Author Archives: Pastor Craig Schweitzer

About Pastor Craig Schweitzer

I like to think of myself as a pretty easy going person who seeks to daily discover anew how God is present in my life and in the world in which I live and serve. I am a husband, father, brother, son, friend, pastor, and maybe most significantly – a child of God! My beautiful spouse Wendy and I live in Bismarck, ND with our twin daughters, Ilia and Taegan and our crazy dogs Henri & Sadie. I’ve serve on the staff of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bismarck, ND since July 2001. I was first called to serve as Music & Worship Minister, in 2010 was called to serve as Pastor of Worship and Youth Education, and in January 2014 was called to serve as Senior Pastor. My professional background is a diverse collection of musical and educational experiences that ranges from live concert production and promotion to recording studios, and live performance to music education. Prior to joining Good Shepherd, I was an Instructor of Music at Bismarck State College and owned and operated a successful teaching studio called 6x6 Guitar Studio. I am a graduate of the University of Mary in Bismarck and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA and was ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in September 2010. Outside of Good Shepherd, I enjoy hanging out with my family and friends, reading, listening or playing any and all music, a relaxing round of golf, or spending some quiet time with God.

“Resurrection Life” – 04.15.2018 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Easter * Luke 24:36b-48 * April 15, 2018

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

For the most part, all of the Easter lilies and azaleas are gone. Which for those of us with pollen allergies, we proclaim through runny noses and watery eyes, “Thanks be to God!” I imagine the last bites of Easter dinner have long been consumed. In many respects, I’m guessing that Easter gatherings are a dim and distant memory for many of us.

That’s really too bad. It’s too bad because we are STILL in the Easter season. And it’s too bad because we always are Easter people – people of the resurrection every day of our life in Christ. Not just on Easter Sunday or in the Easter season.

Image result for christ is risen he is risen indeedSo the ancient greeting that we shared with one another on Easter Sunday – at Good Shepherd or somewhere else – is still a greeting that we can share today.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Awesome – you remembered! And you better pay attention today, because we aren’t done with that greeting yet.  Is that greeting, just a greeting? Like saying hi to someone? Or maybe we think of it only as a greeting that symbolizes a philosophical or Image result for jesus country clubmetaphorical idea that people outside the church no longer understand. It’s become a way for Christians, after 20 centuries of using it, to be our secret knock or handshake to get into the Jesus country club so to speak.

Here’s the entire point of this sermon today. The greeting Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Is NOT a metaphor. It’s NOT a secret handshake. And it’s NOT simply another way to say HI to one another.

This sacred, ancient, and holy greeting is an invitation into a way of life that will change you – in this life and beyond. And maybe even more important than that, is that this way of life – following the risen savior Jesus – will bless your neighbor and change the world in ways that we can’t possibly imagine today.

You see, if the disciples were looking for a philosophical argument or a spiritual metaphor for what happened to them as they followed Jesus, that’s not what they got in the resurrection. Jesus wasn’t a metaphor. And Jesus didn’t rise from death so he could show off a clever magic trick by flying off on a fluffy white cloud into the sky.

Jesus appeared over and over and over again to his closest friends and said, “Touch me and see. Peace be with you. You know what, I’ve been dead for a few days. I’m kind of hungry, do you have anything to eat.”

“If the disciples are looking for God to be some wispy spiritual being, or philosophical concept, or metaphor, or ghost, what they get instead is the Lord of heaven and earth chewing on tilapia Galilaea.” That’s how Pastor Peter Marty describes the disciples encounter with Jesus in today’s gospel reading. He goes on to say, “Their God and ours proves to be a flesh and blood God, not a disembodied spirit. This God is vulnerable to everything that is human, including the capability of being hurt and spilling tears.” [Christian Century, March 28, 2018, pg. 24]

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

The problem I see though is that, most people in our community, even our own congregation really, and throughout every corner of the Christian world today don’t believe that truth anymore. Or at least live their lives like they don’t believe that truth.

