Showing posts from May, 2011

"Love Wins" by Rob Bell - My Reflections on this book...

The place: Northern Germany; the time: Late 15 th , early 16 th century.  Martin Luther had posted his 95 theses; he had had his famous confrontation at the Diet of Worms at which he had refused to take back any of his teachings or writings.   After a contentious debate all of his supporters had walked out of the Diet (assembly) leaving his enemies, who promptly passed articles of condemnation and excommunication against Luther.   Why?   He was preaching Grace!   He was teaching that St. Paul had proclaimed that we are brought into relationship with God through Christ on the basis, NOT of anything we do, but only on the basis of God’s love and grace.   This was a dangerous teaching.   One Cardinal expressed that if this kind of theology caught on then the church was doomed.   If the church was not needed to broker forgiveness, to maintain and adjudicate God’s law, to sell indulgences on the basis of which is determined who goes to heaven and who doesn’t, then who needs the chu

Reflections on the Gospel - Recognizing the Holy Spirit - St. John 14:15-21

Read the Gospel text here: John 14:15-21 Recognizing the Holy Spirit There is a theater convention that was very popular especially in the 18 th and 19 th centuries that center around mistaken identity.  One of the best examples of this is the plot of Mozart’s wonderful opera “Cosi fan Tutte”  (which is hard to translate.  It means something like “They are all like that.”)  The main plot device is that there are two couples who are supposedly madly in love.  The men are so certain that their girlfriends are so madly in love with them that they agree to a bet to test the girls' love.  The guys then dress up as “Albanian” soldiers and proceed to woo each other’s girlfriends.  Yes, it is very silly.  It requires a suspension of belief as the primary question that has always arisen in my mind is this – so no matter how good the disguise is it really possible that the girls really could never recognize their boyfriends?  Well, as is typical of Mozart it ends with a hint of sadnes

Who Are We IN Christ?

What follows is part of my annual report to the congregation - June 1, 2011.  It also owes much to a presentation I attended last week at the Festival given by Diana Butler Bass. Who are we IN Christ? Who are you?   Who am I?   How do we define ourselves?   I suspect that for most of us the way we would answer that question is by saying what we DO – I am a pastor, a farmer, a grocer, a lawyer, a nurse, a teacher and so on.   Or perhaps we would answer the question by listing our relationships – I am a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a grandparent and so on.   Ok, if I change the question and ask – Who are you IN God?   How would you answer that?   What does that little preposition mean?   How does it change the question?   Or does it? In ancient times when someone was baptized they received a new name.   This was to symbolize that (following the words of St. Paul) in Christ we are a new creation; in Christ we have a new way of being in the world.   And we rest in Christ to

Time off....

      Good morning friends.  I am taking a week to attend the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis and this is one reason I have not posted.  I didn't post last week because I tried an experiment with the "Road to Emmaus" text.  I sang a Ylvisaker folk song ("On the Road to Emmaus) and interspersed the verses with reflections about the text.  It went very well.  And this past week we had Parish rotation and at Peace Lutheran church in Chester we had a dialog sermon - they asked me questions and I attempted to answer them.  The questions ranged from "Is Ghandi in Hell" (ala Rob Bell) to questions about why the LCMS refuses to pray with anyone who is not LCMS (I know the reason - but I sure don't understand it - it seems very arrogant and exclusivist to me, the folks at Peace had the same reaction).  But the bottom line message I attempted to convey in both of these sermons is that 1. We are called to serve - not to judge. 2. God promises to be with us o

Reflections on the Gospel - "Faithful Thomas"

Read the Gospel Text Here: John 20:19-31             Poor Thomas.  Over the last 2000 years we have come to know the disciple Thomas as “doubting Thomas” because of this episode in the Gospel of John.  “Unless I see… and touch… and place my hands… I will not believe,” says Thomas.  One can hardly blame him.  After all, the other disciples have not exactly been paragons of faith.  Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied he even knew Jesus and the others?  Well, our text tells us they are hold up in a secret room hiding with the door locked!  Not exactly a testimony of great faith. These disciples (or at least some of them) had seen Jesus tortured and crucified.  They knew he was dead.  They had seen him do amazing miracles including raising Lazarus, and they had heard him predict his own resurrection.  But we have noted throughout Lent that they really didn’t seem to pay much attention to that.  And affecting ones own resurrection is quite a different matter.  These disciples didn’t be