2 Peter 1:16-21
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace to you and peace
from the God of what was, what is and what can be. Amen
I’m going to use a word in this sermon
that many in church consider a bad word,
a scary word, a word to be avoided.
I warning you in advance
because I don’t want you to be so shocked
that you don’t hear the rest of what I say this morning.
The word is change.
Deep breath, it’s going to be okay
The story of the transfiguration
is a story about the necessity and difficulty of change
and the moments of clarity
that often mark the transition
between what was and what is to come.
The transfiguration comes
at a point of transition in Matthew’s gospel,
the point between Jesus’ ministry with the disciples
and his journey to Jerusalem and the cross.
Leading up to the transfiguration
Jesus asks the disciples
“who do you say that I am”
to this Peter blurts out
“you are the messiah the son of the living God”
proclaiming for the first time
Jesus’ true identity.
Jesus then predicts his death
and Peter who only sentences ago got the right answer
takes Jesus aside and tries to exorcise him
because clearly he is possessed
Jesus rebukes him,
this is the famous “get behind me satan,”
then teaches the disciples about the cost of discipleship.
“If any want to by my followers,
let them deny themselves,
take up their cross and follow me.”
then Jesus takes Peter, James and John
up the mountain.
Jesus is shown in the radiance of God
Moses and Elijah appear for a chat,
and Peter the rock, says
‘this is amazing, let’s stay here forever’
Can you blame him?
Peter is at that point
where he knows change is inevitable
he sees in front of him a glimpse of Jesus’ future glory
and he knows that even if he doesn’t want to believe it
what Jesus said about being crucified is true
and yet he wants to hold on to what was for a little longer.
“I’ll build some shacks,
we can stay here,
the future doesn’t have to happen”
while he’s still speaking
they are overshadowed by the presence of God
and God repeats the words said at Jesus’ baptism,
“This is my son the beloved; with him I am well pleased;”
and then God adds one more phrase
“listen to him”
the disciples fall to the ground overcome by fear.
An appropriate response to hearing the voice of God
but also I think out of fear of the change that has just been confirmed.
And Jesus reaches over,
touches them and says
“get up and do not be afraid”
and they get up
and go down the mountain,
into the future.
And while they go
Jesus cautions them to tell no one about what they’d seen
until after he’s been raised from the dead.
This might seem an odd request
but in making it
Jesus gives Peter and James and John a clue
for how to understand their experience.
It will only fully make sense after the resurrection
and it’s a memory that they will need
as their ministry progresses,
as they take up their own crosses.
Perhaps you’ve experienced this in your own life,
maybe not as dramatically as a voice from heaven
but you’ve had a moment
where something is revealed to you
and you don’t fully understand it until later
looking back on how life turned out after that event.
Maybe this happened in a relationship
or during a loved one’s last days.
In my own life I think about when I was discerning my call to ministry,
this started when I was in high school
and so an already difficult thing
was made even more complicated by hormones and teenage insecurity,
at the end of senior year
I was at the point where I pretty much knew that it was inevitable
but I was still holding out,
resisting giving into that change of perspective in my life.
And then my mentor and pastor, Susan
had her 25th anniversary of ordination,
she’d been ordained as a young woman in 1980,
which was only ten years after the first women were ordained.
there was a big celebration
including a jello-salad potluck
and a service where many of her peers participated,
a whole chancel full of women pastors, right in front of me.
It took a little longer for me to accept that I was going to be a pastor
but looking back,
that service was a turning point in my discernment,
it was as if God were parading my future in front of me,
a future that was not always going to be easy
but one where there would be moments of great joy,
it was a parade of foremothers,
a not so gentle nudge
as if God was saying
“see dummy if they can do it so can you and actually you’ll have an easier time of it because of them.”
Moments of transition are terrifying,
because they confirm what we already suspect and are resisting.
And in those moments,
Jesus comes, touches us on the shoulder and says
“get up, and do not be afraid”
then walks with us into our changed lives.
