Pastor’s Weekly Sermons

January 28, 4th Sunday of the Epiphany

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The most significant figure in human history is Jesus Christ. Some polls along with some people would dispute this; nonetheless after some two thousand or so years, good or bad, belief or unbelief, we are still talking about Jesus Christ, the Son of God begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.

Be it in church during worship or in ordinary-every-day conversations, we are still talking about a human being just like you and me who is Jesus the Christ.

Knowing that this figure is the Son of God, this in turn may cause us today, gathered here in this assembly we call the church, to ask, why then are people not coming in to learn more…why then are people NOT interested or coming in to worship or learn more about this significant figure we know as Jesus Christ the Son of God?

We the church are a long standing community whose life is maintained and perpetuated by a message, that message being that the God of Israel’s Son Jesus Christ is the Messiah and through his crucifixion and resurrection we believers…followers known as Christians…are reconciled to God through our faith and thereby we are offered salvation and the promise of eternal life.[1] Why would anybody NOT want to hear about that! This message can take on a different language and varied interpretations but this message that gathers us, maintains us, and sustains us is the same message that identifies the very God we as Christians believe.

Many churches, usually on the arrival of a new pastor, draw up a mission statement in order to maintain or refresh its reason for its existence and its structure. But like our mission statement here at St. James, most mission statements fade and are soon forgotten. However, the true mission statements of our church are our creeds.

These creeds along with Holy Scripture are the very identity of God…they are what have maintained the church’s message and the church itself. Even with such a message, by all indications, most mainline churches are in decline. In looking at that decline, an article entitled “Mainline Churches: The Real Reason for Decline” from an ecumenical journal, First Things begins with the statement that reads as such, “America’s so-called mainline Protestant churches aren’t what they used to be.”

The article goes on to explain through surveys, interviews, and historical records why the church is in decline and closes with this statement that relates to our Old Testament lesson appointed for today. Let me read you the statement:

If the mainline churches want to regain their vitality, their first step must be to address theological issues head-on. They must listen to the voices of lay liberals and provide compelling answers to the question, “What’s so special about Christianity?”[2]

Yes…as simple as it seems, what’s so special about Christianity is a compelling question we the church ought to be able to answer…and answer with gusto! When this question is juxtaposed with our Old Testament lesson, we need to seriously consider this question and how we as Baptized Christians would respond to this question, “What’s so special about Christianity?”

We hear this today from Deuteronomy:

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.

Now some may quickly discount this message and claim that…“I am not a prophet.” But we need to consider this, we are Baptized members of a community that is centered, maintained, and perpetuated by a message…a message we ought to be able to share comfortably with the world…making us a prophet.
So what is the message you all share? Or do you even bother to share? What or how do we answer the question when it is put before us, what is so special about Christianity? What is the message we proclaim to the world, or those we encounter in our daily lives? What is so special about Christianity?

What is so special???… is that the message that defines God and us as Christians is the very presence of that God with us. Before us in this gathering we experience and participate in Word and Sacrament…God’s love made manifest in simple ordinary things such as words…language, water, bread, and wine…here is God! In these very simple things we are forgiven and in these simple things we know of salvation and the promise of new life given to us.
In this lesson before us today from Deuteronomy is in itself…preaching. The book is composed as a sermon by Moses to Israel as she is about to enter the Promised Land…and we know in this book that Israel’s journey is being distracted by so many peripheral things. But Moses continues to guide them and give them hope by sharing God’s word with them. And by the reading of it today among this gathering…we are just like the original hearers in that we don’t just listen to it, we participate in it.[3]

Likewise we don’t just have this Word read…it is with us God’s Word is with us! In this little piece of bread and sip of wine is not a remembrance or something nice to remind us of Christ…it is the very presence. No…this is not the promise land, but it is a foretaste of what is to come, it is the very presence of God with us.

