Martin Luther described the Holy Bible as the "cradle of Christ"...in other words: The Manger.
Not only at the Christmas stable, but all year-round,
God's people are fed at this Holy Cradle.
We are nourished at this Holy Table.
We are watered at this Holy Font.

This blog is a virtual gathering space where sermons from Bethlehem Lutheran Church (ELCA) and conversation around those weekly Scripture texts may be shared.

We use the Revised Common Lectionary so you can see what readings will be coming up, and know that we are joining with Christians around the globe "eating" the same texts each Sunday.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

July 29 -- Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you and peace from God who creates us, from Jesus who redeems us and from the Holy Spirit who comforts/challenges us.  AMEN.

As my family and I travelled across the country just about a month ago now, I was the traveller who was clearly the most anxious.  I’d get all keyed up about our lodging accommodations, our mileage, our speed, our next stop, our arrival times.  I was always worried about our move, our belongings, our new place, this new job.  “You’re always so worried, Dan.”  We would actually laugh about it all together as a family in the evenings, when we were relaxing with a drink and kids were safely tucked into bed.  Why am I always so worried?  One of the things I keep saying, but don’t learn from is that every single one of my worries, anxieties fears, all through these past couple months, have worked out just fine in the end.  Even the chaos of our moving company: it all works out.  And we have/I’ve had more than enough — an abundance of blessing — more than enough (12 baskets full) to go around.

We sure can get, like the disciples, anxious and scared — anxious before the abundance: “there’s never going to be enough!”  

And even after it all comes in all that abundance, 12 baskets of leftovers to take out and share, still terrified!  Just a few hours later, that evening on a boat: terrified disciples.

We sure can get, like those disciples of old, anxious before the abundance, and terrified after.  

And yet: God provides enough for us — plenty, in fact.  Jesus loves us through our anxieties and the Holy Spirit shakes us free from our paralyzing fears to draw us outward into the ministry of sharing our bread.

So here Jesus has just given them another sign (4th of 7 signs in John’s Gospel, 1st part: Book of Signs):  the feeding of the 5,000.  Just think about that for a moment:  We had upwards of 300 people in here on Wednesday night.  Imagine feeding all of them.  That’s a lot of food!  And Jesus serves 5,000!  

Little aside:  I’d encourage you to have the faith of a child on this one.  You tell this story to our youngest children, and they just take it on faith.  (Oh yeah, he walks on water today too.)  At some point—and it’s happening sooner and sooner—we get this need to rationalize and explain away the miracles.  Even cynical.  (Micah on Noah’s Ark: “Yeah, that never happened.”) Try to hear this story with the faith of a child.  Jesus feeds 5,000 and then he walks on water.  Bask in the truth of that!  [pause]

And now consider the disciples:  they were anxious about all “those” people, I mean that would be like – Philip’s quick math – six month’s wages.  I don’t care if you’re blue collar or white collar – six month’s pay is a lot of money.  But Jesus does it!  He feeds 5,000…with 12 baskets of leftovers!

Scene two: Only hours later:  A storm comes up and the disciples are afraid.  Anxious before the abundance and “terrified” after.  

In the midst of God’s abundance, 12 baskets overflowing, just hours ago, the disciples (like me on the road) get scared again!  

Sisters and brothers of Bethlehem Lutheran, we have an abundance here too.  (scarcity mindset vs. abundance) We have bread to share!  We have able bodies!  We have love and concerns and deep passions!  We have so much facility space!  We have a community around us, that showed up big time for us...and have left a visible mark in our sanctuary — 5000 quilts! ;)  And we have money here! 
Part of it is in our own pockets and in our own bank accounts (like it’s ours in the first place ;)  Part of it is in the church’s bank accounts, with all our assets, with our tithes and our offerings – we have money here!   :)
Which means we get scared.  

