First Lesson: 2 Kings 2: 1-2, 6-14
Responsive Reading: Psalm 77: 1-2, 11-20
Second Lesson: Galatians 5: 1, 13-25
Gospel Lesson: Luke 9: 51-62
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
July 2010: The city of Cleveland got dumped by the girl of their dreams with the entire world watching. LeBron James, the best Basketball player in the entire world, wanted to hang out with prettier friends in Miami. Cleveland’s reaction to being dumped was somewhat predictable. Kids would tear James’ poster of bedroom walls. People would burn James’ jerseys in the street. People were saying every kind of nasty word that they could about LeBron James. While we don’t live in Cleveland, we can understand “Cleveland.” Factories and plants were shutting down. People were losing jobs. Cleveland had gone “46 years” without a championship in any sport (Football, Basketball, Baseball, or Hockey). Talks of Cleveland’s curse grew “louder” and “louder.
June 2016: The Cleveland cause was again looking hopeless. The Cavaliers basketball team was down 3-1 to the greatest NBA regular season team of all-time in the Golden State Warriors. They were going to need to win “three straight games” to have a chance at the long awaited title. LeBron James though after running back into Cleveland’s arms one year earlier, would play three of the greatest games any NBA player ever played. Six years had changed everything! So many people on this championship night flocked to downtown Cleveland to celebrate that the authorities had to stop allowing people to gather “downtown.” People were dancing in the streets, people wearing hugging complete strangers, and people were running with joy that didn’t know that they could run. The Prodigal Son had come home, only instead of celebrating with a fattened calf they were hoisting a NBA championship in Cleveland.
Cleveland had their hours of heartbreak. Cleveland had gone through 145 years seasons of receiving an answer of “not now, but someday”. People’s faith in a payoff would be tested. Six years earlier! The most unlikely of stories of a city’s redemption had become reality.
The story of Cleveland’s redemption leads us into our Gospel lesson for today. Today’s Gospel reading is a tale of pain and rejection with seemingly the whole world watching. The disciples James and John had gone into a Samaritan village. James and John went into this village expecting to change the world. James and John experienced nothing but indifference. James and John left this village mad. Their sales pitch was shot down. James and John wanted “God to bring the thunder down from Heaven upon this village.” James and John wanted the Samaritan village “wiped out”. James and John weren’t in this moment acting like calm heroes of the Christian faith but rather like children throwing a temper tantrum only after a few more decades on Earth. James and John went to Jesus with their problems. James and John were hoping that Jesus would give a blessing to their anger and revenge. Jesus’ advice to these men was simple; Jesus suggested finding another village instead.
What’s going on in James and John’s life at this moment is this, they could recall the past; they were experiencing the present, but they could only imagine the future.
The sixteen-year-old boy dumped for the first time can believe that they stand no chance of meeting anyone ever again. The boy remembers the past, is experiencing the present, but can’t imagine the future. The person who loses their job in the present moment can’t imagine that their pain could be part of God’s master plan. They can only see their wallet getting squeezed tighter and tighter in the days ahead.
James and John couldn’t believe that God might send them into a Samaritan village to experience dead ends. James and John couldn’t believe that God is using this experience to set them up for something else. The Disciples would rather wallow in anger and revenge than hope.
Let me tell you a story about why we need to embrace hope. Eric Thomas grew up with a defeatist attitude because his father abandoned him. When Eric Thomas was sixteen, he got in a big fight at home and ran away. Thomas spent the next two years of his life living out on the streets of Detroit. Thomas spent nights figuring that the world would possibly be better off if he were dead. Thomas one day by circumstance encounters a preacher who tells him “That he has the gifts that could save lives.” Thomas decides every breath he had moving forward was going to be about saving lives like his own. Thomas goes back to school. Thomas gets a GED degree. Thomas then spends twelve years working towards a college degree. Thomas begins a youth program to help similarly troubled kids get their GEDs. Thomas becomes a preacher. Thomas gets hired by Michigan State University. Thomas obtains a Masters than a Doctorate.
What kept Eric Thomas going on those nights sleeping on the street, above all else was that he had a vision. Thomas was going to become the father that he never had for his future children. Thomas today is one of the most in-demand motivational speakers in the country.
How does Jesus seek to calm James and John in the midst of their anger about the present? Jesus encourages James and John to embrace a vision and look towards the future. “Bury the dead and move on.”
These words that Jesus gives almost seem cold, but here’s the purpose. Jesus wanted James and John from that day moving forward to focus their energy not on changing the past which is impossible, but rather on changing the lives of others which is possible. Jesus wanted James and John to know that the Christian faith is not about your past sins, your present reality, but the Christian faith is rather about all sorts of future resurrections.
The future does not promise to be easy. Jesus will soon face hostile religious leaders and crucifixion. James and John are about to have their whole lives turned upside down. James and John are about to start a religion that seems destined for death, yet forces from above will breathe life into their journey. What Jesus is seeking to do for James and John is preach a sermon about the power of faith. Faith is about clinging to a hope of “life” when nothing but death is seemingly all around you.
Faith is not an easy thing to grasp when you hear news of cancer diagnosis. The reason that we cling to faith is that life is that in life, we are more likely to face uncertainty than certainty. James and John left this Samaritan village today with nothing more than faith. James and John would soon be traveling all over the earth in frightening and uncertain circumstances. Faith is that whereas death will mark the past, Resurrection will mark the future.
So how can we tie this all together.
How do the stories of Lebron James, Eric Thomas, James, and John relate to our lives today?
Let me suggest something this morning. I want you to stop thinking of life regarding “buts.” Think of all the excuses of why God can’t change the world or your life or the lives of those around you.
I want to reflect a little bit this morning upon the life story of Ulysses S. Grant. In the early days of the Civil War, the South had the upper-hand. Union generals much like James and John dreaded failure and rejection. They were more concerned with avoiding risks then seizing opportunities. Southern General Robert E. Lee couldn’t compete with manpower or firepower, but Lee was able to act with tremendous conviction of leadership. Now what made Ulysses S. Grant up to the task of standing up to Robert E.Lee, it certainly wasn’t his resume. Grant lacked a high education or any unique talent for the art of war.
Grant had previously been kicked out of the military for drinking and brawling. Grant probably wouldn’t have been let back into the army, if the Union wasn’t so desperate for soldiers. What made Grant dynamic though as a leader is uncharted waters didn’t faze him. Grant knew that clinging to the status quo was a death sentence.
In our lesson for today, Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem, a Jerseleum rife with uncertainty in the weeks ahead.
This last week, we have had heavy storms hit the Northland. Tornadoes, large hail, and damaging winds struck the land. Homes were damaged, and people lost their lives. People woke up the next morning searching for answers. In the storms of life, we need to cling to faith.