What is so special about church, what is so special about being a Christian? What is so special is that when we gather God comes among us with the promise of forgiveness and life. This is not like me saying I forgive you in a sermon or a friend saying I forgive you…in this Holy Word proclaimed today and in this Holy Eucharist set before us…IS GOD…this is God coming to us…it is forgiveness among us, it is freedom from the bondage of our sin and it is the reassurance of the promise God has made to us in Jesus Christ His Son.

The same thing can be said when we share this message with others. So what do we say or what do we share with others as we go from here? Keep in mind that within the context of this lesson

from Deuteronomy, prophecy is Israel’s form of mediation.[4] So when we hear that prophets will be raised up, we can take that to mean that mediators are raised up from among us.

We are not called to separate ourselves from the others…we are called to mediate and reconcile the others to God and God’s message of forgiveness and life. In this gathering and by the very word that defines us we are not only forgiven and promised new life through our faith in Jesus Christ, we are called to be go-betweens for God and the people out here with us. We are called, gathered, and sent into the world in the freedom of our faith to be the forgiveness and grace, to point to, to remind others, and to teach of the Good News that is Jesus Christ the very Son of God…and in Him we have forgiveness and life.

We like Christ in the synagogue today in our Gospel lesson are not called to react with violence when challenged, we are called to teach with authority…to remind others of the resolution for us all in Jesus Christ…just as God has found resolution with each of us in our sinful ways by making His love and His promises of grace and life made manifest in Jesus Christ…by making that known in this gathering cantered in Word and Sacrament. By the promises we make and the promises made to us in our Baptism we are called NOT to judge those who would challenge us, rather we are called to remind others of the healing grace made possible through Jesus Christ. Keep in mind we are not given power over another, nor are we considered or to consider ourselves better than another.

In Martin Luther’s treatise on Christian liberty entitled the Freedom of a Christian we hear this

about this call to prophecy.

This is not to say that every Christian is placed over all things to have and control them by physical power – a madness with which some churchmen are afflicted – for such power belongs to kings, princes, and other men on earth. Our ordinary experience in life shows us that we are subjected to all, suffer many things, and even die. As a matter of fact, the more Christian a (person) is, the more evils, sufferings, and deaths we must endure, as we see in Christ the first-born prince himself, and in all his brethren, the saints. The power of which we speak is spiritual. It rules in the midst of enemies and is powerful in the midst of oppression. This means nothing else than that “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:19), and that in all things I can find profit toward salvation (Rom 8:28), so that the cross and death itself are compelled to serve me and to work together with me for my salvation.[5]

This is to say that the salvific message of God is our message…it is a message NOT just about the resurrection of Jesus…but a message of forgiveness and salvation for all. We are not called to be a scholarly prophet and sent to pontificate or to go about proclaiming about the power and the freedom we have as Christians and administering forgiveness to those we deem worthy.

If GOD the creator of all can make His love for all known through ordinary means, we too can do the same thing. Let us take heed to the words and consider what Luther wrote to the councilmen of all cities in Germany:

We will not long preserve the Gospel without the languages. The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17) is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held; they are the larder in which this food is stored; and as the Gospel itself points out (Matt. 14:20), they are the baskets in which are kept these loaves and fishes and fragments.[6]

We are not given power over others, we simply share what is given us in the message we ourselves hear as Christians. However, when we remain silent we are as the writers say in the article “Mainline Churches: The Real Reason for Decline” I mentioned at the top of this sermon:

The underlying problem of the mainline churches cannot be solved by new programs of church development alone. That problem is the weakening of the spiritual conviction required to generate the enthusiasm and energy needed to sustain a vigorous communal life. Somehow, in the course of the past century, these churches lost the will or the ability to teach the Christian faith and what it requires to a succession of younger cohorts in such a way as to command their allegiance.