Often, in the moment
we don’t fully understand what is going on
but Jesus gives us a clue,
says ‘hold onto this,
you’re going to need it later’
As a congregation we are on a threshold,
we know that how communities and people “do church” is changing
and we’re resisting the inevitable change
because it is terrifying to us.
It’s too soon to tell what our transfiguration moment will be
but I hope that our new mission statement
will help carry us through this time.
Our statement is:
Saved by God’s Grace.
Rooted in Christ.
Nurtured in Faith.
Serving Christ and Community.
It is simple enough to remember,
yet this simple statement does several things,
it proclaims who we are,
the committee that wrote the statement
used all the information gathered during the vision process
and we think it’s an accurate description of our community.
At the same time
is it also gives us a path to follow into the future,
what is important to us
and how we intend to live that out.
It is important to us
that we are gathered together
by the grace of God in Christ Jesus
in whom we are rooted.
Everything we do is because of the grace of God through Christ,
this is the rock we cling to
as other things change around us,
this will not change
worship and the sacraments serve to nourish our faith,
which we seek to nurture and grow
through deepening our relationships
with God and others,
and this can happen in a variety of ways,
through prayer and Bible study,
through getting to know someone on a deeper level
and when we do
these relationships lead us into lives of service,
out of thanksgiving and love for Christ and our neighbors near and far.
Jesus knows that the path of discipleship is not always easy,
so when we are paralyzed by fear,
Jesus comforts us saying,
get up and do not be afraid.
And walks down the mountain with us
into the future
wherever it may lead. Amen
7th Sunday after Epiphany
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
1 Corinthian 3:10-11, 16-23
Matthew 5: 38-48
"Build with Care"
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace to you and peace from Christ the foundation of our faith. Amen
We have spent the last five Sundays with Paul
and his first letter to the Corinthians.
We’ve heard Paul greet the Corinthians,
giving thanks for them
because the grace of God was active in them,
a small part of a larger church.
We’ve heard him call the Corinthians
to a unity of purpose in Christ,
reminding them that unity is not uniformity,
that all their various gifts and skills
should be used for the purpose
of spreading the good news of Jesus
and that it doesn’t matter who does it
but that it is done in and for Christ.
We’ve considered with Paul
how the message of the cross
is foolish by the world’s standards
and yet God has chosen to work in ways
that the world deems foolish
and we are called to be partners in that foolishness,
doing justice loving kindness and walking humbly with our God.
We’ve taken time to consider
how we intend to live foolishly,
living into who God has created us to be,
if we are salt we season,
if we are light we illumine,
because living out the message of God
is a more powerful way to witness than using fancy words,
We’ve been reassured
that this way of life takes practice,
that we are not expected
to understand and live it all at once
but that we will end up taking baby steps,
and our role
is to keep taking those steps
it is up to God to make them into something,
God gives the growth.
today we have one last day with Paul and the Corinthians
though the letter goes on
Paul wraps up the themes from the section we’ve been reading,
bringing together his thoughts on the role of individuals and communities
within the body and mission of Christ,
and just as Paul is wrapping up this portion of the letter
we are wrapping up our initial portion of the vision process
that we began over a year ago,
we will unveil our new mission statement
and begin living into our vision
of who we are
and how we intend to live out what is important to us
as a community in Christ.
To the Corinthians, and to us, Paul says:
“build with care”
he switches from the gardening metaphor
to a construction metaphor,
we are builders who have been given a foundation,
the best foundation we could ever receive,
and as partners with God
it is up to us to build on that foundation.
In the part of the letter that the lectionary skipped,
he makes the point
that the building materials don’t matter,
they could be flashy gold or simple brick,
but what does matter
is the structure the building,
how the materials at hand are used,
it is possible
to build a shoddy structure
even given a great foundation,
build with care,
take time for reflection, self-examination
and when you find that you think you’ve got it all figured it
out it is time to return to the foolishness of God
because it is not about you or other humans
but about Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
Self-examination may not be fun all the time,
in fact if we’re doing it right
we will probably make some discoveries
that make us feed uncomfortable
but it is a necessary part of building with care
on the foundation of Christ.
