Apr 8, 2018
Resurrection As Relationship
Series: (All)
April 8, 2018. Christians are a diverse group, but we are all gathered together in the risen Lord’s offer of peace, wholeness, and newness. For us, the resurrection is more an experience than something to be proved. Pastor Keith discusses this idea today, and suggests that maybe the resurrection is not about something to believe, but about the someone who makes believing possible.
 
*** Transcript ***
 
Well we reflect further on this in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
 
It's quite an assortment of people and emotions who gather in that Upper Room with Jesus after the resurrection. There are those who had deserted him, those who had denied him. Some had watched him die from a distance. Some watched him die close up. There are folks in that group maybe who came to see an empty tomb. One of the people there believed right away, and one was confused by what he saw. So there were all kinds of people together. But they all seem to be fearful. The doors are locked tight. After Jesus appears, there is joy and there's testimony, as they can tell one another what they've seen, and they now believe that indeed he is the one risen from the dead. But in the midst of all this, especially between the two weeks when they meet, there is the skepticism of Thomas, who had not been there to see what the others had seen. There are so many different emotions, moods, reactions, impressions. Yet all are gathered together in the embrace of our risen Lord's offer of peace, wholeness, and newness.
 
This really is a picture of the resurrection community: all kinds of distinctive and diverse people, bound together in the promise of the resurrection in such a way that the whole is larger than the sum of its parts. As Christians gathered together, they believe in the resurrection and coming together that makes them bigger than what each one could do. So we may talk today about that very early Christian community, gathered around the resurrection. But that is who we are today. We all gather, having had that death and resurrection in common of Jesus. Yet we're all different: in who we are, how we are moved by the resurrection, and how it has an impact on what we do each and every day. And so we come together on Sundays, the day of resurrection, to gather ourselves and to remember what we hold in common — and then to go into our activities during the week mindful that we have this community of people gathered around the risen Lord to sustain us. We come together on this first day of the week, as did the early disciples.
 
In the last decade, an insight of professor Sandra Schneiders has changed some thinking about part of this passage we heard today. We heard the verse read that Jesus says, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." And that's often been troubling to people: what do we do with this retention of sins? But looking more carefully at the original Greek writing of this verse, she has noticed that the word "sin" really isn't there in the Greek in the second part of the verse. And so in her view it's not really accurate to say, "If you retain the sins of any, they are retained," because the word "sin" isn't there. She also has noticed that the word that we use for "retain" can also mean "hold fast" or "to embrace" someone. It's not just to keep in your mind, but to come close to someone. So with this in mind, the verse translated would be more like this to her mindset: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; and anyone you hold fast is embraced and is held fast as well." So anyone who is close to you is someone you hold onto.
 
And so when we think of Thomas in this case, the verse means something more like this: "If you forgive someone who has struggled to believe, they are forgiven; and if you hold fast anyone who is struggling, that person will be held onto and not let go of, nor lost or abandoned." So Thomas is there, someone struggling. But the disciples don't diss him. They don't do anything bad to him. They embrace him and say Thomas, come in here and come and see, and this will make sense to you. And so this seems to be a sensible way to look at this passage in the light of Thomas. Even though he questions the resurrected Jesus, he's not criticized by them or shunned or excluded. They include and retain him, hold onto him, until he has his own encounter with Jesus the next Sunday. It makes sense to think that this is what John wants for all of us. John, the gospel writer, wants us all to be able to forgive each other, to hold onto each other, to embrace each other — especially when we struggle — until we are caught up with the common experience of the risen Christ ourselves and share that in our community of faith.
 
Perhaps this experience of the disciples starting so fearfully, not judging each other but thinking about what the resurrection means for them, describes who we are as we gather on Sunday. We are a diverse group of all kinds of people who will hold onto each other and retain and embrace each other, especially when we struggle, until we are caught up in the experience of the risen Christ — and we do that together. And it helps us hold up and support one another.
 
We see here that this resurrection thing is more of an experience than it is a poof. Thomas was looking for his own encounter with the risen Jesus. He wanted to see Jesus alive again, so he could be assured that the promise of his relationship with Jesus would never be taken away. And Thomas helps to see that this resurrection, then, is experienced in different ways. It's more than a scientific proof that Jesus is alive or that the resurrection happened. There's no poof for that. Rather, the resurrection is among us, whether we see it or not. It's in the midst of us, whether we're able to point to it or not. When we're looking for the proof that it happened, we've missed the point. The truth is that it isn't something to be believed, but someone who makes the believing possible. And that someone we are talking about is someone who sees believing in terms of relationship, and who creates community through relationships. By the rising of Jesus, we know that we might have relationship with God and with one another and have life, and have it abundantly.
 
When we see resurrection as relationship, then we begin to see our lives in terms of what we saw described in our first lesson today from Acts. Life in the name of the resurrection looks like what Acts describes. Here were the Christians gathered together of one heart and one soul. That can be us. We live together with no one claiming any private possessions, but all having things in common. We can be free to give testimony to the risen Lord and to receive God's grace. We're able to live without anyone being needy in our midst. We're free to lay our possessions at the feet of the church leaders and have it distributed as any had need. That was the lifestyle in the beginning of Acts. That's seeing resurrection as a relationship. While we may not do all those things in that way, we too are free to lay our possessions at the foot of the altar, to say these are the things I want to share with the world and the people around me. When we see resurrection as relationship, we know how good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity, as our Psalm proclaimed today. And we know how we strive for fellowship, as our second lesson mentioned as well.
 
Seeing resurrection as relationship, it becomes a way to measure what we do in life. Our life in faith becomes a lifestyle for us. It's a way to live in a world where we can live simply and non-violently, in a shared style and in a loving style. It's not so much belonging to a certain organization called the church, but a way to live — even though we have membership and we'll be celebrating that today. But it's a group of people, it's a community. Not so much: are you on the rolls or not? How will our way of life help the world to come and believe, is what we want to ask as we live in this lifestyle of the resurrection. What will we help the world to see? Will the world be able to see the resurrection in each one of us, in all that we do, and all that we say? Then seeing what we do will be the way to believing for them.
 
This past week there was a lot of recognition of the 50th anniversary of the violent death of Martin Luther King, Jr. And as they remembered that event, most of them played the highlights of his speech in Memphis, where we heard that brief section from his very famous speech: "I've been to the mountaintop. I've seen what we need to see, and that inspires me to live the life I live." That speech is based on his own religious experience of seeing something God had put before him. The disciples were seeing Jesus. Martin Luther King, Jr. saw and had another kind of vision of what God meant for him. I've mentioned other times this spring how what he saw led him to do things in his life. Seeing this vision of God is what inspired his faith and action.
 
It's generally believed there were probably only a few hundred people who saw Jesus alive after the resurrection, yet thousands and millions have come to follow him. They obviously didn't see it with their own eyes, as we haven't ourselves. Yet Jesus has spoken to them and been heard in the voices of others, and been seen in the lives of others, which has inspired so many to believe. Through what we have seen in the faith lived out by others, and as we have heard the words of Jesus passed on through those others, we live as though we have seen Jesus too — because we have. We've seen him in the modeling and inspired lives of others. We've heard the words of Jesus to start with. We've had the witness to him. So now we join others to live out this resurrection, and he now lives through us, in this congregation, and in the world.
 
