Sermon for June 18, 2017: “Holy Father’s Day”

Readings:
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8

Sermon for June 17, 2017: “Holy Father’s Day”

February 18, 2014 is the day my life changed forever.
4:48 pm to be exact.
That is the moment my son Paul was born.
When Doctor Lavoie delivered Paul, turned him around, and Paul opened his beautiful eyes and cried I fell madly in love with that boy.
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Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday 2017: “Decision Sunday”

Readings:
Genesis 1:1-2:4
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

“Decision Sunday”

How many of you have ever heard of a game called Tri-Bond?
Tri-Bond is a board game that requires players to determine a common bond between three subjects.
To start off my sermon I wanted to give you a few example.
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Sermon for Confrimation Sunday 2017: “A New Answer”

“A New Answer”

 

This morning is Confirmation Sunday for four incredible young people.

For a long time, I did not like using the word “Confirmation.”

I preferred calling it as it is found in our liturgy: The Affirmation of Baptism.

 

Let me explain why I don’t like “Confirmation” the word.
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Sermon for May 28, 2017: “Misfits”

Gospel: John 17: 1-19

 

Sermon for May 28, 2017: “Misfits”

With the Memorial Day holiday this weekend, it marks the official beginning of summer.

And I know how I’m going to celebrate.

By going to the movies.

Yep. This week I intend on watching not one but two movies.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

And

Wonder Woman.

Yep, if there is a comic book movie, I’m going to watch it.

Probably more than once.

And I can’t wait to see the crowds that fill the theaters.

And how they react.

I remember when I first saw the Avengers:

People came in costume to this event.

I saw many Captain Americas, Thors, Iron Men, Black Widows.

 

And then after what seemed like an eternity of sneak previews the movie started…

And the crowd went nuts. People shouting and cheering.

And cheering for every moment. They cheered when Iron Man showed up, they roared when Captain America first appeared, the women passed out when Thor appeared.

They were into it.

I was into it.

And with each cheer I looked around and smiled and I looked at Kristen and I proudly said…

These are MY people!

But it wasn’t always that way.

Growing up reading comic books and collecting them was not as accepted as it is now.

When boys were starting to get into girls I was getting into XMen Avengers Spider-Man

And it was hard to find acceptance among my peers because they saw my hobby as a waste of time, a waste of money

And since they thought my hobby was strange they thought I was strange.

They saw me as someone not cool enough to be a part of their group.

And so there were times I felt alone.

And feeling alone in this world can be very hard.

Feeling like you don’t have a place or a people to call your own can break your heart.

 

And I think about the youth today

The ones deemed socially awkward and not invited to the cool parties

The ones who are smart, who people call nerds, judged unfairly because they understand the work or actually LIKE learning

Or the ones who are gay who live in fear of harassment or bullying.

Sometimes from their own families.

I also think of the athletes.

The ones people assume have it all together.

But inside hurt when someone calls them dumb jocks.

Or how about the cheerleader who likes cheerleading, dancing, showing school spirit, but is considered only important because of looks.

And it doesn’t have to be just at school.

At work, I bet you know someone who seems to be set aside from others.

Or maybe it’s you.

And it doesn’t just happen at school or work,

It can and does happen sadly in church.

Think of the people who are judges because they are:

single with a baby,

Going through a divorce

Or they are:

A different color,

A different culture,

A different sexual orientation.

 

Being judged hurts.

Being left out is a downright tragedy.

 

There is nothing more devastating in this life than to hear someone tell you that You Don’t Matter.

And that is why Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel practically scream at us.

 

Because the last thing Jesus wants you to think or believe is that you don’t matter to God.

 

This morning’s Gospel comes from John 17, and the whole chapter is one big prayer.

It is a prayer that Jesus makes to God his Father.

There are some things you need to remember when you read and hear this prayer.

This is the end of the section in John called the Final Discourse, the Last Supper.

Chapters 13-17

I call it the Final Confession because this is where Jesus lays it all out for his disciples.

He tells them why he came (to teach and to save), and what he must do (to die)

He also confesses his LOVE for them.

And that they are now his FRIENDS.

His FAMILY.

And Jesus reveals to them that he CHOSE the disciples for this moment in time.

They were not picked randomly.

They were chosen.

 

There are moments in the Gospels where Jesus prays to God and we don’t know what or for whom he prays.

