Saturday, August 9, 2014

Let Your God Love You.

Be silent. 
Be still.
Before your God.
Say nothing.
Ask nothing.
Be silent.
Be still.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.
God knows.
God understands.
God loves you
With an enormous love,
And only wants
To look upon you
With that love.

Let your God—
Love you.

—Edwina Gateley, Let Your God Love You

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Risking the Church for the Sake of the Gospel

(The following sermon was preached on May 5, 2013, the Sixth Sunday of Easter at Messiah Lutheran Church, Knoxville TN on the occasion of Messiah's first SERVE day experience. On SERVE day, Messiah's members gathered for one worship service, instead of two, and then left in teams, directly from worship, to go out into the community to participate in service projects. The text for this sermon is a modified version of the RCL pericope of the day, Acts 16:(6-8) 9-15.)

Those were the days, those long, lazy, carefree days of summer. Back then, my childhood friend and I would strike out on our bikes, unencumbered by time or fear or parental restriction. No helmets or fancy camelback water bottles. Just our bikes and a free and easygoing wanderlust. Me on my three speed Murray bike. My friend on his single speed Schwinn. Turning the pedals over we’d journey over suburban lanes, narrow dirt roads and grass covered fields. Whatever we desired; wherever we wanted; we would go, completely free to choose our path and destiny. 

Looking back with 21st century eyes, it seems what we did then - two children out and about, unsupervised - was risky, dangerous even. Maybe we were just being naive’ and didn’t know any better. Or, maybe it’s exactly what we needed to do in order to grow up. Maybe we needed to go out on our own, step out of the familiar, and risk something. 

According to today’s reading from Acts, Paul is striking out on the way, he and his fellow missionaries, going wherever their little hearts desired. In their thinking, maybe they would go on to parts of western Asia Minor (what is modern day western Turkey) or possibly to the Asia Minor province of Bithynia (what is modern day northern Turkey on the Black Sea.) There wouldn’t be much risk involved in that. Each of these destinations would be familiar territory for Paul. He was from Tarsus in southern Asia Minor (southern Turkey) after all. So this would be safe and easy going. Better to enjoy. More likely to be successful as far as building churches goes.  

But, Paul soon discovers that he is not as free as he thought to wander where he may. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Of Chicken Farms and Costly Grace

(This sermon was preached at Messiah Lutheran Church, Knoxville, TN on the Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 17, 2013. The sermon is based on the gospel text or the day, John 12:1-8

My first pastoral call was with a small family-size parish named Mt. Zion - St. Luke Lutheran Church. The small southwest Georgia towns of Oglethorpe and Montezuma -  separated only by the dirty brown water of the lazy Flint River - and the surrounding farm lands made up this mostly agriculture parish. In such an earthy place, so near the land, you couldn’t help but have your senses awakened by the smells and sounds, images and textures that surrounded you. Known mostly for its vast cotton fields and “pee-can” orchards, this land is also home to chicken farms and paper mills. Which, for any of you who have experienced the like, you know, chicken farms and paper mills produce THE...most...offensive...odor. Especially when those odors mix together on a hot, humid day. Depending on which way the wind was blowing, the smells of chickens and chicken manure and wood being milled into paper would repel your senses. The odor was sickening. It was was like the stench of death. 

It seems in life, the stench of death is always near. Through physical, mental, and emotional illness; through family conflicts and national wars; through the uncertainties of economy and simple every day life; through aging and the approach of literal dying; the stench of death is carried on the wind, assaulting our senses. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

What's Your Program, Jesus?

Sermon for January 27, 2013. Epiphany 3. Pastor Eric Murray. Luke 4:14-21. Jesus claims the words of the prophet Isaiah as his mission program.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Great Reversal

In the midst of these Holy-days, I haven't had time to upload a written version of my sermon from Advent 4. But no worries, you can always go to Messiah Lutheran Church's podcast site on iTunes. My sermon from Advent 4 is entitled "The Great Reversal".

As we continue in these days of Christmas, may you be graced by God's great reversal, Immanuel, God With Us!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Show Us What We’re Not Seeing

(The following sermon was preached at Messiah Lutheran Church, Knoxville, TN on the First Sunday in Advent, December 2, 2012. The sermon arises from the Year C pericope for the day, specifically the gospel reading, Luke 21:25-36.) 

Most all of us have some sort of peculiar habit. Come on admit it. You know you do. We all, most everyone, have some little thing that we do - and yet don't realize we’re actually doing it - that after a while can really begin to annoy the people around us.  

Take my mom for example. [Shhh, don’t tell her I talked about her.] She has this peculiar habit, as she’s riding down the road, of reading signs...out loud!    
“Knoxville 120 miles”
“Cracker Barrel next exit”
“See Rock City”
And this doesn’t happen just on the interstates. US and State Highways work just fine too...
“Oh, look there, Turkey Creek Mall...”
“Hey there’s Messiah Lutheran Church...Did I ever tell you that time I went to that Lutheran Church in Alaska?”
On and on she goes, reading the signs.

In fairness to her though, and if I’m really honest with myself, I read signs too. Granted not out loud! But I do read them. Probably most of us do. Signs on the road can give us information, some of which, we actually need. That next gas station, when the tank is on empty. The next rest stop when the other tank is full. So I guess, in some ways, we are all people who look for signs. And, not just signs on the roadway. We watch for signs that give us information about our daily lives, about what we can expect to happen with the weather,...with the stock market, our health, our relationships or family life. There are all kinds of signs that give us information; give us assurance; give us hope.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Can You Handle the Truth?

(This sermon was preached at Messiah Lutheran Church on Sunday, October 21, 2012, on the occasion of the installation of the Reverend Pauline Pezzino as Associate Pastor. The sermon derives from the first reading for the occasion, Jeremiah 1:4-10.)

The theologian of rock music, Bono of the band U2, in the song, Magnificent, sings:

I was born, 
I was born 
to sing for you
I didn't have a choice 
but to lift you up
And sing whatever song 
you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
from the womb
My first cry, 
it was a joyful noise...1

I think you, Pauline, like U2’s Bono, were born to sing for God, to lift God up and sing the song God has called you to sing, to give back your voice, from the womb your first cry, a joyful noise. But this is no allusion to your gift for singing - as great as that gift is -but to your gift and calling for proclamation, the sharing of the gospel. 
Yes, preaching is a form of singing the song of the gospel. Most certainly Pauline, God has called you to be a joyful noise maker, a singer, preacher, proclaimer of his living word.