One Little Word

Where God's Word Meets God's World

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 10C (October 5, 2014)

“God’s work. Our hands.” Emphasis:
First Lesson: St. Matthew 25:31-46
Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 10:25-37

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord God, your mercy delights us and the world longs for your loving care. Hear the cries of everyone in need, and turn our hearts to love our neighbors with the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.


10:25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

St. Luke 10:25-37, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Who Is My Neighbor?

What is he thinking, this Samaritan? He is known by many as the Good Samaritan, but perhaps he is more foolish than good. Traveling that dangerous stretch of road between Jerusalem and Jericho, he happens upon a fellow traveler who has been stripped and beaten by a gang of robbers. They leave him, half dead, on the side of the road.

Others happen upon the same scene, including a priest and a Levite; two religious professionals. Their response is much more reasonable. They understand the dangers (those robbers may have been lying in wait, just beyond the bushes). They honor their responsibility to God’s people (nobody who comes in contact with a dead person can worship without first being ritually cleansed, and God’s people need them to lead worship at the Temple). They choose to pass by on the other side.

Not this Samaritan. What he does is dangerous, impractical, expensive and disruptive. He approaches the injured traveler, bandages him and pours oil and wine on his wounds, loads him up on his own animal, and checks into an inn with him. He cares for him throughout the night, and the next day entrusts him to the innkeeper (promising to pay for his care).

There are any number of reasons why this Samaritan should have passed by on the other side of the road, as the priest and Levite had done before him. But Jesus tells us the Samaritan has a “gut feeling” that he should do something. He is filled with compassion for this unfortunate traveler. He follows his instinct, and shows mercy to him; extravagant mercy! And Jesus commends him: This one acts as neighbor to the man in need. This one experiences life as God means it to be.

For many of us, our acts of faithfulness are deliberate, disciplined and calculated. How much do I have to spare? What will my calendar allow me to do? How much energy do I have? What other obligations do I need to balance? Isn’t it interesting how the questions we ask are so similar to the question the lawyer asks in today’s text? “Who is my neighbor?” (Or, in other words: “How much do I have to do before I know that I’ve done enough?”)

Life, as God wants it to be, is not measured by the responsible nature of our measured actions. Life, as God wants it to be, is not at its richest when it is deliberate, disciplined and calculated. Instead, life is what God wants it to be when the deepest inclination of our hearts drives the character of our actions. Life is what God wants it to be it when Christ is present in us, through us, and with us; shaping our experience of the world, and empowering our love and compassion for one another.

The lawyer in this week’s parable is trying to test Jesus, and trying to justify himself. Jesus invites him to give up his attempts to define the minimum legal standard for salvation, and to give in to the deep source of love and compassion that comes from a living and growing relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This week, he offers that same invitation to each of us.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What question was the lawyer really asking Jesus?
  2. What answer did Jesus provide to him?
  3. What does the example of the Samaritan tell us about the life of faith?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When has someone reached out, and been God’s vehicle of healing for me?
  2. When have I had a chance to be a source of healing for someone else?
  3. Who is my neighbor, really?

The Same Mind

Date: September 28, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 21A)

God’s work: our calling
Our hands: the presence of God
faithful ministry

On this Sunday, as we celebration our church’s history as one that likes to “roll up our sleeves and get to work,” we remember that God both gives us the will to serve our neighbor, and empowers our ability to work for God’s good pleasure. After the sermon, worshippers are invited to leave the building to serve their community in designated service activities (so the sermon is *especially* short).

Download Sermon: 2014 Pentecost 21A

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 21A (September 28, 2014)

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Psalm 25:1-9
Philippians 2:1-13
St. Matthew 21:23-32

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

Prayer of the Day:
God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings. Give us your grace to overcome them, keep us from those things that harm us, and guide us in the way of salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.


2.1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

6who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,

7but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,

8he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

9Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name that is above every name,

10so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Philippians 2:1-13, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Same Mind

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a beautiful tribute to a faithful community for whom Paul had very high regard. The Philippians had been quite supportive of Paul, even to the extent of becoming financial supporters of his ministry, and he saw in them signs of a deep and lasting faith. This letter is intended, primarily, to support and encourage them. Continue reading

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 20A (September 21, 2014)

Jonah 3:10-4:11
Psalm 145:1-8
Philippians 1:21-30
St. Matthew 20:1-16

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants. Because we cannot rely on our own abilities, grant us your merciful judgment, and train us to embody the generosity of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.


