Monthly Archives: November 2010

Advent Peace!

Here is my sermon from this past weekend. I’m planning to post each sermon on the blog in text form. You can follow this link to Good Shepherd’s website where the audio is posted. I’m not sure how to post audio files into the blog page yet. 🙂

Advent blessings to all of you,

Craig

Advent Peace!

Isaiah 2:1-5 • November 28, 2010
Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, the light and peace of world. Amen.
I believe very strongly that it is through community that we live out our faith. Being alive in Christ is not something that we do alone – it always includes community. At times these communities are great blessings that bring joy and peace. And at other times these communities bring anger, violence, and mis-trust to our lives that is anything but peaceful.
Our Advent worship this year celebrates faith in community with the theme “On Earth as it is in Heaven” today, we’ll take a little time and walk through our Old Testament scripture from the prophet Isaiah which gets us started on our Advent journey.
The prophet Isaiah, whose names literally means “the Lord saves!,” arrives on the biblical scene about 7 centuries before Jesus’ birth. Isaiah’s prophetic message is direct and very clear. One such message is that the desire of God’s heart is for all people to live in peace with God, peace with one another, and to worship God and experience the transforming presence of God.
Isaiah is identified in verse 1 of our text today, “The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.” And verse 2 begins this prophecy of Isaiah, “In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.”
Frequently God meets people on a mountain in the Bible. Here is another example of that in the mountain of the Lord’s house or Jerusalem. But Isaiah is not saying Jerusalem is or will be the highest point of elevation in the world, rather, that Jerusalem will be the place where the heavens and earth intersect. The meeting place of God and all humanity. A meeting place of peace for the entire community, no longer a meeting place of war.
We continue with verse 3, “Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob (or Israel in this case if you remember to the later part of the book of Genesis); that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
This is a not a time of peace in the world. The Assyrians and Babylonians are great powers and war is common place. Isaiah’s prophecy calls nations who were known to be at war to come to the house of the Lord, not to kill and conquer one another, but to learn God’s ways.
Verse 4, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
The mediator here is not the United Nations or the Supreme Court, or even Isaiah. It is God. It is not humankind.
Finally, verse 5, “O house of Jacob (or Israel), come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”
Isaiah’s prophecy is not a vision of being transformed in the past tense – a onetime mountain top experience. It is a vision of being transformed continually. Transformation that brings light into the world making it possible for us to follow. To follow a path toward the light of Christ. God coming to us.
I think all of us would agree that this prophecy of Isaiah is still a work in progress. In fact, it often challenges our imagination whether or not any progress has taken place. Last time I checked, people are still being killed in war. It may be hard for us to imagine war fought with swords and shields in the world today where war is fought with long range missiles and computer technology. But the result of war is much the same as it was in the time of Isaiah. Or what about the war we experience between families or members of our congregation right here in Bismarck. The warring nations of the Assyrians and Babylonians of Isaiah’s time may be hard for our imagination to grasp, but the warring nations of the Anderson and Jones families within our communities is very easy for us to imagine.
The transformation that God is calling us to follow, challenges our imagination. God is bringing about this transformation right now. A transformation that extends beyond you and me in order for the light of Christ to shine for others and for the peace of God to freely be shared with all. Here are just a few ways I see this happening.

God is transforming hands that can cause abuse physically and emotionally into hands of peace and joy for the homeless in Bismarck-Mandan through service projects like decorating for Christmas at the Ruth Meier’s Hospitality House that our 6th Grade God Rocks team will offer this week.
God is transforming a time of uncertainty and anxiety into renewed hope and excitement for the future of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church’s mission and ministry through the tireless work taking place between our congregation’s Church Council, our Bishop and his staff, and many other leaders in this congregation.
God is transforming wealth that can be used to manipulate and control others into wealth that brings comfort and hope to our neighbor in need whom we may never meet through Good Shepherd’s annual participation in projects like Operation Christmas Child & the Angel Tree,
God is transforming words that can be used to hurt and attack others into glorious sounds that bring worship and praise to our God through our Adult Choir’s annual Christmas Cantata, our Church School students Christmas programs, and our worship together celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas in congregations around the world.
The peace we seek during this Advent season destroys all weapons of war, and prepares the way for the One who brings peace. God is transforming communities of faith like Good Shepherd, and communities in which you and I work or go to school or play a game of volleyball. God is transforming these communities into be mountains of peace.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this first week of Advent, let us pray for peace. Amen.

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Go to the Sermon Page to get a link to the audio file. I can’t figure out how to embed the audio yet. 🙂

Here is my sermon from Christ the King Sunday on November 21, 2010.

