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]
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  • 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
  • Jan 28, 2018Authority From Within
    Jan 28, 2018
    Authority From Within
    Series: (All)
    January 28, 2018. Mark tells us that Jesus began his ministry by teaching with authority in the synagogue. Some types of authority are granted by institutions. In Jesus' time the religious leaders and scribes wielded authority that depended upon years of study. But Jesus' authority came from within. He broke the rules. Pastor Penny preaches today on how Jesus took on the institutions of power in his mission to eradicate evil. *** [Keywords: 1964 2018 54 years ago Beatles British Invasion Capernaum Chicago Christ Lutheran Church Ferrari Ferris Bueller's Day Off Greek Heathrow Airport JFK Jesus began his ministry Mark 1:21-28 Michigan State New York City Pastor Penny Holste UK United Kingdom allowed his enemies always ones that help amazed any Jewish adult male could preach or teach asked to speak astounded at ease authorities authority given to us authorized by institution avoiding being caught begun teaching benefiting with things just as they are best selling band of all times book of Mark books came from within can never overpower us chairman of corporate board chapel cheering on chief of police church collarless black slim suits colleges comes from inside comes off looking pretty good country course of their day crowd dean of students death death can never have the final word description of Jesus destroy his own body on the cross destroying evil did not happen then didn't depend on years of study didn't have words to explain different dissonant harmony do not want to see it don't care what people think don't talk drive out an evil spirit evil is often embedded in institutions evil spirit evil will be transformed into good expense of the Holy Spirit films follow the rule for the good order fought for freedom four year theological degree freed the man fresh given that authority got word government hampering the spirit have you come to destroy us he had authority he was breaking their rules healed man on the Sabbath high school principal his mission his own image hone their skills hooky in her element institutions interacted with him keep his distance keeping rules leaders let's have communion look at our rules lovingly make a fool make heroes members might hurt some people military mop effect hair musical groups new no one invited Jesus no seminaries in early church only way to eradicate evil ordained minister our own wealth paled in comparison police popular power ideas preaching preside pretended to be sick protected abuse raised again from the dead rankle the religious leaders rationale reception religious institutions religious leaders rock group rule everyone understood rule not helping spirit rules might not be right sake of the institution savior scholars scribes secrecy sermon sightseeing spirit had a question stand up to controlling father stepped forward stepped out of nowhere strong reaction of people studied study for years suburban high school student synagogue taking on evil teaching tempted to protect threw the spirit out ultimate power of evil unclean person undergraduate in college upset very different walked to front walking up front welcome in synagogue what is evil why words flowed naturally work our way up young unassuming woman]
  • Jan 21, 2018Now Is the Opportune Time
    Jan 21, 2018
    Now Is the Opportune Time
    Series: (All)
    January 21, 2018. When is it the right time? Today Pastor Penny talks about two kinds of time: the ordinary time that we measure, and God's time. Jesus' disciples lived and worked in ordinary time, but they began to see sparks of God's time in their lives when they started to understand who Jesus was. If we know what to look for, we can catch glimpses of God's time too. *** [Keywords: 2018 Andrew Bible stories Christ Lutheran Church Connections Daniel H. Pink English Fishers of Men Lutheran Church God is at work God was here to stay God's time Gospel Greek language James Jesus Jesus isn't here John John the Baptist Kingdom of God Kingdom of God has come near Kingdom of God is here Mark Ruff Passion Sunday Pastor Penny Holste Pastor Roger Ruff Peter When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing adoring crowds after hours allowing angelic figure another reason army at work bait beautician beauty shop began to understand beginning of his ministry beheaded believe it boat border with Mexico bus call to action call to us calling us can be a challenge catch child to begin taking piano lessons children chronology chronos clerk clients come near comes into our existence coming to dark tomb common laborers common people country county courthouse courage of truth telling craft criticism dangerous time dark ordinary times dead end at the cross details different economic backgrounds different kind of time different types of mood difficult don't feel very happy download dropping everything elderly eternal friendship with God expecting face Roman soldiers face a lot of danger face off faithfulness of public servant fearful women fed find valuable people fish for people fished as a team fisherman fishing business follow forever transformed forgave forgiven four fishermen gave up quite a bit genders given power to heal glimpses of God's time gone to Galilee good news had indeed come hair is washed curled healed hired fisherpeople honest how do you see God working here indiscriminately interviews job on the side kairos kind of down last session lawnmower blades learn to worship leave here feeling different lives of disciples long line look for a different job loved lower income march into Jerusalem meal meal together middle of the day more creative morning most alert navigate net new book not as sharp with details not easy now is the the opportune time occupying only for a few moments at a time openness of child's smile opportune time ordinary time our ministries overlaid owned boat palm parish in Texas participants path to ministry people on the margins perfect time of God perfume after someone has left the room places of work political persuasions proclamation raised up rally people reclaiming recovery period recreational fishing recruits regenerated religious leaders reminded restored restoring something retired man right time rocks of hatred same time second part of the day second thoughts secret to being successful seeing a light selling cars sermon sharpening saw blades slow so elusive something big sparks of God time speaking truth to power squirrely start having family strength stuck in traffic supporting the economy suspicious symbol of flowers take action taken over our temple taught a class thesis they would see God things that require analysis this is the opportune time thorns thoughtfulness of stranger throw in a landfill time is fulfilled time of danger time of day time we measure took everything trailer court transactions transparent trough two are together unveil new program verbal trumpet fanfare walks quietly to lake shore wasn't easy work way Jesus talked about it we don't see it we each have a ministry when you take everyone who Jesus really was whole new lift workshop written]
  • Jan 14, 2018Coming to Faith
    Jan 14, 2018
    Coming to Faith
    Series: (All)
    January 14, 2018. Pastor Keith preaches on Jesus' followers Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael, and the organic way Christians come together and stay together in the faith.
     
