First Lesson: 1 Kings 18: 20-21, (22-29), 30-39
Responsive Reading: Psalm 96
Second Lesson: Galatians 1: 1-12
Gospel Lesson: Luke 7: 1-10
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone.”- Hans F Hansen
Let me begin by telling the story of Albert Einstein before E=MC squared. When Albert Einstein was growing up, his parents feared that he had a learning disability.
Einstein didn’t speak until he was three years old. He didn’t speak fluently for more than several years after this. Einstein couldn’t read until the age of 7. Einstein had teachers describe him as “slow”. Einstein in school was considered to be nothing but a foolish day dreamer. I’m sure other kids called Einstein “stupid” and probably bullied him. Einstein was socially awkward. He would go out of his way to avoid other children. Einstein dreaded human touch. Einstein today would probably be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. When Albert Einstein took a test to get into secondary school, he failed. When Einstein applied to a Ph.D. program at Bern, he got an answer of “no”. Albert Einstein never got to completely determine the circumstances of his life, yet this would not deter him.
Albert Einstein was the definition of different and yet it made all the difference in his life. No one ever changes the world by trying to be average or ordinary in as many areas as possible. No one ever changes the world trying to copycat everyone else.
In 1841 Scottish journalist Charles Mackay published “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.” One of the examples that Mackay cites about the madness of crowds has to do with European Witch Trials in the 16th and 17th century. What would happen is that something bad would happen to someone, and their enemies would then be declared to be a “witch.” To be declared a witch in these days would be the equivalent of being declared a “bigot” or “racist” in our day. So as soon as someone would hurl the witch accusation, people would stay silent fearing to be associated with witches.
The only problem with all this was is that no one was proven to be a witch, yet thousands of people would die because of the mere accusation. Peer pressure is a powerful force whether you’re a four year old or one-hundred and four years old.
There are potential dangers in standing alone. Such risks bring us to the story of Elijah for today. Elijah stood alone. Elijah was the guy walking into Lambeau field dressed from head to toe in Vikings gear.
Elijah’s story takes place during the reign of a wicked king named Ahab. The Scriptures describe Ahab as doing more to provoke the Lord’s anger than all other kings before him. Ahab was married to a woman named Jezebel who was pulling the strings. Jezebel came from the land of Phoenicia and with Jezebel’s reign came the worship of Phoenician gods like Baal. Wanting to play it safe by following Israel’s king and queen, the people soon began to worship Baal rather than God.
Baal was a half-man plus half-bull deity. Baal worship included orgies and child sacrifices. Worshiping Baal was thought to bring rain to the Earth. People loved worshipping Baal because Baal promised sex and money. Baal worship revolved around the cycles of nature necessary for prosperity and survival. People followed Baal to receive lots of grain along with lots of children. So Jezebel and Ahab built a temple so that the people may worship Baal.
Since people hadn’t heard from the God of Israel for a while, they assumed that he was staying silent. Baal worship though quickly began to disappoint. Three years pass, no food, or no rain. Great suffering had come upon the land of Israel.
So God tells Elijah to approach Ahab with an offer to intervene. Ahab gets mad at Elijah’s presence. How dare Elijah stand apart the crowd? Troublemakers stand apart from the crowd.
Ahab’s anger would not deter Elijah. Elijah wants to get Ahab to see he’s wrong. Elijah doesn’t care if he’s the only person who thinks this way. So Elijah gives Ahab a very simple proposition. “Why don’t you invite 450 priests of Baal along with 400 priests of Baal’s female counterpart Asherah” to Mount Carmel. 850 to 1. .
The people of Israel were wavering at this time between who to follow between the prosperity-promising Baal or the seemingly silent God of Israel.
So Elijah sets forth a challenge in the simplest of terms for Ahab’s Kingdom “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him”- 1 Kings 18:21.
The challenge at Mount Carmel was going to settle not which God was better, but rather which God was true.
To resolve this issue, Elijah proposes a test. Elijah and the Prophets of Baal would set up their altars with bull sacrifices to burn. But they would set fire to neither offering. Instead, Elijah and the 850 prophets would try to invoke their Gods to act. Whoever set fire to the offerings first was going to win the duel. Everyone agreed, and the test began.
So Elijah told the Prophets of Baal to first. Baal’s prophets start to dance and jumping around the altar trying to compel Baal to act. Morning passes, afternoon passes, Elijah tells them to yell louder, and louder. Baal’s prophets yell louder then begin cutting themselves with knives and swords until blood gushes out. Evening comes with no response.