Let me close by invoking one of the more famous stories from within our Christian scriptures.
We always talk about the Prodigal Son, when the key character in the story is the Prodigal’s Father. It’s the Father who like Eric Thomas waits day after day by looking not towards the past, not embracing the reality of the present, the Prodigal’s Father is only looking towards the future. The Father believes that someday his son might come home, and he and his son will celebrate with the fattened calf together. I’m sure the Father had his nights of frustration. The Father had his nights of wondering whether it was time to give up hope. The Father though kept imagining the future of receiving his long-lost son into his arms. The Father’s belief that one day his whole world could change kept him going looking for his chance to proclaim grace, forgiveness, and mercy to his son who had run away.
Six years ago, a championship dream was thought to die as Lebron James left Cleveland. A couple of decades ago, life was believed to be ruined as Eric Thomas ran away from home. Nearly two thousand years ago, James and John walked into Samaritan village, failed and walked out angry seeing themselves as failed evangelists. James and John’s story though would soon change. They would encounter the Resurrected Lord. They would receive words that had the power to give “life” to the dead. They would travel to the ends of the Earth. They would experience “Resurrection” from all anger, all pain, and all despair. Who is to say that the same can’t happen to us Today! Amen
 The title is taken from an ESPN 30 for 30 that aired on May 14, 2016.
 Posnanski, Joe. “Titles and Tears.” NBC Sports Online. 20.Jun.2016. Web. Jun.21.2016.
 Posnanski, Joe. “Titles and Tears.”
 Luke 9:51-62.
 Luke 9:53
 Luke 9:54
 Luke 9:55.
 “Eric Thomas (motivational speaker). “Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July.2004. Web. Jun.21.2016.
 Rose, Lisa. “Mission Accomplished: The Truth of Eric Thomas.” Empower Magazine. 29.Feb.2012. Web. Jun.21.2016.
 Luke 9:59-60.
 Stanley, Andy. The Next Generation Leader: 5 essentials for those who will shape the future. Multnomah Publishers. Sisters, Oregon. 2013.Print. P.87-88.
 Stanley, Andy. The Next Generation Leader: 5 essentials for those who will shape the future. P.88.
First Lesson: 1 Kings 19: 1-4, (5-7), 8-15a
Responsive Reading: Psalm 42 & 43
Second Lesson: Galatians 3: 23-29
Gospel Lesson: Luke 8: 26-39
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”- Galatians 3:28
When I first moved here 4 ½ years ago, I was told that there was something I needed to understand “Two Harbors is a rail town and Silver Bay is a mining town”. I was told this was why these towns have difficulty working together and how this divide will exist even beyond the rest of my life.
While it took me a few years to understand the difference between a rail town and a mining town, such divisions are nothing new under the sun. Growing up in Lindstrom, I never remember a time when Dad wasn’t on the City Council. He is currently serving his sixth two-year term as mayor. Now growing up, the town that I never heard anything positive about was “Chisago City” which sits about three miles west on Highway 8. Lindstrom has the Karl and Kristina Oskar statue. Chisago City has a tribute to The Emigrants author Vilhelm Moberg. Lindstrom has the Coffee Pot water tower. Chisago City has the Stairway to Heaven which I’ve heard Lindstrom residents deride as “The stairway to nowhere.” When they merged Chi-Hi (Lindstrom and Center City) and Chisago City into Chisago Lakes High School in 1970, there was controversy with people saying that it could never work.
Earlier this spring, a middle school student was supposed to do a history project and made Grandma the subject. Grandma’s nursing home is in Chisago City because there is no nursing home in Lindstrom. The student made a nice project complete with pictures of her and Grandma; there was just one problem the project said that Grandma lived her life in Chisago City.”
Every time, that I’m in Grandma’s room visiting her, whenever she turns her eyes to the project, Grandma reacts! Grandma will always tell me of her anger towards Chisago City no matter how many times I’ve heard it before and how she should the throw the “stupid” project in the trash. Grandma though is not unique in her thinking on this issue though.
People tend to go through life thinking by their tribes (Vikings versus Packers, Lutherans versus Catholics, Republicans versus Democrats, Lindstrom’s Swedes versus Chisago City’s Swedes, Mariners versus Agates).
Let me give an example of how ingrained our tribes are for us. Some years ago there was an experiment conducted by psychologists within the United Kingdom. They recruited fans of the Manchester United soccer club for this study. Here is how the experiment went down. The physiologists gathered the soccer fans and had them write essays about how much they loved their favorite team. They would then escort these fans outside to another building where the soccer fans saw a runner slip on a grass bank, where the runner fell down holding his ankle and screaming in pain. Here’s where the experiment gets interesting. What percent of Manchester United fans helped the injured runner? If the runner was wearing a Manchester United t-shirt 92% of fans helped the runner and if the runner was wearing a t-shirt of Manchester’s rival Liverpool FC only 30% help.
So this story leads us to our lesson for today from Galatians 3. Paul had heard things like I’ve heard about Two Harbors or Chisago City. Paul was encountering people with loyalty to their team that put the Manchester United fans to shame. The division in Paul’s case were Jews versus Greeks and slaves versus free.
Paul was writing a letter to a church divided in Galatia. Let me give you the backstory for the Galatians on this day. Paul started the Church in Galatia. The Church was made up of people from every stripe of life. The founders of the Galatian church are very strict Jews the kind that circumcise on the eighth day, ate all the right Jewish foods and quoted Moses’s words like people quote Baseball stats.
For many people this would have been the perfect church, Paul though thought differently. Paul then started bringing in Pagans. People that ate whatever they wanted to eat, people who lived however they wanted to live. For Gentile pagans being circumcised at thirty-five didn’t hold a lot of appeal nor did giving up bacon cheeseburgers. The divide Paul was facing went beyond what rules to observe. Paul had slaves and slave owners within the church. Paul was bringing in men and women in a culture that often divided them into categories of inequality. Trying to sort out all these factions was not going to be easy nor was it going to be smooth.
Paul wanted to live with this tension, though. Paul thought Viking and Packer fans could stand being in the same room during football season or the equivalent in 1st century Galatia. The only problem was Paul left to start other churches. Other leaders take over. These other leaders though don’t share Paul’s ideas. They wanted those new Gentile converts in Galatia to a play copy-cat. “Be like Abraham,” “Be like Moses,” “Be like Me” rather than “Believe in Christ Crucified.”
Paul hears about what’s going on in the Galatian church and writes his letter in response. Paul’s passion for seeing the world differently we can find in his life story. Paul had previously viewed the world the way that the other Jews had. Paul loved tradition and he loved the laws that governed it. The Road to Damascus though turned Paul’s world upside down regarding “How the Kingdom of God would work?”