    *** Transcript ***
     
    We continue to reflect on this, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
     
    How any one of us comes to faith is an interesting experience and a process. For many of us, we came to it by growing into it. We may have been baptized as a child, grew up with it in our home, and in time came to understand it more and more through involvement with church education, church worship, conversation, and perhaps personal meditation and study. Or we may have come to faith as an older person, or as an older child, and found out about it having been invited to a church, or just hearing about it and coming, for one reason or another, to become an adult now in the faith. But for many of us, if not for most of us, it's an ongoing and involved process. Coming to faith, staying with faith, understanding our faith, and being in relationship with God is a dynamic thing. It's an ongoing process for all of us, for all of our lives.
     
    In today's gospel reading we have a snippet of a story that gives us an idea of how many twists and turns that coming to and staying with faith can have. Jesus has just been baptized by John the Baptist as our lesson begins today. And as soon as he's baptized, Jesus decides to go to Galilee, it says. This may be because it was a safer place to be after John the Baptist was killed within a short distance of Jerusalem. It was smart for someone preaching against the establishment to get further away. And so that may have been one reason why Jesus went to Galilee, to get further away from the authorities. But it's also closer to his boyhood home. Maybe he wanted to go to the borderland, the north part where it borders Syria, to start his ministry and to be closer to home. We don't know exactly why he did it, but there are various reasons.
     
    Often, for us, faith has these qualities too. That is, our Christian faith may be something that's an alternative and something that we need to be firm about. Jesus was firm because he said, I have to get away from Jerusalem so I can say what I need to say. Maybe we work in a workplace that isn't really friendly to religion or to Christianity. Or our neighborhood isn't friendly to people, to faith. Or maybe there are folks in our own family background who aren't so friendly to our faith anymore, either. And so keeping the faith, and being firm in the faith in times of challenge, can be who we are from our roots. But we need strength to keep that up. Just as Jesus needed to go to a place where he could be firm in his faith, we need too to find those resources in us so that we can meet the challenges around us.
     
    After Jesus is baptized, two people follow him. One of them is named as Andrew, who we hear about in our reading. He tells his brother Peter about Jesus. They were both from a nearby town called Bethsaida. Philip was from the same town, and they call him too. And then Philip finds Nathanael and tells him to be with Jesus also. One tells another tells another tells another. This process of one calling another and another is a reminder of the way that it is with the people of Jesus. One reaches another. One tells another. One tells the best news they know and invites others to come and find out too. They were still learning much as they were just getting acquainted with Jesus, but they knew he was someone special. This kind of organic activity of a group is still the way Christians come together, stay together, and invite others to join with the group. Each of these people had a different personality. Each of them came to faith from a different kind of direction. Yet by coming to Jesus together, they were edified by one another. They could share their thoughts. They could share their feelings. And they were encouraged to know that they were not alone. They could talk about their faith, and what they were thinking about Jesus and living out the faith, and they could share that with each other.
     
