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, January 19, 2014

January 19 -- Second Sunday after Epiphany

Listen to this sermon HERE.

For as long as I’ve been here at Shepherd of the Valley, I’d done preschool chapel with the children during the week, and for as long as I’ve been here at Shepherd of the Valley, there’s always been a child or two who will run up to me and call me “God” or “Jesus”.  “Hi, God!”  While there are some good things to that for me, in terms of what children associate with me, and a jolting reminder of part of my role here in this place, I’m always quick -- as I’m sure you’d be too -- to say, “No, I’m not Jesus.”    

But all that changed this last Christmas season, when I was teaching the kids and singing together with them Christmas carols everyday in here:  One of our 3-year-olds named Ryan, would always call me Joe.  “Hi, Joe!” he would shout in the friendliest, and most well meaning of ways.  For 5 years, I’ve been incorrectly named “Jesus”.  But for Ryan, and a few others, who have noticed us adults laughing about this, it’s now “Joe”.

It’s great.  And with all due respect to the great name of Joe, that’s not who I am.  And so this has become a nice reminder to me that I fall somewhere in between -- in between the divine name and the common name.  We all do.  In holy baptism our commonness is made new, reborn, and washed with a name that is above all other names.  Jesus is, of course, not who we are; but he is whose we are.  

Our gospel text today gives us an opportunity to think about names.  Last week the voice from heaven named Jesus “Beloved”.  And therefore you too are called “Beloved”, as we are joined to Christ in this post-resurrection era.  This week, more good name-calling:   John the Baptist points to Jesus and calls him the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  This name is all over our liturgy.  But there’s more name-calling: two disciples call Jesus “Rabbi,” and ask, “Where are you staying.”  At which point Jesus responds, “Come and see.”  Then Jesus calls another disciple by a new name: Cephas, which means Peter.  

Names are incredibly important.  And the change of a name means a lot too.  

I wonder if I’d be the same person if my parents didn’t name me Daniel.  [pause] And do you ever think about if you named your child a different name?  One of the names on my list for our son Micah was George.  

Often times parents don’t tell anyone what they’re going to name their child until the baby’s born.  That name is something special and sacred, that they’re living into for a bit before the rest of us get to share in the joy of that new name.  

So what do you make of Jesus changing Simon’s name to Peter?  They just met!  Put yourself in Simon’s shoes.  I imagine we’d probably put up a bit of a fuss: “I’m not Cephas (which translated means Peter)!  I’m Simon.”  

But if we imagine this more as a nickname, it becomes very special.  He can still be Simon in all his legal documents, but Jesus has called him Cephas, which means “Rock” actually.  

Did you ever had a favorite nickname?  Turn to your neighbor and quickly share...

What is about our favorite nicknames that we love?  It makes us feel connected with whoever calls us that, and it says something about ourselves that we like.  Lately I’ve been calling Katie “Honey bee,” and the other day she told me, “Daddy, I like when you call me honey bee.”  Why do you think?   

Sisters and brothers in Christ, God calls us by a special name again this day, a name that connects us with Christ, a name that says something about us that we like.  From the busyness and the chaos of our worlds -- or maybe for you it’s more of a ho-hum existence, nothin’ fancy -- wherever we are God calls you out.  Christ finds you this day -- like he found Simon Peter.  

The disciples John and Andrew were looking for something.  “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  Simon Peter was not.  Which one are you?  Are you searching intently for something here?  Or are you just going about your business.  Either way, Jesus calls you.  

“Come and see,” he says.  What is Christ calling you to come and see this day, hooking you with your special name?  The Christian life is a life of taking risks, of getting out there, of trusting in Jesus to show us the way...even if that way might not be either what we wanted or what we had in mind.  

What is Christ calling you out into this day?  [pause]

In seminary we had to talk a lot about our “call stories”.  [pause]  But we also learned that call stories are absolutely not restricted to people who go into professional church leadership positions (notice I didn’t say “into the ministry”).  Like a name, everyone has a call story.  Maybe you’re right in the middle of yours.  What’s your call story?  Where is God calling you “into the ministry” now.  The ministry of bank telling, the ministry of interior design, the ministry of security guard, the ministry of nursing, the ministry of teaching, the ministry of construction, the ministry of public servant, the ministry of chemistry, the ministry of real estate, the ministry of parenting, the ministry of studying.  The ministry of aging, the ministry of retirement, the ministry of caring, the ministry of listening, the ministry of laughing, the ministry of hugging, the ministry of breathing, the ministry of dying.

You see?  Everything that at we do -- as named children of God -- is done in response to Christ’s invitation to come and see.  When we follow Jesus, the road of ministry can get rocky indeed, for it is a way of the cross.  That’s where Christ is “staying” (to answer the disciples’ question).  Christ is staying...in our pain to give us joy, (that’s the ministry into which Christ is calling us -- come and see); Christ is staying in our loneliness to give us comfort, in our grief to give us light. 

“Come and see,” Jesus says, “See that I am always with you, from before you were born to your final breath and into eternity.  Come and see that I am with you in your many and various ministries, right beside you in this hurting world, as you go about your daily lives.  [slowly] Come and see that I call you Loved, Forgiven, and Sent.”   