So now it’s Elijah’s turn. Elijah sets up his Altar. Elijah does something different, though; Elijah dumps water over the wood upon it. Elijah dumped three gallons of water making the wood soaked. Elijah wanted to prove to everyone that if the fire came down, it would be no accident. Elijah was going to bring fire down from heaven.
When the spotlight shines on Elijah, he prays a very simple prayer.
“ O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have turned their hearts back.”-1 Kings 18:36-37.
As soon as Elijah’s prayer is over, fire came down from heaven! Those watching this act, fell upon their knees begging for God’s mercy and grace.
What can we make of Elijah’s story on this day? Elijah stood alone against all the prevailing wisdom in Israel. It was easy for people to believe in the lure of Baal worship as they felt that God wasn’t coming through for them in the years beforehand.
All Elijah had to go on as he went to the top of Mount Carmel was faith. Elijah’s situation was no different than his ancestor Abraham who went up on a mountain carrying his only son “Isaac” guided by the belief that “Lord shall provide”. If God hadn’t acted in Elijah’s case, religious faith might have become extinct within the nation of Israel. Elijah would have been executed like so many prophets that went before him. The Lord did provide as in the case of Elijah.
When Elijah attempted to summon fire from heaven, the crowds thought such a thing was impossible. Who was Elijah they say?
The whole situation between Elijah and the Prophets of Baal highlights a problem with how people often look at the world. People in Elijah’s day saw the struggles of the present. Elijah saw these struggles himself as he spent a lot of his life on the run from Ahab and Jezebel. People knew pain! People knew trouble! People’s faith would be challenged more and more every single day as they longed for prosperity. Elijah’s God wasn’t getting the job done to other people’s satisfaction. So pretty soon the Snake Oil salesman promoting Baal were getting rich. Baal worship made the past a problem of approach. If only “we” apply different techniques to life then “we” will achieve unlimited success in this life. Human nature is such that it will embrace any quick and easy solutions . Faith demands something different though!
I read a book a few weeks ago by author Angela Duckworth titled Grit. Duckworth defines “Grit” as one’s perseverance in achieving long-term vision in the midst of temporary hardship. Duckworth tells the story of Cody Coleman . When Coleman was growing up, his mom was declared “insane”, his father was in prison. Coleman’s grandmother attempted to raise him, but her body and mind was not up to the task. Coleman was one of the poorest kids at one of the poorest schools in the state. Cody Coleman was living life as nothing special: he wasn’t good at sports, he was in remedial English class, and was at best an average math-student. If Cody Coleman followed his peers who knows what path his life would have taken. Coleman’s life change when his brothers proclaim to him the “power of faith”. Coleman stopped looking at the past as defining him, but rather looked towards the future. Coleman by his junior year of high school was earning straight A’s. Coleman eventually gets accepted into MIT graduating with a near-perfect GPA.
Cody Coleman’s outlook on life was like Elijah’s. The past can only take as much power from us as we’re willing to give to it. There were plenty of days in Elijah’s life where he could have easily given up. Elijah could have thrown in the towel. Elijah could have said “I am too old for the struggle.” Yet, Elijah believed in the power of the future. Elijah believed that if he kept embracing the faith to which he clung his whole life that his God would eventually deliver. Elijah believed that Resurrection could indeed come to the Earth. Elijah believed that God indeed could deliver fire from heaven.
Our great hope for today is this. Our God promises to remain alongside you when everything else in the world seems to be against you. When your faith might be nearing its breaking point, our God will deliver. Just remember that crowds aren’t always right. The crowds thought Albert Einstein was too stupid to amount to anything. The crowds thought Cody Coleman was destined to end up in jail. These same masses don’t believe that Our God can indeed bring down fire from Heaven! Amen
 Kultirecity.org.“All Children have potential regardless of their diagnoses.” Facebook. 16.May.2016. Web. May.16.2016. taken from Mateusz M Facebook page.
 Kultirecity.org. “All Children have potential regardless of their diagnoses.”
 Kultirecity.org. “All Children have potential regardless of their diagnoses.”
 “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July.2004. Web. May. 17.2016.
 1 Kings 16:33
 1 Kings 18:1
 1 Kings 18:19
 1 Kings 18:24.
 1 Kings 18:26-29.
 1 Kings 18:30-35.
 1 Kings 18:39-39.
 Genesis 22:14.
 Inspiration for this section comes from Mateusz. M. “Vision”. You Tube. 26.Oct.2013. Web. May.18.2013. Section comes from Eric Thomas running from 1:00 to 3:25.
 Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Scribner Publishing. New York City. 2016. Print. P.220-221.
 Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
First Lesson: Acts 2: 1-21
Responsive Reading: Psalm 104: 24-34, 35b
Second Lesson: Romans 8: 14-17
Gospel Lesson: John 14: 8-17, (25-27)
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
One of the big recent news stories in England and most of Europe has been the Leicester City Soccer team. Leicester City recently won the Premier League title. Leicester City’s win was unexpected. The Premier League has a system where bad teams can get demoted to lower leagues. Leicester City was so bad in 2004 that they were out of the Premier League for ten years. Before this season started Leicester City’s odds were five-thousand to one among gambling authorities in Britain, similar bets paying off at five-thousand to one: are Elvis Presley being found alive, someone finding the Abominable Snowman or Christmas being the warmest day of the year in England. Leicester City despite having nothing going for them heading into the season, despite their opponents having way more money, ended up the Premier League Champions in what some are calling the greatest underdog story in the history of sports.
There is something about great underdog stories that capture the imagination. One of my favorite stories is that of Lysander Spooner. Spooner in the 1840’s though U.S. Post Office Rates were too high. Spooner believed that the Government was abusing its privileges. Spooner was not content to just sit around talking with no intention to act. Spooner had no background in the mail; he was merely a lawyer and not a very good one. Spooner decided that he was going to take on the behemoth of the U.S. Government. Spooner decided to open his company called “The American Letter Mail Company.” Whereas the Government was charging twelve cents for Stamps, Spooner would charge six cents. Spooner’s business was quickly a hit! Spooner sets up offices in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. The U.S Government starts to perceive Spooner as a serious threat, so they take him to court. Legal fees along with congressional action begin to cause Spooner’s business to crumble. When Spooner closed shop in 1851, he had forced the U.S. Post Office down to three cents a stamp from twelve cents several years earlier.
What I want people to remember is underdogs can affect significant change in the world around them.
I want to tell another underdog story on this day. The story centers on Jesus’ disciples. The Disciples after Jesus’ Crucifixion go into hiding. Peter denies knowing Jesus three times because he fears how the crowds might respond to him. The Disciples sit around in the upper room waiting for something to happen. All the Disciples had to go off of was faith that God might come through. Our lesson for today has God finally coming back. The wind starts to blow almost like the heavens were roaring. Fire starts to burn upon the tongues of the Disciples. All we know is that whatever was happening quickly started getting all sorts of attention. Pretty soon people from all over town start to show up. Jews living in Jerusalem from all over the Earth come to see what God is up to on this day. Peter takes the pulpit and begins to preach. Peter’s last experience being called on to speak didn’t go so well. Once Peter gets going, he is so good that three-thousand people from all over the Earth become followers of Jesus on this day.
Pentecost was beyond a five-thousand to one shot coming to fruition in real life. We know this story about Pentecost, yet what I want to do today is reflect upon its meaning for our lives and our congregation.
We might wish that it is easy for us as it seems to be for the Disciples on this day. Three-thousands convert after one great sermon. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a church that was so effective?
As you hear this Pentecost story, consider how unlikely a story that the birth of the Christian church is? The Disciples begin with eleven men then they add Mathias. The Disciples were walking into a world where everyone seemed to be against them. The prominent religious authorities had just put their leader to death. The political authorities tended to view their emperors as gods, not dead guys. The Disciples had recently lost their great teacher. The Disciples had no concrete proof or evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. They only had their experiences. The Disciples had experienced Christ being alive. The Disciples had encountered forgiveness within their broken lives. Now the Disciples are being asked to preach to take their five-thousand to one shot on the day of Pentecost.
Perhaps what Pentecost reminds us is that what happened on that day could happen within our day.
I was reading a book last week written by Adam Grant on original thinkers and how they move the world. Grant pointed out how we often get the personal characteristics of great change agents wrong. We assume that great change agents are super-smart, super-dynamic, super-confident individuals who get by in life with transcendent talents and abilities. As Grant points out, such beliefs would be wrong, as great change agents have fear, they have doubt, and they have anxiety.
There is truth that the greatest evangelists out there are not those shouting on the street proclaiming the end is near, nor are the greatest evangelists those that can amaze others with their knowledge of theology.
Perhaps the best evangelists out there are merely normal people who tend to fit in rather than stand out from the crowd.
One time, while I was working down in Lamberton, we were putting together a youth service. As we were meeting with the Luther League, I asked the kids what they wanted to do. Courtney piped up. Courtney was in seventh-grade and not really outspoken at this time. Courtney asked if she could say the words for Communion?
Courtney’s mom was even hesitant whether this was a good idea. So Courtney and I get together to practice. Courtney worries that she’s going to get nervous when she’s standing in front of the congregation.
To which I say “Don’t worry, I still get nervous.” Courtney responds “That only makes me feel worse that I’m always going to feel this way.”
