Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Pentecost 23 C Sermon at Christ Lutheran - Upper Darby, PA

On my way to church I listen to "On Being" and today's offering  of Tippet, E.J. Dionne and David Brooks I found exceptional.…/david-brooks-and-ej-di…/9001/audio…

The text follows:
We may no longer read headlines, but way too often we hear the phrase “Leading off in the News”.  Everyday KWY has the news on all day, 24/7, NPR has news in the first 5 minutes of every hour.  I would suspect that when a new and exciting rabbi came to town, it would lead the news of the town crier.  It would be the event that caused people to lay down their work and make sure that they got to synagogue.

Karl Barth is said to have said: "We must hold the Bible in one 
hand and the newspaper in the other." Actually, The Center for
 Barth Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary has not been
 able to pin down exactly from whence that quote emanated. 
However, it is widely known that Barth made the 
Bible/newspaper connection frequently throughout his 
 illustrious career. They have, however, substantiated the 
following quotes…
In an interview from 1966, for example, he stated: 
"The Pastor and the Faithful should not deceive themselves into 
thinking that they are a religious society, which has to do with 
certain themes; they live in the world. We still need - 
according to my old formulation - the Bible and the Newspaper."
News junky that I am, over a period of time, I’ve come to love the Parables in Luke.  These pointed short stories seem to capture everyday life in the believing community in Palestine. Let’s do a bit of review going back to chapter 15.
Welcome to the Town Crier of the Villages that Jesus visited.
 Chapter 15 of Luke, has three parables strung back to back.  In the first story to tax collectors and sinners and the leaders of temple were all wondering about this Jesus [ I guess that would include most of us. ] First he tells a story about a man who has a lost sheep.  Leaving 99 this shepherd leaves to find the lost one.  Finding it there is great joy, and an illusion to finding and saving just one sinner.  It raises an interesting internal question, are we the lost who was saved or one of the 99 who awaited the return of the shepherd?  Either way there is joy.
A woman knows that she has 10 coins, but in counting, she is one short.  She cleans that house from top to bottom before Halloween or Thanksgiving or Christmas, just to find the coin, and when found again there is great rejoicing.
Then there is the frustrated millennial.  He knows he’s not going to inherit the farm, so he asks for his portion of the estate, gets it from his dad, lives on the border of the wild side and blow his inheritance.  Suddenly living on the outside isn’t as exciting as he thought. So swallowing his pride, working for his dad as an employee is better than being left out in the cold.  There is fatherly celebration upon his return, a feast to celebrate the lost, now found. Yet this story has a hanging edge, of a dutiful child for which there is no celebration but a sense of being taken for granted. Can he had his status affirmed,,, and still love his brother???
16. Then there is the episode of the continuing story of BUSTED.  Caught not keeping track of the assets of the household, the manager is sacked. Not yet thrown out on his ear, a way is found to soften his landing, but cutting the debts of his boss’s debtors.  He is considered shrewd for preparing a soft landing when he is thrown out.  This is not a lesson taught at the Wharton School of Business.  The lesson to be learned is one cannot serve God and Money, we can only handle one Master.
Jesus follows with a series of warnings about the everyday living that people do…  People are known to justify public actions… Pick a headline, attorney general asks for house arrest….Governor was informed of tunnel closing…. Didn’t know the critical nature of a wall falling in Downtown Philly…  That still doesn’t make it right in the sight of God… Scripture might call it detestable.
17.  A couple of weeks ago, we found Jesus meeting 10 men outside a village.  They couldn’t go in… They had leprosy…Jesus did his thing… a prayer, a command that they go see the priest in the temple..  While walking they didn’t seem to notice that healing had begun to take place and by the time the priests saw them, They were CLEAN.  ONE, ONE, a Samaritan noticed and went back to Jesus.  Jesus always asks the hard questions…weren’t there 10 you???  So Jesus, surprised that only a foreigner returns to praise God, says to the Samaritan, go, Your faith has made you whole.
18. Now last week, the lesson featured a woman, a widow who sought justice from an adversary.  We are never informed about the nature of the dispute, but it is apparent that the Judge ‘neither feared God nor respected the people.’ [and that’s a quote from scripture.]  The judge notes that he is has little choice in in granting her judgement, or….. she will wear him out.  Persistence sometimes is needed to get the job done, even in the life a Child of God.
Then there is today’s parable.  Jesus notes that he is telling this Story to and about … two people who were going to worship confident that they were children of God [ I beg you not to turn your heads to see who is sitting next to you, for my prayer is that we are not talking about anyone sitting here today….]  These two are called the Pharisee and the tax collector. One is a strict keeper of religious law and the other, a worker for the IRS of his time.  [Given that starting point, as a seminary professor I could be in serious trouble of being on the wrong side of the end of this story…]
The Pharisee had a firm grip on his religious assets.  Kneeling before the altar, He says out loud—“I am not like other people: extortionists, unrighteous people, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”  He has the audacity to even point out his attributes: “I fast twice a week and I give a tenth of everything I get.”  Modesty does not seem to be a part of his self-description.  
While scripture says that the tax collector “stood afar off and beat his breast”, I can imagine him or her sitting about two thirds back next to the wall and gazing out at the stained glass window and whispering almost under his breath…God be merciful to me, sinner that I am.”
Scripture indicates that the tax collector went home justified.  The Pharisee???? Not so much…  Jesus gives an adage to be a primary part of the lesson for the day.  “ For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he or she who humbles themselves will be exalted.” 
These lessons are for us even today.  These lessons lift up for us the question of how and when and how often we read scriptures.  Do we take the bulletin home and reread the lessons for this Sunday/this week?
It may not be the easiest thing to place ourselves under our own investigation of who we are and whose we are as children of God.  But I firmly believe that we reflect that relationship in each and every step of our everyday life.  That is both the News of the Day and the Good News as well as the continual presence of God in our lives, for remember This is our Father we are talking with and talking about.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

