One Little Word

Where God's Word Meets God's World

Category: Devotional Messages (page 1 of 50)

Weekly Devotional Message

Reformation Sunday (10/30/2016)

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46 (7)
Romans 3:19-28
John 8:31-36

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial, defend them against all enemies of the gospel, and bestow on the church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

8:31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”  34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

St. John 8:31-36 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.

The 23rd Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 25C (10/23/2016)

Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22 or Sirach 35:12-17
Psalm 84:1-7 (5)
2nd Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
St. Luke 18:9-14

Semicontinuous Series:
Joel 2:23-32
Psalm 65 (11)

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, our righteous judge, daily your mercy surprises us with everlasting forgiveness.  Strengthen our hope in you, and grant that all the peoples of the earth may find their glory in you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

St. Luke 18:9-14. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.


At the heart of living as a follower of Jesus is to have faith. Most Christians would probably agree with this statement, but here is where we often disagree: what, exactly, is faith?

When I went away to school, my parents gave me a copy of “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language; New College Edition” (© 1975). It lists, as the first definition of faith: “A confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.” There are actually six definitions listed, most of which have to do with ideas, doctrines, loyalties and principles. In fact, our culture has often thought of faith as getting it right. Believing the right doctrines. Embracing the right principles. Holding to the right commitments. There was a time when faith had to do with abstaining from drinking, gambling and dancing. These days it often seems to have to do with what we’ve decided about sexuality, abortion or politics. If faith has, primarily, to do with ideas, doctrines, loyalties and principles, then at its core it is about getting things right.

But consider this: Jesus never says, “Faith is believing correctly.” In fact, he seems to have a different understanding about what faith is, and this becomes apparent in this weekend’s Gospel lesson.

It is the familiar parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector. We’ve heard it countless times. Two men are praying in the temple. The Pharisee seems quite impressed with himself, and the tax collector seems overwhelmed by his brokenness. One first suspects that this is about humility, and if we agree with the approach to faith described two paragraphs above, we might conclude that to be faithful is to make the commitment to humility. If you are able to be humble enough then congratulations: you got it right!

But let’s revisit the introduction to this parable, and remember what it is about. St. Luke informs us that Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt. We see here that Jesus is making the exact opposite point. If faith is believing correctly — getting it right — then we are bound to “trust in ourselves” and “regard others (who don’t get it) with contempt.” The problem is that the Pharisee trusted in himself. He thought his own understanding, his own piety, his own behavior was his source of justification.

But no. Faith has nothing to do with trusting in ourselves, and whatever behaviors or beliefs we can muster up. It has everything to do with approaching God in humility, and trusting. Trusting in the promise of Christ. Trusting in the goodness of God. Trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit. As we abandon the quest for correct belief, we become open to the simple (even “childlike”) trust that Christ wants us to have.

So, dear friends, let us humble ourselves and trust in the promise, presence and power of our God, so that we too, like the tax collector in Luke 18, might go home put right by God.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What difference does Jesus point out between the Pharisee and the tax collector?
  2. What is objectionable about the Pharisee’s behavior in the temple?
  3. What is commendable about the tax collector’s behavior in the temple?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How have I understood the difference between faith and belief?
  2. When has it been necessary for me to trust someone, or something?
  3. How might faith as trust (instead of belief) change my relationship with God?

The 22nd Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 24C (10/16/16)

Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 121 (2)
2nd Timothy 3:14–4:5
St. Luke 18:1-8

Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 31:27-34
Psalm 119:97-104 (103)

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people, you are always ready to hear our cries. Teach us to rely day and night on your care. Inspire us to seek your enduring justice for all this suffering world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

18.1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ “ And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

St. Luke 18:1-8. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Do Not Lose Heart

It is a well-known-fact that whenever angels speak in the Bible, they almost always begin with the same words: “Do not be afraid.” They begin this way, of course, because most Biblical characters are absolutely terrified as soon as they see an angel. Most of us, never having had such an experience, can only imagine the majesty and mystery and awe-filled glory that accompany these appearances. There must have been able reason for fear, or these words of assurance wouldn’t be so necessary.