Courtney did something very important being willing to stand in front of the church. Courtney questioned the default of all the ways and reasons that God couldn’t possibly work through her. People might not want to listen to a seventh-grade girl give Communion. Courtney was able to see the ways on that day that God could work through her regardless of whether it had been done that way before.
The thing about great change agents, as Grant points out, is that they question the default. They question that things will remain like they currently might be today. They question that the kid whose parents just tossed him out of his house is a lost kid. They question those who say that the drunk who can’t control his bodily functions can’t ever possibly find grace. They question whether the person who has sworn off religion for good might, with patience, be open to hearing about the power of forgiveness yet again.
For great change agents, the biggest fear is not failing; the biggest fear is failing to try to impact the lives of others when the opportunity presents itself.
Thomas Edison failed a whole bunch of times, yet we know him best for inventing the lightbulb. Not everything ever written by Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart was a masterpiece instead most of their work lies to the dustbin of history.
I came across an excellent story by Angela Duckworth this week about a guy named Bob Mankoff. Bob Mankoff submitted two-thousand cartoons to The New Yorker before his first one ultimately gets published. Now almost forty years later, Mankoff is the Cartoon Editor for The New Yorker. What this story reminds us is that things will happen in God’s time rather than our own.
Back to the story of Lysander Spooner, Spooner failed in his efforts to bring down the U.S. Government and the Post Office. Spooner was going to keep on challenging the “status quo”. As great is the story is of Spooner and the Post Office, it is not where he made his biggest impact. Spooner’s biggest claim to fame is his work as an abolitionist. Spooner challenged the idea that the text of the Constitution allowed slavery regardless of its author’s original intent. Spooner’s writings before the dawn of the Civil War started a great debate amongst the U.S. Congress. Lysander Spooner’s cause of freedom for the slaves took decades to achieve. Spooner’s setbacks, disappointments, and failures could have crushed him. Spooner though ultimately believed that the cost of inaction was greater than the cost of action.
The Disciples interpreted Pentecost as the sign that they were no longer to remain inside their homes. The Disciples were going to travel now to every corner of the Earth.
“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the Ends of the Earth.”-Acts 1:8
What we often misunderstand is how the Early Church started. The Church didn’t start with pastors. The Church didn’t start with people who had backgrounds in public speaking. The Early Church rather began with fishermen and farmers. The Early Church began with parents and grand-parents. The Apostles would go from town to town starting churches. The Apostles would then merely appoint whatever commoners they could find to tell people about Jesus. The Apostles didn’t believe that the Church was going to get going because it could only choose perfect candidates; the Church would stay on fire because of the power of the Holy Spirit.
Whenever I go into the pulpit, I do not preach the word “alone.” Whenever we seek to teach a “child” in the faith, we do not teach that child “alone”. Whenever we gather to pray in cold, hospital rooms, we can often be overwhelmed by indescribable warmth from above. So even if we can’t name the Spirit’s exact ways, the Spirit’s presence keeps on burning around us.
Too many people out there have grown “cold” and indifferent to God’s purposes in this world. We have all kinds of people whom you know in your lives who wake up every morning, longing for hope. People are longing to receive the fire the Disciples and three-thousand people received on the day of Pentecost.
Many people hear the story of Pentecost today and think it seems far-fetched. They might believe that it appears impossible. Three-thousand people from every corner of the Earth converted by a mediocre preacher! The thing is as long as the Holy Spirit is present within this world. As long as the Word of God is being preached, as long as the Sacraments are being administered, as long as sins are being forgiven, Pentecost could be just around the corner. Some of Jesus’ disciples before this day probably thought it was impossible. They maybe felt they were consigned to spend the rest of their life exiled into a lonely upper room. The Holy Spirit was able to come into that room to take the Disciples’ gifts, and now nearly two-thousand years later, twelve men have become a billion followers of Jesus Christ. Pentecost is a reminder that the Holy Spirit can turn the whole world upside down at any given moment. Even more unlikely events than Elvis being found alive can indeed take place! Amen
 Markazi, Arash. “The Longest Shots”. ESPN.com. Bristol, CT. 12. Feb.2016. Web. May.11.2016.
 Acts 2:1-21
 McLarty, Phillip. “When the Fire Grows Cold.” Lectionary.org. 2007. Web. May.11.2016.
 Grant’s book is entitled Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.
 Grant, Adam. “The surprising habits of original thinkers.” Ted Talk. Feb.2016. Web. May.12.2016.
 Grant, Adam. “The surprising habits of original thinkers.”
 Story posted on Angela Duckworth Facebook page on May 12,2016. Duckworth expands the story in her book Grit.
