Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why are you here?


(This sermon was preached Christmas Eve 2010 at Messiah Lutheran Church, Knoxville, TN) 



Why are you here tonight?

What brings you to 6900 Kingston Pike and Messiah Lutheran Church?

Are you here out of habit? Going to church on Christmas Eve is…just what you do? Are you here out of some obligation…to your spouse or child or grandchild…or, because your parents made you come…or because it’s what your family does, your family always goes to church on Christmas Eve?

Why are you here?


Maybe you’re here because you want to be here. You’re here because Christmas is exactly what it says it is, the Mass of Christ, that time we set aside to worship Christ, the Son of God at his birth?    

Or, maybe it’s some sort of combination of habit and obligation and desire to worship.

Or, is it mostly because you’re genuinely looking for something?

What?


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Donate Now and Double Your Money and Impact


From the ELCA World Hunger Appeal:
Give now and double your gift to ELCA World Hunger.  Generous friends of ELCA World Hunger have joined forces to create a pool of matching funds to double your gift--dollar for dollar.  Between now and December 31, all gifts from individuals will be automatically matched, up to $250,000.  Take advantage of this tremendous opportunity!
Your gifts are urgently needed to support our church's response to the root causes of hunger and poverty. Donations to ELCA World Hunger support relief and development projects in over 50 countries worldwide, including hundreds of anti-hunger ministries in the United States. Visit www.elca.org/hunger to learn more.
Between now and December 31, all gifts from individuals will be automatically matched, up to $250,000. Take advantage of this tremendous opportunity now! 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fo Shizzle


My 11-year-old daughter and I were riding around in the car the other day.  We were talking about something, what I can’t quite remember. Although at some point, the conversation went like this:
My daughter:  Dad, you've got to say, “fo shizzle!” 
Me:  Uh, I’m 46 years old. They say once you’re past like 28, you’re not cool anymore. So, clearly I’m not cool enough to say “fo shizzle.” 
My daughter:  But you’re a pastor. 
Me:  [?] Wait a minute…Are you saying pastors are cool? 
My daughter:  Yep. 
Me:  [Yes!]

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lead Us Out of Darkness


As the autumn of the year marches on, the daylight hours diminish. With each passing day there is less light and greater darkness. Many times life also feels that way, doesn’t it? Stumbling through the latest crisis, be it personal or global, we look about and think,“My Lord, how much darker it seems.”
Many times in the history of the Hebrew people, times when they were being threatened by powerful enemies, they too must have looked about and thought, “My Lord, how dark!” Surrounded by powerful armies, threatened with exile, lamenting the loss of land, culture and history, they had to feel abandoned, hopeless. It was into this time of darkness that the prophet Isaiah came forth bearing a word of the Lord. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! (Isaiah 2:5)
Isaiah spoke the Word, light into the midst of their darkness, to remind them that they were not abandoned, not alone, not without hope. God was going to continue to provide for them a future and a way toward that future. There was hope for them in God’s promises. Using images such as the mountain of the Lord’s house, a dessert blossoming forth, waters breaking forth in the wilderness, a young woman with child, and a little child leading them, Isaiah was pointing to how God would bring his people out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.
As it was then, so it is now.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness


I was still pondering the paradox of a king (Christ) who suffers and dies, when my mind flashed on a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote: 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies 
hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction...The chain reaction
 of evil--hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars--must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of
 annihilation.[1]
Pondering the suffering King, as well as King’s quote on the one hand, and looking at the generations old conflict in the Middle East, the years of war in Afghanistan, the news of North Korea’s artillery attacks on South Korea, etc. on the other hand, makes me conclude that we still don’t get it. Maybe you’re thinking, of course we don’t get it. But, no, that’s not what I mean. We keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. [2]

When will we get that “hate multiplies hate,” and “violence multiplies violence?” And when, oh when, will we see that only light and love can truly save the day?


[1] Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength To Love, 1963.
[2] This definition of insanity is attributed to Albert Einstein. 

This is Real Power and Might

This sermon was preached on the Last Sunday after Pentecost – Christ the King, November 21, 2010 at Messiah Lutheran Church, Knoxville, TN. The text at the heart of the sermon is the psalm for the day, Psalm 46 as well as the gospel, Luke 23:33-43
                                                                                 
             + + +                        

A third grader was given the homework assignment of writing an essay that explained why she believed in God. This is what she wrote: "God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere, which keeps Him pretty busy. Since He hears everything, not only prayers, there must be a terrible lot of noise in His ears. So, you shouldn't go wasting His time by going over your parents' heads asking for something they said you couldn't have. If you don't believe in God, besides being an atheist, you will be very lonely, because your parents can't go everywhere with you, but God can. It is good to know he's around you, when you're scared in the dark or when you can't swim very good and you get thrown into real deep water by big kids. You know, I figure, God put all this here and God is God and I am not, and so that's why I believe in God."

It sounds to me like this little third grader understands well what the writer of today's Psalm was trying to say. She understands that "The Lord of Hosts is with us”, and that “The God of Jacob is our stronghold." She trusts that "God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble." Or as she said, that "God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere," and, "He's around you when you're scared in the dark." Ah yes, out of the mouths of babes and psalmists.

But let me ask you a question. It’s a pretty important question, really. Do you believe the words of the psalmist? Do you believe that God is with you, that God is your stronghold? Do you believe that God is your refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”?

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's the End of the World As We Know It

The sermon from Nov. 14, 2010, the 25th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28C), Messiah Lutheran, Knoxville, TN. based on Luke 21:5-19.                         

Some of you may recognize this song. [Play excerpt from R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine.)”]



Others of you may be thinking, “That was a song?”

Yes, that was an excerpt from R.E.M.’s 1987 song “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” And whether or not you like this song, you must admit that it’s a song that has this energy and sort of anger and frustration about it.  And yet, it is a song, which then ironically turns with just those last few words, “And I Feel Fine.”

Whether R.E.M. meant the “I Feel Fine” in a straightforward way or as some kind of critique of our culture’s denial of the plethora of issues facing us, I don’t know because R.E.M. rarely explains its songs. But the part about “It’s the End of the World As We Know It,” that needs no explanation, does it?