Monday, June 30, 2014

Missional is not a word, but missionary is….A sermon on Matthew 10:40-42

Preached at First Lutheran in St Peter, MN on June 29, 2014

Grace, peace, and mercy are yours from the Triune God who sends us forth to serve.  Amen. 

Today’s Gospel comes from the end of a portion of text from Matthew’s Gospel known as the Missionary Discourse.  It is a sending out of the disciples.  Jesus is equipping them to go out into the world for the sake of the Gospel.  It is a benediction of sorts, both a blessing and a call to action. We heard previously in the Missionary Discourse, in last Sunday’s Gospel, that the work of being a disciple is very difficult.  There will be trials, there will be persecutions, to be identified with Jesus was politically, religiously, and socially radical, even dangerous.  To welcome one of these disciples into your home was also radical.  To follow Jesus at this time was to turn against the empire, a dangerous move indeed. It was to turn against those things that the world dictates as valuable (wealth and power) and instead focus on serving the least of the world, and following a God who commands us to love our neighbor more than we love ourselves.
            But this text is so much more than a superficial command to be hospitable or welcoming.  Being of service to others is certainly a commendable thing, but I am not convinced that is what is going on in this text.  Jesus is equipping his followers to get out into the world and do something.  This text is not a command to “go and do likewise” while welcoming others, but rather, an assurance of blessing in the course of discipleship.  Jesus is saying,  “I am with you, even as I send you out.”
We so often want to see ourselves in the role of providing the hospitality or extending the welcome.  In our homes we maintain nicely appointed guest rooms.  In our office buildings we provide water coolers and magazines.  In our congregations we devote entire committees to this work of welcome, making sure that those who visit us feel comfortable.  And all of this is commendable work.  But it also keeps us in a privileged position.  Because we get to stay home.  We get to stay on our own turf, in our own comfort zones.  We welcome people into our world on terms that we have created.
How might this text change if we view ourselves AS the disciples rather than as those providing hospitality TO the disciples?  If we view ourselves as the missionaries rather than those receiving the missionaries?  What might it mean if we are part of communities that are sent out into the world to be missionaries of the Gospel? If we view ourselves as the ones being sent rather than just being willing to receive or support those who are sent by someone else?
In our world, we want to see missionaries as special people who are able to drop everything and go serve in some far off country.  We send our youth on “mission trips” across the country or across the globe.  Mission work becomes something for someone else to do.  In this understanding, mission work is confined to certain times and places.  Two weeks ago, representatives from the Southwest Minnesota Synod gathered at Gustavus for the annual Synod assembly.   The theme throughout the assembly was looking at our local contexts in light of the needs of the world. The world with all its needs is at our doorstep, right now.  We were challenged to think about how mission and discipleship is being lived out in our communities right now, because we are all missionaries and we are all disciples. I commend your work of welcoming our Methodist brothers and sisters into our building, as well as numerous community groups.  I commend your work of welcome as a Reconciling in Christ congregation.  But I also challenge you to continue to imagine all the ways that we can turn outwards towards the other.  We are living in a time of great possibility for mission work and our congregation is excited about discipleship. We like the disciples are sent out for the work of proclaiming the Gospel.
But it costs us something to be a disciple.  It costs us our very selves. It costs us our comforts.  To follow Jesus even means to lose your own life.  In the Gospel text read today Jesus talks about rewards. The ways that we serve others do not help us rack up heavenly bonus points that will pay some great dividend someday.  That is applying the values of the world to God’s kingdom.  The reward that Jesus speaks about is not about something that will happen some day if we do all the right things now.  Nor is he talking about a life full of happiness and contentment from the sheer joy of altruism. Instead, we have already received the blessing that Jesus walks among us.  God came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ, and as we testify to that good news, we know that we are blessed with abundance beyond our imagining. 
People of God, we are all missionaries.  That is the charge that we are given by Jesus Christ.  We are called to serve one another and we are called to bear witness to the creating, redeeming, and sustaining work of God in this world.  We do not have to do it alone, but we are commanded to do it.  God bears with us even when the work seems impossible.  God shows up again and again to walk with us.

We as individuals are called to be disciples, but we are also part of missionary communities.  As we go out from this place today, I challenge you to think about how you are living out YOUR calling as a missionary.  How are WE as a congregation living out our calling to be a missionary community?  Go therefore and be disciples AND make disciples. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Radical Forgiveness…a wedding sermon

Preached at a wedding on June 28th, 2014 at First Lutheran Church in St Peter, MN.  