One of Paul’s lesser known books is called Philemon. In Philemon, Paul writes to Philemon urging him to accept his runaway slave Onesimus not in the former distinction of slave or free. Paul rather pleaded with Philemon to take his runaway slave as a brother in Christ. Paul wanted his fellow believers to see others not as they are, but rather as what they shall be. Paul wanted to preach that no matter how much you disagree with the Pagans ways both currently and formerly that “No one is outside the possibility of grace, hope, or forgiveness.”
What do Paul’s words have to say to us today? The big news shooting this week was the shooting in Orlando. The reactions to it were predictable depending on which tribe people belonged to: gun-control, immigration, or gay marriage, Trump or Clinton, Muslim or Christian. The problem with the discussions on the news is none of the discussion centered upon the reality of evil. No one after Orlando wanted to talk about the realities of sin, death, and the power of the devil. I do not believe that men like Omar Mateen act in ways they do with such little regard for human life if they are not being led by Satan to act the way that they act. It is Satan who makes us see the world with violence being the only way out. It is Satan who breeds hate in those different from us. What the tragedy in Orlando reminds us is that Satan glorifies lies and conceals the truth. People often wonder is there such a place as Hell? I believe in Hell because I believe in the words of the Book of Revelation that one day death and Satan will be tossed into the lake of fire. Those who can’t see the light will remain in darkness. People inevitability see the world in our image. What we always need to remember is that we are full of sin, full of pride, and our way of looking at the world is flat our wrong, this is why we look towards the cross! What Orlando should remind us of is our brokenness as a people. We are not God! In the words of Craig Koester as “We must continually draw the distinction between what God has done for us and what other people do.?”. On this day, we do maintain hope because we are children of all stripes of an all-loving God.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”-Galatians 3:28
What Paul saw in Galatia was an opportunity to expand his tribe. Paul’s passion for the Gospel was strong because it stood in such sharp contrast to his previous way of looking at the world. Paul saw his tribe as way broader than before. Paul wanted his fellow Christians to think the same way. Paul believed that a focus on what brought them together in Christ Jesus could begin to soothe the origin of their divisions.
Back to the earlier experiment that I cited about the Manchester United Soccer fans. The psychologists later conducted the experiment again, only this time with a slight twist. The psychologists before encountering the injured runner had the soccer fans write another essay. This essay wasn’t about why they loved Manchester United, but rather why they loved soccer. What do you suppose happened after they wrote an essay about what they had in common with fellow soccer fans. In the second version of the experiment, Manchester United fans helped 80% of their own, but 70% of fans of their biggest rival Liverpool F.C.
Do not see others for their differences; rather see others for what they might bring to the body of Christ.
“The Kingdom of God is like a new net thrown into the sea that gathers in fish of every kind.”-Matthew 13:47.
The final story, a few weeks ago, I was at the Section 7A track meet in Esko. The last Mariner runner to try to qualify for state in the Girls 200 Meter was Jocey Russell. Jocey was a softball player who was so fast that they gave her a chance on the track team. Jocey was fast, but had only attended four track practices all year. Jocey would have been a relatively unlikely state qualifier. The favorite for the event was Jessie Junneman from Two Harbors. Junneman wins the race. Jocey though ran fast on this day. Jocey ends up coming in second in a photo-finish for a spot at state. Jocey’s biggest support giving her a hug at the end of the race and on the medal stand is Jessie Junneman, the pride of the Agates. It was Two Harbors giving our kids access to their track and functional hurdles so Silver Bay could send two kids (Gunnar and Alexxa) to State in the hurdles. Sitting in the Silver Bay section last Friday down at the state meet, Mariners were cheering for Agates like they were their own.
I’ll admit that it took me a minute to wrap my head around this as someone you could never cheer for the Green Bay Packers unless it benefited the Minnesota Vikings.
The Gospel can make possible what was previously thought to be impossible. Paul’s message to the church in Galatia was that your former divisions will not remain forever. The power of the cross stands to conquer what ultimately separates us as a people. Walls shall soon come a crumbling down!
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”-Galatians 3:28.”
 Grant, Adam. Give and Take. Penguin Books. New York. 2013. Print. P.226.
 Grant, Adam. Give and Take. P.226.
 Galatians 3:23-29.
 Koester, Craig. “Opportunity to Do Good: The Letter to the Galatians.” Word and World. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 2.Sept.1989. Web. Jun. 15.2016.
 Revelation 20:13-14.
 Koester, Craig. “Opportunity to Do Good: The Letter to the Galatians.”
 Grant, Adam. Give and Take. P.226.
First Lesson: 1 Kings 21: 1-10, (11-14), 15-21a
Responsive Reading: Psalm 5: 1-8
Second Lesson: Galatians 2: 15-21
Gospel Lesson: Luke 7: 36 - 8:3
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let me begin with a story about with story about Grandma. Grandma was one-time hosting a dinner party. Grandma put out her best napkins, finest china, and the sterling silver. Grandma then invites the guests to gather around the table. Everyone wondered what Grandma was going to serve? Grandma proceeds to place boxes of Girl Scout cookies on everyone’s plate. People were unsure how to react. The answer to what would be the main course on this day people would soon receive as Grandma proceeded to sit down and open up her box of cookies. Now what I love about Grandma is I know very few people who would ever think of doing what she did here. Grandma always keeps people guessing. Grandma refuses to look at the world like other people look at the world. What I want to talk about today is why our judgments of “How the world should work?” often need to be abandoned especially when it comes to forgiveness.
Many of us know the story of a woman that I’ll call Sarah that lived in a town in Samaria called Sychar. Sarah had been married five times before and was now living with another guy. Sarah was one day out fetching water when she encountered Jesus. Sarah and Jesus meeting each other would have been a scandal on three different levels. 1. Jesus was going to be talking to a woman that wasn’t his wife. Such a form of outreach would have been unheard of for a religious leader within Jesus’ day. 2. Sarah was a Samaritan, Samaritans and Jews were long-standing rivals. Samaritans were considered to be “sell-outs” or “phony” Jews on account of their marriages to a foreign woman and worship of foreign gods. 3. Besides being a Samaritan, Sarah had an extremely questionable reputation besides this. There would have been no reason other than grace for Jesus to interact with Sarah from Sychar. Sarah’s past didn’t stop Jesus from offering her “living water” which sprung forth from the spring of forgiveness. We know this story of Sarah. But maybe what we haven’t considered is what happened to Sarah after she encountered Jesus. Did Sarah backslide in her relationships and her faith? Did Sarah maybe get married a few more times? How did people respond to Sarah after she encountered Jesus?
