One Little Word

Where God's Word Meets God's World

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

Lessons:
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.

Jesus comes, not to rule the world through military, economic, or social might. He comes to rule the world through love and humility and the willingness to give his all that others might know God’s grace. Jesus comes, not to enjoy the privileges afforded to those who are in positions of power. He comes to give of himself in a way that empowers others. Jesus comes, not to recruit a small group of followers who will help him rule the world. He comes to inspire his followers to lives of sacrificial love that can win over the world. Peter just doesn’t get it.

And sometimes, neither do we. It is easy to become so engulfed in our own preconceptions, that we just don’t get it. God’s word is a radical word. It is a word that contradicts much of what our society teaches us. It is a word that calls us out of our own wants and desires, and places us in the service of people we’ve never met and can scarcely imagine. It is a word that forces us to ask not: “What is good for my family and me?” but: “How can my family and I make a difference, for Christ’s sake, in the lives of others?” (Maybe JFK was on to something after all, back in 1961…)

This weekend’s text asks us whether or not we are willing to sacrifice ourselves, our customs, our preferences, our comforts… This weekend’s text asks us whether or not we are willing to pick up our cross, deny ourselves, lose our lives, and follow our Lord. It won’t be easy. It won’t be without cost. There won’t necessarily be a whole host of friends and neighbors encouraging us along the way. But the Lord assures us that “Those who lose their life for my sake will find it…”

May we be so deeply touched by God’s love, that we become determined to share it no matter the cost. May we be willing to give of ourselves, even when it is difficult, that we might be faithful to the One who died for us. May we find the kind of life that our Christ wants for us. True life. In Jesus’ name.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How is Peter’s rebuke of Jesus different from his confession in last week’s Gospel?
  2. How is Jesus’ response to Peter different from what we read last week?
  3. How is Jesus’ suffering for us related to his command that we “pick up our cross?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Do I know what it means to live as a follower of One whose love is seen most clearly in his death?
  2. Am I willing to shape my personal life, my family’s priorities, and my congregation’s mission in a way that shows I am willing to die for the sake of others?
  3. What most inhibits me from living sacrificially?

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

Summary:
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

The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 16A (August 24, 2014)

Lessons:
Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138 (8)
Romans 12:1-8
St. Matthew 16:13-20

Semicontinuous Series
Exodus 1:8-2:10
Psalm 124 (7)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, with all your faithful followers of every age, we praise you, the rock of our life. Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son, that we may gladly minister to all the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

St. Matthew 16:13-20. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Rock Solid Faith

It seems, some times, that we are inundated with polls. There are polls about issues; polls about politicians; polls about items of human interest. We seem obsessed with knowing how many people agree or disagree with us.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus takes a poll of his own. As he is traveling through Caesarea Philippi, he raises two questions. First of all, he asks his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They come back with the following information: some believe that he is John the Baptist, come back to life. Some believe that he is the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Some believe that he is Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Continue reading

Trusting in God’s Grace

Date: August 17, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15A)

a mother’s concern
faith: trusting, not believing
leaning on God’s grace

Summary:
In a conversation between Jesus and a Canaanite woman which seems troubling to us, a gem appears: this woman shows us what the life of faith is all about. It doesn’t have to do with “what” one comes to believe. It has to do with “whether” one comes to entrust all of life to God’s care. May we learn, from her, that God is one who can be trusted. And may we learn, with her, how to entrust our entires lives to God.

Download Sermon: 2014 Pentecost 15A

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 15A (August 17, 2014)

Lessons:
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Psalm 67 (3)
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
St. Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28

Semicontinuous Series:
Genesis 45:1-15
Psalm 133 (1)

Prayer of the Day:
God of all peoples, your arms reach out to embrace all those who call upon you. Teach us as disciples of your Son to love the world with compassion and constancy, that your name may be known throughout the earth, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

[15:10 Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16 Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”]

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

St. Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Mission… and Grace

There has been a lot of talk throughout the church about how important it is to be clear about one’s sense of mission. Churches are developing mission statements. Task forces and committees and teams are using those mission statements to shape their objectives. Leadership groups are making personnel and programmatic decisions based on those mission statements. It all is done for good reason: research shows that the clearer an organization is about its mission, the more apt it is to be moving forward in a way that is meaningful. We continue to find our stated mission here at Saint Peter (Welcomed into God’s love just as we are; Sent into God’s world to be a reflection of Christ’s love) to be a helpful way of focusing our efforts. Continue reading

The 9th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 14A (August 10, 2014)

Lessons:
1 Kings 19:9-18
Psalm 85:8-13 (8)
Romans 10:5-15
St. Matthew 14:22-33

Semicontinuous Series:
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b (1, 45)

Prayer of the Day:
O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us in the faith of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

14:22 Immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

St. Matthew 14:22-33. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Trust

Some years ago my family and I decided to visit Glacier National Park, where I worked for two summers during my college years. I was an employee at Many Glacier Hotel: a beautiful Swiss-styled hotel, located in the Swiftcurrent Valley, just a few miles from the continental divide. It is a spectacular place, and I enjoy any opportunity I get to visit there.

