HOLY WEEK AND THE SETON HILL WOMEN'S LACROSSE TEAM BUS TRAGEDY
2013-03-22 by David von Schlichten

At 8:50 AM on March 16, a tour bus carrying the Seton Hill University women's lacrosse team to a game ran off the PA Turnpike, through a guardrail, and into a tree. The bus driver was killed. Pregnant coach Kristina Quigley was flown to the hospital, where she and her baby also died. Many students were injured, some seriously. At least one is still in the hospital. 

I teach at Seton Hill, where I am also a campus minister. This past week has been painful, as you can imagine, yet it also has been a week of extraordinary comfort. We in the community have supported each other, and we have received support from all over the nation. For instance, many college women's lacrosse teams across the country have worn Seton Hill colors as a show of support. Thank you.

The story of Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection teaches us how God gives us eternal life, but it also teaches us how God brings resurrection out of death in this life, too. We suffer horribly, but God transforms our suffering into healing, comfort, strength, and calls upon us to be God's agents of transformation.

I don't believe that everything happens for a divinely ordained reason. i do believe that God suffers with us and changes the suffering into healing.

In the words of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, "Hazard, yet forward," our college's motto.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





LENT, POPE FRANCIS, SHERYL SANDBERG
2013-03-15 by David von Schlichten

Pope Francis is extraordinary for all his firsts, and even more extraordinary for his down-to-earth nature and humility. In his initial speech as Pope, he asked the people to pray for him, and he encouraged them all to get a good night's sleep. He seems so approachable and unassuming. May meditating upon the suffering and death of Christ help us to be the same.

Sheryl Sandberg is also my new hero. She is the COO of Facebook who just published Lean In, a book in which she encourages women to stand up for themselves more so that they don't get overshadowed in the male-dominated workplace. (She thinks men need to change, too, of course.) In general, she encourages us all to value ourselves and make sure that we are respected.

So we are to be humble like Francis while also standing up for ourselves like Sheryl.

In other words, be like Jesus.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





LENT AND "IN PURSUIT OF THE B+"
2013-02-22 by David von Schlichten

In Pursuit of the B+ is not just the name of my forthcoming book (yes, I'm making a shameless plug) but is also a theme we are focusing on at Saint James this Lent.

Pursuing the B+ means striving to do things very well but not striving for perfection (the A+). Many of us are A+ minded in one or more areas. While generally there is nothing wrong with striving for an A+, sometimes our doing so leads us to be unloving toward others and ourselves. When we are so bent on perfection that we become cruel toward one another and the self in the name of attaining perfect, Satan has a good laugh.

A B+ mentality, by contrast, still means endeavoring to do very well (after all, the goal is a B+, not a D, C, or even B-), while also being forgiving and patient when the B+ is unrealized.

This Lent, we at Saint James are focusing on serving God with Grace in mind, laboring for excellence but being patient and forgiving with ourselves and others when we don't make the grade.

We are also considering that, in most instances, B+ really is good enough. Most things in life do not need to be done perfectly to be more than satisfactory.

Finally, this Lent, we are meditating upon the Truth that, despite the fact that we humans have an F when it comes to salvation, Christ's A+ saves us.

God frees us to be B+!

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





TEMPTATION AND LUKE 4:1-13
2013-02-16 by David von Schlichten

 

Sermon on Luke 4:1-13

for St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church, Youngstown, PA

with Sunday, February 17, 2013,

First Sunday in Lent, Year C,

with the Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten, D.Min., Ph.D.

(word count: 851)

 

B+ and Temptation:

Mercy, Part One: M for ME

 

            This Lent, each Sunday we will focus on a different word, one for each letter in the word “mercy.” Since the word begins with “M,” we will start with an M-word, which I’ll share soon.

            Today’s gospel is the story of the Devil tempting Jesus in the wilderness. Each time the Devil tries to trip him, Jesus responds by resisting with the help of quoting Scripture. When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years, they fell to temptation over and over. When the Devil tempts you and me, sometimes, by God’s grace, we succeed; often we fail. But when the Devil tempts Jesus, Jesus always succeeds. Adam and Eve could not avoid sin in a garden, but Jesus avoids sin in a desert. Jesus is our mighty fortress against the Devil.