Just hours after Christ has “taken the loaves, blessed them and distributed them” and there were 12 baskets overflowing, the fear comes back!  Oh, we can relate to those disciples:  Anxious before the abundance — “How will we ever have enough?! ” — and, like me over and over again these last couple months — terrified all over again, even after so much blessing and abundance and God’s gracious provision…

Friends in Christ — I’m going to say something that I will keep saying over and over again ;) — all that we have and all that we are, comes from God and belongs to God.  (say with me...) 

“So help us, God, to be faithful with your abundance, and trusting in you, even and especially when the storms arise!”  
Friends, God recognizes our fears and our anxieties, our entitled attitudes, our greed, our recklessness, our need to protect ourselves at all costs.  God knows our brokenness.  

And here’s the thing: God loves us anyway! God holds us in compassion, as we journey through all those thoughts and feelings and rationalizations and explanations and cynicisms.  God hears our confessions at the font today:  “Forgive us all our offenses and cleanse us from proud thoughts and empty desires,” we said.  Yeah, we are scared!  Yeah, I am selfish.  Yeah, I can be reckless and even act like I deserve all this abundance.  It’s mine.” And yet God holds us in love as we get knocked around by the waves of this life…Jesus comes out to us and calms us down.
Bethlehem, I’m learning more and more has been knocked around by waves at times, through the years, as the tragedies and declines and disappointments, mistrust, and pains of this world try to erode away our trust in this God of ours.  So easily we can forget who multiplied and blessed the loaves.  But God holds us in love through it all…God holds you.  And there’s more!…

There’s this prayer in Ephesians today: that we be “strengthened in our inner being with power through the Spirit, that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith, as we are being rooted and grounded in love.”  
Not only does God holds us in love; God roots us!  
God plops us down right where we are, into the soil of this earth, in love, so that we may grow outward.  God waters us — rains down so much goodness in our lives, like it’s been pouring rain this week — God nourishes us, drenches us with grace, and then up and out we grow.  We here at Bethlehem are held by God, planted by God, watered and tended by God, through the Holy Spirit.   We are rooted and grounded in agape.   
(Know that word?  Agape is one of 3 words for love in Greek.  Maybe you know this already, but I’ll just remind you: When Ephesians says the word love, it’s agape...)

And so, friends in Christ, [slowly] we don’t need to be afraid any more…not this day, not this season, not ever again.  67x the Bible says “Do no be afraid.” Why?  Because even, maybe especially, when there’s abundance that’s precisely when we get scared. 

But God feeds us full…with the “bread of peace”...and there’s so much left over, God is so good.  So now we can share, we can shake off the fear, and we can move outward into new ventures, rooted in love, ready to serve, ready to forgive, ready to receive.  Friends, today we become what we receive at this table: Christ’s own body for this hurting world. Thanks be to God. AMEN.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

'United Against Hate' Opening Comments -- July 25

Friends and members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, sisters and brothers of all faiths or no faith, partners in ministry, neighbors, community leaders, public servants, peacemakers...welcome.  This is a good place to be.

Welcome on behalf of the congregation here at Bethlehem.  Thank you for being here tonight.  I’m Pastor Dan Roschke, and I just arrived here from San Diego, to serve in this good place, a place that welcomes everyone regardless of religious history, sexual orientation, skin color, country of origin, ability, and on and on...  YOU ARE ALL WELCOME HERE.  But you know what’s not welcome here: the actions and words of hatred, discrimination, bigotry and violence.

On June 26, members of our congregation discovered early in the morning, upon arrival for some work projects — broken glass from our prayer station and stained glass window; cut wires for our sound system; every single pew/seat where you are sitting sliced open; and most racist, anti-semitic words and symbols scratched across these walls — the N-word, the F-word, swastikas, “You’re all going to hell”.  

It was my first day here with my family.  My children had never set foot in this space, only to discover such terror and evil.  This community even more has been shaken to the core as this seventh and worst break-in was clearly directed this time at certain groups and took place in here, in the sanctuary, our holy space where we gather and worship in peace.  

