to appear ―one of the good ol‘ boys.‖

       3. Test God. This is the invitation to treat God as if He is a magic genie just
waiting to do our bidding and when it doesn‘t happen blame Him for our
disappointments, hurts, and failures.

       And should we succumb to the temptation and do, say, or think those things that
separate us from our God three tragic changes take place in our lives.

       A spiritual restlessness sets in. God is no longer a gentle comforter but rather an
angry and accusing judge. We relate to God out of fear and guilt. Worship becomes a
boring and barren enterprise.

       Because we have crossed a line our sense of self worth suffers. Now there‘s a
desperate need to prove our own worth. To one person this becomes the need to amass a
fortune, a legacy, or just another car so that others will offer there approval. To another it
is an impossible task so they turn to alcohol, drugs, or hard work so that others will say,
―no wonder it turned out that way.‖ The truth is once separated from God it is impossible
to feel good inside so we turn to the externals.

       The other tragic change concerns how we now view our neighbour. Suddenly the
neighbour is both a threat and a hassle. On one hand we are afraid of discovery so we
keep them at arms link—what they don‘t know, can‘t hurt me. On the other hand,
because we are so wrapped up in our own guilt and fear we don‘t have energy or patience
to care. The bottom line though, is the same, loneliness.
       Never underestimate either the initial attractiveness of temptation nor it
destructive outcomes.

       The Good News is that we are not left on our own to face the attractive call of
evil. St. Luke reminds us of the help Our Lord provides.

       Because Our Lord has experienced the powerful lure that evil uses, He
understands our situation. His understanding translates into concrete support. The first
support is his own example that says evil can be resisted—it is not all powerful and all
consuming. He also provides spiritual power to resist: in the face of temptation we can
pray for help and guidance. We can review what Holy Scripture teaches. He also refuses
to abandon us. He is present in conversations with caring friends who encourage us to do
the right thing. Because of Christ, temptation is not irresistible but a matter of choice.

       Also because Our Lord understands us, He knows that we just might fail the test.
So He offers us the gift of forgiveness. We don‘t have to stay trapped, believing God is
out to get us, filled with shame, and out in the cold. We do get to put the guilt down and
start over. We still belong to a community of forgiven sinners.

       Temptation, that test that would separate us from God, is part of life. Christ
enables us to see it as a choice that can be resisted. And should we fail to resist we have
the gift of forgiveness.

       Lent is the season that reminds us that the wilderness is defeated.




                                                       AMEN


Pastor's Sermon for Feb. 18, 2007
WHAT YOU SEE, IS IT WHAT YOU GET?

St. Luke 9:28-36 HSL y07/83

        ―Is what you see, what you get?‖ Thanks to movie trailers that promise the
viewing event of the century and deliver anything but to posters of exotic destinations
failing to show insects bigger than your head to advertisements that contain in the
smallest print, ―Not exactly as shown‖ our answer is ―No.‖ In fact, we often just assume
that what we see is not what we will get. However, every once in a while we get a
surprise, more than we bargained for or expected. Transfiguration Sunday is perhaps the
best illustration of this wonderful surprise we have.

        When Peter, James, and John went up into the hills to pray with Jesus what did
they see? They saw a man they knew. A man who had come from the ordinary town of
Nazareth. A man who had had learned his father‘s trade as mot of them had done. He
was a carpenter who had become a traveling preacher and healer. On one hand he was a
man who was both charismatic and easy to talk to while on the other hand he was a man
who could get angry and tired. In fact this day they very likely saw him as a man in need
of a rest.

        What did they get? St. Luke‘s description boggles the mind. As Jesus prays he
suddenly changes—his familiar face and homespun clothing shine with dazzling
whiteness. The glory of the situation is amplified by the appearance of the two great
heroes of the Jewish faith—Moses the Lawgiver and Elijah the Prophet. These two men
also shining brilliantly converse with Our Lord about his plans and destiny. The
disciples, to say the least, are stunned by all of this, hence Peter‘s babbling about building
three shelters. And there‘s more, without warning they are enveloped by a mysterious
cloud. As if to make sure that no one misses the point of who Jesus really is, comes the
words, ―This is my son, my chosen, listen to him.‖ There is no room for doubt—Jesus of
Nazareth is also God the Son. What is seen is a carpenter turned preacher, and what they
get, is the glorified Son of God.

       But the question is, how does this amazing story affect us some 2000 years later?

       Before we address this question, I want to remind you of a statistic that continues
to haunt me. Several studies on congregational life suggest that 40% or four out of every
ten people who gather for worship are hurting. The hurts can be traced back to three root
causes. Root causes I personally know from experience. Root cause number one is
feelings of being unlovable. I remember on more than one occasion of having bitter
arguments with my parents and afterwards wondering if I was incapable of being loved
for me. Root cause number two, guilt pangs. I know that I have hurt people that I care
about with a careless word or deed only to feel wretched long after I made apologies.
Root cause number three, the bleakness of despair. I can recall the desperation I felt
when I finally realized that, yes, my dad was really dead and gone. Who can‘t identify
such hurts? Yet with all our hurts we gather together for worship.

       What do you see? Ostensibly we see a building and a group of people, the focus
of which is an altar with ordinary bread and wine nearby, a baptismal font filled with
ordinary tap water, and a pulpit holding a preacher and a Bible.

       But these ordinary items combined with Christ‘s Holy Spirit give us something
quite different from what we see. The building offers a safe and welcoming environment
to all who enter. The individuals are a community who are free to give help and to accept
it—for instance we are presently providing food and money for incidentals to a mother
and child who left an abusive relationship—we are committed to this care for the next six
months. The water is Baptism and the bread and wine—his Body and Blood received in
Holy Communion. Words from the pulpit become a sermon. The combined message
being ―God is Present and literally touches us.‖ To the rejected one, He says, ―I love
you.‖ To the guilty one, He says, ―You were forgiven before you asked.‖ To the
desperate one, He says, ―There is hope for today and life for tomorrow.‖
       This than changes how we view two faces. The first is the one we see in the
mirror. Too often we let the world around us determine what we see—a person who is
too young, too old, too unattractive, too dumb, too needy, too whatever demeans us. We,
because of that first Transfiguration, can challenge all of this and say, ―No, there is more
here than meets the eye—I matter.‖ The second face is the one we encounter in our
neighbour. A colleague was visiting in a hospital and noticed that a Lutheran from out of
town had been admitted. He decided to drop in—what he saw was a man enfeebled by a
terminal illness. Some weeks later my friend received a phone call from a lawyer who
asked if he had visited such and such a patient on such and such a day. Now my friend
saw a threat. However, the lawyer went to explain that the patient had died and in his
will had left a sum of money to the ―last Lutheran pastor to visit me.‖ What he got was
completely more and different. The point being that we always treat others knowing that
they are more than what we initially see.

