Sunday, November 24, 2013

End of the Year -- Christ the King Sunday, November 24, 2013

For way to long I've been forgetting to post sermons on the blog.  They are all posted on the Christ Lutheran Community Church  Facebook site.  Today I thought I ought to share my 'end of the year' message. Peace

The Text for this sermon can be found at [ ]

Have you ever wondered,
How is it that we find ourselves reading scriptures and telling stories and remembering with great admiration someone who was seen as a criminal and put to death?  I find it a bit intriguing that we end the cycle of the church year remember the crucifixion and the final hours of the Man we call Christ, Christ the King.  Most of us have heard the story or at least parts of the story, where one of the crimes committed by Jesus of Nazareth is that he is reputed to be called the King of the Jews.  Yet it was the Jews and their religious leaders who asked the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate to Crucify him. During his interrogation the incessant question was what kind of King are you.
Our king is mocked and treated with great dishonor in his final hours.  He is even crucified along with two other confessed criminals.  One of them is disrespectful enough to offer the teasing statement, “Are you not the Messiah, the predicted savior of the Jewish people, then save yourself and save us as well.  His partner in crime is not nearly so mocking and is somewhat rebuking as he tells his other guilty partner that perhaps it might be wiser to fear God, since the punishment  that they expect is exactly the same.  They too are to die on a cross.  He admits that he is to receive what he deserves, but Jesus, in his eyes has done nothing wrong.
The second criminal has a request. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  For those of us who are baptized and church attenders, we firmly believe that these are the benefits of being members of the family of God.  We want to be remembered in all of the aspects of our lives.  We want to be remembered in the fun times like a couple of Saturdays ago when we gathered together to eat and laugh and dance at the Chuck wagon dinner.  I’m not sure that everyone was ready to be a part of the “square dancing”.  Yet there was an image that I won’t forget, when we looked at the squares on the dance floor of Wagner Hall, the couples were not always male and female, they were not always older folks or younger folks, the squares were fully mixed with young and old.  It was a community affair.  For one of our members it was her first experience with an older version of an inter-generational activity of good fun, reminiscent of old time country stuff when communities really did gather.
There are times when we are the family of God gathered together to mourn our losses.  On the first Sunday of November we remembered those from this family of God who have died in the past year.  Just yesterday I heard a stunning lecture of how Martin Luther spoke about death being a time for sleep, until the day of Jesus Christ, the King, should come.
There are families who have suffered illnesses this year and we have individually and collectively held the hands of those in the middle of their worrying.  Collectively we have served one another as the family of God.  We have lived our lives in the Kingdom of God, while fully aware that our king is not here on earth, but with God.
Our King is a great warrior, but the battles that are waged are the ones his disciple, his foot soldiers, fulfill in our collective role as servants.  You, the gathered people of God, are the ones who have served the Thanksgiving meals to those with no other place to go, you have been the ones to deliver those meals, and this year we are the ones who are preparing to serve more than twice the number we served last year.  You are the ones who bring the necessities for kingdom living to those who have food needs.  You support those who take yarn that are gifts that come in without asking and from them prayer shawls and lap blankets are made to serve those who are in need of additional warmth.
You are the ones, who as a church, supports the work of the Community Outreach Corporation as they serve young people in the after-school program, and the summer day camp.  We as a community of God gathered in Christ’s name serve those who are new to this country with language instruction to assist them in living in a new and in some ways a strange new country. 
Our support gives a hand up to those choosing to improve their education with courses at Harcum College.  We are the ones who share our faith with the youth in this congregation through the Children’s Church and Confirmation.  You are the ones who support the staff who keeps the ministry alive seven days per week.
That’s probably a lot more than the criminal expected when he said “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  In many ways the Kingdom in which Jesus leads us is really more emblematic of the Shepherd who watches over his flock.  Our shepherd watches us, protects us, guides us, and in many ways teaches us, what it means to be his fellow servants serving others.  We become the assistants for the shepherd who lives with us and comforts us and supports us in the ministries that we encounter.
We become the servants of the King, which means we become servants of the Community.  It is not often that we think of ourselves as disciples, but we are the ones who are going through the crowds in this neighborhood sharing the loaves and the fishes.  It may look like turkey and all the fixings, but none the less it feeds those who are hungry for food. 
We still have another assignment from our King.  We are also called upon to feed the spirit with the word of God, that resides deep within the souls of those who share God’s love. 
I have a wish for the coming year.  It is that we find ways to share our faith easily and gracefully.  For those who feel that they might be tongue tied, God will loose it.  For those who are bashful, God will give you confidence, for those who say they have no story to tell of God’s grace and goodness, look again down deep inside, for there are pockets of God’s grace that we are reluctant to share.
For all we are asking is that you share with someone else, why you are a Child of God.  In the next week may you all be blessed.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pentecost 13 C 2013

