One Little Word

Where God's Word Meets God's World

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

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 12A (July 27, 2014)

Lessons
1 Kings 3:5-12
Psalm 119:129-136 (130)
Romans 8:26-39
St. Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 29:15-28
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b (1, 45)
or Psalm 128 (1)2

Prayer of the Day
Beloved and sovereign God, through the death and resurrection of your Son you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy. By your Spirit, give us your wisdom, that we may treasure the life that comes from Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

13:31 [Jesus] put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

St. Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The New and the Old

I have long been a history fan, and admire those whose understanding of events past runs deep. I used to love hearing Professor Tim Lull discuss Luther and his time. His grasp of Luther’s life, ministry and theology was powerful, and he would share those old stories with us in a way that made us wish we had lived in those times. Likewise Shelby Foote, in the “Civil War” series presented by PBS years ago, seemed to make the past present again when he spoke of how our nation evolved during those tumultuous years. I love learning from a good historian. They teach us about our past in a way that helps us live more wisely in the present.

I also enjoy learning from those who have insights into what the future holds. Whether it is in congregational ministry, political science or economics, there are those who seem to know where events are leading us; people who can provide insights into what might make for a strong future. They help us shape our present in a way that allows us to most effectively address the future.

In this weekend’s Gospel lesson Jesus teaches us that both of these viewpoints are essential if we are to be about the work of God’s kingdom in a way that truly makes a difference. God’s people sometimes find themselves polarized, with some claiming that faithfulness is all about being true to our past, while others claim that adapting to the present and preparing for the future is our primary task. Jesus teaches us that “every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Faithfulness has to do with living amidst the interchange between the ancient word handed down from our ancestors and the creative insights about where God’s future is leading us.

Beverley R. Gaventa, Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, writes these words:

Not every new wind is a Nor’easter that will shake the church’s very foundations. Neither is every stone in the foundation the makings for a prison. Both the new and the old belong in the householder’s treasure. Both the new and the old may serve the church. Both the new and the old may reflect the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Both the New and the Old” from Christian Century, June 30-July 7, 1993, page 669.

She reminds us that whether we are embracing that which is old, or experiencing that which is new, it is important to measure them both against what we know about God in Jesus Christ. How do our traditions (and our traditional beliefs) point us to the one who died and rose on our behalf? How do new insights (or new beliefs) draw us into those things that mattered most to Jesus?

May we be faithful in asking just such questions together.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Text:

  1. What do these parables teach us about the kingdom of heaven?
  2. Are the images Jesus uses here old images or new images?
  3. What new insights does he provide into God’s kingdom?

Connecting with This Week’s Text:

  1. What aspects of our (Christian or Lutheran) tradition are most meaningful to me?
  2. What new ways of being God’s people have stirred me most deeply?
  3. How have the old and the new worked together to help me better know God

Let Both of Them Grow Together

Date: July 20, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 11A)

shining like the sun
weeds and wheat grow together
faithfulness, our call

Summary:
Jesus here admonishes his followers not to focus on eradicating what is unfaithful, or negative, or evil in the world, but to concentrate on being what we are called to be: fruitful in the work God has entrusted to us. This is our evangelism — our witness to the world.

Download Sermon: 2014 Pentecost 11A

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