20.1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

St. Matthew 20:1-16, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Grace in the Vineyard

What is the kingdom of heaven like? I am thinking of images from a wide range of sources. Songs (especially some of the old spirituals), movies, stories, and pieces of art have all contributed to my personal vision of what the kingdom of heaven will be like. But as I try to form a picture in my mind, I can’t say that it is based on anything I have read in the Bible, because the Bible teaches us about heaven in a different way than that. Continue reading

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 19A (September 14, 2014)

Genesis 50:15-21
Psalm 103: [1-7) 8-13
Romans 14:1-12
St. Matthew 18:21-35

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 14:19-31
Psalm 114
or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness. Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you, that we may delight in doing your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.


18.21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

St. Matthew 18:21-35, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Radical, Unending Forgiveness

Saint Peter is trying to be generous. Put yourself in his position. Imagine that you have a brother or sister in faith who continually sins against you. One time you can forget about it. Twice, maybe. Perhaps even three times. But when someone hurts me in the same way three or four or five or six times, I’m not inclined to be as gracious as Saint Peter. I’ll give them at best three or four chances, and by then my patience has run out. I’m ready to put grace aside and opt, instead, for a good, solid presentation of the law. “Straighten out, or head out… one or the other!”

You see, Saint Peter is beginning to understand that at the heart of faith, as Jesus sees it, is the gift of forgiveness. He is willing to extend the boundaries of his own generosity. “How about it, Lord: what are you really talking about? Are you expecting us to forgive one another time and time again… even as many as seven times?” He is beginning to understand. Continue reading

The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 18A (September 7, 2014)

Ezekiel 33:7-11
Psalm 119:33-40
Romans 13:8-14
St. Matthew 18:15-20

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 149

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy. Without your help, we mortals will fail; remove far from us everything that is harmful, and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.


18.15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

St. Matthew 18:15-20, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Nature of God

This week’s Gospel lesson is quite well known by a relatively small number of believers. It seems to come into play whenever believers (or congregations…) find themselves in conflict. To the extent that it helps believers sit down face-to-face and work out their differences, it has probably been useful in those settings. After all, there is wisdom in this teaching from Jesus: when two of you have a problem, talk to each other. If that doesn’t work, have someone moderate your conversation. If that doesn’t work, deal with it as a community. As long as the church is made up of human beings there will be disagreements, misunderstandings and hurtful actions — some intended and some unintended. It is helpful to have a process; a method to help us work through these experiences together.

The longer I look at this text, though, the less convinced I am that its central purpose has to do with resolving conflict in the church. Continue reading

Servants of the Servant

Pastor’s Monthly Newsletter Article for September, 2014

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by, “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.” [Mother Teresa]

On September 28th, I invite you to join us for our second “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday. During our Sunday morning worship services we will enjoy the shortest sermon of the year, offer our prayers for the needs of the world, experience the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and receive the blessing of God as we are sent “to serve communities in ways that share the love of God with all of God’s people.”

On October 3rd-4th, I invite you to join us for our annual Fall Retreat for Spiritual Renewal. During this day-and-a-half gathering we will explore God’s call for us to live in this world as servants; striving to care for others as Christ has cared for us.

The life of service to others is a central component of Christian discipleship. Continue reading

Divine Things

Date: August 31, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17A)

the wisdom of God
set your mind on divine things
a new way to live

In this morning’s Gospel lesson, Jesus makes it clear to Peter (and to us) that we are to set our minds on divine things (not human things). This isn’t an easy task, but it has to do with a commitment to stay ready to be surprised,  to stay grounded in God’s word, to stay connected to other believers, and to stay aware of the needs of others. As we grow in our ability to do this, we become more aware of the presence of God in our world and in our lives.

Download Sermon: 2014 Pentecost 17A

The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 17A (August 31, 2014)

Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21
Saint Matthew 16:21-28

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b

Prayer of the Day:
O God, we thank you for your Son, who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world. Humble us by his example, point us to the path of obedience, and give us strength to follow your commands, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

16.21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

St. Matthew 16:21-28, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Take Up Your Cross; Follow Me

Peter just doesn’t  get it. He has been with the Lord from the very beginning of his ministry. He has had more opportunity than anyone else to learn how Jesus understands his mission. He has called out that profound confession: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God! But he just doesn’t get it. Directly following Peter’s confession, Jesus begins to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Peter just doesn’t get it. Like a fool, he blurts out: “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”

To the One who gives his life for us Peter says: “God forbid: this must never happen!” To the One who becomes the sign of our hope Peter says: “God forbid: this must never happen!” To the One whose self-giving service teaches us what it means to be God’s faithful people, Peter says: “God forbid: this must never happen!” Peter just doesn’t get it. Continue reading

Who Do You Say that I Am?

Date: August 24, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16A)

Jesus asks us all
who do you say that I am
Messiah, the Lord

Jesus asks his disciples, and he asks us: “Who do you say that I am?” To answer this question, is to enter more deeply into the Christian faith. Each of us should have an answer, to help us grow in faith, and to help us invite others into God’s grace. What is your answer?

Download Sermon: 2014 Pentecost 16A

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