Audion can be found at [ ]

The Text Follows:


This past week this congregation was joined by the entire church.  We have been working at the task of determining who we are as a congregation for almost 10 months.  We know that we are on the way to the process of selection of a new Pastor.  But this week the entire church went through a process similar to ours.
Voting members of the church wide assembly were chosen over a year ago at the 65 synod assemblies.  These 952 voting members of the assembly have been receiving information about the nature and the status of the church for the last year.  In the past the total information gathered prior to an assembly would fill a 3 inch binder.  This year for the first time the information was loaded on IPod’s which were used by the voting members for the duration of the assembly, just think about the amount of paper they did not use…
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a theme that you will see on the pews.  “Always being made NEW: 25 Years together in Christ.” This theme is for the church and a lead in to the 500th anniversary of Luther’s nailing the 95 theses on the Church Door at Wittenberg in 1517.
Bishop Mark Hanson has led the church for the past 12 years.  His official first day in office was November 1, 2001, but we all know that September 11, 2001 called all of us, church officials included, into a new way of thinking about ourselves and the world we live in.  This past week the ELCA moved in a new direction with the election of a New Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, who currently serves as the Bishop of Northeast Ohio Synod.  In many ways her election is a continuation of the theme for the ELCA of Always being made New. 
This congregation is moving into the second stage of the selection of a new pastor by finishing the description of who we are a congregation, and the appointment of a Search Committee.  I want to remind you that their process is to be done in confidentiality.  We are not supposed to quiz the members about who is being considered, or how the search is going.  They will be asked to give us regular reports of their progress.  Not unlike the progress reports we have received from the congregational profile committee.
I suppose that the year the assembly members spent in reading materials and reports of the church were not unlike the process that we are going through as well.  There were some observers who were surprised that the ELCA elected a woman as our presiding Bishop, but we are not the first to do that.  The Canadian Lutheran Bishop Susan Christine Johnson has been serving since 2007.  The ELCA at its assembly elected a new Secretary Rev. William Chris Boerger.  In addition the church adopted a statement on Criminal Justice and set the works in motion for a church wide major fund raising campaign.  The goal is to raise funds to support new ministries and to support the education of leaders.  This one item alone could reduce the debt load that new pastors and church leaders will have at the end of their education.
That seems to mirror the needs of this congregation as we seek to sustain the building that serves us and to reduce our internal debt so that we will be better prepared to greet a new pastor.   Perhaps the Old Testament passage for the day from Jeremiah 23:23-29 may have some words of encouragement and challenge for us today.
23:23 Am I a God near by, says the LORD, and not a God far off?
23:24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD.
23:25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, "I have dreamed, I have dreamed!"
23:26 How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back--those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart?
23:27 They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal.
23:28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the LORD.
23:29 Is not my word like fire, says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
Living a life that is Always being made new, means that we are not static in our living.  Change is inevitable, challenges are always forthcoming.  That in many ways is the lifestyle that I have experienced while being here.  You might expect me to say that I pray, but I truly do pray to a God who is nearby, for the people, the ministries of this congregation, the strangers and the familiar folks who come into our doors are not only in need of worldly items of support and nurture, but they are also in need of spiritual support and nurture.  I am only one source of supply, but I know that I can find other supports and supporters within the congregation.  While Pastor Myra and I may do the bulk of the visitations, I know that on occasion I see others from the congregation being the family of God in visiting with each other in times of celebration and trial.  In multiple ways at Christ Lutheran, God is not far off.
Some of us have hidden our trials and challenges, we only want to share our celebrations and joy, but family is there for the low times in life as well as the high times.  On occasions I have seen you be present on both occasions.  There are occasions when we say no.  This past week, someone asked if we had AA or NA.  We don’t, but then I went through the list of what we do have starting with food and children and knitters and prayer shawls, and emergency supplies, second language, Bible study, job corps, educational opportunities, etc., etc.  Not every prophesy can be fulfilled within the walls of this building by the members of this congregation.  Yet there needs to be people and a space and time to discern what prophesies can be a part of the ministry here.  What needs that are unmet in our neighborhood can be met by the energies of people who find themselves called to a new ministry.
Just like our new Bishop who did not travel to Pittsburgh to be the Bishop of the ELCA, for she had just been reelected as the Bishop of Northeast Ohio, she was open to the guidance of the Spirit who spoke to her and the voting assembly that God wants you to be a part of the leadership team to Always being made new in the ELCA.  That same spirit I believe is living in this church and congregation, for Christ Lutheran is not the same congregation is was 21 years ago, or 15 years ago.  There are some ministries that have changed, there are other ministries that have grown, there are some ministries that have been curtailed.  Yet when we listen to the Spirit, We can always be Made New, in the service of Christ our Brother and our Lord.  AMEN.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sermon for Pentecost 12