What I want to do this morning is tell you the story of a woman who very well could be Sarah. I want to tell you the story of a lady who had nowhere to turn in the world until she encountered Jesus. A woman who was so moved by her previous encounter with Jesus that she had to see him again. She would even go so far into break into a dinner party uninvited to see him. I want to tell you the story of the sequel to the woman at the well in Sychar.
Simon was a successful and serious man. Simon never missed a Sabbath day at the synagogue. Simon was generous towards others with his income. Simon’s language was always wholesome. Simon was never a drunkard. Simon was a good and faithful husband. Even those who knew Simon best couldn’t say anything bad about him. Simon had heard about Jesus and wanted to invite him over to dinner. Simon’s invitations because of his place in the community where always accepted. Sure, Jesus was becoming quite well-known as he joined Simon for dinner. Word had been spreading about him raising The Widow of Nain’s son throughout the countryside.
As Jesus walked into Simon’s house, though, he noticed something about Simon’s greeting. Simon was friendly, but Simon was cold. Simon offered no sort of embrace or touch towards Jesus. Simon was failing to make eye-contact. Simon didn’t offer Jesus any traditional amenities given to guests such as a basin to wash his feet or oil to wash his hands. Simon was acting like he was the one doing Jesus a favor by inviting him over for dinner.
On the other side of town was a woman like Sarah from Sychar. The woman with the questionable past heard that Jesus was eating at Simon’s house. She was impulsive and decided that she had to see Jesus right away to “thank him” for what he had previously done for her. She like Grandma didn’t tend to do things though the way that ordinary people do things. She wasn’t going to wait for the next day. She wasn’t going not to make a dramatic scene. She was going to break into Simon’s house uninvited. She was going to fall at Jesus’ feet. She was going to pour ointment upon these feet, and she was going to dry these feet with her hair. Simon would watch this whole scene in shock.
Simon would never dare to have a woman like Sarah from Sychar in his house. Simon was embarrassed in front of his friends. Simon looked at this woman and saw a mess. Her wardrobe was showing off in Simon’s mind too much skin. Simon looked at this woman’s behavior and deemed her to be nothing but a “sinner” with criminal tendencies.
Jesus had to say something now to Simon. Was Simon wrong in his assessment of the woman like Sarah from Sychar? No, but there was more to this story then Simon was considering.
Jesus started talking about money. Jesus talked about money quite a bit because he knew people like successful Simon would understand it.
A certain creditor had two debtors, one owed five hundred days wages, and the other fifty days wages. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now, which of them will love him more?”
The whole scene in our story from earlier begins to make sense finally with Simon being so cold to Jesus and the woman like Sarah from Sychar being so warm. Simon understood the meaning of Jesus’ words regarding the depths of forgiveness.
Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he, who is forgiven little, loves little.
And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
You see forgiveness is not conditional; forgiveness is final. We can’t grasp the unconditional because everything else in the world is seemingly conditional. The same terms for Simon and Sarah from Sychar, it just doesn’t make any sense.
Frank Lloyd Wright is considered to be the greatest American architect ever. What you might not know about Wright is his career contains more twists and turns than you could imagine for someone of his status. From the years of 1924-1933, Wright’s career fell apart. Wright was unemployed after having been at the top of his profession. The only person that would hire him was his cousin. Wright was struggling to buy groceries. What happened was Wright took advantage of everyone he came across, because he believed that he was so talented that he could. In the year 1932, Wright decided to undertake a complete change in philosophy as Wright took in more apprentices to assist him. After Wright had come to terms with his weakness, his career began to turn as he begins to work with others in designing the Fallingwater house which is considered the greatest triumph in American Architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright was in many ways like Simon. Lloyd Wright couldn’t shake from his head that he was better than those around him by his accomplishments. The biggest problem with Lloyd Wright’s thinking though is pride ultimately does cometh before the fall. Falls are inevitable. What forgiveness says to us though is there can be a way forward.
When Thomas Edison was working on the light bulb, there is a story that you might not know. The light bulb in its initials stages was such a complex project that it took a team of men twenty-four hours to put it together. When the first working version got completed, Edison handed it to a young boy helper to take it up the stairs. The helper had spent hours watching the team work together and feared to let Edison down. As the helper walks up the steps, his worst possible scenario becomes reality. He dropped the light bulb, and it broke upon the floor. Edison’s team has to start the process over again for another twenty-four hours. What’s interesting though about the story is not that the light bulb broke, it’s rather “Who do you suppose Edison had carry the bulb up the steps next time?” Who was more grateful either the one who owed five hundred days wages or the one who owed fifty days wages? Who was more grateful Sarah from Sychar or Simon?
You see forgiveness truly does have the power to change the world. In 2012, Chandler Gerber was driving down a remote Indiana Highway on the way to work. Gerber figured that he was safe to text his wife. Gerber didn’t see the Amish buggy on the road ahead of him causing a crash at 60 mph. The scene was bad: the crash destroys the buggy, the horse was injured, and a three-year-old and a five-year-old child were dead. Weeks after the accident Gerber received a letter from the deceased children’s parents which I read this morning:
Trusting in God's ways, how does this find you? Hope all in good health and in good cheer. Around here we're all on the go and trying to make the best we can. I always wonder if we take enough time with our children. Wishing you the best with your little one and the unknown future. I think of you often. Keep looking up. God is always there.
Martin and Mary Swartz.
For many people such a response is unfathomable. Who did Chandler Gerber think that he was? How ignorant are Martin and Mary Swartz? The thing though is we often get forgiveness wrong. We too often believe forgiveness as being a form of weakness. If Simon compared himself to Sarah from Sychar, then he has to admit that he’s just as messed up as she is. Forgiveness though is not about weakness; forgiveness is rather about hope and promise. Forgiveness is about extending a claim that the past does not have absolute power over your life. Once Sarah from Sychar encounters Jesus, her life was never going to be the same again because Jesus sought to take away the past’s power. Forgiveness says the world will not remain full of poison and despair forever. Forgiveness ultimately points us towards the cross. Forgiveness gives life to the dead. A woman at the well in Sychar was spiritually dead; Jesus gave unto her living water. Simon couldn’t make sense of this until Jesus offered him that same water too. Amen
 Church Tradition has never identified the identity of the “sinful woman” from Luke 7. Common tradition has identified her with Mary Magdalene. Less common tradition associates this woman with the woman taken in adultery from John 8. My version of the story is more creative tying this woman in with the Sychar woman.
 Text study courtesy of Markquart, Ed. “Anointing of Jesus’ Feet with Oil: Gospel Analysis.” Sermons from Seattle. Pentecost 3C. Web. June.7.2016.
