Search

Bishop Michael Rinehart

Pentecost 2B – June 3, 2018

1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15) – The people ask for a king to succeed Samuel, despite his warnings.

OR

Genesis 3:8-15 – The curse of Adam and Eve.

Psalm 138 – I will give thanks to you O Lord with my whole heart.

OR

Psalm 130 – Out of the depths I cry to you. Lord, hear my voice.

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed daily.

Mark 3:20-35 – The crowd was so large, they couldn’t eat. His family came out to restrain him, for the people said he was out of his mind. Can Satan cast out Satan? A house divided cannot stand. All sins forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Those who do God’s will are my brother, sister and mother.

Environment Day Sermons

Related imageWorld Environment Day is June 5, 2018. The goal of World Environment Day, since 1974 has been to raise awareness, and encourage action on behalf of the environment. This year’s theme is Beat Plastic Pollution. 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute. These bottles wash up on the shores of countries around the world, and form large floatillas that smother coral reefs and threaten marine life.

This year, the pastors of our companion synod, the Lutheran Church of Peru, asked if we would be willing to have a sermon exchange. We agreed. The sermons can be found below, in English and in Spanish. Consider reading through these sermons, and preparing one of your own for Sunday, June 3, 2018.

A Call to a “Theo-cosmological” Way of Being
Pastor Emmanuel Jackson, Living Word Lutheran Church, Katy Texas

Creation is Revelation
Bishop Michael Rinehart, TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod

Like a Mustard Seed
Pastor Ofelia Dávila, St. John Way of Hope Lutheran Church, Lima Peru

Lessons from the Flowers and Birds
Pastor Diane Roth, Grace Lutheran Church, Conroe, Texas

The New Creation
Pastor Ashley Dellagiacoma, Kindred Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas

Stewards of God’s Creation
Pastor Alan D. Kethan, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Columbus, Texas

House of God, Gift of Love
Rev. Irene Poncé, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Breña, Lima, Peru

2 Corinthians 4

Starting this week we are in five Sundays in 2 Corinthians. This series consists of three things:

  1. Daily devotional readings
  2. Weekly Bible studies
  3. Weekly sermon helps

Invite people to do a daily devotion for the next five weeks, attend worship and join a study group. Recruit a group of hosts, so that there are a lot of groups at different times of the week and places in your community. All hosts have to do is open their homes and read the questions. You’ll be surprised at how much people grow, and what gets stirred up in the life of your congregation.

The devotional readings and Bible studies can be found in the book A Heart for Reconciliation which can be found at Amazon. Sermon helps can be found at  https://bishopmike.com/books-2/2-corinthians/. Many thanks to Megan Dosher Hanson for working with me to put this together.

The texts for the next few weeks fall out as follows:

Don’t Lose Heart
Pentecost 2B: June 3 – 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed daily.

New Creation
Pentecost 3B: June 10 – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 – If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. We walk by faith and not by sight, at home in the body and away from the Lord.

Open Heart
Pentecost 4B: June 17 – 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 – Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation. We have endured beatings, riots, hunger, imprisonment…

Eager Generosity
Pentecost 5B: June 24 – 2 Corinthians 8:7-15 – The offering for the poor in Jerusalem. Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

Powerful Weakness
Pentecost 6B: July 1 – 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 – Paul’s out of body experience, and his thorn in the flesh. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Corinth

Corinth was a city about half way between Sparta and Athens, on the isthmus between northern and southern Greece. Ships could be dragged across the isthmus, if one had enough slaves. It was at one time the second city of Greece, and one of the major Roman centers, along with Ephesus.

Here stood the temple to Poseidon, god of the Mediterranean, whose anger kept Odysseus from returning to Ithaca from the Trojan wars. Here were held the Isthmian games, which happened biennially and attracted huge crowds. Nero attended on November 28, 66, and he proclaimed freedom to all Greeks.

Corinth probably had a population of 130,000, though some estimate at a lower population of 90,000. It was perched 1800 feet above the harbor on a mountain called the Acrocorinth. It was a worldly city. The verb “to Corinth” (Korinthiazesthai) meant to fornicate. Aphrodites’s (the goddess of love) temple crowned the high mountain on which the city stood. The temple was staffed by a thousand female slaves, which probably lended to its great popularity with the sailors (according to Strabo).

It should come as no surprise to us that Paul’s letters to the Corinthians deal extensively with issues of marriage, misconduct and sexual morality. Shortly after Paul left, one of the church members had an affair with his stepmother. Paul is offended: even the Gentiles don’t even speak of such things. It was against Roman law, and against Jewish law as well.

Paul is suspicious of carnal relations, though not the prude that his contemporary Seneca is. “You and I who are still far from wise, must not commit the error of falling into a stormy passion which enslaves us to someone else.” —Seneca. Many chose celibacy as a “higher calling.” Paul probably would have agreed, but said it’s better to married than afire with lust. Paul would say, though, that it would be better to remain single so as to do the Lord’s work. (I Cor. 7:32). He did not, however, advocate divorce, saying that couples should never refuse one another sexually.