       Transfiguration Sunday invites us to see in new ways with new expectations.




                                                              AMEN
Pastor's Sermon for January 28, 2007

SO MUCH ANGER, WHAT HAPPENED?

St. Luke 4:21-32 HSL y07/01/95

       So much anger, what happened? Jesus is home, he‘s in the synagogue at
Nazareth. He has just finished reading the appointed lesson for the day taken from
Isaiah. People are impressed. St. Luke notes, ―All spoke well of him and were amazed at
the gracious words from his mouth.‖ The comment ―is not this Joseph‘s son?‖ suggests
that he is a local boy done well. However, by the end of his brief sermon the
congregation is so enraged that they intend to throw him down from a cliff. How did his
words generate such hostility?

       In his sermon, at least three things he says could be interpreted as provocative.

       With the quote, ―Doctor cure yourself‖ he begins his sermon. This in response to
their desire he prove himself by doing the things he had done in Capernaum. St. Luke
doesn‘t tell us what he had done but apparently it had left the crowds amazed. Anyway,
Jesus now challenges their expectations noting that prophets are well received
everywhere with the exception being their hometown. Not only are their expectations
challenged they now feel insulted.

       Next he comments on God‘s care of foreigners—a widow at Zarephath in Sidon, a
land of pagan worship involving fertility cults and human sacrifice and Naaman the
Syrian, a leper, but also a general in a vicious and aggressive army.

       This observation has effect. He has challenged their view of God and their
relationship to God. The people he is addressing see themselves enjoying a special and
exclusive relationship with God. Jesus by making these references is saying, point blank,
―The Go you see is too small, He reaches out and touches all people.‖ Those listening to
Jesus very likely don‘t appreciate having a cherished belief and sense of status attached.
       Also by mention the foreigners Jesus is naming a sin—bigotry and prejudice. The
view that ―I am God‘s chosen one and you are not‖ engenders the belief that we are better
and so deserve better. Jesus, I suspect, has touched a nerve.

       The refusal to perform, the challenge to status, and confrontation may have
proved too much resulting in anger. This anger quickly turns to murderous rage.
Nothing has really changed. When you and I take a faithful stand anger may very well be
the response.




       ―Empire religion‖ was a phrase coined to describe an expectation of society that
religious institutions would simply bless the status quo while being against any kind of
social change. ―Prophet Religion‖ is a phrase that suggests a questioning or even critical
stance of religious institutions of government and society. When the church or an
individual Christian acts prophetically watch out. For example the ELCIC is
abolitionist. That is, we as a church are against the death penalty. While living in
Saskatoon this issue came to the forefront of much debate. I wrote a letter to the editor of
the city‘s daily newspaper. In part I explained that Jesus words ―Those who live by the
word will die by the sword‖ weren‘t a call for vengeance but rather a call to break the
cycle of violence. I believe that I also argued that we are so against killing that we refuse
to kill killers. My letter generated noticeable heat for me.

       There is a shared tendency to create God in our own image: groups do it, groups
doe it, churches do it, societies do it. The usual way is to believe God likes what I like
and hates what I hate. Consider those on either side of issues like abortion, gay rights,
euthanasia, gun control, and environmental control. Those of the Faith will ultimately
say they are representing God‘s will and will quote scripture to prove it. Net what
happens is that both sides come to believe that since there view is the correct one they
have the right or even the obligation to force this view on others. Now suppose a third
party, instead of taking sides asks, ―Is your God too small?‖ or ―Are you more concerned
with your agenda that the love of God?‖ How far is anger from the surface?
       You and I are called to confront sin, hurtful attitudes, and pain causing actions
and when we do anger is right there. A young man told me such a story. He was a high
school student at the time. His school was having trouble due o a group of older boys
who went out of their way to make life miserable for others. Their activities included
breaking into other students‘ lockers and taking stuff. This boy confronted on of them to
no effect. The boy finally went to the principal indicating who was to blame for what.
He told me that changing schools had become a real possibility for him. While he should
have been regarded as a hero he‘s regarded as a rat.

       You and I are the voice of the Faith. We are the ones who refuse to go along to
get alone. We are the ones who ask, ―What‘s right, not what‘s easy or popular.‖ We are
the ones who ask ―What would Jesus do?‖ We are the ones called to confront the beast
and when we do we realize that anger is a likely response. It‘s not pleasant. But we
never face the anger alone—Christ is our model and his Holy Spirit encourages and
supports us—helping us pass through the crowd.




                                             AMEN




-----------------
Pastor's Sermon for December 10, 2006

PREPARE THE WAY

St. Luke 3:1-6 HSL y06/94/88

                      Since Advent promises the sure

                      coming of the Lord, its message

                      is ―prepare.‖ The Lord is coming

                      whether the world is ready or not.

       So writes Dr. John Brokhoff in his introduction to ―The Advent Season.‖ He is
reflecting the writings of Isaiah the prophet who proclaimed ―Prepare the way of the
Lord‖ quoted by St. Luke in today‘s Gospel lesson. Advent calls you and me also to
prepare.

       Now if we are to take this call seriously two very basic questions need to be
asked. How? How do I prepare for Christ‘s first Coming and his Return today? And,
why? Why should I prepare for an event I may not see in this life?

       As the faithful, our preparations for Christmas and our Lord‘s Return at the end of
time can occur on several levels—spiritually, personally, and socially.

       The simplest way to prepare spiritually is who gather regularly with those who
share your spiritual convictions. A pastor arrived in a small rural parish. He hadn‘t been
there very long when one of the members told him about another member who no longer
attended. Reading between the lines the pastor called on the lapsed member. The
member quoted the old fallacy—―You don‘t have to go to church to be a Christian.‖ The
pastor nodded, walked over to the fireplace, picked up a poker, and separated one of the
burning coals. He then asked, ―What will happen to it?‖ The other man replied, ―It will
go out.‖ A beautiful parable rooted in everyday experience.

