Torn Apart
2012-01-02 by Rosemary Beales

Thank you, David . . .I like your connection with Gen 1 and the light. I also focus in that reading on the "separation"  - how God separated the light from the dark (and later would separate the waters above from the waters below.) Like you, I love the power and verve of the Markan baptism account -- esp. the verb rendered as 'torn apart' in the NRSV. The lives of those baptized are torn apart into "before" and "after," even if they are "cute little babies." Their lives after baptism are different because they are called God's beloved and charged to live in covenant with God - a demanding covenant that expects them to see the "beloved" in others. Immersed in the Christian life, soaked in the stories of scripture, they (we) are "marked as Christ's own forever." Torn apart from the life that might have been, we are made whole by love. 

At least that's where my musings are taking me today. 





Initial Thoughts for January 8, 2012, the Baptism of Our Lord
2012-01-01 by David von Schlichten

JESUS' BAPTISM has been a conundrum for many of us in the Church. Why was Jesus baptized? Was he being a role model for us? Did the baptism teach him something about himself? Why does it matter to us that our Lord was baptized?

OUR BAPTISM: We preachers often use this day to reflect on baptism in general. One message that people need to hear is that baptism confers upon us humans an identity-change that demands a change in our behavior while also empowering us to make that change.

Genesis 1: God's voice creates light. The Word of God produces light that leads us. How does the voice of God generate light in our lives?

Acts 19: What does it mean to receive the Holy Spirit? We How can we tell if someone has the Holy Spirit?

Mark 1:4-11: Jesus' baptism features the ripping open of heaven, the descent of the Spirit in dove form, and the Voice declaring that the Son is the Beloved with whom God is well-pleased.

The ripping open of heaven foreshadows the ripping of the Temple curtain at the end of Mark. In both cases, we have the tearing away of a boundary between God and people.

The Spirit's descent is not a gentle lighting but a swooping penetrating.

In other words, the baptism of Jesus is not a sentimental moment but a shocking moment, and the same is  true when some cute little baby gets baptized.

Baptism is shocking, radical, an exorcism, an inversion and invasion, not something cutsy, thanks be to Trinity.

What thoughts do you have? Feel free to email me or to submit a post for possible publication.

Wishing the Orthodox a Merry Christmas, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Sermon for January 1, 2012, New Year's Day, Name of Jesus
2011-12-31 by David von Schlichten

 

Sermon on the New Year and the Name of Jesus

for St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church,

Youngstown, PA

with Sunday January 1,  2012,

Name of Jesus,

with the Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten

(word count: 786)

The Name and 366 Days

January 1, 2012: Today we focus on Jesus’ name. The angel Gabriel told Mary that her baby’s name must be Jesus, which means “God saves.” When the baby was born, Mary and Joseph did indeed name the baby Jesus.

As is often the case with names, Jesus’ name points to his identity. He is “God saves.”

How exactly does God save us through Jesus? Of course, most importantly, he saves us through dying for us to give us eternal life. The baby grew up and died on the cross to rise again so that we could live forever in heaven. Our sins no longer drag us down to hell. Jesus has cut us loose so we can, by God’s guidance, fly to heaven. Sins: forgiven. In the strong name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, so we have freedom and power because of the strong name. We have life forever because of the baby whose name is “God saves.”

But Jesus is not just “God saves” for the next life. Jesus saves us in this life, too. How does he do that, how does Jesus save us in this life? Jesus saves us by comforting, teaching, challenging, and encouraging us in this life. In this life, Jesus saves us from ignorance and foolishness by guiding us through Scripture. In this life, Jesus saves us by responding lovingly to our prayers. In this life, Jesus saves us by strengthening us through each other. Even though we sometimes squabble and annoy each other, Jesus is still here, working through us, using us to make each other’s lives better. In this life, Jesus also saves us by feeding us his body and blood, what the Book of Concord calls the real presence of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion.

How else does Jesus save us? How else does Jesus live up to his name, God saves?

Just think: because Jesus is God saves, has saved you, you have a new name, a new identity. You have an identity that is perpetually new all throughout the year. Through baptism, God showers you into a new life, a new identity, a new name. Your name is now “Child of God.”

Hold fast to that name throughout this year.

On February 5, remember that God Saves has won the championship, has won the trophy, has defeated Satan and made you into an eternal champion. Jesus has won us a place on God’s team, and we are to respond by playing, by loving one another. May we live up to the Name.

On March 20, remember that God Saves has ensured that, no matter how brutal the winter, spring will always come. With God, winter never lasts forever. Sooner of later, spring comes. It always does. May we be spring for others. May we live up to the Name.

On April 15, may we respond to the love of God Saves by finding new ways to volunteer to help others. May we live up to the Name.

            On May 27, may we respond to the love of God Saves by allowing the Spirit to kindle in us a new dedication to live up to the Name by finding new ways to take care of each other and the rest of creation.

            On June 16, may we bloom in response to God Saves. May we journey home to remember whose we are. May we live up to the Name.

            On July 25, may we respond to God Saves by praising God for all the saints who have come before us. May we live up to the Name.

            On August 17, let us respond to God Saves by vowing to be safe and loving for all the vulnerable, including children, animals, the elderly, the poor. Live up to the Name.

            On September 12, let us respond to God Saves by cherishing our special, golden relationships, showing people we hold dear how much we value them. Live up to the Name.

            On October 11, let us respond to God Saves by remembering to unother one another, not treating others as inferior to ourselves, but valuing all people as equal. Live up to the Name.

            On November 6, we shall respond to God Saves by casting votes in accord with God’s will, striving to help our nation be a place of love, justice, and mercy. Live up to the Name.

            On December 21, we shall respond to God Saves by savoring anew that Christ was born in the dark to assure us unending light.

