One Little Word

Where God's Word Meets God's World

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 9B (July 5, 2015)

Ezekiel 2:1-5
Psalm 123
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
St. Mark 6:1-13
Semicontinuous Series:
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
Psalm 48

Prayer of the Day:
God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us to proclaim the coming of your kingdom. Give us the courage you gave the apostles, that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace in every circumstance of life, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:1He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.4Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.6And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching.7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts;9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.10He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

St. Mark 6:1-13 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.

A devotional message based on this text will be posted by Tuesday evening.

Growing Generosity

Date: June 28, 2015
Liturgical Day: The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 8B)

our response to grace and love
fruit of the Spirit

The Apostle Paul encourages his friends in Corinth to be generous in giving their financial support to an offering he was taking to help the saints who were destitute in Jerusalem. The Macedonians were extravagantly faithful in doing so, even though their community was impoverished. The Corinthians (who lived in a much more prosperous setting) could do even more. This text encourages us, today, to be generous in our support of congregational ministry and relief to those in need.

Download Sermon: 2015 Pent 8B

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 8B (June 28, 2015)

Lamentations 3:22-33 or Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Psalm 30
2nd Corinthians 8:7-15
St. Mark 5:21-43
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and merciful God, we implore you to hear the prayers of your people. Be our strong defense against all harm and danger, that we may live and grow in faith and hope, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

5:21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

St. Mark 5:21-43, 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.

Talitha Cum

Do we observe the world through the eyes of what is old, or through the eyes of what is new?

I know that my natural inclination is for the old. I tend to have a very practical, skeptical perspective on the world. I am aware of the brokenness, and at times I wish it wasn’t so. I wish the troubled relationships that I experience were well. I wish the physical ailments that I suffer would go away. I wish my old truck didn’t make that strange, new sound when I press the accelerator. I wish the landscape that surrounds me wasn’t parched and dry and vulnerable. I wish the nations of the world were more committed to living together peaceably. I wish the church was vibrant, and more capable of sharing good news with those who don’t yet believe. I even wish the Colorado Rockies had a stronger, healthier pitching staff. I see the brokenness in all these realities, and I wish that it wasn’t so. But my hope is not always strong. I’ve become accustomed to people who are hard to love, bodies that resist healing, automobiles that continually need repair, flammable trees and ground cover, international strife, a church in decline, and pitchers who can’t find the zone.

It is easy for a sense of what is to overcome a sense of what might be.

What strikes me in this week’s story about Jesus, is the hope that becomes evident. Jairus, a leader of the synagogue (Were some of his friends and colleagues already plotting to do away with Jesus?), has a twelve-year-old daughter who is so ill, that she has come to the point of death. Yet he falls down at the feet of the Rabbi from Nazareth and implores him — begs him! — repeatedly, to come and lay his hands on the child. Jairus is filled with a deep hope: the hope that Jesus has the power to make someone well; the hope that Jesus has the power of life.

A woman has been unwell for the same amount of time as this girl has lived. Perhaps these hemorrhages have rendered her unclean, and she has been forced to live at a distance from everything she loves. At the very least, St. Mark tells us, she has endured much at the hand of many physicians, and her medical journey has ruined her life. She fights her way through the crowd, finds herself just behind Jesus, reaches out, and touches the fabric of his cloak. This woman is filled with a deep hope: the hope that Jesus has the power to make someone well; the hope that Jesus has the power of life.

There are those who are less inclined to stake their lives on this hope. “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” (v. 35) Yet Jairus and the woman resist this practical, skeptical perspective. They stake their hopes on Jesus, and on the power of his word: “Do not fear, only believe.” (v. 36) And the healing they receive causes them, and others, to be overcome with amazement.

I know, in fact, that Jesus has the power to make someone well. That Jesus has the power of life. I, too, have seen it happen. I, too, have known those who have been overcome with amazement. This week’s Gospel challenges my practical, skeptical nature — our practical, skeptical nature. And we are invited by the Lord of healing — by the Lord of life — to entrust all the brokenness of our lives to him in hope.

May the Holy Spirit fill us with the faith and trust do to so.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What brokenness did the disciples and crowd members observe in their lives?
  2. In which instances were they able to entrust that brokenness to Jesus?
  3. How did that become a blessing for them?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What brokenness is apparent in my own life?
  2. In the face of it, am I more inclined to be practical and skeptical, or faithful and hopeful?
  3. How might I live in a way that trusts in the promise of Christ?

Do You Not Care?

Date: June 21, 2015
Liturgical Day: The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 7B)

for those who struggle
the gracious love of Jesus
the power of God

We are called to be the presence of Christ in the lives of the who struggle: agents of Christ’s love and God’s power. May we be faithful to this call in all that we say and do.

