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Nice Work on Sermon
By David Howell
When I was 15, I was really unraveled. And could not write that well if I wanted to...
That is a well knitted sermon. Keep it up!
Knitting with God
By Alexandria Brant
Knitting with God
Alexandria "Nuggy" Brant (age 15)
St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church,
June 28, 2009
(text: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15)
A few weeks ago I approached Pastor Dave about possibly shadowing him and he immediately brought up preaching and I thought wow. Hmmm. As we did more and more visits and meetings and such I got nervous. Then he gave me the date, and holy cow! June 28 of this year? What?
As I started writing my ideas down, I realized that giving to the poor and those in need is the main focus in the lessons, so I wrote my sermon on that topic. However, I then realized that yes giving money to people who have too few is important, but I didn’t feel that that was what I wanted my full sermon to be about.
In second Corinthians a dysfunctional congregation needs to raise money to give to a congregation in need in Jerusalem. Paul writes in second Corinthians, that the congregation in Corinth does not have to give money to the congregation in Jerusalem but that Paul is testing the genuineness of their love. In other words, Paul is saying, “Hey, Corinthians, you don’t have to give to the people in Jerusalem, but if you really love God, you will do the right thing.”
But the passage goes on to say that there shouldn’t be pressure on the Corinthians, so what is Paul trying to say? Should the Corinthians give or shouldn’t they? Is Paul saying that, as long as you give to those in need when it’s convenient for you, that all is well and you can take the rest of your money to buy something big and expensive that will impress your friends? Will that really do anything for God? No. But that’s not to say that God does not want us to have nice things. So what is Paul’s point?
Paul is saying that God wants all of his children to have what they need, and it’s our job to serve God and help our brothers and sisters. Our needs are to be met, but we are also to make sure that other people’s needs are met. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:13, there is to be a fair balance.
Of course, we’re not just to give money. Sometimes we can give people a fortune without spending a dime.
I learned a lot from shadowing pastor, but I think the most important thing that I took away from our time together was not something that he was trying to teach me. He taught me that you can give to people without even going out of you way, just by giving them your time or even by just complimenting them. It makes them feel good even when they're having a bad day. We didn’t go anywhere where pastor didn’t compliment at least 3 people, and as he walked away, every person had a smile.
I don’t think that 2 Corinthians was only telling us to give our money to the poor, but I think maybe just giving to people in need, and I don’t feel that it only meant money. For example, when Pastor and I went to the nursing home, the lady we visited was clearly very lonely. Listening to her talk and talk and tell us every story in the world I realized that she was in need. But she didn’t need money; she only needed our time, but she was in need.
I think that that may even mean more to God: if we are not just throwing our extra money to our brothers and sisters but we are letting them know that we care about them and God cares about them. Especially in this hard economic time it may be harder to give your money, but you do need to remember that the harder it gets for you it keeps getting harder for the poor, too. But if you don’t have quite the same amount, try to serve God and help your brothers and sisters. In addition maybe you could take more time to give it to someone in need.
What if that person in need was your mother you would not leave her to be lonely or depressed or starving, would you? No, you wouldn’t. And the Gospel shows us that Jesus considered everybody family. Even when that unclean outsider touched his cloak he did not get angry. He simply addressed her as daughter and showed her kindness, as we all should do. Because everybody needs help sometimes, you just need to hang in there. God will send you help even if it’s through the last person you expected. He will come through for you. Besides, in special ways Jesus takes care of our needs through baptism, holy communion, the Bible, sermons, prayer, each other, and, most importantly, by dying for us so we will live forever with him. Although everyone experiences hardships, God is there and blesses us so much more than I feel we give him credit for.
To help us appreciate how much God does for us, I want to talk about knitting. I love to knit and have been doing so for years. Think about yarn [holds up yarn]. By itself, it cannot become, say, a chemo cap or a dish towel. The yarn needs knitting needles [holds up giant needles] and someone to do the knitting.
That’s how we are. By ourselves, we are just yarn, unraveled. We are all in need. Then God comes and picks us up and knits us into something beautiful and useful [holds up blanket]. We are to help people in need, with money, with time, with love. Likewise, God helps us by knitting us. Amen.
Who Is God
By David von Schlichten
Sermon on Job and Mark 5:35-41
at St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church
in Youngstown, PA
on Sunday, June 21, 2009,
Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
The Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten
(word count: 980)
Who, Then, Is This?
What did you think of the storm we had Wednesday night? That was frightening, wasn't it? There was a church that got struck by lightning. A church. Hm.