To Leilani, To Joel, To Jordyn, To Devon, and to all we have inadvertently failed:

Fifty years ago I was a student at Wittenberg University, a Lutheran University.  We used to joke about it being a "small Christian College, for exceedingly small Christians."  It formed me in many ways to be a minister in the Lutheran Church.  It taught me well about "Having Light and Passing it on to Others."

There were Professors and Administrators who encouraged me, nurtured me, and in retrospect - protected me as a student from 1962-67 as an undergraduate and from 1967-71 as a graduate student. In many instances- not all - my fellow students were my protectors.  I learned to navigate during a time of racial turmoil and the last draft-able war.

In many ways we thought that we had Overcome and that Some Day was now, with a few hiccups along the way.  We raised our children to be in a world where Civil Rights were a right granted by law.  Voting was guaranteed, equal opportunity was on the horizon.  Social mobility was a real possibility.  Our children were raised without the same warnings of foreboding that were routine in my childhood.

It is without suitable critique of Society and status in America that we sent our son off to the same institution from which my wife and I had graduated.  In the intervening 26 years we ASS-U-ME -D that all would be right for our second generation college student.  Schools change, people change, buildings look the same.  My son's fellow students were his antagonists.  The administrators sought witnesses to mete out justice.  Pastoral care oblivious, while custodial staff were able to diagnose the problem as I gathered my transferring student's belongings, when they recognized me from my time on campus.

As I move into observing the third generation of Jordyn and Devon who bear my name and to Leilani, whose post catalyzed this post, I ask for your forgiveness.  In the 60's we thought we gained our rights by law.  What we gained was limited to behavioral modification.  We did not achieve Attitudinal Adjustment.  If anything, the attitudes have hardened and achieved more demonstrable, visual expression.  Civility has become a lost art form.  Words more severe than those uttered by Emmett Till, which caused his death, have become part of the news and a political campaign, and no longer hidden away, or choked down, but loudly proclaimed.