By the very Words that call us and gather us, feed us and nurture us, give us forgiveness and life

we are called to share with others in a language we can speak…a message that is God’s presence and grace. It is not rocket science or complicated theological or philosophical dissertations we are called to share. It is simple as “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” We speak a language that invites others into the forgiveness and salvation we ourselves have been given. What is so special about Christianity? When we gather, God is here with us in Word and Sacrament forgiving our sin making us new. In this gathering God’s love made manifest, it is Jesus Christ, it is forgiveness and it is life. The same is true when we share this with others. Christ has died and Christ is risen and by God’s grace through faith in Him, we will too. Thanks be to God!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Jenson, Robert, Lecture 1: Creed, Scripture, and their Modern Alienation taken from the University of Otago podcast on YouTube no year listed. This is not a direct quote but Dr. Jensen begins his presentation by recognizing the church as a “community of a message.”

[2] Copyright, 1993 First Things 31: (March 1993): 13-18. FIRST THINGS 156 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400 New York, NY 10010

[3] Van Harn, Roger E.. The Lectionary Commentary Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts, The First Readings: The Old Testament and Acts. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001. The commentary based on the appointed Old Testament reading for the Ninth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B, Deuteronomy 5:12-15, page 124. The proper assigned text for the Sunday of this sermon is Deuteronomy 18:15-20, however the commentary on that pericope directs the reader to this commentary in order to understand the context of and therefore the proclamation of Deuteronomy.

[4] Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., and Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm, Editors of: The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1990, 1968. Commentary on Deuteronomy, page 103.

[5] Timothy Lull, editor. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989. Page 606-607.

[6] Ibid, page 717.

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January 21, 2018, 3rd Sunday of the Epiphany

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

If you were listening to the lessons as they were being read you will have heard that God is urgently calling us through the words written in our lessons today. God is calling us and in this God is NOT asking us to think about it and get back to Him…God is urgently calling.

Today within these lessons centered in God’s call to us, may we hear that God persistently wants us to experience forgiveness, persistently wants us to experience grace, and mercy and most of all His relentless love for us. All of this is made known to us in this call to us. This forgiveness, this grace and mercy, and God’s love for us is made known through Word and Sacrament in this gathering but it also becomes known in the world through each one of us who have been called and claim to have faith. And in that, once again, we can see God’s love being made known in the ordinary.

So what does that mean for us today? What does this call mean for those who have long known God’s call and have followed it faithfully? We come to church faithfully and we live accordingly…well at least we try to live according to His precepts. What does this call mean for us…today…now?
This past week I was dealing with the death of a man who had no family, this is to say that he was never married and lived by himself at the time of his death and had no close relatives such as parents, siblings, or children. He had friends to handle his arrangements and affairs at the close of his life. One of his friends dealing with his affairs was sent to me to arrange his memorial service. She was a very outspoken self-proclaimed atheist who I very much enjoyed talking to. We shared a great deal of similar thoughts about church and faith, I in my belief and her in her un-belief.

In that conversation the reason for going to church came up as well as the response that I have heard many people use. It is this response that I think believers and un-believers are very similar. People who answer the question, why do you go to church with the answer, “I go for me” are in a sense the same as the folks who say they don’t believe. While the atheist will say they don’t believe in God, a person who says they go to church for themselves don’t believe in God either, they believe in themselves…more than they believe in God.

Let me parse this out for you. In looking at this call that comes up throughout our lessons this morning there is a vital part of the call that I believe to be very misunderstood by many Christians and by many un-Christians. In the Gospel of Matthew we hear this:
…and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me [Jesus] is not worthy of me. (Matt 10:38)

From the Gospel of Mark we hear this:

He [Jesus] called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.(Mark 8:34)

And finally from the Gospel of Luke, he says it this way:

Then he [Jesus] said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

This call obviously is very important because all three synoptic writers include it in their particular Gospel but the phrase that is misunderstood is not the following, it is the taking up of one’s cross. Matthew’s writers emphasize the importance of cross:

whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Taking up our cross is where we the believers fall into the same category as those who claim not to believe. We fall into similarity through our misunderstanding of this phrase, “take up your cross.” A cross to bear is how we tend to hear the words of Jesus when he says take up your cross and follow we. We actually have more of an Islamic sense of this phrase. We understand taking up our cross or bearing our cross as our “jihad.” Jihad does NOT mean blow up the infidels! It is an Islamic concept that means struggling or striving.[1]

And this is how we understand our cross that we bear. We do this because we seem to take a literal understanding from that image of the cross itself and see taking up our cross as a burdensome task that we must shoulder or bear. “Oh this tragic death is so heavy on my heart but I am keeping my faith…I am bearing my cross!”