We continue now, loving and serving, following Christ-calling-us-out, into the world.  We continue now, in the name that holds us together, in the name of the One who never leaves us alone, in the strong name of the Trinity.  To that God be the glory this day and always.   AMEN.

Monday, January 13, 2014

January 12 -- Baptism of Our Lord

Listen to this sermon HERE.

Grace to you and peace, from God in Christ Jesus...

There may be things that we do in worship, that we may not be 100% behind; but we do them anyway, because that’s what we do in church.  Do you ever feel like that?  Do you ever come to church and you’re not 100% there, but you just come anyway.  (I think I may have just described all of us.)  It’s as if the Holy Spirit is whispering in your ear:  “Just go along with me here.”  And somehow, when we do just that “go along”...when we join in the hymns, read along with the prayers, something happens at times, and we are swept up with the assembly of the faithful -- not always in a completely dramatic way, not like a raging river, but in the way a small current can help you swim or float a little easier.  (Jordan River as a polluted, little stream.)

I have a colleague-pastor who says to her critical and very academic friends who won’t say the Nicene Creed because of this part or that, in which they can’t believe...that she doesn’t generally say the Nicene Creed either, except when she’s with the community, because when she’s with the community, they carry one another in faith:  the part I can’t believe today, your faith carries me, the part you can’t speak today, my faith carries you.  Like a small current our shared and borrowed faith helps us swim a little easier.

I find this to be true, as well with singing the great hymns of the faith at Christian funerals:  “Beautiful Savior”, “Abide with Me”, “Amazing Grace”.  If you can sing -- and I don’t mean if you can sing in key or with a perfect voice, but -- if you can get the words of the hymns out, then sing out as well has God gifted you, because there are others there who can’t, and they need you to carry them.  Another day, they will carry you, like a small current helping you swim a little easier.

Today in our Gospel lesson, Christ Jesus asks John to baptize him -- a strange request as John the Baptist quickly identifies: “Wait a minute, Lord: you should be the one baptizing me!”  
But what does Jesus say?  “It is necessary to fulfill all righteousness,” he says, [whisper] “just go with me here, John.”

Jesus didn’t need to be baptized, but in so doing we are carried as Christ allows himself to be carried.  In other words, Jesus enters the stream, Jesus too gets washed in the current.  In other words Jesus joins with the community of the faithful, and receives and accepts God’s blessing and God’s call to serve in this world.  It is necessary to fulfill all righteousness. 

And through Christ, because of Christ, we accept and receive the same thing from God above: the name “Beloved”.  Peace.

Confirmation kids -- first session yesterday.  Amazing kids! (Turn to p. 236) “Living among God’s faithful people.”  Yesterday -- walking, talking, sharing, laughing, listening, praying, eating, driving in the car -- all of it part, of our lesson: “Living among God’s faithful people.”  Necessary to fulfill all righteousness -- it’s not just about going to church, doing religious rituals (although worship is central): it’s the whole package -- like a small current helping you swim a little easier.

Sisters and brothers in Christ, Jesus comes among us, is baptized in the same waters as we are, washed in the same current, sharing with us in this life and the many and various ministries that do.  

You are “at ministry” when you are at work during the week!  Whether, work is at home, or in an office building, or on a ship, or in a field, Christ is with us in our daily lives, as we make decisions.  Christ has entered your same water ways (as polluted as they may be), and like a small current carries you through the day.  [pause]

And Christ is with you when the sun sets and the temperatures drop, when the distractions of the daylight are gone, and doubts and fears can overwhelm, as we worry, as we age, (HOM) “when memory fades, and recognition falters, when eyes...grow dim and minds confused, as frailness grows and youthful strengths diminish.” Christ is with you at the end of the day too, like a small current carrying you through the night.  Christ enters our waters in order to fulfill all righteousness, in order to help us understand the holistic nature of this life of faith -- that even as we simply walk and talk, eat and play, worry and lose sleep, Christ is with us, and God still calls us Beloved.  Through this life and ministry, and into the next, Christ is with us, and so we then are able to carry others at one moment, and we ourselves are carried at others.  

Christ enters the waters, and is baptized.  “Just go with me here, John.  This is what it means,” Jesus says, “to live among God’s people: I too must be baptized for [slowly] I am in this flow of the faithful.”  [pause]

Sisters and brothers in Christ, you too are part of this flow of the faithful, and you too are named Beloved -- not by any human necessarily, but by God, who showers down affection, parental pride and love (parents, you know...), and grace upon grace, forgiveness and new life.  In these waters, in this flow we serve, we reach out, we love and we care for one another -- we can’t help ourselves.  The gentle current has got us.  Thanks be to God.  AMEN.     


Sunday, January 5, 2014

January 5 -- Second Sunday of Christmas

Listen to this sermon HERE.

"And yet God refuses to go back into the box with the nativity figurines.  God chooses to stay right beside you -- imbedded/incarnated love, living in the fiber of your being."