Priscilla and Aquila

In Corinth, Paul meets up with two business associates, also tentmakers, Priscilla (a diminutive for Prisca, “ancient”) and Aquila (“eagle”), who have been expelled from Rome in Claudius’ purge of the Jews. In Priscilla we encounter another tradeswoman, like Lydia. Tradespeople belonged to business associations. If Paul was making and selling tents to earn his way, it would have been natural for him to link up with others similarly engaged. Think of the freemason’s lodge or Kiwanis Club, which provide business contacts and support as well as a shared social fellowship. The words, club, association, and church are all the same word in Greek: ecclesia. It is quite possible the church started this way, as it did with Lydia in Philippi. Juvenal blamed much of the immorality and superstition of the age on the fact that women had found emancipation through these clubs. Paul said Priscilla and Aquila had “risked their necks” for his life. (Romans 16:3-4)

Titius Justus

After living with Prisca and Aquila for a couple of years, Paul moves in with Titius Justus, who, perhaps significantly, lived next door to the synagogue. There is a white marble lintel inscribed SYNAGOGE HEBRAION and an impost decorated with the seven-branched candlesticks on Lechaeum Road there. Paul reminds the Corinthians after moving on to Ephesus, that rich men supported their ministry and provided them with a meeting place.

Paul says, “I received from the Lord what I passed on to you,” this is my body, this is my blood of the new covenant… In those days, when the number of followers of Christ were so small they could fit in one house, communion was a piece of cake (if you’ll pardon the pun) — clearly a social meal, held at the home of the person with the most square-footage. But shortly after Paul leaves, he hears of problems: divisions among believers, and drunkenness and gluttony. Here’s the problem. Most Roman dining rooms would only have space for a few diners. The rich would probably eat first, as was the custom. The poor would arrive after work, and wait around in the atrium until there was space. In addition, while waiting for the plebes to arrive, the rich were getting drunk. Paul saw this as an affront to the gospel. It is not, in his view, the Lord’s Supper at all. In addition, it could be that there would be manifestations of the Spirit that could be taken for drunkenness (e.g. tongues as in Acts 2), further clouding the issue. Which raised another divisive issue: those who spoke in tongues and those who didn’t.

Eating food sacrificed to idols.

In most ancient cities, the butchers were the priests and the priests were the butchers. Should one be a vegetarian to avoid eating meat dedicated or sacrificed to some pagan idol? Many believed that the gods were devils. Is it proper to eat food that has been sacrificed to a devil?

Paul takes a liberal approach. Just because some priest mumbled some mumbo-mumbo over the animal does not make it evil. These gods are not Gods anyway. For Paul, the important thing is that Christ made us free. Some practiced vegetarianism to avoid eating pagan meat. Others didn’t. Paul’s message: Live with one another. There were those who practiced celibacy and those who didn’t. Respect one another. There were those who were Jewish Christians and those who were Pagan Christians. Many divisions. One faith, one Lord, one baptism.

All their spirituality is worth nothing if there is not love, according to Paul in I Corinthians 13. Love is the subject of Paul’s most famous hymn, “words which, if he had written nothing else, would have guaranteed that subsequent generations would have revered Paul, seeing him as one the most stupendous religious poets and visionaries whom the world has ever known.” (A. N. Wilson, Paul, p. 173)

How many letters?

While there is little doubt among scholars that Paul is the author of 2 Corinthians, there is quite a bit of discussion over whether the Epistle was originally one letter or whether it is a composite of two or more of Paul’s letters.

Although the New Testament only contains two letters to the Corinthians, the evidence from the letters themselves is that he wrote four, at the very least:

  1. The Early Letter. 1 Corinthians 5:9 says, “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons”). Paul is clearly referring to an earlier letter that predates 1 Corinthians. This is sometimes called the “warning letter”.
  2. 1 Corinthians
  3. The Severe Letter. Paul refers to an earlier “letter of tears” in 2 Corinthians 2:3–4 and 7:8. 1 Corinthians clearly does not match that description; so this “letter of tears” may have been written between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians.
  4. 2 Corinthians

The tone of the first part (chapters 1-9) of 2 Corinthians is harmonius. Then there is an abrupt change of tone. 2 Corinthians 10–13 has a bitter tone. This has led some to speculate that chapters 10–13 form part of the “letter of tears” referenced in 1 Corinthians 5:9. Those who disagree with this assessment usually say that the “letter of tears” no longer exists. It may be lost to history, as are most of Paul’s letters.

Outline

There are several ways to outline 2 Corinthians. Here is one possible way:

  1. 1:1-11 Greeting
  2. 1:12-7:16 Paul defends his actions and apostleship, affirming his affection for the Corinthians. (Our first three readings.)
  3. 8:1-9:14 Instructions for the collection for the poor in the Jerusalem church.
  4. 10:1-13:10 A polemic defense of his apostleship
  5. 13:11-13 Closing greetings

Reading schedule

It is our recommendation that participants in this study read one half of a chapter of 2 Corinthians each day. At this rate, you will progress through 2 Corinthians in less than a month. It may be advisable to read the entire letter in one sitting at first, to get a feel for the whole of the letter.

2 Corinthians 4

This week’s text comes from 2 Corinthians 4. Chapter 1 proceeds like a typical Pauline letter. He identifies himself as the author, along with his travelling companion, Timothy, who with Silvanus helped Paul to proclaim the gospel to the Corinthians. Paul gives his standard greeting, and then a blessing that evokes images of his own suffering for the sake of the gospel.