To my child, my grandchildren, to all of their cohorts, please accept my deep apologies for not being honest about the "progress" we thought we had made.  For you living with portions of generations, who have assumed, learned, or been taught that equality is not for all.  But that is the Law.  That we can hold up to our fellow citizens.  With partners, we will continually have to work on attitudes that truncate equality.

Rich Stewart

Saturday, July 23, 2016

sharing a blog -

First South African Church to commit to BDS

In a historic step the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) issued a clear statement in support of the non-violent Palestinian struggle. The church’s national conference approved the resolution on 10 July 2016.

 2016 1072
Rev. Thulani Ndlazi, Synod Secretary of UCCSA, speaking at the conference
The declaration names the danger of Christian Zionism and its literal reading of the Bible which confuses the Old Testament’s Israelites with Jewish Israelis. ‘We hear the Palestinian Christians’ appeal for help,’ they say, and we commit our support to the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign.
2016 964

The statement is the first of its kind by a South African church.

Earlier South African Methodists also urged their circuits to “study the Palestinian Kairos Document that calls for divestment of Israel to end the occupation by Israeli in Palestine” (2013 Yearbook, 3.4:93-95). They also encourage those who undertake “Holy Land Pilgrimages” to have meaningful engagements with the Palestinian community. Yet the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) does not ask people to consider the requests of the Palestinian Kairos Document. UCCSA acknowledges their requests, it affirms the call for creative, non-violent resistance and it commits publically.
What makes it even more historic is the fact that UCCSA was the only South African church who publicly supported the now historic South African Kairos call of 1985.  In it South African theologians asked the world to help end apartheid. The world listened and it helped. In recent years the churches of the world have started to speak up about fundamentalist, Zionist readings of the Bible that support Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.
The statement by UCCSA on Palestine is a welcome prophetic step. It reads as follows:

We pledge our support to the Palestinian people as follows at this 8th South African Synod Conference of UCCSA in George, South Africa:
We recognize that the Palestinian struggle is not simply a conflict, but an asymmetric struggle between an oppressor and the oppressed. The oppression entails a decades’ long institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied territories of Palestine and also against those within Israel and those in the diaspora who are not allowed by Israel to return.

We hear the call of our sisters and brothers from Kairos Palestine who asked the world and in particular Christians to take a public stand against injustice in ‘A Moment of Truth – a Word of Faith, Hope and Love.’

We do not take an anti-Semitism position. However we are extremely concerned about fundamentalist and progressive Christian Zionism which conflate the Biblical Israel with the modern state of Israel. We call on all Christians to read the Bible responsibly so as to not trample on the human rights and the dignity of the Palestinians.  We ask Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land to meet with and to listen to the Palestinians in Bethlehem, East Jerusalem and other cities in the occupied Palestinian territory.

We acknowledge with gratitude the support of our Palestinian sisters and brothers in South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle.

With this resolution we join other churches in the world such as the Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ in the United States of America as well as the United Church of Canada. With them we stand in public solidarity with the Kairos Palestine’s appeal for help and the Palestinian civil society’s call for creative non-violent resistance.

We pledge our support to the international Boycott Divestments Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

The United Congregational Church of Southern Africa is one church in five countries –Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The UCCSA was formed in 1967 but traces its origins back more than 200 years to the arrival of the first missionaries sent by the London Missionary Society to Southern Africa. Today over 500,000 members worship in over one thousand local churches across the five countries.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sermon Pentecost 4 C at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, Mt. Airy

The Audio can be found at:  [Air Conditioners are noisy.]
The Text Follows:

Luke 7:36-8:3
7:36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table.
7:37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment.

