In pm's words
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November 25, 2019, 9:00 AM

the one about our king...

Sermon from November 24, 2019

Text: Luke 23: 33-43

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our risen and eternal King – Christ our Lord. Will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, today is Christ the King Sunday, a day that we remember, celebrate and live into the truth and love that Jesus our Christ is our sovereign and eternal king. We get to remember who Jesus is for us – a king and ruler of our lives through love and grace. This is a feast day in the church that is a relatively recent addition to our church calendar. It was put in place in 1925 as a response to the rising nationalism throughout the world at that time, but especially in Europe. We remember that Jesus is our king who saves us – not the person speaking into a microphone to thousands.

And what glorious text do we get to remember this day?

His crucifixion of course.

On this day that we remember how Jesus is Lord of all, we remember that truth by recalling and reading the text before he dies. This text where our King of Kings is nailed to a cross between two criminals; as soldiers and passersby mock and ridicule him. Seems like a southern sized back-handed compliment or as I heard a comedian say this week, a big fore-handed insult.

It’s weird, isn’t it? The day we remember that Jesus is our King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we do so by reading about his death. What a wonderful way to bridge the passing of one church year to the next?

This day could’ve used a text more fitting to what we normally associate with kings? When Jesus was baptized, would be a fitting one, ‘This is my son!’ Or when Mary washes Jesus’ feet with her hair. Even the transfiguration experience upon the mountain. Perhaps the wedding at Cana when the water turned to wine. Any of those texts would help us better relate to Jesus as a king in the ways we know today.

Here’s the thing about kings in our world; for the most part, when we remember them, we don’t remember the ways they were tried and killed. Even when we think back on the terrible kings from our world’s history we remember their opulence, their wealth, their power.

We remember the lands they held, the things they could get done by simply speaking. We remember the glitz and glamour of their lifestyle and the way the people around them acted towards them. When we remember kings and royalty, we typically give it an all-star treatment – like watching ‘The Crown’ on Netflix (which is really good by the way). Sure, we may talk about their struggles, but we do so in the context of their realm of power.

Typically, when we remember kings and celebrate who they are – we don’t do it like this.

We know that our Lord Jesus isn’t your typical king. He isn’t like the ‘kings of the world’ that we know so well through history.

He is not a king that seeks power. He is not a king that changes the rules so that he benefits the most. He is not a king that flaunts wealth in small and ridiculous ways. He isn’t your typical king.

He is, the king of kings. He is the one whom we all are called to recognize as the one who rules over all.

His rule is different. He doesn’t command allegiance by forcing people to love him. He doesn’t demand loyalty by bullying people into compliance. He doesn’t demean, belittle, or go out of his way to show how ‘powerful’ he is. Our King of Kings doesn’t flaunt, doesn’t gloat, doesn’t bully, doesn’t act like many of the kings and rulers within our history and who are in power today.

Instead, he’s the one who has come down to be with the people under his charge out of love. He is the one who I believe truly understands what it means to live life like the rest of us. He is the one that even as he is being put to death, shows and speaks love for those around him.

And that’s the part of who Jesus is as King that I want to talk a little about this morning. What Jesus does on the day of his crucifixion and what that means for us today.

We know that crucifixion is brutal. We’ve been told that. But, have you ever considered what it is about crucifixion that ultimately kills a person? Many believe that it is blood loss. And, of course we would think that because those who are crucified have nails forced through their wrists and feet.

But, here’s the thing – if you do it right (and the Romans were really, really good at it) – you can hammer a nail through this part of your hand and wrist and you’ll bleed for sure – but you won’t bleed out. You’ll be in agonizing pain. You’ll be hanging there, but you won’t (necessarily) die from that.

Then, a little plank is nailed to the center beam of the cross that’s up high enough that when you place your feet upon it, your legs are a little bent. You’ve probably seen the paintings depicting those who are crucified with their legs bent off to the side.

There’s a reason for all that. Because remember, the Romans were really good at execution and they were brutally efficient in their implementation of it.

You have to hang from your wrists, but you’re supported by your feet. You’re fighting the pain in three spots on your body.

Yet, when you get tired, you’ll hang even more. And your arms are put in such a place that your own body will begin to cut off your breathing. In order to take a breath, you’ll have to push yourself up to allow yourself to suck in air into lungs that are in desperate need of it.

Crucifixion doesn’t kill you by bleeding you out, or even starvation. You die by strangulation. Strangled by your own body. As your upper body hangs down with your arms above your head. You begin to lose the ability to breathe. So, you need to push up with your legs to take a breath.

And you notice in our reading this morning, Jesus and the criminals at either side talk a lot. And we know that the one thing you need in order to speak – is air. You need to be able to breathe to talk, if you don’t have air in your lungs, you cannot speak.

So, what kind of King is our Lord Jesus?

Not only is he a king who has come down to be with us. Not only is he Emmanuel – God with us.

Not only is he the one who listens to us. He proclaims salvation to all no matter who they are, but especially to the ones who are pushed to the side, taken advantage of, or who are mocked by those around them as ‘less than.’ Not only is he the one who speaks a powerful truth of God to those in high places of power throughout society. Not only is he the one who speaks and even the winds obey him; where he utters a word and a person is healed.

Not only is our King of Kings that kind of king. But, our Lord, our King, out of great love for all of creation – out of love for even those criminals at either side of him – out of love for those inflicting pain and torture upon him – out of that kind of deep, bottomless love, our king pushes through the pain to tell us.

Our king pushes through the pain to tell us we are loved.

Our king pushes through the pain to tell us we are forgiven.

Our king pushes through the pain to speak to us. To love us. To invite us. To welcome us.

Our king – Christ our king – pushes through the pain to show you what kind of king he is for you and for the entire world.

Why? Because this king that we follow isn’t concerned for how others treat him, view him, or mock him. This king that we follow is concerned about us. This king is concerned about those over there. This king is concerned about the one who others have trampled upon.

This king loves you. No matter what. Our King eternal shows and lives into that love in the ways that no earthly king, ruler, emperor, or president has or will ever show love. Christ our King pushes through the pain to tell us, to tell creation, to tell me, to tell you – that you are loved and forgiven. Always. Amen.

November 18, 2019, 9:00 AM

the one about not waiting around...

Sermon from November 17, 2019

Text: Luke 21: 5-19

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Risen Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, this is the time of year that the secular, capitalistic, and commercialized part of the world revs up its mighty engine in its push towards Christmas. We’ve got the Hallmark Channel beginning their (cheesy) holiday movies schedules, radio stations are airing the slightest ding-a-ling of Jingle Bells, store displays are cheery and bright, and everyone is in the full swing of getting those gifts for their loved ones.

However, the secular ramp up to Christmas is very, very different from what we will hear these next few weeks and in the beginning of Advent as we as a church body move towards that joyous time. We will hear stories about the rumors of wars, hardships, and more. In a very real sense, the lectionary lead-up to Christmas is akin to the Starks of Winterfell from Game of Thrones fame. The secular world is cheery and bright in its portrayal of all of this, while the lectionary seems to be saying, “Winter is coming.”

Our Gospel text this morning begins that sounding of the drum. That distant and far off beat that gets louder and louder. For we hear Jesus in our text this morning as he gives heed and warning to those around him. The foretelling of the destruction of the temple, the rending of family relationships and friendships, and more. This doesn’t seem like the bright and cheery message the rest of the world is trying to tell and sell us.

And of course, there will be attempts to try to shoehorn Jesus’ words to fit any and all real-world scenarios that are going on right now. Many have sounded that particular drum beat for generations. Whenever the worldview of anything and the culture expands its love and acceptance, people will claim that Jesus is speaking for them and their particular views – no matter how vastly different those views might actually be from Jesus’ life, call, and ministry.