Download Sermon: 2015 Pent 7B

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 7B (6/21/2015)

Job 38:1-11
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32
2nd Corinthians 6:1-13
St. Mark 4:35-41
Semicontinuous Series:
1st Samuel 17:[1a, 4-11, 19-23] 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20

Prayer of the Day
O God of creation, eternal majesty, you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm. By your strength pilot us, by your power preserve us, by your wisdom instruct us, and by your hand protect us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

4:35 On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

St. Mark 4:35-41 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Jesus is teaching beside the sea. He is sharing kingdom parables with his listeners. The kingdom of heaven is like a sower who goes out to sow…  The kingdom of heaven is like lamp under a bushel basket… The kingdom of heaven is like a seed growing in the ground… The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed… Then, without explanation, he decides it is time to leave. Time to make their way across the Sea of Galilee to the other side; the Gentile side. Perhaps St. Mark reminds us here that the ministry of Jesus will not be limited to just one people. The minute we begin to imagine ourselves as insiders, he is on the water, and heading for the other side.

So they climb into the boat, put off from the shore, and begin to row. One imagines that the disciples must have been feeling a bit triumphant. Their leader had cured many diseases. He had wowed the crowd with his surprising wisdom. The crowd had become so large that he had to sit in a boat, some distance from the shore, in order to escape being crushed. Just imagine how it is going to go when they get to the other side! More miracles. More teaching. More followers.

But the trip doesn’t go quite as planned. While Jesus takes a nap in the stern, the disciples find themselves up against a great storm. These brawny men, well familiar with the storms that develop so quickly over the water, suddenly find themselves in the midst of storm the likes of which they rarely observe. They are frightened, and wake Jesus up. They ask him (actually, it sounds as though they accuse him) whether or not he cares about them. Whether or not he loves them. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing.”

It is then that the same power of God evident in his healing touch once again becomes present. By Jesus’ word, the great storm is stilled, the hearts of those traveling with him in the boat are calmed, and their ultimate response is one of shock and awe: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Who is this indeed! No less than the Son of God. No less than the King of kings. No less than the One who is and who was and who will be to come. On that stormy afternoon Jesus shows his followers that they need fear no evil, for God is with them, to comfort and to calm and to protect them.

And with us as well. Many times life’s journey resembles a storm at sea: when health fails or death is near, when marriage and parenting become a challenge, when making a witness to our faith puts us at considerable risk, when standing up for what’s right makes us stand out from the crowd… in those times we may feel as though the waves are crashing and the boat is sinking. Yet we don’t travel alone along life’s journey. We travel accompanied by the presence of Christ, who stilled the seas and calmed the hearts of his followers, and promises to do so for you and for me today.

Thanks be to God for this good news!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What must the disciples have been feeling as they embarked?
  2. Why did this storm scare them so completely?
  3. How did this experience with Jesus strengthen them in days to come?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When has my life felt as though it was filled with storms?
  2. How has my faith been a source of calm for me?
  3. In what ways has God answered this question for me: “Do you not care that I am perishing?”

Seeds of Faith

Date: June 14, 2015
Liturgical Day: The Third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 6B)

sowing seeds of faith
trusting the Holy Spirit
making disciples

Like a sower who sows seeds and trust nature, Christians are called to sow seeds of faith, and trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is our calling as followers of Jesus.

Download Sermon: 2015 Pent 6B

The Third Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 6B (6/14/2015)

Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15 (12)
2 Corinthians 5:6-10 [11-13] 14-17
St. Mark 4:26-34

Semi-continuous Series:
1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13
Psalm 20 (6)

Prayer of the Day
O God, you are the tree of life, offering shelter to all the world. Graft us into yourself and nurture our growth, that we may bear your truth and love to those in need, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

4:26 [Jesus] also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

St. Mark 4:26-34 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Of Dandelions and Mustard Seeds

I’m not a fan of dandelions, and I’m not exactly sure when that came to be. I was aware of these small yellow flowers as a young boy. Like most boys I brought home a bouquet of dandelions for my mother a time or two. I thought they were pretty, and a field filled with dandelions seemed natural and attractive to me in those days.

My distaste for dandelions probably began to take form when I became a homeowner. I like a deep-green lawn, free of weeds and bare spots. Dandelions in the midst of a carefully tended lawn are an eyesore to someone who has a vision for what the back yard should look like, and an indication that the person in charge of the lawn is not doing a very effective job of it.

