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Trinity Lutheran Church, midway between Grand Marais and Grand Portage along Lake Superior's North Shore invites you to Worship; it is here that we celebrate the power of God among us who creates, heals, forgives, inspires

9:00 a.m. Sunday morning—be in worship to Celebrate the good news of God’s great love in Christ Jesus, and God’s defeat of death!

6:30 p.m. Wednesday Evening -- a quiet 30 minute service of psalms, songs, hymns, and times of silence for contemplation and prayers..

Located at 4957 E. Highway 61, Hovland, MN 55606 midway between Grand Marais, MN  and the Canadian Border our phone # is 218-475-2439; Pastor Kris Garey has been our Pastor for almost 12 years.

Worship is central to who we are and how we strive  to meet live-out our Mission in Christ; here we celebrate the power of God among us who creates, heals, forgives, inspires

 

Easter in the new Narthex at Trinity

Easter in the new Narthex at Trinity

SUNDAY JUNE 24 5th Sunday of Pentecost:  

Job 38:1-11  The creator of earth and sea

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 You stilled the storm and silenced the waves of the sea. (Ps. 107:29)

2 Corinthians 6:1-13 Paul’s defense of his ministry

Mark 4:35-41 Christ calming the storm

 

Upcoming on Trinity's calendar of Mission in Christ:

 

Each year we provide quilts for Cook County High School graduates who live in Hovland.  June 24, we will be inviting God's blessing for quilts for 4 graduates who live  in the Hovland area. The quilts will be delivered soon; finding a Sunday that worked for the graduates  to join us proved difficult this year. Thanks to those who sewed the quilts and prayed for the graduates as they did so. We will also lead Worship at the Cook County Care Center, and enjoy fellowship with the residents (12:30 - 1:45 p.m.)

 

July 7and 8, Hovland Art Festival    the Art Festival features many local and regional artists and crafts-folk. At Trinity, we help support the Art Festival by serving lunch from 11 - 3 on Saturday, 11 -2 on Sunday.   Proceeds are used for our many ministries and for our new addition. Each year we join the fun https://www.facebook.com/hovlandartsfestival.

 

August 12, 2018 DEDICATION SUNDAY -- We will have a festive Sunday of Worship and Fellowship; please join us as we Dedicate our new space and remodeling, built so that we may serve Christ more widely by serving others more widely. 

 

Widening our space to  widen our  ministry...October 2017

Widening our space to widen our ministry...October 2017

Trinity Lutheran, Hovland--the stained-glass in full and glorious sun the Wednesday after Easter Sunday

Trinity Lutheran, Hovland--the stained-glass in full and glorious sun the Wednesday after Easter Sunday

Christmas Eve Texts:

Gospel: Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]

God’s greatest gift comes as a baby in a manger. Angels announce the “good news of great joy” and proclaim God’s blessing of peace.

1In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
  8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
  and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
[
  15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Sermon, Oct 12, 2017Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14  Jesus tells a parable indicating that the blessings of God’s kingdom are available to all, but the invitation is not to be taken lightly.

1Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”

 

 

Preaching 10 12 17   Matthew 22:1-14

Showing up without the wrong robe over your clothes gets you kicked out? And not only kicked out, but into the darkness.

Really?

That seems – downright nasty!

What the heck was Jesus intending when he told this parable?

Who would ever accept another invitation if getting kicked out into the outer darkness was the outcome for not showing up with the right attire?

But

maybe this parable has nothing to do with fabric or style or choice of color—in fact, maybe this parable has zippo to do with clothing at all.

But maybe it has everything to do with invitation, repeated and repeated…and then extended out beyond those who would have thought themselves ones who could expect to be invited to suddenly meaning inviting everyone standing in the streets to a banquet feast for all—

Whoa. 

Well, then there’d be no telling who might show up, or what they’d be wearing…except

I don’t think this parable has anything to do with a clothing.

But it does have to do with the most frequently used word in the parable,

Invited. Invitation. Invite.

Invitation to being gathered in…included…gathered in…

But

Maybe the invitation carries with it an invitation not just to a banquet, but to going into a changing room.  Well, except, it isn’t about clothing…so…what is going on? 

It starts out, remember, with folks who had been invited choosing not to come.

And after a second invitation, they want so much to just keep on with life as they are used to it, that they thumb their nose at the inviter, ignoring that he has prepared with great deliberation a rich banquet…and to top off the insult, the non-attending invitees kill some of those who had brought the invitation. 

But the invitations still don’t cease.

This is where the parable of Jesus can get so hard to figure out—

for all of a sudden the king in the parable has the city burned by troops, but at the same time is  having his servants going into the main intersections of the city streets, still intent on invitation.   And who gets invited?  Everyone they come across, both the really good folks, and the really wicked folks.

Whew.  Couldn’t we just spend time with the Old Testament reading from Isaiah today?

Where we hear that God is, “a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress…”

Well we could find refuge there, but

then we’d miss out on exploring this absurd parable of Jesus…

And we’d miss out on what Matthew is pointing us to about Jesus. See, Matthew wrote about 50 – 60 years after Jesus life, death, and resurrection and ascension;  

And by the time Matthew was writing the city of Jerusalem was burned, and the Temple of God had been destroyed by troops of the Roman Empire.  

And now, Matthew and the group of people Matthew was with in faith were trying to make sense of life as they knew it. And they found themselves at odds

Over what it means to follow Jesus.

And who following Jesus changes us to be

when we become clothed not in our own clothing

but in Christ.

So Matthew looked at this parable of Jesus with the eyes of one

Experiencing the parable…

Just as we so often interpret the parables and life and death and resurrection of Jesus with eyes of our experience…

Which we need to do,

for all of Jesus is about our own life and our own life times…

But we also need to know that Matthew tells the parable with particular angle—just as Luke tells the same parable but with a slightly different emphasis. 

The king still sends messengers out and as in Matthew, the first invitations are ignored,

But in Luke the messengers are told, “go out at once and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame”

Oh my…in those times, those would have been the last invited let alone included anywhere—if they ever would have been invited at all.

So the clothing that the one man at the end of the parable is wearing isn’t the problem.

For the all at the intersections would have included the poor and the blind and the lame and all those others filling up the banquet hall at the last moment wouldn’t even have had a change of clothing—and whether in Matthew or Luke, many of those invitees who finally showed up would have no robe to change into….

So maybe, in Jesus’ parable that seems about a person with the wrong clothing,

Jesus is telling invitation, banquet, God's grace—and how we are to let it change us!

 

Maybe the parable was trying to help people see

Be clothed in Christ,

and be changed.

In faith in Christ we are to let ourselves be changed.

We are to let ourselves be different.

So that we ourselves and

those who see us

see

that

we are not to doing of our own choosing,

but of the choosing of Christ--

and then we are to let ourselves be the gentleness of Christ being made known to everyone.

We are to see our hearts and minds set not on what we want,

But on what Christ commands

and are in Christ to be guarded by the peace of God,

which surpasses all understanding

so that we can open up the banquet halls of our lives to all.

 

Maybe that was the clothing the man at the banquet

decided not to put on.

Maybe those are the clothes that we at times

do not dress ourselves in—maybe we just hang on to our own wants of how to be, who to be.

Ahhhh but

God’s grace comes to us in Jesus

and Jesus came to us that we might allow ourselves

to see all people as those who receive invitation…

So that we can extend gentleness in Christ

peace in Christ…

beyond where we would imagine ourselves doing.

Sound familiar, like a parable?

Sound absurd?

Go back to simple invitation and big meaning:

And go back to Isaiah…for from scripture we learn the deeper meaning of scripture…

Christ who is our bread of life, who feeds us with forgiveness and love and understanding knew these words of Isaiah…

“The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food….and will wipe away the tears from all faces….

This is the Lord for whom we have waited, let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Or as St. Paul puts it: 4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 

Go out into the world, people of God, sent with the gentle absurdity of the good news of God in Jesus.  Feast on Christ in communion with one another, for you each and all are invited to the banquet Jesus has prepared.  Rejoice in the Lord.

Let us pray, “Clothe us anew in you,  O Christ.  Open us to being changed, give us gentleness, remind us you are near.”   Amen.

Preaching Holy Trinity Sunday, June 11, 2017

Preaching Holy Trinity Sunday, June 11, 2017

 It is Holy Trinity Sunday !  Our church’s namesake day,

For Father, Son, and Spirit of God are part of the rock and wood of our building

And are primary to life and to our life together in faith…

But…

I just have to tell you something I found out, and it relates to God, and to

something I learned in elementary and high school,

about

of all things, colors…  

because I’d heard a comment about how many colors the human eye can sometimes perceive…

and that it varies from person to person…

and it turns out that the three primary colors I’d learned of in school,

red and yellow and blue

with shadings, varieties,

can become thousands of hues and tints

All from three

Besides which

sometimes you can feel the color difference—

you see, for different dyes can give a different feel to thread or paper or wood…

From three, then, a multitude of appearances and feels…

Thousands of possibilities…

So from three primary colors, who knows how many possibilities…

So much more than we imagine with our humanness…

And now…

YES

Its Holy Trinity Sunday !

