Friday, October 28, 2011

Lead Us Not Into Temptation Facebook

Since Facebook has begun running many ads on users pages and not just the little ones along the side, but in the newsfeed and up on the top, I have been getting seriously concerned.  Routinely I get ads with barely clothed women on them.  They're falling out of their bikinis, tugging off their bottoms. Today I saw one that apparently involved video.  I surely am not clicking on it to find out.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

19th Sunday after Pentecost -- Commanded to Love

Matthew 22:34-46
Jesus faces his final challenge from religious authorities before his death.  Here Jesus gives his summation of the Law.  Love God and love neighbor.  The whole law and prophets hang on the commandment to love.

An excerpt: 
Humans are far too likely to love God unreservedly if and only if that God is in their image. Sin finds an entry point into this reality when humans desire to put themselves in the place of God.  Humans, according to the Small Catechism, are then unable on their own power to rightly fear, love and trust the God who made them, let alone their neighbor.  We find it far too easy to turn inward.  To let our neighbors starve while we hoard our resources.  We find it far too easy to chase after false images of the true God, trusting in subordinate powers, like the government or the invisible hand of the market or power or money or human reason or even our selves.

Or read it here.

Or listen to it.


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Friday, October 21, 2011

An Interview with Leymah Gbowee

I ran across an interview with Leymah Gbowee, a recipient of the most recent Nobel Peace Prize and a Lutheran woman.  The whole interview can be read at Reader's Digest.  It is from the October 2011 issue. 

Her peace-making efforts flow out of a sense of what God has done for her. Two responses to Dawn Raffel's questions:

Where do you get your courage?
My faith. I have come to one conclusion: All that I am, all that I aspire to be, all that I was before, is by the grace of God. There are so many women in Africa, and outside Africa, who are more intelligent than I am.

You put yourself in danger too.
Leadership is standing with your people. People say you have to live to fight another day, but sometimes you have to show you are a true leader. If those women were out in the blazing hot sun protesting, I, who put the group together, should be out there, too, instead of sitting in a very boring conference.
Out on the street, we danced! Women parked their cars and joined us. The military could not believe it, because the king sent armored vehicles. But we danced in their faces. Sometimes I do fear death, and I fear for my children. But the one thing I have never been afraid of is standing before important people and speaking my mind. I represent women who may never have the opportunity to go to the UN or meet with a president. I’m never afraid to speak truth to power.

I think I might find her memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers, and give it a read. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

18th Sunday after Pentecost -- Death and Taxes

Jesus is tested by religious leaders regarding paying taxes to Rome.  Jesus does not answer their question but reframes the debate, looking at God's sovereignty over the world instead.  Ultimately Jesus fulfills both sides of his clever statement "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's."
I am indebted to my colleague and former classmate Matt Musteric for the emphasis on the passion.

An excerpt: 
And now Jesus reframes the entire debate by uttering the line “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”  The reality that we all too often fail to face is what in the world belongs to God and what belongs to the emperor?  The quickest way to answer is to quote the 24th psalm, although there are plenty other verses that could support that.  Psalm 24:1 reads “The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”  Put simply, God made it all and it all belongs to him.  Therefore to be faithful to Jesus’ words, we owe everything to God.  Everything that is, except for the idolatrous coinage that makes some false claim on the truth.  That can be sent back to the Emperor where it belongs.  

Read the whole sermon here
Listen to it:


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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

17th Sunday after Pentecost -- Saying Something While Saying Something Else

The parable of the wedding feast closes off a series of parables that seem to be Jesus' answer to the question from religious leaders "By what authority are you doing these things and who gave you the authority?"  

An excerpt of my sermon:
Now Jesus is not just telling these parables to continue his teaching which was interrupted by the challenge of the religious leaders.  He is saying something while saying something else.  In the first, Jesus tells the parable to show the challenge he presents to the rule of the religious leaders.  Jesus tells them that their authority is disappearing because they are the second son who pays lip service to the father, but does not do his will.  Tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the Kingdom before them because they have heard the invitation to repentance and obeyed.  The religious leaders are afraid to even take a stand on where John’s baptism came from.  

Read the whole thing here

Listen to it:    


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Friday, October 07, 2011

Liberian Lutheran Leymah Gbowee Lauded

One of the Nobel Peace Prize winners is Leymah Gbowee, a Lutheran woman from Liberia.  The Lutheran reported:
Gbowee, a peacemaker, activist and mother of five, led an interreligious group of thousands of women to defy warlords, government officials and male relatives to carry their country out of a long, bloody civil war to peace and democracy in 2003. She is a member of the Lutheran Church in Liberia. Her home congregation, St. Peter Lutheran in Monrovia, was the site of a July 30, 1990, massacre of 600 people.
Blessed are the peacemakers.

Read the whole article at The Lutheran.  

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

16th Sunday after Pentecost -- Commitment and Relationship

In the reading from Philippians (3:4b-14), Paul highlights his achievements as Jewish man.  Paul also turns and counts these reasons for boasting as nothing when compared to Christ's actions toward him and his own subsequent response.  

An excerpt:
We want possibilities and choices, but ultimately life lived in potentiality is not life.  Life is lived in actuality.  When we make new commitments, build new relationships there is a distinct break with the past.  And it can be unnerving.  Plenty about the old life of possibility seems safe and familiar.  We like it. We know it.  It can bring a sense of security.  But the new relationship, while bringing risk and uncertainty, can bear unimagined fruit, even with the loss of possibility.  
 Read the whole sermon, here.

Or listen to it.


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Monday, October 03, 2011

D to the O to the H... DOH!

For the past few months, we have been writing our own prayers of the people instead of just using the prayers out of the Sundays and Seasons resource. During the latter half of the summer, Jono, our Project Connect immersion experience student was writing them (and well I might add).  When his time ended, I picked up writing them again.  This past Sunday, I realized that my writing left something to be desired. One of my petitions said,
Compassionate God, sustain all who suffer with your promise of new life.  Strengthen those who are oppressed, heal those who are ill, comfort those who are afflicted.  
 I didn't pick the problem up when I wrote it.  I didn't pick the problem up when it was prayed in our service on Sunday morning.  I picked it up when I prayed it at the evening service at the Lutheran Campus Ministry at WVU

The problem is that first line.  I realize that everything hangs on whether you suffer FROM or WITH something.  We generally suffer FROM diseases and ailments, but we can indeed suffer WITH them as well.  So it struck me as odd when I prayed "sustain all those who suffer with your promise of new life."  I suppose my intent was to pray "Sustain with your promise of new life all those who suffer."  That would have been better writing.  

Maybe it struck me as odd because we had just read in Philippians (3:10), "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death," where the promise of the resurrection is linked with suffering.  Perhaps unintentionally, I prayed for all of us who suffer with this promise that brings suffering.   

We want Christ but maybe not any suffering, even though the way Paul writes they go together.  Luther marked suffering as a mark of the church.  This mark, this verse, is a challenge to us who live comfortable lives.  It is awfully easy to rationalize taking the path of least resistance... even when we are usually fairly faithful. 

So maybe my prayer was right. Unintentional... but right.