            Among other things, Lent is a season during which we focus anew on what tempts us, on how God leads us not into it, and God’s flowing forgiveness in response to our sins. Many of us take on disciplines to help us become better morally and spiritually. We examine our weaknesses, what tempts us, and, by God’s power, endeavor to overcome them.

            So what tempts us? Alcohol, overeating, smoking, drugs, adultery. Many of us are tempted to place money or career over God or family. Gambling is a huge temptation. While there is no harm in a little bit of gambling, the activity can quickly destroy our lives. Gaming, too, can ruin lives. When a person neglects job, relationships, health, or hygiene to gamble or game, she or he has fallen into the Devil’s grip and needs help now.

            What tempts us? One especially strong temptation resides in the desire to please others. Now, to a point, there is nothing wrong with wanting to please others. One reason why I make the bed, go grocery shopping, and empty the dishwasher is that doing so pleases Kim. Of course we can work to please others, but doing so can lead us into sin.

            For instance, when we worry so much about pleasing others that we are not true to ourselves, we are guilty of a deception, a lie, a sin. Granted, sometimes we have to compromise ourselves, but, overall, we are to be true to who we are. What has God called you to? What are your strengths, your passions, your weaknesses? Who are you? God calls us to be honest with each other. God does not call us to be phony.

            Do you worry so much about pleasing others that you misrepresent yourself? How can you share yourself more, be truer to your authentic self? The Holy Spirit summons us to share who we are, our unique gifts, for the common good. “To each is given a manifestation of the Holy Spirit for the common,” the Bible says. Are you sharing that manifestation? Are you true to yourself, or do you hide in the name of pleasing others?

            Now we come to our M-word, me. Each of us has a ME, an authentic self that God calls us to share with others for the common good. What is your ME from the Spirit for the common good? In other words, what gift has the Spirit given you? What is distinct about you. Do you share that with others, or are you too worried about criticism and rejection?

            Look, not everyone is going to like you, and there will always be people who will criticize you. The sooner you can be OK with that truth, the better. In fact, the more you do, the more people will criticize you. So what? Why does criticism bother us so much? A criticism is just someone’s opinion. If it’s valid, learn from it and move on. If it’s invalid, forget it and move on. All the while, share with others the ME that the Spirit has given you.

            Indeed, our calling as the baptized is not to please everyone. Our calling is to please God. We are to love according to God. What’s your ME that you have received from the Spirit? Find that and share it, and if people find that pleasing, great. If they don’t, too bad. I know: easier said than done. With practice, though, we can reach that point of not fretting over what people think.

            Who are you? Here’s an exercise. Find a song, a picture, a paragraph, something that says ME. Find it. If you need to, ask people to help you. Know who you are. Know the ME. Then ask yourself, “Am I sharing that with others for the common good?” Then do that. Share that ME. Resist the temptation to please everyone. Resist that temptation.  

            When here on Earth, Christ certainly was not worried about pleasing everyone. Christ healed, proclaimed the truth, cared for the poor, associated with hookers and thieves, concerned about serving God, not about pleasing everyone. Christ went to the cross, not to please people, but to save everyone.

            What tempts us? Christ forgives us and then says to us, “Now go, and resist temptation, and don’t worry about pleasing everyone.”





Psalm 71 and the Value of the Elderly; Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year C
2013-02-01 by David von Schlichten

Psalm 71 features an elderly person reflecting on h/his life with God. The psalm points to the value of the religious elderly, those who have lived well and thus are models for the rest of us.

I'm thinking that my sermon this Sunday might be a celebration of seniors. Often we in the Church fixate on getting the young people more involved because they're "the future of the Church" (such a faulty phrase). Of course young people are important, but what if a congregation decided to try attract more seniors?

This Sunday may be a senior celebration.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





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