As we struggle and strive past the hurt and anguish of loss we feel we have bore an emotional burden…we have kept our faith…we then expect our reward. In a very unconscious and subtle way, we see ourselves then as deserving of…and even entitled to…our forgiveness and salvation. Moreover, we took up our cross we kept our faith…our reward??? NOW we can follow and judge those who haven’t done what we have. This is why Jesus says in Matthew:

whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Taking up our cross, bearing our cross is not an accomplishment…it is NOT an achievement that is rewarded. Likewise, faith itself is not an accomplishment that we achieve…neither does it make us better than another. Take a moment…look around at this gathering this morning…whose faith is better, who has taken up their cross better?

Taking up one’s cross is a commitment. It is a painful and humiliating commitment we ought to be willing to endure for Christ. Taking up one’s cross is death to self…it is denying one’s self…putting to death myself, my desires, my needs, my ego in order to follow…and follow in a way that is not driven by my likes or dislikes, my understandings or prejudices. It is putting those things to death and following the Word of God.

This of course is why the cost of discipleship is so dear and comes with a very costly price tag. This call we hear today throughout our lessons is a call to obey God and to disobey ourselves. This is why the cost of discipleship is extreme because deep down we love ourselves more than we love God and this call today calls us to deny that particular love of self. Jesus puts it this way
in Luke:24

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25 What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? (Luke 9:24-25)
While we all claim to know this, deep down we continue to see that our obedience to the call to follow will be rewarded with favoritism…rewarded with health and prosperity…hence the answer to the question as to why you come to church: “I come for me.”

This call is a call to die, put to death our opinions, our judgments, our hates and follow. Listen again:
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2 “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”
(Jonah 3:1-2)

Jonah didn’t want to follow God’s call because he felt the people of Nineveh didn’t deserve God’s grace or forgiveness.
And in our Gospel we hear:

17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. (Mark 1:17-20)
They left family, their job, their lucrative business and its employees along with their responsibilities as fishermen and immediately followed.

In Paul’s letter we hear the cost of the commitment of discipleship:
from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it.

…nothing gets in the way…follow at a very high cost!

Bonhoeffer points to the commitment and its cost with these words:
The call goes out, and without any further ado the obedient deed of the one called follows. The disciples’ answer is not a spoken confession of faith in Jesus. Instead, it is the obedient deed.

This encounter gives witness to Jesus’ unconditional, immediate, and inexplicable authority. Nothing precedes it, and nothing follows except the obedience of the called. Because Jesus is the Christ, he has authority to call and to demand obedience to his word. Jesus calls to discipleship, not as a teacher and a role model, but as Christ, the Son of God.

Thus, in this short text Jesus Christ and his claim on people are proclaimed, and nothing else. No praise falls on the disciple or on his espoused Christianity. Attention should not fall to him, but only to the one who calls, to his authority. Not even a path to faith, to discipleship, is aimed at; there is no other path to faith than obedience to Jesus’ call.[2]

What does this all mean and where is the good news? Jesus the Christ, the very Son of God has called each of us. It is a call that puts to death our old sinful self and calls us into a new being as a child of God, a follower. We are called, we follow, and we are obedient. In that call we obediently follow we gather, not as Pastor Kopp not as Amanda, not as Coni, not as Betty, but as living…breathing disciples called to be the very presence, the very body of Jesus Christ for all the world to see and to experience. Each one of us called in this gathering make up the very presence of God among us. We gather NOT “FOR ME”…… or to better our sinful selves, that self has been put to death and raised to the new life as a FORGIVEN child of God. We are called and gathered and in that is the very presence of Jesus Christ in the world. Bonhoeffer’s understanding of the visible body of Christ in the gathering of the church community makes this point about this called gathering that we are all a part of right now in this moment:

