“Fearless Service” 11.06.2016 Sermon

Luke 4:16-22 • November 6, 2016

Click here to view a video of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

This is the second week of our fall worship series Fearless Generosity. A worship series that focuses our attention for a short while on stewardship, which hopefully will cause us to be focused on how we live as stewards of God beyond just the four weeks of this series. After all, for followers of the risen savior of the Image result for lord's favor rest on youworld Jesus Christ, stewardship is not something we do only if we can fit it into our busy schedules or something that we use as a bargaining chip with God that we hope will give us a little extra credit in heaven when we meet Jesus face to face or about the church getting our hard-earned money out our pockets and bank accounts.

Stewardship is as simple as breathing – which is the breath of God.

Stewardship is also as complex as believing that this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. Hearing that should lead to change in our life, in our community, and in every part of God’s good creation. Change that I believe God is still calling us to experience in spite of all the ways we choose to ignore God’s call through Jesus.

Simply stated…for followers of the risen savior Jesus, stewardship is the way in which we Image result for stewardshiplive out our faith in the world today. Period.

Our stewardship focus this week is Fearless Service. Our focus this week is also on saints in our congregation whose earthly journey concluded in the past year. It seems quite appropriate that we celebrate the communion of saints on the same day that we celebrate the many ways that the communion of saints – which is all of us by the way – are active and alive in and through Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

One day in the synagogue, Jesus read a passage of scripture from Isaiah. When he finished, he continued as any other teacher would have done, with an interpretation. Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

What do you think this meant to the people who heard Jesus that day? There were many who had been thrown in prison or oppressed in any number of ways. It doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to know the stories of Jesus healing the sick, comforting the outcast, caring for those in need. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
In Jesus day, the entire nation of Israel was oppressed. The Romans were in control. While the Roman empire allowed relative freedom of religion, the taxation systems and laws Image result for year of the lord's favorlegislated and enforced by the government were oppressive. The land of Israel had not had what anyone would call a “favorable year of the Lord” as the prophet Isaiah proclaimed. A proclamation that Jesus was now fulfilling. The community had definitely not experienced the favor of the Lord in recent history.

Jesus was claiming that the prophecy of Isaiah had been fulfilled by Jesus in part through this gathered community’s hearing. My guess is that this probably caught the community a little off guard. If they weren’t paying attention to Jesus yet, they most definitely were now.

Jesus was not addressing political, economic, or even medical issues. He was addressing spiritual wholeness. His claim was to be God’s chosen one to bring good news of salvation to the spiritually bankrupt. He would free those in bondage from the downward spiral of sin. He came to shine the light of the truth of God’s will to those who were blind to that truth. He came to release those oppressed by corrupt religious leaders and allow them freedom of true worship to the one and only God. And through all this, the Lord’s favor would rest once again upon God’s children.

Image result for stewardshipIn your own life of faith what does the year of the Lord’s favor or the communion of saints or scripture being fulfilled in your hearing mean? What difference does it make in your life? What difference does it make in the life of your neighbor? Whether you know that neighbor personally or not.

In a few minutes we will light candles and remember saints from Good Shepherd who now rest from their earthly labor.

Saints who lived out their faith proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor. For the rest of my Image result for vadamaylife, I will remember and miss the Sunday morning hug from one of these saints. A hug that I believe helped proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor through countless acts of sharing Christ’s love in fearless service that encompassed every part of this sister in Christ’s life of faith.

Image result for myrt armstrongWe will remember saints who courageously participated in the life of the communion of saints on earth. I remember one saint who fearlessly served to break down systems and stigmas and people in authority who thought that the abuse of women and children was ok. A saint who believed that mental health and our care for the mentally ill were issues for the entire community to address. Issues that none of us can ignore.

We will remember saints who believed that this scripture had been fulfilled in their Image result for chuck fleminghearing. Saints who then stepped out in faith to give of their time, their money, and their life in fearless service to their neighbor at all times and in all places.

And as we remember the saints in our life who are no longer serving with us on earth, I hope and pray that we allow them to continue to shape us and empower us to live lives in fearless service. After all, the God we serve is the God of the living – today, tomorrow, and for all eternity.

Image result for Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar RomeroOne of the more significant figures in church who has impacted and shaped my understanding of service as a child of God is Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. In his book The Violence of Love, Romero wrote a short little poetic piece called God of the Living. I close with Bishop Romero’s words today.

“This is the beauty of prayer and the Christian life:
coming to understand that a God
who converses with humans
has created them
and has lifted them up,
with the capacity of saying
“I” and “you.”
What would we give to have such power
as to create a friend to our taste
and with a breath of our own life
to make that friend able to understand us
and be understood by us
and converse intimately –
to know our friend as truly another self?
that is what God has done;
human beings are God’s other self.
He has lifted us up
so that he can talk with us and share his joys,
his generosity,
his grandeur.
He is the God who converses with us.”Image result for conversations with god
Brothers and sisters in Christ, enjoy your conversations with God this week. And through those conversations, I hope and pray that you are fearless in your service to others in Christ Jesus’ name. Amen.