Three times in this reading Jesus says, "Peace be with you." He comes to us and presents himself to us as the one who is alive to give life to us. It's not to be a fearful thing, but it is something that gives peace. He's come to give his life for us. Indeed, to know that Jesus has risen — and risen for us — gives us peace. It takes away our stress and our fear about living well enough. It gives us the freedom to live out the resurrection in the world around us. With this peace, like the peace of having a mountaintop experience with Jesus, we're able to live boldly in the world and to live with hope in the world. It's the one who was killed and then rose to life who urges us on. With him as our faith leader, we can live with peace, and live out the joy and the promise of the resurrection. Amen.
 
And now may the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ, that passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 
*** Keywords ***
 
2018, Christ Lutheran Church, Webster Groves, sermon, podcast, transcript, Pastor Keith Holste, John 20:19-31, Acts 4:32-35, Psalm 133, 1 John 1:1-2:2
WatchNotesDownloadDateTitle
  • Apr 8, 2018Resurrection As Relationship
    Apr 8, 2018
    Resurrection As Relationship
    Series: (All)
    April 8, 2018. Christians are a diverse group, but we are all gathered together in the risen Lord’s offer of peace, wholeness, and newness. For us, the resurrection is more an experience than something to be proved. Pastor Keith discusses this idea today, and suggests that maybe the resurrection is not about something to believe, but about the someone who makes believing possible.
     
    *** Transcript ***
     
    Well we reflect further on this in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
     
    It's quite an assortment of people and emotions who gather in that Upper Room with Jesus after the resurrection. There are those who had deserted him, those who had denied him. Some had watched him die from a distance. Some watched him die close up. There are folks in that group maybe who came to see an empty tomb. One of the people there believed right away, and one was confused by what he saw. So there were all kinds of people together. But they all seem to be fearful. The doors are locked tight. After Jesus appears, there is joy and there's testimony, as they can tell one another what they've seen, and they now believe that indeed he is the one risen from the dead. But in the midst of all this, especially between the two weeks when they meet, there is the skepticism of Thomas, who had not been there to see what the others had seen. There are so many different emotions, moods, reactions, impressions. Yet all are gathered together in the embrace of our risen Lord's offer of peace, wholeness, and newness.
     
    This really is a picture of the resurrection community: all kinds of distinctive and diverse people, bound together in the promise of the resurrection in such a way that the whole is larger than the sum of its parts. As Christians gathered together, they believe in the resurrection and coming together that makes them bigger than what each one could do. So we may talk today about that very early Christian community, gathered around the resurrection. But that is who we are today. We all gather, having had that death and resurrection in common of Jesus. Yet we're all different: in who we are, how we are moved by the resurrection, and how it has an impact on what we do each and every day. And so we come together on Sundays, the day of resurrection, to gather ourselves and to remember what we hold in common — and then to go into our activities during the week mindful that we have this community of people gathered around the risen Lord to sustain us. We come together on this first day of the week, as did the early disciples.
     
    In the last decade, an insight of professor Sandra Schneiders has changed some thinking about part of this passage we heard today. We heard the verse read that Jesus says, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." And that's often been troubling to people: what do we do with this retention of sins? But looking more carefully at the original Greek writing of this verse, she has noticed that the word "sin" really isn't there in the Greek in the second part of the verse. And so in her view it's not really accurate to say, "If you retain the sins of any, they are retained," because the word "sin" isn't there. She also has noticed that the word that we use for "retain" can also mean "hold fast" or "to embrace" someone. It's not just to keep in your mind, but to come close to someone. So with this in mind, the verse translated would be more like this to her mindset: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; and anyone you hold fast is embraced and is held fast as well." So anyone who is close to you is someone you hold onto.
     
    And so when we think of Thomas in this case, the verse means something more like this: "If you forgive someone who has struggled to believe, they are forgiven; and if you hold fast anyone who is struggling, that person will be held onto and not let go of, nor lost or abandoned." So Thomas is there, someone struggling. But the disciples don't diss him. They don't do anything bad to him. They embrace him and say Thomas, come in here and come and see, and this will make sense to you. And so this seems to be a sensible way to look at this passage in the light of Thomas. Even though he questions the resurrected Jesus, he's not criticized by them or shunned or excluded. They include and retain him, hold onto him, until he has his own encounter with Jesus the next Sunday. It makes sense to think that this is what John wants for all of us. John, the gospel writer, wants us all to be able to forgive each other, to hold onto each other, to embrace each other — especially when we struggle — until we are caught up with the common experience of the risen Christ ourselves and share that in our community of faith.
     
    Perhaps this experience of the disciples starting so fearfully, not judging each other but thinking about what the resurrection means for them, describes who we are as we gather on Sunday. We are a diverse group of all kinds of people who will hold onto each other and retain and embrace each other, especially when we struggle, until we are caught up in the experience of the risen Christ — and we do that together. And it helps us hold up and support one another.
     
    We see here that this resurrection thing is more of an experience than it is a poof. Thomas was looking for his own encounter with the risen Jesus. He wanted to see Jesus alive again, so he could be assured that the promise of his relationship with Jesus would never be taken away. And Thomas helps to see that this resurrection, then, is experienced in different ways. It's more than a scientific proof that Jesus is alive or that the resurrection happened. There's no poof for that. Rather, the resurrection is among us, whether we see it or not. It's in the midst of us, whether we're able to point to it or not. When we're looking for the proof that it happened, we've missed the point. The truth is that it isn't something to be believed, but someone who makes the believing possible. And that someone we are talking about is someone who sees believing in terms of relationship, and who creates community through relationships. By the rising of Jesus, we know that we might have relationship with God and with one another and have life, and have it abundantly.
     
    When we see resurrection as relationship, then we begin to see our lives in terms of what we saw described in our first lesson today from Acts. Life in the name of the resurrection looks like what Acts describes. Here were the Christians gathered together of one heart and one soul. That can be us. We live together with no one claiming any private possessions, but all having things in common. We can be free to give testimony to the risen Lord and to receive God's grace. We're able to live without anyone being needy in our midst. We're free to lay our possessions at the feet of the church leaders and have it distributed as any had need. That was the lifestyle in the beginning of Acts. That's seeing resurrection as a relationship. While we may not do all those things in that way, we too are free to lay our possessions at the foot of the altar, to say these are the things I want to share with the world and the people around me. When we see resurrection as relationship, we know how good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity, as our Psalm proclaimed today. And we know how we strive for fellowship, as our second lesson mentioned as well.
     
    Seeing resurrection as relationship, it becomes a way to measure what we do in life. Our life in faith becomes a lifestyle for us. It's a way to live in a world where we can live simply and non-violently, in a shared style and in a loving style. It's not so much belonging to a certain organization called the church, but a way to live — even though we have membership and we'll be celebrating that today. But it's a group of people, it's a community. Not so much: are you on the rolls or not? How will our way of life help the world to come and believe, is what we want to ask as we live in this lifestyle of the resurrection. What will we help the world to see? Will the world be able to see the resurrection in each one of us, in all that we do, and all that we say? Then seeing what we do will be the way to believing for them.
     