But, I believe there is something that happens to humanity when we read of things like this – whether it be from Jesus’ lips or any other dire scenario spoken by someone throughout history – when people hear it, they have a tendency to sit back and wait.

Take for example if they are on the opposing side of the teller’s point of view; they won’t pay attention to it and just laugh it off. Seeking instead to listen to those whom they agree with instead. They’ll tell that person that they are speaking fake news or talking about hoaxes. Though, if a person is ON the side of that teller’s views, they may just sit back and wait for it all to happen – it’s going to happen anyways, what can I do to stop it? Why even bother?

And the most frustrating thing about all of this is when Christians get into the mix, for many sit back and say, “Well, God’s going to mix it all up and clear it all out anyways, why stop that from happening?” Some may even pour more gasoline on the apparent fire in HOPES that it’ll bring Jesus’ return that much more swiftly and quickly.

Yet, if you read this text (and listen to Jesus’ words throughout the Gospels), Jesus doesn’t advocate for that at all. He doesn’t. Far from it.

Jesus doesn’t and NEVER advocates for a ‘sit and wait’ approach. Jesus doesn’t and NEVER advocates for a ‘remove yourself from all this and hunker down’ attitude. Jesus doesn’t and NEVER advocates for – if you want to make me arrive sooner –just start contributing to the destruction.

Jesus never advocates for any of that. If you hear someone promoting those sorts of words and actions on behalf of God – those are the very people that Jesus warns us about in our text this morning. Do not go after them.

So, what does Jesus tell us in this doom and gloom portrayal of a future?

He tells his friends and those gathered around him – he tells us – that we will be given an opportunity to testify; an opportunity to witness to the world.

Jesus doesn’t advocate for us to sit back and watch the world burn. Jesus doesn’t send us out to contribute to the fire in hopes that’ll all be over more quickly.

No, Jesus calls us to be witnesses to the world.

To testify what we know and giving us the hope and promise that it won’t just be us at work, but it will be God working through us and giving us ‘the words’ to speak.

So, what might that sort of ‘defense’ look like? I’m under the assumption that it won’t be in a court room or any place similar to that. There won’t be a 12 person jury that will hear our case and make a judgement upon what we speak is true or not. We won’t be going before a jury trying to prove that all our deeds were good – it won’t be some weird episode of The Good Place.

No, I don’t think that is what Jesus means by being a witness. That isn’t what Jesus means by testifying to the truth of what God proclaims.

I’m a firm believer that our testimony – our witness – is how we live into the faith in which we have been called and baptized.

Where we live out those promises that our family and communities of faith faithfully vowed to teach us on the day of our baptism – and which many of us have and will say ‘yes’ to in the affirmation of our baptisms. Those promises like – living among God’s faithful people, hearing the word of God and sharing in the Lord’s Supper, proclaiming the good news of God in Christ through our words and deeds, serving all people, following the example of Jesus, and striving for justice and peace in all the earth. Those promises.

How have we – how do we – how will we – live out those promises as we live into the radical love, welcome, and hope that our Lord proclaims to all. As we serve, help, listen, and lift up those whom the world has cast aside. As we advocate for those who are underrepresented, uncared for, and overlooked by the machinations of this world we live in.

Because, truth be told – there is a lot that is pretty bad out in the world right now. Terrible stuff that is allowed to go on that God, I imagine, is deeply concerned about. So, what sort of stuff might that be?

How about how children are hungry in this world, in this country, in this state, in this very community, and we look past that need because we don’t ‘know them’. How people are abused, harassed, and even killed just because of who they are. Where the creation that God has gifted to us is ransacked for our own wanton desires. Where we value a cheap discount more than we do with our neighbor earning enough to live. Where we will sit back and watch a person suffer because they ‘should’ be stronger mentally or they adhere to a different ideology than we do. Where we are more interested in ‘stuff’ than we are with those around us. Where we will stick to our ‘pride’ and ‘ways’ instead of doing something to prevent the violence that continues in the places it never should be in.

And you know what? We all fall short in that way. All of us are guilty of living not living into the promises we made.

And yet, Jesus will give us the words. Jesus has provided us the means. Jesus sends us out to feed, care for, clothe, sit with, advocate for, and lift up those who are hurting.

God is still there with us, never leaving us. God has come into the muck and mire of creation to show us and guide us in this life of faith and baptism.

And when you begin to do that – living fully into the promises of your baptism? That tears families and friendships apart. That makes the powers of the world rage and foam. Lifting up others in love and care strikes fear into the world of the powerful and comforted. It sets the world on its edge, it makes uncomfortable normal.

And yet, Jesus will still give us the words. The Holy Spirit will still guide us in that faith and life. God is still ever present with us.

As followers of the One who has come down to be with us – We care. We love. We provide. We speak up. We stand firm.

We are not afraid.

God calls us into this life. God calls us into the shadows of this world to bring light and life. Jesus has given us the hope to share and to receive that brings light and life to a world in need to hear it.

Yes, the ramp up of the holiday season is lived out very differently between the secular and religious of our world today. It isn’t always easy to follow Jesus into that life and faith of sweeping love and care for all in the world. It isn’t particularly easy to live into the promises made in our baptism. Yet, by enduring through that life of faith – we gain something so much more grand.

Jesus will give us the words. The Holy Spirit will guide our actions. God will grant us a wisdom that none can withstand or contradict.

We don’t sit back and wait, Jesus calls and sends us into this world to witness and testify through our life of faith and the promises of our baptism. Now.

The light of hope pushes out of the shadow of despair. Always. Amen.

November 11, 2019, 8:00 AM

the one about the living...

Sermon from November 10, 2019

Text: Luke 20: 27-38

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, here’s a question for y’all. Have you ever been asked a question by a person or a group of people who don’t think what you’re doing is a good thing? Where the question they ask is a ridiculous scenario and strong man argument in an attempt to trip you up and undermine your work, service, and love?

More than likely, you’ve received those questions during a conversation about politics or even religion. I’m not going to get into specific straw man arguments that we see today, because there is one thing that they most assuredly do – because its intentional –get a rise out of people and devolve into heated arguments that go nowhere. We don’t need to do that.

But, I bring up the straw man argument because we see it happening to Jesus today.

Throughout scripture, Jesus talks about resurrection. That God intends to make full that promise of new life to all of creation. In fact, in some sense the faithful people that Jesus has been speaking to believe in some sort of general resurrection. It’ll happen, but they aren’t really to sure about what it will be like, why, and when it’ll happen. They believe that it will happen, they just aren’t as ‘obsessed’ with it.

So, of course, Jesus speaks to those individuals and to all about resurrection. About God’s love lived in and lived out through this holy promise of new life and love. Inviting all into this life of faith so that they too might know that joy, love, and promise of hope.

But, of course, as with any good thing, there are always those who stand back and perhaps mock because they don’t believe in what is going on. It could be because they don’t want it to happen, they don’t think they can be a part of it, or they believe it is just not true. Yet, just as it is true today it was true then – those who ‘don’t agree’ with something have a terrible habit of having to get their few words in when they could’ve just moved along.

Today, we see that Jesus was able to interact with those types of people. Those who don’t believe in any resurrection. And they propose a ridiculous scenario and question to the Lord.

If there is a resurrection (and we don’t believe there is) what then happens to a woman who is married seven times and dies? Whose wife is she in this ‘resurrection’ you speak so much about?