    This picture of faith is how followers of Jesus like us still grow the faith and grow in the faith. We want to keep it dynamic. We invite others because we are so intrigued by Jesus and because we know how the faith has helped us, and put our lives and our thought and our passions together. We want others to know about this too. So we begin to tell others and share with others how our faith is with us. We share with others because we each have a different perspective. We're all different from one another. We each appreciate Jesus in a slightly different way. We kind of look at this jewel we could call Jesus, this piece of this precious thing that God has given us, and we see it from our perspective. But how we see it might be a little different than how someone from another angle sees it. So we show our perspective with others and edify each other as they share their perspectives to us. We build up one another as we share with others and say things like, "This is the way I see Jesus. Come and see him too." Or we might say, "This is the way I see or hear Jesus. Tell me about how you see him in your life."
     
    In this lesson today, we have four men talking together here as they approach Jesus. As with them, faith is shaped as we talk with one another about what this Jesus means to us. We talk informally, we talk in our study groups about what our faith means to us and how we live it out in our lives. Well when Philip approached Nathanael, Nathanael wasn't eager at all. Nazareth had a low reputation. So Nathanael resists the invitation at first. What good can come out of Nazareth? Why should I need to pay any attention to any person who comes out of Nazareth? In terms of reputation and power, Nazareth was about as different and far away in style and prestige as one could get from Jerusalem. The gospel writer of John though, is setting his story of truth and faith as far away from this traditional faith capital as he can get. Jesus is very different from the traditional religion, as it was practiced in Jerusalem. He tells a different truth and he tells a different way of life.
     
    We find in our time that where we see and observe the faith being lived out is in the small places sometimes, and the out-of-the-way places. We don't see it so much where the power is and where the money is. We learn more about faith lived out as we observe those who have struggled, those who have survived hard times, and those who yearn for quality of life rather than fame and wealth. A faith that is sustained and witnessed and shown by those who have lived long, can be sustained in their faith and through their difficulty. And as we see these people who've lived out their faith through very difficult times, it shows us what having faith and what being in a relationship with Jesus is like. And as they share that with us, we understand how important it is.
     
    Nathanael's name means "given by God" or "gift of God." After he changes his attitude and comes to believe in Jesus, Nathanael becomes a model of faith. He doesn't claim his faith is something he has a right to, or has a privilege to hold over others as those in authority did in those days. Nathanael receives his relationship with Jesus. He receives his faith as a gift. John is reminding us that when we come to Jesus, we come with our hands, our minds, and our hearts open to what God would have us believe -- not as ones who are telling God how he should speak to us. We want to be open to receive the gift from God. What turned Nathanael was that Jesus could pick him out of the crowd as someone he had seen under the tree. And even while Jesus says that that in itself isn't a very great thing compared to some other things Jesus could do it, it meant a lot to Nathanael. To pick him out from the crowd was amazing, but it also tells us how responsive Nathanael was. He was ready to let go of his previous prejudices about Nazareth. He was ready to be converted right away. When it came to hearing Jesus, when he came close to him, he could turn off all of his filters, put them away. But the words of Jesus come to him.
     
    That's a reminder to us that if we can clear away the things that get in the way, the more clearly the word of Jesus can come to us and we can hear him more easily. When we open ourselves and let ourselves receive what God wants us to have, and to know, and to believe, the easier it is. Ways of contemplation, ways of meditation can help us clear our hearts and clear our minds of all the clutter that gets in the way, so that the good word of Jesus can come to us. Then we can receive the gift that God wants to give us. It is interesting that Jesus noticed Nathanael under the tree. We can picture Nathanael there in nature, contemplating. It's about as far as you can get away from the hubbub of the temple in Jerusalem, in terms of environment. In this quiet place of nature is where Nathanael hears a call of Jesus, and Jesus becomes reality to him. And he comes to faith readily. This speaks again of the goodness of contemplation and quiet, where we can hear the call of Jesus and the word of God.
     