The Audio can be found at:

The text follows:

I’m sure that 12 months ago, as it became clear that your pastor was retiring, no one said to you, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”  If it had been said, I’m willing to bet that you would not have been able to see into the future to see what life would be like today.  Oh there are some things that you would expect to happen.  We would still have an 8:15 service and a 10:30 service.  We would still have children’s church, we would still have the church picnic, and there would still be the ESL classes, the after-school program, the summer day camp, the visitations to the sick and the shut-ins.  The food bank would still be available for emergencies and on Fridays.  You just didn’t know who would be the pastor.
No one expected then that the furnace would slowly die during the middle of winter.  I found out this week that it was installed in 1988.  Twenty-five years of intense use by a seven day a week operation.  No one would have expected the kitchen stove to be replaced, even though there were those who knew that we had to plan for its replacement.  So there was a fund created to do some remodeling in the kitchen.  There is no doubt that we have been challenged.  But challenge does not necessarily lead to fear.
A long time ago, I came to the realization that I really didn’t control much.  The one item over which I had major control was my time.  I would waste my time, I could give it away [that is be a volunteer], I could sell it [ that is an interpretation of getting a job and being paid], but whatever you do with the one commodity over which you have control Time can be a statement of what is important to you.  Just a couple of weeks ago we heard the story of the Good Samaritan.  This gracious person took not only the time to care for a wounded person, but he shared his resources [the money she/he earned to support the injured during his recuperation.
 God has shown the way to be a giver.  Sometimes we take it for granted, but while the words may come easily out of our mouths, we have to remember the God did send his Son into the world to give new meaning to the phrase God is with us.  Even in our lessons for today we hear of the way that God continues to give “for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  We in turn are asked to be givers in the context of today’s lesson in the next verse,   Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Specifically, there seems to be a call to give to the poor.  Collectively we do that.  I loaded 9 boxes of food and supplies this past Thursday that were taken to the local food bank.  We have volunteers who serve those who come desiring food and supplies for their current needs. Then the following day the line started at the drive way and wound all the way back to the beginning of the steps to our main door for those seeking help from Philabundance.  I suppose I should have not been surprised to get a call asking for food and financial support.  The call got a little strange, when I asked where the caller lived.  After a couple of minutes of continuous description of his immediate need.  He said that he was in the panhandle that includes Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.  I shared with him the fact that there had to be someone closer to him than Upper Darby, PA. 
I know that our reputation goes far and wide, but we do try to concentrate our activity within walking or driving distance of the church.  But that does not mean that we will not receive challenges that seem beyond our means.  All the questions that have been asked of you over the last few weeks are an attempt to gather some impressions of what you believe we can handle, what we need to handle and most especially, what might we be open to do in the future that stretches us again, for our time and our talent and our resources.  I believe that our purses are made well, we know that God says that they should not wear out.
For much of the time in the seeking of a new pastor is looking at ourselves.  For the congregation, we the people are the center of the ministry.  The pastor will be a central part of the leadership, but it is the people of God who are the power behind the ministry.  Each week we prepare ourselves for a visit, but it is not often that we consciously think about Jesus coming to each of us in the meal we share at the table.  Each Sunday Jesus is present with us in the word and the sacrament.  As a friend of my says, coming to the table  means receiving his coming to us”.
Whomever the congregation finds as a new pastor will be joining a congregation that is already involved in both finding themselves and connecting with God and Jesus, through prayer, worship, and the sacraments of the church.  Giving of yourselves in those environments, leads to giving of yourselves in the new challenges that will face the congregation as we move into the future, as God’s outpost on Walnut Street.  To God be the Glory in All we do….  AMEN.
Thanks to Brian Stoffregen for assistance.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Rangel gets racial: Tea party a bunch of 'white crackers' - Washington Times