Either they don’t know the story of Jesus or the story of Jesus has been so diluted in their life that it has no impact on how they actually live a resurrection life each day. We continue to be disbelieving and wondering as today’s gospel reading reminds us. Or even worse than that, we don’t believe anything we say or do or give effort toward is good enough or part of God working through us. God can’t possibly use me to live the resurrection – we say – I’m just an ordinary little speck in the universe. Jesus resurrection from the dead is nothing more an incredible literary metaphor from some ancient author’s story that has nothing to do with me as I struggle to live out my life in 2018.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that greeting carries with it a responsibility. A responsibility that extends far beyond simply saying hi to one another or trying to be good to yourself or someone else or successful in your school or professional career. And that greeting carries with it the weight that God’s ability to conquer death in the resurrection of Jesus has changed the world forever and will continue to change the world until the end of time.

Image result for original ideaOriginal is the title of a chapter in a great little book by Pastor Rob Bell. In it, Bell writes, “Sometimes we hold back from throwing ourselves into it” (the resurrection life) “because we think that the only work worth doing is something completely original that’s never been done before.”

And then Bell goes on to share the story of a conversation he had with someone who introduced himself to Pastor Rob by saying that he was just an insurance agent.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Bell’s story of his conversation with just an insurance agent illustrates how I believe that EVERYONE is called to live a resurrection life – because of what God has already done for us and continues to do for us through the birth, life, death AND resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“Have you ever been in a car accident and had to call your insurance agent?” Pastor Bell recalls of the conversation. “When you’re standing by the side of the road staring at the smoldering wreck of what was formerly your primary mode of transportation, you don’t want just an insurance agent to answer the phone. You want someone to answer who has given himself (or herself) to being the best insurance agent they can possibly be.

No one is just a mom, just a construction worker, just a salesperson, just a clerk – because you doing your work in your place at this time is highly original and desperately needed.

It may have been done or said by someone else. That’s a distinct possibility. It may have been done or said before.

But it hasn’t been done or said by you. It hasn’t come through your unique flesh and blood, through your life, through your experience and insight and perspective.” [How to be Here, by Rob Bell, pg. 139-140]

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

“You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus says to you and me today. Witnesses in whatever way or place or person God places in your path. Witnesses of the resurrected Jesus who is alive in the world today, tomorrow, and every other day to come. Alive in the world through you and me, just as we are and just where we are right now.

If you don’t subscribe to our church’s magazine yet or even know that the ELCA has a magazine called Living Lutheran, you really should take a look at it. There are several free copies available in the information carousels around the church each month.Image result for resurrection life

In an article from this month’s edition, ELCA Pastor Dave Daubert further points to what I believe God is trying to say through this sermon today. Daubert writes, “Be more excited about your faith; help people love Jesus more; be more active in the community; share your faith with others; love God; love people, and make sure people know why you’re doing the whole thing.” [Living Lutheran, April 2018, pg. 19]

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Thanks be to God that we get to be part of this whole thing known as resurrection life. Amen.

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“Christ is Risen!” 2018 Easter Sermon 04.01.2018

Easter 2018 * John 20:1-18 * April 1, 2018Easter 2018 * John 20:1-18 * April 1, 2018

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

So this year, Easter falls on April’s Fools Day. The last time this happened was in 1956 and there will only be two more occurrences of Easter falling on April Fool’s Day this century. In case you didn’t know this, the actual date for Easter changes each year. It’s not a set date like Christmas. If you were paying attention as we received the gospel readings over the past four days of Holy Week worship, you’ll note that scripture doesn’t tell us that Maundy Thursday or any of the other days have a specific calendar date – only a specific day of the week. After all, God’s time is not the same thing as human time. It may surprise some, but God, in fact, does not have an Apple Watch.

I’ve never explored this too far but…the date for Easter is determined as the first Sunday, after the first full moon, on or before the Spring equinox.

OK – before I keep chasing after that squirrel, let’s move on.

Since the very earliest days of the Christian movement, there’s been a very significant, and somewhat foolish I might add, greeting used to signify Easter and the resurrection. Someone will say “Christ is risen!” And someone else will say “He is risen indeed!”

Let’s try it.
Awesome! You guys are great.

BUT – wait a minute. Weren’t you listening? Why are we shouting for joy?

