Action Matters: the Goats and the Sheep

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Last Sunday, I spoke about the end of the Church year and the beginning of a new Church year. This is the last Sunday of the Church year, Christ the King Sunday, where we celebrate Jesus the Christ (God) and his reign over our world.

I warned you that we were not having warm and fuzzy texts for the next several weeks. It is a struggle to consider the ‘Separation of the Sheep and the Goats” ‘good news’ (or ‘gospel’). It is always challenging to hear texts that separate us.

It is also challenging for many to hear a text where God and Christ are referred has holding positions of authority and power using words like “king”. It might be unsettling, because we have and are bearing witness now to people in positions of authority and power who have abused it for bad, for wrong,  and for evil.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 12, 2017 in Uncategorized


Priests, Tax Collectors, & Prostitutes Walk into a Bar…


The chief priests, the tax collectors, and the prostitutes all walk into a bar.

It sounds like the start to a bad joke, right? We’ll get back to that.

This text today reminded me about a continuing education event I went to in Minnesota shortly after starting here at Gloria Dei. The theme was “Religious But Not Spiritual”, as a play on the often uttered, especially here in the Pacific Northwest, “Spiritual But Not Religious. We had three main speakers:

  • A sociologist of Religion who studies the social trends of churches, such as their attendance, their giving, and their culture as every church has its own culture.
  • A systematic theologian who sits with, studies, and ponders the organized and structured beliefs/teachings of a tradition, such as Lutheranism.
  • Nadia Bolz-Weber, a popular ELCA pastor whose gained fame for NOT fitting the typical mold expected of a Lutheran pastor. She is the founder of the House For All Saints and Sinners in Denver Colorado.

I appreciate Nadia Bolz-Weber’s honesty, particularly her emphasis that the goal of the church is (or should be) authenticity.

Our text reminded me of this event because one workshop tried to blend these different perspectives to answer a question that all Mainline Christian denominations are asking:

  • Where are the twenty and thirty year olds?
  • Where are the young families?

Sounds familiar, right? Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on October 2, 2017 in Sermons


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Conflict Grounded in Love


This week we have a common text for our gospel. It is one we all have heard and know. It gives a practical way for dealing with disagreement, conflict, or tension not simply within our church community but also within our own personal lives. Jesus is teaching his disciples this method.

First, the translation “member of the church” does not give the full understanding of it. It is adepheos, or “brother”, such as Philadelphia is the “City of Brotherly Love”.

This text is about what to do when tension, conflict, or wrong-doing has happened between you and a brother or sister. We have all experienced the tension of conflict. It is not warm, fuzzy, or comforting to experience, and yet it is a part of our everyday, normal, ordinary life. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on September 13, 2017 in Sermons


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Call and Mission of the Cross


Due to technical difficulties, you get this sermon summary instead.

I begun my sermon talking about last week.

Peter has a bold confession about who Christ is; Christ is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, and the Son of the Living God. This bold confession becomes “the Rock upon which the Church is built”.

Peter is also given the keys. In Roman Catholicism, those keys stay with the Church and the priests. While in Protestant traditions, those keys belong to the Priesthood of All Believers. The keys of grace, of mercy, and repentance which unlock a treasure of forgiveness, absolution, and reconciliation with God and with neighbor.

Immediately afterwards, Jesus begins to teach his disciples about where the path of his ministry is leading.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on September 4, 2017 in Sermons


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The Rock and The Keys

The Rock and The Keys

We have several different things in our texts, including the chance to jump through several rabbit holes of questions, answers, and discerning what the text is trying to teach us in our time and place.

I want to focus on two significant images/symbols in our texts: the Rock and the Keys.

The “Rock”:
In Isaiah 51, we’re told to look to the “rock” from which we were curved out of or came from, and then it talks about Abraham and Sarah, our ancestors in faith who witnessed to God, who God is, and God’s power throughout our history. We think of this “rock” as a foundation, which is strong and unmoving.

In the Gospel, we see the “rock” again. During the biblical times, the power of a name was extremely significant for you named a child after qualities you hoped the child would have. In our Scriptures, there are times when a person’s name is changed because who they “are” is not necessarily who they are being called to be. We witness this in our Gospel. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on September 1, 2017 in Sermons


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Pride and the Canaanite

Pride and the Canaanite


There are weeks when you look at the texts and know there is a deep connection to what is going on in our world, in our time, and in our place. Sometimes it would be easy to walk away from the connection, to ignore it, and to find something more warm and fuzzy to preach on OR you can decide to preach the hard sermon hitting it head on.