       Consider the implications of regular worship. As grace is shared through word
and sacrament our souls are fed—no where else will this happen with such rhythm.
Second, our faith comes to life as the community offers care and support, especially in
tough times. Loneliness, the scourge of our busy society and vexation of our souls is
challenged. Regular worship equips us to appreciate our Lord‘s first coming and to
anticipate his Return.

       Before seminary and children, Carollyne and I toured Israel, Turkey, and
Mediterranean Europe for six months. We didn‘t have a clue of what to pack nor how
heavy and awkward the stuff we brought would be. One day, in a small Israeli town we
could go no further. I felt like a camel who was contending with the last straw. So we
say down on a sidewalk and unpacked all our gear and divided it up: what we‘d ship
home and what we needed to keep. What a sweet difference the unloading made. The
preparations we make on the personal level are about unloading unwanted baggage. This
is what repentance is all about.

       To explain. Repentance is about honestly reviewing our lives and actions looking
for the things we have done which have shared other and shamed ourselves. Then we
recognize that they are wrong and hurtful. Next, we apologize to God for offending Him
and hurting his children. If helpful, our apology may include that person we have hurt.
Finally, we accept the gift of forgiveness and get on with life refusing to be ridden by
―the what ifs‖ and accusatory memories. A guilty heart cannot appreciate the joy
revealed in a manager nor joyfully anticipate meeting God face to face. Prepare by
dumping the guilt.

       Christ comes to people through the actions of you and me, his followers. In other
words our preparations also need to impact the communities we live in. Luther in a
lecture on the life of Enoch suggests that this happens three ways. Evil must be
confronted as it is encountered. Let people see Christ in us when we stand up to the
bullies that are hurting, harassing, and intimidating them. I am told that in the novel Dr.
Zhivago, two characters have an insightful conversation. They are on a train pulling out
of a station and people are milling about. One of the characters says, ―Before Christ no
one mattered, after him everyone does.‖ When we do stand up for someone else we are
saying ―You matter‖ and they hear Christ. Christ also comes when we do something
good for someone. Last week I had lunch with one of our members. She told me that
while she was busy enough she wouldn‘t mind donating a day or two a month to help a
person or family in crisis. She spoke of willingness to cook a casserole or even baby sit a
colicky baby so the parents could have time off. I was so impressed by this gracious
statement I will be setting up a ―Holy Spirit Helpers‖ list to facilitate such actions in the
New Year. The point though, Christ comes to others in our kind and caring deeds and
words. The third element is witness which involves our willingness to invite others into
Christ‘s community. In this month‘s news letter our editors eloquently put it this way,
―O yes, one more thing—how about inviting a friend or two to one of our Christmas
services. We‘ll make them feel welcome.‖ In our invitations and hospitality Christ
comes.

         Now, ―why?‖ Why worship, repent, and act? Because in preparing to celebrate
Our Lord‘s first coming at Bethlehem and his Return tomorrow we rediscover that He is
here with us now.

         And the prophet said, ―Prepare the way of the Lord.‖




                                               AMEN
Pastor's Sermon for November 12, 2006

WHEN THE BOTTOM DROPS OUT

St. Mark 13:1-8 HSL y06/00

       ―Look teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!‖ exclaim the disciples
as they take in the splendor of Solomon‘s Temple magnificently restored by Herod. In
response Jesus forecastes it‘s fall. Later that day his inner circle ask for a specific time
table. Our Lord lists a series of signs than concludes with the words, ―This is but the
beginning of the birth pangs.‖ Some forty years later this prophecy comes to pass as the
Roman Army reduces the temple to rubble. The temple was the centre of Jewish life and
culture: with it‘s destruction the bottom had dropped out.

       Consider how closely the signs Jesus lists describe the ways in which ―the bottom
can drop out for us.‖

       DO YOU SEE THESE GREAT BUILDINGS? NOT ONE STONE WILL BE
LEFT HERE UPON ANOTHER; ALL WILL BE THROWN DOWN. Massive stones,
the picture of permance prove unstable. When our foundations break we are profoundly
threatened. This was poignantly captured in an episode of ―All in the Family‖ with Edith
saying to Archie after hearing his confession of giving a waitress ―a little kiss,‖ ―Archie,
you was the one thing I could count on and now that‘s gone.‖

       MANY WILL COME IN MY NAME AND SAY, ―I AM HE!‖ AND THEY
WILL LEAD MANY ASTRAY. It can be crushing to feel let down in our faith life.
Amy prays that her devout grandmother will recover and she doesn‘t. A new church
teaching is contrary to what you believe is right. A pastor or church leader is revealed as
a fraud. We can go into free fall.

       WHEN YOU HEAR OF WARS AND RUMOURS OR WAR…FOR NATION
WILL RISE AGAINST NATION. Conflict disrupts life and it‘s all around us. Israeli‘s
shell Palestinians and we commit more soldiers to Afganistan. There‘s harassment in the
work place. Combative family members can turn mealtimes into battle zones. There‘s
even inner conflict. A former colleague told me about his father, a man he respected and
loved, had taken him aside and in a torrent of bitterness sdai to his boy, ―I hate my life.‖
Even hearing such a confession can shake us to the bone.

        THERE WILL BE EARTHQUAKES IN VARIOUS PLACES; THERE WILL
BE FAMINES. Whether natural occurrences—the lower mainland of B.C. flooding or
personal experiences over which we have no power—illness and economic downturns
we can be overwhelmed.

        However the bottom drops out, the temptation is to withdraw into fearfulness,
bitterness, and loneliness. Over against this temptation we have Jesus‘ sustaining words
to his disciples and to us. THIS IS BUT THE BEGINNING OF THE BIRTH PANGS.