    On this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, I would like to read a short excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King's book Stride Toward Freedom. It's about a time when his personal, quiet meditation changed him. He writes, "I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me, I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had all but gone, I decided to take my problem to God. With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud. The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory. I prayed, 'I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I've come to the point where I can't face it alone.' And at that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced God before. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: 'Stand up for justice, stand up for truth; and God will be at your side forever.' Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything."
     
    Martin Luther King, Jr. was changed by this revelation, often referred to as his "vision in the kitchen." Nathanael's revelation, in which he suddenly could see clearly who Jesus was, changed him. He then immediately proclaimed Jesus as rabbi, Son of God, and king of Israel. The revelation to Nathanael allowed him something new to see. It snapped into focus for him, being in prayer and in contemplation under the tree. Thinking about God has the power to change our lives, too. When Jesus had come upon Nathanael, at first he said here's an Israelite in whom there is no deceit. In the Old Testament, remember it was Jacob whose name was changed by God to Israel. He was full of trickery and deceit until his name was changed. It was also Jacob or Israel who saw the angels of God ascending and descending from heaven in a dream. So now Jesus is telling Nathanael that he will see angels ascending and descending too, and that all of Israel will. This is a new creation of Israel. It had happened with Jacob. It had happened as his name had changed. He had this wonderful vision. Now it's happening again. Jesus and Nathanael, with the gathering of these people, is creating a new Israel, a new body of people to come before God. Nathanael represents the new believer, the new follower of Jesus, the new Israel. Far away from the power center in Jerusalem, a new kind of faith is springing up that looks to Jesus as its leader. It espouses a purity of heart before God, and finds truth in contemplation under a fig tree rather than in a corrupt religious center.
     
    All of these dynamics that go on with this story are what go on with us too. There's the involvement of several, telling and inviting each other. There is a belief that there's no one right place where truth is found. There is private meditation. There's a call of Jesus that changes everything. The Epiphany, or showing forth of God, happens in many ways. We want to have our hearts and minds open so that we can receive God in Jesus, and have the eyes of faith to see the great things God does in our world, so that we have the courage to bring God's goodness to the world. Amen.
     
