Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Samaritan Woman at the Well and The Healing of the Blind Man. (John 4 and John 9)

Something needs to die; something new needs to be born - Peace Lutheran Church's Lent series.

In the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), here are a few things that needed to die: 
-          her idea that shame about the past should keep her from God’s love;
-          her belief that Samaritans and Jewish people had nothing in common;
-          the disciples’ view that a Samaritan woman wasn’t fit to spread the gospel.

In short, this encounter put to death the idea that God’s work is limited to people who are deemed “acceptable.” 

As we try to live as Jesus’ disciples, this story is a caution to make sure we engage unlikely people in the work of spreading the gospel.  We can start by befriending people who are different from us.  The good news is that we are all unlikely!  As we are willing to show our own unlikeliness – in the form of awkwardness, discomfort, honest confession of our past – the Holy Spirit will appear.   What will be born? New relationships build on honesty, mutual acceptance, and a fresh amazement at God’s forgiving love.


This week, we will hear the story of Jesus’ healing the blind man.  Sadly, the miracle of healing is overtaken by the Pharisee’s debate that follows: Who healed him? Wasn't it wrong on the Sabbath? Was he really blind?  The Pharisees defensiveness makes them unable to celebrate the miracle of healing.

We are quick to identify ourselves with the blind man and pounce on the Pharisees as self-righteous prigs.  But again a caution; before we identify with the blind man, it serves us well to ask 'in what ways we are like the 'Pharisees?'

How are you blind to the joy and healing in other people’s lives? 
Have you ever been so sure you were right that you couldn’t accept somebody with a different experience?
Are you resentful of someone else’s good turn?
From what specific spiritual blindness could you ask God to heal you?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Something has to die, something else has to be born.

Note: each week, I send the congregation sermon summaries of the last week and a preview of what's coming up.  My tech was off this week so there's no audio.  In Lent, my focus is: Something has to die; something has to be born.

Something has to die; something has to be born.

When Nicodemus came to Jesus, it took a lot of courage.  He didn’t understand Jesus, he just knew there was something important about him.  Jesus’ insisted that the Spirit can empower people to be born again.  Nicodemus never really understood it and neither do we.  But that is the point.  When we are born again, we are like infants.  We’re out of control, we’re dependent, and we don’t understand most of what’s going on.

What needs to die in order for you to be born again? What’s the shield that keeps you from admitting all that you don’t know?  Nicodemus teaches that when you let go of your need to be the expert, you become open to the Holy Spirit’s life-changing work.

This week, we will hear a conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman who has had 5 husbands. She’s not your typical conversation partner for a Jewish man, much less someone holy.  But she's so affected by Jesus she turns into one of his followers and tells everyone about him.  When the old disciples find Jesus talking with this new, unlikely disciple, they are speechless.  This is not the kind of person Jesus should be talking to!

It’s easy to think of unlikely disciples as others. But what makes you unlikely?  How can knowing yourself as unlikely help you welcome other, equally unlikely people into this community of the unlikely disciples?

Ten for Ten. Ten reasons it's great to be a pastor, in celebration of my 10 year anniversary of ordination.

I'm in there somewhere. I was ordained at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington DC on November 10, 2007, ten years ago today. ...