 Markquart, Ed. “Anointing of Jesus’ Feet with Oil: Gospel Analysis.”
 Luke 7:41-42
 Luke 7:48
 Luke 7:50
 Grant, Adam. Give and Take. Penguin Books. New York. 2013. Print. P.67-72.
 Grant, Adam. Give and Take.
 Zingale, Tim. “are forgiven”. Sermon Central. 11. June.2007. Web. June. 7.2016.
 Zingale, Tim. “are forgiven”.
 Pomeroy, Ross. “The Power of Forgiveness.” Real Clear Science:The Newton Blog. 27. Aug.2013. Web. June.7.2016.
 This letter was read in the You Tube video entitled “From One Second to the Next” by Werner Herzog placed online on Aug.7.2013.
 Pomeroy, Ross. “The Power of Forgiveness.”
 Pomeroy, Ross. “The Power of Forgiveness.”
First Lesson: 1 Kings 17: 8-16, (17-24)
Responsive Reading: Psalm 146
Second Lesson: Galatians 1: 11-24
Gospel Lesson: Luke 7: 11-17
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Luke 7:11- I want to tell you this morning the story of a woman that I’ll call Joanna who lived in a town called Nain. Joanna’s life was nothing special. She lived in a conventional home of stone and mud-brick. She spent her days like any other woman around: grinding wheat, fetching water, cooking meals, and cleaning clothes. During the Galilean harvest, Joanna would help gather olives. One thing you should know about Joanna is that a few years ago, she had become a widow. Joanna’s husband’s was a good and kind man who she missed every day. The thing about death though is it seems to be so certain that life has to go on as normal. Joanna’s life was now in the care of her son that we will call Jonathan. Jonathan was Joanna’s only son. Joanna was unable to conceive any additional children. Another thing that you need to know about Joanna is that her entire existence was dependent on being cared for by the men in her family. While this might not make much sense today, this was the reality of the world in which Joanna lived. Women in Joanna’s day were not able to get jobs as a way to pay the bills nor were they able to inherit the land. Joanna never saw this as a problem because she had her young strapping son taking care of her. Everything seemed to be going well until one day. Jonathan grew ill, at first, it appeared to be nothing. Jonathan’s condition kept growing worse until he breathed his last breath. Joanna screamed out at agony upon witnessing Jonathan’s death. Joanna was going to be forced to bury her own child. Joanna was going to be living every parent’s worst nightmare!
Luke 7:12- Jonathan’s funeral procession took place the very next day. Such a practice was the Jewish custom. Jews from all over Nain came to grieve Joanna’s loss. People were sad not because they knew Joanna real well. Joanna was like a movie character who even though you don’t know them, you weep for their circumstances. Joanna was the woman who had a tornado destroy her home, only to have no insurance to rebuild it. So Jonathan’s funeral procession began to march away from the city gate to bury Jonathan. At the same time, Joanna began to walk away from Nain, a large crowd that appeared to be at least a dozen people is approaching the city. The funeral procession soon meets the traveling party. Joanna knew nothing about who was in this crowd. Both groups exchange eye-contact but no answers appear to be forthcoming.
Luke 7:13- A man steps from out of the crowd approaching Joanna. The man didn’t look out of the ordinary. Joanna had no idea why this man would approach her. There would seem to be no reason for this man to care especially about the fate of Jonathan. This man begins to speak “ Do not weep.” Who is this guy, Joanna wondered? How can I not weep, I am alone, and I will live the rest of my life as a charity case. These words initially struck Joanna as “insensitive” or “thoughtless.” The man from the crowd though had compassion upon Joanna. You see compassion is a funny thing. Compassion is not merely issuing beautiful words of comfort. Compassion is action when the action doesn’t benefit you in any way, shape, or form. Compassion is a Samatrian man helping his natural enemy who lies beaten on the side of the road. The man from the crowd for his act of compassion was going to approach Jonathan’s body.
Luke 7:14- I should tell you a little bit more about this man and the funeral scene. Jonathan did not lay in a box or a coffin like they do today. Instead, Jonathan was being carried out in the open for the entire world to see. The man from the crowd does something shocking and unexpected as the people look on. The man from the crowd touches Jonathan’s body. The man from the crowd’s touch was shocking and in violation of Jewish customs. “Whoever touches the body of a dead person shall be unclean for seven days,” says the Book of Numbers.  The man from the crowd though expressed a comfort level in the presence of death like no one else that Joanna had seen before. The Rabbis would never dare do such a thing as the man from the crowd did. The man from the crowd touched death. The man from the crowd reached to feel death’s reality. The man from the crowd attempted to bring the dead back to life. “Young man, I say to you, arise.”
People wondered upon hearing these words, who was the man from the crowd to be able to demand such things. Tension began to build within the group, wondering what might happen next as soon as they hear these words. Hundreds of people were now quiet enough that you could hear a pin drop. Honestly, people weren’t expecting much. Death was the team losing 44-0 with two minutes left on the clock. No amount of motivational speeches would turn around a hopeless situation.
Luke 7:15- Yet then it happened! Imagine the most shocking thing that you have seen in your life and multiply it by eternity. It was the man from the crowd’s touch and words that Jonathan rose back up to life like nothing was even wrong in the first place. Jonathan leaped off the funeral bier into Joanna’s embrace. The crowd cheered like the Twins had just won the World Series! Exuberance was all around! There was still an important question left to answer. Why would the man from the crowd do such a thing? You see the man from the crowd had made a habit in his life of seeking to reach those who were powerless and felt invisible. Later in his life, he would encounter a short man named Zacchaeus who was the least popular man in town. The man from the crowd would even dare step into Zacchaeus’ home regardless of what anyone else thought about it. Why Joanna? Why Jonathan? No real reason at all. Joanna never asks for Resurrection. No one would cite Jonathan as a model of faith. Joanna doesn’t know the man from the crowd’s name. By the way, his name was Jesus, in case you were curious. The man from the crowd sought to bestow grace on this day to both Joanna and Jonathan. People will define grace all sorts of different ways. I like to describe grace as what God does for us. Grace is a healing of the obstacles of sin and death that we cannot overcome on our own. Grace would come down from heaven to earth in an even more dramatic fashion later though within the man from the crowd’s life.