    And now may the peace of God which 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, Bartholomew, John 1:43-51
  • Dec 31, 2017The Witness of Simeon
    Dec 31, 2017
    The Witness of Simeon
    Series: (All)
    December 31, 2017. As Mary and Joseph entered the temple for the presentation of baby Jesus, they met a man named Simeon. Being led by the Holy Spirit, he believed he had seen the Messiah and that his life was complete. Pastor Penny preaches today on this story and how we believe God's words for the same reason that Simeon did, because of God's beautiful promise and the difference he makes in our lives. *** [Keywords: 10th 2017 8 day old baby Bethlehem Christ Lutheran Church Christmas Egyptian families God gives God is busy delivering us God is fighting for us God is part of everyday life God is with us God keeps his promises God loves the child God makes a difference in our lives God would save the world God's help Holy Spirit of God Jerusalem Jewish families Nazareth Pastor Penny Holste Simeon Witness of Simeon able to see sun again after school activities after woman had baby already won the victory armies as much as we are able ask for strength baptism baptized barriers believed God's promise believed words of God birthday bread and wine of communion bring animal to be sacrificed caregiver challenges chief defender child owned by God children we've been given chosen people cloud of despair lifts comes from loving God community of believers countries of the world devotions died don't think we can pray too much end of the day entered the temple family and friends father said aren't you glad you prayed felt his life was complete five year old boy food and people sitting around table for us and for the whole world forgive someone freed by God's grace freeing us from selfishness from Abraham to Isaiah gathering of people giving this child to God got tired of praying greet the day with prayer of thanks guarantee you'll get one had been slaves in Egypt had that experience hard to find time has to be true he saw the Messiah heard a voice heard voice of God hearts are soft how could he believe if I die right now I'll die a happy person illness inclusive indicated keep these rituals led him to the temple life is sacred little baby looked at him loss maybe in dream missiles mother went to hospital my eyes have now seen your salvation mystery of the presence of God need to fight to keep religious rites and rituals as part of our life now my life is complete observed oldest child born only a God of love opening ourselves up opposition in our lives own people pigeons or turtle doves pray every day for two months pray for courage pray for hope pray too little prayers before bedtime presentation of firstborn son presented firstborn problem is on the other side protecting themselves quickly quit praying religious practices remind the Jews reminded reminder to us rite of purification same reason we do save the Jews saw a vision say prayer before you eat self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ sermon she had twins sing sit down and eat together slowly some event is over son said aren't you glad I quit when I did? spared succeed in something sword piercing our hearts tariffs temple in Jerusalem tenth plague theme throughout the Bible this is the one to what is not known told Simeon too beautiful a thing to be thought up by people too poor two little boys two rites or religious rituals using them to save the whole world very old ritual very poor but pious couple walked 60 miles walked up to Jesus water of baptism we are made children of God we are not alone we are receiving salvation we can face these things wedding weekends what had he seen when it was over wide open eyes without fear worked so hard to achieve would bring light even to the gentiles would like a little brother would not die before he saw the Messiah yes God is saving them]
  • Dec 24, 2017A Little Bit of Heaven
    Dec 24, 2017
    A Little Bit of Heaven
    Series: (All)
    December 24, 2017. Where is Jesus now? How can we trust in him if we can't see him? In her sermon this Christmas Eve, Pastor Penny tells us that indeed we can see Jesus. He shows us a little bit of Heaven very quietly, sometimes only one or two people at a time. In this season of gift giving, we stop to celebrate the real gift we've been given: the joy, forgiveness, and life we have through Christ. *** [Keywords: 20 years 2017 Christ Lutheran Church Christ is in this world Father Greg Boyle God is in this world Heaven Heaven on earth Homeboy Industries I would trust in Jesus Japanese Americans Jesus came to earth Jesus is in this world LA area Los Angeles Mary Minneapolis Pastor Penny Holste Roman government Simon the shepherd Sunday dinner WWII West coast World War II broke out act of love all these divisions almost everyone does always wondered as Jesus grew back on drugs back to prison bakery be healthy be successful beautiful wrapping on a gift because Jesus came being born into a certain segment of society birth brought Heaven to earth built barriers burden of responsibilities cared for carry on with our lives celebrate Christmas class divisions college come and see Jesus come back when you're ready come to dinner confidence controls in our lives controls on them controls were gone in Heaven created pathway of forgiveness death desire for power and fame didn't work with everyone the first time difficult life every Christmas ex gang members ex offenders expectations fail to show up fancy box of dried fruit forgiveness free of barriers freedom friends friends in California funeral gift given to us as a gift great aunt and best friend greed guilt he is still here heavy taxes herded into camps hit wall home if I could just see him impossible rules insisted that all people are valuable into this world invitation irresistible culture of tenderness joy knows their backgrounds life life after this life like to throw those burdens off little bit of Heaven little control over politics little look into what Heaven is like lived in great poverty lives before their death long ago long time ago look good lot of controversy love of God loves these men made enemies motto need to experience needed healing needed more than a job never could earn never married nice story not ready yet nothing stops a bullet like a job number of years later on our shoulders others ourselves pathway to God places of employment protected put him to gruesome death quietly quietly waiting for war to end real gift real present regret religious leaders restaurant rose from the dead sanctuary selfishness sense of joy separated them from God's love sermon shared sharing some things never change sometimes one or two people at a time son of God stay young surprising change sympathize take shelter in their home their health these many years later time to be with family to Bethlehem turn on the news two young women unravelling upstairs very abusive backgrounds vulnerable baby wake up in morning way they looked we have seen we love you weight of trauma weren't resilient what we learn from Jesus where is Jesus now? who were these people whole world controlled willing to do this women working not with force world's demands]