7:38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.
7:39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him--that she is a sinner."
7:40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak."
7:41 "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
7:42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?"
7:43 Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly."
7:44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.
7:45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet.
7:46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.
7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little."
7:48 Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
7:49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"
7:50 And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
8:1 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him,
8:2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
8:3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

Forgive us, God, when we fail to walk with you; guide us back to you, and fill us with your love and grace that we might better serve you. Amen.
“We are living in strange times.  WASHINGTON — A Republican senator told conservatives Friday they should pray for President Barack Obama and suggested a biblical passage that says, "Let his days be few."
Georgia Sen. David Perdue told a gathering of religious conservatives that "we need to be very specific about how we pray." He suggested using Psalms 109:8, which reads: "Let his days be few, and let another have his office."
As the audience at the Faith & Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" conference laughed and applauded, Perdue said, "In all seriousness, I believe that America is at a moment of crisis."
The next lines of the Psalm read: "Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow."
Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, said Perdue's comments "left the impression he was praying for the death of President Obama."”
May his days be few;
    may another take his place of leadership.
May his children be fatherless
    and his wife a widow.
10 May his children be wandering beggars;
    may they be driven[a] from their ruined homes.
11 May a creditor seize all he has;
    may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
12 May no one extend kindness to him
    or take pity on his fatherless children.
13 May his descendants be cut off,
    their names blotted out from the next generation.
While this was not the words of a Preacher, but the words of a Christian, I had to have a serious debate – internally  - about forgiveness.  This internal dialogue was already going on as I kept reading the Gospel lesson for today.  The bottom line of the lesson is one of forgiveness.
Remember the story… Jesus was invited to supper at the home of a Pharisee. Jesus ate with a lot of different people.  He even ate with the “tax collectors and sinners,” but also the Pharisees! It may be that by the time of Luke was beginning to record his story of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, the believers may have begun to look at the Pharisees as the “outcasts,” as the Pharisees had done to the “tax collectors and sinners” during Jesus’ day.  As Jesus was in the home of this Pharisee, this woman entered and began anointing Jesus with the ointment from the alabaster jar she brought with her.  She is not anointing his body prior to burial as in the other accounts nor is her ointment described as being costly. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair.  
The Pharisee who had invited Jesus, was just a little unsettled to have this uninvited woman paying so much attention to his guest. Jesus’ host thought to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him--that she is a sinner."  Little did he know that Jesus could read minds.  Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak."
Jesus went into story telling mode, "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?"  Jesus’ host Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly."

It is at this point that Jesus moves into action and teaching. He turns toward the woman, then he speaks to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little."
Jesus may have stunned his host, knowing that he is a guest in the house of the Pharisee.  Jesus was very aware that the other guests gathered were watching every move he made and listened to every word he said.  After the stunned silence Jesus speaks directly to the woman, "Your sins are forgiven." "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."  Can you imagine the murmuring that was going on among those other guests?  The primary question around the table began was, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"
Sometimes I’m just as clueless about the broad parameters of what it means to Forgive.  In reading about the news reports, Senator Purdue is reported to be laughing and smiling, as he alluded to the unscheduled demise of the President of the United States.  I’m having a difficult time – understanding how it is in a gathering of Christians, people can laughingly applaud the application of a Psalm of death on the current President.  Now I must admit, the Senator did not read the following verses, but since 2009 the Psalm [even on bumper stickers] has been around the conservative community. Forgiveness comes with great difficulty, for the ministry of Jesus calls for all of us to recognize the face of faith in everyone we meet.  I started this sermon with this prayer, ‘Forgive us, God, when we fail to walk with you; guide us back to you, and fill us with your love and grace that we might better serve you.’ We are called upon to see the God child in everyone we meet. 
Perhaps that is a lesson we can all learn from one who left us this week.  A signature phrase that we heard on Friday at the Memorial service of Muhammad Ali, ‘Service to Others is the Rent you Pay for your Room here on Earth.’
Even though there were a few folks who have never forgiven him for his stance on the war in Vietnam, or his conversion to Islam, they are the ones who have lost the meaning of forgiveness.  Character and Care are elements of a man who was capable of building bridges and friendships across racial, religious and political challenges.  He truly was one to break down walls of difference.  This citizen of the world knew what it meant to be forgiven and more specifically what it means to forgive.  May we all strive to like Ali, another one of the Greatest, and more importantly a child of the God – Allah and Father of us all.  AMEN.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sermon for St. Michael's Lutheran Church, Mt. Airy 6/5/2016