Well, here St. Luke introduces a parable of Jesus with a similar charge: “Pray always, and do not lose heart.” Why does St. Luke find it important to begin in this way? Could it also be that these are necessary words? That the followers of Jesus were liable to fall into despair when it seemed their prayers were not being answered?

It is hard not to lose heart, isn’t it? Reflect for a moment on your own prayer life. How many requests for healing, for peace, for understanding, for courage, for change… have seemed to go unanswered? We do pray always, many of us, and when the specific action or result we have requested doesn’t come to pass, it is easy enough to lose heart.

For those moments when we have stood in that no-man’s-land between the hopes of our faith and the disappointments of our world, these words are for us. Pray always. Do not lose heart. Why? Because whenever we pray, we do so entrusting our concerns to the creator of the universe who loves us enough to die for us. There are no better hands to receive our prayers than this One. There is no one more reliable who we can trust. There is no one who knows better what we need.

The parable we study this weekend is a parable of contrasts. It is about an unjust judge — a strange character for Jesus to use as an image for God. This judge cares nothing for God, for humans or for justice. But a woman who had been wronged continues to petition him. With unending passion, she demands justice. Day and night she cries out to him, and finally wears him down. “Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”

If one who cares nothing for us would finally be persuaded to move, just imagine! Imagine how one who loves us enough to die for us will respond. We may not know God’s mind. We may not be able to anticipate what God might do, or when God might do it. We may not be able to see whether our particular request serves God’s greater purpose for us or for this world. But here is the undeniable truth: when our prayers are in God’s hands, we have ample reason not to lose heart.

So pray. In fact, pray always. Lift all of life (the good and bad, the successes and failures, the joys and concerns…) up to God, and then trust. Trust that these words from Luke 18 are true. Trust that our God is reliable. Trust that in the end, all will be well for those who know God. What better reason might we need to not lose heart?

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What caused the disciples to lose heart?
  2. How are these words from Jesus an assurance for them?
  3. How does the record of their life, and of their faithfulness, show us their trust in God?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When am I most likely to lose heart?
  2. What might I do to remember God’s love that is always with me?
  3. How might I lift all of life up in prayer, and trust God’s promise to answer?

The 21st Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 23C (10/9/2016)

2nd Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
Psalm 111 (1)
2nd Timothy 2:8-15
St. Luke 17:11-19

Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
Psalm 66:1-12 (9)

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and most merciful God, your bountiful goodness fills all creation. Keep us safe from all that may hurt us, that, whole and well in body and spirit, we may with grateful hearts accomplish all that you would have us do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

17.11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance,13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

St. Luke 17:11-19. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.


We know almost nothing about these ten lepers, yet there are some things we can surmise. They are identified as lepers by the community. They may have had different reputations before this illness struck them. They may have been productive, generous, wealthy, famous, friendly, kind, influential… who knows? But these terms are no longer applied to them. They are now lepers. Simply lepers. As such, they are banned from all community events, and forced to live beyond the boundaries of the town with only other lepers for company. They are obedient to these restrictions, understanding that their presence in town could be quite dangerous. When Jesus arrives they are “keeping their distance.” Yet they cry out to Jesus: “Have mercy on us!”

This is precisely what he does. He sees them, St. Luke tells us, and he sends them to the priests. Interestingly enough, although they are still plagued by this dreaded skin disease (they hadn’t yet been made clean…), they make their way to the priests, who are the ones with authority to declare them clean and restore them to society. And while they are going — perhaps because they are going — they discover that they are made clean. All ten look down at their formerly diseased skin and see that for the first time in a long while there are no signs of disease.

In the Greek New Testament (the oldest copies of the New Testament are written in the Greek language), all ten notice that they are ἐκαθαρίσθησαν, which means “made clean.” Yet one sees something more. He sees that he is ἰάθη, which means “healed.” We don’t know exactly why he leaves the others and returns to Jesus. Perhaps he is the only one who realizes the deeper implications of what Jesus has done for them. Perhaps it is because he is a foreigner, and doubts that the priests would be interested in meeting with him anyway. Regardless, he praises God, returns to Jesus, throws himself at his feet, and thanks Jesus for what he has done.