        Now I speak only as a witness to labour but the experience did provide me with
deep insight. Labour is, if nothing else, a period of radical and painful transition marking
the end of a pregnancy and the beginning of parenthood. Two things are abundantly
clear. One, the pain and upheaval do come to an end. So I don‘t ignore the difficulties—
I am entitled to name them adding that they hurt, made me afraid, or just plain
overwhelmed me. Also I refuse to conclude that this is how it‘s always going to be—the
upheaval will end. Second is that such endings never simply mean ―the end‖ but rather
something new is now able to begin in our life. Twenty years after the destruction of the
temple the religious centre of Judaism becomes the writing of the Torah, Law, and
Prophets—they move on with a new and more encompassing sense of their faith.

        After Jennifer‘s birth someone, quoting someone else, said, ―A child‘s birth is
God‘s opinion that life should go on.‖ Hope is another gift this illustration of child birth
brings to mind. Hope suggests that today can be better, easier, and more fulfilling. Hope
assures us that life, not death, has the last word: the future is in God‘s good hands. In a
nutshell hope is the strength to keep going, to get out of bed, and to face another day
inspite of it all.
       In this life, in a variety of ways, the bottom will continue to drop out. Armed with
hope we get to see these events, even the hardest ones, as times for new beginnings.




                                             AMEN
Pastor's Sermon for October 15, 2006

MANY POSSESSIONS

St. Mark 10:17-31 N. Conference ‗06

       Only words like sad, tragic, pathetic, and misguided come to mind. A family
member came to believe that God wanted him to leave all his goods behind and preach
the Gospel in B. C.‘s northern lumber camps. So Uncle Harold headed north with little
more than the clothes on his back. He moved from camp to camp as his health
deteriorated. One day the family received word that Harold had died—a combination of
starvation and pneumonia.

       I do not believe for one minute that God had demanded this of Harold. Yet we
have Jesus saying with love, ―You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the
money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.‖ While
not a literalist I do believe that we along with that rich man are engaged by these words—
a sight is offered and a challenged delivered.

       The insight and challenge revolve around the role of possessions, especially
―many possessions.‖ Materialism is not a new concept—with a working definition of
―using material objects to meet deep spiritual and necessary psychological needs.‖ The
experts tell us that the chief struggle of a healthy psyche is finding a balance between a
separate personal identity—―I gotta be me‖ and group membership—―Hail, hail, the
gang‘s all here.‖ To this end, we can attend prestigious schools and graduate with
honours or join exclusive gyms and golf clubs and do our best to stand out. Validation
and affirmation are needed—I need to know that I am good and that I matter. Goods
deliver. Who is more successful—the woman with a Lear Jet at her disposal or the one
with a six year old Sunfire? Who is of more obvious value to the company—the man
with a corner office or the one in the cubicle? We are all familiar with ―therapeutic
shopping‖ we even have jokes about it: When the going gets tough, the tough go
shopping. We also share a need for hope—something that will get us through the
uncertainties of tomorrow. Again stuff provides a basis in the form of investment plans
and ongoing health care insurance programs. The message being, ―have hope, you are
insulated.‖

       The problem with ―materialism‖ ranges from idolatry—things and the acquisition
of things is more important in our life that any relationship with God. To being enslaved
by things—freedom and free time are freely given to our drive for more. The situation
beautifully captured by Mark who writes, ―… he was shocked and went away grieving.‖
Ultimately materialism robs life of all joy.

       ―Jesus, looking at him, loved him.‖ You as the lay and clergy leadership of our
conference appreciate that God‘s love for each of us is the antidote to the materialism
around us. Our identity within the group is established in Baptism and re-affirmed every
time we receive Holy Communion. In Baptism we are named a child of God in the
family of God and at the altar rail we hear the word, ―For you‖ and know that this
sacrament while profoundly personal re-enforces my place in the whole community. Do
you know how the cost of an object whether an heirloom or a garage sale special is
devised? It value is determined by what someone is willing to pay for it. How much did
God pay for you—his Son on a cross. In other words, you and I are beyond price at this
point. Our validation comes from God; we do not need to prove our worth to any one.

What about hope? We have the resurrection in our future to get us through as well as the
support of our congregations. We do not face tomorrow alone.

       The challenge for me though is how this God given alternative to materialism is
lived out—what is the practical application? I see three hands on possibilities.

       Currently we are offering a supper and study at Holy Spirit. After a fine meal
prepared by Rod, Sarah, and me we gather in groups to discuss ―The Heart of
Christianity‖ by Marcus Borg. One suggestion that he makes is that we as Christians can
prove we are not slaves to things by coming to a place where we can say, ―No thanks, I
have enough.‖ Practically speaking this means I no longer automatically buy into the
mindset that I need newer, bigger, and better toys: instead I can find satisfaction in what
I have once the basics are met. This is profoundly liberating.

         Recently I had lunch with one of our colleagues, Peter Grundler. As we left our
table I noticed that he had left a tip I considered over the top so I asked him about it. He
shrugged and said, ―I‘ve decided to become more generous.‖ I was impressed and have
since tried to be more generous also. The point being that the practice of generosity is a
concrete expression of our freedom. Also, people around us benefit from this change of
heart.

         The mystics of our faith believed that the essence of all faithful response to God is
gratitude. Freedom that we have also impacts our spirituality in general and our prayer
life in particular. Rather than our prayers being a shopping list of concerns and desires
they become expressions of thanksgiving. I‘m not suggesting that we never pray about
our hurts and worries but the focus changes. Saying ―Thank-you‖ completes our
relationship with God and on the other provides a new perspective in the face of troubles.

         The temptation to materialism is all around us. Christ offers us an alternative. An
alternative that frees us to say,‖ No thanks, I have enough,‖ to be generous, and to enjoy
a healthy spirituality.




                                                      AMEN
Pastor's Sermon for October 1, 2006

INSTEAD OF WORRY

St. Matthew 6:25-33 HSL 1/06/00

       What gives, it‘s Thanksgiving and our Gospel lesson is about worry or the
challenge not to worry. Worry is defined as:

                (M.E. to strangle) 1. To harass with or as if with continual

                snapping or biting; also, to shake and mangle with the

                teeth; as the dog was worrying the rat. 2. To torment;

                trouble; plague. 3. To bother, annoy. 4. To be engaged in worrying,

                or mangling, something by tearing it with the teeth. 5. To feel or

                express great care and anxiety; to fret.

What is strangling you? What is tearing at you? In other words as you engage in
Thanksgiving activities what worries lie just under the surface?

       I worry about finances. If I were to loose my job it would be a disaster.