“Fearless Living” 10.30.2016 Sermon

Reformation Sunday, Fearless Generosity Series • October 30, 2016

Click here to view a video of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and risen Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

This is an incredible weekend in the life of the church. And I’m not talking about the universal, church everywhere kind of church. I’m talking very specifically about this church – Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.Image result for good shepherd bismarck

I’m hopeful that you sense the Holy Spirit in this sacred place this weekend and every time you enter it, every time you gather for worship or serve one another in Christ’s loving embrace, every time you step foot on this property. I’m also hopeful that you sense just how incredible this weekend is and what a blessing this weekend is for those of us who call this holy place our church home. Finally, I’m hopeful that the Holy Spirit’s breathe in you today will cause you to be fearless in how you live this week and every day of your life in Christ as you share God’s love in all that you say and do.

So…this weekend is the beginning of our annual fall worship series that focuses our attention for a few weeks on stewardship. And when I say the word stewardship, I speak not only of the money that God has entrusted to your care. I’m also talking about every other aspect of your life that God has entrusted to your care. How you are a steward to the trees and birds and soil and water flowers and fish. How you are a steward to the people you know and love and the people who you can’t stand the sight of and even the people you will never meet. As our worship theme today invites us to focus our attention around – to be a steward is a call from God into a life of Fearless Living.

This weekend is also confirmation for 46 young people in our congregation who make public affirmation of their baptism in the Rite of Confirmation. It is a time of great blessing that calls these brothers and sisters in Christ to live fearlessly because they are loved unconditionally by God through their savior Jesus.

And this is also a weekend in which millions of Lutheran Christians around the world reflect upon events that happened 499 years ago on October 31st in a little church in Wittenberg, Germany. Events that beganImage result for reformation something called the Reformation – a movement within the universal catholic church that continues to shape the church and God’s work through the church today.

I hope and pray that you join me in rejoicing for all that this week brings, calling us into Fearless Generosity in more ways than any of us can comprehend. After all, as God’s children we see generosity as part of God’s nature from the very beginning of creation. Don’t believe me – open your bible to page one and read the two creation accounts that make up the first two chapters of Holy Scripture.

And if we believe that we are in fact created in God’s image as these early verses of scripture claim that we are – then we are also called to join with God and live generously.

It is actually against everything that we are created to be to behave in ways that cause us to be stingy or grumpy or withhold God’s gifts to us and try to keep them all to ourselves. Keeping everything God gives to us has nothing to do with how God created us or intended us to live!

The Apostle Paul’s words in his letter to the church in Ephesus will guide our time together in worship over the next four weeks. “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

These words stood in stark contrast to the secular world view of Paul’s day. I think they still stand in stark contrast to the secular world view. Reporters, politicians, leaders of business and industry, and others in the communities in which we live often have an approach of negativity and scarcity – things that are far removed from God’s generosity and abundance. Negativity and scarcity that are often fueled by fear.

Image result for do not fearThe Apostle’s encouraging words to us call us to live without fear. Believing that God is able to do abundantly far more than anything we are able to ask for or even think about asking for. And, even more amazingly, God chooses to work through us – through you – through me – to accomplish more than we can imagine!

Mark Kirchoff, author of an “Overview of the Book of Ephesians” believes that “The church is an organism in which power and authority are exercised after the pattern of Christ himself and as stewardship, a means of service.” [Mark Kirchoff, “Fearless Generosity,” Giving, volume 16 (2014), p.4.]

One of the great theologians and teachers of the last century in the church is Professor Marcus Borg. Dr. Borg taught at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN and for several decades at Oregon State University.

In his book “The God We Never KnewDr. Borg wrote that, “The Christian life is not about pleasing God the finger-shaker and judge. It is not about believing now or being good now for the sake of heaven later. It is about entering a relationship in the present that begins to change everything now. Spirituality is about this process:” Borg wrote, “the opening of the heart to the God who is already here.”

As you think about the events of the past week in your life or in our community or across Image result for recent news headline collagethe United States or in other corners of the world, how open are hearts to this God who is already here? What might God be placing on your heart today that will change you in order to allow you to live differently tomorrow? Are you and I open to that kind of fearless generosity?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we allow our hearts to be opened by the God who is already here and the ways in which we are being called into a life of fearless generosity, Image result for open hearts to godmay the Apostle Paul’s blessing to the Ephesian church also be a blessing to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Using us as willing vessels, God through the Holy Spirit – which is the power of God at work within us – will accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask for or imagine.

Please join me in prayer…

Good and gracious God, who hovers over the waters of creation, reignite our imaginations as we think about the many possibilities for this world that you so love. May we be found faithful in caring for the earth and all that is in it. May we be found grateful in celebrating all that you so generously offer. Fill us with a sense of reverence and awe as we seek to give witness to your creative activity in the world. As we leave this time of worship today, may we sow seeds of justice, of hopefulness, of generosity, and of peace. In the name of our savior Jesus, we offer our prayer this day and in all the days to come. Amen.