One Little Word

Where God's Word Meets God's World

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

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 11A (July 20, 2014)

Lessons
Isaiah 44:6-8 or Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Psalm 86:11-17 (11)
Romans 8:12-25
St. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 28:10-19a
Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 (1)

Prayer of the Day
Faithful God, most merciful judge, you care for your children with firmness and compassion. By your Spirit nurture us who live in your kingdom, that we may be rooted in the way of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

13:24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”

13:36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

St. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Of Weeds and Wheat

If only it was that simple!

There is a lot that is wrong with the way our world is these days. Violent weather patterns devastate communities, and send families scrambling to restore their lives. Warfare tears at countries, and uninvolved citizens often pay the highest price. Vulnerable children show up in our country because their parents made a poor decision (most likely based on untruthful information). Disease takes loved ones away from us long before they have lived a full life. It makes a person want to respond with a show of force, and destroy all that takes away from life as we know it — or life as we wish it was.

But the truth is, we live in a broken world. We live in a weeds-among-the-wheat world. And one sign of this brokenness is that it’s not always evident which is which. As the Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are currently demonstrating, you can’t just lob bombs across the border and hope to do away with those who mean you harm. The weeds are sown among the wheat, and bombs are just as deadly for unarmed civilians as they are for armed combatants. Continue reading

Crazy, Indiscriminate, Faithfully Careless

Date: July 13, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10A)

a sower of seeds
crazy, faithfully careless
a witness to grace

Summary:
Jesus describes a sower of seeds who seems to have no regard for where he sows these seeds, and in doing so calls his followers to sow seeds of faith, even in those instances where they seem unlikely to take root and thrive. For those of us who are followers of his today: we are called to offer words of faith to every neighbor, in every situation.

Download Sermon: 2014 Pentecost 10A

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 10A (July 13, 2014)

Lessons
Isaiah 55:10-13
Psalm 65:[1-8] 9-13 (11)
Romans 8:1-11
St. Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 25:19-34
Psalm 119:105-112 (105)

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy, live according to it, and grow in faith and hope and love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

13:18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

St. Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Sowers of Seed

I don’t know much about farming, but I understand that it has changed quite a bit since the 1950s when my Uncle Philip used to crank up an old John Deer tractor and head out into his 160 acres pulling a plow. I once read about a farmer in Iowa who has his combine hooked up to a laptop computer and a GPS tracking system. As he navigates through his fields, this setup creates a picture for him on a computer monitor of the yield he gets on the various sections of his field. After several seasons he can see which sections produce well and then judge how to most efficiently plant, fertilize and harvest the field. Then, the next Spring, he plugs that same information into his planter, and throughout the entire field he distributes just the right amount of seed in each section.

Continue reading

Rest for the Soul

Date: July 6, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9A)

Christian faithfulness
easy yokes and light burdens
Jesus’ gift of peace

Summary:
When we are doing what God created us to do, and making a difference in the world, it doesn’t matter much how hard it is. The yoke is easy and the burden is light. One aspect of Christian faithfulness is to discover how we have been uniquely gifted, and how we can put those gifts to work in service of what mattes most to God.

Download Sermon: 2014 Pentecost 9A

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 9A (July 6, 2014)

Lessons
Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 145:8-14 (8)
Romans 7:15-25a
St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45:10-17 (7)
or Song of Solomon 2:8-13

Prayer of the Day
You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised. You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

11:16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Can There Possibly Be Rest for Our Souls

We live in busy times. Distracted driving is a problem in our society. Automobile operators imagine there is so much to do, that it makes no sense to carve out time to focus, exclusively, on driving. During the morning commute it is not unusual to observe drivers talking on their phones, sending texts, eating breakfast, and combing their hair or applying their makeup. Google “distracted driving” and you’ll get more than 3.7 million results in 0.30 seconds (including this image). Googling “distracted driving pledge” will produce more than 1.5 million results — maybe we all ought to follow one of those links, and challenge ourselves to become safer drivers.

Distracted living is also a problem. It seems that every new opportunity (and every new technological innovation!) makes us just a bit busier than we were the day before it arrived. When the electric clothes washing machine became available commercially in the 1930s, people imagined how much time it would free up for them. In reality, no time was saved. People just adopted the expectation that they have clean clothing every day, instead of once a week. As a leader in a faith community, I have wondered if participating in the life of our congregation makes life busier, more challenging, or more frustrating for already-too-busy people. Continue reading

Repentance, Righteousness and Service

Date: June 29, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 8A)

welcoming God’s word
serving our neighbor in need
disciples of Christ

Summary:
In this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus describes faithful life to us. It has to do with welcoming God’s prophetic word, modeling our lives after the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and serving our neighbor in need. This is our witness. This is how Christ continues to bless the world, through us.

Download Sermon: 2014 Pentecost 8A

The 3rd Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 8A (June 29, 2014)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (1)
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 23:1-6
St. Luke 1:68-79 (69)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, you direct our lives by your grace, and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world. Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

10:40 [Jesus said,] “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”


St. Matthew 10:40-42 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

A Cup of Cold Water

I was having coffee with a friend the other day. As we visited, we watched a man in a wheelchair struggle with a fairly large package. It was balanced on one arm of the chair, while he used the other arm to propel himself across the parking lot. He was rounding a row of cars, presumably heading towards his own car, when the package caught the rear end of another vehicle, and crashed to the ground. He repositioned his wheelchair, leveraged himself against a curb, and tried to get the package back up on the arm of the chair, but just wasn’t able.

As we sat there, wondering if we should get up and help, someone beat us to the punch. An elderly lady, with packages of her own, walked over to him and struck up a conversation. After a few moments, she placed her packages in his lap, helped him ease his own back onto the arm of the wheelchair. The two of them then continued around the corner, out of our sight. Continue reading

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