In our gospel reading on this Easter Day, Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved have been to the empty tomb, don’t seem to understand what is going on so they decide to head for home in order to continue their Xbox video game tournament. Or something like that.

And Mary, one of Jesus’ closest friends and someone whom I believe we should see as one of the first disciples, is weeping.

So why are you and I, followers of Jesus nearly 2,000 years later, shouting for joy?

Here’s something about the resurrection that has rested on my heart this year. Peter, the other disciple, and Mary Magdalene don’t know what’s going on – they don’t know the end of the story. At this point, all they know is that Jesus – this friend of their’s whom they thought was the Messiah – has been brutally killed just a few days earlier. They don’t see any reason why there is going to be anything more to this story than the horrific, bloody death of their friend on a cross. They have to be thinking – this is the end. Nothing more to see here. Let’s move on with our lives.

Early on this first day of the week, they come to the grave where they thought Jesus was to be buried, and he’s not there. Is that all there is to their story? Is the story of Jesus, God’s son, our Savior, over?

You and I know that death on a Friday we dare call Good, is not the end of the story. The first disciples to witness the resurrection didn’t know that, at least not yet.

As Mary is weeping, she doesn’t recognize Jesus, but Jesus recognizes her. Not because of anything she does, but because of what God does for her through Jesus.

We began worship today by giving thanks for and affirming our own baptism. In the sacred and holy waters and words of promise from God that is the sacrament of Holy Baptism, God claims us. A sacrament when we see Jesus recognizes us. Not because of anything we do, but because of what God does for us through Jesus.

Peter and the other disciple have no idea what is going on at the tomb “for as yet they did not understand the scripture.” Over the next few weeks in our worship life together, we’ll discover that they will begin to understand the scripture as they experience the resurrected Jesus first hand. Again, not because of anything they do, but what God does for them through Jesus.

After all of the Easter candy has been consumed – or hidden by wise parents – and the Easter dinner is over, and family and friends have returned to their homes and busy lifestyles; what does any of this mean? What does it mean to be a follower of this Jesus?

This Jesus who couldn’t even be stopped by death. This Jesus who recognizes and calls each of us by name as precious children of God – loved and claimed and freed – in spite of all of the ways that we try to turn and run from God. All of the ways that we try and put God to death expecting that we, somehow, can keep God dead.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the resurrection of Jesus is not simply a historical event that we remember each year like a national holiday or birthday. And the resurrection of Jesus is not only about some future hope that we have for ourselves and our loved ones after our earthly death.

I’m sorry, but if we focus all of our attention on a past or future event, we are completely missing the resurrection promise that’s right in front of us today. The resurrection promise of Jesus that calls us to live with a hope that we can experience and witness each and every day of our life together as part of the body of Christ. Hope that is only possible because of what God has already done, and is continuing to do for us, through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world.

So don’t worry about Easter falling on April Fool’s day this year. You don’t need to ignore it. It actually might be helpful.

One ELCA pastor, Paul Lutter said – “Through his death and resurrection for us, Jesus Christ is God’s foolish power on the loose among us. Our strength is toppled by his weakness. Our wisdom is toppled by his foolishness. And we are never the same again. We are made new. We are turned upside down for the sake of Christ, who dies and is raised from death for us. We are given new identities. Marked with the cross of this foolish Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism, we are made fools for Christ.” [“Foolish Power,” Living Lutheran, April 1, 2011]

So for today, let’s greet one another as fools for Christ with foolish joy and proclaim “Christ is Risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And just like Peter, the other disciple, Mary Magdalene and every follower of Jesus since that first resurrection day, let’s not be afraid or stand around weeping. Let’s proclaim truth every day.

The truth that God has, is, and will always be a God of resurrection. A God of resurrection that conquers every death we will ever experience. A God of resurrection that sounds foolish to some. A God of resurrection that brings forth new life, always and in all ways.

And so tomorrow, on Easter Monday, let’s continue being fools for Christ as we greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And next weekend we will greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

And later this year, we will greet one another with joy and proclaim “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”

Thanks be to God! Amen.