God's always "hooking us," pulling us back: back to the Word, back to the Meal, back to the Font...back to the community.

This blog is for the purpose of sharing around each Sunday's Bible readings & sermon at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.

Get Sunday's readings here. We follow the Narrative Lectionary.
(In the summer, we return to the Revised Common Lectionary' epistle or Second Reading here.)

So, what's been hooking you?

So, what's been hooking you?

Here you can...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 25 -- Christ the King Sunday

Christ the King Sunday
25 November 2012 – 8:15am & 10:30am

Still Christ’s Church, Still Christ’s Year. 


The church year is an ever-unfolding drama, the story of what God has done in Jesus Christ, and continues to do: to bring salvation of God’s human family.  In the changing colors of the paraments and the progression of the seasons, we are participants, because all that Christ our King unfolds before us year by year, season by season, was done for us.         
ADVENT – LESSON: Micah 5:2-5  

2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.  3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.  4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth;  5 and he shall be the one of peace.        


CHRISTMAS – LESSON: Luke 2: 1-7  

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.  2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  3 All went to their own towns to be registered.  4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.  6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.  7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.           

EPIPHANY – LESSON: Matthew 2: 1-2, 9-11

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,  2 asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage."  When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.  10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

red hymnal #303  “brightest and best of the Stars”  vs 1, 3

LENT – LESSON: John 2: 16-21     

13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" 17His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." 18The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" 19Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body.

red hymnal #319           “o lord, throughout these forty days” vs 1, 3

HOLY WEEK – LESSON: Mark 15:25-39     

25 It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified him.  26 The inscription of the charge against him read, "The King of the Jews."  27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left.  28   29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days,  30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!"  31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself.  32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe." Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.  33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  34 At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, "Listen, he is calling for Elijah."  36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down."  37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.  38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was God's Son!"

red hymnal #353           “WERE YOU THERE” vs 1, 5

EASTER – LESSON: Luke 24:1-10  

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.  2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,  3 but when they went in, they did not find the body.  4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.  5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.  6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,  7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again."  8 Then they remembered his words,  9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.  10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.

red hymnal #365 “jesus christ is risen today”  vss 1 and 2 

PENTECOST – LESSON: Acts 2: 1-4     

 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.       

red hymnal #396 “Spirit of Gentleness”         vs 3

The Green Season:  THE SUNDAYS AFTER PENTECOST – LESSON: Mark 4:26-41

26He also said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is
ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come." 30He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." 33With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.  35On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

red hymnal #742 “what a friend we have in jesus”                vs 1  
Red hymnal # 540 “go, make disciples”

CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY – LESSON:  Revelation: 11:15-17

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever."  16 Then the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God,  17 singing, "We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.

Sending Song – red hymnal #660 “lift high the cross”          
The children of the congregation are invited forward to pick up an instrument and lead the procession of God’s people out into the world with joy and hope.                                                                       

Go in peace. Christ is with you.                                                                                                                                  
Thanks be to God.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Monday, November 19, 2012

November 18 -- Twenty Fifth Sunday of the Green Season

Grace to you and peace…

Take a moment and turn to your neighbor and describe to her or him the most impressive building in which you’ve ever been in your life – doesn’t have to be religious, but it could be.  Perhaps a cathedral, perhaps an athletic stadium or a mall, perhaps a skyscraper or a castle.  Think about it for a moment, and then tell your neighbor…

[share some responses.  Empire State Building, Wrigley Field, Castle Church, Mall of America]

Well maybe you had to think about what the most impressive building you’ve ever seen is, but for the people Jesus’ time and place, this would not have been an interesting question, because everybody knew:  It was the temple in Jerusalem. 

And in our Gospel text, as some of the disciples are admiring that temple – “What large stones, and what large buildings” –  Jesus prophesies.  See these stones?  See this temple, see that cathedral, that stadium, that mall, that skyscraper, that castle?  Not a stone will be left on stone.”  In other words, all earthly things will eventually deteriorate and waste away…as glorious as they may be right now.  “But my body,” Jesus says to us today, “will rise up through the ashes.” 

Christ speaks to us today about ultimate things—the end of the world, the end or our lives—and thank God for it.  The world will end.  Our lives will end.  But Christ will rise up through the ashes to take us with him, to shower the ruined world, the dead and all creation with love and righteousness, Christ will rise up through the ashes to rule all in all. 

Come, this morning, sisters and brothers in Christ, receive the comfort of God in the midst of our fears.

Do you ever worry about the world coming to an end?  It seems like no matter what period we’re in, someone is are always able to relate to these texts about nation rising against nation.  Whether the halls of power are dominated by Democrats some years or Republicans other years, there’s always that voice:  “Uh oh, this is the end.”  Maybe it comes from whatever party is not currently in power, or maybe it’s on our tv sets or radios or computer screens, or maybe that voice is in our own heads: “Uh oh, this is the end.”

But here’s what’s at the heart of our readings today, friends in Christ:  Whether we live or whether we die, we belong to Christ!  That’s actually from the book of Romans, but it’s at heart of today too.  Come, you who are scared about the end or the world or the end of your life, come, you who are terrified about what might be next.  Come—all are welcome in this place—and receive the comfort of God this day—offered to us in Bread and Wine, Word and Water.  The comfort of God.  Maybe our places of worship—our stadiums, our shopping malls—will be destroyed.  Those places where we put our trust, our joy, our money.  Maybe our places of worship—our churches where Christianity is studied, preached and practiced—are sliding off a cliff.  I don’t happen to believe that, but I’ve been wrong before; and sometimes we forget that everything we have can be gone in the blink of an eye. 