 McLarty, Phillip. “When the Fire Grows Cold
 Acts 1:8
 McLarty, Phillip. “When the Fire Grows Cold.”
First Lesson: Acts 1: 1-11
Responsive Reading: Psalm 47
Second Lesson: Ephesians 1: 15-23
Gospel Lesson: Luke 24: 44-53
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Jarred and Chase,
As you may know, there are three types of students in school.
The first students out there are “A” students. A students always have a book. A students tend to stay up late night studying. A students use Red Bull as a study aide. A students stress out whenever they get a “B-plus” on a test. A students are always going through life taking careful notes of what other people think and say. A students don’t mind bringing their teacher an apple. A students put all sorts of pressure on themselves. A students tend only to see the world through the lens of achievements and awards. We assume that we should want to be like the A-students.
The second type of students out there is “C” students. C students are always often the life of the party. C students are more concerned with the latest Three Days of Grace album than books. C students don’t quite bring the Nick like Jeopardy intensity to life. For C students success in school is not defined so much by grades but rather how many different girls you can meet. C students just want to get by in school, and they’re all chill after that.
The final type of students is “F” students. No one wants to be an F student. F is synonymous with failure. We never want F’s on our permanent record or so the saying goes. F students seem to be on the road to a dead end in life.
The question for this morning is should you strive to be an “A” student, “C” student or an “F” student. I’ll get back to this question in a little bit.
Today’s Gospel lesson comes to us from Luke 24. Our tale for today is the story of the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry with his ascension into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the father. Today’s lessons has the Disciples needing to head out into the world alone apart from everything they had learned in the past few years. The Disciples are now called to be witnesses to Christ’s ministry in the world that surrounds them.
So I want to reflect upon lessons that can we take from this event in Jesus’ ministry.
As you go forward from this day, I should reflect upon the question of how a Christian’s life should look even after Confirmation. You might assume the answer that I might give is to go through life seeking to become a straight “A” religious student so that maybe you could be a Pastor some day.
You might assume that I’m going to get and lay a bunch of rules upon you: Don’t drink too much, don’t smoke, don’t gamble too much, don’t have too much fun with Girls, don’t shoot Heroin at night clubs in Winnipeg. Although I don’t want you to think of Christianity as merely a series of “no’s” or “do this” or “don’t do this?”
“Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.”-1ST Corinthians 7:17.
The whole of the Christian’s life instead should be centered upon living one’s vocations out within the world around them.
A Christian’s vocation is seeking to be the best husband, best father, best son, best worker, best student, best friend, best hockey player, best whatever that you can be. A Christian’s life is always centered on being the best neighbor to everyone whom you come into contact.
When you play Hockey, you should check “hard”, but always check “clean.”
When you meet a young woman, there’s nothing wrong with finding her pretty as long as you see her as much more than that. Remember that whatever young lady you meet may be destined to someone else’s wife or mother regardless of the role that she may be destined to play in your life.
When you hang with friends, there is nothing wrong with having a lot of “fun” as long as you watch out for your own well-being and the well-being of others.
God might be calling you on this day to the seemingly ordinary rather then the extraordinary. To illustrate what this means: I came across a great quote this week that said “David didn’t kill Goliath because he sought to slay giants. He set out to give sandwiches to his brothers and Goliath got in the way.”
This quote begins to explain what might living out this Christian life look like in more practical terms?
“The World needs more Elk-Hunters.” –Roy Harrisville.
The world needs men of courage and conviction. The world needs men who are bold enough to stand apart from the crowd.
One of the manliest men to every live was President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a sick child, asthmatic, and near-sighted. Roosevelt didn’t look at his difficulties though as defeating him, Roosevelt rather saw his obstacles as motivating. Roosevelt began boxing and lifting. Roosevelt would hike mountains in all kinds of nasty weather. Roosevelt sense of vocation took him to Harvard where he joined the rowing team. When Roosevelt was told to take a boring desk job because of his health, he decided to hike the Matterhorn and work as a North Dakota rancher. One time while campaigning for President and riding a train. A man shot Teddy Roosevelt in the chest. Roosevelt’s response was to check his mouth merely to make sure there was no blood. Roosevelt figured the bullet hadn’t struck his lung, so he needed to keep going. Roosevelt proceeded then to stand before an auditorium with 10,000 people proclaiming himself stronger than a “bull moose” as he spoke for 90 minutes before finally agreeing to go to the Hospital.
Roosevelt’s life philosophy was best summed up in his “Man in the Arena” speech where he points out:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Jarred and Chase, my goal for you today is not that you become the world’s greatest preachers. Perhaps your course in life is to twenty years from today become preachers with Steph Curry like three-point skills. Being a Pastor is not everyone’s course in life though. Instead, I want you rather to become Elk Hunters. Become the type of men who are unafraid to wrestle bears in your underwear. Become the type of men that those who come after will admire and look to as role models no matter what course God leads you down in life.