Chapter 2 begins with the words, “I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit.” And “I wrote as I did…” Paul must have written a scathing letter to them, the “Severe Letter” mentioned above. With a hint of defensiveness, Paul insists on his sincerity, saying, “We are not peddlers of God’s word like so many.” (2:17)

In chapter 3, Paul goes on to share his love for the Corinthians. They are Paul’s letter of recommendation, written on his heart, not on stone tablets, like the law. Here he hints at what may be part of the conflict. As in Galatians, the Judaizers may also be working with the Corinthians, demanding they be circumcised, follow Jewish customs and abstain from eating meat and anything not kosher. “We are ministers of a new covenant, not chiseled on stone. Paul rehearses a common theme of frustration that his Jewish colleagues do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. They are “veiled” as Moses was on the mountain.

When we arrive at our chapter for today, Paul says, “we do not lose heart.” The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this world has blinded them. Paul says he and his colleagues proclaim “Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.” The God who said “Let there be light,” has shined in our hearts. We have this gospel in clay jars, to show the glory is from God, not us.

Our text begins at verse 13. We have the same Spirit. And God, who raised Jesus will also raise us, and bring us all into God’s presence. Here we arrive at the heart of Paul’s faith. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” (4:16) The suffering of this world is a “slight momentary affliction” in light of eternity. It is preparing us for something greater. We look beyond what can be seen to what cannot be seen. We look beyond the temporal to the eternal. The punch line comes in the first verse of chapter 5: If this earthly tent in which we live is destroyed, we know we have a house not made with hands in heaven.

One possible theme for the preaching might be perspective. Paul puts his momentary suffering in perspective. He takes the long view. In his book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey says to “begin with the end in mind.” Perhaps this is a Sunday to have people write their obituaries. There is something about this practice that puts things in perspective. It helps people get out of the tunnel vision of the moment and think about the broad arc of life. Our lives are atomized. What is the sum of the parts? What do our current priorities say about who we are? How will they be perceived by those who come after us?

Another theme might be spiritual growth – the outer nature and inner nature. Is your outer nature wasting away? If you’re over 25, probably so. It begins slowly at first, and becomes pronounced after 50. More importantly, is your inner nature being renewed daily? As our bodies deteriorate, is our spirit becoming more rich? Are you growing spiritually? How would you know?

Galatians 5:22 says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Are you growing in these fruits of the spirit? Are you a more loving person than you were at this time last year? Do you have more joy? More peace? Are you becoming more kind, generous and faithful? As our bodies wear out, the Spirit grows our inner nature.

As we become more loving and patient, more Christ-centered, we find we have more resources for the momentary sufferings we encounter. They don’t go away, but we put them in perspective and find that joy helps us in our sorrow.

Invite people to make a commitment to their spiritual lives. Take time for prayer this week, and trust that the Spirit will grow their inner nature. Take time each day to read a little Scripture (half  a chapter of 2 Corinthians). Make time for prayer, worship and study, then trust that the Holy Spirit will grow their spiritual lives.

A third approach might be found in the phrase, “So we do not lose heart…” In the midst of all the ups and downs, Christ is our hope. We might draw upon a couple of verses earlier in chapter 4, prior to our reading (4:8-10):

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.

It is faith that gives us hope in the midst of any trials that come our way. Our joy does not come from our circumstances, but from our ability to see beyond our circumstances. As Nehemiah said (8:10), “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

Environment Day Sermons / El Dia Mundial del Medio Ambiente

environment dayWorld Environment Day is June 5, 2018. The goal of World Environment Day, since 1974 has been to raise awareness, and encourage action on behalf of the environment. This year’s theme is Beat Plastic Pollution. 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute. These bottles wash up on the shores of countries around the world, and form large floatillas that smother coral reefs and threaten marine life.

This year, the pastors of our companion synod, the Lutheran Church of Peru, asked if we would be willing to have a sermon exchange. We agreed. The sermons can be found below, in English and in Spanish. Consider reading through these sermons, and preparing one of your own for Sunday, June 3, 2018.

Here are some texts that might be used…

Genesis 1 – Seven days of creation. It is good.
Genesis 2 – Adam and Eve in the garden.
Isaiah 55 – The mountains and hills burst forth in song. The trees of the field clap their hands.
Job 38 – Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Psalm 24 – The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.
Psalm 19 – The heavens declare the glory of God.
Psalm 104:14-30 – O Lord, how manifold are your works.

Romans 1:20 – Creation reveals God.
Romans 8:19-25 – Creation aches to be set free from bondage and decay.
Colossians 1:15-20 – Christ, the firstborn of all creation, died to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth.

Matthew 6:25-34 – Consider the lilies.
John 1:1-5 – In the beginning was the Word.

A Call to a “Theo-cosmological” Way of Being
Pastor Emmanuel Jackson, Living Word Lutheran Church, Katy Texas

Like a Mustard Seed
Pastor Ofelia Dávila, St. John Way of Hope Lutheran Church, Lima Peru

Lessons from the Flowers and Birds
Pastor Diane Roth, Grace Lutheran Church, Conroe, Texas

House of God, Gift of Love
Rev. Irene Poncé, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Breña, Lima, Peru

The New Creation
Pastor Ashley Dellagiacoma, Kindred Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas

Stewards of God’s Creation
Pastor Alan D. Kethan, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Columbus, Texas

Creation is Revelation
Bishop Michael Rinehart, TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod

El Dia Mundial del Medio Ambiente

El Día Mundial del Medio Ambiente es el 5 de junio de 2018. El objetivo del Día Mundial del Medio Ambiente, desde 1974, ha sido crear conciencia y fomentar acciones en favor del medio ambiente. El tema de este año es Vencer Polución Plastico. Se compran 1 millón de botellas de plástico por minuto. Estas botellas se filtran en las costas de países de todo el mundo y forman grandes flotillas que sofocan los arrecifes de coral y amenazan la vida marina.

