What Does The Cross Mean?

September 28, 2017

It is so much easier to float through life, letting things lie right where you left them, status quo, and unquestioned.  Harder is asking why.  Why is something the same after so long, when so many other things have changed around it, and not only the world, but you have changed.  It is hard to ask the Lutheran question “what does this mean?” when we are likely to be unhappy, or uncomfortable, with the answer.  Asking questions of faith also taps into a larger insecurity with many people and they are unwilling to discuss, and especially allow examination of, things that are deeply rooted in tradition or their expression of faith.  The Cross is one such thing.  When we ask “What does the cross mean?“ our answers reveal something of our faith, and that may reveal more about us than we are willing to admit.  Here are some honest answers, but none of them are easy. Grace – This is the safest of answers because all Christians are fans of grace.  And it is true that we understand our forgiveness, and God’s grace in giving it, through Jesus’ death on the cross.  But it is not an easy answer because...

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Lutheran Disaster Response

August 28, 2017

Here is how you can respond with help for those recovering from Hurricane Harvey.   http://www.elca.org/en/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response/Our-Impact/US-Hurricane-Relief    

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Faith is Relationship not Theology

July 26, 2017

“Christian Faith” has been abused, maligned and misrepresented in recent years and most of the reason is us.  Christians have given those outside our faith all the ammo they need to label us as self-righteous, judgemental and homophobic.  We have divided ourselves with denominational-ism, we have allowed our academics to fist-fight over theology, and we have chosen to acquiesce to the loudest voices claiming to represent the “Christian faith.”  When we choose not to speak up when our leaders lead or behave badly, we passively reinforcing their leadership.  In recent years there has been more than enough justification to portray “Christian faith” in a negative way. It’s time for us to change the narrative. A simple reading of any of the Gospel books should make it clear that the doctrine, dogma, practice, ritual and theology of the church in Jesus day was broken, self-serving and oppressive.  Jesus teaching, preaching and healing challenged all of those things, and yet was open and welcoming.  Jesus was not establishing a new order, new doctrine, or a new religion.  Modeling and teaching faith to his followers was far simpler. Here is one small example.  There are three places in the Matthew ch. 9 where...

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Love is hard. Hate is easy.

June 27, 2017

It seems we need to continually be reminded of the basic ways we are called to follow where God leads us.  Jesus tells us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44).  Jesus tells us that whatever we do, or fail to do, for those who are in need, any need, we do to God (Matt. 25:40).  We are supposed to lead others in becoming disciples of Jesus (Matt. 28:19).  And if we read the Gospels even once it is clear that Jesus made disciples and cared for the needy, not by force or coercion, but by love and invitation.  And yet, we as the modern church seem bent on dominating others into believing like we do, using intimidation or manipulation to convert.  Or we resort to expulsion in order to exclude those who might disagree, or be different than us. When we choose to use Jesus clearing the temple (Mark 11:15) as our model for ministry instead of Jesus touching the leper (Mark 1:41) we are choosing to chase others away instead of touch those in need.  It is the easier path, loving and caring for others is hard work, and sometimes you get hurt.  Did that stop Jesus?  Isn’t that...

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HOT ENOUGH FOR YA!?!

June 22, 2017

New record high temperature.  116 degrees.  Hot enough to cook food in my car, although I haven’t taken that opportunity for good stewardship… yet. How do we cope?  I had a mid-west transplant tell me “Think of it like a snow day, only different.”  When the temps are too cold in the mid-west winter, or the snow is too deep, people stay indoors.  In Arizona it happens in the summer when the temp is too hot.  It’s the same, but different. In Matthew 5 Jesus is teaching on the mountain and explaining God’s hope for the crowds gathered.  He says “you have heard it said…” and then adds, “but I say to you…” Taking the way people had been told of God’s direction and making it clear what God really intended.  In 5:21-48 he uses this pattern to talk about anger, adultery, oaths, divorce, retaliation and the love of our enemies.  And in each case he starts with the simplest understanding of the law and builds on it.  So start with murder.  Just because you haven’t killed another with your own hands doesn’t mean that your anger or hate hasn’t done deathly damage to others, and you.  Refraining from killing...

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What are you afraid of!?!

May 9, 2017

This week someone asked me, “What fear were you referring to in your Sermon?”  And I realized it was a really good question for two reasons.  First, I refer to fear, the climate of fear in our society, the use of fear by our public leaders, and the many ways that we are incited to fear by our media (social & news) in many of my messages.  And I think it is one of the most stubborn social problems of our time.  Second, I am purposefully non-specific about the causes of fear to allow each person to ‘fill-in-the-blank’ for themselves. So when asked about the specific fear I had addressed in a message it is obvious that there are many fears in the hearts and lives of my community.  Fear of illness, fear of aging, fear of foreigners, fear of other religions, fear of death, fear of deportation, fear of failure, fear for our children, and these are just a few.  Some are rational, and some are highly irrational.  And I realize this is where I am usually preaching.  As I formulate a message that addresses fear, I am addressing the irrational fears that are driving so much of society...

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Pastor’s Post #1

May 1, 2017

Recently I read an article that talked about the challenge of being the pastor of a “purple church”.  The author described being in the middle of the overlapping “red” and “blue” circles that represent the two sides of our polarized political climate.  And I understand that.  In every church there are the right and the left, the conservative and the liberal, the red and the blue.  Although some communities may seem to nurture one or the other, most churches are communities that include both.  We are foolish if we assume that being a part of a community means universal agreement on all points, political or otherwise.  And, choosing to see political parties that way perpetuates a broken model of community.  Whether it is Jesus speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42) or eating with tax collectors and sinners (Matt. 9:9-13) or Paul using the image of the body to teach about community (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) the Bible teaching about community is far more inclusive than exclusive. “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not...

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