    This past week there was a lot of recognition of the 50th anniversary of the violent death of Martin Luther King, Jr. And as they remembered that event, most of them played the highlights of his speech in Memphis, where we heard that brief section from his very famous speech: "I've been to the mountaintop. I've seen what we need to see, and that inspires me to live the life I live." That speech is based on his own religious experience of seeing something God had put before him. The disciples were seeing Jesus. Martin Luther King, Jr. saw and had another kind of vision of what God meant for him. I've mentioned other times this spring how what he saw led him to do things in his life. Seeing this vision of God is what inspired his faith and action.
     
    It's generally believed there were probably only a few hundred people who saw Jesus alive after the resurrection, yet thousands and millions have come to follow him. They obviously didn't see it with their own eyes, as we haven't ourselves. Yet Jesus has spoken to them and been heard in the voices of others, and been seen in the lives of others, which has inspired so many to believe. Through what we have seen in the faith lived out by others, and as we have heard the words of Jesus passed on through those others, we live as though we have seen Jesus too — because we have. We've seen him in the modeling and inspired lives of others. We've heard the words of Jesus to start with. We've had the witness to him. So now we join others to live out this resurrection, and he now lives through us, in this congregation, and in the world.
     
    Three times in this reading Jesus says, "Peace be with you." He comes to us and presents himself to us as the one who is alive to give life to us. It's not to be a fearful thing, but it is something that gives peace. He's come to give his life for us. Indeed, to know that Jesus has risen — and risen for us — gives us peace. It takes away our stress and our fear about living well enough. It gives us the freedom to live out the resurrection in the world around us. With this peace, like the peace of having a mountaintop experience with Jesus, we're able to live boldly in the world and to live with hope in the world. It's the one who was killed and then rose to life who urges us on. With him as our faith leader, we can live with peace, and live out the joy and the promise of the resurrection. Amen.
     
    And now may the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ, that passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
     
    *** Keywords ***
     
    2018, Christ Lutheran Church, Webster Groves, sermon, podcast, transcript, Pastor Keith Holste, John 20:19-31, Acts 4:32-35, Psalm 133, 1 John 1:1-2:2
  • Apr 1, 2018Who Played the Fool
    Apr 1, 2018
    Who Played the Fool
    Series: (All)
    April 1, 2018. Easter and April Fools' Day fall on the same date this year. Some say we Christians are foolish to celebrate a man who came back from the dead. How believable is it after all? But Pastor Penny tells us that in this story it's Jesus who plays the fool. He allows himself to be arrested, doesn't speak for himself when given the opportunity, and while being crucified he prays forgiveness for those taunting him. Why does he do all this? For us. In playing the fool for us, Jesus took away our fear of death so that he can help us with life.
     
    *** Transcript ***
     
    We begin this morning in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
     
    I saw an Easter card that had a picture of Jesus on the front, and the words, "They thought I was dead." And then you open it up and it says, "April Fools." Have any of you played an April Fool's joke yet today? Anybody have one played on them? Was it a good one? No, it was not a good one — which is kind of how we feel when the joke's on us. We typically don't want to be fooled, or to feel foolish, or to play the fool, you might say. Now, there are many people who would say we're pretty foolish this morning, as Christians, to come together and celebrate a man who came back from the dead. They would say that's pretty unbelievable. And you know, it always surprises me because most people believe in God. And God is a force that is able to do amazing things, like bring people up from the dead. But somehow it's hard to make the jump from God to Jesus. And you know, I understand. It's hard to believe. It's hard for us to believe at times too. But I think if there is someone who has played the fool in this whole story, it's Jesus. It's God.
     
    Because how foolish for a god to come to earth as a human being, and be born even into a poor family at that. How foolish for Jesus, once he was an adult, to leave everything — to leave his job, to leave his family, to leave his home, to leave the chance to live a normal life, get married and have children — and instead spend three years on the road, on his mission, eating wherever he could, sleeping wherever he could, really pushing himself to go to every town he could get to, to give his word of love and forgiveness. And then how foolish of Jesus to rub the important religious leaders the wrong way, to heal a blind man on the Sabbath and get their ire up. Or to befriend people they considered to be unclean. Or to stop the buying and selling in the temple, which was overshadowing the true worship. All these things made the religious rulers, who are very powerful, angry. How foolish. And how foolish of Jesus to let himself be arrested. And then when he was given the opportunity to speak for himself in his defense, he was silent. How foolish to let himself be crucified, and while on the cross to pray forgiveness for the very people who were taunting him as he believed. Why? Why did Jesus play the fool? It was for us. It was to give us something. It was to give us life that begins here and goes into eternity.
     
    I remember the first time I went to Chicago, and our family went up to an observation deck on the then tallest building in Chicago, which was the Prudential Building. And I looked out at the city and I was amazed. There were streets and cars and trees and houses as far as I could see. In my mind the city had no end. And that is like the gift that we are given on Easter: a life that has no end. Death is simply a portal to a new and better life. And so Easter reminds us that we do not have to be afraid to die. But we have a lot of other fears besides death to contend with. Fears in life, fears that often are revealed in our complaints or our self accusations: my grades aren't good enough, my resume isn't strong enough, my body isn't thin enough, my performance isn't good enough. I don't have enough time, I don't have enough money, I don't have enough strength, I don't have enough authority, I don't have enough friends, I don't have enough years left in my life. All these fears keep us from seeing others. They turn us in toward ourselves, keep us from seeing and caring what's happening in other people's lives.
     
    There is a church historian (she has died now) with the strange name of Phyllis Tickle. She was a wonderful woman. We were able to hear her when she came to Eden Seminary and speak once. She writes about the time that she had a near-death experience at age 21. She was on a new medication to prevent miscarriages, and she stopped breathing. And she said as they were working to resuscitate her, she was above, looking down at herself. And all of a sudden the ceiling opened up and she found herself in that tunnel they always talk about. And in that tunnel she experienced absolute peace. And then a voice asked her, "Do you want to come?" And she said, "No, I want to go back and have my baby." And then she began to breathe again. But after experiencing that death, that amazing peace, she was never afraid to die again. To her dying day she was not afraid. And she said it made a difference in her life. And this is what she says: "Once the fear of death goes, then you're not so afraid of life. And you're free to love. You're just a different person."
     
    If Jesus has taken away the sting of death as we believe, then he certainly has the power to help us with life. You know, the resurrection isn't the end of his story. He is here. He is with us. And when we know that he felt we were precious enough to die for, it also takes the sting out of the feelings we have if we don't like our body, or we don't like the gifts that we've been given. And when we know he is with us, it gives us courage to take risks for other people. It gives us the strength to stand up for people if they're being abused or bad mouthed, people who are different, they look different, they speak differently, they have a different sexual orientation. We have courage to stand up for them. Jesus gives us the power and the desire to help. And we find ourselves spending time helping someone, even if we will never see the results of our efforts.
     