We’ve been picking up the pieces ever since.  And your presence has aided in those efforts tremendously.  Some of our families have stayed away — out of fear, out of sadness, out of confusion about what they would tell their children.  And so quilts from outside our congregation started pouring in to cover these pews.  Thank you for your prayers, your words, your strength and your covering us with beauty, diversity and love.  Your presence here with us is so important. 

This evening, you’ll be hearing specifically from Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders.  We’ll share a few brief videos, and then we’ll open up for a few minutes to hear from you, from some elected officials who are with us, and finally we’ll conclude by lighting a candle and singing together as we’re able, “We Shall Overcome”.  

In a culture that, I’m afraid, has lost the gift of communal singing, let’s just counter that and begin by joining our voices too…for “we are called”...

Sunday, July 22, 2018

July 22 -- Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

How is Jesus guiding us in these days?  How is Jesus hooking  us and pushing us along?  How are we resistant and scared?  How are we eager and excited?  

How Christ is looking compassionately at us too, walking around at times like “sheep without a shepherd”!  Yes?

Of course, Christ is our shepherd, we just wander around sometimes like he’s not.  Like we don’t have one.  Or like we’re our own shepherds...
I want to tell you a bit about how I got here to BLC, Fairfax.

For the last 10 years I served Shepherd of the Valley in La Mesa, about 20 minutes outside of downtown San Diego.  

We did a lot of ministry together over those years.   When I came there, they promised me that they’d never build, and yet about 5 years later, we were dreaming about a modest expansion, that led to a $1.3M project, including a big capital campaign.  All a lot of fun, actually!

Through it all, ministry continued, and growth continued, people were generous, others continued to join the church, and yet, I continued to feel a nudge of the Holy Spirit, that my time may have been coming to an end, and I might be being called somewhere else.  I do think that was God nudging me. 

I decided (did you catch that “I” decided) that if I was going to leave this wonderful congregation for a new call, it would be something very different, and to make a long story short, after interviewing and getting very close to accepting calls in both Boston and Seattle — 2 very different calls from where I was currently serving (urban, diverse, ultra-liberal, tons of kids at one, tons of street ministry in the other) — one thing led to another and I started to think, you know, maybe God is calling me to stay put here at SVLC.  And then Bethlehem called.

Bethlehem looked a lot like where I was in San Diego.  Not exactly the same, but...suburban, bedroom community, just outside of a major metropolis, upper-middle class families, smaller but solid core.

I wanted something vastly different.  But through the process, I learned, that’s not where my gifts are, and maybe God needed something different from what I wanted.  Maybe a place like where I’ve been is “in my wheelhouse,” maybe Bethlehem is a perfect fit, because a place like Bethlehem is what God has created me to serve...(Time will tell, right?)  Well — you know the story from there — things just kept falling into place with you all here.  Heather and I felt very good about this congregation—very familiar, despite the great distance from what was familiar—the opportunities that were before all of us here felt very exciting.  One thing led to another, and now, here we are!  

I don’t like to talk this much about myself in sermons, but we’re still getting to know each other, so hopefully it’s helpful to hear a little more about me...AND I couldn’t help but think of this most recent chapter in my life as an illustration, as we consider the Gospel text today, and the way the people are described wandering around like sheep without a shepherd...  

There were certainly moments in my own discernment these last few years...as there are for all of us at times, I imagine:

We too, like the people in Mark’s gospel get sick, anxious, angry, nervous, scared, even just bored and uninspired, wondering if there’s something more that God needs.  
The text says they ran out to meet Jesus — some because they wanted something from him, others, I think, because there just wasn’t a whole lot going on in their lives...I mean, they had jobs and lives and those things were rolling along ho-hum, but in terms of ministry that was meaningful, faithful, risky, radical even, life (vocation) was pretty empty.  Just going through the motions.  Ever feel like that?  

So they were coming out from the hill country and small villages to meet this Jesus, who had big things in store for them, things they had never imagined, things across the country and across the globe, new partnerships and new challenges, new bridges to build, new people to welcome and care fore, new love to share—radical, mercy-drenched love.  