It is at this point Jesus says something with even deeper meaning. The NRSV misses it with its translation (“…your faith has made you well.”). ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκεν σε is better translated, “Your faith has saved you.”

That’s the difference between the nine and the one. Nine are made clean. Freed from this misery, they are restored to their families and communities. They are given the grace of a new start. Who knows what other blessings they experienced through this experience? But Jesus marvels that only one returns to thank him, and only to one does Jesus say, “Your faith has saved you.”

I wonder how we would read this text if we thought of it as a metaphor for today’s church. Yes, many are blessed by the ministries that we offer. Yes, many are grateful for the experiences they have through church. But how many of us experience healing in our bodies or our souls? How many lives are transformed by the presence of Christ in our midst? How many lives are made new? Perhaps these are the questions we ought to pose as we consider our life together. Perhaps these are the outcomes we ought to keep in mind as we create opportunities for God’s people to gather.

“Get up and go on your way; your faith has saved you.” May we hear these words of Christ as words for us today. May we be stirred to lasting faith in the One who has defeated death. And may this experience of faith be profound enough to save us!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What pain were these ten lepers suffering before they met Jesus?
  2. How does the experience of the nine in this text contrast with the experience of the one?
  3. How must this encounter with Jesus have changed the life of this one?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What healing (physical, emotional, spiritual) has God allowed me to experience?
  2. How has this affected my life, and my relationship with God?
  3. What ministries of my church are most likely to help people have a similar experience?

The 20th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 22C (10/2/2016)

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-9 (5)
2nd Timothy 1:1-14
St. Luke 17:5-10

Semicontinuous Series:
Lamentations 1:1-6
Lamentations 3:19-26 (23) or Psalm 137 (7)

Prayer of the Day:
Benevolent, merciful God: When we are empty, fill us.  When we are weak in faith, strengthen us.  When we are cold in love, warm us, that with fervor we may love our neighbors and serve them for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

17.1 Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come!It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” ]

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’ ”

St. Luke 17:5-10. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Only What We Ought to Have Done

You could make the case that the disciples, here, finally get it. Jesus has been teaching them about the challenges of living as one of his followers. Give to those who can’t give back to you. Be prepared to pay the cost of following me. Make a difference in the world. Be glad to welcome the lost. Practice your faithfulness shrewdly. Abstain from adultery. Care for the poor. To that, Jesus adds what seems to be the final straw: “If someone sins against you and repents seven times a day, you must forgive.” What? 7 times a day? 49 times a week? 217 times a month? 2,555 times a year? I have to forgive them every single time? Lord, increase my faith!

It seems that his listeners finally get it. They realize that the life of a Christian disciple is a difficult one. Not one they can live on their own. It will take, they surmise, a lot more faith than they currently have. You might expect Jesus to commend them for this insight. He doesn’t. Instead, he says: “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed [implying, ‘and you don’t’]…”

Jesus chastises them because this way of thinking treats faith as a commodity to possess; something to draw on that will make us less human — less sinful — less in need of forgiveness — than we might be otherwise. Give us more of this, Jesus, and then we’ll need less of you. We can depend on our own faithfulness. We can depend on our own performance. We can depend on our own determination to be the people God calls us to be.

No: this isn’t the life into which Jesus invites us. Instead, faith is the capacity to trust in the promise of Christ. Faith is the invitation to know we’ll accidentally (or intentionally!) be the source of someone else’s stumbling one day, or to know that we’ll never be able to gladly forgive someone seven times a day. Faith is not a commodity that turns us into a community of spiritual super heroes. Instead, faith is what helps us to see, truly, who we are (sinners, who struggle every day with the brokenness of this world), and who God is (the one who comes to us in Christ, and empowers our witness and our service).