    Christians live differently, not because we feel we're so much more open-minded or more honest, more caring or better than other people. That comparison game, you know, that's part of the the fears we've left behind. No, we try to live as Christ lived — for the same reason that we wear a T-shirt or have a bumper sticker that promotes a certain team or a certain school or a certain political view. We do it because we want to be associated with Jesus. We want to be with him. We want to be part of his mission. And so our whole lives are a tribute to this loving savior, this loving God. We hold our lives up as a tribute to God. We say to Jesus, who played the fool to give us life here and eternally.
     
    Amen.
     
    *** Keywords ***
     
    2018, Christ Lutheran Church, Webster Groves, sermon, podcast, transcript, Pastor Penny Holste, Eden Theological Seminary, LGBTQ
  • Mar 25, 2018Break Down Our Prison Walls
    Mar 25, 2018
    Break Down Our Prison Walls
    Series: (All)
    March 25, 2018. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the adoring crowds shouted, "Hosanna!" On this Palm Sunday Pastor Penny preaches on that word, which means "save us." We not only need to be saved from our fears, we also need to be changed so that we can reach out beyond ourselves. *** [Keywords: Chief of Police Willoughby played by Woody Harrelson Christ Lutheran Church Easter Sunday dawns God leads us Greek word Hebrew Jesus has won Mildred Hayes played by Frances McDormand Palm Sunday Palm Sunday crowd Pastor Penny Holste Roman occupation Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri adoration affecting us alcohol led to violence be the kind of police detective you want to be believe in himself beyond their own lives break down our prison walls chief of police city comfortable consumed contribute to low level anxiety council met Tuesday country criticized crowds darkness daughter had been killed dealing with cancer dissolve like shadows of the night don't cry out for help don't look beyond don't want to be changed ecological future as a planet emerge from their prisons expression failed failure family fear of future fears fears tend to trap us focus on ourselves follow Jesus to Good Friday friend go beyond ourselves guilt had to look it up he would save them health issues here at the cross holy are you hopeful hosanna hunker down important messages impossible to improve lot in their lives jubilant keep us awake at night lack of money lashed out lead us leave Palm Sunday like to know lived up to father's expectations living with his mother make it all his responsibility meaning meant neighborhoods not doing his duty not free in their own country own prison of shame own schedules paralyze us parts of this country passionately desires perpetrator prevent it prone to violence publicly shamed him reached out retirement rigid social system rush to Easter satisfy our deepest desires save us saved from their poverty see clearly see other people selfishness sermon setting bombs in Austin shouting singing start loving people stop hating suffers with us and for us talk only to people they know tendency terrible price terrorism they felt trapped through his life and his death took words to heart trying new things trying to teach us turn us inward victory over death evil violence terror guilt shame violence violent movie want to be saved from our fears we will be changed what that word means when Jesus came why would they say that won't appreciate amazing gift world wrote in a letter you have it in you young police officer 2018]
  • Mar 18, 2018The Car Stuck In the Mud
    Mar 18, 2018
    The Car Stuck In the Mud
    Series: (All)
    March 18, 2018. If we were witnesses of the crucifixion -- the blood, the violence, and the inhumanity of it -- would we be able to see the glory in it? Pastor Penny preaches today on how the world looks different to us once we realize that through the cross, Jesus bought us a life we wouldn't have had otherwise. *** [Keywords: 2018 Adult Forum African American woman Christ Lutheran Church God bless us that day God is there God is with us Gospel Greek speaking people Jeff Bezos Jesus is the one who pulls us out Jesus used the cross Jesus was famous Jesus' crucifixion Keith serving rural parish LeBron James Meryl Streep Muslim woman Pastor Penny Holste Pastor Regina Gray Wednesday Bible class admit failure after he was dead another town answer the call to die as we realize assumptions be my follower becomes evident big house big yard birthmark on their face blood bottom of the hill buy us into the family of God can't do it on our own car stuck in the mud caucasian group clearly see color of skin corn could we see glory country roads instead of highway cross becomes real cross bought us priceless gift deeper point did not sound like the Lord difference we see disciples discover amazing new thoughts and ideas doing miracles drive around that sign driving by in tractor each one of us entrusted to youth of congregation eternity everyone needs to be seen failure farmer fears for the Son of Man forgiveness gift themselves for others go into the mud go to college great guest on talk show has to die to produce hate he bought us a life higher paying job hijab hook up chain to bumper hopelessly stuck in the mud hour of glory identity ruined if a grain of wheat if they really want to see me if we were there important part inhumanity it had rained just raised Lazarus from the dead knew her parents needed her know real life know that we are forgiven leisurely Sunday afternoons lifelong friends lifted out from earth lifted up little engine that could looked very intently looks different makes a difference man who loved God so much marry meet someone my soul is troubled nervous next words he spoke not be torn apart not otherwise have had not something we can do not the person nothing less than imminent crucifixion of course open house our color differences out of the grave party pulled him out real estate agent reject parts of this life religious university request road closed see glory in my cross see her point see how it has touched my life see the world differently sell any product sermon set aside prejudice shame sheer will power showing houses sign society speaker speaking about death spent years caring for ailing husband standing in front of me stay at home mothers strengthened faith such a privilege suffer test the hour has come theology time for hobbies to be glorified touchstone truly see person turn away uncomfortable until you get to know them very divided world violence wake up in the morning we can't see her we know who we are we want to see Jesus weakness what wearing wheelchair who would want to follow him will draw all people to myself willing to die without saying anything worked world will never look the same again worship]
  • Mar 11, 2018For God So Loved the World
    Mar 11, 2018
    For God So Loved the World
    Series: (All)
    March 11, 2018. It may be the best-known verse in the Bible. "For God so loved the world..." (John 3:16). In his sermon today, Pastor Keith discusses how this verse applies not specifically to us, but to the whole world including us. Jesus calls us to love the world in the same way God does. God loves the world through us.
     
    *** Transcript ***
     
    We begin in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
     
    Our gospel today includes what may be the best known and repeated verse in the New Testament, and even of the whole Bible. If we were in childhood religious education as in Sunday School or home devotions, we most likely learned this verse very early on in life. And if we've watched a professional football game, chances are good that we've seen references to it as people hold up posters that say John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that God gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life." It is a great verse of comfort that reminds us of the good news of the gospel. God does indeed love us, and God loves the world, and God promises life everlasting.
     
    Our tendency is to apply this verse, I think, to either ourselves or to the people who are around us. We get warm feelings because we have the assurance that God loves us. We think God loves me, and that's great! And that's true and we should celebrate the fact that we can be assured of God's love for each one of us. But as I look at the passage this time, I'm noticing that it doesn't spell out exactly the word "God loves me" but that "God loves the world." God loved the world so that he gave his Son. We as individuals are included in that world certainly, and definitely can believe that we're included in that group that is loved by God. But when we look at it more closely we see that because God loves the world, and we happen to be in the world, God loves us. God's love is bigger than just loving you and me and other human beings. God's love is as big as the world.
     
