Hebrews, Craddock, and Apathy
2007-08-14 by David von Schlichten

Fred Craddock has a marvelous sermon based on these verses for Sunday. In the sermon he explains that the congregation for whom Hebrews was written has "lost its Amen." Craddock notes that many congregations lose their Amen, their zeal and passion, but this congregation is not "down on its all-fours looking for it. It doesn't care." The congregation has become apathetic.

The writer of Hebrews, Craddock proclaims, is a pastor trying to revive this congregation that has lost its Amen, has ceased to care.

Part of Craddock's focus in the sermon, then, is on apathy and on showing that sometimes Christians are afflicted with apathy but that, at the same time, there are many Christians who care.

Along these lines, Craddock tells the story of a woman who wants to leave the Church because she thinks no one cares about her. Craddock tries to convince her that people do care. Finally, she says, "Name some people who care about me." Craddock then says to the congregation, "May I give her your name?" and ends the sermon.

Craddock tells another story, which I will put on the "Share It!" site. It's fantastic.

More later.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, poedifier





Initial Thoughts Regarding the Lessons for August 19, 2007
2007-08-14 by David von Schlichten

I went to my weekly pericope group this morning, but we ended up not talking about the lessons. Oh well. We still had worthwhile discussion.

Anyway, here are initial thoughts about this Sunday's readings, especially the Hebrews text and the Gospel.

Hebrews:

Richard Steele's article in Lectionary Homiletics, "Theological Themes," contains numerous valuable insights.

Steele warns against the "de-formative" effects of "spiritual amnesia" and "spiritual nostalgia," the former being forgetting one's heritage and the latter being living in the past (p.22). The passage warns against such deformative practices.

Steele also says, continuing his explication of the Hebrew text, that we look back to Christ as an historical figure, but he is also our "pioneer" ahead of us, showing us how to proceed. Steele says, "We are like oarsmen in a rowboat: facing one way, moving the other" (p.22).

Further, Steele writes of the importance of tradition and community working together. Tradition helps to guide community. Steele then quotes Jaroslav Pelikan, who writes, "Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living" (p.22).

By the way, one may view this entire article for free at the "Samples" section here at this website.

Luke:

This passage is shocking with its anti-family tone. Parishioners will wonder what to make of this passage. The key is that following Christ will inevitably lead to division. The point is not that Christ wants families turning against each other but that families inevitably do so as a result of him.

Indeed, one does not have to look hard in a congregation to find several examples of families in which there is tension and even division over religious practices. For example, there is a wife whose husband makes fun of her for going to church each week while he sleeps in.

As David Tiede says in his Augsburg Commentary on Luke (Augsburg, 1988), "Even God's will to save and to fulfill the promises confronts and exposes resistance and rejection and provokes deep divisions" (p.244).

I'll let you know tomorrow what meditation, prayer, further study and time with my pericope group yield.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, poedifier





Homiletical Questions
2007-08-10 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to Rick Brand (and Rina Terry) for the challenge of questions. I will keep such guidance in mind as I write and revise my sermons to be more challenging.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, poet and pastor





A Good Question
2007-08-10 by Rick Brand

I was asked what are we to do and how are we to preach if we are angry as Rev. Terry and I are.  That is a good question. I have taken a long time to ponder the answer.

I do not make social causes or issues the subject of a sermon. But the implications of so much of the good news of God's grace impacts our our human community and thus on our social agenda.

I think that what Rev. Terry did was the best way? That is we need to ask the questions?  It seems to me that we as preachers need to be the ones who ask the hard questions. Like God in the Garden of Eden?  Where are you?   Why do we make a big deal about bridge safety and then two thirds of us say we will not pay more taxes on gas to fix them?  Why do we want better schools but will not go to PTA meetings?   How can we as God's servants continue to drive cars that get pitiful gas mileage when European cars can get twice our mileage?

It is not necessary for us to have a program or an issue to answer our question. Just ask the question?  Why do we say we want to involve more young people in our churches and then will not sing any of the songs they like?  It would not be appropriate to load a sermon with too many questions but certainly every sermon could have a hard question in it somewhere?  

I suspect that there are those who read this site who have better suggestions than this.