The Holy Trinity of God that is Three but is One…

That is Three all in One

And is One which without Three is not fully One…

Holy Mystery,

Yet how fine

That God would choose

To be to us, Three

So we see

There is interaction intrinsic to God

But also

By the three mysteries of Father Son and Spirt

We come to know that God’s interacting self

does not separate into distinct columns or pages or single colors…

for God is always One, Always Three…

And the interacting weavings of God are endless…

 

So I got to thinking,

About three …

And a picture came to mind, of

A Russian sleigh pulled by three sturdy horses across

A troika it is called, and it flies across snow filled frozen forests and fields…

Because of Three, pulling together…

 

And another photo came to mind, from long ago, of a team of three sled dogs,  

Bringing mail and folks and goods

up the narrow trails of Cook County

 

And then to mind came children, jumping rope, three needed:

two at either end of twirling ropes, one who at the right moment

skips into the ropes and jumps

then jumps out of the ropes and switches with one of the twirlers, without the ropes ever stopping…..

and  then I thought of here, at  Trinity Lutheran…

and three -

People in the kitchen

Doin up the dishes

Ones hauls the water

One washes carefully

One dries thoroughly

Three enjoy mightily

Chatter, chores, and 

choosing Time to be together

Time together

Being together…

 

And then I thought of three travelers,

Three journeying across hills towards Bethlehem

Three Wisemen    Who Came to see a babe in cradle small within a cattle stall

And then somehow,

From three to four we go,

For God’s word God sends out

to all of north and east and west and south  

and then to numbers more and more

for God saying let there be light, and let there be sky and let there be water and let there be earth and vegetation and living creatures and let there be human kind made in our image…

and God keeps on speaking…saying…

Let us in Triune unity create anew each day

And so it was that we too are born

To be with one another

To worship with each other

To grieve with each other

To support one another

To hold one another

To rely on one another

To call out to one another

To invite new each others …and say

Over on your side of the mountain

Who is there

On your side of the ocean

 Who is there

On your side of the forest , who?

To Join in with us, in this day…

 

Mimicking in our little human way

God’s Holy Trinity calling out to us…

 

you there

in forest on ocean or on far-off coast

you there

on mountain side or mountain top or far off  mountain  dream

you there

to you, God says, I call

I, one as God of God, Spirit of God, Son of God

Am Three in One, One in Three

And

Call to you…

I who

Am Holy Trinity

Am three in one, one in three

And in this United Threeness Trinune Trinity

add

Each

Of you

So That the divine Trinity of God presence, holy by essence

As Creator redeemer sustainer

becomes

known to you, is Holy to you.                                                 

 

Ahhh….God gives to us…

Welcome

And the surprise

That more than sun

Of light is seen or warmth is felt…

More than night of cooling air and darkness for sleep is known

God is Present…

And all creation

More astute than us mere human ones

Knows…

That we are within the Presence of God

The One who is three

Who is

The One

Who is Primary to all of Life…

And gives us reason

More than all else

To nod in mystery and say to God, who is with us always..it is good, and to proclaim…

O Lord, Our Lord, How majestic is your name …   Amen.

 

Preaching Easter 2017  
       John 20:1-18 
Seeing the risen Christ; 

Acts 10:34-43 God raised Jesus on the third day

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Clossians 3:1-4 Raised with Christ to seek the higher things

 


It is Easter  morning !
Lovely morning day when, even when, as today, clouds across the sky are cast…

First light shows forth and reminds us

This is a day that the Lord has made…let us rejoice and be glad !

For even when sun behind the clouds remains

We see

The day has come, dark of night is done, light has penetrated shut up mind and eye…

 

How is it told in the Gospel of John?

Mary Magdalene, early on the morning of the day of the week after Jesus had been crucified,

Bravely

while it was still dark…hardly able to see except to rerun again and again

what her eyes had taken in the days before:

crucifixion scenes that would terrify and haunt and keep awake the most stalwart of minds…

yet this morning, fatigued and worn, Mary Magdalene, in the dark of a morn after Jesus had been crucified to shouting taunts from voices that may have continued  to jeer as Jesus lifeless body was taken down, rolled in cloth, sealed away

in tomb so strong that it would hold away from life

even sight of the body that when alive

had seemed to bring to Light of Life itself.

For Mary Magdalene, in the hardly-any-light time of day, what sad courage would have been needed, to move toward what would enforce and reinforce

the gravest loss of hope,

so to stand beside where Jesus lay, not only dead, but in tomb, with even body lost to sight.

Or else why in early dark go out

before light the horizon opened up?

Did she hope to find in that before dawn dark

a respite from the vacantness of purpose that threatened to banish even breath?  

Only to find, in that dark, that not only life was vacant, but so too was tomb: for it wherein had the lifeless body of The Lord been lain…was open …empty, now even more cruel.

What more she did now bear:

Not only a grave, but a grave now robbed: and with body gone, no place to stand beside …

Dear Mary Magdalene…

Now must take on another role: to go and bear hard news to others, who too no doubt cry out in redoubled pain…”they have not only stolen his life, but now stolen his lifeless form as well?!?”

But coming back to the tomb, Mary with

Peter and the other disciple,

find

Tomb empty AND

wrappings that around the body of Jesus had been placed,

unwound, left behind, rolled up, placed aside…

Who to dishonor would steal not only body, but as well remove wrappings that had covered grievous scarring wounds?

And so for deepest emptiness of life, the pre-dawn three mistook the empty tomb…

The two disciples? They walked away, thinking that only to themselves could they dare to go…

Yet Mary Magdalene, we are told, by the tomb did stay

Thinking to find

where the body of what had been the best of life was now hidden away…

And then

She hears her name

Spoken,

And hearing, begins to see that

Worst-dark for all time was ending

For True Light of life in Christ had arisen--

All earth and life that day did change!

Mary, that morning bright on seeing the Risen Jesus, no longer dead, no longer held in tomb, no longer held in wrappings nor death that would disguise

Hears Word of God, and begins to see: in Jesus God changes all of life.

Mary found life anew within that morning light

When dawn had opened to reveal

Empty tomb was gift;

And was not simply vacant emptiness that satan could steal into to pretend to bury mercy, goodness, life…

But empty tomb opens up new light, defeating satans wily ways,   

And God who gives stars that rise each night

and sunlight which breaks apart the dark and

blue horizon where earth meets sky and gives us breath for life and day…

Gives us now God’s love for us to be known by us -- for Jesus has taken hold of us…

And from within what looked an empty tomb

filled life with Promise of Life to Come

And of Life Today,

in this day, whether we awake in dusk or dawn, walk in joy of finding or sorrow of losing,

For God in Jesus gives us Resurrection Life after death—

so that our tombs as well do not hold us—

and God in  Jesus gives us also this:

Jesus in this life, speaking our name…God’s gift coming to us NOW…

For we by Christ can claim our freedom NOW from fear of hell and death and even of what comes in  life…

Jesus does not ask us to cling only to some future hope,

But to God’s love right now…each now…

That we too can announce, in this life, to others, and to our self…

YES I HAVE SEEN THE LORD

We humans, we often imagine the empty tomb is empty for one purpose:

that we might in some distant heaven time find our place…where we will see the Lord…       

but there is this for us as for Mary Magdalene:

Life is changed…light has come, even on the days when the light is clouded oer’…even days when dark seems strong … we in Christ look up and see the Lord, and say to self, and through living, to others:

I have seen the Lord…

And Each TODAY, each MOMENT, each NOW…

the Holy Spirit helps us see the glory of the risen Son…

This is a day that the Lord has made…

Lovely morning day when, even when, as today,

clouds across the sky are cast…

First light shows forth and reminds us

This is a day that the Lord has made…let us

with Mary Magdalene, with Peter, with all who have gone before us,

and with all who will follow, proclaim Christ has Risen, he has risen indeed.  

We see the Lord, in this very day ! 

Amen.