That’s what makes this prayer so special because it is said out loud, and we know that Jesus is praying FOR his disciples.

And what a powerful prayer!

Because Jesus points something out for the first that we need to pay attention to:

Jesus says he has protected and guarded these friends.

How did he do this?

Maybe he protected them from imprisonment.

Or from being attacked.

But what is important is that Jesus has protected them.

 

And then he says, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.”

The world hated them

Some would say they were hated because they followed Jesus but let me give you another perspective…

Maybe they were hated because of the kind of people they were.

 

None of the 12 would be considered good students.

If they were, they would have already been a school with a Rabbi at a much younger age.

But if you weren’t good enough to be rabbis, you had to go do something else.

Like being fishermen.

A good vocation, a good wage, but not considered elite.

Or you could become a tax collector, and with that become one of the most hated in all Jerusalem, because you would be considered a traitor to your own race, working for the enemy (the government)

Or you end up like a zealot, someone who would kill the tax collector under other circumstances, and to be honest, a zealot is not the easiest person to get along with, in a way he is awkward.

Can you imagine the group of misfits around that table with Jesus?

 

And even though they are not present, let me also add the women who followed Jesus, women were considered second class. Their word was not valid. They were good for only two things: cooking and raising children.

But Jesus saw them and treated them as people.

 

Getting back to the misfits around that table.

The world hated these misfits.

But Jesus loved them.

 

He loved them so much that he prays to God to PROTECT them from the Evil One.

He knows the world will be against them, but they have a powerful ally.

God.

When Jesus prays this prayer he is making a vow,

An oath,

And that oath is:

“These disciples do not belong to the world, because they belong to ME!

These misfits are MY people.

And no one can or will take them away from me.”

This morning, I am here to tell you today that YOU all of YOU are Jesus’ people.

 

You are children of God.

You know how I know that?

 

Because of words like these in our gospel.

Because of what Jesus did to protect his friends.

He died for them.

He died for us.

 

And our God,

Our Savior,

does not do that for someone he hates.

 

Or for someone he calls stupid, ugly, or a waste of time.

 

No.

Jesus does it for someone he loves, that he cherishes, that he protects.

 

I also know this because of the promises made at baptism, not just by the parents, the guardians, or the church but the promise made by God.

With each splash, God washed us in his love, his acceptance, and his family.

When the sign of the cross was placed on our forehead that was God saying:

“Welcome, my child.”

 

No matter what the world throws at us, God is there either to:

Protect us

To take the hit for us

Or to catch us when we fall.

 

And that is good news.

That is the good news

And the Jesus we need in our lives today.

It is the Jesus the WORLD needs.

 

So how do we bring this Jesus to the world?

By welcoming everyone

 

EVERYONE

 

who comes through those doors.

And if some man comes in with tattoos all over his body and you want to stare like he is an animal at a zoo, remember

what God says “He is my people.”

And if a single mother comes in with a baby, and the baby is crying, loudly, and the mother is trying to comfort the baby while struggling to hear the word remember

God says, “SHE is my people.”

Or if a young person comes in wearing a Metallica t-shirt and shorts, and you think he or she is not dressed for the occasion, remember God says, “YEP. That one is my people, too.”

 

But you don’t have to remember God’s words when you are at church.

You can give this Jesus to everyone you see.

At school, maybe the next time you or your friends laugh at someone, take the courage to say, “He’s is one of God’s people.”

Or at work, and that co-worker once again gets on your last nerve, remember “that person is one of God’s people too.”

 

Rather than arguing over what divides us we need to talk about WHO unites us.

 

Maybe, just maybe, people are waiting for us Christians to do just that.

 

They are waiting for us to show not just tell them that THIS Jesus does exist

and that THIS Jesus really loves them.

 

And he means it.

 

Maybe this morning you have experienced loneliness.

Times of hurt and pain and rejection.

Times you feel like  you are the misfit.

Maybe you are going through it now.

 

If you are or have, remember this bible passage from John.

And remember the sign of the cross that was placed on your forehead at your baptism,

And remember these words promised by God:

 

“YOU are MY child. MY beloved child. And I am with you through the good and bad times…ALWAYS.”

 

 

Sermon for May 21, 2017: “Guardians”

Gospel: John 14: 15-21

 

Sermon for May 21, 2017: “Guardians”

The other week Paul and I were at the bookstore when he said something that almost made me cry with tears of joy.