And even if we were to lose everything, sisters and brothers who follow Jesus, remember that Christ rises up through the ashes to save us, to heal us, to redeem us, and to comfort us.  Can we trust that promise?  Can we open our hands to receive that gift freely given in Christ Jesus?

The Church is not a building, the church is the body of Christ.  The Church is you.  But not just you, it’s the generations and generations that came before you and me.  And it’s the generations and generations that, thanks be to God, will follow.  The church of Jesus Christ will live forever, wherever 2 or 3 are gathered, wherever the word is preached and the sacraments are administered. 

What if this building was to burn down?  That’s worth asking with our text today.  What if this wonderful building was reduced to a pile of ashes on the corner of Avocado and Fury?  Would Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church still exist?  Would you still have a church home?  Of course, because [children’s song: “I am the church. You are the church.  We are the church together.”]

Christ rises up through the ashes.  Our God lives, not confined to buildings and rituals (which rise and fall), but our God lives…among us (prof who threw the Bible against the wall), in us, around us…as we seek ways to love and care for each other and this frightened world.  Let our reading from Hebrews guide us this day and always: Let’s wait for God by caring for each other.  Let us lift one another up.  Let us be the church.  Let us wait for God by reaching out.

Sisters and brothers in Christ, someday it will all end—maybe tomorrow, maybe light years from now—but remember this day and always that whether you live or whether you die, whether this world lives or whether it dies, WE BELONG TO CHRIST.  May that strong word be your comfort in all you do.   

Let’s read together our HOD #327 -- "Through the night of doubt and sorrow". 

Let us pray:

O God, our help in ages past, help us to trust in you now.  In the midst of our joy and in the midst of our fear, help us to trust in you now.  We give you thanks for the gift of your Son, who rises up through the ashes, and leads us on our journeys.  Continue to hold us together, strengthen our hearts, and assure us of your promise, this day and for evermore.  AMEN. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 4 -- All Saints Sunday

Something stinks.  Can you smell it?  Something stinks, and it’s all around.  Sometimes we don’t even have to smell it, like Martha said at the tomb, “Don’t go in there there, Lord!” We know it’s there, the stink. 

6th century mosaic
DEATH stinks.  The deaths of our loved ones.  It sucks.  It stinks.  There’s no other way to put it.  How we long to have our friends, our lovers, our parents, our children back in our arms…just once again.  To hear their laughter, or ignore their advice, or feel their touch.  But we can’t have that.  Death stinks.

And that stench of death isn’t just about our dearly departed: It’s about our culture, our traditions, our memories.  Sometimes it can seem as though everything we hold dear is going away.  Maybe someone’s taking it away, or maybe…it’s just dying. 

And we find ourselves, like Mary, Lazarus’ grieving sister, crying out, “If only, Lord!” – If only!  If only my grandma hadn’t died!  If only I had more money!  If only we had more space!  If only we had a better pastor! 

If only Lord…then this never would have happened!

Sometimes we can get so bound up with our wishful thoughts and hopes and dreams, with our constant “if only’s” that it’s almost as if we’ve climbed into the tomb and sealed the door.

What was that mirror in Harry Potter?  The Mirror of Erised?  Harry discovers this Mirror of Erised (desire spelled backwards) that shows whoever looks in it their heart’s deepest desire.  Pretty cool.  Harry can see his parents who he never knew; Ron can see himself as the greatest athlete…
“But beware,” warns wise Dumbledore, “for many have wasted away sitting in front of the mirror of dreams, forgetting to live.”

The tomb in this story, the bound up, dead body – how we, even in our lifetimes can become so bound up with our “if only’s” that we can’t even see the light of day.

And Christ weeps at our deaths, at our idle longings.  See how much he loves us?  Christ doesn’t just quick fix our issues.  We have a God who mourns our deaths, and our inabilities to break away from our desires.  That’s significant…before we move on to what happens next.  The tears of Christ are precisely what bring us to the mountain (described in Isaiah) where weeping and sorrow shall be no more.  The compassion of our God is what drives this resuscitation!  Not just merely power (like a father who just quickly buys his son whatever he wants).  This is not just power, but it’s love, compassion, justice, the peace that passes all human understanding.

Christ approaches our tombs too.  Orders the stone to be rolled away, and says in a loud voice:  “Mark, come out!  Lois, come out!  Helen, come out!...”

This day isn’t just about our dearly departed.  It’s ALL Saints Day…and that means you too.  God has raised them, praise Jesus, but God has raised us too!  Already!  God calls you by name, and out you come.  Maybe you even stink a little bit – know what I mean?  Maybe you’ve done things you regret, said things you wish you could take back, acted carelessly, judged unfairly, under prepared...You’re mine, even if you stink, Jesus says today, and that’s all about to change!  Because now you’re free, bound by nothing, to live the life that God has created you to live.

So, how then shall we live outside the cave of death, away from the mirror of dreams?  Where will God send us next?  What does got have in store for you, stinky as you once might have been; for me, stinky as I once might have been.  God sends us now into the world to love and serve both friends and enemies.  What will that look like for you, for us as a congregation?  It’s a little scary to come back to life.  Can you imagine how Lazarus felt? “What am I supposed to do now?”    

And it’s not a gentle invitation to live anew.  “Uh, Margaret, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind joining me out here with the living?”  It’s a command, albeit dripping with love divine, it’s a command!  “Come out!”  It’s a declarative statement.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life: and because you are joined to me through water and word and wheat and wine, then you are alive in me…right now, not just after you die.”  You are saints of Jesus Christ, friends.  (Introduce yourself to the person next to you as St. [name].  Go ahead, come out and say it!)

Because Christ lives, we too live anew, with all the saints.  Thanks and praise be to God, this day and into eternity!  AMEN.