Sermon for August 12 (Luke 12)
2007-08-10 by David von Schlichten

You may want to scan the previous three or four blog entries before reading the sermon, because they show the process that led to this sermon. - Dave

Judgment = Joy

(word count: approx. 900)

 

     Abusive thunderstorms, tornadoes, heat waves, the Utah mining crisis, deteriorating infrastructures, terrorism, war. Is the End near?

     It may be. It is difficult to know for sure. After all, there have always been disasters. For instance, in the mid-thirteen hundreds, the Black Plague killed about 25% of the population of Europe. The disease killed off entire villages. Millions of people died. Many people thought that all the death was from the wrath of God. “This is it. The End has finally come,” people exclaimed. That was almost seven-hundred years ago.

     In the 1800s, here in the United States, we fought a war that lacerated our nation in half. Surely, back during the Civil War, there were people who thought that at least the United States was coming to an end, but here we are.

     It could be that the End is near. It could be that all these problems have arisen because God is furious with us and the Judgment is approaching. But if you think that having a lot of disasters is new, let me assure you that, since the beginning, disasters have been common on this planet and will continue to be. People always think that their time is the worst time and that the past was better.

     I see no solid evidence to support the belief that the End is near, but let's suppose it is. Let's suppose that the End is looming slate-gray on the horizon, about to burst upon us. Let's suppose that Christ is about to return. He is opening the Book of Life. He is getting ready to pronounce judgment on each one of us. You and I stand before towering Christ. He calls your name. He is going to judge your faith and subsequent works. How do you feel?

    Most of us, when we think of Christ judging us on the Last Day, feel fear. We tend to think that the Final Judgment will be frightening because God will confront us about all the ways we fall short. Indeed, the Bible makes it clear that we will be accountable for our actions, even though our salvation is ultimately God's doing, not ours. We think of all our sins, and we get sweaty and dry-mouthed at the thought of God judging us.

     It is understandable that we would feel fear at the thought of the Final Judgment; however, in passages such as our Gospel reading from Luke 12, Jesus says, “Have NO fear, little flock, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Also, in 1 John 4 we learn that the perfect love of God casts out fear. John 3:17 teaches us that Christ did not come to condemn the world but that in order the world might be saved through him.

     Given such teachings, perhaps it makes more sense for us Christians to anticipate the Final Judgment, not with fear, but with joy. Think about that. What if, when you think about the Final Judgment, you feel, not fear, but joy?

     We can indeed feel joy because Christ has given us eternal life, and we can feel joy because we are believers who strive to live our faith through good works. Listen to Luke 12:43. It says, “Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.” Did you catch that? The verse does not say, “Blessed is the slave who is perfect,” or “Blessed is the slave who never does anything wrong.” No, the verse says, “Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.”

     You and I, through baptism into Christ's death and resurrection, are God's freed slaves. Are you working to serve God? I didn't ask, “Are you perfect?” God knows we will not be perfect. Are you working? Could you do more? Sure you could. We all could, but the Bible makes it clear that, when the Master returns, when the End comes, when the Final Judgment dawns, Christ will be looking, not for us to be perfect, but for us to be working as his slaves.

     If we are doing that, then we have nothing to fear. The Final Judgment will not make us jittery but will make us jump for joy. After all, we do not have to worry about getting into heaven, because Christ died and rose to guarantee us eternal life. Further, the Holy Spirit has given us faith; therefore we are able to believe and do good works. Do you believe, and are you showing your belief by doing good works? Then stop worrying about the Final Judgment. For us, God's baptized, saved, sanctified slaves, judgment equals joy. The Final Judgment is, not something to fear, but something to look forward to.

     Given that truth, instead of fretting about whether these are the Final Days, why don't we focus instead on loving God and the neighbor? Instead of griping about deteriorating infrastructure, maybe we can find some way to help with the problem. Instead of thinking that storms mean the End is coming, why don't we make our environment as safe and healthy as possible? Instead of being full of gloom, anger and fear, why don't we focus on making the world better through a faith in God that gives birth to works of love?

     Finally, when the End does dawn, we can sprint to meet Christ, thrilled to see him, confident that the Judgment will mean, not fear, but joy, all because of God.





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