    The Greek word for "world" is one we know and use: it's "Kosmos." We could say God loved the cosmos so much that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. That God loves the cosmos, the world, is exceedingly great news. We're given the assurance that God loves this world around us, even though it doesn't present itself very well to God. Original sin, which is with everyone, is about being self-centered and ignoring God. And so even to this world where people choose to go against God, God wants to love. Even where people would rather satisfy their own desires, do what they want to do — to that world God brings the good news of love and life.
     
    We think of our first lesson this morning. We hear the children of Israel in the wilderness. God has led them from slavery by inflicting ten plagues on the Egyptians so that they could be freed from Egypt. And he led them to the Red Sea. When they were up against the Red Sea and they didn't have any way across it, and the Egyptians were coming after them, God opened the sea for them so that they could get across. And then they had come into the wilderness and it was tough. But they couldn't stand it in the wilderness, and didn't remember hardly what God had done for them, and forgot about God really, and were just angry to be out there in the wilderness and did say well, we'd just maybe like to be back in Egypt again. Did they really mean that? But God sent Moses, who prayed on their behalf, and who was given a clear order from God to make a snake out of bronze and put it up on a pole, so the people could look up to it and be saved from the snake bites that they were getting out in the wilderness. Moses did that. He put it up on the pole, and it was true that when the people looked up at it and believed the message of Moses, they were healed from their deadly snake bites. And we know how, time after time in their exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land, the people turned against God and either adopted other gods or tried to figure out other ways on their own to do things, rather than to trust God or to trust Moses. Yet God had made a promise. And God kept the promise. And we know eventually how God brought them to the Promised Land.
     
    So when John tells us that Jesus now is lifted up on a pole, for all to believe in him, he's calling his audience and us to notice the fact that God provides the same salvation now that God did when the bronze snake was on the pole in the wilderness and the people were saved from their snake bites. The two stories connect. As God has saved before, God saves now. God loved then; God loves now. When we think of God loving the world and saving it, we think about how we're involved in this plan. Jesus doesn't just call people to believe in me and now go do what you want. He calls us instead to love the world in the same way that God does, and to show the world and the people in the world, by our love, how God loves them. But not just the people, but Creation, and the place where God has called us to love, this whole round ball and the space around it, is what God loves and what we're called to love too. Called to love Creation, called to love the world, called to love all the people in this world. We are indeed called to love the people. God loves this world that has been made. God cares for us and all the people in it.
     
    And being the ones called by God, we hear that Jesus wants us to be part of the restoration of the world. We are the ones called to share the love of Jesus. We may get looked at with disdain when we do that, or maybe feel embarrassed as we do it. But we are the ones to be God in the places of the world where we are. We bring God's love, God's promise, so that when others see us and see our attachment to Jesus, healing can come to them. This may happen in one-on-one situations, but love for the world is also shown when we organize and work together to help others, or to help them get away to find a sustainable way to live. Or our care may be in ways so that we urge those who have office or the place to change things to do it. And we urge them to make changes so the world is better. We may help people organize, so that they can help their situation. All these ways are giving care to the world. God loves the world, and God loves the world through God's people on earth. So as faithful ones of God, we are those stationed to be in places where we can help and shape things around us to be better. God loves the world through us. God through us loves the world.
     
    Well, Albert Einstein and other physicists have dealt with the interrelationship of time and space. They figure the movements of planets and other objects in space, and see what their speed is in time, and make formulas and predictions about where things in space have been or will be in the future. Jesus uses time also, besides space, to explain about God. In our lesson today he invites his audience to look back and remember what they've heard about when their ancestors were in the desert, and God saved them by means of that bronze snake on a pole that they could look to for healing. That was back in time. That was a long time ago for Jesus to be talking about. Yet it had been kept fresh in their memories, and he could bring that image from the past and use it to explain the healing mission that he had as he would go high on a pole himself and die on a cross. That would be forthcoming. Jesus could have them look back to understand what was happening in the present. That mission of his which is ahead of him is not just a matter of earthly time also. It's a matter of eternity. Jesus speaks of himself on the cross as a gift of eternal life. So it's in time, but also timeless as well.
     
    We live out our mission in Christ in time. We make the best use we can of the past and what has been handed down to us. It may be what we've observed with our parents or others, and maybe life experiences that we've had which show us how God works. Maybe times we have been forgiven or have forgiven others ourselves, which have tied us closely to God in Christ. We live in time. We live in the present. We think back to the past, but we also point to the future. If we prepare ourselves so that we can do the best each day, living out what it means to be a person of Jesus, we act in loving ways and plan with others, so that in a timely way we can reflect God's love in our style of life. So we live in a place and we live in time. And where we are and how we live is in God's world. Our time is given to us by God. We endeavor to live with the mission of Christ's name, which makes Christ better known in the world, which demonstrates the way of a follower of Christ as we live that way, and which brings healing to the world.
     
    Jesus said God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him. Jesus has shown us the way. Only the kind of love which he has shown to us can be completely selfless and completely done for the sake of others. Only that will bring healing and wholeness to the world. And having shown us this kind of love on the cross, Jesus calls us to follow him and to bring healing to all the worlds that we are involved in. He calls us to be in a process that ends hate and injustice and oppression, and replace it with justice, compassion, mercy, love, and equality. He calls us to love the neighbor as ourselves. He wants us to make for a better present world and a better future world.
     
    Like the Israelites in the desert, we can look up to the cross — the cross Jesus was on, the one that was actually put there to give us complete life. By looking in faith at Jesus on the cross, the love of God has made clear to us, and we know that God's forgiveness and God's love is there for us. And so we respond in love, loving the world as God has loved it, in every place, in every time, letting Jesus live through us so that there might be a healthy world in all ways. Amen.
     
    And now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
     
    *** Keywords ***
     
    2018, Christ Lutheran Church, Webster Groves, sermon, podcast, transcript, Pastor Keith Holste, Numbers 21:4-9, John 3:14-21, John 3:16
  • Mar 4, 2018Cleansing the Temple
    Mar 4, 2018
    Cleansing the Temple
    Series: (All)
    March 4, 2018. The sermon today is on the story in John 2 of Jesus cleansing the temple. Did that system of animal butchering and sacrifice make people feel as though they were in the presence of God? And what about the people walled off from each other: women, Gentiles, tax collectors? Does our temple need to be cleansed? Pastor Penny offers some thoughts on how we can be welcoming to everyone.
     
    *** Transcript ***
     
    We begin this morning in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
     
    Reuben had waited for this day for 12 years. He was finally old enough to accompany his father to sell their cows at the Passover festival in Jerusalem. There were four of them — perfect, unblemished cows — just the way the priest required them to be. And Reuben and his dad would carefully herd these cows the ten miles into Jerusalem. And when they got there, people would buy them to offer as sacrifices to the Lord, and they would pay well. Before this time, every time Reuben's father came back from Passover he would say well, now we have money for the next year. And he would feel happy, and he would bring a treat back for Reuben. Well Reuben's excitement built as they got closer to Jerusalem, because more and more people were joining them. But he couldn't believe it when he entered the city gates. He had never seen so many people in his life as there were in that city! And then they went into the temple, and as they came into the outer courtyard of the temple, Reuben read the sign: "Court of the Gentiles." When they walked in, he looked around to see if there were people that didn't look like him. He said father, where are the Gentiles? And his father said there's no room for them today. And when he looked around he could see why: it was full of people like his father and him, selling their cows and having them judged and inspected to make sure that the priest felt that they had no blemish. And then there were people changing money from the unclean coins to the half shekel of Tyre, which was what the priest required you to use. And then there were people who were buying the cows and the sheep and the doves as an offering to the Lord.
     