To do what I’m asking you to today is going to include a challenge to live life differently. Do not obsess your life with the thoughts or opinions of others. Because in the words of the wise philosopher Taylor Swift “The haters gonna hate, hate, hate!”
One of the more famous Bible stories is the tale of Samson. Samson was one of the last judges to help rule over Israel. Samson was known for his long hair and incredible feats of strength such as defeating a lion with his bare hands. Samson might was such that he was able to bring down a giant temple with it. Samson stepped into an often dark world with temptation around every bend. Samson did have times in his life when everything went amiss. These stumbles were never easy. Through it all, Samson had a God, who never left his side in waging all of life’s battles.
As in the case of Samson living out a Christian’s vocation is not easy. Vocation is fighting every instinct in a given moment not to unload every nasty word about your neighbor of which you can think. Vocation is where we fight our harshest of battles with the powers of sins.
As you go forth from this day as confirmed members of Sychar Lutheran Church, the years ahead will contain their share of challenges. The thing about this life is that progress will often seem small or non-existent within it.
I had a friend growing up named Ira. One time, Ira got frustrated with how things were going at school so he punched a brick wall as hard as he could. Ira soon came to learn via way of the cast that his way was the wrong way to view the world. Don’t punch brick walls, but instead, be patient and have faith. One morning you will wake up and everything all around you shall be changed! Resurrection will be shouting out Hallelujahs all around you!
Praise the ……….
I began this morning by asking if you want to be an A-student (an achiever), a C-student (a chiller) or an F-student (a failure). The problem you often run into with “A” students is that they’re so obsessed with the judgments of others and themselves that it eats them alive. While it’s cool to be a chiller, you don’t want to be so chill that you live your life without care, courage, or conviction. Lastly, we get to the dreaded “F” students, the ones who others might think to be failures.
The truth of life is you will have your share of F’s. The road ahead will be frustrating; you will fail. What I want to you to do on this day is think of the grade or letter “F” in a different way on this day. I want you to think of “F” as standing for forgiveness.
The ones who in our lesson today hear Jesus speak today were far from perfect individuals even as they followed him throughout the course of his ministry. In his last hours, they stood by as cowards and failures as he was led to his death. Jesus is able move past this and hands them the keys to his kingdom. The message that Jesus gives to his disciples on this day is what is meant by our vision at Sychar that “We are an imperfect church, made for imperfect people.”
The greatest of spiritual truths is you will never be as good as you want to be in this life, embrace this and remember that “F” stands for forgiveness. The focus of the Christian’s life is not following anybody else’s path to get there, but rather an end of Resurrection to New Life!
 Luke 24:44-53
 The following quote comes from the Sundries Facebook page on May 3, 2016.
 This quote came from a Friday afternoon gathering by Dr. Harrisville when I was a student at Luther Seminary.
 McKay, Brett and Kate. “Lessons in Manliness: The Childhood of Theodore Roosevelt”. Art of Manliness. 04. Feb.2008. Web. May.3.2016
 McKay, Brett and Kate. “Lessons in Manliness: The Childhood of Theodore Roosevelt”
 McKay, Brett and Kate. “Lessons in Manliness: Theodore Roosvelt on Living the Strenous Life”. Art of Manliness. 21. Feb. 2008. Web. May. 3.2016.
 McKay, Brett and Kate. “Lessons in Manliness: Theodore Roosvelt on Living the Strenous Life”.
 The following is an except from Roosevelt, Theodore. “Citizenship in a Republic”. Given at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23rd, 1910. I was referred to this speech by Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly.
 Judge 13-16.
 Tranvik, Mark. “Commentary on Luke 24:44-53”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 12. May.2013. Web. May.3.2013.
First Lesson: Acts 16: 9-15
Responsive Reading: Psalm 67
Second Lesson: Revelation 21: 10, 22-22:5
Gospel Lesson: John 14: 23-29
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
When my dad was in high school, he played Football. Dad was a backup offensive lineman, who never got into the games much. One time though Dad got hit hard unsure if it was practice or a game. Twenty some years later, Dad started having all sorts of problems with his back. He ends up getting recommended to see a specialist in Milwaukee. Dad would make frequent trips down to Milwaukee then. I would always go with him to the appointment, and we would catch the Milwaukee Brewers play. I always liked this because I would often get out of school to go! Well, the place that we were supposed to go the Milwaukee Pain Clinic was on the North Side of Milwaukee in what wasn’t known as being the best part of town. So Dad and I had some time before one of his appointments, we decided to eat beforehand. We see a restaurant called Roscoe’s BBQ (I believe). We walk in, let’s just say a couple of Swedes from Lindstrom, Minnesota really stood out among the clientele at Roscoe’s. I’m pretty sure no one there knew what a “Dala Horse” was? So as we walk in the door, every eye in the restaurant is upon us. We merely sit down at Roscoe’s like we would anywhere else. We order have a great meal of BBQ are welcomed warmly by the staff and locals then go out the door.