Luke 7:16- The crowd was amazed at what they had seen. “A great prophet has arisen among us.” There had been great prophets who performed miracles before. Moses parted the Red Sea. Elijah had called down fire from heaven. Both Elijah and Elisha had raised widow’s sons from the dead. What had happened on this day though was different. The man from the crowd doesn’t pray to God to act. The man from the crowd invoked God by himself. It was almost as if this ordinary looking man from the crowd was God or something like that. The man from the crowd would soon do what neither Moses, Elijah, or Elisha had done before him. The man from the crowd would soon overcome the grave on his own. He would walk out of his only tomb like nothing was wrong in the first place just like in the story of Joanna and Jonathan. “God has truly come to help his people.”
Luke 7:17- Word of this miracle in Nain began to spread throughout all the land. Even John the Baptist heard this story as he sat in prison. The point of the story of Joanna, Jonathan, and the man from the crowd is this. Brokenness is in the world around us. There is no greater sign of this brokenness than death. What we see today in the story of Joanna and Jonathan is brokenness is not God’s intention for humanity. God does not will cancer! God does not will poverty! God does not will suffering! The main point of our story is that there will be times in our life when we feel like Joanna. We will lose people that we dearly love. We will have moments where we long for the smallest signs of hope. We will wish that there is a prophet that comes out of the crowd to touch the dead and bring them back to life. What our story reminds us is that Resurrection can happen at any moment. The man from the crowd can bring hope in the midst of your great brokenness. The following story is our Gospel lesson of Jesus healing the Widow of Nain’s Son. Amen
 Luke 10:25-37.
 Numbers 19:11
 Luke 19:1-10
 Buchanan, Rev. Dr. Kimberleigh. “ From Procession to Party.”. Day 1. 10. June.2007. Web. May.30.2016.
 Exodus 14:21
 1 Kings 18:38
 1 Kings 17:22, 2 Kings 4:34
 Zingale, Tim. “Jesus’ Loving Heart”. Sermon Central. June 2007. Web. May.30.2016.
 Romans 6:23.
 Zingale, Tim. “Jesus’ Loving Heart”
 Lind Hogan, Lucy. “Commentary on Luke 7:11-17”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, Minnesota. 05.June.2016. Web. May.29.2016.
 Luke 7:11-17.
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.
First Lesson: Acts 11: 1-18
Responsive Reading: Psalm 148
Second Lesson: Revelation 21: 1-6
Gospel Lesson: John 13: 31-35
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Walter Mitty was the biggest daydreamer in the world. Walter Mitty knew that the truth of real life was often painful, so Mitty spent his time dreaming of a new type of existence. Walter Mitty dreamed of new relationships. He dreamed of less broken relationships. Walter Mitty dreamed for his world to be something that it was not. Whereas the world around Walter Mitty was boring and repetitive, Mitty was able to see the possibility of transformation coming from straight out of his run of the mill life.
The Apostle John in many ways was like Walter Mitty. John’s present life was tough. John was imprisoned on the Greek Isle of Patmos. John was separated from everyone that he loved.
We might often feel like Walter Mitty and the Apostle John weak and powerless. We are often surrounded by forces whose presence we cannot begin to overcome on our own. So we daydream over a different type of existence. My grandma dreams of moving to California. The lonely widow dreams of meeting her Prince Charming. The poor working mother dreams of winning the lottery. I dream of the Vikings winning the Super Bowl. Dreams are what kept Walter Mitty and John going when no one around them believed that actual change was possible.
I came across a great quote from Walt Disney this week that “A dream is a wish that your heart makes.
I was talking to a woman a while back that I’ll call Theresa. Theresa was working in her first job out of grad school. Theresa approached this job with a sense of optimism regarding “What possibly could be done to change the people’s lives around her for the better.” The problem for Theresa is she then started talking to other people who gave her all the reasons “Why her ideas could never happen”. These people had been right before. These people claimed to have more life experience and wisdom. It would be easy for Theresa to give up in the face of their criticisms. But, there is no guarantee that these naysayers will remain right forever. Once we lose hope that things can change regardless of the odds or present circumstances, then the way forward is viewed with nothing but dread and despair.
As bad as John’s situation was as he was exiled in Patmos for his Christian faith. John never lost his sense of hope for how his God will come through for him. Last week, we looked at the importance of John’s vision within the Book of Revelation. This week, we get down to the nuts and bolts of John’s vision.
Before we begin exploring our lesson from Revelation 21, this morning, what if I told you that many of the ways that we think about the Afterlife as Christian people are wrong? How we tend to think in terms of Heaven being above us, Earth in-between, and Hell down below. Widespread beliefs like The Rapture tend to portray God dictating Christians leaving this world behind, before its destruction. What if God’s plans for this world were different? What if a day will come instead when Heaven comes crashing down from the sky. What if the “great hope” of Resurrection isn’t leaving this world behind, but rather a new creation emerging from around us.
Forty days after Jesus’ Resurrection came Jesus’ Ascension into heaven as described in Acts 1. As Jesus exits the Earth into the sky, he leaves the Disciples with two promises. The first promise is A. He is coming back to bring forth the New Jerusalem or the City of God descending from out of the heavens (1:6). B. No one knows the date or the hour as to when this shall be(1:7).
As we look towards our lesson for today, there is an interesting phrase within it “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth, had passed away.”-Revelation 21:1.
What this passage does is speak to the direction of God’s salvation. How God is going to come down to us. God first came down in the person of Jesus Christ. God remains present on this day through his Holy Spirit by coming down again whenever we hear the Gospel promises given in Word, Water, Wine, and Wheat. Jesus will come once again to usher in a “new creation” on the day of Final Resurrection.
One of the more famous stories in the Old Testament that I’ve never preached on is the building of the Tower of Babel. After the Great Flood, everyone in the world was speaking with one voice. People working together might sound like a good thing, but people were going around believing that absolutely no spiritual pursuit even building a tower to Heaven could be out of their reach, so all the people journey together to the land of Shinar to build a city and this tower. The people wanted to make a name for themselves declare their equality with God, so they begin building seeking to reach the sky. God eventually lays eyes upon the city and the tower. God sees the tower as a problem because of all the harm that had been brought forth to the world when the first humans Adam and Eve saw them and God in competition. So God brings the Tower down. God confuses their language and God scatters the people throughout all the Earth.
Now many people may hear this story and think it doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Tower of Babel though has everything to do with how we understand salvation. The thing is that everything about salvation centers around its order. We are incapable of reaching Heaven on our own, so therefore, God promises to come down and reach us instead. This is the great hope of the Christian faith!
Earlier this month, a neighbor of mine from growing up Mary passed away. Mary had been fighting cancer for over a decade. I saw Mary at dinner one Friday night then a few days later she fell in her home and passed soon after that. Mary’s daughter Kelly was one of my babysitters growing up. I couldn’t say a bad word about Mary.