Este año, los pastores de nuestro sínodo compañero, la Iglesia Luterana de Perú, preguntaron si estaríamos dispuestos a tener un intercambio de sermones. Acordamos. Los sermones se pueden encontrar a continuación, en inglés y en español. Considere leer estos sermones y preparar uno propio el domingo 3 de junio de 2018.

Aquí hay algunos textos que podrían usarse …

Génesis 1 – Siete días de creación. Es bueno.
Génesis 2 – Adán y Eva en el jardín.
Isaías 55 – Las montañas y las colinas estallan en canto. Los árboles del campo aplauden sus manos.
Job 38 – ¿Dónde estabas tú cuando puse los cimientos de la tierra?

Salmo 24 – La tierra es del Señor y su plenitud.
Salmo 19 – Los cielos declaran la gloria de Dios.
Salmo 104: 14-30 – ¡Oh Señor! ¡Cuán variadas son tus obras!

Romanos 1:20 – La creación revela a Dios.
Romanos 8: 19-25 – La creación duele para liberarse de la esclavitud y la decadencia.
Colosenses 1: 15-20 – Cristo, el primogénito de toda la creación, murió para reconciliar todas las cosas en el cielo y en la tierra.

Mateo 6: 25-34 – Considera los lirios.
Juan 1: 1-5 – En el principio era El Verbo.

Una Llamada a Una Forma de ser “Teo-cosmológica”
Rev. Emmanuel Jackson, Iglesia Luterana Palabra Viva, Katy, Texa

Como una semilla de mostaza
Rev. Ofelia Dávila, Iglesia Luterana San Juan Camino de Esperanza, Lima, Peru

Lecciónes de los Flores y Pájaros
Rev. Diane Roth, Iglesia Luterana Gracia, Conroe

La Casa Dios, Regalo de Amor
Rev. Irene Poncé, Iglesia Luterana Belén, Breña, Lima, Peru

La Nueva Creación
Rev. Ashley Dellagiacoma, Kindred, Houston, Texas

Mayordomos de la creación de Dios
Rev. Alan D. Kethan, Igelsia Luterana San Pablo, Columbus, Texas

Creación es Revelación
Obispo Miguel Rinehart, El Sínodo de la TX-LA Costa del Golfo

La Casa Dios, Regalo de Amor / House of God, Gift of Love

Este es uno de varios sermones escritos en inglés y español por pastores de la Iglesia Luterana de Perú y el Sínodo de la Costa del Golfo Texas-Louisiana, ELCA, para el domingo (3 de junio de 2018) antes del Día del Medio Ambiente (5 de junio de 2018) . El sermón aparece en español primero, luego en inglés, a continuación.

This is one of several sermons being written in English and Spanish by pastors in the Lutheran Church of Peru and the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, ELCA, for the Sunday (June 3, 2018) before Environment Day (June 5, 2018). The sermon appears in Spanish first, then in English, below.

fullsizeoutput_8f9f

La Casa Dios, Regalo de Amor
Día Ambiental, Junio 2018
Rev. Irene Poncé
Iglesia Luterana Belén, Breña, Lima, Peru

Hablar del medio ambiente, siempre fue un tema lejano para muchas personas incluyéndome a mí. Era un tema para profesionales y especialistas en la materia.  Pero cuando te toca de cerca, es cuando tu ser reacciona frente a las inclemencias del clima que afecta a los menos favorecidos de nuestro país. El dolor de ver al otro o la otra ser arrastrado entre lodo y piedra; de que todo lo que construyeron con tanto esfuerzo se les fue arrebatado.  Es tal el sentido de pérdida que cuesta trabajo levantarse y seguir adelante. Sin embargo la esperanza se abrió paso cuando vimos a una mujer levantarse cual estatua de barro entre los escombros; está imagen quedó grabada en la mente y los corazones de muchas personas que miraron con indiferencia lo que pasaba. Pero este hecho, dio un giro a tal grado que las voces fueron juntándose y juntándose para decir que no estaban solos y que la desesperanza estaba perdiendo espacio.

Es evidente que la tierra está con profundas heridas y no es que no tengamos responsabilidad en ello, la tenemos, porque no hemos asumido el reto de usar sabiamente lo que Dios dejó bajo nuestro cuidado, su creación y hemos permitido con nuestro silencio que se contamine y destruya la casa grande donde vivimos o mejor dicho sobre-vivimos hoy.

Siempre estuve luchando con la idea de que Dios dio tanto poder al ser humano para que sometieran la tierra, de tal manera, que usó este poder para hacer de ella lo que quisieran sin pensar en las consecuencias. Hoy tengo una nueva mirada y veo estos pasajes de la creación con los ojos de Jesús y desde allí encuentro que tanto hombres como mujeres, son llamados y llamadas a cuidar con amor la tierra, el oikos (casa) que con tanto amor Dios nos regaló.