A lot of great things can happen in life when you’re bold enough to step outside what one knows in life. The tale of Roscoe’s BBQ brings us to the tale of our lesson for today from Acts 16: The story of Paul and Lydia.
Let me begin this morning by telling you a little about the two main characters within our story. Let me introduce Paul. Paul goes down to the river. Paul was stepping out of his comfort zone on this day. Paul was going to preach to a woman like he rarely preached a non-Jewish, single woman. Paul had reasons to think the situation ahead wasn’t looking hopeful. Paul had experienced spiritual dry spells. Paul kept traveling all over Asia trying to preach the Gospel but encountering dead ends. Paul though didn’t go through life saying “I tried once or even twice, but it didn’t work out.” Paul believed that his convictions were such that they were ultimately worth dying regardless of previous results. As I think of Paul on this day, I think of another story.
This week, I came across the story of Sylvester Stallone. Stallone’s rise to the top was anything but easy. When Stallone was born, his face was paralyzed. The paralysis gave Stallone slurred speech and a snarling look on his face. When Sly Stallone was in school, he was picked on because of these things. Stallone gets sent to a special high school for “troubled kids”. Kids at this school vote Stallone the most likely person to end up in the electric chair.
Stallone tries to make it as an actor. Stallone had to work every kind of dead end job to make ends meet. Stallone slept nights in the bus terminal. One day, Stallone auditions for a film role fails to get the part yet again. Stallone then pitches a boxing script that he had written. Producers are interested in buying Stallone’s movie. There was just one catch; the producers thought Sly Stallone was such a bad actor that he couldn’t be in his film. Stallone won’t budge, though. Stallone wouldn’t budge even as he had barely a dollar to his name until Stallone is allowed to play Rocky Balboa. The rest of the story is Stallone becomes on one of the biggest movie stars of all time.
The great thing about Sly Stallone is that he refused to accept life on its terms. Stallone’s story is just like the Apostle Paul traveling throughout the world preaching. Paul had transformed in a matter of mere days from the Christian faith’s greatest enemy to its greatest proclaimer. Paul would go to the ends of the Earth to reach people because he believed that this was what God was calling him to do. Paul believed that God’s power would come through, in the end, no matter how dark the day because he had previously experienced Resurrection within his life. Paul’s convictions had brought Lydia into his life.
Now let me introduce another person in our story named Lydia. Lydia is one of the most powerful women in the Bible. Lydia hails from Thyatira, which is a city in modern Turkey. Thyatira was a city known for producing the finest linens. Lydia herself dressed in purple linens looking a person of means or possibly a royal. We have no mention of Lydia’s husband only her children. Lydia was an independent businesswoman who went through life refusing to follow the crowd. Lydia one night was down by the river for worship and prayer. Lydia probably wasn’t a good Jew looking for a different religious cause; Lydia was merely seeking out God’s ways in the world. Lydia did not get converted on this day because Paul was a dynamic preacher. Paul personally describes himself as lacking in charisma. Lydia’s conversion came about because there were forces that came into her life that were more so powerful that Lydia came to believe.
Last week, I was talking to a Confirmation student who was telling me about his sister. His sister would like to go out running. The only problem was she didn’t want to run in town. She was worried about what other people may think. Perhaps they might make fun of the way she runs. What I said is there are two things in this world who can define us. We either go through life defined by the judgments of others. These are the type of individuals that wouldn’t spend two minutes actually to explore your true worth. The other option is we go through life defined by its sources of love and acceptance. God defines relationships with chosen people way different than everyone else in the world around you. We need to remember this!
I’ll often have conversations with parents about the faith of their children. Their kids were baptized, went to Sunday school, probably even got married in a church yet nowadays they have nothing to do with the Church. People will ask is there a real good solution to this? My advice is things will ultimately happen in God’s time rather than your own.
