Matthew 5:1-12 (All Saints, 2019)

What the world deems cursed, Jesus calls blessed. In the Greek, it’s makarios. Happy doesn’t quite catch the sense. Fortunate. Lucky. Oh lucky you – poor, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting and persecuted. You have it all even as you have nothing at all. The kingdom of heaven is yours and all that goes along with it. How fortunate you are! And how blessed.

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Romans 3:19-28 (Reformation 2019)

“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”

Those words are radical words, game-changing, church-reformoing words. Though they sound like Martin Luther, and they were certainly near and dear to the Reformer’s heart, they are much older and more inspired. They’re the words of the apostle Paul, writing over 1400 years before Luther. They represent Paul’s decisive break with pharasaic Judaism, the religious system he grew up with and into which he was schooled as a rabbi. They are the end to all bargaining, all transaction, all attempts to deal with God on the basis of commandment-keeping and good behavior and our attempts at spiritual improvement. This little sentence rocked the religious world of Paul’s day, and it set Martin Luther before pope and emperor to lay down the Gospel gauntlet before the church and the world to say: “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me.”

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Luke 17:1-10 (17 Pentecost 2019, Proper 22C)

I don’t know about you, but I’m rather enjoying the take no prisoners, no nonsense Jesus that Luke has been delivering to us for the last few weeks. Today is no exception: scandals to faith, radical forgiveness, tiny faith that moves mulberry trees, and unworthy servants simply doing their job. I like it because so much of our Christian talk today seems to lack edge and tooth, not to mention body and blood. It’s a kind of a spiritual mush. Jesus is anything but that. He deals in the hard-edged reality of life as sinners in a fallen world in which there are scandals to faith, countless occasions to forgive, and no point at which we can say, “There, it’s finished. We’ve done our job, we deserve our reward.”

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Forgiveness

Forgiveness. The word is central to what we believe. We hear it often, and hopefully we speak it more often. We pray for it. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This past week we saw and heard what that looked like in a Dallas courtroom where Brandt Jean forgave Amber Guyger, the ex-police officer who mistakenly killed his brother Bothom Jean, and embraced her in open court before television cameras. He not only forgave her, he urged her to turn to Christ for peace and forgiveness.

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Matthew 18:10-11 (St. Michael and All Angels 2019)

Todayis St. Michael and All Angels day. This has nothing to do with Los Angeles or the Angels of Anaheim. You probably won’t see anything about this on Facebook or Instagram. Hallmark doesn’t have cards for it, at least none that I could find. Angels are reserved for Christmas. Lowes and Home Depot are occupied with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all rolled into one commercial package – Hallowthanksmas. But not a trace of St. Michael let alone all the angels to be found in the home decorating aisle. 

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Covering Up

You probably heard the story by now. Carson King, a 24-year old man from Iowa, holds up a sign asking for beer money at a college football game to replenish his dwindling Busch Lite supply. Donations come pouring in like a frat house kegger. Then matching donations, along with a few cases of Busch Lite. King decides to donate everything to a local children’s hospital. The donations exceed a million dollars. Then a reporter for the Des Moines Register does some internet trawling and dredges up some less than politically correct sludge dating back to when Mr. King was 16 years old. Outrage ensues. Then people dig and find similar dirt on the reporter. And, of course, more outrage.

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Luke 16:1-15 (15 Pentecost 2019, Proper 20C)

Let’s talk about Money. I know you don’t want to. Church is supposed to be for “spiritual stuff.” But in today’s Gospel, Jesus demands we talk about Money, and Money is very spiritual. It’s one of the most important things in our lives. It keeps us awake at night and busy during the day. The ever-quotable poet Oscar Wilde once said: “When I was young, I thought money was the most important thing in life; now that I’’m old, I know that it is.”

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Luke 15:1-10 (14 Pentecost 2019, Proper 19C)

Have you ever lost something of great value to you? A dog or cat that ran away. Perhaps you lost your cell phone or the keys to the car. Have you ever lost a child, as Mary and Joseph lost Jesus for three days in Jerusalem? How did you feel when you turned and your child wasn’t there? What ran through your mind? You were frantic. You searched and searched and wouldn’t rest until you found your lost child. You’ll stop at nothing until you find what was lost. That’s the seeking heart of the shepherd and the woman in today’s Gospel. It’s the heart of the Lord telling the parable. He is the seeking shepherd, the searching woman, the God who is totally focused on seeking and finding the lost. 

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The Grace of Slowness

I decided to improve my handwriting, which had deteriorated to the point where even my pharmacist couldn’t read it. Years of banging away at the keyboard had taken its toll on my penmanship. Even my printing had become illegible. I could not decipher notes I had scribbled to myself the day before yesterday. Writing a card was a chore, a hand-written letter unthinkable.

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The Grace of Silence

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. – Revelation 8:1

I talk too much. I know that, and those who know me know it all too well. It’s an occupational hazard for a preacher. I pontificate, I preach, I lecture, I dump the latest contents of my head on anyone who will listen, even if they aren’t listening. People come seeking a sip of wise words; I turn on a fire hydrant. Conversation with me is the verbal equivalent of being waterboarded.

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