We were on a driving and camping trip, so we decided to spend the night at the Many Glacier Campground. As we pulled into the campground, we saw a huge (8’ X 4’) sign that included an ominous image of a lurching bear, with the following text:

Warning: Grizzly bears have killed campers in this camp.
Follow all posted rules regarding food and personal items.
Continue reading

True Abundance

Date: August 3, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13A)

commanded by Christ
you give them something to eat
life of abundance

Summary:
In the face of a hungry crowd, Jesus says to his disciples: “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” In the face of a hungry world, he says the same to us. We are called to live in this world not with a perspective of scarcity, but with a perspective of abundance. We can be radically generous. And of what we give, God will receive, bless, break and distribute… and there will be enough: for us, and for the world.

Download Sermon: 2014-08-03 sermon

A Growing Congregation

Pastor’s Monthly Newsletter article for August, 2014

What is a growing Christian congregation? There was a day when that was an easy question to answer. A growing Christian congregation was one where the total number of members increased, the average Sunday worship attendance went up, the budget became larger and the staff expanded. Those were the days when most of our neighbors had church memberships, and in certain instances the stigma of not being a church member kept people connected with us who might not otherwise have chosen to join a church. Any church where the music and preaching was above average was bound to see numerical growth.

In many communities those days are over. The fastest growing category on most religious surveys is “no preference.” There is no longer a significant social stigma associated with not being a church member. In years to come, churches will have a smaller and smaller “market share” from which to draw members. It seems that numerical increases will no longer stand as key measurements of a Christian congregation’s growth.

So what replaces it? That isn’t entirely clear yet. Most “experts” who are studying these issues are still struggling to find ways to describe what the future holds for congregational ministry in the United States. But it has, at least, something to do with a shift from the corporate to the individual. It may well be that a growing Christian congregation in the coming years will be one where its members grow, individually, in faith, hope and love. It may well be that such a congregation is measured not by numbers and percentages, but by the ways in which it helps its participants (1) to be at peace with themselves and their God, (2) to grow in their ability to live a Christ-like life, and (3) to make a difference in their communities.

Obviously, this will be harder to measure than numerical growth – and perhaps that’s O.K. After all, too much focus on measuring is a part of what has turned the Christian church on its head. If we insist on holding to those old ways, we could find ourselves claiming that if we help our participants to grow in faith, hope and love, then our membership will increase, our budget will become larger… The end result would be a congregation still confused about what it means to grow.

I want to suggest that the best way to address this is to continue to work on building habits of discipleship in our lives. As we pray and read Scripture daily, worship weekly, serve the community at least once a month, grow in generosity, and participate in a small group or faith partnership, our congregation may or may not grow numerically, but we will grow in faith, hope and love – and that is what it’s all about.

So keep practicing those habits of discipleship in your lives. And keep praying that God will empower you to grow in faith, hope and love. Let’s help this congregation grow in ways that truly matter.

God’s peace to you all,

Pastor Dave

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13A (August 3, 2014)

Lessons
Isaiah 55:1-5
Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 (16)
Romans 9:1-5
St. Matthew 14:13-21

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 17:1-7, 15 (15)

Prayer of the Day
Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness, and you cover creation with abundance. Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit, and with this food fill all the starving world; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

14:13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

St. Matthew 14:13-21. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Scarcity and Abundance

The disciples are faced with an overwhelming dilemma. They are in the wilderness, listening to Jesus preach and teach, and observing as he heals those who are sick. Quite a crowd has gathered. St. Luke records that there are about 5,000 men, besides women and children. This is one of the largest groups, ever, to gather with Jesus in Biblical times.

It is the end of the day, the disciples know the people will soon be hungry, so they advise Jesus to dismiss the crowds, allowing them to go and eat, but Jesus has something else in mind. He directs the disciples to feed them.

You can almost imagine what is running through the disciples’ minds as they look out over the vast crowd, and then back to the basket that holds the two fish and five loaves they have been able to pull together. There is hardly enough to feed the twelve of them and Jesus. How in the world does he expect to feed a crowd that includes 5,000 men? No reasonable person could disagree with the assessment that there just isn’t enough. Continue reading

A Labor of Love

Date: July 27, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12A)

God’s kingdom of grace
the greatest treasure of all
our joyful pursuit

Summary:
The Kingdom Parables of  Matthew 13 describe the remarkable gift that God’s grace is to us, and the joy and passion with which people of faith pursue the life of faith. Let’s keep reminding one another of that gift, and pray that the Spirit will fill our hearts and lives with a passion for God.

Download Sermon: 2014 Pentecost 12A

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