This is the community of those who have been called out of this world, the ecclesia, Christ’s body on earth, the followers and disciples of Jesus.[3]

Luther would say this about each one of us within this gathering:
“To this human being you shall point and say: “Here is God.”[4]

In this call to take up our cross, is a call to deny ourselves; it is a call that has put to death the sinful self…it is a call to be the grace, the forgiveness…it is a call to be the presence of Jesus Christ. In this call to take up our cross and follow, we gather and we form the very body and blood of Jesus Christ, we are the bread and wine that is broken and given to the world for the forgiveness of sin. We have been called, and we gather NOT for ourselves, NOT for ME, but we gather to be in the presence of the one who has called us all, the one who has put to death our sin and calls us and raises us all to a new life…

in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] http://islamicsupremecouncil.org/understanding-islam/legal-rulings/5-jihad-a-misunderstood-concept-from-islam.html?start=9

[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4, Discipleship. Translated from the German Edition, Edited by Martin Kuske† and Ilse Tödt. Minneapolis, Fortress Press paperback edition: 2003. Pages 57-58.

[3] Ibid, page 252

[4] Ibid, page 225
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January 14, 2018, 2nd Sunday of the Epiphany

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

If you recall I said last week that over the next few weeks we will hear of God’s love made manifest in the ordinary. Looking back a few weeks ago the church was decorated beautifully and filled with folks…bustling with the joy of the Christmastide. Now today the decorations are gone, the church is a bit more somber…a bit more ordinary but God’s extraordinary love continues to call to us and reach out to us through Word and in bread and wine in the midst of…and despite our tumultuous times.

As we begin another new year, I am a bit troubled as I look out the window at society and see all the violence taking place…be it words or actions. It seems to me that people seem to live for themselves and do “what is right in their own eyes,”(Judges 21:25) This may cause us to pine for the old days…the days when people had respect for one another and there was decorum in leadership. In light of this I want to try something this morning.

I want to begin by reading you something of no great importance. Imagine it as profound graffiti…because that is what it basically is…graffiti.

What I am going to read are the lyrics of a popular song but I don’t want to mention the writer because the writer is not as important as the sentiment written about. Some of you will know who it is and if you do that’s fine, but just listen to the words from a song entitled “Keeping the Faith.” The lyrics are as follows:

You can get just so much From a good thing
You can linger too long In your dreams
Say goodbye to the Oldies but goodies
Cause the good ole days weren’t Always good
And tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems

The song is about keeping faith to see beyond the past, trusting what’s ahead, having faith in what lies ahead because the past wasn’t as good as we like to remember it to be.

I think we all, in some ways, like to look back and hold tightly to a tradition that in reality…wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. However, as the writer points out, it was a tradition that shaped him but that tradition doesn’t get in the way of moving forward and to keep the faith…have faith in moving beyond the past.

Today, however, when we look out our windows and look around in here, we see that things aren’t as good as they used to be but like the song says, perhaps they weren’t as good as we remembered.

Years from now they will look back at our culture right now, in our world today and remember it fondly as the good-ole-days. But when we look at them now (the times) they don’t look so good.

No matter if we look back at the good-ole-days or the bad-ole-days the reality never really changes, we are what we are and God’s love for us, God’s forgiveness for us, and God’s salvation given for us is the one and only constant.

But instead of holding on so tightly to the romantic sense of the past and letting it get in our way today, perhaps it would be better to look at the past in reality and have the faith to not let get in our way. Yes we can look out our windows and claim that the world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket. The world just doesn’t seem to care about anything but itself. The world does what is right in its own eyes and it certainly does not care about God and or God’s precepts.

We do what is right in our own eyes because we assume an empowerment with all the wonderful advancements in communications and the Internet that we think make us more informed. We have instantaneous coverage of current events, we can see them in real time…as they happen and
we expect the leaders and commentators to make comments about these events in ways that are truthful and un-offensive to everyone…and all of this within that exact same moment things happen.