Welcome, friends and family gathered here this afternoon in worship and to celebrate the love of this couple.  And Sara and Michael, it is a joy and honor to witness this commitment that you make to one another.
A marriage is not a piece of paper that you sign. A marriage is not something you attend.    Marriage is a gift from God and is intended for the mutual companionship and consolation of you both, encircled with the bonds of the Holy Spirit, as you seek to fulfill God’s command in the world through your respective vocations and your life together.  Marriage is a gift given of your very self to another, every day from this day forward.  It means that you both are embarking on an adventure together.  Sometimes that adventure will be traveling the world in times of health.  Sometimes that adventure will mean going out in a South Dakota blizzard to get cold medicine for your beloved in times of sickness.  Sometimes that adventure will mean rejoicing in dreams you will realize together and sometimes it will mean setting aside your own desires to meet those of your partner. 
We began our worship today with the Declaration of Intention.  Sara and Michael, you promised to give yourselves to one another in love and faithfulness and to share your life together.  We as the gathered assembly promised to support and care for this you, sustain you and pray for you in times of trouble and rejoice in times of joy.  You are not in this alone.  I invite you to take a deep breath, turn around and take in all the faces of those gathered here today. This is your community.  This is your support system.  These are the people who will hold your hope for you when you feel weak.  But most importantly, God promises to bless your union and promises to bear with you all the days of your life together.
On the day of a wedding it seems easy to just want to talk about love.  I want to talk about forgiveness.  There will come a day when love feels hard.  When marriage feels like too much work.  It might not be for quite awhile, but on that day, a marriage that is built on forgiveness and grounded in Christ will endure the tough times.  We hear in the scripture reading from Colossians selected by Sara and Michael, “bear with one another, and if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you.”  We are not capable of doing these things alone, and the greatest human love in the world cannot conquer all things.  We need God to help us to love one another. 
Sara and Michael, in your life together you will become annoyed with one another, the things that you find endearing now might become less endearing in years to come. You will even hurt one another.  You will need forgiveness, maybe even radical forgiveness because life together can be hard.  But the vows that you will make to each other in just a few moments are an acknowledgement of the love and concern that you have for one another but also the confession that you both are dependent on God to create you anew each day to help you to love and to forgive. And just as we the gathered assembly rejoice today, God also rejoices in your love and in the promises that you are making to one another.
So love boldly, yet dare to forgive boldly also.  Do not keep an accounting of one another’s transgressions.  Christ goes before you and promises to bear with you in your lives together.  Your community promises to bear with you also.  Thanks be to God. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Praying the Psalms: A Sermon for Benedictine Living Community

A prayer of lament for the MN flooding
A.Hanson, St Peter 2014
 (A sermon preached at the Benedictine Living Community on June 19, 2014) 

For our homily today, I am going to try something a little different.  One of my favorite books of the Bible is the book of the Psalms.  There are many types of psalms.  There are psalms of praise, psalms of lament, psalms that are hymns or prayers.  The psalms give us words when sometimes we struggle to find those words on our own.  I am going to read a few psalms today and after each psalm I will offer a brief reflection and then give you an opportunity to reflect silently. 

I. Psalm 23 (a psalm of praise)

This is a very familiar psalm to most of us.  I will read it very slowly and have you think about the first time that you remember hearing it, or if there is a specific place that you associate with this psalm.  (read psalm 23)  I grew up in Bozeman, MT and attended Hope Lutheran church.  This was a very old building with stained glass windows that lined the south side of the sanctuary.  My family always sat in the back of the congregation, next to a window that depicted Jesus with a shepherd's crook with a flock of sheep surrounding him.  Whenever I heard this psalm, I am taken back to my childhood congregation.  I remember the comfort that I felt in that community of faith.  I remember how I felt cared for.  I remember that the people of Hope Lutheran church reflected God's love just as a shepherd cared for his sheep.  Who has cared for you?  Who has shown gentle love to you like the Lord cares for the smallest lamb? 