Did God cause that storm? Frequently, when wild weather hits us, many of us wonder if it is an expression of God's wrath. Is God punishing us? Or, something bad happens – you get cancer, a child gets hit by a car, I lose my job – and we ask, “What did I do to deserve this?” Have you ever asked that or heard someone ask that? “What did I do to deserve this?” That question often points to a belief in God punishing us. “I must have done something wrong, and that's why I am suffering.” We tend to think that way, that bad things happen as a punishment from God.
Poor Harriet used to wonder along those lines. In the last several years of her life, she had trouble with her eyesight, her hearing, and her health in general. When I would visit her, she would occasionally say, “I don't know why all this is happening to me. I lived a good life. I was a good person.” Do you hear that? She believed that she had been a good Christian, so she could not understand why she would be suffering. In other words, she wondered what the relationship was between her goodness and her suffering.
In the book of Job, Job has the same struggle. At the beginning of the book he has lots of money, possessions, and family. He also is a righteous person, devoted to God. Then Satan has a talk with God. God says, “Hey, Satan, what do you think of Job? He's really great, isn't he?” Satan replies, “Whatever. The only reason Job is devoted to you is because you have made him prosperous. If you took away all his prosperity, he'd turn on you in a NewYork minute.” So God allows Satan to take away all of Job's possessions, money, and everyone in his family except his wife. God also allows Satan to afflict Job with sores.
Job is a mess. He has almost nothing. His friends come to him and say, “Job, you must have done something wrong. That has to be it. God is punishing you for being a bad person.” Job says no. Like Harriet, Job refuses to believe that he is suffering as a punishment, because that belief just does not make sense to him. “I don't know why I'm suffering. I do know that it cannot be a punishment, because I haven't done anything to deserve this.”
You know what? Job is right. We know why Job is suffering. He never finds out why, but God does announce at the end of the book that his friends are wrong. In other words, in the book of Job God makes it clear that there is no tidy relationship between suffering and punishment. Why do bad things happen to good people? We don't always know why, but we do know that it is wrong to assume that the bad thing happened as a punishment. The truth is, just as Job never finds out why he suffered, often we do not find out, either.
Oh, we can ask God why. Job does. So does Jesus from the cross when he asks, “Why have you forsaken me?” We can ask God why we are suffering, but Job never finds out why, Jesus does not receive an answer from the cross, and we may not receive an answer, either. It might be that everything happens for a reason, but much of the time we will simply not know what that reason is.
While he never gets an explanation, Job does get a response. God does answer him, but not in the way Job had been asking for. Starting in chapter 38 God gives Job a long, tough, poetic answer in which God basically says, “I am God, you are human. My ways are higher than your ways. You need to trust that I am in charge and that I know what I am doing. Who are you to doubt my wisdom?” God essentially says, “Trust my wisdom.” Then God restores to Job double of what he had lost.
Trust God's wisdom. We are out on a boat, and the windstorm roars. The waves beat into the boat so that the boat is already swamped. We are sick to our stomachs, terrified in our hearts, as we scoop up buckets of water and dump them overboard. We radio for help but receive no response. The lifeboats are gone. The boat called the church is in danger of capsizing. Satan swims around us, ready to swallow us whole, his dorsal fin ominous.
“God, why is this happening? What have we done to deserve this?” We cry out the why, but receive no explanation. At times, when we cry out to God, the answer we receive is silence.
However, we also receive strength. God our loving Father has rescued us from the storms of Satan through the waters of baptism. Our Father carries us through baptism away from death and into life. Our Father sends us the Holy Spirit to enable us to have faith. Our Father teaches us the comfort and guidance of the Bible and sermons. Our heavenly Daddy feeds us a meal of body and blood. In addition, our Father blesses us through prayers and hymns. our Father gives us each other to feed each other, listen to each other, visit each other, call, email, pray for each other. “Look after each other,” our Father says. Our Father says, “See the hungry? Give them this day their daily bread.”
Finally, at the end, we shall walk into haven, liberated, because the Father sent the Son who has saved us through death.
“Why am I suffering? What did I do to deserve this?” God answers, “Let me help you.”
Crazy and Sane (and Homosexuality)
By David von Schlichten
Sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:13
at St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church
in Youngstown, PA
on Sunday, June 14, 2009,
Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
The Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten
(word count: 1049)
Crazy for God, Sane for Each Other
Have you ever been crazy about someone? “She is so hopeful, so intelligent, such a defender of the needy, so gorgeous. I am just crazy about her.” Have you ever felt that way about someone?