       I worry about this parish. Am I doing enough to create a sense of community?
Do people, especially on the fringes feel cared about? If you are being fed spiritually.

I treat numbers like a report card.

       I worry about our kids. Are they safe? Are they valued for who they are? What
about their faith lives?

       The list goes on. I only share this with you because I know I am not the only one
here this morning with worries.
       To this reality Our Lord says, ―Don‘t worry.‖ This is no glib ―Don‘t worry be
happy‖ being of no real help other than being a pleasant sentiment. Our Lord goes on to
offer real concrete advice on what can be done in response to worry.

       The first thing He suggests is that we remember that we are of great value to
God. How does this help. Well, worry by its very nature undermines our sense of self
worth. To illustrate using my list. Society looks down on the poor and often blames
them for their situation. If I run into serious financial grief I will experience society‘s
distain. One of the chief pillars of any man‘s self-esteem is his work—the more prestige
the job the better a man is inclined to feel about himself: if I am a poor pastor, how can I
say I am a good or valuable man. If my children get hurt, make mistakes, or forsake the
church, how can I say I am a good parent? Over against these conclusions our Lord says,
―Look at the birds of the air: they neighbour sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet
our heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?‖ Jesus by
reminding us that God values us sets a new foundation upon which we can build our self-
esteem—God‘s love. The power of worry is reduced. In the face of worry we can pray
something powerful and new—―God, thank-you for loving me.‖

       Than Jesus asks, ―And can any of you by worry add a single hour to your life?‖
For him, worry is a pointless waste of time. Will worrying about a relationship make it
better? Will worrying about a job make it appear or disappear? Will worrying about
money put some in my pocket? Will worrying about our children keep them out of harms
way? No! All worry will do will stop us from acting while at the same time deplete our
spiritual, mental, and physical resources.

       So suppose we let God‘s love defang worry. Suppose we dismiss it as a dangerous
waste of time. Than what? We will create a vacuum in our minds and souls—there will
be a hole where worry use to live. Now minds and souls, like nature, abhor a vacuum. It
won‘t remain empty for long—the worries will come flooding back in a torrent of woe
and anxiety. To prevent this Our Lord says, ―But strive first for the Kingdom of God and
his righteousness.‖ We are to fill in the hole left by worry with righteousness.
Righteousness means ―having right relationships.‖
        At the heart of a right relationship with God according to Christian mystics is
thankfulness. Once while visiting one of our shut-ins the topic of prayer came up. She
said, ―I don‘t ask for thing but I look for things to say thank-you about.‖ I was amazed
since she carries a huge load of grief. While it is natural and even necessary to share our
concerns in prayer our prayers need to be build around thanksgiving. It‘s the ―thank-
you‘s‖ that lead to fulfillment.

        Than allow this flow into creating right relationships with those around us. The
question becomes, ―How can I be best spouse, parent, neighbour, and friend?‖ Than live
out the answer. Sometimes it means going on a date, shoveling a walk, going for coffee,
listening to a story, praying. Such action has two wonderful benefits. One, those around
us experience care and two, we act positively rather than stewing negatively.

        We also need to be right with ourselves. Instead of worrying we get help to
determine what helpful action, if any we can take than do it. We also need to pamper
ourselves which man mean more rest, more activity, or more fun and our pampering has
to be guilt free.

        Worry is real—it constantly acts us. Our Lord offers us real help in dealing with
worry—announcing that we are valuable, reminding us that worry is a waste of time, and
offering us an alternative. The Gospel would have us realize that ―Thanksgiving‖ needs
to be worry free.




                                              AMEN
Pastor's Sermon for September 1, 2006

NOT HUMAN TRADITION

St. Mark 7:1ff HSL 09/06/00/94

               … in vain do they worship me; teaching precepts as doctrine. You
abandon the commandments of God and hold to human tradition.

It is truly amazing how society‘s views, expectations, and values creep into the church
becoming unofficial yet influential practice. This has always been a dangerous challenge
to our Faith. Consider these three culprits.

Society holds government responsible for creating and maintaining law and order. What
makes law and order both necessary and attractive is that it provides us with security.
But when creating and maintaining law and order becomes the focus for a church the end
product is not a general sense of security but rather a harsh legalism. Legalism, the belief
that obedience to rules and regulations makes one more attractive to God, breeds
judgmentalism and fear.

The fear that legalism introduces is reflected in the accusing question, ―Am I good
enough?‖ with the implied answer ―No.‖ This in turn invites the accused heart to look
for someone to judge as less good.

A woman told about her experience of church after getting a divorce. She said that upon
returning to her parish she was made to feel unwelcome—not as good as she good of
been. Judged rather than supported when she was hurting and vulnerable.
A vicious circle that has nothing to do with God and our faith.

Society also fosters as ―us and them‖ mentality. Until recently the international situation
involved an ―us‖ of the free world and a ―them‖ of the Eastern block. With the end of the
Cold War the new ―them‖ was the drug cartels of South America and today it is Muslim
extremists. Closer to home it‘s ―us‖ Albertans and ―them‖ who want our oil revenues.
And so it goes. Going right into the church. There‘s ―us‖ Lutherans and there‘s ―them‖
of other denominations. There‘s ―us‖ liberal Lutherans and ―them‖ conservative
Lutherans. There‘s ―us‖ who are active and involved and there‘s ―them‖ who show up
for poinsettias and lilies. This gives birth to elitism (we are better than you) and
suspicion (you are different therefore dangerous). In churches elitism and suspicion build
glass wall which hold out and hurt the stranger, the lonely, and the tired.

Society also teaches that ―there is no free lunch.‖ Everything has a price tag—praise,
awards, and bonuses go to the performers. This too has wormed its way into the church.
Good and faithful members who should know better fret that had they prayed just a little
harder, gave a little bigger offering, or read their Bible more Grandma might have pulled
through. Faith is reduced to a horrible bartering system.

Over against this situation we are reminded of God‘s Law summarized by Jesus to ―Love
the Lord your God with all your resources and your neighbour as yourself.‖ When we
centre ourselves here the unhealthy influences are truly challenged.