Audio can be found at :
Text follows:
Sunday June 5 - Third Sunday after Pentecost Readings Complementary Series 1 Kings 17:17-24 Psalm 30 (2) Galatians 1:11-24 Luke 7:11-17 Semi-continuous Series 1 Kings 17:8-16 [17-24] Psalm 146 (8) Galatians 1:11-24 Luke 7:11-17 Prayer of the Day Compassionate God, you have assured the human family of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Deliver us from the death of sin, and raise us to new life in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Gospel Acclamation Alleluia. A great prophet has ris- | en among us!* God has looked favora- | bly on us! Alleluia. (Luke 7:16)

1 Kings 17:17-24
17:17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.
17:18 She then said to Elijah, "What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!"
17:19 But he said to her, "Give me your son." He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed.
17:20 He cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?"
17:21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this child's life come into him again."
17:22 The LORD listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.
17:23 Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, "See, your son is alive."
17:24 So the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth."

Psalm 30
30:1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me. 
30:2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 
30:3 O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. 
30:4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. 
30:5 For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 
30:6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, "I shall never be moved." 
30:7 By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 
30:8 To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication: 
30:9 "What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 
30:10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!"
30:11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 

30:12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

Galatians 1:11-24
1:11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin;
1:12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
1:13 You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it.
1:14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.
1:15 But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased
1:16 to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being,
1:17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus. 
1:18 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days;
1:19 but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord's brother.
1:20 In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!
1:21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia,
1:22 and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ;
1:23 they only heard it said, "The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy."
1:24 And they glorified God because of me.

Luke 7:11-17
7:11 Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him.
7:12 As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town.
7:13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep."
7:14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!"
7:15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
7:16 Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!"
7:17 This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

Easter was really early this year.  That’s the discovery I found in trying to figure out why I had never preached on the lessons from last Sunday or this Sunday.  Easter and Lent are determined by Passover which is in the Hebrew calendar.  There are 3 to seven Sundays between the Baptism of Jesus and Ash Wednesday, depending upon the date of Easter.  This year was only 4 Sundays, thus they need more lessons from Pentecost to the beginning of the next advent.  In spite of my own feelings of inadequacy, the lessons for last week and this week are in many ways important enough not to be left out of the scriptures we can read and study and learn from.  The disciples have gone from being fishermen on a boat to being walking travelers following Jesus, literally from Town to Town.
Again we are like the disciples are walking with Jesus.  When the seminary moved from downtown Philadelphia in 1889, the students and the faculty walked down Germantown Avenue to worship here at St. Michaels.  Let me take a pause here, How many of you watched the recent version of Roots that was on television this past week?  In the four episodes, there was an emphasis on travel.  That travel was by boat, by horse, by cart and of course by foot.  As a people walking seems to be that one way of travel that keeps us in touch with our neighbors and our strangers.  In the context of Roots foot travel without passes to authorize travel was dangerous. 
Yet in this neighborhood it is not impossible to put in quite a few steps to get what needs to be done on a weekly basis.  We don’t walk to downtown Philadelphia, but we do walk to the ACME.  Often in the last twenty five years I walked to work at the seminary.  If the library wasn’t closed for repairs, then there isn’t much we absolutely need that isn’t available by walking.  There have been a few times when I’ve even walked to the top of Chestnut Hill just for fun.  When in better health, your pastor was present on the street.  She probably knows more people on the avenue that most of us gathered here put together.
In one sense Jesus has modeled that type of ministry.  He was present to people.  He walked the same walks that they were familiar with.  His disciples used that time of walking as a time for conversation and learning.  Jesus seemed to be constantly teaching.  From the first 10 verses of the seventh Chapter of Luke to the next seven verses, Jesus and the twelve are on a hike from Capernaum to Nain.  For them no distances seem to be too far.  Not unlike the travel of Chicken George from North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina to both win and lose a cock fight and his freedom, which he thought he had won.  In the last Episode his son walks from North Carolina to Tennessee to find his father who had been fighting for the North in the Civil War. 
I wonder if we would be willing to walk from Capernaum to Nain?  It’s about as far as from St. Michaels to Graterford Prison.  Would we be ready to not just walk alone, but to walk with a big crowd?  We wouldn’t be just walking and enjoying the scenery, we would be talking with one another about what calls us to walk and share the lessons we have learned while with Jesus.  I would suppose that is one reason we never see a Jehovah’s Witness walking alone.  The disciples were walking and talking to others about what they knew about Jesus’s teaching and what they were continuously learning as they traveled together.
It is in this context that Jesus approached the gate of the town of Nain.  A man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town.  When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep."  Coming forward Jesus touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. Then Jesus said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!"  We should not be surprised that the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  We should also not be surprised that fear seized all of them.  I’m not sure about you, but even with age and experience, I’m not sure that the first thing I would do would be to glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!"  My first response would more likely be, “What did Jesus just do?”
Given the outside the box activity of Jesus, it was inevitable that the word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.  It is important to remember, that neither the widow nor anyone in the funeral procession asked for Jesus’ help. Jesus saw the need and acted. (Remember last week in the first part of this seventh chapter, the Roman centurion first sent a delegation of Jewish elders to ask for Jesus’ help – and they reported how worthy the centurion is to receive his help, having built their synagogue.  Yet later he sent friends who report that the centurion is unworthy to have Jesus come to his house. This probably indicates the centurion’s knowledge that it brought defilement for a Jew to enter a Gentile’s house. He was not worthy to have Jesus defile himself, even though Jesus seems ready and willing to do so.