And Jesus’ response to them doesn’t answer their question. Because, I think no matter what they wouldn’t be satisfied with whatever answer Jesus would give them. It seems that Jesus is trying to shift them away from this thing they don’t understand and focus on the thing that is before them each day.

Because here’s the thing – I don’t know what relationships will be like in the resurrection. I don’t. There wasn’t a class on that. There isn’t a primer with those answers.

But, I also know that how we view life now – with all its getups and hang-ups – shouldn’t be how we exclusively view life in the resurrection. The future cannot be solely viewed through the lens of today, just like the past cannot be solely judged through the lens of today either.

What does matter is that instead of focusing on the ridiculous scenarios we can concoct in our heads (like that of a woman marrying seven brothers, each relationship being childless or probably more accurately without a son, and each brother dying before the woman until she dies sometime in the future) and instead focusing on the embodied life that God gifts to us today. Focusing on the work we get to do now in order to bring this promise of new life and eternal love to a world in desperate need to hear and receive it.

Here’s the deal when Moses enacted that law it was a way, within the patriarchal and misogynistic society - that he was in - to support and protect a woman. Women didn’t have much or any authority during that time. Without a husband or a son, a woman could not provide for herself within the structures of that culture. So, being married to a brother – in the hopes of #1 providing protection for that woman’s life and #2 providing an heir to that first brothers name and life – were incredibly important. In addition to loving God with all yourself; one of the predominant themes of scripture is providing and caring for those who are the most disadvantaged in our societies – and during the many times that each of the books of the Bible were written – that was widows, orphans, and immigrants. We are called to love, care, support, and provide for those in need.

So, Jesus talks to these Sadducees and appears to be pushing them to not so much concern themselves with the reality of the resurrection (that they neither understand nor believe in) but, instead to focus on God’s work that is before them right now. Caring for the living. Seeing God at work in life now. Knowing that God is present in the world at this very moment.

I’ve heard and I’ve mentioned in sermons before that some people think and believe that the Bible is a cute acronym for ‘Basic Instructions Before Living Earth.’ The biggest issue I have with that, is that the focus is on the afterlife. Most people who spout that acronym definition care more about where they feel they’ll end up in Jesus’ eventual return than they do about the multitude of people around them in need. Also, there isn’t much about us ‘leaving’ earth in the bible. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when we are waiting for Jesus’ return and God’s redemption and fulfillment of all of creation. But, that’s a discussion for another time.

There are so many things in life that we do not understand or even believe. There are times when we focus so much on the extreme of a scenario – whatever political, cultural, or religious thing it might be – that we fail to see the good that we can do leading up to whatever outcome is being proposed.

Jesus today – I think – is telling the Sadducees and telling us – don’t focus so much on what the resurrection will be like. Know that it is true, but don’t’ get bogged down looking at it through the lenses we have today. But, in the meantime focus on living into what God calls us towards – what Jesus invites us into – what the Holy Spirit pushes and drags us through. Caring for those in need, living into God’s love for all, proclaiming Jesus’ love and hospitality to all in the world, living into that life of faith, hope, and promise. Living a life knowing God is of the Living. Live this faith so that you are giving life to those around you.

As a commentator wrote this week…

Resurrection is throughout the scriptures.

With no resurrection there is no way to escape death.

And with no escape from death, what can we hope for in this life?

And yet, God offers life as an escape from death through Jesus Christ.

And yet, Jesus is the resurrection.

Stop losing sight of the forest because of the trees. See the resurrected life and its promise lived out before your very eyes right now. See the life that is offered because of Christ. Live into that life of faith. Boldly accept that invitation to something new. Radically care for, serve with, and support those now – so that all might know of this promise and love. Let us work together, proclaim together, struggle together so that we all might know that we have life and a God of the living. Amen.

November 4, 2019, 7:27 AM

the one about life and death - All Saints Sunday

Sermon from November 3, 2019

All Saints Sunday

Text: Luke 6:20-31

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, if last Sunday was a ‘big’ day in the life of the Protestant Church, then today is an even bigger day in the life of the whole of Christendom. Today is All Saints Sunday.

For many, this is a difficult day, especially for those who have experienced the pain of death this past year. Where those emotions, that emptiness, that rawness is still ever present. But, for many more this is a day that is meaningful to all those who have experienced death in their life. The death of a parent, a spouse, a friend, a child. This is a day that we remember that we are a part of something so much larger not than ourselves, but larger than our tiny part of the Christian Church.

Today is the day that we remember what Paul wrote to the church in Rome so many generations ago – there is not one thing that separates us from the love of God in Christ our Lord – not even death. It is a deeply wonderful promise of faith and hope to hold on to during a difficult day like today.

But, as emotionally heavy as this day can be, this day is also a day of promise, hope, and life as well. For today – in our small part of Christendom, we get to celebrate the baptism of a beautiful child of God. We get to welcome a new family into our community. We get to remember that though we might die to Christ, we rise to new life from the depths of these holy waters of our baptism. Today, we get to remember that God’s yes for us extends throughout our life and even after death.

As we get to celebrate with Lendy and her family today, she gets to be welcomed into a wider community of love and grace. She gets to inherit an immense number of brothers and sisters. She gets to be welcomed into this community of faith. Where we together will promise to help her and her parents raise her in the faith. Teach her, love  her, hold her, cry with her, laugh with her, be with her during wonderful and difficult times. We get to model for her what it means to follow in this way of Christ, what it means to stand for those whom the world has cast aside, we get to teach her about Scripture, the prayers, and the creeds.

We also get to learn from her. As she grows and approaches this life of faith, she will be able to show us with fresh and new eyes what it might mean to love our neighbors, to care for those in need, to stand up for what is right and good.

She’ll get to teach us, because we will model for her the life of faith that has been modeled for us throughout our lives by the saints who have come and gone before us.

We get to show her what being a peacemaker means as we remember together Atlee Lindsay who was that balancing force of love in so many if not all of the different relationships that she was blessed to be a part of. We get to show her what love is like around food, as we remember together Marie Nicosia’s incredible ability to whip up the most delicious meals and serve them to all those around her. We get to show her what it means to take time and pause, to have patience and grace as we remember together Sara Franklin’s love for puzzles and games. We get to show her where this life of faith can lead you, how it can seep into your bones and your very soul, bursting forth in loving prayers for those in need as we remember together Rev. Ron Smith and his deep love for the church and to tell people about God’s love for them. We get to show her what it means to be hospitable and welcoming to those in your life – opening the door and inviting them in – no matter what – as we remember together Dot Epting’s life and love. We also get to show her that no matter what God will always love you, even when life becomes difficult, when our minds work against us, and steer us into dark depths – that God’s love surrounds us and our family and friends stick with us through it all. We get to show that as we remember together the life of Ron Seymour.

We get to show Lendy so much because we have been taught so much for we are a part of this great cloud of witnesses – this priesthood of all believers – this incredible gathering of saints. We get to model for her in this new baptized life all that God has shown us in those that have modeled that life of faith to us.

Today is All Saints Sunday, today is the day that we remember those who have gone before us. We acknowledge the pain of their absence, but we also remember the hope that we have in Christ our Lord, that though they may be separated from us, they are never and will never be separated from our God’s love. Ever.

As we live into that promise, as we live into that type of deep and real faith, we get to share that with the newly baptized. We get to share that with Lendy and with all those around us. Being guided by the Holy Spirit through those around us – those who have died, those who strive with us, and those who are to come.

We get to mourn and celebrate this day. That is the beauty of All Saints Sunday. That day where we remember that we are a part of something so much larger than we realize. A part of a community and family that struggles and celebrates with one another in this life of faith. A community of faith that teaches, learns from, and grows with one another. A community of faith that remembers and looks to the future in hope and promise, even through tears and memories.