part of our Highway Clean-Up Crew J

part of our Highway Clean-Up Crew J

A recent sermon at Trinity:Preaching Luke 17:11-19 

Eyeglasses –I can’t remember what grade I was in when eyeglasses entered my life—maybe it was third grade.    
My teacher, Mr. Klein, noticed that I wasn’t doing as well at I had at the beginning of the year. Thinking I just wasn’t paying attention, he moved me from the last row, way to the front. Ick.  There I was, out of order, as classmates told me: your ast name “begins with an R, don’t you know our names all start with A and B.  You don’t belong here.” 
Bad enough—but then there re-figuring out who was distracting, who wanted to pass notes, who whispered funny stuff, who not so nice stuff, who picked on who, who acted up when the teacher was writing on the board. Worse, I couldn’t figure out why I was the only one moved.  My folks thought maybe I’d misbehaved, or that I really wasn’t not paying attention. The other kids thought maybe I’d been caught cheating, or wasn’t doing homework.  
But it was none of  that—I just needed to see better. At some point that year  Mr.  Klein, because he could now see me bettere, noticed I was always squinting at the board, even from the front row. 
Told I’d be getting glasses---knowing I’d be made fun of, and didn’t believe something sitting on my face would help me see, I dreaded the day.    
Then came  the day, and my Mom took me to get them. They felt so icky on my face. I was sure the clinic staff lied when telling me, “oh those look nice on you.”    Walking to the car, I looked down the whole way, so no one would see my face with glasses. As we drove home along our familiar route,  I finially looked out the window, and said with a loud voice, “hey Mom look –there are individual leaves on the trees, not just blobs of green, I’ve never seen them here before.” Of course, my mom started crying ..and even pulled over, telling me years later she’d felt terrible that no one had n oticed before that my vision was working right. But those first days I couldn’t stop noticing and exclaiming, “look over there, you can see that from here;  look! I can see the the name of that street from here and know from  this far away what it says.”  
I’d been seeing before, knowing there were green leaves on trees, words on the blackboard, street signs with  names, but I hadn’t been seeing what was there to be seen. 
Today, however, isn’t about eyeglasses, its about being a Christian, a disciple of Christ, a learner in the classroom of Jesus, a follower who is looking out from within oneself and seeing differently. 
Its about seeing not through eyeglasses, but through God and through faith in Christ.      
Remember Namaan, the army commander for the King of Aram, conquorers of the Jewish people in ancient Israel.  Namaan was certain he saw what he needed—but his vision of  what he needed was off by miles.   So when he saw his flesh restored from disease, he found himself saying, “Now I know there is no God in all the earth except the God of Israel…” quite a statement for someone from Aram where multiple gods were worshipped, and having only God would make you suspect of bringing problems for the community.   But Namaan now saw differently. 
Remember Paul, the apostle? He himself had not seen Jesus in the flesh, was blinded, then given sight again and saw life and all time and God differently—so that when he was a chained prisoner Paul saw this: the word of God is never chained, never prevented from being effective.  He’d been given a new way to see not only leaves on trees, but God and the world and all others. 
Remember the one leper, whose disease meant separation from all except others with visible diseases of the flesh?  As he went on his way, he looked down, and seeing himself changed, healed from had made him isolated, he saw life made new, saw differently, and saw Jesus as the source of being wholly alive, and now, saw existence wholly differently, and turned back to fall at the feet of Jesus. 
Seeing differently, is given to us, dear friends, as well. Faith in Christ is not to simply make us feel good, it is to help us see in ways that aren’t like what we’d come to our own.  
It means letting God putting new eyeglasses on us, even if the world thinks they make us look weird, or act or speak in ways that are not the norm for society, or even make us different than we’ve usually been.      
Looking back, we can see ancient writings of faith that caution us to n ot stay stuck in our own ways of thinking and seeing, noting how we like to see things as we are, not as God is. Seeing as we’d rather be, than being as God would see us be.  And Origen of Alexandria who was a Christian in the first century after Christ, a time of great persecution  for followers of Jesus, said “holiness is seeing with the eyes of Christ.” Modern writer Robert Barron says it this way: Christianity is, above all, a way of seeing. Everything else in Christian life flows from and circles around the transformation of our vision.” 
So we who claim Christ as the ground beneath our feet and the one at whose feet we kneel will, maybe with a sigh of reluctance, put on the lenses that change how we see …and be willing to ask Jesus to heal us from only seeing only as we like to see.  And in Jesus, who transforms our vision, we w ill see new ways of seeing, and prayer, worship, action, way of being in the world, and we will look down and see!  We too are made whole, and then may not recognize ourselves!  
So there were 10 lepers. 
Crying out to Jesus for mercy. 
And Jesus said in a sort of short hand at the time, “you’re in the process of being made whole, go and show yourself to the priests.”  And as they went,  they were made clean. 
But one, SEEING that he was healed, turned back to Jesus, praising God with a loud voice.  
You see, “Christianity is, above all, a way of seeing.” That’s how my friend Pastor Brian Stoffregren puts it.  “Everything else in our Christian life flows from and circles around the transformation God in Christ makes in our way of seeing….and so we see differently, and are seen differently.  For our lives, in Christ, flow not from our own decidings, but from Jesus of Nazareth, who gives us a new vision of what God is up to, in all of creation. 
And others, even when we don’t know it is happening, 
begin to see us, and then begin to see, 
 even when they don’t know it, 
Jesus, who has mercy and wholeness for all. 
Thanks be to God. 
                                    Pastor Kris Garey

Reformation Sunday 2016 

Reformation Sunday…a day in our Church year that reminds us of the Reforming actions of God, which actually seems to be God’s ongoing ongoing work for humanity… 
After all, way back before Jesus, God spoke to Abraham and Sarah, saying “lets give a new start to my relationship with those I have created…” 
  
And then over time, people, as people do, began to un-form, or mis-form…So God in Reformation called prophets to tell of correction courses, to tell the people, “return to the Lord your God, who is filled with mercy…” 
  
And then, God again saw to “give those I have created a new way to see relationship with me,”  and so through the birth of God’s son as human infant, gave a way for the world so often violent and threatening to see that the love of God is gentle and re-forming of individuals, families, humanity, Church … 
And since then—God’s stayed in the business of re-forming. 
For, people in our humanness continue to un-form that which God provides, or to dis-listen to God while listening more to self or others… 
and to dis-miss that God intends for us good relationship with God and one another. 
  
And so, on Reformation Sunday each year we commemorate one of the times of God’s reforming, to see more clearly God’s continuing reformations for us, in us, to us, as individuals and as Church. 
In 1517…499 years ago… 
A guy named Martin Luther was a priest wanting desperately to dedicate his life to God, but in deep despair  could see no way that he could ever be good enough to satisfy God. 
….instead he saw all he did, all he couldn’t do, and all he didn’t do….and felt himself sinner without worth before God in this life, without hope of rest from fear.    
And then, Luther found himself reading, re-reading, and reading again the words of the Apostle Paul…since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift. 
What?!  Made right with God 
 by Gift of God?!?!?! 
WHAT?  Its not anything I do? Its not my work or my pattern of life or some glorious harmony that I can achieve?  Nope.    
  
Gift of God---grace of God, glory of God! 
Release by God from thinking there is some need to or some way to perfectly satisfy God; release by God into realizing God’s care and desire to be in good relationship with us is simply gift, given from God, which seeks to re-form us into wanting to encounter God, knowing we can do so without fear of missing some rung of a never ending ladder. 
  
Well, each Reformation Sunday, what then are the Bible texts we hear?  Ones filled with words some lots of folks today wish we’d just quit talking about: sin. Some churches today even drop the liturgy of confession andand absolution—thinking folks will hear it as a downer, so its easier to just drop it completely.   
  
A preacher I heard recently told part of her own story of thinking on sin and confession and absolution….she’d grown up with a conservative Christian upbringing—and dropped away from that, partly because it always made everyone feel bad, and critical of themselves and one another. Then at about age 26, she  “landed in a Lutheran church on a Sunday morning.”   The preacher, Nadia, said that first experience of confession and especially absolution of sin felt like hogwash.  After all, she didn’t cheat on her taxes or spouse or murder or steal; so why spend any time hearing about others who did, and anyway, if someone did those things, how could they be absolved of it? Hogwash. 
  
But Nadia wasn’t done with thinking about God, or done with the Lutheran Church.  Now she is Rev. Nadia Bolz -Weber out in Denver, with all her tattoos intact and what might seem a wild and crazy style of ministry to all kinds of folks from all sides of the tracks.  And she plunges into talking about sin, confession and absolution in worship, saying this:   
Martin  Luther back in 1517 had a way of talking about sin, and his words help us know sin is way bigger than simply immoral actions—its more about how we each curve in on our self,  substituting as center and  determiner of life our own self rather than God and leaving God outside the curve. 
  
Pastor Nadia says  “my ideals and values never make me always do what I should, feel what I should, think what I should.”  
…and that is what Lutheran Christians name as the Law.   
But this Law is not like civil law which we can obey or not…this is Law already within us…and through this God, as Paul says, reveals our sin to us.  Our sin being, again, our curving in around our own importance and our own ability to be what we should be… 
  
Sin? No wonder no wants to dig into it or even hear about it. 
Deep within we know   
just HOW short we fall from the glory of God, 
and we just KNOW we should do something about it all, 
or else, we think….God will give up on us.   
But wait…since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift 
  
And back in 1517, Luther believed it, and shared what he found ! 
  
God’s grace is a gift.  And so Luther found he no longer accepted what the church at the time taught: that people had to do work to get back into God’s good grace.   
See, what then as now we often hear or think is that to satisfy God you have to buy your way out of something or someplace…except, in truth, you aren’t trapped anywhere.    
  
“in Christ  we are now justified by God’s grace as a gift” means there is no place we are trapped to buy our way out of, no fear to keep us stuck looking out for own self interest in fear. 
  
Gosh, … I don’t know… 
Maybe Pastor Nadia can help 
  
We think like we’re given a Law that is an “if-then” proposition –   
If you follow all the rules in the Bible 
then God will love you and you will be happy.  
If you say just the right thing, then you will be worthy to be loved.  
If you think just right, then God will accept you. 
  
But the Gospel, God’s good news is so different… 
Its not about  if / then… 
it is all about because because because because. 
  
Because God is our creator; 
because we try to be God for ourselves, 
because when God had had quite enough God became human in Jesus Christ to show us who God really is 
because God still would not be deterred 
  
because God went so far as to hang from the cross we built and did not lift a finger to condemn , saying forgive them they know not what they are doing; 
 and 
because Jesus Christ defeated even death and the grave and rose on the 3rd day and because we all sin and fall short and forever think it is we who can make the difference 
and because God loves God’s creation 
God refuses for our sin and brokenness and inability to always do the right things to be the last word 
because God came to save and not to judge 
 therefore…therefore 
because of God you are saved by grace as a gift and not by the works of the law that stack up shoulds against us….and this truth sets you free  
  
And Because of God, we give thanks to God.