This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.  Do we do the same?  How much and how often do we speak about what’s happening right here at St. Michael’s?  How often do we offer to meet here on Saturday and Sunday?  How often do we offer to walk with others, as they struggle for answers, to all of life’s questions? 

Each of us is a God walker.  Each of us is God talker.  Each of us knows exactly what the people of Nain were experiencing when they said "God has looked favorably on his people!"  We may not have all we want, or for that matter all that we need, but that should not stop us from sharing with everyone we meet what God has done for each and every one of us.  As the word about Jesus spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country, it can also continue to spread on the Germantown Pike.  With our walking and sharing, with our talking and learning, we have a lot of ground to cover from here to Chestnut Hill, and on a good day to Plymouth Meeting and on a Great Day we may make it as far as Graterford.
My thanks to Brian Stoffregen, Lucy Lynn Hogan and a host of others.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sermon for Pentecost 2 - May 29, 2016 @ St. Michael's Lutheran Church, Mt, Airy, Philadelphia, PA

Audio can be found at- Beware the air conditioners are loud.

Luke 7:1-10
7:1 After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum.
7:2 A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death.
7:3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave.
7:4 When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, "He is worthy of having you do this for him,
7:5 for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us."
7:6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof;
7:7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.
7:8 For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and the slave does it."
7:9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."
7:10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
·         Luke 7:1-10God, we walk as though we have no hope in you. Your word declares that nothing can separate us from your love which is in Christ Jesus. Melt us, mold us, fill us, use us in your ministry as we journey on our toilsome way here on earth, for you are our faithful God. Amen.