So what about ―law and order?‖ First of all, we are not anarchists—we do see the
necessity of having laws to maintain order and security even within the church. Second,
we do see the importance of announcing judgment. However the enforcement of laws
and words of condemnation must always be rooted in God‘s love for both his people and
creation. So, we do condemn violence in society and in homes, poverty—especially child
poverty, and senseless war because of God‘s love for the powerless, the poor, and those
who suffer innocently. Confrontation of individuals engaged in hurtful behaviour
happens within the context of love and a sincere desire to help and include. Laws and
judgments are only enacted as expressions of love not of power.

In response to the ―us‖ and ―them‖ mentality is Christ‘s command to love our neighbour
as ourselves. These words directly attack elitism and suspicion. On one hand, elitists
fear that they are not valuable, so they need an inferior ―them.‖ Now Jesus gives us
permission to love ourselves. I am valuable, unique, and irreplaceable because He says I
am. Don‘t feel guilty about appreciating who you are and your accomplishments.
Second, view your neighbour in this light. Seeing them as valuable, unique, and
irreplaceable cures suspicion—love reminds us that different doesn‘t mean dangerous.

Finally, at the centre of our Faith is God‘s gift of grace. Grace is unearned and
undeserved love. Two examples might be a mother‘s love for her newborn and a dog‘s
love for their master however both these loves can get used up but not God‘s. Should we
reject his love and run from it He only seeks us out all the more. Because He loves us He
also forgives us and has a place in heaven for us. Know without question there is no
pressure to earn these wonders. We worship, pray, and do good not because we are
afraid that He will stop loving us but to say thank-you. With God, the lunch is always
free.

The command is to love God and our neighbour as ourselves. Laws and judgment can
only be expressions of divine love acted out through us. ―Us‖ and ―them‖ are really
brothers and sisters in Christ. Grace pays for lunch. If we are not clear on these points
than our worship really will be in vain.




AMEN

Pastor Tim Posyluzny
          Pastor's Sermon for June 18th, 2006

A KINGDOM BUILT ON SM ALL THINGS

St. Mark 4:26-34 HSL 06/06

        You cannot pray the Lord‘s Prayer, attend church, or read the Bible without
coming across some mention of ―the Kingdom of God.‖ In fact today‘s Gospel lesson
contains two parables of the Kingdom. While references maybe familiar I am not sure
that what is meant is all that clear.

        So, how are we to understand ―Kingdom of God?‖

        Luther in answering this question writes, (see BC p. 426 #51). The Kingdom of
God is encountered as the Gospel is shared and believed. Because of Jesus evil does not
have the upper hand, sin and guilt do not own us, and death does not have the last word.
We belong to God. On Thursday I conducted a memorial service in a home for mentally
and physically challenged adults. One item that stands out for me was a poster on
adoptions. It read, ―April wants three things for her birthday—a doll, a sweater, and a
forever family. We all want a ―Forever family‖ and this also reflects a spiritual longing.
God‘s Kingdom is all about belonging and fitting. The Holy Spirit is the One who
controls and sustains the Kingdom today.

        But how are we to interpret the Kingdom of God for the world around us?

        Did you happen to see the movie, ―The Kingdom of Heaven‖ which is another
way of expressing kingdom of Heaven? It‘s about the crusades and an attempt to
maintain the Holy Land as a Christian domain. This illustrates a very popular
interpretation of what is meant by the Kingdom of God—a historical political entity: An
entity in which the power of the state rests in the hands of those professing to be
Christian. Along with the Holy Roman Empire, there‘s the city state of Florence under
Savonarola, Geneva under Calvin, New England under the Puritans and the list goes on.
What these share to a lesser or greater extent is repression, sometimes resulting in the
public burning of books and as Heinrich Heine noted, where books are burned, people are
soon to follow and they have. Not societies in which I would wish to live. Over against
this understanding is Our Lord saying to Pontius Pilate during his interrogation, ―My
kingdom is not of this world.‖

       If ―the Kingdom of God‖ is not to be interpreted in terms of political power and
control than?

       It is about imagination. Imagine what Edmonton would be like if Jesus were
mayor—what do you think would be changed? Or imagine what Alberta would be like if
Jesus were premier—what do you think would be different? Or imagine what Canada
would be like if Jesus were Prime Minister—what do you think it would be like? Than
we plan, act, and live as if this were so. Rather than being an institution propped up by
force the kingdom of God is a movement inspired by the Holy Spirit.

       Our Lord than gives us insight into the nature of the movement with two
parables—one about the mystery of seed growth and another about a tiny seed becoming
a sheltering shrub. Essentially his kingdom is rooted in small things which result in big
changes. These parables speak two important words of grace.

       Too often we succumb to the belief that if we can‘t deliver a big expression of
faith, like becoming a missionary, donating a wing to a hospital, or combing the two and
becoming a missionary doctor, we aren‘t really contributing to the kingdom. Nothing
could be further from the truth according to these parables—instead we are not to
underestimate the value of the little things we can do. A clerk I know worked in a large
department store. She told me about a bitter sweet incident. A young mother stopped at
her counter and sat her little boy on it. He was obviously Down syndrome. The clerk
looked at the little guy, smiled and said, ―Aren‘t you a fine young man.‖ His mother
said, ―Thank-you‖ and burst into tears. The kingdom was extended at that moment with
a smile and a compliment. Something we all can do. Or we all can say, ―I‘ll remember
you in my prayers.‖ Or we all can bring stew for the mustard seed supper. Or we all can
cut an elderly neighbour‘s lawn. Or we all can…

       The other word of grace is that the realization of the Kingdom is not our
responsibility. If the crop grows, the seed becomes a shrub, a person changes or life
around us gets better is not in our hands—this is God‘s work. Don‘t let worry over
results stop you from doing little things or enjoying them either.

       The Kingdom of God is Jesus graciously touching us and we graciously touching
others never underestimating the value of small things left in God‘s Hands.




                                                      AMEN

Pastor Tim Posyluzny
Pastor's Sermon for May 28, 2006

OUR BEST FRIEND

St. John 15:9-17 HSL

       Who is your best friend? Hopefully all of us are fortunate enough to be able to
name that person. But have you ever wondered what is that transforms the people we
meet into the people we call ―friends?‖

       According to an article I came across friendship rests on three pillars. If one of
them is missing than no matter how close we may feel to that other person we will never
enjoy a friendship with them—they‘ll remain acquaintances.