Luke 8:26-39 

Last Sunday after worship I sped home, packed quickly, and jumped in the car to head to a retreat week at Rainy Lake.  Just before leaving I grabbed a Bible, and read the words we hear this Sunday, of God’s impatience with people who are focused on themselves more than on God, of our unity in Christ that amazes us, and of the man living among the tombs in the region of Gerasenes. 
Putting the Bible in my bag I thought, boy, that reading will seem out of place on a quiet island removed from such scenes.  Hopping the car and pulling away from Hovland, I expected a quiet drive of classical music to ease me into a time of quiet conversations, reading, studying the Gospel, learning from others. 
But the radio for 5 hours told of Orlando, and the deep tragedy there. As if it was shrieking at me, shouting at me, and I was chained to car and to listening. 
So arriving, and a day later, looking again at the Gospel, I was, 
startled in a way I would not have been, unnerved in way I would not have been.... 
but in the passage, while the man possessed is unnerved, and the disciples, and the people of the region, Jesus is not. 
Now, a quick catchup to where Jesus has come to this region from. He has been preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God to cities and villages on the east side of the lake called Galilee, in Jewish territory, where mostly there live those, who like him, are Jewish.  And his preaching and good news kept showing new ways to think of just what that means, the kingdom of God. 
And then, one day, his mother and siblings seem to want to draw him aside, perhaps not to appear quite so forward, quite so outlandish. 
And Jesus says, 
my mother, my sisters, my brothers who those who hear the of God and do it. 
And next, 
says, “let us go across to the other side of the lake...”and they set out for foreing territory, across the lake named Galilee that soon is ripped by wind and waves ...and finally Jesus spoke: blowing stopped, waves stopped. calm prevailed. 
But the disciples were still in fear...saying to one another, “who then is this, that he commands even the wind and the water and they obey him? 
And then, the boat lands, at the region opposite to Galilee...Opposite geographically, culturally, religously...this was not a region of Jewish communities, but Gentiles, those who did not believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jesus... 
On this side, people followed Roman Empire ways, worshipped many Gods, including an array of emperors and natural forces and natures components that might at any time strike against the people.  Very opposite from the faith of the Jews and the kingdom of God Jesus brings. 
And as the foot of Jesus steps from boat to shore, there shows up a man of the city who had demons. 
“Of the city” implies protection of city walls, civility—but no longer for this man. He’s been outside of protection for a long time—has worn no clothes, lived among the tombs.   And SHOUTS ! 
Shrieking now, but, even at a newcomer, whose foot strikes shore. 
What a surprise it would have been to those with Jesus, the shrieking, but maybe even more so, what the words are! 
“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the most high God.” 
Wait !  This man who seems filled with demons has seen what the disciples have not!  He not only sees Jesus and seems to already know his name, but rec ognizes Jesus for who he is, Son of God most high who brings the kingdom of God into our midst. 
And then, those other words. “I beg you do not torment me.”  Remember the disciples, and we in our reading theses generations later, have known Jesus to be one who heals and fills and eases people into new settings. But this, “do not torment me..” directed at Jesus seems....wrong. 
How unacceptable this would have seemed.  To those there in the region of Gerases, and to disciples. Unacceptable (a man being naked,  a man living among the dead, or non-Jew speaking to Jew, an out of control shrieking out words to a never before met newcomer, and even these particular words:  “What have you to do with me? Son of the Most High God” and even “do not torment me...” 
To everyone this setting would have seemed unacceptable, in this shouting terrorizing situation where a man who could break literally in rage break chains storms about, naked, before strangers, with strange words. But unacceptable as it would seem, to Jesus it was not. 
He accepted it at what it was, a plea for no more tormenting, to not make things worse, a plea that shows that the man thought unacceptable launched at Jesus who he recognized as the one who can stop what rages, wind, seas, demons. 
What a fearful time. So fearful that even when the demons are displaced, the people around the region are still in fear.  Now not of the man who had been trapped in what had overcome him...but of the power of Jesus to unsettle what had seemed to be the way things would be, the ways that even though unacceptable had become accepted...this man kept away, chained at times among the tombs, left to live or die in the open. But now, clothed and in his right mind, he was so different. 
What had happened...and then what happened when the livestock of the community (livestock of pigs, so we know this is not a region of Jewish settlements), dashes into the sea. 
Jesus comes into the midst of life that seems so tenuous and fearful and in ways we rarely understand breaks the bonds of what holds us away from the best of ourselves and from the best for others. 
Fear. Orlando tragedy. 
Or the woman I met who told of a time she’d awoken from a middle of the night nightmare, to find herself across the floor and opposite from the bed she’d gone to sleep in. The shrieking she’d heard was hers in her nightmare. She’d been trapped in the nightmare, and became unlike herself, struggling to get out and away. My nightmare had me feeling I’d been trapped and taken over.” 
Fearful times...years ago someone told me of their mental illness, which at times had been severe (to put it mildly). She said she awoke one day to finding herself shrieking as she was being carried into the ER:  naked, screaming, and tied down. Afraid of herself, and her illness which there is no way to comprehend.  Her description was, “it felt like demons, I suppose, but was mental illness, which is either more complicated, or less. Either from disease we don’t understand, or demons seeking to outdo God.” Fearful times. 
Nightmares can seem so real. Mental illness is so real, so biologically and medically true.  Life fear times are real: from war, from being a minority poorly treated and oppressed, from being threatened by bullying spouses, parents, leaders, by weapons intended not for recreation but for damage, from being out for an evenings entertainment and having someone come in with the desire and means of rage and weapons to kill. 
And real too, is the fearsomeness of satan...  who so likes to get in the midst of any fear, and drive us deeper into fear.   Away from trust in God.  Forward to trusting first our own right, then our own might rather than the God who comes to put his foot on the land of our lives, and who says, awaken in your right mind, clothed in me, in unity with others, that peace may thrive. And trust, that even in the times of deepest fear, I am with you.  Now and always. 
It aint easy becoming a follower of Jesus, being a believer who tries to become a Christian---which is all any of us are doing.   It aint easy because we’d sometimes find it easier to say as the people in Garasene did, please, just get out of my way with all that talk of peace and caring and not doing what was done to us. 
But Jesus says to us, proclaim how much God has done for you! 

 

Sermon on "The Prodigal Son" Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 March 6 2016 

Many families have a story of someone like the youngest son in the parable from Jesus, someone who just ...left.    Here is what I know of my family’s story: 
My Dad was 17 when he took off without saying he was leaving, without a note to say where he was headed. His father had died a few months before—his leaving, in their small town,  brought worry, shame, disappointment. For more than a couple of years there was no word, no mail, phone calls, or “word passed along” from one person to another. 
                                      It wasn’t until after my Dad died that I knew much about that time.  Growing up we’d only hear an occasional comment, like “hitchhiking? Oh I did that to get around the country for awhile, I’d avoid it if I were you...” or “riding the rails” to get from place to place, that was sure dangerous.” But when we asked more, he’d usually say something like “that was when I was ‘gone for awhile’...” and then he’d tell a story of logging Douglas Fir in the western states, or laying rail road track in the mountains. 
But after he died I learned a bit. Not about any dilemnas that made my Dad head out in his “gone for awhile” time, not about his experiences —but about the family at home.  What they did, and how they felt. 
My Aunt, who was my Dad’s only sibling, and was 2 years old than him and I ended up in a conversation that that wasn’t where we started...but was where we landed.  She told me of my grandmother, inthose days, and of herself. “Our mother, your grandmother,  was so sad, so very very sad...looking every day, every day! at maps, then writing letters to far flung places...Chicago, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Washington State, Oregon, California, Seattle, to sheriffs departments and friends of friends. “Have you met someone with this last name?”  But,” she added, “we didn’t even know if he was...alive...or if he was using our name.” 
Still those searching letters were prayed over, then sent.  And not only letters, but also my Aunt and Grandmother. They took drives to towns across a widening range from theirs’; even into the Twin Cities.  “After all,” she said, “maybe he hadn’t gone far, geography wise.”  And always, she said, they’d find themselves turning to stare at groups of people, to scan streets; and going into stores—looking looking.” 
When she was telling me this, it was almost 60 years after those “gone for awhile” years... but even then, her eyes took on a far-off searching kind of look. 
It wasn’t until this week that I realized I don’t the “coming home” story.  Was he a surprise, landing on the front step? Was my grandmother out-side, looking down the street or tending the flowers in front of the house? I don’t know...but what I do know tells me of the vital value of the parable of Jesus, and this week I began to wonder, how many times in those years did she read this parable, read, ponder, and pray? 
Here Jesus shows us one who leaves, leaving behind insult and demeaning disregard to family and culture. One whose has no consideration for what family would have meant, one whose choices embarrass and treats with rudeness family and community, going to live among another people,  squandering what had been worked so hard for, treating closest family as if they did not count for anything. 
In in a way, that may have felt like what my dad did. They were from a small town, where taking off with no word would have felt like a major insult to caring family and community;  and heartless, especially to a mother who was a new widow. And no word at all for a couple of years? treating mother and sister as if they did not count. 
But ... the heart of the story? 
My Aunt told me this, too: “He’d been gone for more than a year when I unleashed my feelings. Worry, indignation, sorrow, anger, deep disappointment. I asked our mother  “Does he give any thought to what we are doing now?” “Does he realize how we search, hoping to catch a glimpse of the slant of his shoulders? Does he know how often people say:  “what? still no word?”  “He seemed a better son ...” 
She said she went on that day, to my grandmother, about his action of leaving and his inaction of not contacting them...and then found herself saying something like, “its so hurtful, and if he dies, we won’t know...if he does come back, I’ll sure light into him.” 
It was then, my Aunt said, that my grandmother broke in...saying “daughter, sit here, beside me.  I know. I know. It all hurts so. 
But, now. When he comes home, if he is alive to come home...let us not say any of that.  Let him hear from us the kindest tone.  God shows us, we are to welcome him home.  So let us throw open the door,  and cook his favorite meal.  Catch him up on family news with no hint of “do you know what you have caused?”  Let us not dig up that neighbors and friends have been embarrassed for us, feeling he’s insulted us and them. 
“Daughter, we will tell him this: Oh, how glad we are to see you...we thank God you are home...Let us carry in your bags...”  .   Daughter dear, we will welcome home, as if he was the Prodigal Son.  We’ll stroke his face with gentlest touch.  He’s had pain enough, no doubt; sorrow enough too, I expect.  Its depression times, I hope he’s had enough to eat, and no injury that keeps him from being ok. Oh, I hope he lives. 
So, daughter, 
when he comes home, remember Jesus telling of the prodigal son. No questions that embarrass or make him squirm.  Lets agree we’ll tell him “it makes us gladder than ever to see you.” 
And then: softest sheets upon the bed, best food upon our table. And about those years he was gone away ; let him tell us what he wants, when he wants, for ...His return will be enough, for us.  That will be enough.  It will be that, that he needs to know. He is enough, his footsteps the walk, on the porch, in the house. We welcome him, and pray for wholeness.” 
My Aunt said that it was then she learned, what formed the rest of her life. 
Kindness so deep that it doesn’t leave a person stuck in the mess they’ve made, 
but rather lets them see eyes that love enough to pull them out of the jumbled up way they’ve done things; 
eyes that give love enough                  to let love grow, 
 eyes that show forth love enough so a person just knows 
that they are enough, and are forever loved. 
My Grandmother in her need, pondered so deeply the Parable of Jesus; of a son gone away. 
the midst of sorrow, insult, fear, disappointment, that she learned to show love even more than before... 
and so she gave the gift of telling of “welcoming to give wholeness” to her daughter. 
And she knew that gift from this parable...with its welcome through deepest kindness, with no hint of recrimination, the gift that Jesus tells to show to us the acceptance God gives to us. 
the whole and “whole – making” gift of accepting without boundaries and saying, “welcome home.” 
through gentlest touch, nourishing meal, warming robe, and welcome words. 
Jesus, Son of God, tells to you, “you are enough, come to me.”  Jesus, son of God, says to you, and me, you are welcome here, I’ve set the table, come....”   Jesus, son of God, with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit says to you, to me, to all in every place, “in your gone for awhile times, I am with you still; seeking you, inviting you, welcoming you home.  Come, oh son oh daughter, “You are enough, you are mine.” 
  