The Name. All 366 days. Time is short. By God’s power, let’s get busing living the Name. Alleluia!





Sermon Ideas for January 1, 2012
2011-12-28 by David von Schlichten

Name of Jesus: The name means "God saves." How does Jesus save us besides forgiving us our sins and granting us eternal life? Of course, forgiveness and eternal life are the highest of gifts, but Christ does indeed save us in other ways.

You could preach on the power and significance of names, especially names for God. Muslims, I believe, have 99 names for God, by the way.

It's Still Christmas: How does one celebrate Christmas after the festivities are over but the season continues? How do we celebrate Christmas without the celebrating seeming perfunctory or tired?

One way might be to pick up on the idea of newness in the year and juxtapose that with the newness of the Birth. New Year's Day can be a day for rejoicing over how the Birth makes us new.

RESOLUTIONS: Through Christ, God made us resoution to us, and God, unlike us, does not break resolutions.

PAST AND FUTURE: It is easy and tempting to be pessmistic about both, but the Christmas story calls us to be theoptimistic. We take the stonings and murdering of the innocents very seriously, while also rejoicing over the Birth, including by living the Birth.

NUMBERS 6: The Aaronic blessing. What does it mean to pronounce a blessing? Doesn't God always shine upon us, look upon us with favor, and give us peace? Why do we need to pronounce a blessing then?

PSALM 8: This psalm reminds us of how we small we are, how special we are, despite our smallness (thanks be to God), and how big of a responsibility we have to care for God's creation.

What ideas do you have? Feel free to email them to me or to submit them for possible publication here.

Joining a gym, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Sermon for Christmas Eve, Luke 2:1-20, December 24, 2011
2011-12-22 by David von Schlichten

 

Sermon on the Birth

for St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church,

Youngstown, PA

with Saturday, December 24,  2011

Christmas Eve, Year B

with the Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten

(word count: 872)

 

Go to the Manger

                Your life is demanding and exhausting. You work all day. You never quite have enough money. You are sick of taxes. Your neighborhood is full of crime, people stealing from each other or killing each other over nothing. You are furious with the government, which is full of bickering and out-of-touch leaders. Disease, fighting, poverty, injustice. People drinking too much and loving too little. You kneel and pray, “God, don’t you care? You say you love us, but then you let us struggle and suffer? How long, O Lord? Why have you forsaken us?”

            Then, one night, you are lying in bed, unable to sleep. Something is different. Everything looks, sounds, and smells the same, but you can feel trembling deep within you. Then, a clatter! Men in the streets. Gruff voices, yelling, cussing. You leap up and open the door. Shepherds run through the streets saying something about having seen angels. You follow the shepherds from a slight distance. They are large, smelly, muscular men who have a reputation for being crude and tough, so you don’t want to get too close. As you walk behind them, others come to the front door and ask what’s going on or yell, “Quiet down! We’re trying to sleep!” Some people also follow the shepherds. You see a couple Roman soldiers yell for people to quiet down, but nobody pays attention to them for once. You make your way past a fire around which some rowdy drunks stand. Eventually, you come to one of the inns. You follow the shepherds around back to the stable. These large, beefy shepherds are on their knees before a baby lying in a manger, a food trough. Next to the baby sits in the hay a girl of about fourteen and a man of about twenty-two.

            One of the shepherds says, “An angel told us that this is the savior. Then a whole army of angels filled up the sky. The light was so bright, it was like morning. It was terrifying. We had to come and see the baby the angel told us about. Awesome.”

            You step forward. All the world’s gloom and injustice and bad news, but here, in this sacred moment, here, is beauty, holiness, hope. Here, in this moment, is the savior. The world is still full of pain and fear, but now you have the baby who brings new life, joy, and peace.

            Your life is demanding and exhausting. You work all day. You never quite have enough money. You are sick of taxes. Your neighborhood is full of crime, people stealing from each other or killing each other over nothing. You are furious with the government, which is full of bickering and out-of-touch leaders. Disease, fighting, poverty, injustice. People drinking too much and loving too little. You kneel and pray, “God, don’t you care? You say you love us, but then you let us struggle and suffer? How long, O Lord? Why have you forsaken us?”

            Then, one morning, you get up and go to the manger by going to church. You haven’t been going. Frankly, you’d rather sleep in. Your life is busy. You get so tired. Sleeping-in sure would feel good. But today you don’t. You think, “It’s the first Sunday of the month, so there’s communion today,” and you sure could use some holy communion. The world is often rough and strange, and it is easy for the soul to get weary. Holy communion is, among other things, nourishment, energy, for the soul. The body and blood of Christ, the real presence of God himself in, with, and under the bread and the wine. Holy communion. Just as we meet the baby Jesus in the manger, so also do we meet Jesus in the bread and wine. So you drag yourself out of bed. You get your shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, feed the cat. You climb into your car. As you drive to church, you start to feel nervous. Your heart speeds up, because you don’t go to church very often. What will people think when they see you there? You decide not to worry about it. You want to go to worship; this is not a time to worry about what people think. You pull into the parking lot. You swallow hard, step out of the car.

            Now you sit in worship. You think, “This is God’s house. God is here in a special way that I can’t experience anywhere else, and key to that experience is holy communion. The body and blood. Food and drink for the soul. My soul sure needs some food and drink.”

            During communion, you walk forward. You kneel, hold out your hands. The pastor puts the wafer in your hands, and you think of Christmas. Think. Just as the baby Jesus was in the manger in Bethlehem, bringing hope and new life to a heart-aching world, so also now Jesus comes to you in the bread. That wafer in your hand is the body of Christ, is the same Christ who lay in the manger. Each Sunday during worship, especially during holy communion, is Christmas all over again, giving you strength, hope, life, love. Take and eat. Christmas every Sunday.





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