  • Dec 24, 2017Mightiness Hidden Beneath Lowliness
    Dec 24, 2017
    Mightiness Hidden Beneath Lowliness
    Series: (All)
    December 24, 2017. Faith is a big part of the nativity picture. Pastor Keith's sermon this Christmas Eve is on the simple, pure heart of Mary. *** [Keywords: 14 years old 2017 40 families 500th anniversary of the Reformation Angel of God Anne Caiaphas daughter Catholic church Christ Christ Lutheran Church Christian history Christmas Eve Elizabeth Galilee God still acts God's regard Hebrew Holy Spirit shall come upon you I won't even have her Israel Jerusalem Jesus Jews Joachim John the Baptist Joseph Martin Luther Mary Mary and Joseph Mary's parents Miriam Nazareth Pastor Keith Holste Roman empire Samson St. Bernard Syria against all reason all generations shall call me blessed amazing person angel Gabriel angel coming to Mary apparently spoiled woman appointed chores babe nursing at Mary's breast baby be present in the world beggar believed conceived belongs to all people betrothed bride bitter mar blessedness bridegroom bright lights bring all things to pass built house cattle cave center of our attention circumstances of birth common sense against it could not prove it court proceedings derision devotion disturbed downtrodden dugout enduring faith engaged to marry execution on cross experience expose her extreme poverty faith is such a big part of the nativity picture fear not to take Mary to be your wife feeds whole world flesh and blood flocks fourteen from bad to worse girl glitter godless man goodness of the prince graciousness handle difficult situation heart hidden beneath branches high station holy virgin honor hopeless housework humility husband incredible faith of Mary infant of lowly birth instrument to God's plan just a dream just man kept the secret last Sunday in Advent letter of the law live faithfully live out struggles loose woman low estate of handmaiden low status lowest state lowliest maiden marvelous things were announced meditation menial tasks mightiness hidden beneath lowliness mighty reach of faith milks the cows model Christian monasteries mother of God mother of the most high naming children no end of his kingdom nourished by this food obviate rumor orphan our love is tested overcame sin death world hell devil overwhelming gifts and graces perpetual joy plain man poor power of God powerfully present powerless on the cross praying pregnant princess privately prophet Isaiah public example put to shame reassured redemption of Israel remote town renewed in heart renounce her revered richness and goodness savior is given scripture sermon servant severe trial she believed shepherds showiness simple pure heart small town solace for human kind son of God special person stoned story strength lies below weakness suffer the shame take her to wife that I should bear a king this is how God operates this season this son of God is ours three miracles took pity transformed troubled trusted in God trusting God's hand under the tree unlikely means unto us a child is born utter bitterness virgin virgin birth trifle walked away from situation who am I little worm whom God chose with child woman]
  • Dec 6, 2017Be Present
    Dec 6, 2017
    Be Present
    Series: (All)
    December 6, 2017. Instead of spending all our time buying presents, Pastor Penny urges us in this Advent mid-week service to set aside space to be present for one another, as Christ is coming to be present with us. *** [Keywords: 2017 Adam and Eve heard the sound Advent mid-week service Christ Lutheran church Christmas Christmas Eve Emmanuel Genesis 3 God being with us God is with us God's desire to be with us Gospel of Matthew I don't want to buy presents I want to be present Jesus' birth story Lo I am with you to the end of the age Old Testament Pastor Penny Holste adultery amazing beginning to Jesus' life angels another man another religion ascended to Heaven be bothered be present for one another became with us believe God is present with us betrothal and marriage beyond ethnic divisions boy's family brought shame business man always on the go buy those presents children in teens coats considered husband and wife consummate marriage countercultural courage customs demonstrate for children don't live together each smile escorts her back to his family family of our own family tree feel God's presence finely wrapped gifts fit the pattern foreshadows ministry of Jesus fourteen full of challenge girl's family give money gives us comfort going online got together great hunter grew week by week heart of our faith hints how amazing it is in our lives inclusive family insider info kid who couldn't wait killed love of God is experienced make space men and women message for adults most beautiful passage next to no thought not born of a human pajamas patriarchal physical way piles under our tree pillar of smoke by day and fire by night popular script practical promise prophets publicly shame her pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable quietly sign bill of divorce rainbow raised again realizing something important redefines family runs to mall separated sermon shameful shook each present shopping shrinking moments together sign certificate squeal of joy stalk the aisles stereotype stoned by her family suffered sweaters they are married thirteen time is not slowing down time of the evening breeze too busy toys truly with us in a human way twelve unique promise venture guesses video clip visions walking in the Garden wasn't until Jesus what a gift it is to be present for each other what each child wanted what it means to be present for one another wife young man]