 Why this Saturday?  It started out so well. When a seemingly mature young white male rides down the 6700 Block of Germantown Avenue in his grey pickup truck with his window down and shouting quotes from Riley Cooper, why do I a mature adult older black male feel an urge to quote Rachel Jeantel as she describes Trayvon Martin’s unflattering description of the man who was following him.  Or maybe I just want to quote Rep. Charles Rangel.


Rangel gets racial: Tea party a bunch of 'white crackers' - Washington Times

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Easter 3 2013 Sermon

To hear the Sermon (       There is one joke that I did not use last week.  It has to do directly with the gospel lesson for today, which is probably why I stuck it in the not to use yet file.  I have never figured out why it was appropriate for the disciples to return to their previous occupations.    We have gone through the empty tomb.  We have seen the witness of the women who went to do the final burial process.  We have heard about the two people on the road to Emmaus, who shared their knowledge of the crucifixion.  In seeing Jesus, they didn’t walk back to Jerusalem, they ran.  We have seen Jesus meet with the disciples in a locked room.  We have heard of him appearing again to Thomas to give him a personal experience with the holes in the hands and in the side of Jesus.
Somehow after all this secondary training  of what it means to be a disciple many readers of scripture, preachers in churches and members in the pews cannot figure out why the disciples are not out sharing the Gospel.  Instead, they went fishing…  Now here is where the joke diverges from the Biblical story…
It seems that Peter really wasn’t naked.  He did have on a fishing smock.  It sort of like a Scotsman in a kilt, there was limited or no underwear underneath the smock.  When he spotted Jesus on the shore he was a bit embarrassed that he didn’t have on appropriate clothing, so he dove into the water to cover up his lack of clothing.  That’s when Jesus said, you don’t have to swim into me, I’ll come out to you and he began one of his usual strolls out the boat walking on the water.   Suddenly Jesus begins to sink, and Peter the strong swimmer strokes over to Jesus and hauls him to shore and drags him up on the beach.    As they both catch their breath, Peter says to Jesus, “You must have forgotten that you now have holes in your feet.”
Even without the joke, one still wonders about fishing for fish rather than fishing for people.  It may be easy to explain and say that they did go back to the one thing that they knew well, fishing.  Yet to haul in a catch of 153 fish, this is not something that one fisherman can do alone.  This kind of activity takes team work.  The disciples have been functioning as a team.  In many ways the breakfast feast of fish was a team meal, where they recognized that they would need each other to fulfill the work ahead of them and near the end of the meal, Jesus addresses the disciples one more time. But this time he is quite specific in what their assignments are to be.
"Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" Jesus said to Peter, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you," was his response.  Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."  Now the rest of the disciples who were fishing were still gathered around that breakfast fire.  They heard the exchange and the expectation to continue the ministry.  The Jesus asks a second time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep."  This team of disciples has already been charged with going into all the world to share the Good News of Jesus as the Messiah.   Yet once more, Jesus asks Simon Peter on behalf of all of the disciples, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.
Every time I walk through the front door of this church, I think of the request of Jesus to the disciples.  The feeding of the sheep was not limited to the Middle East.  The feeding of the sheep was not limited to Europe.  The feeding of the sheep includes the African continent of the North, the Central portion and the Southern portion of the African continent.  Feeding the sheep moved to the East and to North America.  Feeding the sheep has covered Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. 
When we look around this congregation, we are the fruits of the team work that began with those disciples who knew what team work was from their work, not only on the fishing boats, but in the walking, talking, and healing that occurred in their journeys with Jesus.  Even today, when we teach new member classes, it is a team from this congregation that introduces the ministries of this congregation to every person who seeks to walk in the path that Jesus has laid out in front of us.  It is not just the pastor but there is a significant number of other disciples who are ready to walk together to feed God’s lambs.
This year the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a church body.  From its very beginning it has said that the desire of the church as a body is to reflect the entire population of this country.  That is why there is an African Descent Lutheran Association.  There are other Associations to which members of this congregation might find support, they include the Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage, the Latino Lutheran Association, the American Indian and Alaska Native Lutheran Association, the Association of Asian and Pacific Islander-ELCA, and the European American Lutheran Association.  Within this congregation, we could be extremely well represented in nearly all the associations.
Maybe that is why we have continuously called this place Christ Lutheran Community Church, for we continue to reflect the community gathered around this building.  We reflect the ministries that serve the surrounding community; we still seem to be answering the command of Jesus to Feed his sheep, feed His lambs, and to tend his Sheep.  May that continue to be the mission of all who gather here with God’s Blessing.  AMEN.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday Sermon 2013

