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From Brokenness to Wholeness

This is the sermon I'm preaching on Sunday, 5/31/20, Pentecost Sunday at St. Timothy Lutheran Church's Drive-In Service. The text was John 20:19-23.
Looking back, is this how we thought we would commemorate Pentecost this year? It’s normally such a celebratory time. After all, it is the Christian church’s birthday! We have a party!

But not this year. Rather than a party, don’t we feel a bit like the captives in Babylon who cried out,  “…we cried and cried, remembering the good old days in Zion…That’s where our captors demanded songs, sarcastic and mocking: Sing us a happy Zion song!’  Oh, how could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland?” (Psalm 135: 3-4). Have you felt sometimes like this time of not being able to gather inside our church building being in a wasteland?

A quiet Pentecost; not that of Acts 2, a riotous Pentecost party, given the time we are living in, given the deaths of so many in this year of Coronavirus, given the death of George Floyd and the resulting d…
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From Fear to Peace and Power

Here are a few thoughts I have on this Sunday, Pentecost Sunday's gospel. What are yours?

Gospel: John 20:19-23
19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 
I love the gospel of John. One of my Greek professors in seminary warned all of us who chose this gospel to study and translate that we would regret it. I still am in love with John!

John sets the stage for us in this way: following Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples…

Holy Spirit Musings

This is the devotion I sent to the people of St. Timothy Lutheran Church.
With Pentecost approaching, our minds move to thoughts about that mysterious, hard to grasp Holy Spirit. We have a better handle on the Father and the Son, but that Spirit is something else again.

You just can’t pin the Holy Spirit down. Even gender associated with the Spirit can’t be understood as with the Father and Son. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word for wind or spirit is feminine, so it’s completely proper to refer to the Holy Spirit as she and her, right? Ok, then we move to the Greek language in which the New Testament was written and what do we find? Feminine? No, neuter! In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is an “It.” Hmm, as Luther wrote, “What does this mean?”

It means that the Holy Spirit has a nature that just refuses to be pinned down. When Jesus and Nicodemus were talking, Jesus put it this way, “’The wind [same word as spirit]  blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do…

Balancing the In-Between

This is the sermon I'm preaching at St. Timothy Lutheran Church for our first Drive-In Service. We will be celebrating Ascension Sunday. The gospel text is Luke 24:44-53. If you like, here is a video of the sermon. 
There are three movements in today’s gospel: the past, (vv. 44-47), the promise, (vv. 48-49) and the “while you wait,” the meantime. Each has its role. In the past we find the foundation that connected Jesus’ followers with their history. For us, that is BC—before Coronavirus. We also have the promise of Jesus: the call to be his witnesses (vv. 48-49), which is the disciples’ future. That is when things will be “back to normal,” a future that we long for. The final section is “While you wait” or what to do in the meantime (vv. 50-53) (Troy Troftgruben, workingpreacher.org). This is where we find ourselves today.

In this in-between time, don’t we long for the days of being able to come and go freely? Oh, if only we could just gather together like we used to! But while w…

Kaboom!

Here are some thoughts on the gospel for Ascension, which we'll be using at St.Timothy Lutheran Church this Sunday.

Gospel: Luke 24:44-53

44[Jesus said to the eleven and those with them,] “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
  50Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into hea…

Surrounded By Love sermon

This is the sermon for 5/17/20 for the people of St. Timothy Lutheran Church. Here is the YouTube of me preaching the sermon if you're interested. The text is John 14:15-21. Today’s gospel is part two of Jesus’ final words to his disciples before his crucifixion. It is bookended by “Keep my commandments,” but not like the Ten Commandments. Rather, Jesus’ commandment goes back to Holy Week, to Maundy Thursday, when Jesus said to the disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). Today we find Jesus’ commandments also couched in terms of love. In fact, in John’s gospel, love is the only commandment Jesus gives.
The gospel text begins talking about obedience through love. Jesus’ words begin with love and end with love. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Here and in the last verse of today’s gospel, “keep” means “to retain in custody, keep watch over, guard.” Another meaning is…

Surrounded By Love

This was shared with the people of St. Timothy Lutheran Church. What are your thoughts?

Gospel: John 14:15-21 [Jesus said to the disciples:] 15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
I’ve highlighted a few verses in Sunday’s gospel to visually demonstrate how this reading is completely bookended by love. Reread this te…