Wednesday, May 28, 2008

God's Exuberant Generosity

OK, so the sermon title wasn't my own. I got the thought from the Festival of Homiletics, and something that was said (I believe) by Walt Brueggeman, so I can't take credit for that. It never really ceases to amaze me how certain words can paint complete pictures all in themselves. With that being said, here is my sermon from this past Sunday.

Wisdom vs. Information

Earlier today at text study we got to talking about the Gospel reading for this Sunday and the story about the wise man building his house upon the the rock. It led us to a discussion about wisdom, and do we really seek it in this culture all so much any more? Is wisdom really something we value, we seek?

Every once in a while you'll see a cartoon portray a guru sitting on top of a mountain. It's an interesting prop for a comic strip. However, it seems we don't really seek out wise ones like that all so much. Which made me wonder if maybe wisdom has become something we seek more communally, for example like Wikepedia.

We are overloaded with information every day. Yet how much wisdom do we get? It leads me to think we're a wisdom depraved society. If that is the case, can we really embrace a story like we'll read on Sunday? Where do we even begin to relate?

I can tell you that wisdom begins with God. In fact, if I remember correctly, the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord. I don't have many answers, but I can suggest to start with God.

Community Conundrum

Last weekend were up at Luther Seminary for the Baccalaureate service as well as a few other graduation related activities. It got me to thinking about my time at Luther Seminary. What it got me thinking about was that the professors I seemed to most enjoy were the ones who, to me, really genuinely cared for, and enjoyed, the students. Isn't that something all of us are really looking for? A community where people really, genuinely care for us?

So how do we get people there? It seems to me that you can't force/coheres anyone to genuinely care? Maybe you can learn to fake it, but I suspect you'll be found out. So how do we foster a community that cares? Maybe, for all of us it starts with "me."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Last Sunday the assigned Gospel reading was from Matthew 6, where Jesus exhorts us, "Do not worry." A wonderful thought, but how often do we hear, "Do not worry," and wonder, "Why? What should I be worrying about?" So it was that I found it somewhat ironic that this past Sunday students from Luther Seminary graduated. An interesting fit of scripture and events, I think.

I was also struck by what I would consider the irony of a friend of mine who graduated with the class on Sunday. He grew up on a farm. Nothing wrong with that, but I think sometimes farmers get a falsely stereotyped that they are not real smart (because they seemingly work more with their hands than their brains). There is also a sense that farmers are tied to their land. Here's what I think is great, my "farmer" friend is probably one of the smartest people to be coming out of Luther Seminary this spring. He is also one of the more mission minded pastors coming out of the class as well. I suspect it's more "thanks to," than "despite," his parents that he has turned into this remarkable pastor.

Lazy and Forgetful

Earlier today I was at a meeting in which during our time of worship the pastor suggested that the Muslim faith doesn't really have a notion of original sin as we do in our Christian faith. (Keep in mind this is from another pastor so who knows how reliable that is.) Apparently instead of original sin they believe more that people get lazy and forgetful. I suppose this is a bit of an oversimplification of their understanding, but it does feel kind of true to my experience.

How often do I find myself forgetting what I was going to say? Usually it will get covered with something like, "It probably wasn't all so important." How do we know? It's been lost. Perhaps it was the first step towards world peace, or an idea for a million dollar invention. Of course that's me. Then there are the people of faith. Take the Israelites, for example, after being freed from slavery they seemed to have forgotten about how terrible their previous conditions had been and that God was the one that had set them free and was providing for them in the wilderness. Look at the letters of Paul to various congregations and their church fights, misunderstandings, etc. Don't we make all of those mistakes repeatedly ourselves? Have we forgotten already? Or is it that we've gotten lazy, because to be honest with you to live in relationship with other people is hard work.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Festival of Homiletics

This week I'm attending the Festival of Homiletics and I've been loving it. The problem is that it's completely filling my brain to overflowing every day. I'm hoping next week to eventually start sharing some of the brilliance that I've heard this week. The problem, for you the reader, is that it will only be brief glimmmers and glimpses but I will try my best.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Holy Spirit, Holy Cow

Here is my sermon from Pentecost Sunday (last week).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Grammar Thought

I will apologize up front if I get this grammar thing incorrect. It was passed on to me by someone much smarter than I, especially when it comes to grammar. At text study today we were looking at the Gospel for this Sunday, which happens to be the Great Commission. It was pointed out that when you look at the Greek, "Go and make disciples" has a transitive verb. What means is that it is deeply connected with the subject. In this case the subject is God, and we are but the objects. So, in a sense, it's more of "Go and find people that God is already working on." It's really about what God is doing, not what we are doing.... I know, I didn't explain it quite as well as I wish I could have, but I still think it's a really cool thought.

Another, kind of fun thought, I got from text study is related to our first reading for Sunday, the story of creation. In the story we hear God command a couple of different times, "Go forth and multiply." We always assume it to mean go and make babies. However, what if we looked at it as a command for evangelism? If that's the case we might apply it to Byron by noting that there about 4,000 people who live in Byron now. There are not 4,000 people in worship on Sunday mornings. Consequently, you might argue that our "job" then is to be fruitful, to bear the fruit of the Spirit, so that the number of people in Byron who hear the Good News of Jesus proclaimed would multiply. A fun new way to look at an old story.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dandelion Diligence

Ever since I entered the world of home ownership I've been fascinated with dandelions. I've especially been intrigued by dandelions as a metaphor for sin. These thoughts have reared their head once again as my annual battle with the yellow beast has begun. I know I haven't been as diligent as I could be in adding fertilizer and weed killer as I possibly could, but I've done pretty well I think. I continue to be amazed at the ferocity in which they persist and continue to grow. In fact, it's becoming almost a ritual that when I pull into the driveway, I wander around the yard pulling dandelions for 15-20 minutes before entering the house.

This new ritual has gotten me to thinking lately. What if I attacked the sin in my life with the same diligence in which I've been attacking the dandelions? How much better off might my life be?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Confirmation Sermon

On May 4, we confirmed 32 9th graders and 30 8th graders. It was wonderful to see all of these youth affirm their baptisms and to promise to continue to live out their life of faith. Here is the sermon that I preached that Sunday...

What Good is Theology?

Last week I got to attend a retreat with other first call pastors. On Thursday night our conversation turned to music at weddings and funerals. Much of the group were adamant that only "sacred" music should be a part of that worship time. They shared several examples of songs that people had wanted to use as part of a wedding or a funeral. I got the impression that a number of them would not even want to use "praise and worship" (or some call it "contemporary") music used.

I have to admit, that didn't sit with me real well. Sure, there is music that is more appropriate than others. I do believe I would draw the line with music that is overtly sexual, violent, or filled with inappropriate language (like curse words). That being said, as I retired to me room that evening I was struck with the thought of, "How egotistical it is to feel you can decide for people where they do or do not connect with God."

I wonder if sometimes as pastors we missed a big part of our theological training. How often do we, as resident theologians in our congregations, want to limit where we discover/encounter God? Instead, because we are trained in theology is it not our duty to broaden where we see God? If God is at work in the world, then we should not limit God to the confines of our sanctuaries. If God is at work in the world, and we really believe that, then it is our responsibility to help give people the language (the eyes of faith) to recognize God in ever expanding range of places. Otherwise, what good is theology?