Monthly Archives: January 2013

“It’s Fulfilled, So Now What?” 01.27.2013 Sermon

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Luke 4:14-21 • January 27,2013

Click here to hear an audio recording of this sermon.

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

Last week we heard the story of Jesus’ first act of public ministry from the gospel of John. Jesus’ hanging out at a wedding, turning water into wine. This week we return to Luke and hear of Jesus’ first act of public ministry according to Luke’s gospel. For Luke, it doesn’t take place at a wedding. In this gospel it takes place in the synagogue. And Jesus is not simply attending worship, quietly hiding in the back row pew as any good Lutheran, I mean, Jewish man would do on the Sabbath. Jesus is invited to read from the scroll and in so doing, the words that he reads from the prophet Isaiah set the stage in motion for the rest of Luke’s gospel – a gospel that we will spend a significant amount of time walking through in the next ten months or so.

There was an important speech offered in our country this past week. Did you hear it? It’s important, because it’s a speech that’s only offered every four years. You may or may not have listened to it or care one way or another about its content. It was the inaugural address of President Barack Obama. And just a few weeks ago North Dakota’s Governor Jack Dalrymple offered a similar speech called the State of the State to a joint session of the North Dakota Legislature. In both of these speeches, leaders of our civic life offer us insight into their vision, dreams, and hopes for our communities. Regardless of your feelings about these political leaders, the words these speeches contain are important. They’re not just words randomly picked out of the air. They are words that are carefully crafted and assembled to offer their vision to all of us who live together in community – whether that community is North Dakota or the United States.

Many theologians consider our gospel reading today in the fourth chapter of Luke to be Jesus’ Inaugural or State of the State address. In Luke’s gospel, these initial words of Jesus reveal his identity and vision for all of God’s children and for God’s community. Jesus concludes this first address by saying, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus words here are important. One can’t help but recognize that they must contain some significance for us who seek to follow this Jesus. And as we follow this Jesus, it’s not important to just hear these words. Because in hearing these words, we are called into relationship to live in community and sent into the world for action.

Pastor Dan Erlander describes the scene this way in his book Manna & Mercy, “In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus delivered his inaugural address. He opened the scroll to Isaiah and read about ‘good news to the poor’ and ‘the acceptable year of Yahweh.’ This was jubilee language, land reform language! After reading, he announced that this text was being fulfilled in their hearing. Could it be true? He was proclaiming the good news that God’s reign of justice and mercy, of land restored, slaves freed, and debts canceled had begun. Could it be true?” [pg. 43]

So what do you think? This scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing, so now what? What does this fulfillment look like? Not 2,000 years ago. Today. Not 50 years ago as many of us long for the good old days. Today. And not in predictions of a distant future that none of us can see no matter how much we think we can. Today. What impact does this fulfillment have on our life and the world today?

But let’s pause for a moment and refresh our memory as to what Jesus says is actually being fulfilled. I know we just heard it a few minutes ago, but if you are anything like me, you may have already moved on to thinking about where you’re going to eat after worship. The scripture that Jesus reads is from the prophet Isaiah. Jesus proclaims, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as you hear these words take note that they are only good news if you are willing to admit that you are not the greatest human being to ever walk the face of planet Earth. Or are willing to admit that everything in your life is not always put together perfectly, even though you have become very good at pretending like you have everything together all of the time.

Professor David Lose challenges us this week by stating, “God offers words of comfort, but such words only mean something to those living with discomfort.”

In our gospel reading today, Jesus is ushering in the Kingdom of God. Ushering in a kingdom bringing good news to the poor. How are you experiencing poverty today? Jesus is ushering in a kingdom bringing good news to those who are captive. What do you need release from today? Jesus is ushering in a kingdom bringing good news to those who are blind. What are you failing to see? Jesus is ushering in a kingdom bringing good news to those who are oppressed. What longings for freedom do you have today?

This is not just a superficial kind of “good news” for people who call on God when they think they need a new car in their garage or that they deserve that really expensive new pair of shoes in the store because they’ve been working really hard lately. Are we worshiping today to fulfill our own expectations – which are usually pretty self-centered. Or are we worshiping today ready and open to receive the spirit of God that is showing up. Showing up with news so good that it lifts us out of every poverty; news so good that it breaks the chains of everything that is possessing us and holding us captive; news so good that all our blindness is destroyed by the light of a savior named Jesus.

Jesus says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Those are important words to hear today.

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, offers an insight in one of my all-time favorite books that she wrote called, Plan B: Thoughts on Faith. Her thoughts on faith helped as I walked with our gospel reading this week.

Anne writes this in a chapter called Let Us Commence. “First find a path,” she says, “and a little light to see by. Then push up your sleeves and start helping.

You don’t have to go overseas. There are people in this country who are poor in spirit, worried, depressed, dancing as fast as they can; their kids are sick, or their retirement savings are gone. There is great loneliness among us, life-threatening loneliness. People have given up on peace, on equality. You do what you can, what good people have always done: you bring thirsty people water, you share your food, you try to help the homeless find shelter, you stand up for the underdog.” [Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott, pg. 307-308]

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus says that it’s fulfilled. Today. So now what?