Here we not only have the foundation
but we also have the tradition of 126 years as a congregation,
generations have built on the foundation before us,
and while we honor those years of tradition
and the people that brought us to the faith
we also need to realize
that we are called to build on Christ
in this time and place
with the people who are in our community now
I don’t know if you’ve noticed it,
but the world has been changing rather rapidly as of late
and some of our valued traditions
may not be the best building method anymore,
we can no longer count
on people wandering through the doors
to swell our ranks,
though we rejoice when people do join us,
we need to take our welcome outside the building,
we can no longer count on society
making it easy to be Christian,
we need to work together
to support one another in figuring out how to live as Christians
in a world that increasingly acts
contrary to the values of our faith.
And while this seems a daunting task,
Christians have always lived in a rapidly changing world,
and our longest standing practices,
worship and the sacraments,
gathering as a community,
studying the scriptures,
supporting one another in prayer
and performing acts of service
all bring us back to Christ our foundation,
in this time we need them more than ever.
Rooted in Christ
we will build with care
using the materials given us in this moment.
And we build with care
because we have a great treasure
to care for and to share,
we have something to offer the world,
that the world needs.
We have the spirit of Christ dwelling in us.
It has made a difference in our lives
and we know that it will make a difference
in the lives of our neighbors
which is why we seek to build with care,
in ways that live out and build up the community of Christ.
Jesus knows that at times this will be difficult,
the world does not take kindly
to what it deems foolish,
resisting violence with peace,
praying for those who persecute you,
going the extra mile,
giving to those who ask,
loving enemies as well as friends because everyone is our neighbor.
Jesus was crucified for living this way
and teaching others to live this way.
But Jesus also knows that this way leads to abundant everlasting life,
through his death and resurrection
Jesus gives us this life.
He went to the cross because it is worth it.
So when this way gets tough
Jesus meets us at the foot of the cross,
brings us to the table,
and feeds us with his body and blood,
recalling to us who we are
and whose we are,
children of God who belong to Christ
who belongs to God.
And refreshed at the table
we are sent back out into the world
to continue building with care
on the foundation of Christ. Amen
This is the last of the sermon series on 1 Corinthians. Sunday February 26th we will unveil our new mission statement and celebrate with a potluck lunch after worship.
Sixth Sunday After Epiphany
Deuteronomy 30: 15-20
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from God who gives the growth. Amen
Life with God is a process,
a journey that is only completed
when we are commended to God at our death
and because it is a journey that we are on
there is always room for improvement,
Life with God takes practice.
Our texts for today
make it very clear
that life with God, as a child of God
is never a one and done event,
God saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt
and brought them to freedom and the promised land
but that was only the start of their life with God.
God knew that after being slaves for so long
they didn’t know how to live freely and peacefully with one another
so God gave the people leaders in Moses, Aaron and Miriam
and the commandments,
a guide for peaceful prosperous life together
and God gave the Israelites time to practice this way of life without distractions
while wandering in the desert
before entering the promised land,
they couldn’t handle it all at once,
they had to take baby steps to get there.
Our reading from Deuteronomy this morning
is Moses’ last address to the people
before they enter the promised land,
full of riches and opportunity
and other people with their own gods and way of living
and one last time
Moses calls the people to follow the way of life
that they have been practicing,
that God has laid out before them
he puts it in stark terms,
life and death,
the way of God is life
any other way is death.
Choose life Moses says!
Practice life by living according to the guide God has given you,
it will lead you to life. Choose life!
