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Born that We No More May Die

I’m having trouble sleeping these days. Part of it is the late stage of being pregnant, but the other part is the pictures that keep running through my mind.
The first is picture of a friend of mine, her significant other and their baby, a baby who was stillborn last week, just before full-term. In the picture, she is clutching the baby, wrapped up, close to her chest and her SO is leaned over them both, his head touching hers and his eyes on the baby. It is a nativity to behold. 
The second image is the Pietà, Michaelangelo’s to be specific. I keep thinking of this image in connection with the violent deaths of the children of Sandy Hook, Connecticut. It is likely that most of those parents were not able to cradle the bodies of their babies- stopped from doing so because of the cause of death and the condition of the bodies. Thus, I think of that image of Mary cradling the grown Jesus and remembering in her mind how she held him so many times before. I know those parents are remembe…

Dressed for Joy (Sermon 12/16)

Isaiah 61:1-11

How many of you know the adage, “Wear clean underwear, because you never know when you’ll be in an accident”? While I do not want to know how many of you follow that rule, I suspect many of you think about what you wear each day. Am I dressed or ready for the car to break down? Am I dressed or ready if I had to sit for a while and wait? Am I dressed and ready for walking around the store, getting gas, watching a toddler, changing a tire, having lunch with a friend?
This is a question I ask myself all the time. Especially as the number of clothes I have that fit begins to dwindle, I ask myself, “Is this what I want to be wearing for a hospital visit? For an emergency call? For pastoral authority in the office?” Sometimes I’m not dressed, or I don’t feel like I am, for what I need to do.
On Friday, after the initial shock of the news out of Connecticut, I was thinking about opening the church into the evening for prayers. When I decided to do that, I was wearing jeans and …

Advent Ache (Sermon 12/9)

Joel 2:12-13, 28-29

Here’s the funny thing about Christmas- the holy days, not the holiday- it’s the shortest church season we have. Even if Lent starts early, Epiphany is still longer than 12 days. Lent is forty days. The Easter season is fifty days. The season of Pentecost or Ordinary Time goes on past twenty weeks. Advent is four weeks. Christmas, as church season, is short.
Many of us get tired of seeing the Christmas things all around us long before we show up to mark the birth of the Savior and our true expectation of God’s completion of that good work in Christ’s return. Christmas can get old before it gets here and yet we’re uncertain what to do with Advent. (How many have Advent wreaths in their homes?)
Frankly, I’m feeling very Advent. I go into Safeway and I hear, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Yet all I can think about is the number of suicides that have been in the news this week.
I enter Fred Meyer and hear: “I really can’t stay (Baby, it’s cold outside). I g…

Advent Lions (Sermon 12/2)

Daniel 6:6-27
Talk to me about the war on Christmas. How many of you are having a hard time finding Christmas decorations? How many of your family members have met you in back alleys to exchange cards, hoping to be undetected? Other than the icy roads, who was worried about coming here today? Has anyone been so deluged by Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa commercialism that they just felt unable to get a word in edgewise for the Christmas holiday? Anyone?
It is hard for me to listen to rhetoric about the “war on Christmas” and think about religious persecution around the world that happens today, both to Christians and non-Christians. It’s hard for me to listen to rants about the “war on Christmas” and to read about Daniel at the same time. Here is a story about real persecution and real faith. A story about a young Jewish exile, likely born in Babylon, never having seen Jerusalem… he serves under four kings, the first two of which change his name- not calling him by his Hebre…

Mind the Gap

This post originally appeared here as "Second-Class Baptism" on 22 November 2012. 


         In the fall of 2005, I was an exchange student from Yale Divinity School to Westcott House, a member of the Cambridge Theological Federation in Cambridge, England. It was quite an awakening for this Lutheran. Despite knowledge of some of the rifts in the Episcopal Church (USA), I had very little awareness or comprehension of the major theological divides in the Church of England. In the wake of the recent decision (11/20/12) by the General Synod of the Church of England not to ordain women as bishops, I have recalled learning about those divides, specifically through a speech I heard that semester. 