The recorded sermon goes beyond the text posted below so you may want to listen while reading… Black Preacher's Prerogative  (

Luke 19:28-40
19:28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
19:29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples,
19:30 saying, "Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.
19:31 If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' just say this, 'The Lord needs it.'"
19:32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them.
19:33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?"
19:34 They said, "The Lord needs it."
19:35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.
19:36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.
19:37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen,
19:38 saying, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!"
19:39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop."
19:40 He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out."

My last full time parish was in St. Croix, in the US Virgin Islands.  I was surprised to learn early in my first year that we had a parade on Psalm Sunday.  Since the congregation and the church building were a part of the National Park District in St. Croix, we had to obtain permission to bless the psalms in Fort Christavaern, the first home of the church in 1734, and then process to the Steeple Building the first church building for Lord God of Sabaoth.  We then processed to the current church building that dated from the late 1600’s as a reformed church.

When you block off the streets and need a police escort then certainly you do get noticed.  I would suppose that was the atmosphere recorded in the middle of our Gospel lesson for today.  If we tried to replicate the action described in the Gospel lesson, who would come?  Who would notice if we had a parade today?  Even if we just went around the block, would anyone care?

And as soon as the parade was over, who would remember?

Our Biblical passages today suggest that there was not a great deal of planning involved in this event.  When you have to borrow a burrow, and explain to the owner, while you are untying it, that you need it for your lord Jesus, you might say that they didn’t do a whole lot of preplanning.  The triumphal entry into Jerusalem had less planning than this congregation puts into the Chicken Festival.  We move ever so quickly from the obtaining the burro for Jesus to ride upon, to the community celebration of welcoming the newest prophet into the community.  We speedily move to the celebration of the Passover by Jesus and his followers

It is quite ironic to note that this is “Palm” Sunday. In the tropics of the Virgin Islands, we had Coconut palms, royal palms, fan palms, and date palms.  Yet there are no “branches of palms” mentioned in Luke’s account of the parade in Jerusalem.  There are no “leaves from the field” as in Mark (11:8). There are no “branches from the trees” as in Matthew (21:8). There are no leaves or branches of any type mentioned in Luke.  Only John talks about “palms.”
When Jesus enters Jerusalem only Luke tells us:

(1) ...the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen (v. 37).

(2) Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (vv. 39-40).

In Luke, the entrance of Jesus causes a division among the crowd which is not found in the other gospels.  It seems that some were not pleased with the parade in their neighborhood.  Could this be a sign for some of the events of the coming week of the Passion of Jesus? 

Related to this emphasis, the disciples in Luke do not shout “hosanna”—an Aramaic phrase meaning, “Save us, I pray.” What is anticipated at the coming of the king is “peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”  An emphasis for Luke is that salvation consists partly in living at peace with God and with each other—Jews and Gentiles, male and female, rich and poor, slaves and free.

At the same time, he is aware that Jesus’ peace causes divisions: “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” (12:51).  There is a parallel text in Matthew which proclaims that Jesus did not come to bring peace, “but a sword” (Mt 10:34).

For all of Lent I have been noting that Jesus is on a dedicated march to Jerusalem.  He is not be be deterred or detoured. His journey is now almost complete.  As Jesus comes near and sees the city, he weeps over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.... you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God” (19:42, 44b).

When Jesus enters Jerusalem, his disciples pray for peace in heaven (and, presumably on earth, which will bring glory in the highest), but his visitation causes a division.
Today, in the second service we emphasize the peace that comes to those who exercise their faith.  Today we baptize three young people into the family of God.  Specifically their become members of the faith, the discipleship who are  a part of the family of God at Christ Lutheran Community Church.  Join us in being faithful as we pray not only for these new members of our congregation, but let us pray for ourselves as we continue our own journeys as disciples of Christ at Christ.  AMEN.
Thanks again to Brian Stoffregen.