Friends, Christ has things in store for us that we might not have ever considered or even wanted.  But God needs us.  

And I’ve come to believe that it’s in the caring and reaching out, that we are cared for and ministered to.  Do you know what I mean?  It’s as we pick up a hammer (or a paintbrush) and work together that we connect and even receive.  In our giving we ironically receive even more.  Anyone involved in charity work knows this amazing dynamic!  My dad likes to say, when it comes to church financial stewardship, “Ever known a grumpy tither?”  In other words, the ones who give faithfully and generously are also the most joyful and most excited about life and Gospel ministry!  How is that?  

It’s because we’ve been touched by Christ.  In the divine contact that we receive — at this holy table, through this holy book, around this holy bath and in this holy community (“I see the face of Christ in you”) — it fills us with new life!  New hope, new breath, new challenges, and hew energy.
Christ’s healing is alive here.  Something is starting, as I claimed this week, as all these beautiful and diverse coverings for our pews started pouring in from the outside community!  

Christ’s healing is alive here.  Something is starting, as we explore new relationships, perhaps with LSS, perhaps with other communities, as we pray about what God is calling us to do with God’s church, down in the basement. 

Christ’s healing is alive here.  Something is starting, as we renew partnerships that may have gone awry.  Perhaps more profound than striking up new friendships is mending old ones.  Who are people in your own life and family, maybe here at church where Christ’s healing can enter and transform?

Christ’s healing is alive here.  Something is starting, as (you) — every single one of us — is met, forgiven, fed at the manger that is the Bible, fed at the table of mercy, filled with new wine and now sent out.  Something is starting.  Christ is alive and we emerge strengthened, unified.  (Ephesians — to sum up — shines a laser beam on Christian unity, on tying the old guard Jewish-Christians, who had been around for years and years to the new Christians who were just arriving.  Conflict brewing, and yet Paul’s letter to them drew everyone back to the center, which was Christ — who draws us all together.  Peace to those far off and near.)  Christ is alive here, he unifies our mission and gives us vision to see, not what we want (as I had to learn), but rather, what God needs.

God needs us to rise up and be the church for this world.  And sisters and brothers in Christ, God hooks us now, slows us down, calms us down, gives us new breath and heals us today so that we can indeed go out, rise up and be the church for this world.  Thanks be to God, who is our peace.  AMEN.    

Sunday, July 15, 2018

July 15 -- Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Sisters and brothers in Christ: grace to you and peace from God who creates us from the clay of the earth, from Jesus who redeems and showers us with mercy and love, and from the Holy Spirit who both comforts and challenges us...and always sends us outward in service to our neighbor.  AMEN.

[whining] “Ah man, we just got started.  And now this?”  Ever gotten going on a project or a job or just a new day and hit a massive speed bump, a real glitch, and stumbled and fallen?

Here we are in Mark’s gospel: Chapter 6.  Last week in the 13 verses that preceded these today, Jesus inaugurates ministry together.  Remember that?  He told the disciples as he sent them out in pairs (no one goes alone): “Take only the basics.  Count on people to welcome you and prepare to receive their hospitality and partnership.  But also, expect resistance.  Shake off the dust from your sandals if you’re not well received. And keep going.  Go!  Be my disciples for the sake of this world, heal the sick, preach the good news, comfort the despairing!” 

And then we have the is interruption, to put it mildly.  What is going on?  “Ah man, we just got started.  And now this?”  Immediately after Jesus has empowered the disciples, this horrific episode takes place in Herod’s palace.  Herod and is wife want John the Baptist dead, but Herod has this fear about John.  But once he’s sunken into a chair belly-stuffed, intoxicated (I imagine), his daughter comes in and dances, old Herod’s fears about John quickly fade into seduction and he offers her “whatever she wants”.  It’s just grimy stuff, at the top echelons of power in Jesus day.  It’s excess and gratuitous and evil. 