By the time Jesus comes on the scene
the people have been practicing the law of Moses,
with varying degrees of success
for a long time,
and in the sermon on the mount
Jesus joins the group of rabbis who say,
it’s time to take it to the next level,
‘I didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it’ Jesus tells the crowd
life is even more complex than the law
and the interpretation of the law have been,
now it is no longer good enough
to follow the exact letter of the law
but one must look at the intent behind the law,
what is at the root of murder?
It is anger,
we’ve established that murder is bad Jesus says,
now let’s work on what leads to murder.
It’s the next step on the way to the abundant life
that Jesus came to bring,
and if all of this seems overwhelming and impossible
The truth is that it is
but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try,
it means we are aware of how much we need the grace of God
given to us through the cross of Christ
God both expects us to follow the law
of love of God and neighbor
and God knows we will fail and need the grace of Christ.
Life with God takes practice
Paul points out in our reading from 1 Corinthians
that it’s okay, necessary even
to take baby steps in our practice,
he calls the Corinthians infants in Christ
and says that he fed them with milk
because they were not ready for solid food.
The life of faith is a life of growth in faith,
growth that takes time, nourishment and practice.
One of the main ways we nourish and practice
our life in faith
is through worship.
When we gather for worship we gather to praise God, yes
and to be nourished yes
but also to practice,
in the time and space of worship
we practice for the rest of life,
we practice how God calls us to live beyond worship.
We start with confession and forgiveness,
practicing mending the inevitable broken relationships
that go along with being human.
We give thanks in worship,
acknowledging that all we have in this life are gifts from God,
We listen to the word of God, in the readings and sermon,
practicing listening for what God is saying to us in our daily lives.
We pray for others and ourselves
practicing communicating with God on a personal level.
We offer one another peace
practicing for the times of conflict
when it will be necessary in life
to cross the aisle
and take the hand of someone you profoundly disagree with
and make peace.
We give in worship
practicing living materially God and neighbor centered lives,
acknowledging that we are dependent on God
and not on ourselves for our lives and livelihoods
and that we are called to share what God has given us.
We eat a meal together
at a table where all are welcome
and there is enough for everyone,
practicing God’s truth for the world,
preparing us to know that it is a lie
when we are told there is not enough for everyone
and that some are better than others.
We bless one another and receive blessings
practicing offering affirming words to one another
in a world that most often offers criticism.
And then we are sent out into the world
as servants of God
to spread this way of life
We go out taking baby steps,
a kind word here,
a radical welcome there,
a small moment of peace making,
a word of blessing,
and God takes our baby steps
and uses them to give the growth,
to make the kingdom of God a reality.
Paul planted, Apollos watered but God gave the growth.
Paul reminds the Corinthians
Whatever we do
However we contribute
Ultimately growth is up to God
And for that I say thanks be to God.
5th Sunday after Epiphany
1 Corinthians 2:1-16
"Show not Tell"
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the creator of salt and light
and the crucified Christ. Amen
Today’s texts are a call to action,
reading after reading we heard God’s call to us
to be active in our partnership with God.
First we heard the prophetic voice of Isaiah
rousing the Israelites out of their complacency,
in their exile
they were relying only on sacrifice and fasting
to relate to God
and in the voice of the prophet
we hear God telling them,
“ sacrifice and fasting might work for those pagan gods around you
but I expect more from our relationship,
I expect our relationship to leave the place of worship
and impact all your relationships:
This is the fast, the way of that I prefer
that you loose the bonds of injustice
undo the thongs of the yoke
let the oppressed go free,
if you want to be in relationship with me
share your bread with the hungry
bring the homeless poor into your house,
and when you see the naked cover them,
mend broken relationships in your family,
then you will see the glory of the Lord. “
It is time to put faith into action
The psalmist reminded us
that righteousness is the antidote to fear.
We get distracted by all the opinions around us,
what will people think? we worry,
but when it comes down to it
the only one we have to answer to is God,
if we live in a way that is pleasing to God,
that is righteous,
we have nothing to fear.
Paul came to the Corinthians
not with lofty words but with a demonstration of the spirit.