We get to hear from our Lord today as he gathers in all those whom the world has push out. He opens this life of faith to those who were told they never had it – that they never had God with them. We remember today that God is indeed with them. God is indeed with us. God blesses us because God is with us always. With us in life. With us in death. God’s love never departs from us.

And because God’s love never departs from us, we are to care and love those around us. No matter what. For God is with them – even when the world pushes them aside because they don’t love the ‘right person’ or they don’t live like ‘everyone else’ or they work in a job that others consider ‘dirty’ or ‘less than’ or they act a little bit different from those around them.

This day reminds us that we are all in this together. God’s love envelopes all of us. We get to teach Lendy that. She will get to open our eyes and see how that love is lived out in beautiful and faithful ways. We get to learn from one another as we live into this life of faith – especially when it is so difficult. Loving through tears, hugs, clenched fists, prophetic words, and everything in between.

All Saints Sunday is a beautiful day. It’s a big day in the life of the church and thank God that we get to be with one another through it all. Amen.

November 1, 2019, 12:00 AM

November 2019 Newsletter

Grace and peace to each of you this wonderful month! It is November, so that means we’ve got stuff in store for worship and ministry life here at Redeemer. I’m excited about the things we have going on and looking to the future about what God might have in store for us.

This month, we’ve got All Saints Sunday on November 3rd, which is truly a beautiful service where we remember not only those who have died within our community this past year, but we also remember those who have died in the years past. That time that we get to join together in our mourning, lean into each other in comfort, and hope with one another in God’s love through our faith. This year we remember the deaths of six individuals from our community of faith in the past year.

Our Youth have been invited/challenged to participate in a Paintball game with the youth from St. Luke’s Lutheran in Prosperity. I look forward to seeing if my skills on the digital field will be able to translate to the actual field of reality! We’ll gather in the Redeemer parking lot immediately following the 11am service on November 3rd. All youth in 6th grade and above are welcome to participate!

I’ll be hosting a new(ish) members class on November 17 called Ask Lutherans Anything! We’ll gather together at 5pm and just have a conversation. We’ll have an opportunity to learn about the ELCA, Lutheran history, and how faith is viewed and lived out through a Lutheran lens. All are invited whether you’re curious, a new member, thinking about joining us, or been a part of our community for years! If we don’t have the answers to your questions, I guarantee will have a great conversation.

This month also is our time to prepare for the end of the ‘church year’ and the beginning of another year in the life of the church. We will move from hearing most of our gospel texts from Luke to hearing the stories of our Lord from Matthew’s gospel. It amazes me each year how similar these different tellings of familiar stories are, and yet how different they can be in how we approach them for our lives of faith.

Also, as we begin this new year in the life of the church, we will be having a Hanging of the Greens time as we prepare our worship space for the season of Advent on November 30th beginning at 10am. All are welcome as we put up decorations and prepare our hearts and minds for the expectant hope of Christ’s birth!

This is just a small snippet of what Redeemer will be doing in November! God is at work in this place, and I look forward to being a part of that ministry and work with so many of you!

October 28, 2019, 8:00 AM

the one about the reformation...

Sermon from Reformation Sunday - October 27, 2019

Text: Jeremiah 31:31-34 and John 8: 31-36

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, today is one of those big days in the life of the church. In particular it is a big day in the life of churches like ours – Protestant and Lutheran. Now, I’ve heard in the past that this was a day that was seen like a ‘celebration’ of sorts over those ‘old school’ traditions like the Roman Catholic Church. Where some have taken this day as an opportunity to pat themselves on the back and give any sorts of ‘different’ hand gestures aimed toward the churches of the past.

Please don’t do that. That’s not what this day is about.

I believe on its mere basis, Luther would see the benefit of this day – as do I. But, how this day has been used to ‘thumb the nose’ towards the Catholic tradition or even to self-congratulate ourselves for a ‘job well done’ he’d have a few words to say about that (and he was a man who never said anything with just a few words). I feel he’d also be horrified to see those who have used this day to glorify Luther himself.

So, what then are we to do with this day? How should one truly ‘celebrate’ the Reformation? How do we remember this day appropriately?

I believe the first thing we have to remember is that being ‘reformed’ is a process that is never truly finished. When Luther nailed his points of contention to the Wittenberg Church door (as the legends goes), I don’t believe he did so thinking that those were the only issues he had with how the church of his day had strayed from God’s Word and grace. And believe me, they weren’t. Remember, Luther had a lot to say.

Luther didn’t announce his issues and then walk away. He wasn’t like a troll on social media that drops a ridiculous ‘bomb’ of ideas and text and then sits back and watches the chaos that ensues among the group. No, from the beginning, Luther knew that what he saw and how he acted was the beginning of an ongoing conversation, dialogue, and constant action.

I believe Luther knew that the work of the ‘Reformation’ would never be truly complete. But, would always be in a constantly active state. It has to be. Why? Because we will always arrive at those moments where we become complacent or apathetic or even diverge completely from the life of faith that our Lord and Savior Jesus invites and has called us into.

When we look back and reminisce through rose colored glasses of what once was, we fail to see the work that God continues to refine and rekindle in us today.

This week, I read an article about a church in Minnesota that could have done that. They had dwindled to about 20 folks each Sunday. They were less than two years from running completely out of funds and closing their building and ending their ministry altogether.

Yet, they looked at what they currently had – their gifts and skills – and saw that they could still help in the community. They had knowledge and skills to do work on homes and for people in their community. And, so they did it. With no expectations of anything in return.

They covered their town with leaflets stating that they were willing and able to help fix homes, paint rooms, to clean, to rewire, to do any sort of work to help. Anyone. No matter what or who. For free. No questions asked. They would live into a reformed sense of hospitality and welcome. They would live into the radical love and care that Jesus proclaims to help their neighbors in need.

They add handicap accessible access to homes. They rewire electrical systems. They clean gutters and pipes. They complete room addons that contractors skipped out on. And they did and do it all without expecting anything in return.

They have begun to live a life of being ‘reformed’ in God’s love and grace.

Has their church grown from that 20 or so clinging on? A bit, but not exorbitantly. They still struggle financially. They still teeter on the brink of whether or not they’ll be around in five or ten years.

Yet for now, they work. They help. They care.

So, what might living into the radical reformation be for Redeemer? Does it have to look like that church in Minnesota? No, it doesn’t. But, where can we look at who we are, what gifts we possess and have been blessed with, and live into the faith and life that God has and continues to call us into?

Where can we look to see where we have and where we are changing as a community of faith in Newberry to be more open and welcoming to those within our surrounding area? Where is God pushing, pulling, pinching, and throwing us to live into the life and Word that Jesus proclaims in caring for the people around us? In many ways we have been that community where all feel welcomed and love. And yet, we still have so much room to grow in that life and love.

Where can we sit and listen to those around us, to hear their stories as they share their struggles and joys, where we can walk with folks in care and love? Not to ‘gain members’ or to ‘look good,’ but simply to be the hands and feet of God to those around us – because that’s what people who follow Christ should do.

Where can we look inward to ourselves and see where we have a need to be reformed? Where we see those moments in our lives where we haven’t lived into the love that God has called us into. Where we have judged, where we have hurt through the things we’ve done, said, or posted online and in the real world that differ so much from the love that God has shown to us in Christ our Lord. Where we have become upset because someone posted their ’95 Grievances’ against us because we have strayed from God’s love and life with our words and actions.