  
 

Easter Sunday Sermon, 2015 

The Holy Gospel according to Mark, Chapter 16:1-8

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you." 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Sermon, Pastor Kris Garey, Resurrection of our Lord Sunday, Easter, 2015  (we include a Baptism, for little Braylon, on this day!)

PreachingToday is a day of Baptism
here at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hovland
          a day of God’s gift of actual water poured out
          combined with the living Word of God
as Braylon is Baptized  into Christ...
Imagine the details for this day...name, sponsors, date, travel time, family schedules, weather reports, who can be here who can’t, getting technology right so far away family can participate, practicing where to stand, knowing where to be at what time...
Sure, here, at Trinity, all of that can be pretty simple...still, it means
for Braylon’s parents Desi and Rick, for brother Adrian, for grandparents Dusty and Eric and great grandparents Duane and Virginia
a lot of details as Braylon’s baptism came near.
Seems even if we don’t expect to get caught up in details, they still find a way to catch us.
So imagine with me
the women at the tomb, Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome
          who had seen where the body of Jesus was taken,
          and who felt details catch them:
                    what to do to find comfort,
what spices to take to cover aroma of death
                  what time to head out, the morning after crucifixion and death
                    indeed, even whether to go,
                    and whether to tell anyone what they were doing
                    and then, when approaching,
                    the detail that loomed
                    how to gain access to the body, so to anoint with care.
                    For they knew the large stone had been placed to close off the tomb...
                    to large for even three to move
                    details
                    how to get beyond the stone
                    how to get within the entrance
                    how to deal with aroma and decay
and arriving,bowls of spices in their hands more details to face
                    far different than could have been imagined...
                    Stone, gone...entrance open
                    (who would have done such a thing, how can this be, what desecration has happened, they might have asked one another, aloud or in their minds)
                    and then more details to confront and confound
                    A young man (telling us he wasn’t a tall and strong goliath type who could alone have moved a stone so large)
                    A young man, not troop of Roman soldiers, not gang of thieves, dressed, the details say, not in clothes with sign of wear and dirt and dust but in white robe
                    Sitting, not in front of open tomb
                    but on the right
not blocking entrance, but hosting entrance
                   
Alarming these details would have been
to the women there, with their gifts of spices to give...
          and the detail of their alarm
         was known by the young man in white, there on the right
who said words that would raise alarm
(for when have the words come to you
“Do not be alarmed”
that you have not felt alarm...?)
and then more alarm
for he  
already knew the details of why they were there, at the tomb
Knew they looked not just for anyone, but “for Jesus of Nazareth”
“who was crucified...”
alarming enough
but there is more
in the details of what he knew
for then came detail
that would undo every other detail of all time
“He has been raised, he is not here.”
raised?
what kind of detail is that for one whom you have seen die?
what kind of detail for one who death has taken hold of?
Raised...not here...
and then the young man not strong enough alone to have moved the stone that had hidden the entrance they’d wanted to enter...
said more
“Look, there is the place they laid him....”
Now, if you are one of the women, planning to cover scent of death with spices from your hands..
hearing that detail
where do you look?  first at companions, with you to anoint the dead body?
first at the young man, or at uncovered entry, or off to the side, hoping to hide...
where do you look?
before looking in? before realizing
the body is not there
Jesus is not there
the Gospel of Mark does not let us linger...
for we with the women now hear of Jesus who had died
“He has been raised, Look, there is the place they LAID him...But go,
tell his disciples and Peter...”
(tell disciples who were distraught? tell Peter who had denied in life even knowing the one now dead? go and tell...tell them what...what details do we have to tell, the women might have thought ...”
go and tell
Jesus IS going
(not was taken, not has been carried...IS GOING)
Jesus IS GOING
meaning still moving, still walking, does that mean now not dead?
is going AHEAD of you
meaning you three women           and the disciples and Peter
will still follow, where Jesus IS GOING, ahead of you
to Galilee
into ministry as Jesus had been before and would be now again
as Jesus had before death told them
I will be with you, ahead of you...
the voice of the young man in white saying
“he is ahead of you
you will see him”
means the young man knew even this detail
that Jesus had told before death.
Who would not flee
who would not be seized by terror and amazement
who would not run from hearing or repeating such words...
Details.
as for family of Braylon
there are many
but in this Gospel of Mark’s original ending
what we don’t have are details of how the women finally tell...
finally dare to say
what the disciples and Peter and world might count
ludicrous absurd unbelievable...
Details matter, but not all are needed...nor included
so that we too might know at times we must dare to face what seems empty
and yet believe:
the tomb was empty because Jesus was doing as Jesus had told them
going ahead of them
defeating death, sin, devil, alone-ness, without-ness...
always to be with the world and in the world
so that
all the world would know, Jesus Christ is Raised and breaks death’s fearful hold..
and know
a new creation comes, and whether we can see it yet or not
these almost 2000 years after Jesus had died
the detail of the Resurrection is the promise to Braylon and all the baptized
that we too          with Jesus Christ are raised
after death are raised again to new life
where we are with God,
and in this life, to God with us, where we are.
Like the women at the tomb, with the simple gifts we bring in our hands,
we too may afraid to tell
but the Holy Spirit works within us
and finds ways
for us to believe, even when it amazes us...
and so we welcome Braylon and all our children into the faith
and thank the Holy Spirit who assures us,  
“Baptized, we live with God,
who sustains us, in emptiness of loss
and in joy of birth,          for wherever we are,
we can know, Jesus is with us, and is ahead of us.
Now, and for all time beyond time.
3By the LORD has | this been done;
     it is marvelous | in our eyes.
24This is the day that the | LORD has made;
     let us rejoice and be | glad in it.   (Psalm 118)

Thanks be to God!
 

Sermon, January 25, 2015 

Sermon is included after two of this Sunday's readings:
Gospel according to Mark 1:14-20
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news."
16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Old Testament:  Jonah 3:1-5, 10
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,
 2Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.
3So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across.
4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's walk.
And he cried out, "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"
 
5And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Epistle:  1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Sermon, Pastor Kris Garey
Having as our readings two stories that if we open them up a bit include one beside a sea (the Gospel from Mark) and one where what we hear is preceded by time spent at sea on a boat (the Jonah story) is pretty darn fine when we are where we are, beside a great almost sea ourselves.Two sea stories, but hardly identical.  
Maybe you noticed.
The Gospel according to Mark filled throughout with immediately. Immediately follows immediately,
Jesus was coming out of the water of Baptism, immediately he saw the heavens split open ...
and immediately, Jesus is driven into the desolate places of the wilderness, tempted by Satan, ministered to by wild beasts...
And then immediately we hear...
Jesus came into Galilee.
then, passing alongside the sea
saw Simon and Andrew, brothers, casting a net into the sea.
And when Jesus said
Follow me             immediately they left their nets
Then Jesus saw James and John, 2 more brothers
immediately he called them...they rose, left their nets and followed.  
Sometimes we too have call stories like that, whether of lifetime or of take an action now calls.  Someone said to me this week, “I felt the urgency of God’s request, and just dropped everything and went...”
But other call stories take longer,
much much longer...
like Jonah’s.
Today we open Jonah here:
“The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time.”  
Which means there was a first time....
and that first time, God had said,
 “Get up and go to Ninevah and preach to them… “and Jonah got up—but fled the exact opposite direction, away from where God was sending him, and away, Jonah thought, from the presence of the LORD. 
And away fled Jonah, toward the sea,
not toward the inland city where the Lord directed him.
Jonah’s response reminds me of a character on a British Comedy Series
which is actually about a congregation, a pastor, and a church council...
maybe it doesn’t sound like it could be a hit comedy, but The Vicar of Dibley, as it was titled, was a hit in England for many years. 
My favorite character is Jim, who’s been on the Church council for years
and to almost everything that comes up,
he replies, ... no no no            no          no no  no           -- and then sometimes adds a final NO, but mostly finally adds  YES
which if you think of it
is exactly like Jonah...
 