Paul pointed his little finger to a nearby shelf and with his sweet little voice said, “That’s Groot.”

Yes.

My three year old boy knows who Groot is. Continue reading

Sermon for May 7, 2017- “Episode Five (Jesus Strikes Back!)”

Gospel: John 10: 1-10

Gospel: John 10:1-10

 

Sermon: “Episode Five (Jesus Strikes Back!)”

 

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend from seminary.

And he shared with me how he was going to make a Seinfeld reference in his sermon.

Again.

And I was honest with him,

I said, “Dude. The show’s been off the air for almost 20 years.

Move on.

You have to stay in the present, and not always reach back to the past.”

 

And so that is why today I am going to talk about Star Wars J
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Sermon for April 23, 2017: “Doubting Thomas & the Fun Mobile”

Gospel: John 20:19-31

 

Sermon for April 23, 2017: “Doubting Thomas & the Fun Mobile”

 

When I was a kid, I did not like going to parties.

Actually,

 

I liked going to parties,

I just didn’t like leaving them.

 

And it wasn’t because I was having too much fun and didn’t want to go home.

 

The reason was Timing.

 

I was convinced that there was a Fun Mobile down the street

Filled with

balloons, bands, monkeys

waiting for me to leave the party so it can drive up and the fun can really start.

 

I was scared of missing out.

 

Today we hear the well-known story of someone who missed out.

 

Thomas.

His famous nickname is “Doubting Thomas.”

 

But to me

he deserves

and has earned

 

another nickname.

The Gospel of John is the only Gospel where Thomas actually says anything.

Ch.11-

He shows great courage by saying “let’s go back to Judea with Jesus” when others are afraid to go with Jesus who wants to return to the place where people are waiting to arrest him.

 

Ch. 14-

He asks the tough question “How do we know the way?” as Jesus talks about the way to The Father’s House.

And then we get to Chapter 20…

And for some reason Thomas is not present when Jesus first appears before his disciples that first Easter.

 

I can only imagine the emotions running through Thomas.

Maybe he thought he was part of a joke,

That his friends were pulling his leg.

A biblical Candid Camera if you will.

Or Punk’d for our younger members.

 

Maybe he felt anger for not being there.

 

Or regret that he had missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime.

 

The Jesus Fun Mobile had come and gone.

 

And if you look carefully at what Thomas says that leads to his “Doubting” nickname,

 

he only wants the same thing his friends got to see: Jesus’ hands and side.

 

He wants to SEE Jesus again!

 

But there was no guarantee

that Jesus would come back for another visit.

 

Well,

it is a good thing that God has a wonderful sense of timing.

 

Jesus DOES appear again to the disciples

and this time

 

Thomas is there.

 

And after giving peace to the group,

Jesus goes to Thomas

and gives Thomas the proof he wanted.

Keep this in mind:

Last week

 

I preached how Jesus sent out his disciples

 

even when some doubted his resurrection.

 

This week,

Jesus does not make Thomas feel guilty

for not being there a week earlier.

 

Jesus gives Thomas what he asked for.

 

He just says,

“Here I am, Thomas.

Touch me.

Touch my wounds.”

At that point,

 

Thomas does not have to touch Jesus,

 

seeing Jesus was good enough.

 

And Thomas never doubted again.

 

In fact,

 

I believe Thomas should not be called Doubting Thomas,

 

he should be called

 

Confessing Thomas,

Because when Thomas calls Jesus “My Lord and My God”

that is a major moment in the Gospels.

 

Throughout the gospels,

 

especially in John,

 

Jesus would get the crowds and church authorities riled up

 

when he would put himself on equal level with God.

 

For many this was blasphemy.

For the government it was treason

because Caesar was THEIR God.

But for the first time,

 

after the resurrection we have someone

CONFESS,

ADMIT,

PROCLAIM

 

what Jesus had been saying all along.

“You. Are. God.”

 

This is a true MAJOR Resurrection Moment.

And Thomas is THERE to be a part of it.

He’s not just there.

He says it!

 

Thomas goes from expressing doubt

to making

the chief confession in John’s gospel,

By saying “My Lord and My God”

 

Thomas gives the highest praise of Jesus

 

made in the New Testament.

 

And by saying “MY Lord and MY God”

Thomas is not only

 

pledging his allegiance to Jesus,

 

He is pledging his heart and his soul.

