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.





Initial Thoughts for Christmas Eve/Day
2011-12-19 by David von Schlichten

Preaching for Christmas is overwhelming initially, because how do we say anew what everyone thinks they have heard a bizillion times?

Here are thoughts about Christmas that most people in the pew probably will not think of:

1. The Incarnation. The idea that God--the same God who created the universe and parted the Red Sea and all of that--came to Earth as a baby is pretty extraordinary. The God of the planet Kepler 22-B is the same God who was in the stable as a pooping, crying infant.

2. Mary as the bearer of God. God uses a person to bring God into the world. Incredible! How does God use us to bring God into the world?

3. The birth of Jesus matters because it makes possible the death and resurrection of Jesus. Good Friday and Easter are the reason for the Christmas season.

4. Jesus' birth does not just lead to eternal life (although that is no small gift). The birth also transforms our present lives. It inaugurates a new age of intimacy with God. Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. How does Christ being with us in this new way transform our present lives?

5. Where and when in our lives do we find ourselves at the stable, and how do we respond? In other words, how does the story of the birth become a type (dangerous word, I know) that recurs throughout our lives?

What thoughts do you have?

Frantically shopping,

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Sermon Ideas for Advent 4B on December 18, 2011
2011-12-14 by David von Schlichten

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16: David wants to build God a house, but God doesn't really care about having one. Instead, God promises to make David's house last forever. When do we offer God something that God did not ask for? How does God respond? What does God give us that exceeds our expectations?

Christ's birth exceeds our expectations. Christ does not just come into the world to save us from the Romans. Christ comes to save us from death.

Romans 16:25-27: Christ's coming is the revelation of the secret long held. That is, God's salvation project is revealed by degrees, revealed in stages. How is that project continuing to be revealed? For instance, is the inclusion of homosexuals a new stage of the salvation project of God?

Luke 1:26-38: You are Mary. The angel comes to you and declares that you are the bearer of God to the world. How do you respond? How will your life be different? How do you nurture and raise Christ?

What thoughts do you have?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





4 Advent is not Pre-Christmas Christmas; Value of Pageants
2011-12-11 by David von Schlichten

What would it be like if we celebrated Advent in, say, August? Most us in the Church tend to think of Advent as preparing for Christmas, but Advent, as many of us chuch leaders know, is really a season that focuses on the comings of Christ, past, future, and present.

It's tempting to make the Fourth Sunday of Advent the de facto beginning of Christmas (In fact, at my congregation, we're having our Christmas pageant that day.). However, the Fourth Sunday of Advent is, well, part of Advent. How do we proclaim an Advent message that day without falling into a Christmas message, or do we not bother trying?

CHRISTMAS PAGEANTS: I'm going to sound like I'm raising my Ebenezer Scrooge here, but let's face it: pageants tend to be trite, and the kids are almost never loud enough, except when they're singing off-key. So what is the value of Christmas pageants, besides providing an opportunity for people to gush over our children's cuteness? I'm not saying that we shouldn't have pageants. I'm just wondering what you think of them.

Christmas pageants are often in lieu of the sermon, but do they function homiletically?

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

Counting calories, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





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