Spirit Led Change: Vision, Experience and the Word

Biblical Text: Text: Acts 11:1-18, John 16:12-15

Change in the church is always a contentious issue. But even Jesus assumed that it would happen. And the book of Acts gives an example of a significant change. What these biblical texts give us is a Spirit Led pattern. This sermon takes Jesus’ words as the basis and Acts as the enaction of those words. Peter’s “ordered argument” is meaningful. It is not that revelation or vision and experience are meaningless. They are quite meaningful and Peter includes both as part of his argument. But his real argument is “remembering the Word of God.” This sermon looks at Peter’s Spirit led example and encourages us to examine our own changing in the same light.

What’s Your Ending? – Hope or Fear


Biblical Text: Mark 16:1-8
Full Sermon Draft

The Easter Text in Mark’s gospel ends on a strange word – fear. What this sermon does is look both at our discomfort at fear and at what Easter has to say about it. Mixed in with a bit about that interesting ending of the gospel.

Happy Easter! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed. Alleluia!

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Judges 6:1-24 and Acts 14:19-5:5

Judges 6:1-24
Acts 14:19-5:5
Times of Change, The Presence of the Lord with His People

Thoughts on messages that connect…

Matthew 13:52 is one of the oddest verses in the bible – And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” My head is stuck thinking of “odd sayings” of the bible after last week’s sermon.

How do we take that? Is it an excuse to change everything and abandon what was done in the past? “I’m just bringing out new treasures”…says every heretic, two bit prophet and over-educated under-excited pastor. That should be an obvious dead-end, although the American church seems to be by heresies greatly distressed without the ears to hear. Well then, is it an excuse to formalistic legalism? (Chair: Say what parson? You lost me there. Me: Ok chair, I’ll rephrase.) Do we take that passage as the warrant to torture everything slightly different until it looks just like what came before? The trained scribe is the one who makes everything old new again. If that was the case, I should be able to dust off “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (look it up, chair) and call a generation back to God and shake them out of their lethargy. (Chair: good luck with that.)

Why did a Monk in a backwater part of Germany nail 95 sentences largely unreadable on door and 4 years later the entire world was aflame? Personally I like money motives, the new burghers and the old aristocracy saw a way to stop sending money to Rome. (Chair: personally I like the freedom message, like when you get your big backside off me. That message got every two bit aristocrat and priest’s backside off of simple Christian. Me: okay, I’ll lose a little, and your reason isn’t bad either, chair.) But there is a shelf full of books on my wall that will swear up and down that justification by faith alone was exciting news.

So what does an over-trained scribe think? (Chair: You mean other than when you can get to 5 Guys next? Me: Ha ha) It’s like translation. The well trained scribe must know in his bones the old without losing touch with the time he actually lives. We have this treasure found in a field, or I prefer held in jars of clay. The jars of each generation break. New generations make new jars. Some generations have shockingly bad taste. But the treasure held remains the same. And the treasure is this: I tell you a mystery, we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed. The trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable. Because God has given to us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Argh! Coding Changes

Once upon a time I had some coding chops. Now, not so much. And Facebook changed something. I logged in and found nobody in the facebook “fan box”. Wondering what had happened, I started checking it out. What had been the facebook page had been deleted, so there go a few hours leaning what the new approved method is. This is in some ways a test. If you have any problems with the site please drop me a note: pastor at saintmarkslutheran dot org.

Circuit Meeting

March 8, 2011 – Circuit Meeting

This is the sermon delivered at the pastor’s meeting. If you heard the transfiguration sermon below, it is similar, but modified in a couple of ways for the audience. 1. I brought in the text for this coming Sunday hopefully to give the pastors a step or a bridge on this week’s meditation. (They really fit together, but that was something that got cut on transfiguration day as too confusing. The pastor’s have the advantage of holding both in their heads.) 2. The application is mostly reworked. Where the congregation sermon focused on individuals being open to the transfiguring grace of God, to the pastors the charge was both personal and as shepherds of congregations. 3. The personal story was ditched in favor of a tie into a presentation title given by the District President.

In one way, audience matters a lot. In another, the gospel is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. The best parts of these sermons probably could have been boiled down to a couple of paragraphs. But I like hearing my voice. Just kidding, a little. What I do think is that this sermon given to the pastors is probably a better fit of message and audience. I was probably thinking a little too much about this one when I was composing Sunday’s.