“Do You Remember Your Baptism?” 01.13.2013 Sermon

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Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 • 01.13.13

Click here to hear an audio recording of this sermon.

Our worship today began with a special Thanksgiving for Baptism – something I don’t think we give much thought to in our daily run through life. And the title of today’s sermon may be the most frequent question I ask people. If it’s not at the top of the list it’s pretty close to the top.When I ask the question, “do you remember your baptism?” to confirmation aged students, 99.9% of the time the response is “No. Are you kidding me, I was just a baby. Of course I don’t remember it”.

When I ask adults, the response is pretty much the same although it is usually accompanied with a blank stare. You know the stare that says, “I should probably give the pastor an answer, but I have no clue what the answer to that question really is.”

As Lutheran Christians we lift up the Sacrament of Holy Baptism as one of the most central and significant experiences in our life of faith. So why does it seem like so many of us have no interest in actually living our lives in ways that reveal our identity as baptized children of God. We’ve already moved on to another identity even before the water has evaporated from our forehead with no real interest in actually living life as a baptized child of God.

There was a business man walking by a fishing pier on his way to yet another meeting when he noticed that his neighbor who was a professional fisherman had already docked his boat for the day on the pier and was wasting valuable fishing and money making time playing catch with a young boy from their neighborhood.

“Why aren’t you out fishing?” asked the businessman.

“Because I caught enough fish for one day,” replied the fisherman.

“Why don’t you catch some more?”

“What would I do with them?”

“You could earn more money,” said the businessman. “Then with the extra money, you could buy a bigger boat, go into deeper waters, and catch more fish. Then you would make enough money to buy nylon nets. With the nets, you could catch even more fish and make more money. With that money you could own two boats, maybe even three! Eventually you could have a whole fleet of boats and be rich like me.”

“Then what would I do?” asked the fisherman.

“Then,” said the businessman, “you could really enjoy life.”

The fisherman gave the businessman a confused stare and said, “What do you think I am doing right now?”

Are you enjoying life as a child of God, a baptized son or daughter in the body of Christ? Do you remember your baptism? Or is your baptism a onetime event that you can’t remember because you were just a baby and you don’t think it has any significance or importance in your life today. Or is your baptism significant for you because you think you now have a get out of hell free ticket or some extra fire insurance from God just in case you really screw something up in your life. Or do hear voices around you tell you that your baptism as an infant didn’t really count because you weren’t the one making the decision to have Jesus in your life.

The baptism of Jesus that we celebrate this weekend is an invitation for all of us to remember our own baptisms – not as something that happened in the past, but as something that is important to every day of our life in Christ.

The story of the baptism of Jesus appears in all four gospels, but I want you to note the differences in Luke’s gospel. Luke doesn’t seem too concerned with the actual moment of the baptism. Luke is more interested in what happens after the baptism. Interested in telling us the story of a savior named Jesus who remembers his baptism long after the event of the baptism has taken place. And take note of who baptizes Jesus in this gospel. It’s not John the Baptist. By the time Jesus is baptized in Luke’s gospel, John has already been thrown in jail by King Herod.

This encounter at the river in Luke is nothing less than a divine moment between God and Jesus Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is baptized by the Holy Spirit. And you know what, it’s the same Holy Spirit that you and I are sealed with in our baptism.

Professor David Lose says that “Our relationship with God [through our baptism] is the one relationship in life we can’t screw up precisely because we did not establish it.”

And Pastor Shelly Cunnigham offered a wonderful devotion on our gospel reading this week. She wrote, “We say that in baptism a person is marked with the cross of Christ. That mark confers identity. Like a tattoo or a scar, it tells a story. But it’s not simply a story of something that has happened in the past. It’s a story that is still unfolding.”

She goes on to say, “Your life story is still unfolding. Every day brings possibility, challenge, and opportunity to serve. How will your baptism affect how you live? Will God’s word of love give you the strength to follow Christ’s path?”

And the question I ask today as we seek to follow Christ’s path is, do you remember your baptism?

As Jesus remembered his baptism he cared for the sick and those who had been thrown out of the community. He fed the hungry and helped the poor experience the riches of his love. As Jesus remembered his baptism he died on a cross for you and me. And you know what, it’s that cross you and I are marked with in our baptism.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, remember your baptism in emails and text messages that you send and in every conversation that you have. May they carry words filled with the peace and love that God has for all children of God.

Remember your baptism as you care for friends and family and neighbors in need. May your care help them experience the gentle touch of Jesus’ healing hand.

Remember your baptism as you take time each day to pray. And in these times of prayer, may you hear God speaking directly to you, calling you his beloved son. His beloved daughter.

I think we should begin remembering our baptism right now. Martin Luther even thought it was important for us to bless ourselves with the holy cross each morning and evening and say ‘In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.’

In my own life in Christ I say similar words. As I make the sign of the cross. I say “I am a child of God. Marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.” No, as a matter of fact, the ritual of making the sign of the cross is not reserved only for our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, it’s for Lutherans too. And whether you do it with a small cross on your forehead or a large cross over your entire body, it’s a great way to remember your baptism.

Do you remember you baptism?

Let’s try it. I invite you to make the sign of the cross and say these words after me, “I am a child of God. Marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.”