       The first pillar is mutual caring: that is, we can put their needs and desires before
our own while they do the same for us. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, in discussing
this aspect of friendship put it this way, ―Friendship seems to lie in loving rather then in
being loved.‖ St. Francis included this thought in his famous prayer.

       Second, friends are trustworthy. Not only can we trust them with our possessions
we can trust them with our secrets. They will not only respect our confidences but they
will continue to like and accept us warts and all.

       Finally they give us the gift of trust, including sharing their hopes, fears, and
dreams.

       That friendship is rooted in mutual caring and the knowledge that we can
confidently reveal ourselves to them and have their trust strikes me as true.

       Today‘s Gospel lesson is all about friendship—Our Lord‘s Friendship with us.

       But before we address the question—―Is he really a friend?‖ it is important to note
that Our Lord also says, ―You did not choose me but I chose you.‖
       At the high school I attended sports teams were chosen by two captains, usually
super jocks. They in turn chose their team mates; usually in order of skill or popularity. I
and a few others who were lacking in these departments knew the embarrassment of
being chosen last. Perhaps you can identify. Anyway through his words Our Lord
assures each one of us that this is not the case. In fact, we are the first chosen. Instead of
the pain of wondering ―if‖ and ―when‖ we will be asked to be his friend we are
immediately told that we are.

       Furthermore to be chose his friend is of special significance. To be a servant or
even slave of God is an honour. People from Scripture who proudly boasted of being
God‘s slave include Moses, Joshua, King David, St. Paul, and St. James. For me it would
be an unbelievable honour to be listed among those heroes of the faith. Yet Our Lord
grants us even a greater honour. From ancient times Easter Kings and later Roman
emperors had a group of close advisers known as ―Friends of the King.‖ Basically
anyone of these people had immediate access to the ruler, even if he was sleeping. What
separated them from the other advisors including generals was the intimacy they had with
the king. Our Lord, by raising you and me from slaves and servants to friends, is giving
us the gift of intimacy—a special closeness with the Creator of the Universe. We can
approach God anytime and anywhere knowing we will be welcomed with open arms.

       With this in mind we can ask is there, in this offer of friendship, the possibility of
mutual caring? I mean, his love for us is obvious: all we need to do is reflect on the
beauty of nature or the events of Good Friday. His motive is his love for us. He has also
established a way by which we can show our concern for him. A shoemaker dreamed
that the next day Christ would visit him. That morning he got everything ready—a
sumptuous meal, a sizable donation, and a special pair of shoes. During the course of the
day he received three guests. First a child on the point of starving—he fed him. Next a
destitute woman arrived—touched her plight he gave her the money. A shoeless man
received shoes fit for a king. He went to bed that night smiling at how ridiculous it was
to have expected Jesus to visit. When he slept he dreamed an angelic messenger arrived
with a letter from Jesus. It read ―Thank-you for the gifts.‖ Hokey I know but its message
is real—God‘s concern and love for us becomes mutual when we care for our neighbour.
        We can trust him with our deepest and darkest secrets. Not only does He already
know He is still willing to call us friend. We may break his heart but He still won‘t reject
us. His total acceptance is made clear and real every time you and I come to this
communion rail where we experience welcome.

        Now do we experience his trust in return? Consider the fact that spreading the
good news of God‘s love, forgiveness and hope is completely entrusted to us. If we
refuse to reach out it‘s over. If we do not act the Church dies and his life, death, and
resurrection become a forgotten story without meaning. His Spirit moving through us is
all about trust.

        The question was, ―Who is your best friend?‖ For Christians this isn‘t a hard
question to answer.

                                              AMEN

Pastor Tim Posyluzny
Pastor's Sermon for May 14, 2006

THE ABIDING

St. John 15:1-8 HSL 05/06/97

        Abide in Christ, have Christ abide in you, and so bear good fruit. That‘s the
invitation, that‘s the challenge.

       ―Abide with me, fast falls the eventide‖ begins that familiar hymn. But what are
we asking or more to the point, what does the word ―abide‖ mean? The most usual
meanings, and there are two, are ―to stay with me here‖ and ―to continue with me as I
go.‖ The primary understating in this teaching is that we the Faithful and Our Lord be
together as we move through life—a branch on the vine is the illustration.

       Now if a guide were written on how to maintain a living moving relationship with
Jesus Christ it would have at least four basic chapters.

       Chapter 1 is ―The Importance of Regular Worship.‖ You may or may not know
that I work out at a gym. The suggestion made to me by an instructor there was to make
sure that I exercise at least three times a week but aim for four. The reason is simple, ―If
you don‘t there won‘t be improvement or in gym parlance, gains.‖ A happy spin off of
regular exercise beyond physical change is getting to know other others who workout
too. So too with worship: if our worship is haphazard nothing really changes for us. Our
relationship with Jesus remains superficial as does our sense of community.

       Chapter 2 is ―Words of Prayer.‖ First, in any healthy relationship communication
is crucial. Communication enables us to be known and to know our partner.
Psychologists tell us that we all share a longing to be known—communication affords
this. Prayer is communication. When we pray we get to know ourselves better—what‘s
really going on; we freely open ourselves to Jesus; and He reveals himself to us through
thoughts, invigoration, and a sense of his Presence. Second prayer changes our
perspective. I once heard an Imam speak on prayer. He explained that a Muslim is
expected to pray five times a day no matter what they are doing—why? To remind
themselves of what is truly important. Prayer reminds us too of the relationship we have
with Jesus.

       Chapter 3 is ―Open your Bible and Read It.‖ Why do we have directions, maps,
Google search and the list goes on—isn‘t it to give us necessary information we
otherwise don‘t have? This is the point of this chapter. The Bible coupled with a good
commentary like Barclay‘s or the Interpreter‘s Concise Commentary opens are hearts and
minds to the relationship Our Lord desires with us.

       Chapter 4 is ―The Gang‘s All Here.‖ Spend time with other Christians. Did you
ever get the advice, ―Don‘t talk to strangers?‖ I did. Can you spot the flaw in this time
honored wisdom? Everyone is a stranger until you talk to them and spend time with
them—even your best friend. It‘s in spending time with other Christians that we get to
know them and more often than not come to appreciate them. But more than this our
beliefs about Jesus are supported and re-enforced. We simply feel closer to Our Lord
when we gather with his people even if it is to paint a gym or lay sod at a halfway house.