Scholars in recent years have named this episode “Herod’s Banquet of Death”.  And it’s contrasted clearly—which is all part of Mark’s narrative arc—against what is immediately after this:  In the very next verses comes, what some have called  “Jesus’ Banquet of Life”...i.e., the feeding of the 5000.  
      “Herod’s Banquet of Death” vs. “Jesus’ Banquet of Life”  
At Herod’s banquet of death, we’re not out in a deserted field, like the feeding of the 5000, we’re in a palace, a lavish banquet hall.  This is where the rich and powerful dine with the king.  A true power lunch, that’s not for the multitude, but a select few.  And there is more than enough for this few.  It’s a feast of excess — excess food, excess drink, excess entertainment, excess space, excess violence.  The select few gorge and imbibe and get entertained as the multitudes starve outside the palace gates, and in the hills and countrysides...  

At Herod’s banquet, women are made to dance and entertain the men.  Women are objects of amusement and pleasure, only to be thrown out with the trash, like greasy paper plates when the pizza party’s over.  Herod’s daughter, it says, pleased him greatly with her dancing...so much so, that in a drunken and reckless state of ecstasy and excess, Herod promises her whatever she wants.  At which point, her evil mother whispers in her ear, “The head of John the Baptist.”
And immediately John is executed and his head is brought in on a platter, like a final course, like a grand finale.  I imagine everyone cheering when the cover of the platter is lifted and John’s head is revealed for the guests to see.  Can’t you just smell the excess -- the sweat, the meat, the death?  This is empire.  

The moral compass has been completely lost to a power-drunk king, and an elite crowd cheers at this retaliatory violence and terror… meanwhile so many others are made to suffer, simply because they are overlooked or not really a concern.  The multitudes of poor and hungry are not Herod’s concern in the least.

The Rev. Dr. Barbara Lundblad asks:  “Is it possible to maintain an empire and feed people who are hungry? [pause] The leftovers of empire have almost always been destruction and death – even in the name of peace and security. There is always enough money for weapons, but never enough to feed those who are hungry. Into such a world, Jesus comes with an alternative vision.”
In the very next verse Mark tells us of Jesus’ Banquet of Life.  This happens, not in palace grandeur, but in the open air — in an open field.  Not lavish but simple.  

In Jesus’ Banquet of Life, everyone is fed; there is enough.  Everyone has enough.  (Do you? Does your neighbor have enough?  What is enough?  Is there bread we can share, like the little boy who shared his loaves and fishes?  These are questions we’re invited to pray about in these days, even and especially here at Bethlehem...where our very name means “House of Bread”.)  In Jesus Banquet of Life, everyone is treated with respect and dignity, men and women, young and old, gay and straight, black and white, immigrant and native, the list goes on...In Jesus Banquet of Life peace and forgiveness, love and justice rule the day, and there is no place for terror and violence.  In Jesus’ Banquet of Love, we trust ultimately in God, not in money or weapons or power or fame.  In Jesus’ Banquet of Love, trust in God always trumps fear.

So what’ll it be for us sisters and brothers in Christ?  Herod’s Banquet of Death or Jesus’ Banquet of Life?  That’s a very Markan question to pose.  Jesus is very clear-cut in Mark.  It’s always this way vs. that.  No fuzzy gray areas: “Well, it’s complicated.”  No!  For Jesus in Mark, it’s either good or evil.  It’s God or the devil.  It’s Jesus’ way or the empire’s way.  It’s bread or weapons.  It’s life or death.  What’ll it be for us, Bethlehem?
Here at Bethlehem, I’m afraid to say, and I’m wondering if you might agree with me: Here in my two weeks already, I’m really sensing, in some ways, death pressing in around us.  Not this extreme, Herodian, debaucherous, banquet of death, but just the attitudes and the fears and the despairs that “death” can bring. 

