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.

“Are You Available?” 10.01.2017 Sermon

Matthew 21:23-32 • October 1, 2017

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

An owner of a small manufacturing company was asked by one of her employees to write a letter of recommendation. The owner wanted to be honest but also wanted the employee to find a new job because of his poor work ethic. She was a little reluctant to write the letter at first but eventually agreed. In the letter that she finally wrote, this is how it concluded, “if you get John to work for you, you will be extremely fortunate. Yours truly…”Image result for writing a letter

Today’s gospel reading is the second week in a series of three weeks where we find ourselves in the vineyard. I don’t know about you, but my only real experience with a vineyard was during a short vacation in Napa Valley California. And my time in the vineyards of Napa Valley had little to do with work or hard labor.

One of the reasons I hear from people who don’t read the Bible or study scripture as part of their faith journey is that they get stuck trying to relate to the story. Today might be one example of that if we are trying to relate to the story by relating it to our literal experiences of working in vineyards. I’m hoping we can move beyond that a little today.Image result for working in the vineyard

In her book Stitches, Anne LaMott wrote, “If there is a God, and most days I do think there is, He or She does not need us to bring hope and new life back into our lives, but keeps letting us help.” (Stitches, p. 60-61)
Here’s the thing about God’s work. God really doesn’t need us in order for God to be able to do the things God wants to do. I believe God can get it done without our helper our getting in the way as is more often the case. But for some strange reason, reasons that we’re probably not going to figure out in this life, God keeps insisting that we do in fact get to help.

Another story.

Image result for around the cornerA man applied for a job as a handyman. The prospective employer asked. “Can you do carpentry?” The man answered “no.”
“How about bricklaying?” Again, the man answered, “No.”
The employer asked, “Well, what about electrical work?”
“No. I don’t know anything about that either.”
Finally, the frustrated employer said, “Well, tell me then, what is handy about you?”
The man replied with a beaming smile on his face and excitement in his voice, “I live just around the corner.” [Story from King Duncan, Time for Action]

Sometimes the greatest thing that we can do to help God in God’s work to bless and serve the world is to live just around the corner. To be available when God calls.

So, I want to ask you one simple question today.

And as I ask you this question, I invite you to be open enough to allow this question to rest on your heart in ways that you may never have let something do before in your faith life. I think it’s the same question that Jesus is asking us today. Ready? OK – here it is…here’s the question.

Are you available?Image result for are you available

I believe that is the question Jesus is asking the chief priests and the elders of the people in today’s gospel reading. I believe that is the question Jesus is asking the money changers in the Temple as he overturns their tables just a day earlier. A day earlier or about a dozen verses of scripture earlier in Bible time. I believe that is the question Jesus is trying to illustrate in his parable about the father and 2 sons. And, most importantly, I believe that is the question Jesus is asking you and me today.

Are you available? Well, are you? Are you available?

Douglas Hare, in his commentary on today’s gospel reading, reminds us of our tendency to behave as the chief priest and elders did. “As religious leaders,” Hare writes, “they claim to be faithfully obedient to God, but they are blind to the fact that authentic obedience includes responding in faith to the new things God is doing.” (Interpretation series, Matthew, p. 247) The point Hare is trying to make is not only important to religious leaders – in Jesus day or in 2017. His point is for every human being who claims to be a follower of Jesus.

And that point, for followers of Jesus, is that responding with authentic obedience in faith to the new things God is doing is not something reserved for super holy pastors or priests or bishops or other professional church people. Responding with authentic obedience in faith to the new things God is doing is something that all children of God are invited to participate in each and every day.

Are you available?

Are you available to the new things God is doing? Image result for what's absent is awareness

Are you available to the new people and places and situations God is sending you into each day?

Are you available to new opportunities to share the love of the savior of the world with others in unlimited ways?

Or are you stuck in the past.

Please hear me when I say this today…no matter what you have done or what you think you have failed to do, God is doing new things in and through you. The future is wide open. Whatever hurt you may have experienced or thing you have done that you think has caused God to forget about you is…in the past.

no matter what you have done or what you think you have failed to do, God is doing new things in and through you. The future is wide open. Whatever hurt you may have experienced or thing you have done that you think has caused God to forget about you is…in the past.

Because of what God has done for us – and continues to do for us – through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we do not have to allow our past to determine or control our future. By the grace of God this is most certainly true.

Image result for the future is openBut in order for you and me to realize this – to finally realize that our past does not hold back our future, we need to be available to the new things God is doing.

Theologian Brennan Manning says that “Christianity used to be risky business; it is no longer.” I think statements like that are true because we are no longer available to the new things God is doing.

Instead, we make ourselves available by working too much and forgetting about our family and friends. We make ourselves available trying to satisfy our loneliness with more and more material possessions. We make ourselves available by making as much Image result for money godmoney as we possibly can because we have some strange belief that the almighty money god will make us happy again. We make ourselves available by giving up our lives to the addiction pressures of sex or alcohol or drugs.

The gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world – for us today, is found within the opportunity we have to be available. Available for the work God has for us to do.

Image result for new thing god is doingBrothers and sisters in Christ, are you available? I promise you, being available will involve risk on your part. And I also promise you that by being available you will be blessed and you will be a blessing to others in ways you can’t begin to imagine today. Make time every second of your day, with every breath that you take, to be available to the new things God is doing. Amen.

