June 25, 2017

In New York State, this time of year means conclusion of the public school calendar and high school graduation.  That leads to new aspects for families as the grads soon head off to college, jobs, training programs, apprenticeships, military service.  Families change and will be different.  What adjustments will be made?

This Sunday’s date is also a significant one in the Western Christian and particularly Lutheran family. 

On June 25, 1530 the outlaw Lutherans were invited to present a document, which identified and articulated their beliefs, to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, as the Imperial Diet gathered in the German town of Augsburg. 

In the realpolitik of the day, the Emperor needed the German ‘Lutheran’ princes to provide soldiers to defend the Empire against the Turks who were coming up the Danube and laying siege to Vienna.   That document or statement of beliefs became known as the Augsburg Confession.  Not ‘confession’ as apologizing for, but as ‘ascribing to’.

It had been 13 years since Luther ‘posted’ the “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences”, more commonly known as the “95 Theses”.  What had been one family of the Christian faith was now divided. 

In the gospel lesson Jesus employs a hyperbolic method of teaching to get the attention of people: decisions must be made.  And yet, on what bases are such decisions made?    If you make decisions based on God’s love and grace, upon the Cross, and others contend against you, then let the chips fall where they may.

To all the grads and their families, we offer congratulations and best wishes for your next steps.  Please make good decisions based upon good foundations. 


Teach us, good Lord God, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, except that of knowing that we do your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

            Jeremiah 20: 7-13
                        Psalm 69: 7-10 [11-15] 16-18
            Romans 6: 1b-11
            Matthew 10: 24-39

SERMON: “Cross and Confession

WORD OF THE WEEK  from Matthew 10
34 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.


FIRST LESSON from Jeremiah 20: 7-13
7 O Lord, you have enticed me,
   and I was enticed;
you have overpowered me,
   and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughing-stock all day long;

   everyone mocks me.

8 For whenever I speak, I must cry out,
   I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’
For the word of the Lord has become for me
   a reproach and derision all day long.
9 If I say, ‘I will not mention him,
   or speak any more in his name’,
then within me there is something like a burning fire
   shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
   and I cannot.
10 For I hear many whispering:
   ‘Terror is all around!
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
   All my close friends
   are watching for me to stumble.
‘Perhaps he can be enticed,
   and we can prevail against him,
   and take our revenge on him.’
11 But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior;
   therefore my persecutors will stumble,
   and they will not prevail.
They will be greatly shamed,
   for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonour
   will never be forgotten.
12 O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous,
   you see the heart and the mind;
let me see your retribution upon them,
   for to you I have committed my cause.
 13 Sing to the Lord;
   praise the Lord!
For he has delivered the life of the needy

   from the hands of evildoers.

SECOND LESSON from Romans 6: 1b-11
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 THE HOLY GOSPEL according to Matthew 10: 24-39

24 ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

 26 ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

32 ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 
 34 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.











July 2, 2017


Last week’s gospel led us to reflect on some divisions that occur within families, biological and theological.

Today is a date in Lutheran history that brings both such divisions into conversation.

On July 2, 1505  a 22-yr old Martin Luther was heading back to law school after a visit at home with his parents.  Father Hans wanted a lawyer in the family.  Hans had been a peasant mine worker, who had managed to work his way into partial ownership of a mine.  A lawyer would add both expertise and prestige to the family as it moved up in the world. 

The story goes that Martin was walking across a field when a violent thunderstorm unleashed a lightening bolt that struck near by.  Fearful not only of losing his life but also of being eternally consigned to hell because he did not have the chance to go to confession and do penance, that 22 yr-old promised that if God would save him from the storm, he would enter a monastery.  Young Martin did not perish.

He went back to his law school and sold or gave away his books, lute, and other belongings. He kept his promise.  That led to an immediate division within his biological family and to an eventual division within his faith family when 12 years later he posted his more-or-less debatable notions about the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences (95 Theses).

Both the first lesson and the Gospel appointed for this Sunday have images of containers in them.  Jeremiah talks about ‘the vessels’ brought back from exile.  In Matthew Jesus talks about offering a ‘cup of cold water’  to ‘one of these little ones’.

All that leads me to reflect upon God’s call upon our lives.  We are vessels, cups which are to carry something to someone.  It’s less about the cup than about what the cup is to convey – and from whom.

Convey the loving, gracious, life-giving water we are called to share.

For further refection
What are some of the divisions you have experienced in your life?



O God, you direct our lives by your grace, and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world. Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

            Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (1)
            Romans 6:12-23
            Matthew 10:40-42



SERMON: “Vessels and Peace”

WORD OF THE WEEK from Matthew 10
whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”


FIRST LESSON from Jeremiah 28:5-9

5Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; 6and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. 7But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”

SECOND LESSON from Romans 6:12-23

12Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. 20When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

THE HOLY GOSPEL according to Matthew 10:40-42

40“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”



July 9, 2017


Are you enjoying the summer?

Light.  Warmth.  Time.  Relaxing.  Re-creating.  Family.  Friends.  Quiet.  Noisy.  Fishing.  Gardening.

Too often I do not take the time God gives me to relax and re-create.   Vacation is just ahead. 

And yet . . . . .the first lesson is dislocated, out of its proper time, isn't it?  All those images of a king coming riding humbly on a donkey lead me to think it’s Palm Sunday, not early July. 

 And the Gospel is that one about the children playing in the marketplace: we played our tune and you did not dance to it.  Jesus invites all who ‘are weary and carrying heavy burdens’ to come to him.  He promises rest.

How do we so often dance to other people’s tunes and get weary in the dance because we carry the burden of not being reflective of who we are and of whom God calls us to be?

Here’s hoping that we all find some time this summer – or whenever – to polish up the mirror of our lives and witness so that we can better reflect the light we are given to share.

For further reflection

Are your ‘heavy burdens’ more from not dancing to other people’s tune and suffering because of it OR by dancing in a way you do not want to but feel you have to?


You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised. You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.


            Zechariah 9:9–12
            Psalm 145: 8–14
            Romans 7:15–25a
            Matthew 11:16–19, 25–30


SERMON:  “A Palm Sunday Reminder”

WORD OF THE WEEK  from Romans 7
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate………..
            24Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
FIRST LESSON from Zechariah 9:9–12
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
            Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
            triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
            on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
            and the war-horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
            and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
            and from the River to the ends of the earth.
11As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
            I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
12Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
            today I declare that I will restore to you double.
SECOND LESSON from Romans 7:15–25a

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

            24Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

THE HOLY GOSPEL according to Matthew 11:16–19, 25–30
[Jesus spoke to the crowd, saying:] "To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
            17'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
                        we wailed, and you did not mourn.'
18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon'; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."
            25At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

            28"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."