Can’t you imagine it, from Jonah?  no no no no...no NO
Jonah is not Simon, Andrew, James and John, those immediately following brothers Jesus called.  
Oh, Jonah acts, immediately to God’s first call,
not following, but fleeing in the exact opposite direction—scrambles onto a ship, and hides below the deck, hoping to hide from God.
Can you hear the no no noooo NO !
It’s as if those that Jesus calls take off rowing like madmen headed for the opposite shore, to get as far away as they could.
That is what Jonah does. Run, flee, try to escape the Lord, and the LORD’s bizarre instructions. Get away quick, NO to Nineveh.
It was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, that destroyer of Israel, that brutal occupying force.  Jonah says by how he runs, No no no noooooo NO .
But where Jonah flees to, God is.
And God takes Jonah to new places, unusual places, places from where it seems no word of God could come...
And then we hear  “The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, “Get up and go.”
And, this time, Jonah does, and goes to Ninevah.  
What a contrast in responses:  those with immediate yes’ to Jesus offer,
the first rampant no no no of Jonah.
—both strike me as so like our own human lives.
Sometimes we might be like the 4 brothers,
yes to God right away.
And sometimes we don’t get to yes at all, or for a very long time.
One of my best friends is named Lori
and she lives in Duluth; we used to work together, ...
and she has an important part in my coming to faith story
but part of her story is that when she was a little girl
she’d “play church” she calls it.  At age 6 or 7, she propped up boxes for organ, altar and pulpit.
and dragged in a bench for a pew.  She’d sit on the bench, stand behind the altar, in the pulpit, and pretend to play the organ.
She talks, still, about that time with such love in her voice, for the time when her love of God was easy and when she thought: “I was sure, for awhile, that I’d be a pastor...but then...I changed.”
She grew up, got married, had kids, attended church faithfully.  But maybe partly because for so long woman were thought not allowed by words in the Bible to be Pastors, she stopped somewhere around 13 any thoughts of being a pastor.  
And she felt she ought not be the one to read scriptures “up front” either.  
But along the way, where she was, God was there ahead of her. She had a deaf uncle, and learned sign language; became the one who’d sit next to him in church, signing on her hands the words she heard. After awhile, deaf friends joined her uncle, and then she began to stand near the front so more eyes could see her.
And somehow one day someone asked her, could she read the scripture too, then sign the words.    And then one day her pastor asked her to preach...and today she preaches, words in voice and words on hands, and is pastor.
Did she have a no, no noo  at some point to God? 
She says she doesn’t even know if she said no,
or just never paid attention beyond thinking it was fun to play church; she says she doesn’t know if she was just letting herself off the hook and avoiding hearing her call...or if God just eased off for a time.
But we laugh about how whether she had said, no no no, or just didn’t ponder, it didn’t stop God !
God kept right on using her life as Yes,
in her uncles life,
in the many lives of deaf and hearing people who have heard the Gospel of the Lord from her voice and hands, in the people she is pastor to,
and in my life.
We here at Trinity feel we are a small congregation in the middle of woods alongside a sea.
Sometimes to God we say, YOU BET, and jump straightaway into YES to God’s call.
Sometimes it takes us longer, and we pass through no no noooo no maybe   to   no no NO...
and then sometimes land at yes.
This is our annual meeting day,
Look just at the last year, and you will see  
God has taken whatever
our hesitant or immediate or pondering ways have been,
our no no nooo NO,  our Yes, our Maybe  
and turned them into the love of God,
poured forth as he decrees,
that others might see, and hear the voice of Jesus say, come and follow....
Arise you!  the Lord said to Jonah, Go you !  hear the call I am calling to you.  Be arising, be a-going !  
Let us pray: We give you thanks, Oh God. We pray to hear Your call, that others too may know and follow You. In Jesus  name we pray.
Amen.
 

Sermon Jan 4, 2015, 2nd Sunday in Christmas, Pastor Kris Garey 

Preaching Christmas 2 2015 (Jan 4) w/ our Gospel and Epistle reading  Our 2nd reading is from Ephesians, Chapter 1, where St. Paul writes that in Jesus, all of God's plans and purposes have been made known for  heaven and earth are united in Christ. Through Jesus, we have been chosen as God's children and have been promised eternal salvation.  Here is the reading:

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.      
           Pause    Word of God. Word of life. Thanks be to God.

The Holy Gospel according to John 1:1-18    (John begins his gospel with this prologue: a hymn to the Word through whom all things were created. This Word became flesh and brought grace and truth to the world.)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.                       Pause.  this is the Gospel of our Lord.   Praise to you O Christ.
 
Sermon:

Somehow for me today, 2 stories have come together.    
But one isn’t a story, it’s the Gospel.
And the others isn’t a story, it’s a painting.
A painting I saw in a gallery at UMD, many years ago.
Then, the painting struck me--but didn’t make me think of God.
This week, it comes to mind, making me think of nothing but God, and Jesus….
And John the Baptist…And us…and all people,
for the Word of God in Jesus brought to all people the light that shines in the darkness,
the light             the darkness can not
comprehend, nor overcome. Nor quench. Nor dampen.
For darkness can only make us forget to see.
 
Oh---about the painting.  It was big, lifesize tall and long.
It had a small group of Canadian Mounted police on horseback, in the winter, atop a mountain … traveling a century ago up and over mountain terrains.
First on the left was one with red wool coat and gray fur hat who stood beside his horse. With his old binoculars, leather strap frayed, he looked toward far off mountains across a valley that stretched between.
It was night…clouds mostly covered moon and stars…
and, as only painters and artists can portray,
more snow and clouds were moving in …obscuring more of what could be seen…
The red wool coated man stood, back turned, looking way out yonder… dark night getting darker, covering clouds blowing in on gusting wind…
Both hands held binoculars to face; steam rose from his breath; his horse’s neck hung low, tired, both were ready for journey to be done.  But where to go, in cold and snow and dark?  
Vaguely at his side were other riders, all looking the same direction. Snow covered backs were seen, dejection showed. Figures peering into dark as darkening stretched,
soon to cover any light from stars.
Entering the exhibit room, it was what you saw first, this left side of the mural, the group of men and horses hunched together, straining to see off to the left …  
and then, my eyes were drawn to move, across the painting toward the right.
Horses rumps, bedrolls, shoulders, backs of riders, all snow covered…
then good sized fallen trees and good sized boulders, all snow-covered…
And, as eyes traveled paintings length,
one last rider, away from the rest;
far on the right; looking a different direction,
sitting straighter, taller, leaning forward;
wearing red jacket and buffalo plaid black and red hat,
left arm reaching back, motioning to partners    “Look, see.”
My on-looking eyes found this man apart was pointing,
eagerly extending all of shoulder, arm, hand, forefinger,
pointing so that my eyes beheld…   
a spot that seemed at first so small,       yet, somehow
midst that darkened blackening painted night
was given just enough color to be unmistakeable once seen
 
There, down the trail ahead      Not across the valley but in it;
 a light that speaks of cabin lamp…    Sigh, relief, light up ahead!
That light, a pinprick in a painting so large, was yet so visible.
That painting, portraying a rugged human trip across rugged mountains in the snow…
capturing imagination, making eyes travel…
brought to me and other observers walking into the room
sighs of relief        as we found, yes there was a light for them, up ahead.
I hadn’t thought of that painting for years, but it comes to mind with  
“the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.”
 