    Well Reuben was so exhilarated by the smells and the sounds and the sights, that as soon as they got their cattle settled and his father gave him permission, he went out to explore the temple. As he left the outer court he read the sign: "No Gentile should walk beyond this side, under penalty of death." Of course he wasn't a Gentile, so he continued walking. And he began to see other signs around the building. "This is the court of the women." "This is the court of the lepers," who would be people who were cleansed of leprosy. "This is the court of the Israelites." And then he was drawn into an enormous room where a couple dozen families were all jammed in, each with an animal. And they were involved in the continuous progression of butchering these animals, as the priest would come and take the blood in a huge basin and pour it on the altar. And then once the animals were butchered they would be skinned, parts would be separated out and given to the priest for a burnt offering, and the rest of the animal was sent home with the family to roast and eat. And then their sacrifice was done. And as soon as they stepped out, two dozen more families would come in and take their places. And it was a continual procession of slaughtering and sacrificing all day long.
     
    Well, it was time for Reuben to go back and find his father. But on his way there was a great commotion. Animals were running. People were running after animals. And there was a man, an angry man with a whip, who was shouting at people. Well, Reuben got back just in time to catch one of their cows, but not before it had crushed its foot. And when he came back to his father, his father was cursing. His father was glaring at that man with the whip. His father said this animal can't be sold. It's maimed. We've just lost our income. And Reuben knew that this year there would be no treat for him after the Passover.
     
    Well, what do you think it was that made Jesus so angry, to take up a whip and shout and make such a commotion? What was it that made him angry enough to cause harm to innocent people like Reuben and his family? Because it surely must have happened. It wasn't that he was complaining that the merchants were being dishonest. In some of the other gospels that is the accusation Jesus makes, but not here. Here, he is disparaging the entire temple system, the entire sacrificial system. And when you think about it, if people were involved in that system of inspection of animals, changing the money, and the assembly line slaughter of animals which was part of the ritual, would they come away feeling that they had been in the presence of God, that they had been able to bring their offering as a thank offering to God for God's saving work, which was the purpose of the Passover? And then most likely they wouldn't because it was so different from what God had wanted. God had always chosen to be close to people. God spoke to Moses in the burning bush. God accompanied the children of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. Where was that God in all of this? Where was the God that wanted to be close to the people? That God was hidden by layer after layer of ritual and commerce in the temple. And worse than that, this temple process, this ritual, this religious system designated some people as less worthy of having a relationship with God — women, Gentiles, cured lepers, tax collectors — and they were walled off from God. Where other people, a select few — the priests who came from generally five important families — they were allowed in the inner sanctums. They were therefore allowed access to God.
     
    I suppose when you're in the middle of a system, you really can't critique it. You can't see the problems. And I wonder if that's why this story has been saved for us these two thousand years. I wonder if God is wanting us to do some soul-searching and ask: are we, without realizing it, building walls up, designating some people as less able and less deserving of a relationship with God? Something that comes to my mind is I wonder what it signals to the community that we have a fence in our yard. And I'm sure there were problems that required the building of that fence in the past. But this is a new time, so in my musings I wonder what would happen if we made a gate, a second gate on the Lockwood side, and then made a sidewalk between the gates and put a few benches. What would that say to the community? Would it say that the people who worship in this beautiful stone house also want the community to be part of us? I don't know. Or should we, as some have suggested, offer an additional, different kind of worship service for people for whom the words "hymn of praise" and "Apostles' Creed" and even "gospel" have no meaning? I think the only way we're going to know the walls that we do build without realizing it, is to talk to people who are outside of the system, people who have no religious loyalty — maybe a coworker, maybe a child or a grandchild who does not attend church, and ask them: what does church mean to you? What is it that that whole structure says to you? And maybe we will get some answers that will help us.
     
    Because Jesus came, as he said, to draw all people to himself. He intermingled. He loved, he ate, he laughed with the very people that were walled out and cut off by the religious system of his day: the women, the Gentiles, the tax collectors, the prostitutes. And for our part, Jesus' life and death means that no sin that we have ever committed, no mistake we have ever made, will ever cut us off or wall us out of God's love — that because of Christ, God's arms are always open to us. May we find a way to share that picture of God and that picture of the church with the world.
     
    Amen.
     