This day of Reformation is indeed a day we look back. It is indeed a day that we remember the conversation that Luther began over 500 years ago. Where that simple act of airing his grievances gave permission to countless others to speak up, to say, ‘I think there is another way to look at this,’ and yes to even say, “This isn’t right. Something needs to be done.”

Luther saw how those in his community and in the life of the church were being taken advantage of. They were being told they weren’t ‘good enough’ and that they needed to do something more in order for God to love and care for them. That the church of his day was profiting off of things that were simply made up in order to strike fear and anxiety in the people.

So, he started a conversation. He sparked a fire that continues to this day. A fire that continues to put us in a state of re-forming what it means to follow Christ. A fire that shapes and molds us into what God has intended us to be all along.

The Reformation isn’t over. It still continues today. We still get to participate in this. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it makes us upset because it challenges the status quo. Yet, there God is – present always. Reminding us that love and life have been written on our hearts. Where that constant Word of God continues to move us in prayer, action, and faith. Where the Spirit of God flames around us as we again and again are shaped into those creations that love and care for all. No matter what. No expectations. No exceptions.

The Reformation isn’t just something that happened. The Reformation is still something at work today. God continues to re-form us. God continues to call us. God continues to invite us. God continues, because God loves us and the world. Always. That’s how we continue to live into the truth that Christ proclaims, that very truth that sets us free. That truth that moves us into action. Always. Amen.

October 21, 2019, 9:00 AM

the one about listening and prayer...

Sermon from October 20, 2019

Text: Luke 18:1-8

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Risen Lord and savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, this has always seemed an odd parable to me – right up there with the parable of the dishonest manager. At a quick reading, it appears that Jesus is saying that if we pray, beg, and plead to God in an unceasing manner – then God will answer our prayers because even God has limits on being annoyed. Much like the judge in this parable.

That if we just thump God enough with our worries and demands, then God will answer them because God won’t want to hear us whine and complain anymore.

Now, I don’t think this is an accurate interpretation of this parable, it is AN interpretation, I just don’t believe it is a correct one.

So, what in the world is Jesus getting at?

Jesus continually implores to his disciples and to us that God does not, never has, and never will fit neatly into the ‘boxes’ of our own design. No matter how often we try to corner God and place the Holy into our tidy little spaces, Jesus comes along and puts it all in disarray. When that happens, it doesn’t make us feel particularly good. We are stretched beyond what we thought was possible, but in the end, I think it further expands how we think about God, how different God is from what we think God should be like, and how much effort and strength God goes through to show love for all creation.

So, Jesus talks about this judge. And this judge is, I think, uncommon among judges.

Before answering the call to ministry, my job was essentially going to different magistrate and municipal courts in Richland and Kershaw Counties to talk about Pretrial Intervention. And boy do I have some stories. Because of those responsibilities I was able to meet a lot of judges. Some were a bit ornery, some were a little out there, but all of them were honorable. All of them heard the cases set before them. All of them showed even a modicum of ‘heart’ when hearing those cases. None of them were like the judge that Jesus describes.

In fact, you more than likely would not find, particularly during Jesus’ time, a lot of judges who did not fear or were not in awe of God in some way. Especially since being a judge was somewhat of a holy vocation. They were the ones who interpreted scripture, heard the cases of those coming forward, and then enacted justice through their decrees.

Now, judges then – and still today – are seen as those who are filled with honor and have at least even a little respect for those who come before them. When we encounter those who don’t have respect for those they hear from, it usually doesn’t end up well for them. People rise up, they stir, and more. Whenever a judge today is ‘ousted’ from their role, it is typically because of their wildly differing rulings that that make others question their honor for all the people they hear and decide cases upon. So, to be told, and then later hear from this own judge’s lips that he has no respect for anyone is rather odd and unsettling.

And the apparent thorn in this judge’s side is a widow. Which is odd to think about because during this time a widow was someone who did not have much say or voice in the world – let alone her own life. As a widow, she has lost her ‘power’ because she’s no longer married. There also wasn’t a great chance for her to be married again because of the customs of the day. It is no wonder that widows are some of ones that scripture continually tells us to support, care for, and listen to.

This widow’s cries for justice in her life become so loud and bothersome to the judge that he eventually relents and hears her case. He agrees to stand up for her and provide justice – however it is to come. But, I want us to be certain of something here. It isn’t so much that the judge relents because the widow is a mild annoyance, or just irritating him.

No, the English here subdues what is going on. This widow is relentless. In fact, in my study this week when the judge says, “so that she may not wear me out” is probably more closely translated to mean ‘so that she won’t give me a black eye.’

The judge appears to have a lot to lose both physically (if we’re literal in that whole ‘giving him a black eye’ thing) but, more than likely within the eyes and minds of those around him. Her consistent plea for justice is probably causing him more angst than he expected. It just might be causing others to question this judge’s honor and integrity – the one thing that a good judge rests on in the community.

I can imagine that her relentless cries aren’t just simple taps on the shoulder that would be persistent – and annoying – but, mostly meek and mild. No, I imagine that this is a woman who accosts him in the street, who bangs on his door, and who physical beats upon him to hear her cries. That she is bold in getting this judge’s attention. Today, it would be like hearing the cries of Erin Brockovich pleading on the behalf of her community, or Leymah Gbowee of Liberia who continually advocated for the safety of women and for women’s rights, and one a little more closer to our time - Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and her cry for the leaders of the world to do something drastic about climate change.

Yet, at the end of this parable, Jesus seems to compare God to the unjust judge. Which makes us squirm a little bit. Is Jesus really saying – when coupled with the first verse of this snippet of the gospel that if we just badger God enough through our relentless prayers that God will finally, and with a large and exasperated sigh, listen to us?

No, I don’t think that’s what Jesus is saying at all.

That also doesn’t mean that God does not listen to nor answers prayers. I believe God does. Possibly not in the ways we expect, but God does listen and does answer our prayers.

As I read this text, I couldn’t help but think about what justice means since we are introduced to a judge who doesn’t seem to be able to (or care to) live into his vocation and role in enacting justice.

We could talk at length as to what justice means simply because we all have differing opinions on what that might look like. We all might agree that we should care for the poor, but we all might have a different way of living into that just action. We may all agree that caring for the environment in our lives and community is a good and noble thing, but the action of justice taken towards that might differ substantially from one person to the other.

I think what we are introduced to in this short gospel text is the potential bedrock and foundation of what justice is founded upon. Jesus helps us to see where justice begins.

I think and feel that Jesus is trying to tell us that justice begins with showing our fear and awe of God by respecting those around us.

Think about that for a minute. This simple definition of just behavior is very helpful to how we live into the justice and righteousness that God calls from us.

This judge at first refuses to listen to one of the most helpless and vulnerable individuals in his society. She wails upon him relentlessly and he refuses to heed to her cries. That is the action that makes him unjust. It isn’t his previous decrees, pronouncements, or verdicts. It isn’t even his ‘potentially’ ineptness at interpreting the law.

It is the simple act of refusing to listen to the widow, and we can presume others like her, that has made him unjust.

When we think of the world today, I believe that is something we should take seriously as we listen to Jesus’ words this morning.

Being ‘unjust’ is the outright refusal to listen to people around you. To truly hearing what they are saying. Because if you aren’t listening or hearing, you surely aren’t caring for them. You cannot be ‘just’ in this life of faith without respecting a person enough to actually hear them.

What does it look like to give and have respect for those around you? How can we further lift up those whose voices seem to carry little weight because of who they are, their station in life, what they have done, or where they’ve come from?