My family and I recently moved from a home that had a 5,600 square foot back yard. To me it wasn’t a back yard: it was a battlefield. When we moved in seven years ago the back yard was filled with dandelions. (The home had been a rental for years, and none of the renters ever had a heart to fight the weeds.) During the time we lived there, I tried everything I could think of to get rid of those dandelions. I tried to fertilize early in the Spring with something that had a pre-emergent component. I purchased bottle after bottle of weed killer. The past couple of years, i got down on my hands and knees to pull 25-50 dandelions a day. No matter what i did, they seemed to come back over and over again. It was a war that I never won.

It is said that a weed is a plant which grows where someone has decide it shouldn’t. That’s how i thought about those dandelions. And that is how first century people thought about the mustard plant. it too was considered a weed. Nobody who was of sound mind would plant mustard seeds, any more than a homeowner today would plant dandelion seeds.

It is with a wink and a nod that Jesus tells this parable about the mustard seed. The smallest of all seeds on earth; it grows to become the greatest of all shrubs. (Shrubs? What about the towering Cedars of Lebanon? Couldn’t Jesus have used that analogy?) Truth is: it grew to be one of the most troublesome weeds. People may have thought he was crazy as he wound out this tale. Or perhaps they saw the wisdom in what he was saying. Mustard seeds seemed to have the capacity to multiply and grow despite the land owner’s best efforts to suppress them. As do dandelions. And as does the Kingdom of God.

We are called to plant seeds of God’s kingdom in all that we do. We are also reminded that kingdom growth is due to the miraculous work of God. We do our best to make a strong beginning, but the outcome is both gift and miracle. The kingdom of God grows like a field contaminated with mustard plants, or a back yard filled with dandelions.

God, help us to be faithful in sowing seeds of love and grace in this world. Help us be diligent in creating ministries that are as strong and as effective as they can be. And grant us the patience to allow your gracious, miraculous power move through them. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What do these two kingdom parables have in common?
  2. What other current parables to a mustard plant come to mind?
  3. What is Jesus trying to say to his disciple with these two stories?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What seeds of God’s kingdom have I been involved in planting?
  2. When have I seen the kind of growth that only comes from God?
  3. For what ministries and/or individuals am I praying today, that they might have new life?

A Crowd Divided

Date: June 7, 2015
Liturgical Day: The Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 5B)

great crowds follow Christ
some call him “crazy” — some “Lord”
who is he, to you?

There were those who considered Jesus to be a lunatic. There were those who considered him to be the Lord. There still are today. May we be among those who call him Lord, and follow him as disciples.

Download Sermon: 2015 Pent 5B

The 2nd Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 5B (6/7/2015)

Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13 — 5:1
St. Mark 3:20-35
Semicontinuous Series
1 Samuel 8:4-11 [12-15] 16-20, [11:14-15]
Psalm 138
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, [11-13] 14-17

Prayer of the Day
All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory. Increase our faith and trust in him, that we may triumph over all evil in the strength of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

3:20 …the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

St. Mark 3:20-35 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Responding to the Spirit; Doing the Will of God

I want to talk about Jesus’ relationship with his family this week. This, and his relationship with those who were listening to him, learning from him, and following him (as opposed to those who were thinking he was out of his mind, or in cahoots with Beelzebul) is the heart of the text. It is what I believe St. Mark is trying to help us understand in this section of the Gospel. The problem is, there is this little road bump in verse 29.

We’ve all heard it before, although I’d be willing to wager that few of us could actually find it in the Bible without a little help. In response to the charge that Jesus is doing Satan’s work and working under Satan’s authority, Jesus says, “…whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”

It is a frightening verse. Continue reading

An Invitation to Service

Pastor’s monthly newsletter article for June, 2015

I love summertime. I’ve always loved summertime. When I was young it meant sleeping late in the mornings, playing outside all day long, and in the long, cool summer evenings of Minnesota we were allowed to run around the neighborhood until the sun went down. These days it means not having to pack school lunches every morning, not having to be to school by a certain time each day, and the freedom to get out of town for some relaxed family time. There is a freedom to the summer months. Freedom to re-invent our schedules. Freedom to discover some new ways to spend our time. Freedom to re-evaluate the priorities of our lives.

This past month we celebrated Affirmation of Baptism with four young people at Saint Peter. They professed their faith, affirmed their baptism, and became adult members of our congregation. During the service, we focused on the words of St. John’s 15th chapter. Just before his passion and death, Jesus commanded his followers to live lives of love: the kind of love that he had for them. When we think of the stories that the Gospel writers told about Jesus, we begin to see what his kind of love is all about. It has to do with selfless giving. It has to do with discerning what the greatest needs of a neighbor or a friend might be. It has to do with giving one’s very best – even one’s own life – in order to serve another who is in need. Continue reading

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