We know the who…

Full Text

Transfiguration is an evocative word. Being creatures in a half dimension of time, we know the past but can’t do anything about it. We don’t know the future, and usually fear it, especially when we know that it will transfigure us. We can either let that fear change us, or we can let the Spirit transfigure us. What the transfiguration shows us is just how much Jesus was in the same situation. He trusted his Father (our heavenly Father) enough to put aside the glory for the cross. He trusted the character of the Father, the Father he reveals to us. We don’t know the future, we don’t know what Jesus will ask us to transfigure next, but we do know the Character of Jesus. We know what He did for us. Not that transfiguration won’t scare or leave scars, but that is the core of Faith. I trust that one – the crucified one – to change me by his grace.

A Virtue of a Necessity

Most organizations or institutions do not make changes until they just stop functioning. Somewhere in a vague past the complexity and size that an institution had built up actually helped. Then it stops. But the institution can’t even think about operating in another way. That is the way we’ve always done things – even though it isn’t. And a big part of it is that the institution made promises, promises they can’t keep anymore. And instead of admitting that and going into triage mode – finding what can be done – they keep the external dead husk of a structure while killing everything in it with 10% cut after 10% cut. And that can go on forever – until it just stops or until someone with the leadership and guts comes along to change it.

Parochially, the Eastern District and the LCMS has been in that situation for years. Taking a look at the budget is sad tale of woe of zombie programs and structure that just won’t die. All the while strangling things that might work. A tale of hospice instead of triage. A tale of care-taking instead of healing.

This NY times article and this bishop’s letter on the same thing – the NYC catholic schools – would seem to signal a change in that institution. It seems that Archbishop Timothy Dolan wants to be a leader. (The hospice image is his.) He’s picked a couple of interesting fights. First he’s picked a fight with “American Individualism”.

I fear as well an attitude that the support of our Catholic schools is only the duty of the parents who have children there. In this view, a parish without a school has no obligation at all to support other Catholic schools, and a parish blessed with a school might offer a “subsidy” to the school, but shifts the major burden of upkeep to the “school families,” who then are looked upon as “demanding drains” on the rest of the parish.

Such a view, of course, is, simply put, “non-Catholic.” As our tradition, Church teaching, canon law and cherished Catholic practice remind us, support of Catholic schools is a duty of the entire Church, even if you may not have a child now in one, or belong to a parish without one.

There are concentric rings of responsibility. Luther put the catechism to the head of the household by which he meant the father. But he also meant the heads of larger houses including the princes as the heads of the household of state when he wrote in 1524 a treatise “To the Councilmen of all Cities in Germany that they Establish and Maintain Christian Schools.” Luther would agree with the Archbishop.

The second fight he picks is over the role Bishops and Clergy. Stop the whining, stop the “good enough for church work”, stop the narcissism and pious sad face – and do your real job. Building hope. And it starts with competence in the job placed before you.

Finally, I fear a subtle buy-in into what I call the hospice mentality. Some bishops, priests, pastoral leaders, and Catholic faithful now sigh and say, “Well, we sure love our schools, and they have served us well, but, sadly, their day is over, and twilight is here. So, the best we can do is make their passing comfortable, and hold their hand while they slowly pass into grateful memory.”

Malarkey! We need to move from hospice to hope.

And we can’t do business as usual. To stand back and watch our schools struggle and scrape will only result in an “academic Darwinism”—where only the few fit survive—and a slow shrinking and gradual disappearance.

So, what do we do? We do what those before us have done. We renew passion, face reality and boldly plan for the future. We recover our dare and quit whining.

Pathways to Excellence calls for ongoing improvement internally, with realistic attention to quality teachers and principals, improvement of math and science scores, reassertion of Catholic identity and aggressive marketing.

Nobody wants to dedicate a life (especially a celibate live) to living in a hospice. In 2009 protestant seminaries had 20,835 M.Div students while catholic had 2,170 – an order of magnitude difference. It is nice to see someone with the leadership mantle appearing to use it.

Rich Young Man – revisited

As a congregation we spent two Sundays on Mark 10:17-22 and then Mark 10:23-31 – the Rich Young Ruler and the aftermath explanations. [The LCMS three year lectionary cycle very closely follows the one used in most churches, but this is one of the places where it was modified. Instead of treating all that material in one week, and then reading the following request of James and John, we spend two weeks on the story itself and Jesus’ explanation.] The impression that is given at the end of the story is that the Rich Young Man did not follow Jesus – or that is the traditional take either being the example of seed falling among thorns (Mark 4:7) or just his walking away sad.

This link has a slight expansion using later parts of Mark to say that things might not have ended so sad for the rich young man. For some good counter arguments read the comment by Kim Fabricius in the chain.

Both are good close readings of the text.