Remember how the Apostle Paul put it in his letter to the Thessalonians: “May the God of peace sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and will do this.” [1st Thessalonians 5:23-24]

We could wait until we have more faith. We could wait until we feel better prepared. We could wait until we understand the situation more thoroughly. But Jesus challenges us to live into this cross-shaped life just as we are. And then, when it’s over, we say, “We have done only what we ought to have done.”

So, friends in Christ: go in peace; serve the Lord. And thanks be to God, who calls us, inspires us, and empowers us for faithfulness.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What indication does Jesus give his followers that faithfulness will be hard?
  2. Why do the disciples despair of his description?
  3. How does thinking of themselves as simple slaves give them hope?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What do I find hard about living in this world as a Christian?
  2. When have I sensed the power of Christ, enabling me to be faithful?
  3. How can my faithfulness depend less on me, and more on God?

The 19th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 21C (09/25/2016)

Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Psalm 146 (7)
1st Timothy 6:6-19
St. Luke 16:19-31

Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 (2)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world. Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

16.19 [Jesus said,] “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house — 28 for I have five brothers — that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

St. Luke 16:19-31. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

On Wealth and Faith

Pastors tend to love the fact that this text rolls around in the Fall. After all, the annual stewardship emphasis is about to begin. In the next two months many congregations will ask their members to think about how God has blessed them, and to respond in thanksgiving by making a financial commitment to support next year’s ministries. (We’ll do this here at Saint Peter during October.) What a gift it is to have a text like this. Can’t you just imagine this weekend’s sermons?

Look at the rich man. He held on to his goods, and ended up tortured in Hades, while Lazarus (a good but poor man, who was unencumbered by the wealth that you and I have…) went on to Paradise. So, friends, if you want to escape that kind of torture, give lots of money to the church (we’ll give some of it to the poor, and get you off the hook) and you’ll be in good shape once you’re dead.

What a perfect text! A little guilt. A little fear. And countless congregations will be financially solvent for at least another year…

But unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately), the text doesn’t exactly move us in this direction. Two subtle clues let us in on that. First of all, where does this poor man end up? He ends up in the bosom of Abraham. He ends up gathered into the heart of one of the wealthiest men in the book of Genesis. Elsewhere, Abraham is humbly described as a Wandering Aramean (Deuteronomy 26:5), but the writer of Genesis describes him as a man who has in his possession “sheep, oxen, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels.” Not a man who has given everything he owns away to support the poor. Not a man who, like Lazarus, has nothing to his name. Clearly the possession of wealth isn’t what rules out salvation in Jesus’ view.

The second clue is the name given to the poor man. Lazarus is the Latin form of Eleazar, and means: God is my help. What is unique about this individual is not his poverty or his poor health; not even that he spends most of his time lying in the front entrance to the rich man’s home. What matters is that he is a man who looks to God for help. He doesn’t depend on his own resources, or his own ability. But he knows that his only help is in God’s grace and in God’s power.

This, of course, is the struggle for the rich man. He has come to depend on his own ability to protect and preserve himself and his family and his possessions. As he turns in on himself, he consequently turns away from God, who has promised to watch over him, and accompany him. In turning away from God, he looses the only hope that can survive the end of this life.

Is it wrong to be rich? Certainly not. But it comes with its own set of complexities. Wealth (and the longing for wealth) can capture our attention like few other things are able to.Wealth can create the illusion that we are able to provide for our own security. Wealth can distract us from the sort of careful attentiveness to God’s presence in our lives that the faith demands of us.

The Rich Man and Lazarus remind us that no matter how rich (or how poor) we are, what is most important is this: the grace of God which embraces us, and assures us of our future with God. May we never be so rich (or so poor) that we lose sight of this truth.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does Jesus tell us about the Rich Man?
  2. What does Jesus tell us about Lazarus?
  3. How might Jesus’ listeners (the Scribes and Pharisees: described earlier as “lovers of money”) have responded to this story?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. In what ways is my life like that of the Rich Man?
  2. In what ways is my life like that of Lazarus?
  3. How can I turn away from an unhealthy dependence on my own wealth, and towards a healthy dependence on God’s grace?