Si miro los textos de la creación con los ojos de Jesús, veo también el texto de la vid verdadera en Juan 15 con esos mismos ojos. Lo que pretendo decir, es que el amor es la base fundamental para que no perdamos el horizonte y nuestra permanencia en Jesús y su amor sea el motor para que las ramas no se desprendan del tronco y se sequen,  sino que den muchos frutos y no amargos sino dulces. Si es así somos sus discípulos y discípulas que se levantan frente a la indiferencia y el dolor con el abrazo y la acogida al amor que viene de Dios y que regalo a quienes necesitan de ello y además cuido y limpio para dar paso a nuevos retoños o sea para que dé más fruto todavía, como dice la Palabra. Eso que acabo de señalar está estrechamente vinculado con la promesa porque la presencia de Jesús estará siempre con nosotros y nosotras para que en el camino sigamos siendo fortalecidos/as por Dios.

Como pastora este texto se vuelve a mí para decirme que hay mucho que andar en el cuidado del medio ambiente y que aún hay esperanza porque en nuestras pequeñas congregaciones hay señal de retoños nuevos, de nuevas generaciones que van emergiendo y que necesitan ser bien amados para que al sentir en sus vidas ese amor sean motivados y motivadas amar la Pachamama (madre tierra), respetarla y defenderla. De esa manera hereden a sus hijos/as o sus nietos/as nuevos aires.

IMG_0332

House of God, Gift of Love
World Environment Day, June 2018
Rev. Irene Poncé
Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Breña, Lima, Peru

Speaking of the environment always felt like a distant issue for many people, including me. It was a subject for professionals and specialists in the field. But when it touches you personally, is when your being reacts to the inclement weather that affects the less fortunate in our country. The pain of seeing the other or the other being dragged between mud and stone in the floods; that everything they built with so much effort was taken from them. Such is the sense of loss that it is hard to get up and move on. However, hope broke through when we saw a woman stand up like a statue of mud among the rubble; this image was engraved in the minds and hearts of many people who watched with indifference what was happening. But this fact was a turning point to such a degree that the voices were joining and coming together to say that they were not alone and that the despair was losing ground.

It is evident that the earth is deeply wounded and it is not that we do not have responsibility for it, we have it, it is just that we have not taken on the challenge of using wisely what God left under our care, his creation, and we have allowed our silence to be contaminated and destroy this great house in which we live, or rather survive, today.

I was always struggling with the idea that God gave so much power to the human being to subdue the earth, in such a way, that he used this power to make it what they wanted without thinking about the consequences. Today I have a new look and I see these passages of creation with the eyes of Jesus and from there I find that both men and women are called and called to take care with love the earth, the oikos (house) that with so much love God gave us.

If I look at the texts of creation with the eyes of Jesus, I also see the text of the true vine in John 15 with those same eyes. What I am trying to say is that love is the fundamental basis so that we do not lose the horizon and our permanence in Jesus and his love is the engine so that the branches do not detach from the trunk and dry out, but that they bear many fruits and not bitter but sweet. If this is the case, we are his disciples who rise up against indifference and pain with the embrace and welcome to the love that comes from God and that I give to those who need it and I also take care and clean to give way to new shoots or be it that it may bear more fruit, as the Word says. That which I have just pointed out is closely linked to the promise because the presence of Jesus will always be with us and we so that on the way we continue to be strengthened by God.

As a pastor, this text says to me, there is a lot to be done in caring for the environment and there is still hope, because in our small congregations there are signs of new sprouts, of new generations that are emerging and that need to be well loved. By feeling that love in their lives they are motivated to love the Pachamama (mother earth), respect it and defend it. That way they inherit their children or grandchildren anew.

And we not only see call and warning in this image, but we see promise. We will be disciples of Jesus and apostles of his message not only because we learn from him and imitate him, but we see promise of the presence of Jesus with us, “remain in me, and I in you” (15.4). It is not just an expectation of production, but a promise of help, help and strength from God.

 

Trinity – May 27, 2018

Isaiah 6:1-8 – Call of Isaiah. Six-winged seraph. Holy, holy, holy.

Psalm 29 – Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. (Ps. 29:2)

Romans 8:12-17– Life in the Spirit. Present suffering incomparable to the glory to be revealed. Creation eagerly waits… in labor?

John 3:1-17 – Nicodemus. Being born of the Spirit, which blows where it wills.

Hymns: Come, Join the Dance of Trinity, 412 ELW, and Holy God, We Praise Your Name, 414 ELW. Eternal Father, Strong to Save, ELW 756. God, Whose Almighty Word; Holy, Holy, Holy. We Believe, by The Newsboys: http://youtu.be/E00j5xGeDm8. David Scherer (Agape) has a creed, as do Lost and Found, Jay Beech, The David Crowder Band (Believe) and Hillsong (This I Believe).

A Heart for Reconciliation: 2 Corinthians in June

A Heart for ReconciliationStarting next week, the epistle texts for the Sundays in June, and July 1, will be from 2 Corinthians (chapters 4, 5, 6, 8, 12). Some of us down here in the Gulf Coast Synod have prepared:

  1. A book of daily devotions
  2. Some discussion questions for small groups and
  3. Some background material for pastors and group leaders

The background information and the discussion questions are free for the taking on my blog. There’s also a link to setting up small groups.

The daily devotions with discussion questions are available in paperback or digital at Amazon.

Recruit your small groups leaders. Start some home groups. Contact me if you have questions.