During my time in Cambridge, I went to an event sponsored by Women and the Church (WATCH) to hear speakers arguing for the ordination of women as bishops. One speaker, whose name is lost to my memory, gave a carefully constructed and passionate speech about baptism and vocation within the ch…

Hemmed in Thanksgiving (Sermon 11/18)

Isaiah 6:1-8
There are many details in this story that can be distracting. Who was King Uzziah? What exactly does a seraph look like?Why is Isaiah’s call to be a prophet happening six chapters in, instead of in chapter 1? All of these are good questions, but not ultimately what this short passage is about.
Isaiah is in the holy of holies, inside the innermost part of the temple. He is a having a vision or an experience, where the shapes on the Ark of the Covenant are slowly transformed until they are no longer carvings, but are revealing to him the activity that happens around the throne of God.
When Isaiah says, “Woe is me…” This is not a Charlie Brown-kick-the-dirt kind of grousing. It’s a gulp of terror. To see God, in Hebrew Scriptures, is to know that you are about to die. No one sees the face of God and lives. Isaiah has nothing to offer; yet what happens next isn’t based on what he can bring. It’s based on what God can do and how Isaiah responds.
God’s attendants come and purify…

Grace: Motivator or Excuse? (Sermon 11/11)

Jonah 1, 3-4
I do not love the last line of the hymn “O Zion, Haste”: “Let known whom he has ransomed fail to greet him/ through your neglect, unfit to see his face.” That makes me itchy all over, in part because I think salvation is not my job. I don’t save people. Jesus has saved people. Isn’t that the point of grace? That it’s available to all people and we don’t work for it.
Yet what is grace, saving grace, costly grace, grace that comes from death and resurrection, if I don’t know about it? What does it mean to me? Furthermore, what does it mean to the person who knows, but doesn’t think it is worth talking about every day? What does it mean to the person who knows about grace, who believes grace is amazing and true, but not quite amazing and true enough to risk anything for it? What does grace mean to the person who loves benefitting from it, but not enough to take a message of grace to people who ache for grace, people in a place like Ninevah?
The story of Jonah has a very speci…

Election Day Prayer: Recessional

Recessional


God of our fathers, known of old,       Lord of our far-flung battle-line,    Beneath whose awful Hand we hold    Dominion over palm and pine— Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,    Lest we forget—lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies;    The Captains and the Kings depart:    Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,    An humble and a contrite heart. Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,    Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Far-called, our navies melt away;    On dune and headland sinks the fire:    Lo, all our pomp of yesterday    Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!    Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,    Lest we forget—lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose       Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,    Such boastings as the Gentiles use,    Or lesser breeds without the Law— Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget—lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust       In reeking tube and iron shard, All valiant dust that builds on dust,    …

Around the Edges (All Saints Sermon)

1 Kings 17:1-16
A famous theologian once said, “You should preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” That can be tough, because then in one hand I have stories of droughts and floods, wars and struggles between ruling parties, unexpected deaths, people struggling to make ends meet, and people longing for justice… and is that the hand that holds the newspaper or the Bible? Sometimes, it can be hard to tell one from the other without looking carefully and remembering what each one is supposed to do. The newspaper shows us a world that longs for God’s kingdom to come or has forgotten its promise. The Bible reminds us of the promise and shows us God’s actions through history, so that we have a foundation on which to base our hope in and expectation of God’s future actions.
If the Bible were like other history books, today’s reading would be about Ahab’s reaction to the prophet Elijah. We would have a detailed account of the king’s comings and goings and how other, …

Sunday Prayer: All Saints

A reading from the Wisdom of Solomon (3:1-9)



But the souls of the righteous are  in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them. 
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster, 
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace. 
For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality. 
Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; 
like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt-offering he accepted them. 
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble. 
They will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign over them for ever. 
Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect.



A Statement of Faith for All Saints Day

We believe in God, who brings creation out of chaos, healing out of brokenness, light out of darkness, and life out of death.
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son and our Lord. Jesus came into the world for teaching, for healing, for reconciliation, and to announce the reign of God’s kingdom. Though his work was opposed, even unto death, the Word of Life could not be silenced. He was resurrected for the sake of all, including we who are gathered here. We await his return in glory and we continually look for his presence in this life. We trust this expectation is not in vain.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, giver of the gifts of community, communion, and consolation. The Spirit preserves our hearts in the midst of things we cannot understand and connects us to the cloud of faithful witnesses, who are our encouragement. The Spirit shapes us as God’s people and gives us faith and courage to respond to the gifts of mercy, grace, and healing until we reach the place our faith move…

Amazing Grace

Today a visitor came to church, sat alone, thumbed through the hymnal before the service and during communion.

After the service, he asked someone to help him find the thing he'd found about confession. Several people, including myself, tried, but failed. He kept looking for nearly half an hour before he found it and signaled to me.

He had found this section of Luther's Small Catechism:
What is confession? Confession consists of two parts. One is that we confess our sins. The other is that we receive the absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God himself and by no means doubt but firmly believe that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven. 
He pointed this out to me and said, "Do you do this?"

"Do you mean, am I the person, the pastor, who would assure you of God's forgiveness?"

"Yes." He then went on to name some struggles and then said, "Can you, as the pastor, give me forgiveness?"

On a Sunday where we…