Romans 5:1-5 (3 Lent 2020)

I wanted to preach on Jesus and the sassy Samaritan from John this morning. It’s one of my favorite stories, layered with meaning, rich in word play, double-talk, from above and from below, well water and living water pointing to baptismal water. But the present circumstances call for a different Word of God, a word of peace in the midst of uncertainty and turmoil, a word hope in the midst of despair, a word of faith at a time when faith is tested, a word that speaks of rejoicing in suffering, and the patient endurance, character, and hope that God works in,with, and under suffering.

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The Passion of Our Lord – I


Matthew 26:1-35


The Passover is at hand; the time for Jesus’ crucifixion has come. The chief priests and elders plot to arrest and kill Him. “But not during the feast, lest there be a riot among the people.” Can’t be having a riot on a religious holiday, now can we? There would be dire repercussions. Even religious treachery has its contingencies. 

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Matthew 1:18-25 (Advent 4A, 22 December 2019

Immanuel. A compound word in Hebrew: Immanu – with us. El – God. God is with us. It comes from the prophet Isaiah who tried to assure King Ahaz that he didn’t need to strike an alliance with Egypt against the northern kingdoms of Syria and Ephraim. All he had to do was nothing. Trust the Lord. In nine short months, the time it takes for a young woman to conceive and bear a son, you will know Immanuel, God is with us. And in less than twelve years, before Immanuel knows right from wrong, the two kings you are so concerned about will be dust, because Immanu-el – God is with us.

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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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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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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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