Here are the Five Sunday Texts

Don’t Lose Heart
Pentecost 2B: June 3 – 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed daily.

New Creation
Pentecost 3B: June 10 – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 – If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. We walk by faith and not by sight, at home in the body and away from the Lord.

Open Heart
Pentecost 4B: June 17 – 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 – Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation. We have endured beatings, riots, hunger, imprisonment…

Eager Generosity
Pentecost 5B: June 24 – 2 Corinthians 8:7-15 – The offering for the poor in Jerusalem. Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

Powerful Weakness
Pentecost 6B: July 1 – 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 – Paul’s out of body experience, and his thorn in the flesh. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Environment Day


environment dayIf you don’t use 2 Corinthians, consider preaching a sermon on the stewardship of creation June 3. World Environment Day is June 5. Here in the Gulf Coast, our companion synod, the Lutheran Church of Peru has invited us to a sermon exchange. Some of those sermons are already up on my blog, bishopmike.com. These sermons are posted in both English and in Spanish.

Some texts that could be used:

Genesis 1; Psalm 104:14-30; Colossians 1:15-20; John 1:1-5.
Psalm 24: The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.
Psalm 19: The heavens declare the glory of God.
Isaiah 55: The mountains and hills burst forth in song. The trees of the field clap their hands.
Romans 1:20 “Ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made.”

Trinity

When the Father laughs at the Son
and the Son laughs back at the Father,
that laughter gives pleasure,
that pleasures gives joy,
that joy gives love,
and the love is the Holy Spirit.
—Meister Eckhardt

Trinity Sunday is the only festival of the church year dedicated to a doctrine. A full discussion of its roots can be found on Wikipedia under Trinity. There is is a lot of interesting information there, but as Pastor Don Carlson in our synod says, it’s pretty hard to preach. Preaching doctrines can be a pretty dry business. One has to ask the question, from the perspective of the assembly, “So what?” Where does that touch down?

One of the ways I have found to touch down in people’s lives, is to talk about experiences of God. We experience God as creator (through creation, and being in our own skin). We experience God in the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. We experience God in the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Jesus that blows through our lives and our communities.

Pastor Carlson suggests rehearsing Luther’s Small Catechism on the Apostle’s Creed. The Small Catechism is helpfully included in the pew edition of Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 1160. The portion on the Creed begins on page 1162. Luther focuses on “believing” not as intellectual assent to events or doctrines, but rather in trusting in the God who comes to us in three persons.

Consider singing “Come, Join the Dance of Trinity,” 412 ELW, and “Holy God, We Praise Your Name,” 414 ELW. Another Trinitarian hymn is “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” ELW 756.  “God, Whose Almighty Word”; “Holy, Holy, Holy” — There are simply too many good traditional Trinitarian hymns to list them all.

In a contemporary setting, We Believe, by The Newsboys is popular in many of our congregations. The refrain is low and singable. The theology is straightforward. http://youtu.be/E00j5xGeDm8. David Scherer (Agape) has a creed, as do Lost and Found, Jay Beech, The David Crowder Band (Believe) and Hillsong (This I Believe).

Here is a 6-minute video on You Tube that might make for a meaningful prelude/gathering or contemplative piece during the service. It is a “Ken Burns effect” on Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Trinity set to the opening of Tchaikovsky’s “Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.” The Russian Orthodox chant captures a sense of mystery.

I would not drag out the Athanasian Creed on this day. It has, in my opinion, little liturgical value. The product of 4th century polemics, it is a valuable historical document that is important in study, but it requires too much interpretation of the 4th century cosmology to be helpful, especially to newcomers. Pastor Don Carlson says, “It nails the coffin lid on Arianism and Adoptionism, but also nails the lid on interest about halfway through; and the anathemas smack of Christendom.”

Jesus and Nicodemus

To preach the day or preach the text? That is the question. I doubt that the writer of John had Trinitarian formulations in mind when he was writing his gospel. To read Pastor Carlson’s extensive notes on John’s theology and this passage, based on the work of Dr. Ray Pickett (LSTC), visit here: https://bishopmike.com/2012/05/29/6-3-12-is-trinity-sunday/ . Don Carlson has several excellent posts on the Trinity on my blog, as he used to post when I’d take vacation in June. Here’s another one, that gives some historical perspective to our trinitarian creeds: https://bishopmike.com/2013/05/19/5-26-13-is-holy-trinity-sunday/

I would disagree with his premise that “born again” is unbiblical. It’s true that ανωθεν can mean either “again” or “from above.” It can also mean “from the top.” To say one reading is “unbiblical” seems an overreach. Furthermore, Nicodemus seems to confirm “born again” when he makes the comment about returning to the womb and being born a second time. Perhaps the double meaning is intentional. Both work together. We are to be reborn from above. Translation is tricky. One could faithfully translate it, “unless one is reborn from heaven,” in my opinion.

The problem, of course is that “born again” frontier theology has co-opted this passage in the ears of most North Americans. Many will hear a very specific decision-theology message, tied to the so-called “sinners prayer” and accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. This narrow understanding is light-years from John’s early second-century  theology. Furthermore, the continuous (aorist) sense of the verb “born” γεννηθη really means “unless a person is being born again…” or “unless a person is being regenerated…” This does not read like a one-time event, but rather a constant process of being made new. You must be in the continuous process of being born again, and again, and again.