Do you feel that way about God? Do I? Crazy about God. Our second reading, 2 Corinthians 5 says in verse thirteen, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God [ . . . ]” In other words, if we are out of our minds, overcome, it is because of God. God is making Paul and his fellow Christians crazy, wild. Paul is crazy for God, out of his mind because of God. God arouses Paul to spiritual ecstasy.
Feel yourself bubbling with craziness, with ecstasy, because of God. Imagine being so full of joy and excitement that you just cannot get enough of God. What would that be like?
Part of being crazy about God is marveling over God's greatness. The phrase in 2 Corinthians 5:13 that reads “if we are beside ourselves” can also be translated as “if we are amazed” or “if we are surprised.” If we are amazed or surprised, 2 Corinthians says, it is because of God. Indeed, part of being crazy about God is finding God amazing or surprising or both.
Do you find God amazing and surprising? Think of all that God does. When we stare at the ocean's vastness, when we walk deep in the ancient coolness of the forest, when we laugh until it hurts with people we like, when we eat corn on the cob, when we smell the coming thunderstorm, when we contemplate the flag, even when we are alone in the quiet, listening to our own breathing, we can praise God. We find God amazing and surprising. Ponder all that Father, Son and Spirit does for us.
God liberated us from death by enduring the absurd horror of the cross. We have eternal life in heaven's jacuzzi, all because God is amazing and surprising. “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” Amazing!
Part of being crazy about a person is finding that person amazing and maybe surprising. Part of being crazy about God is finding God amazing and surprising.
Another crucial branch of our craziness for God is our love for other people. Listen again. 2 Corinthians 5:13 says, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God. Then the verse adds, “[I]f we are in our right mind, it is for you.” If we are in our right mind, it is for you. Paul is addressing the congregation in Corinth. He says, “We are in our right mind for your sake.” In other words, when we are dealing with you, the neighbor, we are careful, thoughtful, clear-minded, right-minded.
Why are we right-minded when dealing with the neighbor? Because God commands us to love the neighbor, even when she or he does not love us. We want to strategize about how to care for each other so that we do what is most loving. After all, the passage goes on to say that we are no longer to regard one another in a human point of view, that is, in a sinful, fleshly point of view. Because of Christ, we are now to regard each other in a new way, a way of love, a way of clear-headed, careful, thoughtful respect. We are in a new creation, so we live in a new way.
As Alex Brant wrote last week in her summary of this lesson, “When you see new people you should not look for their flaws or ways that they are different from you but look for what you have in common with them since you are both the children of God.” Because we are God's baptized children, we are to regard each other, not from a fleshly, sinful point of view, but in our right minds.
Indeed, a crucial part of being crazy about God is being sane for each other. Think about it. If we are crazy about God, then we will want to be sane with one another so that we can love others as God wants us to love them. Part of being crazy about God is being sane for each other.
Just picture about how much better we'd get along in the Church if we responded to our God-induced craziness by being as sane as possible with each other. We get so irrational with each other in the Church at times. We sit down in a room to discuss, say, homosexuality, and soon people are yelling at and insulting each other. Satan laughs. “That's right,” he says. “Fuel that division. I love it.”
What if, instead, we all sat down in that room and discussed homosexuality with sane, level, right minds? We could take turns, listen before speaking, sincerely strive to understand each other instead of sitting there plotting our next attack. This week at synod assembly we will discuss this issue. Pray that we can do so in a right-minded way.
We allow our emotions to be seeds that sprout into weeds that choke one another. Instead, our craziness for God is to be the seed that grows into a loving sanity.
Sometimes, though, we fall short. We lose our tempers. We lose our sanity and so are nasty and thoughtless toward each other. The Good News is that God is quick to forgive us when we fail, because God is crazy about us. In fact, God was crazy about us long before we became crazy about God. Indeed, God's mad-love makes ours possible. 1 John tells us that we love because God loved first. Do you understand? We can be crazy about God because God was first crazy about us and still is.
The next time you look in a mirror, ignore your flaws. Remember, instead, God is madly in love with you, loves you so much that he died on the cross so that all of us can live forever.
Because God is so crazy about us, we can be crazy about God, and we can express that craziness in part by being sane toward each other. God makes the plant grow.
Rick and Abiding Love
By David von Schlichten
Thank you for your sermon's exhortation that we are to be loving toward others if we wish to experience the love of God. Such a message calls us from passivity and the ever-popular victim-mentality to taking action, abiding.
As Dr. Phil says, "If you need a miracle, be a miracle." Amen.
I hope others will give Rick feedback.
Also, I look forward to seeing folks at the festival in Atlanta. Woo-hoo!
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
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