Again, how we live into that just action in whatever avenue of life it takes might be different. We may disagree with how that action is lived into. But, where we begin that conversation, where we begin that action, where we begin justice starts with how we treat and view others.

By giving respect. Honoring those before and around us. Being treated with respect garners some expectations. An expectation of being listened to – fully and completely. Of being seen in the most positive of light. Being seen and understood as someone who has worth – no matter what.

That is the beginning of justice. Something that God calls for us to live out and into. Showing our fear and awe of God by respecting those around us. Respecting our spouses. Respecting our friends. Respecting those whose views differ from our own. Respecting those who others look down upon.

Respecting others enough to listen to them.

We live into this life of faith of fear and awe of God by respecting those who are around us.

What then of the widow? As we expect to be seen with respect, we also expect others to show respect for those around them as well. The widow is a reminder to us that as we pray without ceasing to our God, we also relentlessly speak out about the injustice in our lives, in the lives of others around us, in the lives of those most vulnerable in society. This widow had no other option left than to relentlessly pursue her case and cause with this judge. There was no ‘better option’ for her. Perhaps we too should look at those who call for justice today through ways and means different than how we would pursue it with a little more respect, love, and empathy.

God is not the unjust judge. God is the one who listens, God is the one who respects – from the beginning – those whom God has created. God does stand with the oppressed and the ignored. God does soften and warm the hearts of those whose cold gaze drifts above those beneath them. God works through all of us to bring that justice to life. God might be working that justice on us. God might be working that justice in us.

God just might be using you – me – all of us – to bring that respect of life to the world. God calls us to respect, listen, love, and care for those around us. Amen.

October 14, 2019, 9:00 AM

the one about going where Jesus goes...

Sermon from October 13, 2019

Text: Luke 17:11-19

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, I think y’all know by now that the Gospel of Luke is probably my favorite of the four gospels, and perhaps one of my favorite books in the entirety of our scriptures. There are so many good things in this gospel. So many wonderful stories that we hold so dear.

Yet, what I love most about this gospel is how Jesus is portrayed; how Jesus invites his friends – and each of us – into this life of faith and service. Here in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is the one who routinely and continually subverts people’s expectations. Here in Luke’s Gospel, we see Jesus concerned and caring towards those outside the ‘usual circles’ of life. Here in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus crosses boundaries and borders in the lives of those around him. He steps over and knocks down those literal and figurative walls in our lives.

He speaks with women, he tells stories about Samaritans (that aren’t the butt of jokes or end in their demise), he is insistent that the God of all – the one true Creator and redeemer of the world and all its inhabitants – is not exclusive to the Hebrew people. He is adamant that the Son of God has not just come to Israel, but has come to all of creation.

He literally goes out of his way to make that known to those around him. And when he does, it puts him in places that no one else would want to be.

Today’s gospel reading is a perfect example of all of those intersecting circles. This morning’s reading is a sort of ‘Venn diagram’ of all of who Jesus is in the Gospel of Luke.

As we enter this story, we find Jesus and his friends at an ‘in-between’ place. Coming upon a village that is outside of both Galilee and Samaria. The liminal space between those who know of God and those who worship God in a different way. The space between those who don’t see eye-to-eye or really care about one another because of ancient views on purity and faith.

Jesus comes to that place. And, as he enters the village, who calls to him from a distance? Those who are pushed out of both Galilee and Samaria.

For you see, I don’t believe this little village was intended to be a little suburb of either Galilee or Samaria. I don’t think we should look at this village as a sort of ‘Newberry, SC.’ You know, relatively in-between Spartanburg and Columbia. Close enough to enjoy the benefits of the big cities, but far enough away to not have to mess with the day-to-day hassle of living there.

No, I believe this village had a purpose. A sad purpose. This is the place where the outcasts of both Galilee and Samaria went to live. This is the place where those who were sick, or different, or sinful went to live because the majority in those in more populated and powerful areas didn’t want them around. This is a place where they could ‘be with their own kind.’ This is a place where the majority, the powerful of those respective big cities didn’t have to ‘see’ those who were less fortunate, hurting, or more.

In many ways, this city was the equivalent of Lazarus and his sores that we read of two weeks ago. A place to walk by, a place you only notice enough to step around it.

This is a place setup – whether intentionally or by necessity – where you didn’t go. This is the place where Jesus went. And I don’t think it was by accident. It wasn’t like that time Erin and I were in Baltimore looking for gas, and we got lost and turned around (we didn’t have a GPS at the time, and our phones didn’t have them either). Where we approached a Baltimore PD officer to ask for directions, and basically, he said, ‘Under no circumstances, do you turn LEFT on this particular road. Don’t go there. Stay out of there.’

Jesus goes to those places. Jesus goes where others say, ‘don’t bother.’ Or, its dangerous. Or, it would ‘stain’ your image, your person, your very being in the eyes of those in the world if you go.

Jesus goes to those places.

And, who does he find there? He finds 10 people suffering with leprosy. That disease that not only disfigured those who had it, but was considered a punishment by God upon those with it. For the culture at that time, to be near those with Leprosy could either a) get you sick or b) get God mad at you. I don’t think you have to think very long to discern what might be considered a leprosy of our day, time, and recent history. It’s been those with AIDS, those who think different politically, those from foreign countries, and more.

Jesus goes to those places.

And from the distance, those with leprosy call out for Jesus’ healing hand. They know who he is, they’ve heard the stories of what he’s done around the area, they’ve heard – they believe – they have hope and faith that he will be able to do for them, what he’s done for countless others.

And Jesus, in a surprising way, tells them to go show themselves to the priests. And apparently along the way there they are healed. They become clean. The leprosy has been cast off.

Now, here at this moment is where most preachers I believe focus on. The fact that only one of those with leprosy – who happens to be a Samaritan (there goes Jesus again, lifting up the faith of those the culture at the time would least expect) – who returns to give thanks to Jesus, the Son of God.

I’ve heard sermons and interpretations that state that only this one was cured. That the other nine, after first noticing that they have been ‘made clean’ are brought back into their previous state because they didn’t show thanks, and that people who do likewise run the risk of falling back into that which God has healed them from.

First. No. That’s wrong. That’s dangerous. That’s cruel. To think Jesus would heal then revoke that miracle because they didn’t ‘basically’ write a thank-you note.

Yes, only one of those with leprosy returned to give thanks to God. But, I don’t think Jesus did this healing in order to be thanked and praised. In many ways, he is living into what we read last week – that we shouldn’t looked to be praised because ‘we have only done what we ought to have done.’

No, Jesus healed these individuals because that’s what he does. Jesus heals. And he doesn’t do it in order to seek adoration or praise.

Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give thanks for what God has done. I think we should model the life and faith of this Samaritan man who once was afflicted with leprosy. However, when we don’t give thanks – it doesn’t mean that God will ‘take away’ what has been gifted to us.

Because, if God was going to live that life – we’d all be in trouble. All of humanity would be in trouble. Because, we’ve always fallen short.

No, I think the gospel of this story lain before us this morning, is that no matter what – Jesus – is going to come to the places that no one else is willing to, and he’s going to bring the word of God, a healing hand, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

He’s going to offer that healing – no matter what – no matter where someone is, no matter what someone is dealing with or afflicted with, no matter if they ‘show’ thanks or not. Jesus is going to heal them. Always.

I don’t know why the others didn’t turn around and fall at Jesus’ feet. We like to imagine that they were ungrateful, but perhaps they were smirking and shaking at that Samaritan man who didn’t ‘follow through’ with Jesus’ command to present themselves to the priests. Perhaps, overcome in their joy of being healed they ran to tell their family and friends what had happened, to share in their miracle from the one who is from above.