Jesus calls us to let our light shine.
Actions speak louder than words today,
it’s time to show not tell.
This was Paul’s strategy with the Corinthians
and it worked.
He’s reminding them of this today,
a divided community
parts of whom have been lured away
by people who have impressed them with fancy speeches
but what made them part of the community in the beginning
was the power of God,
a power they felt so strongly
that they chose to join this minority group of believers,
outside the mainstream,
often outside the protection of family
that didn’t understand what they were doing and cut them off.
You don’t give up your inheritance and place in society
for fancy sounding words,
there is more going on than that
it is the power of God at work.
Paul recalls to the divided Corinthians
that through grace,
God has redeemed them
and called them to be partners in the spread of the gospel
and that this is the purpose that unites them,
through the saving power of God.
Paul acknowledges to the Corinthians
that according to the reasoning of the world
the message of God is foolishness
but since God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom
just as God’s weakness is stronger than human strength
we are called to act foolishly in our partnership with God
depending on the power of God
to work through us to spread the good news.
Paul came to the Corinthians in weakness
and the power of God shone through,
allowing Paul to show rather than tell
the life changing message.
Showing works much better than telling
this is our call as Christians.
Jesus puts it even more succinctly
at the end of the sermon on the mount.
Be who you were created to be.
If you are salt be salty,
if you are light, illumine what is around you,
that is how you honor God.
Now to be clear
this call to action isn’t about salvation
or getting right with God,
this is not works righteousness,
the thought that if we work hard enough
or do enough good or pray in the right way or make sacrifices
that we will fix things.
We don’t have that kind of power,
salvation is up to God and God has saved us.
Past tense on going action, that’s taken care of.
And it’s not about the prosperity gospel
the lie that says if you pray in the right way
or give enough or go to the right church
that God will bless you with lots of money and power and things.
God just doesn’t work like that either.
It’s about being who we were created by God to be.
Children of God,
made out of love for love
each endowed by God with unique gifts and talents.
If you are salt season,
if you are light illumine what is around you,
how can you do otherwise?
It seems simple
and yet the way of the world
is the way of distraction,
of tempting and telling us to be more than we were created to be-
this was the serpent’s method in the garden,
tempting our first people
with the thought that they could be more than God
the world whispers in our ears saying
you could do more,
make more money, gain more power
if you cut out that time waste called sabbath
other times the world tells us to be less than we were created to be
the Israelites were slaves in Egypt,
told that they were only good for making bricks.
Did anyone believe that fishermen and tax collectors
in a backward province of the Roman empire could change the world?
Why would anyone listen to you? You’re only________
God knows it is hard to hear through all the noise,
that is why even as God calls us to action,
God also calls us to rest,
and so while we must act,
we also must take the time to listen to the Holy Spirit,
to discover our God given gifts,
to take Sabbath and quiet the voices of the world
so that when we return to action
it is for the sake of God through who we are.
And God has given us the gifts to help us on the way
the holy spirit to help us understand, discern, who we are
the waters of baptism
to remind us who we are
and that we are in need of God’s grace,
the bread and wine of the table
to strengthen us
and remind us that we are enough,
enough to take the body and blood of Christ into our own bodies.
God calls us to action,
the action of being who God has made us to be,
We have been taking some time to listen to the Holy Spirit as a congregation,
we have heard how we are children of God,
we are a community that cares for one another like family,
who is willing to spring into action,
we have heard that we have been called
to be partners in God’s foolishness,
now the question is:
how do we live out who we are?
How do we live in a way that shows others the power of God at work in our lives?
in a way that invites others into shared life with us?
These are not just rhetorical questions, Take a couple moments with the people around you and talk and write some ideas down that will help us form our mission statement which will be our action plan for showing the world who God created us to be.
The congregation took some time to discuss the questions, if you have any thoughts feel free to post them in the comment section. The answers will be used to help us write our new mission statement.
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.