Moreover, we want our problems and our illnesses to be solved in the same fashion…as fast as they happened. But what we have in our instantaneous world is opinions that have become facts…facts that are void of truth and undergirded by our nostalgic feelings. We are a people that live according to what is right in our own eyes.

In turn we remain locked up in our little worlds with all the facts/opinions that make ourselves comfortable and complain about these days and look back fondly on the “good-ole-days.” But as we complacently sit holding tightly to our God and our faith and complain about how the world out there disregards God and faith we ourselves have fallen asleep in our faith holding onto and dreaming about the past. Listen again to a couple of lines that I just read:

You can linger too long In your dreams
Cause the good ole days weren’t Always good
And tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems *

Let me at this point mention the greatest generation of our time and those who came through the Great Depression. I don’t think the days of the great depression were the good-ole-days for those folks. To them, the days of old never got in the way. What made the Greatest Generation
was NOT the good-ole-days but how the folks lived and moved past them.

Looking at our appointed Old Testament reading for this morning we can ask ourselves, are we like Eli? Have we fallen asleep in our faith? Is our faith only a desire for what it used to be? Have we been lost so deeply in our nostalgic dreaming that we no longer recognize God working
in our lives today or even that God is calling today? Or do we have faith to move beyond what it used to be?

Today we hear God call to young Samuel in our Old Testament lesson. Likewise God calls to us
His holy apostolic church, waking us from lingering to long in our dreams and reminding us that
tomorrow aint as bad as it seems.

The context of our Old Testament lesson from First Samuel does not find us in the good-ole-days. The lesson takes place in a time period very much like ours today. The First book of Samuel takes place in the time of Judges, a sleazy time of evil and wretchedness. It is a transitional time between Moses and Joshua and David’s reign as king. The closing words of the Book of Judges says it very clearly that it was a time when:
“all the people did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25b)
We can see in Holy Scriptures that the good-ole-days weren’t as good as they seemed. In fact, they are just the same as they are today. But nonetheless God spoke then and continues to speak today.

God is calling us today just as he calls Samuel…awakening our drowsy faith…reminding us through Word and Sacrament of the grace and forgiveness, the mercy and new life we are freely given through faith. Today from our Old Testament reading Samuel represents the hope of a new beginning and the ending must come first. Samuel is called to speak against the very house that keeps him, the house of Eli. **

But in our context today, God calls to us as well…God is calling through Word and Sacrament…awakening our slumbering, nostalgic, and complacent faith…calling to remind us that the church existed, grew, and developed in troubled and tumultuous times. And as we see with the call of Philip and Nathanael in our Gospel lesson, the church grew with people sharing the good news with each other.

Today God continues to call us just as he called to Samuel…God calls us to remember not so much our past, but calls us and awakens us once again to the one constant throughout all time…His grace and life. We are called once again to see the new beginning we are given in the forgiveness of our sins. We are called and awakened to realize that through our faith we the church are the beginning of a new life…promised through Jesus Christ.

Today we are not just awakened, we are called and we are sent to share that same good news despite the world and its ways. And even though we may long for the good ole days, may we be awakened from that dream to see that they were the same as they are today, a sleazy time of evil and wretchedness, a time when the word of the Lord is rare…a time when the Lord is difficult to see and recognize. But we hear today, in the ordinary time of our lectionary year of God’s Word breaking trough our slumber, our complacency. Even when we assume nothing good can come from today, God’s word made incarnate in Jesus Christ, calls to us and comes to us in bread and wine…awakening us all to the grace and salvation we are given. This holy Sacrament is God’s love breaking through the drowsy ordinary times with the promise and assurance that we will see heaven…

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

* Joel, Billy. “Keeping the Faith.” Billy Joel, An Innocent Man. Recorded 1983, produced by Phil Ramone on Columbia Records Family Productions, vinyl track #5 side
** Van Harn, Roger E.. The Lectionary Commentary Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts, The First Readings: The Old Testament and Acts. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001. The commentary based on the appointed Old Testament reading for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B, I Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20) This sentence begins with a direct quote but then ends with my commentary on the quote on page 173.