Sermon Thoughts for April 22, 2012; Earth Day and Easter
2012-04-18 by David von Schlichten

Jesus Christ redeems, not just humans, but all of creation. Moreover. in our reading from Luke 24, the writer emphasizes that Christ is not just a spirit but a physical being. Thus, the passage reminds us that the physical, including the natural, is not evil. The dichotomy between the spiritual and physical is false.

The natural realm, including our own bodies, is good, even though it is fallen, and it is lifted up from its fallen state through Christ. Therefore, it makes sense to honor Easter by doing, among other things, that which helps to care for the planet.

Christ brings new life to all of creation through the resurrection, and we are to pattern our environmental efforts after the resurrection. Reduce, reuse, recycle a la resurrection.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Thomas and More
2012-04-11 by David von Schlichten

Yes, yes, there's doubting Thomas, although, if we examine Thomas as he appears throughout the gospel of John, he's not really much of a doubter. In John 11, he is all set to die with Jesus. In John 14, he asks Jesus how they can know the way to the place where Jesus is going. Not much doubting in either case. He may be a little confused, but his faith seems in tact.

There's much more for the Sunday after Easter besides Thomas.

Acts 4: Biblical socialism anyone? Now there's an intriguing message to preach.

1 John 1 speaks of how, if we say we have no sin, we are just kidding ourselves. Denial. If we confess our sins, though, God will forgive us. It would be nourishing to preach on denial, acknowledgement, and the healing that comes with confession.

John 20 has way more in it than Thomas. We have Jesus giving us Peace. What is this peace? What does it look like? How do we live it? What does it do for us? Hmmm.

The disciples also receive the Holy Spirit in this passage. Who says we can only preach Pentecost on Pentecost? With the Holy Spirit comes the ability to forgive sins or to withhold forgiveness. There's forgiveness again.

What are you thinking of preaching on this Sunday?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Fiery Snakes and Numbers 21:4-9
2012-03-15 by David von Schlichten

Yes, the snakes come from God in this passage, but they really come from the Israelites' sin. What snakes do we bring upon ourselves, and how does God save us from them?

There are the obvious snakes, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and material greed. What are some others?

The Israelites are complaining against God. I don't think the passage is saying that complaining against God is necessarily bad. After all, elsewhere Moses himself complains to God (is "to"God different from "against" God?) and does not get afflicted with snakes. Perhaps, though, the passage is warning that complaining against God can turn into snakes, such as when we give up on God.

I am unwilling to preach that God sends snakes to punish us. The death and resurrection of Christ is the cosmic game-changer that frees us from such punishments. However, I am willing to preach that we transmogrify our sins, including our excessive and disrespectful complaining, into that which injects venom into us. Unchristian complaining can be lethal.

Thanks be to God that Christ metamorphoses our sin into salvation through being lifted up on the cross.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Sermon Thoughts for March 11, 2012
2012-03-05 by David von Schlichten

Exodus 20: What are some idols beyond the usual? For instance, when is family an idol? When is our health an idol?

Why is it OK for God to be jealous, but not us? Is God's jealousy different from ours? Does God exhibit righteous jealousy?

What do we often misunderstand about the Ten Commandments? It seems to me that we often think of the Ten Commandments reductively. Here are these ten rules. I need to follow them or else. Period. What are your thoughts?

1 Corinthians 1:18-25: What are ways that we experience cross-wisdom, which looks like foolishness, in everyday activities? 

John 2:13-22: Does this passage about Jesus cleansing the Temple imply that violence can be an acceptable method of problem-solving? As a pacifist, I hope not. What do you think?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Sermon for 1 Lent, Year B, February 26, 2012, Genesis 9:8-17
2012-02-25 by David von Schlichten


Sermon on Genesis 9:8-17

for St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church,

Youngstown, PA

with Sunday, February 26, 2012,

First Sunday in Lent, Year B,

with the Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten

(word count: 845)


Part One:



            Our Sunday sermon series for Lent will be based on the word “green.” Today we will feature a word that begins with “G,” the first letter in the word “green.” On Ash Wednesday, I asked you to suggest G-words. Many of you complied, and I have chosen one of the words you suggested to be the key word for this first Sunday in Lent. I’ll share that word with you shortly.

            We love rainbows, don’t we? [Sing a couple movie rainbow songs.] When a rainbow appears, our spirits rise. We look out our windows. We stop what we’re doing. We know what causes rainbows, but they still seem like magic.

            Our first reading, Genesis 9:8-17, explains the origin of the rainbow. The passage teaches that, after the great flood, God promises never to destroy the world by flood again. God resolves to place the rainbow in the sky as a sign of this promise. In verses fourteen and fifteen, God announces, “‘When I bring the clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant . . . and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.’” In verse sixteen, God says again that, upon seeing the bow in the sky, God will remember the covenant, the promise not to destroy the world by flood.

People tend to think that the rainbow is God’s reminder to us of the promise not to destroy the world by flood, but the Bible actually says that the rainbow is a reminder to God not to destroy the world by flood? The rainbow is a reminder to God. Isn’t that strange? God never forgets anything. Why would God need a reminder?

            One writer online suggests that the rainbow functions like a wedding ring for God. Listen to this. I wear a wedding ring. I don’t need a wedding ring to remind me that I’m married. It’s not like I forget that I am married and then look down at the ring and say, “Oh, that’s right. I have a wife.” No, the wedding ring is a symbol of the wedding. It represents Kim’s and my promise to each other. Perhaps the rainbow functions the same way. Like the wedding ring, the rainbow is a symbol of God’s commitment to us.

            And this symbol of God’s commitment to us is something that we are to respond to with—and here’s our G-word—gratitude. The rainbow reminds us that God promises not to destroy the world by flood. God shows us grace, and we are to respond with gratitude. When we see the seven-colored bow, we say, “Thank you, God, for your amazing grace. We are full of gratitude over your display of mercy. Thank you.” Gratitude.

            Indeed, we are always to express gratitude, for God without pausing shows us love, mercy—grace. Gratitude is in the foreground of my thinking at the beginning of Lent. You see, during Lent we focus on repenting of our sins and then expressing gratitude over God forgiving us. During Lent, we focus on the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for which we have endless gratitude. After all, it is through Christ’s victorious sacrifice that we have eternal life, even though we are unworthy of such gifts. Throughout these forty days, let us adopt as a Lenten discipline extra attention to showing God our gratitude for God saving us and forgiving us, baptizing us, teaching us, and feeding us Holy Communion. Think of all the ways God cares for us. Thank you, God. Gratitude!

            I am full of gratitude for the many miraculous, astonishing ways God uses us in the Church to do gracious deeds. For instance, yesterday, you, the people of Saint James, held a breakfast benefit for a person in need who is not even a member here. God used you to raise over $2000 dollars to help a man in need of a kidney. God used you to do an act of grace. For that I am full of gratitude.

            Part of being full of gratitude is continuously striving to love God and neighbor. There are many ways to show that love. One way is by caring for the planet. This Friday, the movie The Lorax will be released in theaters. That story urges us to take care of nature, and taking care of nature is indeed one way we show our gratitude to God for the love God shows us. This Lent, what can you and I do to help care for the planet as part of showing God our gratitude? Cut back on our food waste? Shorten our showers by five minutes? Reduce the amount of driving we do by ten percent? Be better about turning off lights and the TV when we are not using them? What can we do for the planet to show our gratitude to God?

            God’s bow reminds us of God’s amazing grace. I see the rainbow now, and it leads us to the cross. For that we have the greatest gratitude. That's something to sing about.

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