Mary in her obit said the following: “Life is short, too short, (I never want to leave the party!). My parents went to Mary’s funeral at Trinity Lutheran Church where I grew up. Mary wanted a note read where she said that she didn’t know if anything lied ahead for her.
I can’t blame Mary for thinking this way, we think of questions of the Afterlife having to deal with God who resides in the heavens far above us. Let’s admit that many of our critics have a point this can seem quite far-fetched. We might look at our life and see Heaven being a place that we cannot possibly ascend . Heaven for even the grandest of dreamer seems a picture to hard to grasp. Could we actually dwell with the creator of Heaven and Earth?
The picture looks different than either Mary and we can imagine. What if the party that Mary so enjoyed was merely a foretaste of the feast that is to come?
Being a bachelor over the years, I’ve learned that if I don’t cook then, I ultimately don’t eat. So as any cook could tell you the best part about preparing a meal is often the taste-testing to give a sample of what lies ahead. Christ’s first coming and first Resurrection was merely a sampling of the Resurrection that is to come. In the words of the Prophet Ezekiel, we continually look towards the day when the dry bones come out of the ground and start dancing in the streets.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”- John 14:3.
I think as Christian people one of our common mistakes is selling the afterlife short. We imagine it merely being our souls flying around in the clouds. What if I told you that Afterlife was much greater. The Afterlife is not merely a lesser version of our present existence. The Afterlife is rather an inheritance of a world with no pain, suffering, or mourning. The Afterlife is the reception of the great inheritance that God sent his Son to the Cross to bring forth.
I’ll talk to people every day who worry about the future of this nation. I’ll talk to people who worry about the future of God’s people. You maybe cannot imagine that it’s possible that God can come back and turn it all around by ushering in his Kingdom. As John wrote the Book of Revelation, no matter how dark and lonely the night became, John kept on believing God’s plans for him were much greater than even he could imagine.
Let me quote the words of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw on this morning who said:
“You see things as they are and ask, Why?”
“I dream things that never were and ask “Why not?”
Jesus said after the death of his friend Lazarus: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”- John 11:1.
Everyone gathered here today longs for the day of Resurrection. No one wakes up this morning not desiring to see the day where their existence forever changes. We long for the type of change to come into our lives that took place in the life of Mary Magdalene as she encountered the Risen Lord standing outside the tomb. We long for the day when the sea of separation within our lives shall be no more, the day when flowers that are dying come back into the bloom. The day that the sun shines in the sky like never before. We long for the day when a great comfort will come to those who are previously distressed. We look forward to the day when we reunite with those who have gone before us, the day when we shall become inheritors of the great promises that our God gives to us on this day. The greatest of Christian hopes is that a day lies ahead when the sky shall come crashing down.
“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”-1ST Corinthians 15:51-52.
Everything shall change when the sky comes crashing down! A new heaven and a new earth shall emerge. The day when our eyes finally see the long awaited pearly gates and streets paved with gold. On this day, all things from our former way of life shall be made new! Resurrection is coming soon! Amen
 “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was a short-story written by James Thurber in 1939. Mitty’s daydreaming tales were subsequently made into flims in 1947 and 2013.
 Revelation 21:1-6.
 Genesis 11
 Ezekiel 37
 McLarty, Dr.Phillip. “Where There’s Vision, There’s Hope.”. Lectionary.org. 2010. Web. Apr.21.2016.
 Revelation 21:3
 Zingale, Tim. “Heart Prints”. Sermon Central. Apr.2007. Web. Apr.21.2016. Zingale gives really good insight on Revelation 21:4 from the Augsburg Epistles series written by Pastor Robert Borgwardt.
 Revelation 21:21.
 Isaiah 43:19.
First Lesson: Acts 9: 36-43
Responsive Reading: Psalm 23
Second Lesson: Revelation 7: 9-17
Gospel Lesson: John 10: 22-30
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let me begin with a spin on a story told by Vince Gerhardy. Ole and Lena die in a car crash after having been married sixty-five years. Ole and Lena before this had been in excellent health because Lena was a health freak when it came to both Ole and her diets. The thing worth noting about Ole in the story is that Ole was tight with money even for a Swede. Ole’s first question was always “How much is that gonna cost?” So Ole and Lena reach the pearly gates. Saint Peter takes them to their mansion which had everything their hearts desire: a beautiful kitchen, a sauna, a hot tub, and gold-tiled floors. Ole not being able to leave his tightness behind asks Saint Peter “How much is this going to cost?” Saint Peter looks at Ole with a puzzled look then says “It’s free, this is heaven.”
Next, Saint Peter takes Ole and Lena to see the championship golf course in the backyard. This course had the best features of Saint Andrews, Pebble Beach, and Augusta National all rolled up in eighteen holes. Saint Peter tells Ole and Lena that they will be able to play this course anytime they want. Ole wants to know what the green fees are?” Peter replies “This is heaven. You play for free.”
Next, Ole and Lena go to the clubhouse where they see a lavish buffet. This buffet had everything: Prime Rib, Turkey, Swedish Meatballs, rich desserts, and every kind of fatty and rich food imaginable.
Ole again asks “How much does this cost?”
To which Peter getting annoyed says “Don’t you understand Ole? You’re in heaven; it is free.” Ole then asks Peter “Where are the low fat and low cholesterol tables? Peter says “That’s the best part about heaven. You can eat whatever you want and never gain a pound or get sick.”
Ole at this points get’s mad, Ole takes off his hat and throws it on the ground, and stomps on it. Peter is confused by Ole’s outburst. Peter asks Ole “What’s wrong?” Ole then looks at Lena saying “This is all your fault. If it wasn’t for your healthy eating. I could have been here ten years ago!”
Today, we celebrate the fourth Sunday of our Easter season. Easter is the season where we celebrate Resurrection and its meaning. Today we come face to face with the future of Resurrection as we hear of a vision given by John in Revelation 7. A little bit about John’s life before our vision for today. John wrote Revelation while in prison on the Greek Isle of Patmos. John’s crime was being a Christian in the presence of the Roman Government. John was writing to fellow early Christians who had also been touched by pain and sorrow. John had been praying every night to see the signs of hope on the horizon. What John encounters in this vision from Revelation 7 was a picture to give Christian people hope in the here and now. Let me begin this morning by explaining why such a vision was so important.