With all the things that are going on here lately.  With a normal amount of conflict, but conflict nonetheless, in your history here... and now another new pastor.  With steady declines in membership and youth and participation in general: there’s been some mourning over this, I’ve heard.  Others have actually left.  It’s too much for them and they’ve moved on.  
Who doesn’t long for the past if it’s a memory of a better day?  Do you ever feel, with me, like death has been pressing in on Bethlehem Lutheran in Fairfax?    

And of course the rips and tears and broken glass and scratches of hateful words.  There it certainly feels like death, like John the prophet has been taken down and Herod is winning…

But sisters and brothers in Christ (not in Herod), sisters and brothers in the Gospel of life (not the shadows of death), sisters and brothers of good (not evil) — God has not abandoned us!  

Death does not have the final say here or anywhere...because of Christ.  Jesus is here [table] in our pain and confusion and terror and decline.  The Holy Spirit moves in our midst and fills us with new breath, and with new bread (not the excessive meat and drink of Herod, but the the bread of life and wine of forgiveness, a feast of love and not terror).  God picks us up as we pick up the pieces, even as we may trip and fall, right out of the gate.  “Ah man, we just got started. Now this?” 

Friends, we have a God who is good, with a peace that endures, a Christ who abides, a Holy Spirit that comforts us when we’re down and challenges us when we’re complacent or paralyzed by fear.  

This is our God.  And our God will grant us, each of us, wisdom and courage for the days ahead, for the new directions we take, for the peace and forgiveness we will practice with each other, and for the love that we are called to share.  That love, peace, forgiveness, courage and wisdom is yours now, through Christ who strengthens us, today and always.  

Welcome to Jesus’ Banquet of Life!  AMEN.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

July 8 -- Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you and peace from Jesus the Christ who calls us outward, sending us into new territories and new adventures — new missions and tasks!  AMEN.

How exciting to be with you, here at last!  Amen?  And yet, what absolutely shocking and so terribly tragic events have accompanied us in these transitional days and weeks!

I couldn’t have chosen a better Scripture text around which we are first gathering than this one (that the lectionary chooses for us) from Mark 6!  This is where the mission together begins in Mark’s Gospel.  Jesus has been impressing everyone on his own until now:  this is where Jesus sends us/disciples out.  And it’s where Jesus reminds us that things might not always go well as we go about the work of spreading the Gospel of God’s grace and peace and healing.  
One of our daughter Katie’s favorite songs is “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift.  It’s been out for a number of years and so I remember not too long ago, little Katie jumping around the living room trying to get us all to dance, “Shake it off.”  (Just an image for us…)  Despite all the things going on in our lives, in our world, in the news — little Katie pulled us up to dance. 

Jesus, in a similar way then, is taking us by the hand and calling us in these challenging times: “Shake it off.  Shake it off!  Shake off the dust from your feet when trouble comes your way.  Shake off of the death and the hatred and the fear that is all around, and ‘keep on’ in doing the work to which I have called you.  Just because you’ve been met with vandalism and violence, just because you’ve had windows smashed in, pew seats ripped, hateful-horrific words written on your walls doesn’t mean that you’ve done something wrong,” Christ encourages us, his modern-day disciples.  In fact the opposite: “You are doing something right.  Following me just isn’t all that easy.  Following me and embracing the welcome, love, justice and peace that I desire for you, for this nation, and for this whole world is going to bring with it — always — some serious push back!  So, take a deep breath.  Shake it off.  Join hands — [I love how he pairs up the disciples: we don’t do this alone] — join hands and let’s go,” Jesus says.
New friends in Christ, God is most definitely here and with us.  The Holy Spirit is swirling around, even as we reel.  God’s still got us.  And Christ still sends us out.  

I’m not saying anything I haven’t seen you all at BLC aren’t doing already.  I have already been so moved, impressed, encouraged, inspired as I’ve already watched you all respond to these recent break-ins and hate crimes.  