Maybe, just maybe, they were thankful – but didn’t show it in the same way as the Samaritan.

As Jesus crosses over into those liminal places – standing over the threshold and boundaries of those who are ‘in and those who are out’ – Jesus invites us into those spaces as well. Not to seek adoration and praise. Not to demand thanksgiving or acknowledgement. No, Jesus invites us into those places as well because 1) that’s where Jesus is and 2) to bring God’s good Word of life and truth to those who need to hear it, to live into and practice the love that God has for all, to be in deeper relationship with those whom God loves, to see love at work in the world.

Let’s meet Jesus in those places. Let’s live into what Jesus calls us towards. Let’s bring that wholeness and healing that comes only from God through Christ, our Lord – why? Because that what we do as followers of the Son of Man. No matter what. Amen.

October 7, 2019, 10:00 AM

Faith Reflection: Joker (2019)

Joker – Is there a glimmer of the Gospel in this?

During the season of Lent, I took it upon myself to write faith reflections on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It turned into something that was far more in-depth than I thought it would be. I really enjoyed writing reflections on those 22 movies. If you’d like to read those you can begin your journey here – from Captain America: The First Avenger all the way through Avengers Endgame.

But, why stop with ONLY the MCU? Even the DC Movies have something to say… sometimes.

First things first – I have not been a fan – in general – of the films based on DC Comics. Well, at least not fans of the more recent entries. I loved the Dark Knight trilogy, Wonder Woman is exceptional, and I was pleasantly surprised by Shazam! The other movies are… not as good.

With that being said, I did enjoy the recent Joker movie. It was beautifully shot, well-acted, and I think has something to say in the midst of its disturbed brutality and violence.

But, first – the synopsis of the movie – so, spoilers ahead y’all. You’ve been warned.

Joker follows the sad, pitiful life of Arthur Fleck – hauntingly and beautifully acted by Joaquin Phoenix. He is a man that you pass by in the streets. You don’t notice him. He doesn’t register to you. If he does register on your ‘radar’ you get a very odd vibe from him – and it isn’t good. There is something different about him and that different is something you typically don’t want to be around.

Arthur feels this too. He is ravaged by his own personal demons and is afflicted with a condition that makes him ‘laugh’ during uncomfortable times in his daily life. When he’s nervous, he’ll laugh. When he’s sad, he’ll laugh. When he’s angry, he’ll laugh. When he’s scared, he’ll laugh.

And, it doesn’t appear that his laugh is very comfortable, it isn’t a deep belly laugh, but a laugh that gets stuck in your throat and seems to cause pain. It appears just as painful to experience for him as it is for others to witness. It is a disturbing laugh.

Because Arthur wants to be noticed, but still be hidden, he is a street performing clown. Twirling signs outside of closing businesses and performing in hospital wings for children.

In all facets of his life, Arthur is ignored and taken advantage of. He’d be a sympathetic character IF we as the audience didn’t already know where this story will end.

Arthur is on medication and sees a therapist provided through public funds in the city of Gotham. Until those funds are cut and those helps for his mental well-being are cut-off. However, even going through the motions of talking to a therapist and receiving his meds, he begins to question whether or not it is actually helping him, because even the person who is supposed to listen to him, still doesn’t seem to care for him.

Eventually, Arthur is fired from his job after a gun he was carrying fell on to the floor while performing at a children’s hospital. On his sad trip back home to his mother’s apartment, he is confronted by three young, rich, financial sector guys. They begin beating on him, and in a brief pause as they laugh at the pain they are causing, Arthur shoots them. He murders all three. And runs home.

Yet, it appears that those murders don’t seem to bother him as much as he thought they would or should. In fact, he is developing a sort of confidence from it. Especially since there are others – who are not the super-rich of Gotham – who look to that act as sort of a ‘call-to-arms’ for the down in the dirt, unlucky, and trampled upon people of Gotham. They wear masks that are eerily reminiscent of the clown make-up that Arthur uses.

As the film progresses, the audience begins to see how Arthur’s psyche is devolving. He vividly imagines people present in points of his life that are not there or even whole scenarios that occur just in his mind. As many reviewers have mentioned, Arthur is an untrustworthy narrator upon his own life.

He clings to the prospect that he’s ‘more important’ than originally believed. At one point, he discovers that he might be the illegitimate son of Thomas Wayne and pursues that ‘reality’ in a disturbingly creepy way. Even after a bad stand-up routine that gets shared on a locally filmed and popular talk-show he imagines that this could be his big break. When in actuality, it is an opportunity for the ‘important’ and ‘well-respected’ people of Gotham’s society to once again, point and laugh at those beneath them.

The film culminates as Arthur is asked to appear on that talk-show and requests that the host introduce him as “Joker.” In that following interview, Arthur goes off on the host and the ‘elite’ of Gotham society. Giving a pointed monologue that the elite of Gotham have no idea how difficult life is for those who are not super rich, how they are tired of being the butt of jokes, being stepped over, and more.

Arthur ends the interview by shooting and murdering the host on live television.

This sends the ‘clowns’ on the street into a frenzy.

They loot. They destroy. They attack. They are fed by the brashness of Arthur – now Joker’s – ideology to cause havoc to those in the upper echelon of society.

The film ends with Arthur in a psychiatric hospital with his wrists shackled. The question on the audience’s collective mind is – did any of what we saw actually happen? Was it all in Arthur’s head? Is he ‘visioning’ what the future will hold? Is this something that happened further back in the past?

Those questions are not answered, and we are left to ponder them.


As, I look back on this film, I can honestly say that I enjoyed this movie. Even in its disturbed nature. This film has ‘sat with’ me more than any other. I believe, mostly due to the questions that arise based on that final scene in the hospital.

So, where do I find and glimpse the glimmer of the gospel in this film? Let me be first to tell you, that it is difficult. Extremely difficult to see any good that can come from this film.

But, throughout the movie, I could not help but think of Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. In that story, Jesus depicts a man at the gates of a wealthy individual who isn’t cared for by anyone. He is literally stepped over each day, and the only ones who even bring Lazarus any sort of mercy are the stray dogs who come to lick his sores.

Both the rich man and Lazarus die, and they end up on opposite sides of the ‘chasm’ that they (and the world) thought they would. Lazarus is free and healthy with Abraham, while the rich man is in turmoil on the other side.

The Rich man sees Lazarus and calls Abraham to send him over so that he might quench his thirst and end (if only briefly) the agony in which he is enduring.

Abraham tells the rich man – no, and that isn’t how this works.

Even in his current state – in agony on the other side of a chasm staring across at Abraham, the rich man doesn’t realize that he’s the one who is wrong. He still feels like he has ‘power and authority’ over Lazarus. Still wants him to serve him because he isn’t the important one in life.

The elite of Gotham are collectively the rich man. Those roles are personified by Thomas Wayne and the talk-show host, Murray Franklin. They don’t care about the ones who aren’t as ‘fortunate’ as they are. They talk down to those people. They use them as punch lines (in this movie both literally and figuratively).

That upsets the people. It upsets – as Thomas Wayne called them – the clowns of society.

Even when things are going terribly, they still can’t see how they’ve contributed to this falling of life or how they continue to push people over and to the side. It is still all about their own well-being, their own self-preservation, their own desires, their own thoughts and plans. It’s all about what works for them.

They are the Rich Man.

I’m not sure if Arthur/Joker is Lazarus. Though, he is one who is stepped over (and stepped on). He is one who is hurting. He is one who needs love, acceptance, and mercy.