God’s Word,        the One through which all things come into existence,
the One from whom we have all received
Grace upon grace, draws us---to see
Beacon of light.  That is Christ.
Beacon of light.  That is God.
Beacon of light. God’s Holy Spirit who helps our eyes seek to see.
Beacon of light, one with God at the beginning.   
The Word that became flesh,
beckons our eyes that we might see, no matter the journey,
that the light of God is with us. 
Mountains. Valleys. Snow covered travel. Snow covered fallen trees and boulders.  Storms moving in. Fatigue overtaking.   
Still, the light of God is with us, is shown us.
/////
There was a guy named John the Baptist.
Suppose he’s ever portrayed with red wool jacket and buffalo plaid hat?
Seeing what others did not yet see, pointing to what is to be our way?
Testifying to the light …   that others would begin to see.
How did he see it, that light of God?
In the eyes of Jesus? Or pouring forth from ways of Jesus?
Or      Shining out by what Words
the Word of God in Jesus spoke,
words that, never matter what we think,
gather all things and all people in Jesus,
in this the Word, the Son of God.
What did John the Baptist see?
Light like light of beacon constellation across the sky?
or pinprick cabin lamp a trails journey away?   
All we know is this: what the Baptist saw in Christ made clear, this is the one.
John was sent from God, witness to testify,
so that all begin to see, then believe.
True light         arriving.
True light         which enlightens everyone.  
John pointing the way,           motioning to others: “turn and see,
Look !  It is He. Ahead, yet here now.”
And we receive, grace upon grace…light upon light…
beacon-to-travel-by   upon    beacon- to-travel-by.
The Gospel of John tells us: no one has ever seen God,
yet, in Jesus, God invites us to see.
It is Christmas, a divine mystery time.
Today without shepherds or sheep,  angels or singing,
without stable or manger,   without Mary, Joseph, wisemen, or infant…
We receive the Christmas story:   
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
 
There is one more artist, to mention. A woman in Germany back in the 1100s.
Her name was Hildegard Von Bingen, and from childhood on God gave her Christian visions. In her Holy calling, she wrote them down---amazing for a woman back in the 1100s, and amazing that we still have them today, to help us ponder…Here is a reflection on the first Chapter of the Gospel of John, a poetic portrait:  
 
“Then I saw a most splendid light,
  which is without beginning
  and to whom nothing can be wanting:
  this splendid light means the Father;
  and
  in a figure of a man of a sapphire color
  without any spot of the imperfection of envy and iniquity,
  is declared the Son,       born of the Father,  
  according to the divinity       before all time,
  but afterwards incarnate,        given flesh as is humanity          in the world, in time;
  and the whole of this burns       in a most beautiful, shining fire,
  which fire shows the Holy Spirit,       by whom the Son poured forth the light
  of true brightness upon the world.
 
  Let us pray, Help us point, O God, to Jesus.  Thank you for Gospels and artists and
  writers that point us to see. Thank you for John the Baptist, pointing always to your Son.  Thank you Your Light, in Jesus Christ, giving grace upon grace,  
  overcoming all darkness. Help us trust, we ask you and pray. Amen.  


 
 

Christmas Day 2014 

Preaching Christmas Day 2014
Maybe this is a good place to start, today, Christmas Day,
with a reading from an American novel about immigration:
Giants in the Earth. 
Its about Norwegian settlers in the late 1800s who knew the North Atlantic seas and fishing life –But left them for a new land in America.
They hoped to live well, busting sod to farm in the mid-west Plains which were thought beguiling, thought profit making.
But the settlers found that the Plains seemed their own entity, and  had a way of trying to define, not just life, but existence.
Not just existence, but life.  
It is a story with a short section that reminds, especially on Christmas Day
of the Gospel of our Lord… God’s son,
born in a stable              with no other home
placed in a manger    with no place else to be
born into our own lives, where we too often feel dread
placed into our very lives, his choice to be.
Hear then, this short portion of the novel Giants in the Earth:
>              An endless plain...endless, beginningless...
>              a grey waste..an empty silence...a boundless cold..
>              Snow fell; snow flew; a universe of nothing but dead whiteness.
>              Blizzards from out of the northwest raged,
>              swooped down and stirred up greyish-white fury,
>              impenetrable to human eyes.
>              As soon as these monsters {these blizzards from the northwest} tired,
>              storms from the northeast were sure to come,
>              bringing more snow...
>              “The Lord have mercy!  This is awful!” said the folk,
                    for lack of anything else to say.
                {The Lord have mercy! This is awful!” said the folk},
>               “Monsterlike the Plains lay there—sucked in her breath one week,
>               and the next week
>               blew it out again.
>               {Monsterlike} Man she scorned;
                          his works she would not brook, {not tolerate..}
>               The Plains would know, when the time came,
>               how to guard herself    and her own against him!
>                    {against this tiny newcomer of human folk}
>               But there was something The Plains did not know.
>               Had it not been for the tiny newcomer,
>               who by mysterious paths had found his way
>               into the settlement on Christmas morning,
>               the monster might have had her way;
>               but the newcomer made a breach in her plans—a vital breach.

>               Most marvellous it was,...
>               a thing so pitifully small and birdlike...
>               There was no substance to him, really nothing.
>               Only a bit of tender flesh wrapped in bits of silk...
>               But life dwelt in every {pitifully small} fibre of it.
>               Yet hardly life—rather the promise of it.
>                so fine and delicate that one was afraid to touch it
>                with rude {working} hands}.
>              Ah, that newcomer!...
>               Had the Prairie been possessed of the commonest hobgoblin sense,
>               she would have guarded herself,
>               first of all,
>               against him.
>               But this wisdom the Prairie had not.
>               glorying in her great might, (her great might)
>               depending on the witchcraft     that had never failed her,  
                  she lay there unconcerned.
>               And powerful though she was,
>               the newcomer {born on Christmas morn}
                  minded her—the Prairie
                   no more than she did him.
>               Weak and insignificant,
>               he yet bore within him the talisman {the mark and the way},
>               to set her direst power
                 at loss.
>               For the child beguiled
                 the heavy hearted folks,    
                 Who lived admist the Prairie dark
>               into laughing,
>               and what can avail against folks who laugh---
>               who dare to laugh
>               in the face of a winter like this one?...
>               That winter it was *he* (child, born on Christmas morn)
                  who saved people from insanity and
>                the grave.”
AHHHH
In that year, in this year
that lifetime, and this
that earth time and this    
that universe time and this
Our Lord,
Jesus by name, Son of God by title,
Is the one
 Who saves from aloneness and death
From forces of devil and the grave     
From Prairie and forest forsakenness, and the weather in it all.
Our Lord is the one
Who is the light
that shatters all darkness Of living, of life; of prairie of storm; of seas and of boats.
Christ is the light
That gives us new sight to see infants,
and to face terrors
And know there is Light that no darkness overcomes.
We give thanks to God.
Amen.
           
 

Christmas Eve 2014 

Oh what a night…And you might even know …
It is a holy night… across all universes and all time
And
Here at Trinty
Outside in what you might call a remembrance for our imaginations:
the nativity scene with stable, star, silouettes ;
And downstairs in the fellowship hall
And here, in the pews where you are sitting…
Yes, a Holy Night                  And in the air around you,
And in the stained glass window
And at the altar
And on the very floor beneath your feet
And in the wreaths and greens upon the walls and in the birchbark stars upon them
And around the tree, with its lights and angel on top and Nativity Scene beneath
And in the candles, Oh Holy Night
Ah the candles….            Drawing our eyes to pinpoint lights
On this Night our inner selves long for
As we long to know
there is more                than just any single me…
More than just             any collective us.
We gather for various reasons, tonight,
in this gathering space…and it is Holy, this night
 
And in this night, I’ve a letter for you  
to help you drop aside all the thinking and planning and details
To help you just             Ease into this O Holy Night
And let your imagination take hold
While God’s Spirit takes hold
The letter was spoken to me…not mailed, but it is about a time here
Just a couple of weeks ago…
Dear people of Trinity, the long distance voice said…
Sundays find me there at odd spaced times   
In your worship space.
Sundays find me there, sometimes
With tears held back or on my face.
Oh smiles too…but mostly small
For there is so much I see the world needs
I see so much to which we pay no heed.
And then I feel
Too weak to help in the face of so much …  So much….
But then there came this, a recent Sunday that found me there
in your Sanctuary with tree and wreath and greens and
Floors one hundred years old, I heard it said.
And then my eyes, as they traveled around
taught me new to see,
and with new imaginations I found
stained glass-- and my eyes moved up to cross  
and looked again to greens and tree … where stars and angels and doves
were placed
But that isn’t all…
You see, often times my faith is absent or dead.
And then it makes no sense to me
to think I know                  what can’t be known,
and then in irritation I repeat,
“Why would God, if there is a God, make mystery
For us to try and take apart with reasoning, wits, history…
Would a god really do it that way?
A baby?  Really, God born our way?
In an old stable, maybe with an old wooden floor?
With only light of a candle or lamp?
A baby? Would God really do it that way?”
 
But then came that Sunday not long ago
Remember the day?     
There was a baby there
A few months old           So tiny to hold!
And suddenly                 That baby by father was handed down
To a man near the front         Whose seat was a wheelchair,
and the baby, contented, kept looking out, at all it could see..
and then a time later
baby by parent was again handed-down
to a lady who I heard say, “I’m more than 90 you know.”
As our voices sang hymns
I saw baby’s journey extend
to a woman way in the back, near where I sat..
I swear her even her red jacket glowed
But that is not all       I want you to know
I saw wide open smiles … even on faces that had come in sad
I saw little pauses, and intakes of breath
As baby turned eyes into   those
 
Of everyone who had chance to take hold
of a baby ! right there in their arms, in the flesh!
 
Our Worship too quickly ended for me, 
The people were kind, inviting to me
But ahead lay a long drive, so I did not stay
And found in my journey
I was lingering within worship
where words about Jesus flowed forward and back
where music and hymns were easing my way
where people were joining in prayer.
I knew goodwill there, in the very air.
But that’s not all I have to say:
My mind lingers on that smidgeon little baby, passed around.
And now I’ve an answer, when I ask in a day:
“Would God really do it that way?
Or a baby? Would God really do it that way?”
Now when those questions pop into mind…
I have seen yes.
For what other way would there ever have been
For God to really show us that God loves us SO MUCH
And wants us so much, to know so much, deep in our souls!
I’ve found          joy and love are God’s plan,
and our receiving is handed, like baby that day,        right down to us
and our giving-care then goes hand in hand   
With smiles and looks into eyes.
Tell your church, Pastor, on Christmas I’ll not be there…
But I’ll be at worship, and with tears on my face
Will thank God          On that Holy night
For the church and the people who gather in that lovely space.”  
 