This is one of my favorite stories in the Gospels, perhaps my favorite in the Gospel of Matthew particularly. We have this woman, who her and her story, serve as a turning point in Matthew’s gospel. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on August 21, 2017 in Sermons


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Called onto the Water


Our texts this week are very rich. There is a lot find within all of these texts, but especially our first reading and gospel. I was thinking about what direction to take this:
What part of the story to focus on?
What can we take away in our time and in our place today?

I don’t think we focus enough what happened before we got to this section of the gospel. Jesus has just healed sick people. Jesus has just feed over 5,000 men, not including the women and the children who were also gathered.

It is easy to overlook that before Jesus did all that, he was looking for a quiet place. He was looking for way to escape the crowds, and perhaps even his disciples, in order to mourn and grieve the death of John the Baptist. However, he put his own need for quiet,  solitude, prayer, and what we would call self-care for the sake of those gathered around him.

This is something that we, as caregivers, tend to do. We put our own needs and care on hold.

Jesus sends the disciples away and dismisses the crowd. He realized he is out of energy. He doesn’t want and long for solitude, but it is essential for him to carry on his ministry.

Jesus sends the disciples ahead of him on a boat. The weather turns bad with waves and wind beating up against the boat. The disciples, most of them, had been professional fisherman. They would not have necessarily enjoyed this weather, but it probably would not have scared them.

Suddenly, the disciples see a man walking on water towards them in the distance. I’m guessing this is a sight they had never seen before and a sight none of us have seen before. The disciples become fearful thinking they must be seeing a ghost or a spirit, not bone and flesh, walking towards them.

Jesus repeats one of the most common phrases in all of scripture, appearing 365 times, “Be Not Afraid”.

The disciples realize it is Jesus. Then Peter excitedly and anxiously shouts “Lord, I want to be right next to you. If you command it, with everything I have seen you do, I’ll be able to walk on the water and come out to you”.

It is as though Christ says “come, if you want to but…alright”.
We get an one word reply from Christ, it is “Come”.

Peter steps out of the security of the boat and his company of friends. He is doing well, for awhile he stays on top of the water walking towards Christ. His focus is right there on Christ, which is what we emphasize in this text because when Peter realizes what he is doing the logical/rational part of his brain reacts. He starts thinking “Wait a Minute! I am Human! I cannot be walking on the water!”. He starts to sink. He screams out to be rescued and Christ extends his hand, rescues him, they both get into the security of the boat, and the storm starts to settle.

Walking on water is no easy task. A couple of years ago, at the Highlander festival, I was put into one of the big, blow-up hamster balls. Then, it was put into a kiddie pool of water and I was to walk on the water. If I ever had the illusion that I can walk on water, it was shattered that day. It was quite amusing to watch, there is even video of it on our Facebook page.

Walking on water is not an easy task. The thing is you lack control.

It is no secret that I am OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), is it is an anxiety disorder often flaring up when I feel like I am not in control. I often explain that when things in my life out of control, which is always, I need to control what I can. It is usually that my home is clean and organized.

Peter may have had a similar experience. He is out on the water, when suddenly he realizes that things are out of his control. So, what does he do?  He tries to take control of the situation, instead of continuing to walk towards Christ he starts sinking.

How often do the storms rage in our own lives, externally and internally, that make us realize that we’re not in control?

How often do we respond to that by trying to take control?
If not over the whole, at least what we can?

How often do we feel over-whelmed as though we are sinking?

I hadn’t thought about until reading a commentary this week, but  Peter leaves his boat of comfort risking everything to walk on the water because of his faith, or trust.

How often are we willing to get out of our comfort, safety, and security?

How often are we willing to leave the support of family and friends readily available to help us weather all the storms?

How often are we willing to step out and head towards what Christ is calling us to?

I think often times we do not.

Christ calls us to many things such as our Baptismal promises:

We’re called to speak out against injustice.
We’re called to speak out against hate.
We’re called to act with compassion and mercy.
We’re called to love and to serve.

How often do we risk our comfort to live into those promises?
How often do we risk our comfort to live into those callings?

I think we have more opportunities to follow Christ in such a way, but we do not do it.

My encouragement for us this week is to think about the times that we do or do not get out of the boat or our comfort . May we be assured that if we begin to sink, God is always there to rescue us. Amen.

Scripture was Matthew 14: 23-33.
Originally preached on 13 August 2017 at Gloria Dei (Kelso, WA).

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Posted by on August 15, 2017 in Sermons


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