Jesus answered Nicodemus, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?” Jesus has an edge here. Can a teacher of Israel not understand the need for constant repentance and renewal?

Everybody knows John 3:16 — “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

But few continue with John 3:17 — “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

What to preach?

What does it mean to be saved? Pie in the sky when you die, bye and bye? Salvation in the Hebrew Scriptures means wholeness. It conveys more than our linear sense of going to heaven when you die. One option is to explore the fullest meaning of salvation.

Another is to consider what we mean when we talk about God. As a parish pastor, when I’ve bumped into atheists, I often asked them to describe the God in which they do not believe. I found I didn’t believe in that God either. This conversation, while not focused on trying to convince others of a particular view point, was often fruitful. God is the source of all things.

A few years ago (2007) Canadian author William P. Young self-published a book of fiction called The Shack, which went on to become a New York Times best-seller. After a tragedy with his daughter, “Mack” Phillips enters the shack and encounters manifestations of the three persons of the Trinity. God the Father takes the form of an African American woman who calls herself Elousia and Papa; Jesus Christ is a Middle-Eastern carpenter; and the Holy Spirit physically manifests itself as an Asian woman named Sarayu. The book provides a stimulating opportunity to consider how God is manifested, particularly through suffering.

Here’s how Rob Bell starts his 2-hour walk through Scripture, talking about the Trinity: https://bishopmike.com/2010/05/30/trinity/.

However you come at this, remember the words of my homiletics professor Paul Harms, “So what?” What is the Good News about the way God comes to us, even those of us sitting here today? How might those who yearn for God be open to encounters with the divine? Consider talking about spiritual practices.

May 20 is Pentecost B

Acts 2:1-21– Day of Pentecost. Rushing wind. Tongues of flame. Multi-lingual, multicultural event. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
OR
Ezekiel 37:1-14– Valley of the Dry Bones. I will put my spirit in you and you shall live. You shall know I am the Lord when I open your graves…

Psalm 104:24-34, 35bSend forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth. (Ps. 104:31)

Romans 8:22-27– Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness… intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
OR
Acts 2:1-21 – Day of Pentecost. Rushing wind. Tongues of flame. Multi-lingual, multicultural event. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15– When the Advocate comes, he will bear witness to me… lead you into all truth.

pentecost ceiling

Video: Here’s an interesting Pentecost video from Working Preacher.

Church musician Mark Mummert helped assemble some thoughts about the Pentecost constellation of hymnody. Here are some of the standards:

  • Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord (ELW 395)
  • Spirit of God Descend Upon My Heart (ELW 800)
  • Come Gracious Spirit Heavenly Dove (ELW 404)
  • Holy Spirit Truth Divine (ELW 398)

Consider some newer hymns in ELW:

  • Veni Sancte Spiritus: This is an ostinato chant from Taizé:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3YPg0KTGlY&feature=youtube_gdata_player. The refrain can be found in ELW 406. The verses can be found in the ELW accompaniment version. You can also order beautiful Taizé music at www.augsburgfortress.com. Get Music For Taizé, Volume 1 (www.giamusic.com). There is also a booklet with instrumental parts available.

  • Spirit of Gentleness: This popular, simple folk renewal song is in ELW 396.
  • Gracious Spirit, Heed Our Pleading: Why not try a least one global song? This Tanzanian song has a beautiful, simple refrain (ELW 401) that begs to be sung in parts. Have your choir look it over beforehand.
  • O Living Breath of God (ELW 407): Now here is a hymn that shows the breath of the Spirit. This hymn started out as a Swedish folk tune sung by men’s choruses yearning for good fertility in the springtime of the year, and later became a beloved tune in Latin America.. It will stick in your congregation’s ears all week long.
  • The Spirit Intercedes for Us (ELW 180): Consider using this refrain as the assembly response to the Prayers of Intercession. From the Lutheran music group, Dakota Road, this refrain is memorable and even has a built in “sigh” with the words “Oh, oh, oh.”
  • Blest Are They (ELW 728): This song by David Haas (Roman Catholic composer who also wrote “Blest Are They” and “We Are Called”) is a cry for the Spirit with hints of Psalm 104, appointed for Pentecost.

Besides this, consider Send Us Your Spirit, which is not in ELW. Here it is being sung at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXHW1zoexZA&feature=youtube_gdata_player. You can order the sheet music here: http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/Send-Us-Your-Spirit/4592558# or find it in one of the Gather volumes. Here are the lyrics:

Send Us Your Spirit

Refrain: Come Lord Jesus. Send us your Spirit. Renew the face of the earth.

1. Come to us, Spirit of God. Breathe in us now. We sing together.
Spirit of hope and of light, fill our lives.
Come to us, Spirit of God.

2. Fill us with the fire of love. Burn in us now. Bring us together.
Come to us; dwell in us. Change our lives, oh Lord.
Come to us, Spirit of God.

3. Send us the wings of new birth. Fill all the earth with the love you have taught us.
Let all creation now be shaken with love.
Come to us, Spirit of God.

On the folk side of things, I’m still amazed how many people (especially baby boomers) remember and love We Are One in the Spirit, which lifts up unity as the work of the Holy Spirit.

Some congregations do Handt Hanson’s Wind of the Spirit from Worship and Praise.

Blow, Spirit, Blow has a catchy refrain that sticks with people. With minor stanzas, the major key, circle of fifths chorus has a lifting feel to it.