Yes,
O Holy Night               And throughout life
Holy Days and Nights                  Are Everywhere we are
So when you wonder
If there really were a God would God really...     
Remember                    God wants to draw you
...and shows you “so much
By human-flesh-bearing-divine God in Jesus —
In his baby size beginning in life, and always,   God with us
So joy can break out
and spread,           face to face.             Thanks be to God.    Amen.
 

Sermon, Sunday December 21, 2014 

Preaching Advent 4 Remember the time and the culture  Of what we hear today
Remember that having a family meant physical protection for it gave hands to plant and harvest, to nurse and care, and  meant favor being shown by God,
for children also meant the family would continue on in the world to be part of the blessing God promised through his chosen people into all the world…
So to not have children meant you could not be part of the blessing,
And meant you were disgraced
And a disgrace…
And remember too
That in that time and culture
To be pregnant without marriage, without proper relationship,
Meant a woman was eligible not just for being turned away
But eligible for death, even death by being stoned.
So remembering those two things
Disgrace for a family, and especially a woman, without children
Yet also disgrace if with child in a way seen illigitmate,
Remembering these, 
hear first the story of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, and her husband Zechariah, from the beginning of Luke Chapter 1:
(bold print is from Scripture)
In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order… His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord.  But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
Once when he was serving as priest before GodZechariah was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord … Now at the time … the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to Zechariah an angel of the Lord, …When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.  But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice… he will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”
The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.  But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary…When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”


ah, Elizabeth, disgrace removed; what she had endured undone,
ah Elizabeth, the Lord has looked upon you with favor.
And the son she and Zechariah have       Grows to become
John the Baptizer who as God promised, prepares the way for people to follow their Lord.
Oh, but how did the Gospel of Luke say it again,
About what Elizabeth felt when being pregnant, there in her aging years when she had been so sure all hope was lost? And where does God’s story go from there?
Back to the words from Elizabeth, and then our Gospel for today:

After those days Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said,  “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

Luke, Chapter 1: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
But she was much perplexed, troubled by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.  
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.  
And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

God’s angel messengers here, they come and go.
But God’s message
To Elizabeth, to Zechariah, to Mary
You are favored…
Remains and
God’s message
Through Jesus
To us remains:
You are favored by the Lord.  
Which means we might,
Perhaps
Be troubled, afraid, as was Zechariah, and ask, “how will we know…”
Or feel sweet relief as did Elizabeth
Finding that with God it is never too late
Or we can hope to be like
Mary,
Who finds a way, in the midst of knowing, surely knowing, as she knew the law of the day
That what will come will take great courage
And say                Here I am, a servant of the Lord;
Let it be with me
According, O God, to your word.
And when the angel left
And the power of the Most High
overshadowed all her fear
and the Holy Spirit conceived for Mary
To carry
The child of God
Mary gave her life into the hands of God
And gave her child
Into the hands of God
Who gave his Son
That we too can know:
in God’s sight
We are looked upon with joy,
And so be freed to do what it takes great courage to do
be with God
in lifting up the lowly
as we are lifted up,
and magnify the Lord
by extending God’s mercy to others
as we rejoice in our Savior
whose mercy is upon us.
Thanks be to God.
Amen.
(we pause in silence, for reflection)

Let us join in reading Mary's response to God's good news:

Luke 1:46b-55   “The Magnificat”  
 
All          My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
               my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 
Pastor   for you, Lord, have looked with favor on your lowly servant.
     
All        From this day all generations will call me blessed;
            you, the Almighty, have done great  things for me,
            and holy is your name.
    
Pastor  You have mercy on those who fear you,
      from generation to generation.  
          
      You have shown strength with your arm;
      and scattered the proud in their conceit,
 
      casting down the mighty from their thrones
      and lifting up the lowly.
 
      You have filled the hungry with good things,
      and sent the rich away empty.
 
      You have come to the aid of your servant Israel,
      to remember the promise of mercy,
 
      the promise made to our forebears,
      to Abraham and his children, forever.   
 
A time of silence for reflection follows our reading.
 

Sermon, Sunday November 16, 2014 

The sermon begins after the Gospel reading below.
Bible readings for this Sunday are:Zephaniah 1:7, 12–18; Psalm 90:1–8[9–11] 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11;
Matthew 25:14–30
And here is the Gospel reading, Matthew 25:14-30:
Jesus tells a parable about his second coming, indicating that it is not sufficient merely to maintain things as they are. Those who await his return should make good use of the gifts that God has provided them.

14For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' 21His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' 23His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.
 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
 
(Sermon)
Digging a hole          And putting stuff in it
And covering it up              Putting it in dark earth
Below sight                 
Where it can not see the light of day
Nor be seen even with a light…
Good for a root cellar
Or a treasury to store what you don’t want others to know you have
But not the way            To live a life
That reflects the abundant love of God.
So ok,               This parable sounds alarming,
Maybe because we know ourselves to be
So much like the 3rd worker   ---   Wanting to keep safe
Wanting not to fail               Wanting just to be left alone
Not wanting life to be too disrupted
By doing more and more in the abundance of God
when we may feel a scarceness
But                 Digging a hole
And hiding what is given us
Affects us                   and we end up flinging ourselves
Our nature            Our ability to see with joy
Our lightness of being           Right down in the hole of fear
And covering ourselves up.
And what then happens to us?
We are drowned in dark forboding.
We are lost in not knowing where to begin.
We can’t see the openings above and below and around us.
 
About this parable, there has been lots and lots written, over the last couple of thousands of year.
Lots written, lots spoken, lots thought.
The outlooks vary         
Depending                I suppose
On personality of writer, on culture of writer
On personal outlook and research and theology
And it can change                  
For all those others        And each of us
By what our life experience in the moment is
 
But look at where this parable is placed
by dear Matthew who urgently wanted us to hear of the Good News of God’s Love in Jesus…
And we might get a clue of one way it can be for us
No matter what our life experience or culture or personality is.
 
Jesus has been teaching his disciples, and we are in what we label chapter 25 of 28 chapters---so the first end is near.  The cross is near.  Death and suffering are near.
We might want, if we know the suffering to come, to just dig a hole and pull ourselves in, bury ourselves in the dark of not looking out.  For if we’d been sitting there hearing Jesus, and actually thought death and torture were close
Wouldn’t we want to miss it?
And hide ourselves away…          So understandable…
But then we would miss       The fullness of the story,  
The promise of God          That the Light of God
Will conquer all darkness and trouble and world dilemnas and world history and personal struggle
And instead we stay afraid, hidden away    
In a self-made hole    Or an upper room
Or non-discipleship, non following of Jesus, but looking back at what we thought might be…
Afraid, we’d not undig our hole
And so we’d be not seen      Be alone
Gnashing our teeth and crying out in the darkness that we have no where to turn…
So Jesus says,
“Don’t do that…Be with me     See the light I bring
See the abundance I hand over to you
Not of wealth     Not of abilities    But of Joy in my Joy.
Just after this parable ends, Jesus says  
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him…”    who would want to miss that?
And what comes then?
A woman who pours out abundance in ointment that had cost perhaps what seemed as much to her as the 15 years of wages that a talaanta represented…
Her abundance poured out where?
On Jesus
To show her ability to pour out in fullness what she had received,
Life worth more than all the money there ever could be
And then want comes, in Matthew’s telling of the story of the woman and her costly gift given to Jesus?
Judas.
Who saw only waste instead of as abundance
And so he fled to enemies of Jesus and asked for money
To betray Jesus
And in so doing,   It seems to me     He digs a hole
In which to hide
And miss the light of life itself
He cannot tolerate the abundance he had seen
Thinking it misspent
And then, when he does betray, he finds the silver he received  
To be without gleam without light
And tries to rid himself of it
Flinging the silver on the floor at the feet of those who had given it to him….
And ends up in the darkest part of life
With his own realization that he had in betraying Jesus thrown
Away all with worth…
Judas ends up making his own noose, dying, and the flung back silver purchases a burial ground where foreigners, those not welcomed were shut away even in burial..
 
This parable isn’t about money, it just sounds that way.
Its about many aspects of our life with God,
Of our abundant moments in which to seek to know God
Who seeks us always…
not holding back from us
not hiding away from us
not digging a hole to bury us, but rather welcoming us…
in the life of Jesus, who comes to save us from ourselves
And to tell us that in him, even our darkness has light
With him, our scarcity has abundance.
Jesus, born to be the Light of the World
Lets us see
With a new light that reflects for us
That abundance is not money piled high
Not money stored away a future day
Nor success instead of failure
Nor weapons to make us feel secure
Nor health that makes us feel we will not ail
Abundance is the love of God
Shared with us by the loving hand of God who trusts us
And asks us
Journey with me
That others may see
 
There is an ancient hymn that helps us see new light
and the words include this
“Poor Judas in despair flung silver on the floor…”
It goes on in the imagined voice of Judas
“that field was meant to be a final place for me
But Jesus came to save me
By dying life    He gave me.”   And the writer gives Judas joy to sing, telling us “Sing praise and adoration to God for our salvation.”
Yes, Jesus says for all he has come, for our salvation. For Judas and for us.
Yes, Jesus says I am the light of the World.
Yes, Jesus says, to all nations and all people,
Come into the abundance I provide.
And so we with Peter and Judas and all the betrayers of God
Need not bury ourselves away
For God has poured out for us
Abundant Love in which there is unending light
Through which we can live in the world and with all those in it
In new ways.                 Thanks be to Christ.   Amen!
 

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