In 1990, James “Buster” Douglas was preparing for a boxing match against Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson. Tyson was undefeated heading into this fight. Douglas was considered to be such an underdog against Tyson that most casinos wouldn’t even take bets on the fight thinking it to be a foregone conclusion that Mike Tyson was going to knock Buster Douglas out. Twenty-three days before the fight Douglas’ mother dies. Douglas promises to his mom before he dies “That he is going to beat Mike Tyson and become the heavyweight champion of the world.” Douglas’ words would have seemed to be the definition of a foolish promise, but Douglas went to Tokyo for the fight against Mike Tyson believing it. Douglas comes out and shocks the crowd by boxing unafraid. Douglas takes control of the fight; then it happens Mike Tyson launches the big punch knocking Buster Douglas to the canvas. No one had ever gotten up from a knockdown by Mike Tyson ever before, everyone watching the fight thought it was over, yet Buster Douglas would not be deterred because of his vision. Douglas gets on his feet on the “9-count” right before the ref was able to stop the fight. In the 10th Round, Douglas throws a punch that knocks Mike Tyson out. After the fight, Douglas is asked: “How he could win against insurmountable odds?” Douglas replies because of the vision he had given his mother. Vision is the maybe the most powerful tool that we have in life to combat adversity. Vision can keep people like Buster Douglas going when every instinct around them is telling them to give up.
John writes Revelation to several churches in Asia Minor because they need a vision. The people whom John was writing to had lost everything they had lost their loved ones and their property. John’s vision of the future is powerful. Appearing before John in the vision are all the Jews and Christians who had gone before him from every corner of the earth. A vision of more people than the eyes could even begin to count. A vision of serenade with the most beautiful music brought forth by a heavenly choir.
The vision ends with a powerful word of promise. “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”-Revelation 7:17.
As we ponder the meaning of John’s vision. Let’s begin by pondering the meaning of a tear. We shed tears as infants when we’re lying in a crib unable to feed ourselves, clean ourselves, or control our surroundings in any way. We shed tears as children when we fall and hurt ourselves as our pride often hurts more than our body. We shed tears as young adults when our hearts are broken for the first time as we have to come to terms with the realness of separation. We shed tears as adults as we begin to lose loved ones as we realize that our life will not look the same from that day forward. We shed tears in old age as the prime of life has passed us by and we see ourselves begin to die a slow death from everything we’ve ever known. We shed tears at events that we can’t control. Tears more than anything our expressions of powerlessness in a given moment.
In 2007, Social Worker Brene Brown had a nervous breakdown. Brown decides that this midlife unraveling event was going to the motivating factor to bring her back to church. Brown’s hope in going back to church was simple. Brown hoped that all personal pain be gone for her life.
One day Brown was listening to a song on the radio which forever changed her perspective on faith. The song was Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. The lyrics that captivated Brown were “Love is not a victory march. It’s a cold, and it’s a broken Hallelujah.”
Brown as she heard these words came to understand the great truth of the Christian faith that “God is Love.” “Love is not ultimately just unicorns and rainbows.” Jesus is ultimately the son of God because of all the types of people that he poured out love upon Tax Collectors, Sinners, Outcasts, Lepers, people of every tribe and tongue, people previously thought to be unlovable. Jesus reached out to the hurting above all else, who needed a vision of the Resurrection that is to come. The difficulty of pouring out love into the lives of broken people is what is meant by the saying that “Love is not a victory march. Love is a cold and broken Hallelujah.”
As we hear of John’s vision for the future today, this causes us to reflect on the meaning of love and forgiveness within our lives.
As Brown says “The thing about forgiveness is that for it to take place something has to die. This death could take the form of your expectations regarding how the world should work. There needs to be blood on the floor for forgiveness to take place”.
Brown came to realize that the truly powerful thing about faith wasn’t the absence of pain. Faith doesn’t remove the hurt or frustration of the now. Faith does not eliminate the tension between the “now” and “not yet”. Faith rather says that God embraces you in your pain and tilts your head in the direction of Resurrection.
When we hear the powerful promise that “God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.” We understand that God looks out upon our broken world in grief. Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. Jesus wept upon seeing his sisters Mary and Martha in pain. Jesus weeps at the loss of a child. Jesus ultimately weeps at your suffering. Jesus went forth to the cross so that one-day suffering may end and Resurrection may be brought forth.
“We are pressed on every side, yet not crushed; perplexed, yet not to despair; pursued, yet not forsaken; struck down, yet not destroyed; for our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor 4:8, 9, 17,18)Death will always be in the news. The only response that we have in the presence of death is Christ Jesus.
I remember the funeral of the closest person to me that I’ve ever lost my great-grandpa Arvid back in 1995. Arvid’s funeral was the first time that I ever spoke in front of the church. I remember the scripture read during his funeral from 2 Timothy 4: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
What these words reminded me that as I mourned Arvid’s loss at a young age is that one day Arvid would stand in victory on the day of Resurrection. Do not give up on deliverance from the pain of this day. Have faith that tears will be wiped from the eyes of all those who mourn forever.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”-Psalm 23:4
What Jesus is promising today is that ultimately in the end that death will not have the last laugh. We believe him when he said, “I am going to prepare a place for you.” The place that Christ prepares that John’s vision describes will look like nothing that even Ole could ever imagine.
The greatest struggle that we have as Christian people is struggling on the toughest of days with the belief that God might not come through in the end. When I was young, Dad would often be my ride home from school or sporting events. The thing to know about Dad is that he rarely is anywhere on time. So I would wait around long after the other kids had often gone. Was this frustrating? You betcha. I knew Dad would eventually come through whether it was fifteen minutes or an hour. I knew this because he had come through so many times before. My Dad perhaps accidentally taught me a great patience regarding circumstances because of this. What God is saying to John today is “I will come through for you.” “I will wipe every tear one day from your eyes.” It doesn’t matter if life has seen you fed to lions, stoned to death, or burned in fiery furnaces. Where you are today is temporary. Resurrection is coming soon! Amen
 Gerhady, Vince. “A Glimpse of Heaven”. Lectionary.org. 2009. Web. Apr.12.2016.
 Gerhady, Vince. “A Glimpse of Heaven”.
 Gerhady, Vince. “A Glimpse of Heaven”.
 Gerhady, Vince. “A Glimpse of Heaven”.
 Mateusz. M. “Resilency.” You Tube. 2. Feb. 2016. Web. Apr.12.2016.
 “Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Mar.2016. Web. Apr.13.2016.
 Revelation 7:9-17.
 Zahl, David. “Brene Brown Returns to Church (and Finds Jesus Weeping).” 26.July.2013. Web. Apr.12.2016. via The Work of the People.com
 Zahl, David. “Brene Brown Returns to Church (and Finds Jesus Weeping).”
 Zahl, David. “Brene Brown Returns to Church (and Finds Jesus Weeping).”
 Zahl, David. “Brene Brown Returns to Church (and Finds Jesus Weeping).”
 Gerhady, Vince. “A Great Crowd”. Lectionary.org. 2002. Web. Apr.12.2016.
 John 14:3
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.