I’ve witnessed, first of all, deep sorrow and pain:  In a culture that often bottles up emotions and chokes back tears, I’ve already seen here Christ himself weeping in your midst.  In response to words of hate and harm, come words of love and healing, and tears of longing...for a world where such violence will be no more.  Mark’s gospel describes Jesus laying hands on these who are ill.  It’s that laying on of hands that shows the compassion of Christ, the pain of the cross.  Gashes in the seat cushions ~ gashes in Christ.  As tears of longing and sorrow at “what is” filled this community, it was as if Christ is laying on hands and healing the broken, despite all the other things that were going on… 
Did you catch this in the reading?  It said Jesus could do no deed of power...EXCEPT...to lay his hands on a few and heal them.  Tears at the world’s violence are the laying on Christ’s very hands in healing.  Our tears are cathartic, yes.  But it’s more than that: it’s the breaking in of hope for a world-as-it-should-be...not choking back and settling for the world-as-it-is.

I’ve witnessed your deep sorrow and pain; and I’ve witnessed that you all “show up” despite it:  Christ calls us to be here for one another and for this hurting world...in these days.  

That terrible morning after the last break in, I was amazed at how many just kept arriving and taking it in.  “People just keep showing up,” I whispered to my father-in-law who was here too for the first time.  He’s a retired pastor and has served many congregations—a great mentor to me.  “That’s the sign of a strong church,” he whispered back.  This place is small-but-mighty.  That’s precisely what Jesus needs in his disciples!  Not brute force, but mighty hearts and healing tears.  Not     burly arms and souped-up arsenals, but simply & profoundly robust faith — faith that stands the test of time and terror.  Faith that “shows up”.  God is here among us as we “show up” to make our stand together against the evil and wrong-doing all around us.

Jesus gives his disciples “authority over the unclean spirits” in verse 7.  This is a radically welcoming community, but there is no place for hatred and violence here.  Christ gives us too — as we stand together in solidarity with all our brothers and sisters (both Lutheran and non) — AUTHORITY over the unclean spirits of our time and community.  That is to say: “Unclean spirits!  You have no power over us.”
Back in seminary — you have to understand: I had been a Biology major as an undergrad so I liked charts and graphs — so as we were studying the Gospel of Mark, I kind of threw my professor for a loop when I decided to graph Jesus’ “power potential” (as I named it) on the y-axis as time passed through the Gospel of Mark on the x-axis.  I did the same thing with the disciples’ “power potential.”

And faithful Christians might have found my results surprising: 

As I had hypothesized, and as I believe the author of Mark intended to communicate: as time passes in Mark, as you read through the Gospel, Jesus’ power potential declines dramatically, and meanwhile, the disciples gain more and more ability, or power potential.  This text today is that critical turning point, where — in a foretaste of what happens on the cross — Jesus is emptying himself in order to fill up his disciples.  In this text, it says Jesus could do no deed of power, and yet by the end of our text, his disciples — that rag-tag gang of busy and broken bodies is “healing, casting out demons and preaching the word of life and love.”

This is our God.  Showing up in weakness, in moments of sorrow and pain, and filling us with potential.  

Friends in Christ, as we look forward to the days, and hopefully many years of life and ministry together here at Bethlehem Lutheran, know that Christ meets us in our most vulnerable times.  These are things we preachers say all the time, but — I don’t know about you, but — aren’t we feeling that far more profoundly in these challenging days?  Christ meets us in our tears and our pain, and fills us with the ability to cast out demons, heal the sick and share God’s love through words and deeds.  This is good news of great joy, and this is our great news this day and forever more...no matter what.

Thanks be to God — who never leaves us; who made us for goodness, and to be together, and to go outward; and who shines brightly even and especially now!  AMEN.

HOD - #726 “Light Dawns on a Weary World”

Saturday, July 7, 2018


Grace and peace, everyone!  This blog is the place I'll be posting my sermons.  You should also be able to access the audio and the podcast from here too.

May God go with you as you venture forth in doing the work Christ has sent you to do.

Pastor Dan.