II.              Psalm 51:1-12 (a psalm of confession)
Portions of this psalm will be recognizable as part of the prayer of confession that we often pray together at the beginning of worship services.  I will read this psalm aloud, as a sort of communal confession of sins.  We will have a few moments of silence in which you can talk to God.  To confess the the ways that you need forgiveness.  (after a few moments of silence) 
As a baptized member of the Body of Christ, I declare to you that all your sins are forgiven, those sins that are known and unknown, in the name of the Father +, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

III.            Psalm 13 (A psalm of lament)
I find sometimes that it is very difficult to make a lament to God, or to cry out for help in the midst of trouble.  The psalms give us words when it seems like we do not know how to pray.  They also show us that God wants to hear our pleas for help.  I am going to read Psalm 13.  In the moments that follow, feel free to pray all the laments that you want to share with God. Are you in pain?  Are you grieving?  Do you feel lost?  Then I will close us in prayer. 

Gracious God, we know that you are present with us even in our darkest hours.  We know that you want to hear our laments just as you want to hear our praise.  We can cry out honestly with our pain and our needs and we know that you hear us.  I ask that your Spirit continue to be present with your beloved sons and daughters here at the Benedictine Community.  Let them know that they are loved and cared for and remembered as being created in your image.  We ask that you receive all our prayers and grant us your sustaining love.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Highlighting the Bible: Part III, Year C (Luke 2013) Gospel Readings

A.Hanson, Minnesota 2014
For the next portion of this project I decided to highlight the parts of the Luke's Gospel that appear in Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary.  Because the Gospel of Luke is the longest Gospel, we are unable to read large portions of it as part of the lectionary.  It appears that the lectionary powers-that-be have elected to exclude large portions of text that are healings, portions of text that are repetitive (such as Jesus foretelling his own death multiple times) or commentary by the writer of Luke's Gospel.

This lectionary year incorporates more readings from the Gospel of John, which will follow in its own blog post.

The following pericopes do not appear in Luke's portion of the lectionary:

Luke 1:1-38 (Dedication to theophilus, the birth of John the Baptist foretold, The birth of Jesus foretold).

Luke 1:46-80 (Mary's Song of praise, The Birth of John the Baptist, Zechariah's Prophecy)

Luke 2:21 (Jesus is named)

Luke 2: 39-40 (The Return to Nazareth)

Luke 3:23-37 (The Ancestors of Jesus)

Luke 4:31-44 (The Man with the unclean spirit, healings at Simon's house, Jesus preaches in the synagogues)

Luke 5 (Jesus calls the first disciples, Jesus cleanses a leper, Jesus heals a paralytic, Jesus calls Levi, The Question about Fasting)

Luke 6: 1-18 (The question about the Sabbath, The Man with a withered hand, Jesus chooses the 12 apostles, Jesus teaches and heals)

Luke 6:32-49 (Judging Others, A tree and its fruit, The two foundations)

Luke 7: 18-35 (Messengers from John the Baptist)

Luke 8:4-25 (Parable of the sower, Purpose of the Parables, Parable of the Sower explained, A lamp under a jar, the true kindred of Jesus, Jesus calls a storm)

Luke 8:40-56 (A girl restored to life, a woman healed)

Luke 9:1-27 (The mission of the 12, Herod's perplexity, Feeding the 5,000, Peter's declaration about Jesus, Jesus foretells his death and resurrection)

Luke 9:37-50 (Jesus heals a boy with a demon, Jesus again foretells his death, True greatness, Another Exorcist)

Luke 10:13-15 (Woes to unrepentant cities)

Luke 10:21-23 (Jesus Rejoices)

Luke 11:14-53 (Jesus and Beelzebul, Return of the unclean spirit, True blessedness, The sign of Jonah, The Light of the Body, Jesus denounces Pharisees and Lawyers)

Luke 12:9-12 ("anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven")

Luke 12:22-31 (Do not Worry)

Luke 12:41-48 (the Faithful or the Unfaithful slave)

Luke 12:57-59 (Settling with your opponent)

Luke 13:18-30 (The parable of the mustard seed, the parable of the yeast, the narrow door)

Luke 14:2-6 (Jesus heals a man with dropsy)

Luke 14:15-24 (Parable of the Great Dinner)

Luke 14:34-25 (About Salt)

Luke 16:14-31 (The Law and the Kingdom of God, The Rich Man and Lazarus)

Luke 17:1-4 (Sayings of Jesus)

Luke 17:20-37 (The Coming of the Kingdom)

Luke 18:15-43 (Jesus blesses little children, The rich Ruler, A third time Jesus foretells his death, Jesus heals a blind beggar)

Luke 19:11-48 (The parable of the 10 Pounds, Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, Jesus cleanses the temple)