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“We Are a Re-Membering People” 09.10.2017 Sermon

Matthew 18:15-20 • September 10, 2017

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

In the introduction for today’s worship that’s printed in our bulletin, we read, “Conflict is a part of relationships and life in community. Jesus’ words in today’s gospel are often used in situations having to do with church discipline.” For those of you that know the constitution of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in detail, you know very well the importance of the 18th chapter of Matthew. There are 22 chapters in Good Shepherd’s constitution. One of them, the 15th, is titled “Discipline of Members and Adjudication.” In this chapter of our congregation’s constitution, Matthew 18 is our guide.

SOOOOO…it’s Rally Weekend and we have Matthew 18 before us. We have 2 options.
We can focus on church discipline, sin, retribution, treating each other like tax collectors and Gentiles in the misinterpreted ways that we often do in the church.
OR, we can spend some time reflecting on another way God might be calling us to think about Jesus’ teaching in this section of Matthew’s gospel. Because I think Jesus is challenging us to stop remembering for a little while and to start re-membering. The church today needs to start re-membering again.

Today, we remember that fall programing is beginning. I hope and pray that we also re-member just how many ways God invites us to learn and grow together in faith. If you’ve done nothing to grow in your faith beyond going to worship once in a while after you were confirmed, I challenge you to take a leap of faith this year and become a regular and fully engaged member of a Bible study or adult faith formation class.

Image result for re-member

Today, we remember activities at Good Shepherd like eating pancakes, blessing backpacks, and donating blood – although we had to cancel the blood donation activity because of no participation. Hopefully we’ll be able to reschedule that later in the year. Beyond church activities, I hope and pray that we also re-member how significant our lives of service are for our brothers and sisters. Brothers and sisters that we are sitting next to right now and others that we may never actually meet in person like those whose lives have changed forever because of hurricanes or wildfires or illness or earthquakes.

Jesus’ challenge for you and me is to stop remembering and start re-membering. Pastor Amy Ziettlow stated this challenge clearly this past week as she wrote, “The first mark of the church is to be one. Christ calls us to the holy work of re-membering one another through the steps of reconciliation. We are a re-membering people.” I couldn’t agree more. You and I are a re-membering people.

Image result for walls to keep people outAnd I believe our failure to be a re-membering people might be the greatest sin that the church commits. We have failed to remember our holy work is of re-membering. The reason so many people, many of whom you and I know well, are leaving the church or any organized religion today is because we are failing to re-member each other.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus refers to binding and loosing. Binding and loosing are often interpreted by the church as ways to build walls of division or systems of hierarchy that inevitably keep people out.

The holy work that Jesus calls us into in the 18th chapter of Matthew’s gospel is about bringing people in, restoring relationships and systems that are broken by sin. Jesus invites us to celebrate this holy work wherever two or more are gathered in his name. As we do this holy work, and wherever we do this holy work, Jesus is with us. Helping us to re-member one another into the body of Christ.Image result for welcome people in

On this Rally Weekend, this holy work of re-membering should cause excitement and joy and renewed commitment to who we are as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ formed by God into one community of faith. May this day bring forth renewed commitment to one another as fellow members of the body of Christ who are called to be one as Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

Right now, you may be thinking, being members of the body of Christ is fine to think about when I have time to fit worship or squeeze a church activity into my already over-scheduled life.

Image result for grocery store stressBut Pastor, don’t make me think about being a member of the body of Christ when I’m just trying to survive getting through the grocery store in one piece.

And Pastor, don’t make me think about being a member of the body of Christ when I’m badmouthing someone on social media or at the local coffee shop because they have a different political or cultural viewpoint than I do.

Image result for social media stress

And pastor, you better not even dream about making me think about being a member of the body of Christ while I’m cheering on my favorite sports team, hoping my team will destroy the opposing team. Even though, I’d like point out that the players and family members from that opposing team are probably sitting next to you right now aa we worship Jesus.

Believe it or not brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus’ teaching for us today reminds us that our love for one another is lived out most fully inside and outside the walls of a church.

As I’ve already offered, I believe the reason why the Christian movement is dying in many parts of the world today is because we have forgotten about each other.
Forgotten about the holy re-membering work that Jesus calls us into.

The most important part of your life is not accumulating more things than your neighbor. The most important part of your life is not making sure your schedule is busier than your competitor’s. The most important part of your life is not about which political party you stand beside. The most important part of your life is not about whether or not your sports or business team destroys the opposing team.

Image result for life in christThe most important part of your life – is your life in Christ.

And in our shared life together in Christ, we need to help each other remember that we are all members walking beside one another in this journey called faith.

And so, on this Rally Weekend, celebrate how God is assembling you and me together in groups of 2 or 3 or 300 or 10,000.

Assembling us together so that every member of the body of Christ knows that we need them in ores for the body of Christ to be whole – no person, no matter how far they have strayed or how broken your relationship with them has become, no child of God is left out. No community burdened by the tragedy of hurricanes or fire or earthquake or any other disaster is ever forgotten.

In other words, no one – not even a Gentile or tax collector or your most despised enemy is lost from the love of God poured out for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus.

Image result for jesus hugYou and I are sinful beings living in a broken world. Our hearts and minds and actions prove that on a daily basis.

In spite of that unfortunate fact, thanks be to God that the truth of our life together in the body of Christ is that Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, re-members – yesterday, today and in all the tomorrows to come. Amen.