However, he takes a bad turn. He is pushed to the limit and lashes out at the society and people who have treated him so harshly and inhumanely (and they have). He revels in the chaos he has caused. He is giddy about the destruction he has helped start.

His ‘laughing’ condition doesn’t seem to pain him as much as it used to. He welcomes it.

That’s not Lazarus. Or at least, not what were led to believe since Lazarus is hanging out with Abraham. I don’t think Arthur/Joker would be in that same spot.

Because, he too falls victim to the sin of the Rich Man. He too doesn’t listen to those around him. He too is only thinking about himself and his desires. He too feels that he is entitled to ‘what’s his.’

If this movie has anything to say, it is that we definitely should care for the people around us. We should listen. We should provide help. We should veer away from the sin that makes us believe we are more important than the one down the street.

But, it is also a film that shines the light on how dangerously frail we can be. That without love – genuine, merciful love – we can break bad. We can devolve into chaos and evil. That sin does reside in us.

As a Christian who views the world the lens of a Lutheran, I know and believe that we are – as Martin Luther called it – simul justus et peccator. At the same time justified and a sinner.

Arthur cares for his mother (again, to a point). He even wants to see children smile and happy – and wants to be the cause of that joy. He wants to bring laughter into others lives. But, that sin lurks and simmers at the top for him, and he is unable to withstand it’s sickening call and constant leaning on the doorbell of his life. He opens the door and lets that sin and terror consume him.

Thomas Wayne (the personification of the elite) wants to see others have a better life. He doesn’t want there to be chaos, evil, and hurt in the world. But, the sin of not listening or caring about those whom he talks about and down to keeps him/society from actually making substantial and beneficial changes to bring about the future and life that would be good for all.

Joker is an interesting film. It is one that sits with you.


If anything, care for those around you. Notice the people beside you. Live into the grace and mercy that God has given the world. Know that you are already valued and loved by God through Jesus who is the Christ. Show genuine love, because the world really needs it.

October 7, 2019, 8:04 AM

the one about faith...

Sermon from October  6, 2019

Text: Luke 17:5-10

Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters from God our creator and our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, if you think the last few weeks of hearing Jesus have been tough to listen to, imagine if you were one of the disciples whom Jesus was speaking to and with! Throughout these last few chapters the disciples (and those gathered around them) have heard story after story and pronouncement after pronouncement of Jesus stating some hard truths and not-so-easy expectations.

Parables about how God differs in celebrating those things and people that the world considers ‘lost.’ Stories about somewhat modeling those whom many – even our Lord – would call dishonest. And last week the emphasis of the story about a Rich Man who is sent to the bad place in part because he failed to see, act, and care for those around him – especially the ones who were literally at his front gate.

In fact, the disciple’s frustration culminates not simply from hearing these parables of what life in the kingdom of God is like, but that if someone sins against you and repents, you forgive them. If they sin against you multiple times and then repent multiple times; forgive them multiple times.

In many ways, the disciples are frustrated. Not, I think, frustrated with Jesus’ call, but frustrated about how in the world are they supposed to live into what Jesus expects? How could they possibly have ‘that much’ faith?

And, you know what, I think the disciples ask the very same questions that we do today. We look over and around us and we may see different folks and organizations doing some really big things. Superb things that are just full of faith and life. Where they might be opening their homes for those in need, giving up their paychecks to help pay for young adults to go to college, dropping everything in their life to go and help places devasted by storms to repair and rebuild. Walking with those and amplifying voices of those who are oppressed and taken advantage of by those in power in our world. Standing boldly in the midst of a world that fails to see or is apathetic to care about the creation around us.

And, we’re sitting over here at times and think, “Yeesh, I’m not capable of doing any of that. I’ve got family, people to care for, a job that I need that paycheck to live. Or, what that person did really, really, really hurt. How, O Lord am I to forgive? How, how, how am I supposed to ‘compete’ with that kind of faith?’

And Jesus’ response – if you had the faith the size of a mustard seed… That seems harsh right? Mustard seeds are really tiny, they seem totally insignificant. Not even worth the time and hassle because of their size. It seems like Jesus is chastising or even mocking the disciples.

But, in my reading of the Greek, it isn’t that way at all. Remember, if there is a problem in understanding the text, there’s a good chance the issue lies with the English.

Jesus is basically saying, “If you had faith the size of a tiny mustard seed (and I’m pretty sure you do) then…” Jesus is lifting up the disciples’ faith. Assuring them that yes they do have the faith, the gumption, the hope to live into what Jesus commands. They do have what it takes to live into the kingdom of God, they do have the ability to forgive as their Lord calls.

It won’t be easy – far from it. I don’t think Jesus ever makes the assumption that what he asks for is easy. So, don’t let others tell you differently. This life of faith isn’t easy to live into every day – but, it sure is worth it. Worth it to see others filled with life and love. Worth it to see God’s work lived out through your hands and through the hands of those around you. It’s worth it to see love in action, especially when it is difficult.

Jesus tells his disciples that yes indeed they do have that kind of faith. But, the faith that uproots mulberry trees and plants them in the sea isn’t really the flashy stuff that others like to show-off. The faith that ‘moves the unmovable’ isn’t always some big spectacle of goodness shown to the world.

It just isn’t. I’m not entirely sure that someone has seen God’s life, love, and truth from some grand display of faith. Kind of like I don’t think anyone has ever been ‘changed’ to think differently on a subject because of an argument they had on Facebook. That’s just not how it happens.

So, Jesus goes on to tell the story of those under the command of a master doing their work. Doing what is expected of them. Doing what is relatively ‘simple’ in the eyes of those around them. Preparing and serving a meal.

Jesus lifts up those who do the ‘mundane’ work of life and faith. Jesus lifts up the faith of those who do the simple things to further the kingdom of God. Jesus praises those who live into the everyday love, faith, and care to those around them. Jesus lifts up doing the things we are supposed to do.

For those in the story that Jesus shares with his friends, it’s simply providing for the one who comes home. Making a meal; attending to needs; doing what you’re called to do.

In the same way, I believe we can live into those simple acts of faith that do far more for showing God’s love and grace than any flashy act.

Being kind and gentle in the grocery aisle. Being patient and calm while stuck in traffic. Providing a helping hand to those in need. Being respectful of those who are different from us. Showing genuine care and concern to those who are hurting among us. Living into the love of God for all people – no matter what.

Because here’s the thing about those mustard seeds. Yes, they may be tiny, they may seem incredibly insignificant and not worth the hassle. But, do you think any gardener or farmer wants that wild mustard in their flower bed or among their crops? No. They do not.

Why? Because mustard is invasive. It is difficult to get rid of. It spreads quickly. Once it’s rooted, it is almost impossible to get rid of. For us today – especially in our area – it would be akin to Jesus saying, “If you had the faith the size of a seed of kudzu.”

The wild mustard can quickly overtake an entire area. And yet, it may have only started with a tiny seed! That tiny, insignificant thing can quickly become out of control and wreck even the most well cared for gardens and fields.

So too is our faith. At times it may be small, it may seem insignificant. But it adds up. It multiplies. It is fed by and through God’s life and love. It is faith that changes us fundamentally. Changes us to do what is ‘expected’ of us as people of faith because we feel we might ‘get something’ in return, and causes us to do good, faithful deeds of love and grace because of what has already been done. Because of who we already are – God’s very own.

That kind of faith. That live in faith day in and day starts small. It looks insignificant. It takes root and spreads out of control.

You have faith that can move mountains. That can uproot trees. That can move the unmovable. You have faith that spreads out of control like mustard. You have faith that spreads and covers like kudzu.

You have faith. Live into that faith. It’s worth it because of what God has already done. Amen.

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