Paul went to Macedonia expecting to encounter dead ends. Paul meets Lydia. Paul then baptizes her and her children. Paul gets imprisoned. Paul appears to be defeated. God has other plans. Pretty soon, The Earth below Paul’s feet begins to shake. Paul’s Jailer soon gets converted. The Jailer’s family then gets saved. The only advice that I have for people who struggle with their kids is when you wake up every morning is to believe that God has the power to change the world today. God can change the world even if you’re not the greatest preacher like Paul. God can change the world even if the circumstances seem hopeless. Go through life believing that ultimately in the end the Gospel can break down walls! God can bring people out of the whale’s belly of life. God can above all raise the dead!
What the story of Paul and Lydia points out to us is that we never have God quite figured out. When we think we’re about ready to unlock the secrets to penetrating heaven, we encounter the reality of the Cross. We encounter that who God chooses to save in the end is his business, not ours. If God wants to save unconventional people in unconventional ways, then praise be to God!
An interesting thing about the story of Lydia and Paul is that Lydia’s entire household is mentioned to be baptized. I think what the Baptism descriptions throughout the New Testament showcase are the depths and limits of Resurrection as poured out upon in Baptism. When the New Testament describes baptizing entire households. We don’t imagine the process took place where families sat down and debated the pros and cons of Baptism. Nor is there every any mention of discussion regarding children’s age. What happened is that people such as Lydia believed that God would create faith in the life of their children in Baptism no different than they had experienced faith in their lives. Paul administers Baptism unto people minus stipulations, minus all sorts of rules or regulations. We baptize babies without reservation because the whole arc of the Christian scriptures centers around God saving people apart from their own power or decisions. Paul doesn’t think in terms of limits regarding how God may act in the life of Lydia, because there is no greater limit then the dead are supposed to remain in tombs only until they don’t.
God doesn’t work salvation through a series of rules. God works salvation by a book that centers itself around the Cross. When we consider what, it means to live by faith alone, what this means is that we believe that God will come through in the end. We might struggle with this at times. We walk away from plenty of tombs in this life, hoping and believing that these tombs will one day show life. The following hope is ultimately the meaning of Resurrection.
Brene Brown: Grace is the whisper when you’re standing in front of the dark that says “I can’t make this less scary for you, but I can remind you that its’ been (you’ve) walked through (it) before.”
This week, I had a dental appointment down in the Twin Cities. So on Monday night, I go to see Grandma. Grandma was in a splendid, mood. It was such a good mood that it almost took me by surprise. I asked Grandma if she had met a man at the nursing home or something. To which she always says she’s waiting on George Clooney.
As I inquire, the reason for Grandma’s mood caught me by surprise. Grandma had been coloring out of a coloring book all day. Grandma asks if I want to take a look like at all the pages that she colored. I assumed that she might pull out about ten pages to look over. Instead, Grandma pulls out closer to 100 pages to go over with me. As Grandma’s showing me what she colored, she has the enthusiasm of a child bragging to Mom and Dad about what happened at school. Grandma asked which one I wanted for my office. I came across a great one that quotes Cyclist Jamie Paolinetti “Limitations live only in our minds…but if we use our imagination our possibilities becomes limitless.” What this quote reminds us is that God’s ability to reach people even in the depths of great personal sin and despair often goes far beyond what even our imagination can grasp. As in the case of Lydia and Paul, barriers can crumble before our eyes.
A woman named Lydia on a day like this went down to the river. Lydia appeared successful to everyone that knew her. Deep down inside, Lydia didn’t have her life altogether. Lydia struggled with the question of whether she was worthy and deserving of God’s love. A preacher named Paul then came into Lydia’s life. Paul told Lydia that God’s mercy knew no limits. God’s grace was for her and her children! Paul told Lydia about the power of Resurrection! Lydia’s life would soon be changed forever more! Amen
 This is a quote from Les Brown found in the Mateusz M You Tube video “Awakening”.
 Mateusz M. “Inspiring Success Story of Sylvester Stallone.”. Mateusz M. 28. Apr.2016. Web. Apr.28.2016.
 Mateusz M. “Inspiring Success Story of Sylvester Stallone.”.
 Mateusz M. “Inspiring Success Story of Sylvester Stallone.”.
 Mateusz M. “Inspiring Success Story of Sylvester Stallone.”.
 Hyde, Randy. “If You Have Judged Me to Be Faithful”. Lectionary.org. 2004. Web. Apr.28.2016.
 Acts 16:15
 Acts 16:23
 Acts 16:26
 Acts 16:30-31
 Madson, Meg. “Is Everybody Saved?” Cross Alone Lutherans. 25. Feb.2006 . Web. Apr.30.2016.
 Acts 16:15
 Romans 6:4
 Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33-34, 1 Cor 1:16
 Brown, Brene. “I love it when NOTESONTHEWAY turns quotes into art!”. Facebook. 28. Apr.2016. Web. Apr.28.2016.
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.