    *** Keywords ***
     
    2018, Christ Lutheran Church, Webster Groves, sermon, podcast, transcript, Pastor Penny Holste, John 2:13-22
  • Feb 25, 2018To Make a Hard Decision
    Feb 25, 2018
    To Make a Hard Decision
    Series: (All)
    February 25, 2018. What are our lives worth? Our country today seems to be caught between conflicting values and beliefs. The topic of gun violence and what to do about it is in the news almost daily. It's a hard issue. In her sermon today, Pastor Penny tells us about how Jesus offers us guidance for making these kinds of hard decisions. *** [Keywords: 1937 Chevy coupe 2018 Carl Krebsbach Carla Krebsbach Christ Lutheran Church Garrison Keillor God has claimed for us Gospel Greek word psykhe Jesus is telling us Lake Wobegon Mark Mark 8:31-38 Messiah Minnesota NRA Olympics Pastor Penny Holste Peter about being caught abused against the Kingdom of God answer that question army tank be very careful believe his words believes bring into the world call of distress came out as gay caught between two emotions choice college friend conflicting values beliefs fears contradiction couldn't lie to the patients courage to follow him denial deny related to him deter him disciples dying of cancer experience faltered fictitious figure this one out first of three predictions follow him for making decisions for the good of others gave as gift give up our good gives in go one way or the other good storyteller greater cause gun ownership gun violence hard issue heard all the sides help friend help someone else high school senior his love and forgiveness hitch to pickup homecoming queen hope and health how much Jesus values our lives in return for their life jeopardize killed knitted leader less public arena lose themselves for my sake losing themselves losing your life and saving your life lost job friends family loves Jesus loves her father main street make money making fashion statement means self mental illness no more guns in school our country our lives are worth his life out of love for the giver overly powerful menace own personal safety parade police preserve the practice protect ourselves psyche public safety question Jesus asks rebukes religious leaders rise again sake of the Gospel save themselves scolds him scratchy ugly sweater sense septic tank sermon sewer backed up shame small doctor's office smells something strange so hard society kept him from revealing his true self solution soul searching sport stern and foreboding Gospel suffering and dying and rising teacher teachers should carry guns tell the patients thought throw up hands to lose herself to make a hard decision too much guns tow to dump tradition turns away from Jesus two selves unnecessary danger value of personal freedom values we hold waving and smiling we feel caught we find guidance what is a life worth whatever we decide will be arrested willing to deny ourselves workers with Jesus would not want Messiah to suffer wrong turn young athletes]
  • Feb 18, 2018Times of Testing
    Feb 18, 2018
    Times of Testing
    Series: (All)
    February 18, 2018. Lent reminds us that God always draws life from death. In his sermon today, Pastor Keith talks about the times of testing in our lives, just as Jesus was tested in the wilderness and on the cross. Jesus passed those tests, and we can take comfort knowing that he is with us as we endure our own struggles. *** [Keywords: 2018 30s 40 days Adam and Eve Christ Lutheran Church Elijah Gethsemane God always draws life from death God's reign God's rule Great Flood Holy Land I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right James Jesus is tested John John was arrested Judas Kingdom of God has come near Lent reminds us Lenten courage Lenten season Mark Martin Luther King Jr. Maundy Thursday Moses Mount Calvary Mount Transfiguration Noah Now I am afraid Pastor Keith Holste Peter Pharisees Roman authorities Satan TV Winter Olympics against others all that comes together all us sinners angels arrested assignment at our side forever at work and in our life athletes bad style balance baptized begin his ministry believe the Good News bodies and minds bow down bowed over kitchen table called follower of Jesus calls us to embrace can't face it alone challenges children of Israel coming down committed himself to God his father compassion and forgiveness contemplate our mortality contests coward crowds crucified cup of coffee decision descended descended the mountain difficult things ahead of him disappointed disciples doesn't deny our losses dramatic end of my powers endure evil spirits expression of life failed faith falls asleep fast as they can fears began to go garden getting up the mountain goes to Galilee governor hard journey hard practice head in my hands hope that we have been given human plight hung there in our lives in the race in this moment income indulgence injuries journey to Jerusalem jump lead him into temptation living in light looking for leadership love for our family major life tests make time to refocus mentally and spiritually prepare himself ministry most severe test move out of the picture moved forward new life will and can be given by God new trials no guide nothing left on the run one more time opportunities overwhelmed pass life's tests passed his test prayed aloud prepare himself presence of the divine present with Jesus priests promised the grace put on the line quiet assurance ready to face anything ready to give up realistic received the blessing reorganize resurrection rose from the dead route he needed to go route to Calvary scribes seems impossible sent to test sentenced to death sermon service to community skiers snowboarders sobering news and loss soldiers stand up for justice state of exhaustion stay awake suffered God's wrath suffering surrender to God takes on our trespasses teens temple tempt tempted him test tested to make the right decision themselves they too will falter three days later thrown into the wilderness thrown out time is fulfilled time of contest time of testing times of intense struggle tough journey ahead training training for years truth uncertainty disappeared went away to Galilee what he needed to do what we need to do wild beasts winning gold with Jesus who has passed the test with and before God with us work work together wrong decisions]
  • Feb 11, 2018Everything Changes
    Feb 11, 2018
    Everything Changes
    Series: (All)
    February 11, 2018. The Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain gave the disciples a glimpse of the love that God the Father had for his Son. They also saw Moses and Elijah, revered prophets who had mountaintop experiences of their own. Pastor Penny preaches today on this story, and on how when we come that close to God, the impossible becomes possible and everything changes.
     
    *** Transcript ***
     
    We begin in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
     
    Maybe some of you are like this: the first preset on the radio in my car is a news station. The second is a music station. And I usually start by listening to the news. But when it gets too much, too frustrating, too many outrageous things, too sad, then I push the music button. And inevitably I'm quickly transported out of the problems of the world, and out of my problems, into a place that is a lot more full of joy and hope. And I think that this strange story that we hear in the gospel this morning, that we call the Transfiguration, is meant to do just that for us: to transport us out of what we're dealing with and give us a glimpse of a place of hope and joy. Because on this Sunday before Valentine's Day God invites us, as the disciples were invited so long ago, to be witnesses of God the Father giving really a valentine to God the Son, demonstrating in the clearest way possible how much the Father loves the Son.
     
    And that love spills over into our lives as well. It was very clear that God wanted the disciples to be there and witness the Transfiguration. It could have been an event just for Jesus, but it wasn't. He invited Peter, James, and John to go with him. And it was clear that God wanted them to see something. When they got there on that mountain, suddenly Jesus' appearance was changed. He was dazzling white, or in the Greek he was gleaming and glowing as only a heavenly body could. You know, on earth we like to make things gleam and glitter if they're important to us: engagement rings, little girls' princess dresses are very glittery these days, new cars. That's a sign that they're important to us. Well, how much better, what a perfect way for the Father to show the disciples how much he loved Jesus, than to change Jesus, to transform him before their very eyes into a heavenly creature.
     
    God didn't only want the disciples to see the Transfiguration though. God also wanted them to experience it. And so when they were on the top of the mountain they were enveloped in a cloud. And God wanted them to hear it as well, and so out of the cloud came a voice -- God's voice -- saying words that actually God had said at Jesus' baptism. Nobody heard them but Jesus, that time. But now the disciples hear the words "This is my Son, the Beloved." Clearly God wanted the disciples to hear and see and feel this Transfiguration, this opportunity to be transported out of their normal situation and catch a glimpse of this love and this peace. They were in a privileged place when they were on the top of the mountain for another reason too: as they looked around they saw two of the most famous prophets in the Jewish religion. They saw Moses and Elijah, both of whom had their own mountaintop experiences where God spoke to them. Moses was on Mount Sinai and received the Ten Commandments in one of the conversations he had with God. And Elijah was at Mount Horeb when God conversed with him. And interestingly, many people feel that Mount Horeb is just another name for Mount Sinai. So they were on the same mountain possibly.
     
    When a person comes that close to God everything changes, and what seems impossible beforehand becomes possible. And so these two prophets, when they had their mountaintop experiences, were changed. When they came down from the mountain they were able to do things they didn't think they could before. They didn't horde this new relationship they had with God. It energized them to serve others. Moses, for instance, came down the mountain to encounter mutiny. While he was up there getting the Ten Commandments, the children of Israel had turned away from God. They'd created that golden calf symbol of fertility and power, and they were worshiping it. Moses had to take on his own brother Aaron to get the children of Israel turned back to God. Elijah, before he talked to God, cowered in a cave, he was so afraid of Queen Jezebel who was after him. But after he spoke with God, he had the courage to face her and to challenge her cult of Baal against God.
     
    The disciples, that day in Transfiguration Day, they come down from the mountain too. And we sense that Peter comes reluctantly. He seems to want to prolong the experience. He says oh, this is so good to be here. Let's build some shelters. He's kind of babbling in his excitement and his fear. But you have to wonder why. Why is Peter reluctant to come down? Could it be that he knows that when he gets down from the mountain he will have to face something he doesn't want to face? Maybe that's why the last words they heard on that mountain, the last words that God spoke (and God was speaking to them, not to Jesus) were, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him." Listen to him. That's what God said. What were they supposed to listen to? What were the disciples supposed to listen to? What words had Jesus spoken that they weren't hearing?
     