       Worship, prayer, Bible study, and fellowship are basic to experiencing Christ‘s
presence in our lives, to appreciate that He abides with us and we with him. This
awareness will result in us bearing good fruit. What is ―good fruit?‖

       While much could be mentioned I will highlight three examples of the fruit we are
to bear.

       In our year one confirmation class a young girl invited a friend to join us. That
invitation was issued in September—her friend who is not linked to our parish in anyway
has rarely missed a class. Our conformant is bearing an important fruit, that of mission;
helping someone connect with Our Lord and his family the church. In fact pointing
others to our loving, forgiving, and hope giving Lord is job #1.

           A member who now lives south of us was a teacher. She noticed continual
bruising on one of her students and brought this to the attention of the right authorities.
She wound up having to testify against the parents who did their best to intimidate her.
She held her ground and did the right thing. Doing justice, particularly defending the
weak, poor, and defenseless is bearing fruit of the Faith.

        A member of a former parish got drunk and wrecked their car on a slow news
day—everyone knew. After a time they returned to church worried about what kind of
reception he might get. He encountered nods of acceptance and words of
encouragement. This is the fruit we call mercy. Mercy is never just allowing someone
another chance is the willingness to embrace the person as a brother or sister in the faith
inspite of it all.

        The fruits we bear must include outreach, justice, and mercy. But what is crucial
to remember is that these actions aren‘t demanded of us nor do they entitle us to
preferential treatment here or in the life to come. No, they are a natural outcome of you
and me abiding in Christ and He in us.




                                                      AMEN

Pastor Tim Posyluzny
Pastor's Sermon for April 30, 2006

CHILDREN OF GOD
1 John 3:1-7 HSL 04/06/00
               See the love the Father has given us,
               That we should be called children of God,
               And this is what we are.
―Children of God‖ is how St. John describes us. But what does it mean to be a child of
God? One way to answer this question is to ask a contemporary yet related one: ―What
does it mean to be a child?‖
       When childhood is being discussed the basic issues necessary to that discussion
are entitlements and responsibilities. That is children are entitled to certain things in life
and in turn can be expected to assume certain responsibilities.
       ―Home free‖—the childhood declaration of safety. Safety is first among the
entitlements. Each child needs space and relationships where they sense ―I won‘t get hurt
here.‖ It is within such environments that they learn to trust. Our Lord‘s constant
greeting of ―peace‖ is the assurance that God is not out to get us. This area is actually
referred to as the sanctuary. ―Sanctuary‖ means ―a holy place of refuge.‖ It is here that
we learn to trust in Our God‘s good intentions towards us, not to be afraid.
       Children are entitled to nurture. This includes the necessities of food, shelter, and
clothing. But nurture also includes the building of positive self-esteem. All children
need to feel valuable and special no strings attached. The basic necessities of our nurture
that God provides are experienced as the Word is proclaimed and the sacraments
administered. Our basic spiritual welfare is looked after. He than set our value on that
Cross. You and I are precious in God‘s sight and so can see ourselves in this light. It is
also God‘s intention that we get our basic physical needs met too.
       Security is another right. Surprisingly security is rooted in discipline—the rules,
regulations, and consequences of life in the family. When a child knows the limits and
what happens when these limits are breached creates security. In fact children often act
out trying to determine when these limits actually are. It‘s as natural as looking for the
comfort of a handrail when approaching a cliff at night. Our God has given us the Ten
Commandments summarized by Jesus as ―loving God with all our abilities and our
neighbors as ourselves.‖ The consequences of breaking these family rules are evident—
guilt, loneliness, and death. God doesn‘t make us guess—the guild lines and
consequences are clear.
       Related to this though is that each child needs to know that perfection is not
expected. They can make mistakes. The hope is that they will learn from them. God
knows our frailties and that we are also open to temptation and prone to sin. He holds out
the gift of forgiveness which frees us to put the guilt down and change.
       Children are entitled to an education. Education begins with the simple and basic
learning of facts that facilitates learning and the ability to make good decisions. God the
Holy Spirit works this in us. Creating a basic curiosity about Jesus, the Bible, and his
Church while providing us with the ability to believe.
       Finally children are entitled to play. God gave us the Sabbath.
       There is no doubt that God does provide us with the basics needed for a healthy
childhood.
       Second, a healthy childhood includes responsibilities. Children need to be
enabled to do things that encourage maturity.
       Children need to have age appropriate chores and be responsible for them: there‘s
picking up toys, taking out the garbage, making the bed, tidying the bedroom, cutting the
grass and so it goes. It‘s about how we work together as a family. So too for the children
of God. But what are our chores and responsibilities in this family? Well perhaps our
chief responsibility is to gather for worship. We acknowledge our sin and accept
forgiveness; listen intently for words of Grace, share from our abundance, and gladly
receive the sacraments. There is also the matter of identifying our area of strength and
than sharing it in service—are you handy, a reader, a natural greeter or teacher, the list is
long. Like our homes nothing happens by magic, it all takes effort. The smallest hands
doing the littlest chores do make a difference.
       I remember watching Trev pack up as he prepared to leave for work as an
apprentice pipe fitter at the Husky Up grader in Lloyd minister. It signaled growing
independence. Independence is something we need to give and expect from our
children. The children of God also need to be independent. Sanctification is one way
that this happens. That is, we try to live a life that is continually becoming more pleasing
to God. It ranges from praying more to treating those weaker than us with greater
respect. Witness, sharing our faith story, is an expression of maturity. Once while
visiting in the hospital I got into a conversation with a man. He told me about his wife‘s
illness and would I like to visit her. I did. At the close of the visit I offered a word of
prayer. To my surprise he said, ―Let‘s include her roommate—she‘s a Christian.‖ He
had reached out to this other woman and now was creating a sense of Christian
community.
       So like the children around us, we, the Children of God, are entitled to certain
things and are responsible for others. But if this was where the sermon ended the single
most important feature of childhood would have been overlooked. All children need
unconditional love. But like the other entitlements and expectations no all children have
this precious gift. This is not our situation—to be a child of God is to be loved
unconditionally.




                                               AMEN



Pastor Tim Posyluzny

								
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