The 18th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 20C (9/18/2016)

Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113 (7)
1st Timothy 2:1-7
St. Luke 16:1-13

Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 8:18–9:1
Psalm 79:1-9 (9)

Prayer of the Day:
God among us, we gather in the name of your Son to learn love for one another.  Keep our feet from evil paths.  Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

8.4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,

5 saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;

and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?

We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,

6 buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

Amos 8:4-7. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.


God’s Work. Our Hands.

According to H. George Anderson, former Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, in the Middle Ages wealthy citizens gave to the monasteries who, in turn, gave to the poor. In the reformation, the princes found excuse to confiscate church property, and the poor were left without support. Luther saw this early on, and in Leisnig he tried to address it with a ‘”fraternal agreement” where the community would take over the care of the poor from the monasteries. Attention was given to root causes as well as relief. A council was organized in Leisnig, with representatives from the poor included. (It is estimated that in Luther’s day, 30% of the population were considered poor.) Continue reading

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 19C (9/11/2016)

Exodus 32:7-14
Psalm 51:1-10
1 Timothy 1:12-17
St. Luke 15:1-10

Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm 14 (2)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion, you lead back to yourself all those who go astray.  Preserve your people in your loving care, that we may reject whatever is contrary to you and may follow all things that sustain our life in your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

15.1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus]. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  3 So he told them this parable: 4 “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

St. Luke 15:1-10. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.


Joy in Heaven

The one thing we know for sure about God is that there is nothing we can know for sure about God. That is the wisdom behind the theological principle which goes by the name Deus Mysterium (“the mystery of God”). We cannot, and we never will, come to know God fully. All that we know of God is what God has chosen to reveal to us. The rest of God’s nature is shrouded in mystery.

God is shrouded in mystery (Deus Mysterium), yet God is revealed to us (Deus Revelatus), and so every week we turn to the Scriptures to discover what is revealed there about God. This week we read from the thirty-second chapter of Exodus and the fifteenth chapter of St. Luke. We find that two profound aspects of God’s nature are revealed to us in these texts. Continue reading

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 18C (9/4/2016)

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm 1 (3)
Philemon 1:1-21
St. Luke 14:25-33

Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 18:1-11
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 (1)

Prayer of the Day:
Direct us, O Lord God, in all our doings with your continual help, that in all our works, begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy name; and finally, by your mercy, bring us to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

14:25 Now large crowds were traveling with [Jesus]; and he turned and said to them, 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”

St. Luke 14:25-33. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.


A Cross Shaped Life

Is living as a faithful follower of Jesus a relatively easy thing to do in our day, or does it take an extraordinary effort to do it justice? This is a question that has been on my mind this past year. Continue reading

The 15th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 17C (8/28/2016)

Proverbs 25:6-7
Psalm 112 (4)
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
St. Luke 14:1, 7-14

Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 2:4-13 or Sirach 10:12-18
Psalm 81:1, 10-16 (16)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace to those who are humble. Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

14:1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

St. Luke 14:1, 7-14. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.


Humility, Exaltation, and the Presence of Christ 

DIATSAI don’t want to take my belt and shoes off. I don’t want to remove my plastic bag of 3 oz. liquids. I don’t want to put my laptop computer and my step counter in a separate plastic bin. But what I really don’t want is to find myself in between those nylon straps, shuffling back and forth for up to 45 minutes, like so many cattle. What I want is TSA Pre! It has been granted to me a couple of times (undoubtedly with the hope that this might whet my appetite to actually pay for it…). And oh, what a difference it makes. I make my way to the far left line, queue up behind two or three others, and watch as the hundreds of people to my right anxiously make their way towards the TSA agent, all the while worrying about whether or not they arrived early enough to get through the line and get to the gate before their flight departs. I don’t want to wait with all of them. I want TSA Pre!

Which is, I suspect, what Jesus is talking about in this weekend’s Gospel lesson. Continue reading

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