Luke 20:1-26 (The Authority of Jesus questioned, the parable of the wicked tenants, the question about paying taxes)

Luke 20:41-47 (The question about David's son, Jesus denounces the scribes)

Luke 21:1-4 (The widow's offering)

Luke 21:20-24 (The destruction of Jerusalem foretold)

Luke 21:37-38 (comment about the activity of Jesus)

Luke 22:1-13 (The plot to kill Jesus, the preparation of the Passover)

Luke 24:36-43 (Jesus appears to his disciples)

Monday, June 09, 2014

Highlighting the Bible: Part II, Year A (Matthew, 2014) Gospel readings

A. Hanson, Denver 2014
For the first part of my summer project, I started highlighting the readings from Matthew's Gospel that appear in Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary.

I should specify that I am using the Augsburg Fortress lectionary calendar for Year A, 2014.  The lectionary readings change slightly in the three year cycle. It is simply not possible to use all of Matthew's Gospel in Year A.  Additionally, John's Gospel is what is used during Holy Week and for the passion narrative, and during the season of Easter.  This does not change from year to year. It is interesting to me what does not appear in the lectionary texts.  In a year of attending worship, you will never hear the following texts from Matthew's Gospel read out loud in worship.

The following are chunks of texts (the fancy seminary word for these are pericopes) that DO NOT appear in the lectionary:

Matthew 1:1-17, The Genealogy of Jesus

Matthew 4:23-25, Jesus ministers to crowds of people

Matthew 6:7-14, a portion of the sermon on the mount concerning prayer

Matthew 6:22-34, More sermon on the mount discourse.  Pertaining to the eye, serving two masters, and "do not worry"

Matthew 7, More from the sermon on the mount.

Matthew 8, Jesus heals a leper.  Jesus heals a Centurion's servant. Jesus healing at Peter's house.   Jesus stills a storm.  Jesus heals the Gadarene demoniac.

Matthew 9, Jesus healing a paralytic.  The call of Matthew the tax collector.  Questions about fasting.  A girl restored to life and a woman healed from hemorrhaging. Jesus healing two blind men.  Jesus healing a mute man.

Matthew 10:1-23, The summoning of the twelve apostles.  The giving of the mission of the twelve.  Warnings of coming persecutions.

Matthew 11:20-24, Woes to unrepentant cities.

Matthew 12, Comments about plucking grain on the Sabbath. The healing of a man with a withered hand.  Jesus and Beelzebul.  A parable of a tree and its fruit. The sign of Jonah.  The return of the unclean spirit.  The true kindred of Jesus.

Matthew 13:10-17, The purpose of the parable

Matthew 13:54-58, the Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth

Matthew 14:1-12, The Death of John the Baptist

Matthew 14:34-36, Jesus heals the sick at Gennesaret

Matthew 15:1-9, The tradition of the elders

Matthew 15:29-39, Jesus curing many people.  The feeding of four thousand.

Matthew 16:1-12, The demand for a sign.  The yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Matthew 17:14-27, Jesus cures a boy with a demon.  Jesus again foretells his death and resurrection.  Jesus commenting on the temple tax.

Matthew 18:1-14, True Greatness.  Temptations to sin.  Parable of the lost sheep.

Matthew 19, Teaching about divorce.  Jesus blesses little children.  The parable of the rich young man.

Matthew 20:17-33, A third time Jesus foretells his death and resurrection.  The request of the mother of James and John (having one disciple at Jesus' right hand and another at his left).  Jesus healing two blind men.

Matthew 21:1-22, Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Jesus cleansing the temple. Jesus curses the fig tree.

Matthew 22:23-33, The question about the Resurrection.

Matthew 23:13-38, Discourse about woes to the Scribes and Pharisees.  Lament over Jerusalem.

Matthew 24:1-35, Destruction of the temple foretold.  Signs of the end of the age.  Persecutions foretold.  The coming of the son of man.  The lesson of the fig tree.

Matthew 24:45-51, parable of the faithful or unfaithful slave

Matthew 26:1-25, The plot to kill Jesus.  The anointing at Bethany.  Judas agrees to betray Jesus. The passover meal with the disciples.

Matthew 28:11-15, The report of the guard of the empty tomb.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Seminary graduation

Me with the family

receiving my diploma

being hooded by Dr Mark George, the professor who
taught me how to love the Bible

Amy Hanson, Mdiv