    Just before this experience of the Transfiguration, Jesus had revealed to the disciples that he would have to suffer. He would be rejected by the religious leaders. They would put him to death and then he would rise again on the third day. And Peter wouldn't listen. Peter wouldn't hear it. Peter scolded Jesus. Maybe we can understand. Maybe Peter thought well, you're the Holy One of God. You can't suffer. God's above all this. Maybe we can understand that, because I think that's our temptation as well: to say surely I don't have to take on the burdens of everyone else. Surely God doesn't want me to take risks, God doesn't want me to be uncomfortable. Surely if I just take care of myself and my family, that's good enough. Isn't it? Can't I just turn off that news channel and never listen to it again? Because after all, some of those things just seem so impossible.
     
    Well here is Jesus' valentine for us. That is, Jesus knew what was at the bottom of the mountain, but he came down. Jesus, who belonged to the sphere of the glimmering of hope and joy and love, came down and suffered and died and rose for us. And I believe that's why we have been invited into this story this morning: to be reminded that we too have heard God's voice. We've heard it through this particular ritual and rite, this entrance rite into God's kingdom. We've heard it through our baptisms. That's the way God has been able to convey to us those same words: you are my beloved daughter, you are my beloved son, and I will be with you, and I will be with you to the end.
     
    So when it feels like we are in a stormy time in our world, when it feels like we're overwhelmed with everything that's going on, Jesus' love -- God's love -- is the light that we look to. And when it feels that our personal lives are dry, our need of energy when things aren't going well or they're falling apart, and we feel like our personal lives are in a desert, it's God's love that's the beacon that we look to and that will guide us through. Jesus brought us close to God. And when you've been close to God, that changes everything. And even what seems impossible becomes possible.
     
    Amen.
     
    *** Keywords ***
     
    2018, Christ Lutheran Church, Webster Groves, sermon, podcast, transcript, Pastor Penny Holste, Mark 9:2-9
  • Feb 4, 2018Rest and Renewal
    Feb 4, 2018
    Rest and Renewal
    Series: (All)
    February 4, 2018. Guest pastor Tom Schoenherr talks today about the importance of rest and renewal. Just as Jesus knew that he couldn’t heal everybody all the time and would seek out a quiet place for prayer, so too we need to remember that if we don’t step back sometimes, we run the risk of losing our connection with God.
     
    *** Transcript ***
     
    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
     
    As we come together this morning, there are probably a number of us who have heavy hearts and heavy thoughts. This time in our society has been a very difficult one in a lot of ways, and some of us have struggles in order to face each day, and the new surprises and the new things in the conflicts and troubles that might be coming. I invite you to do something with me: just take a good inhale. And exhale. Let's do it twice more. It's important that we breathe.
     
    When Jesus was in this particular setting, he was having a lot going on. Just before the passage that we read for the gospel, Jesus has been in the synagogue with his disciples, and they've healed a man who was possessed by a demon. And the demon even talks to Jesus. But Jesus brings this demon out, and the man is healed. Then Jesus goes with his disciples to Simon Peter's house. And Peter says that his mother-in-law is ill with a fever. And at that time if you had a fever and it was an infection, it could be death-dealing. So Jesus goes to her and he takes her hand, and he lifts her up -- the same word that's used when Jesus is lifted up on the cross, when Jesus is lifted out of the tomb, resurrection -- and she is healed. And then there are all these people who come, who are sick, who have all kinds of problems in their lives. And they come for Jesus to heal them. It's told us that the whole town is gathered around the door. And Jesus is there to heal them, to free them from the possession of demons. But I wonder, I don't think he heals all of them, because he's healing into the night. And Jesus needs to rest. He needs to get a place to sleep. Jesus knows that he can't, and is not sent to, heal everybody. He knows that he needs Sabbath. He needs rest and renewal.
     
    And so early in the morning, when it's still dark, I picture Jesus not being able to sleep. He just gets up and he goes out into a deserted place. The disciples wake up later on and they know that Jesus isn't there, and they go out to find him. But Jesus is there praying. Jesus is seeking that silent place to be in the presence of God, to listen to God, to pray to God, for us and for all of those who need healing. Jesus knows that there is a rhythm to life that God has given us, and that sometimes we need to remember that. There is a rhythm to our sleeping and to our waking activity. There is a rhythm to night moving into morning. There is a rhythm to the growing times of spring and summer, that is offset by those dormant times of autumn and winter. There are the tides that go out and come in, a conversation between land and water and the moon. Our heart rests between each beat. And our lungs rest between the inhale and the exhale. And if we don't understand that, and live into that, we ignore that rhythm to our danger.
     
    Sometimes I think Jesus might have been tempted, when the disciples come out and they say everyone is searching for you, to go back and just to start healing people again. Because it's a heady thing, isn't it, when people tell us we really need you, you're really important, what you do and what you say really makes a difference in our lives. And it feels good. Jesus could have spent his entire ministry just being in one place and having everybody come to heal them. But I know, and you know too, how important it is to step back. If we don't, we run the risk of losing that most important connection with God's rest and power in our lives. Thinking that somehow we really are important can separate us from community, can separate us from God's gift of rest and renewal in our lives. And so it is important for us to keep in mind the centrality of Sabbath, to step back from all that we're doing, how important we are in our work, how important we are at home, to step back as even we're caring for other people, in order to take the time to go to a place to listen, to pray.
     
    That's why we come here. We come here because it's our Sabbath, our time to hear what God has to say to us, our time to talk with God and listen to God. It's a time for prayer. When Jesus gathers us together around the meal of the Lord's Supper, he draws us as people who are broken, who are hurting, who have all kinds of problems in our lives, people who have stories that we have not shared with anyone else. And he draws us together to give us his body and blood, to heal us, to give us rest and renewal, to draw us close to him, to forgive our sin, to give us the healing that we so desperately need, and to draw us again to remember that we are in a community -- a community of people who are here to care for us, to reach out to us in our times of need.
     
    That community in our society is breaking down. That Sabbath understanding in our society has broken down. We have forgotten our need for rest. We have forgotten our need for connection with one another. For 23 days in January, there were 11 school shootings. And for some reason we don't stand up and put an end to our children killing children. There are children and women who are being abused every day. And yet we don't know it. We're not aware. I'm always amazed at all of these stories where people come who are neighbors, and they say we had no idea. We had no idea that this was going on when 13 children in a home in California, a number of whom are being chained to their beds. We're not aware. There are seniors who are living in vans and cars because they can't afford to live in retirement, and still they cannot get jobs. Our social fabric is breaking down. We have lost sight of Sabbath and community.
     
    Jesus gathers us together again today to remind us of the importance that we are not always needed for everything. And we aren't needed all the time. And it's important for us to step back, to listen, to pray, to receive the healing that God has to give to us, so that we might be sent out. God sent out people to the world in order that we might share with them the importance of rest and renewal, how necessary it is to inhale and exhale, to receive that gift of healing that we have in Christ alone. May God bless your day, your week in the midst of all of the struggle and problems and troubles that we face or that our world is facing. It's still important to step away, to breathe, to listen, to pray, to get the healing that God has for us and for the whole world.
     
    In Jesus' name, amen.
     
    *** Keywords ***
     
    2018, Christ Lutheran Church, Webster Groves, sermon, podcast, transcript, Tom Schoenherr, Mark 1:21-28, Man with an Unclean Spirit, Mark 1:29-39