Holy Spirit Rain Down is another popular contemporary hymn. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-SI_HRWooA&feature=youtube_gdata_player 

A Heart for Reconciliation: 2 Corinthians in June

In two weeks, the epistle texts for the Sundays in June, and July 1, will be from 2 Corinthians (chapters 4, 5, 6, 8, 12). Some of us down here in the Gulf Coast Synod have prepared:

  1. A book of daily devotions
  2. Some discussion questions for small groups and
  3. Some background material for pastors and group leaders

The background information and the discussion questions are free for the taking on my blog. There’s also a link to setting up small groups.

The daily devotions with discussion questions are available in paperback or digital at Amazon.

Recruit your small groups leaders. Start some home groups. Contact me if you have questions.

Pentecost in the Revised Common Lectionary

We hear Acts 2 every year on Pentecost of course. Additionally, in Year A we get the options of Numbers 11, I Corinthians 12 and John 7 or 20. In Year C we can choose from Genesis 11, Romans 8:14-17 and John 14. This year, Year B, we have Ezekiel 37 (Dry Bones), Romans 8:22-27 (Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness… with sighs too deep for words…) and John 15 (When the advocate comes, he will bear witness to me… lead you into all truth…).

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning…

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

In his farewell speech, Jesus says he must go away, so that the Spirit will come. It is to the disciple’s advantage that Jesus leave, so that the Spirit will come. That Spirit will reveal sin and righteousness to the world, and reveal all truth for the disciples. Then Jesus sets the stage for further revelation. Apparently there is more to learn, but the disciples are not yet ready to hear.

This Spirit he calls the παράκλητος (paraclete), which the NRSV translates “Advocate.” Just as Jesus is the truth in John, the Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Klaytos means “called.” Para means “alongside.” The paraclete is one who is called to ones side. (“Comforter” is not a good translation.) In Greek this would be an attorney, counsel for the defense. John is the only one to use this word in the New Testament.

This advocate will also give them the strength to endure the persecution they will likely endure in the world. To be a disciple is to expect persecution. As Rabbi Edwin Friedman used to say, “If you are a leader, expect sabotage.” What kind of persecution? John 16:2 says, “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.” One who is persecuted or prosecuted needs an advocate.

Pastor Brian Stoffregen helpfully pulls some things together for us in this passage:

There are five “Paraclete”/”Spirit of truth” sayings in John

  • 14:16-17 (Paraclete & Spirit of truth are used)
  • 14:26 (Paraclete is used)
  • 15:26 (Paraclete & Spirit of truth are used)
  • 16:7-11 (Paraclete is used)
  • 16:12-15 (Spirit of truth is used)

All of these are part of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. The roles of the “Paraclete” are:

  • to be with us forever (14:16)
  • to teach and remind us of Jesus’ words (14:26)
  • to testify/witness on Jesus’ behalf (15:26)
  • to prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, & judgment (16:7-11)
  • to guide us into all truth (16:12-15)

Professor Ginger Barfield says our temptation will be to make this sermon about what happened in the past, rather than what the Spirit is doing in the present. What is the Spirit doing today? What truth is the Spirit revealing? How is the Spirit revealing sin and righteousness? How is the Spirit strengthening us for persecution? How do you see the Spirit alive and at work in your community?

The Spread of the Spirit

In Acts 2, people from all over the Roman Empire come to Jerusalem for the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost is actually the Greek name for the festival. The Jews called it the “Feast of Harvest” or the “Feast of Weeks” (Exodus 23, Exodus 24, Leviticus 16, Numbers 28, and Deuteronomy 16).

Countries of people mentioned at Pentecost map

Pentecost brings a rich tapestry of themes to it. Unity. Diversity. Comforter. Spirit of truth. It’s a multilingual, multicultural, multi-ethnic event, for the spread of the gospel.

In Acts 1:8, the theme verse for Acts, Jesus tells the disciples that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit falls on them, and they will be witnesses in outwardly emanating circles of city, region and world. The Spirit fills us with hope and joy, so that our lives will be a witness to the power of faith, a witness to Jesus himself. The Spirit gives us even more according to Paul: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22). We need this. The Spirit reaches down deep inside us and prays within us when we cannot find the words (Rom. 8:26).

The neglected third person of the Trinity is absolutely indispensable for the life of the community of Christ. It may need more than one Sunday. I once did a summer series on the Fruits of the Spirit. Nine grueling weeks, and yet it sparked conversation and reflection on the character of the Christian community, and the need for the Spirit to get there.

May your celebration of Pentecost in Word and Sacrament, prayer and song, fill you with joy and love and hope, that you might be empowered to witness to what God is doing in the world.

This summer I am going to repost some earlier comments on the texts, so that I can spend this time working on a podcast series on prayer. Stay tuned for more information about this!

The Original Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870

Julia Ward Howe, who worked tirelessly for the abolition of slavery, is known for writing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. In 1870 she penned the Appeal to Womanhood below, later known as The Mother’s Day Proclamation. In 1872 she called for a Mother’s Day of Peace, on June 2. Howe dedicated the celebration to the eradication of war, and organized festivities in Boston for years.

In 1907, Anna Jarvis began working to have Mother’s Day officially recognized. Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made it official, proclaiming Mother’s Day a national holiday.

Appeal to Womanhood Around the World

Mother’s Day Proclamation

Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, disarm! The sword is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