 

For Thomas,

this whole discipleship mission

is now personal.

He is not going to tell people about

A Jesus,

 

or A God,

 

He is going to tell people about

HIS Jesus,

HIS God.

 

Thomas’ life is changed forever.

 

But let’s not forget about the other disciples.

 

I believe that Jesus came back a second time

 

not only for the benefit of Thomas

 

but for all the disciples.

They are no longer students.

They are the messengers.

They are the witnesses.

They have a job to do.

Blessed are those who believe and yet have not seen.

Who is to give them that blessing?

The disciples.

 

BUT, they can only do that job if they do one thing:

Leave the room.

 

Jesus wants the disciples to

 

UNLOCK that door

 

and go and tell the people

 

what they have seen and heard.

 

 

 

They have to leave the safety of that room, with its locked doors, and go out into the big scary world.

The world that sees them as criminals,

or at the least,

abettors to that Jesus fellow who claimed to be God.

 

The world that will DOUBT their Good News.

 

But the world is the mission.

 

And they do not step out into the mission field without some help.

 

I was going to say back up,

 

But the Spirit doesn’t back up anyone.

 

The Spirit leads.

The Spirit

makes the path the disciples will walk.

The Spirit

creates openings where there are closings.

The Spirit

can open the eyes, ears, and hearts of the world.

 

And for the disciples,

especially Thomas,

 

the Spirit gives them peace,

authority,

and confidence.

 

And the words to tell God’s story.

 

As for us,

 

I want us this week to start acting more like Thomas.

 

Not Thomas the Doubter,

 

but Thomas the Confessor

 

Here is what I mean by Confessor.

When the Spirit gives us an opening,

we share how we have seen,

felt

and experienced God,

 

from the best and worst of circumstances.

 

When people ask me about the existence of God,

 

in a way they are wanting to see the wounds and the scars of the Jesus

 

I get my Thomas on and say things like:

 

“I have seen the Lord”

In New Orleans and Mississippi first hand after Katrina,

The people who rebuilt homes,

provided food,

and medical care.

 

Sandwich Ministries

Cancer Support Groups

Meals to the Homeless

 

“I have heard the Lord”

The first cries from Paul and Maddie.

 

When my wife calls me “Sweetie”

 

The children…My Peeps…when we pray together

 

I have felt the touch of the Lord

in the form of a hug,

an embrace from a friend,

family,

Kristen,

for those who have pets you know that there are times when your cat, dog, or other animal, their touch does something for you.

 

All these thing help reassure me

 

that God is real.

That God is alive and well.

 

That God is MY Lord and MY God.

 

Again, that’s what I do.

Each of us

can and will

have our own ways of talking about God,

showing God.

 

The important thing is

to be honest.

Speak from the heart.

 

Talk about your faith, your doubt,

Talk about this congregation.

Talk up St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church!

 

Talk about why you love to come here:

That its for the wonderful music

The more than 50 ministries

The good-looking pastors

Just be honest with the people!

 

 

The important thing is we do it.

And that we try to Out-Thomas Thomas!

 

By doing that,

 

we show people,

 

who have been left out

 

and left behind,

that there is a party,

a feast

 

that is taking place

 

and that the fun does not start when they leave,

but when they arrive.

 

Thanks be to God!

Sermon for Easter Sunday 2017: “Believers and Doubters Welcome”

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord our strength and redeemer.”

 

Well, we made it.

We made it through another season of Lent.

All 480 days of it!

 

Today is a day filled with happiness and light, terrific music and singing.

It is a true celebration.

And yet, amid all this party, there is one verse in our Gospel that sticks out to me.

It sticks out because it frustrates me.

 

Verse 17: “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Continue reading

Sermon for Maundy Thursday 2017: “Mind Your Manners”

Gospel Reading: John 13:1-17, 31b-35

 

Sermon for Maundy Thursday 2017: “Mind Your Manners”

 

A few years ago, I was invited to have dinner with the NC Synod Bishop, Leonard Bolick, and other Lutheran clergy.

Bishop Bolick is one of my favorite people, and I was so excited and honored at being invited I immediately called my mom.

She was excited as well.

But right before I hung up the phone she said something in passing that gave me pause.

In fact, what she said shook me to the core.

She said, “Don’t forget your manners.” Continue reading