Luke 23:33-43 • November 21, 2010
Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ who is the King. Amen.
As many of us are already thinking about Thanksgiving celebrations that will take place in the next week, I offer a word of thanksgiving to each one of you. I am just returning this week from being away for a month for a time of rest, prayer, and renewal. You bless my family and I with opportunities like this and for that we are very thankful.
And we are thankful to be back with you today.
This is very special day of worship in the church’s year. A day that is somewhat like the Christian church’s version of New Year’s Eve. It’s a day where we celebrate Christ the King. This is the last day in the worship year of the church. So it’s an ending of sorts. We begin a new year in worship next week as the season of Advent begins. My guess is that many of us don’t think much about what that means. I would guess that, if you’re anything like me, this is just another Sunday in a long list of Sundays. Another Sunday when we decided to get out of bed and even though it’s incredibly cold outside today, we headed out the door of our homes for worship just like we so often do. Nothing special. Nothing new. Nothing out of the ordinary. And after worship today, we’ll leave this building in much the same way that we always do, maybe stop and get something to eat or rush off to get home in time to watch the kickoff of our favorite football team.
But what if something was a little different today. What if you chose to worship at a different time than you typically do? What if you chose to sit in a different pew than you typically do? Maybe you are worshiping here for the first time today or it’s been awhile since you were last here? What if you called someone that you haven’t seen or heard from in a long time later today, just to see how they are doing, instead of doing what you had planned to do today?
Calling Christ the King and worshiping Christ as our King is not something that happens the way we have planned. Jesus isn’t riding in on a white stallion with a sword in one hand and a defense shield in the other. Jesus isn’t robed in white with a sheep on his shoulders looking like a middle-class white American. Jesus is hanging from the cross. Jesus is bloodied. Jesus is broken. Jesus is dying. And still he says to you and me, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” He doesn’t say, “someday” or “yesterday you were with me in paradise, but you blew it, so don’t expect to be with me in paradise again anytime soon.” Jesus says, “Today.” Calling Christ our King should cause us to see things and do things differently. But do we?
I’ve been collecting a variety of crosses for several years and even brought some with me to share today. For me, the cross is central to how we seek to live out our relationship with God. But why I collect these crosses has changed over the years. I used to enjoy my collection of crosses as artistic pieces that graced the walls of my office and home. I didn’t necessarily see the cross as the unexpected gift of God coming to me in person of Jesus Christ our King saying, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
The Archbishop of Paris was preaching in the pulpit of Notre Dame and told a story that had taken place thirty years early with three young tourists in that very cathedral. Two of the young men dared the third one to go into the confessional and make a made-up confession to the priest. The two bet him that he didn’t have the nerve to do it. Eventually the man gave in to his buddies’ pressure and entered the confessional and tried to fool the priest. But the priest knew that what the young man was saying was a lie. There was a tone of arrogance in his voice – which the priest caught onto right away. After listening to the confession, the priest told the young man his penance. The priest said, “Very well, my son. Every confession requires a penance, and this is yours. I ask you to go into the chapel, stand before the cross of Jesus Christ and say to it, “All this you did for me, and I don’t give a damn!”
The young man staggered out of the confessional and boasted and bragged to his buddies that he had done as they dared. But his buddies insisted that he needed to do the penance in order to complete the dare. So the young man went into the chapel, stood before the cross, looked up at it and began, “All this you did for me and I … I … I don’t … I don’t give a …”
At this point in the story, the archbishop leaned over the pulpit and said, “That young man was this man who stands before you to preach today.”
The cross that we experience in the gospel of Luke today does not bring us images of what we would think of in a king. This cross doesn’t come with the pomp and ceremony of a royal wedding at Westminster Abbey. This cross doesn’t come with the red carpet crowning of Hollywood royalty on the night of the Oscars. This cross doesn’t come after spending millions of dollars on campaigning to be elected to political office.

GANDHI VIDEO GANDHI VIDEO GANDHI VIDEO

In celebrating Christ the King, we share our fears and experience our frailties from the cross. In celebrating Christ the King, the powerful one does not intimidate the weak, but cares for them from the cross. In celebrating Christ the King, the person of authority does not use others, but seeks them out, crowns them with mercy, offers them the promise of life from the cross. In celebrating Christ the King, we share in the joy of God’s unconditional grace and love from the cross. The cross is where we proclaim Christ our king. And at the cross there is room for all.
Will you go about your routine and busy life this week in much the same way you have every other day before? Or will Jesus saying to you from the cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” transform the way you go into this week of Thanksgiving?
Today we celebrate the last Sunday in the church’s year and proclaim Christ as King. But our King is on the cross. It’s not the place you’d look for a king, but then again, nothing is ever quite what you expect with Jesus. Amen.