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.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Dear Friends,
This is the final Wednesday in Lent 2013.  My daily devotions begin each day with the Moravian Daily Texts.  This habit started while on sabbatical in 2008, as the chapel service at the seminary in Pietermaritzburg South Africa started each day with7:30 am chapel.  Daily the leaders would refer to the Moravian texts which were a part of the annual directory for all clergy and church leaders in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa.  Returning to the United States the habit kept me in spiritual solidarity with those I had taught and worked with for six months.  As a part of God’s worldwide family, I remain in solidarity.  Perhaps you might want to join me.  If you would like to subscribe you might want to go to this web site.  (
Moravian Daily Texts
Wednesday, March 20 – Psalm 37:27-33
Nehemiah 12:1-43; Romans 6:17-7:6

When they say to you, "Consult the mediums and the spiritists," should not a people consult their God? Isaiah 8:19 (NASB)

When God had disarmed the rulers and authorities, he made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Christ. Colossians 2:15 (NASB)

Thank you, gracious God, for all you have done for us. You have given us life, your love, and Jesus, your Son. May everything that we do and say this day be a pleasing gift to you, in grateful response. Amen.

Thanks for the opportunity to share with you this Lent.             Rich Stewart

Sunday, March 17, 2013


To hear the sermon see (

This is the second time in two weeks that I’ve had to preach on foot washing.  Last Saturday, I preached at the Ordination of Rev. Barbara Alice Hayden.  Barbara was a Student seeking ordination through the Alternate Route to Ordination Track.  I was both the Program Director and her Advisor.  Unlike some students who take 3-4 years or more to complete the alternate route program, she completed it in less than three years.  It must be said she had a couple of advantages.  Her employment was at the church she was serving; unlike some others who were working full time jobs and serving a congregation in their “spare” time, and taking courses to fulfill the requirements of the church. 
Her lesson was from the next chapter in John and it is the foot washing that we will encounter on Maundy Thursday.
John 13: 3-15, 20          
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.
How many of you have had your feet washed?  It’s really a silly question, as most of us wash our feet every time we take a bath or a shower.  But how often have we had someone else wash our feet?  There have been a couple of occasions where I have both had my feet washing on Maundy Thursday and a time or two when I have done the foot washing.  It is a humbling feeling to be in either position.  When it’s done as a part of the worship service there are both the moments of seriousness and sometime hilarity.  It is humbling to take someone’s foot in your hand and pour water on it and then to take a towel and dry the foot and the toes and there is an intimacy of drying between the toes.  There are times too, when one laughs when someone comes with stockings that cannot easily be removed and then there is a much more gentle approach to the washing that the foot and its covering.
But there are also times of true care, which is the art of playing the host in a Middle Eastern home when a guest arrives.  We no longer wear sandals or go bare foot in our daily lives.  Then foot washing was a way of greeting a visitor and encouraging them to take part in your home’s hospitality.  We now offer people access to the take care of their needs alone.  Yet I am a part of a cadre of people who must see a doctor on occasion with my diabetes.  My podiatrist has the honor of treating and inspecting my feet in a way that reminds me of the images I have of how Jesus was treated as he made his way toward Jerusalem.  My doctor is taking care of me to prevent death.  Mary in many ways is preparing Jesus for his death.
Feet are terribly important.  Even now with cars and public transportation, our feet still are the first thing that hits the floor in the morning.  On Sundays our feet guide us into this sanctuary.  In the time when we baptize we say in many ways that we choose to walk in the path of Christ or that we will teach our children to walk in the path of Christ.  In attending a baptism for a friend who was Greek Orthodox, the child in a baptismal gown was even immersed in a deep baptismal font feet first, up to and over his head. 
For last week’s sermon for ordination I called the time of her education, a time when we washed her feet with the hospitality of education about the faith.  Now that may sound like a big leap, but in many ways, we are all learning what it means to be a child of God.  For in this Lenten season we have asked you to pray on Wednesday as a part of the Lenten discipline.  We have offered the church on Fridays or any other day to be a place where you could come to walk the Stations of the Cross.  This time with God is facilitated by our feet, for they bring us to this place.  It is a time and place for us to be in spiritual contact with God who has saved us, the God who loves us and the God who protects us.  We too could use a little foot washing in this place of hospitality. 
We, that is members of the congregation, will be offered some lessons of faith.  We will be a part of an expanding process of choosing a new pastoral leader in this parish.  There are some tasks that could use some additional support.  You may be asked to learn a new skill, or take on a new responsibility, where there may be a need for training.  That may be the time when you are called upon to have your feet washed in learning about these new endeavors.
In learning something new, we too have to be willing to dip our toes into the water of new learning.  We may need to see if this water of new learning is warm to our touch or maybe it doesn’t soot our need, our skills or our desires.  But that does not mean that you are to be ignored.  You may have to volunteer to be a part of a new endeavor or an old project.
I would like to say that you can come on in the water is fine.  But I know better.  We too may wonder about the cost.  There are never any guarantees, but like Mary, she was willing to give the task at hand the best she had to offer, and even that was criticized.  Mary brought her best to the foot washing.  We are asked to bring our best to the table, for God has given us his best to be our servant and our guide.  As we get ready to enter into Holy Week, let us take stock once more about where our feet are going.  Let us guide our steps in the way that Christ would have us walk.  Let us be willing to lighten the load of others who are working with us in the church.  And Lord, prepare us to come together to be able to wash the feet of one another, in humbleness and with grace.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Last night I heard a story about Bishop Desmond Tutu.  When I first met him he was just the father of a student at Berea College and the friend of a friend of mine Father Henry Parker.  Since then, like a lot of other people, I have only seen him from afar.  But on one of his trips he was being shuttled from an airport by a driver.  Suddenly from the back seat there was this quick request to stop.  On a freeway, the driver wondered whether there was something wrong with the Bishop, or had they left something at the airport, or some other unmentionable need for urgency.  As he maneuvered the car to the highway shoulder, he looked over his shoulder and asked what the emergency was.  With his trademarked twinkle in his eye, he said, it was time to PRAY.  The Bishop’s practice is to pray four times a day.  Somehow with him it’s easy to see how in the midst of a traffic clogged drive to an engagement, the praying of the daily office takes precedence.  In my public contacts with him he has almost always been bubbly and light hearted in his comments, but beneath the surface and embedded in the words is a deep understanding of his continuing relationship with God.
Luke 11:1   He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said  to  him, "Lord,  teach   us   to   pray , as John taught his disciples."  2  He said  to  them, "When you  pray , say:  Father, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come.   3  Give  us  each day our daily bread.   4  And forgive  us  our sins,  for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted  to   us .  And do not bring  us   to  the time of trial."
How often do you pray? 
Is it regularly scheduled?
Is it daily?
How can the church help you with your prayer?
How can we help each other with our prayer?