When a Pastor is asked to supply for someone, I usually check to see ‘when was the last time I preached on the lessons for the Sunday’.  I’ve got enough years on the soles of my feet to at least to try and remember where I preached, to whom I preached this message, and then there is the difficult part – How out of date is the message???  Since the pastors study group had already met in this area, going to their usual Tuesday meeting was already out of the question.  There is one more option, I have an online service I have been a part of since I first got a computer in in 1984.  Gospel Notes for Sunday has been written by Brian Stoffregen for over 15 years and these are his words about the study for the scripture - Luke 7:1-10 which is assigned for this Sunday is used even less. Then there was the phrase that we shared, I have no sermons archived on today’s text.  
So my challenge is to keep it real with a congregation of people I have joined on occasion, in a church I walk or drive by almost daily and one to which I can walk to worship.  And your pastor would be disappointed in me if I didn’t keep it real.  So let us take a look at the text like we were reporters looking a life in this community at Capernaum and how it relates to 6500 Germantown Avenue.
Who are we looking at?  First a little background – in this Sixth chapter of Luke, we learn that Jesus is busy
Lord of the Sabbaoth-gleaning fields and eating on the Sabbath –SOM Lord of Sabbaoth
Healing a Withered Hand-Healing on Sabbaoth – Thought of punishment for Doing good
Choosing 12 Disciples-
Sermon on  the Plain where he Teaches/Preaches about the Beatitudes Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled.
Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
The four woes that follow in Luke 6:24–26[4]
Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Do Not Judge Others-Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven.
After teaching in Chapter 6 we experience the reality of life of walking along side Jesus.  There is no down time, there seems to be a constant call for the attention of Jesus.  He finds that there is a slave, a highly regarded slave who is ill and near death.  He is not able to come on his own to request healing, but the request comes from his owner a Roman Centurion, who make the request of Jewish elders to approach Jesus to heal his servant.  The request comes with a community blessing that the centurion is one of the good guys, he loves the Jewish nation, and he was instrumental in building the synagogue. With Jesus agreeing to travel with the Jewish elders, the trip to the suffering slave is interrupted by messengers  from the centurion, who self declares that he is not worthy to have Jesus come to his home, nor does he presume that he is should come to Jesus.  As a military officer he knows the responsibility that comes with giving, following, and obeying orders.  Jesus is stopped in his tracks, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."
What is the measure of faith in this community?  You have been around for a long time. As I continue to do research on African American Lutherans, there is record that the dedication of St. Michael’s building on October 1, 1752, a Black man, Christian Gotthilf, was baptized here at St. Michael’s.  An early name for this section of the city of which St. Michael’s was a land mark was Beggarstown.  As a congregation St. Michaels was participant in the stabilization of this neighborhood through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and through the last nearly half century. In many ways, should Jesus walk in the door now, called to be present with us, he might ask us what is it about our faith that we did not trust that he was already present.  What has been missed in the ministry offered here?  Depending upon the moment, it has found food for the needy, education and care for children, music for the soul and for those eager to learn, a community center where no question in unheard and sincerely prayed for.
When has this taken place-throughout the life of the congregation?  Though I was only a member for a short period of time, living across the street and being supervisor for students you hosted, for 27 years, St. Michael’s has been my when desperate to get to worship quickly.  You have had an open door for vagabonds like me and for those who have just been in the right place to make the choice to hear the words or receive the actions of a Jesus community that gathers here faithfully.
Where?  Right here.  There is relatively few who do not know the church on the Great Road from downtown Philadelphia to Plymouth at the 8 mile marker. The bulk of this property was purchased in 1737, even though the first pastor who died in 1728 was buried in the graveyard.  So wherever the first gathering place was, it couldn’t have been far away.  We don’t have to go far to find the places where God has been present, and where God is still present.
Why? Because.  Yeah I know I sound like my mother, and maybe yours.  But Because is a way to respond to the fact that each of us in our way have experienced the love of God, the love of God’s community, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the critical moments of our lives. It’s a part of the vows we take at Baptism, it’s a part of the promises we take when we promise to educate our youth at their baptism.  It’s a part of the implied wardrobe that we wear when we say we are Christians and Christ followers.
How is it measured-By dedicating our lives and spirits and souls to being the face of Jesus to all we meet.  We are not all that different from the soldiers we remember this weekend, as some of them gave their all to be the protective face of Jesus.  How is it measured?  By telling a former student and neighbor, that I’m just across the street if you need anything.  How is it measured?  By opening your doors to the neighborhood on a regular basis, and by a pastor who seems to thrive, just like this congregation, on the ability to welcome the stranger, that is what gives love a measure.  AMEN.

Thanks to Lucy Lind Hogan