Sermons, 2013 Pastor Susan Peterson
March 31, 2013
St. Anne’s Lutheran Church, London
Pastor Susan Peterson
Early on in my tenure as a pastor, I learned a very important lesson about questions and answers when we start talking about growing in our faith. A young confirmand in her final interview before her confirmation day came to my office and with tears in her eyes told me she had no answers to any of the questions she expected I would ask her about what she believed and why. She said that every time she tried to write out an answer it only led to more questions. Once we dried the tears and began to look at some of her questions instead of the answers she thought I expected, we began to uncover great pools of wisdom in this young woman. Frankly, it was one of the best conversations I had ever had with someone trying to get to the heart of their faith. From that time on, we called that last year of confirmation, “Learning to Love the Questions”.
While answers are often more satisfying in a quest for knowledge than the pesky questions that provoke them, it is the question that ultimately opens our minds to new possibilities, deeper understandings. I was reminded of that in the last week or 2 when I was back in the mode of teaching a child preparing for her 1st Holy Communion. It was her “why” questions asked again and again -- that brought it all back. Why do you do that? Why do you say that? Why is it like this? Her questions were not so much a demand for thee answer but an attempt to hear something she could connect to, something she might be able to think about while concocting her own answer -- or even her next question. And in the process of sorting out those questions, we both grew up a bit in our faith.
Questions can be a rich part of our entrance into another person’s life when they are asked with genuine concern for the other. And those why questions become even more important when they encourage us to plumb the depths of our own thinking or feeling or believing. On those occasions, questions can begin to open the door to places in ourselves we seldom inhabit.
The Easter story in Luke begins with a question. It is asked of the women, -- Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James -- those faithful followers of Jesus who had stood by and watched it all play out -- the trial, the mocking, the scourging, that terrible crown of thorns, then the crucifixion and the rolling of the stone across the mouth of the tomb -- they had been right there watching from a distance while the rabbi, their teacher and dearest friend had been savagely put to death. And now, they were the first ones back at the tomb... early morning, shadows still long on the path and the sun only a hint of color along the rim of the horizon. They came -- sad and broken-hearted, carrying spices, as was their custom for burying the dead --- and before any words are uttered Easter is beginning...
The stone is rolled away -- no body in the tomb --- and those 2 men in dazzling clothes suddenly standing right beside them. What is this? Are their tired eyes playing tricks on them? Then that question, opening the door to their own doubt and fears and confusion “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
After centuries of telling the story of Easter morning that question continues to echo in the air. It settles into the midst of our celebrations and begs an answer still. I am not so sure we have learned to love this question, it asks to expose too much of what lies beneath the surface of our feelings today. But here it is, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
Like the whole of the Easter story itself, that question must not remain in the past.
It is not very often, but on occasion, I make my way out to my little home town in Minnesota, a 30 mile drive, and I head for the Scandinavian Cemetery there. Oh, it’s not a very big or impressive place, and the names on the tombstones are all pretty familiar to me still... And there under the big oak tree is the stone with my family name on it. I go there to make sure the weeds haven’t grown over the headstone, that the gravesite has survived the winter. I trace my finger over the names etched in the stone and I give thanks for Richard and Eva, my parents buried there. And then I leave. Some people stay longer at the gravesides of ones they have loved, remembering stories from the past, grieving all over again what once was. But it is not the grave that feeds the heart in that kind of visit, for it holds nothing more than the physical remains -- ashes to ashes, dust to dust. What does live there in that visit, we bring with us -- a love that does not die when the heart stops beating, memories of what once was, and the poignant reminder of the presence of absence. In those moments, it is that which is still alive in us -- love, and memory and possible even hope that we honor at the grave.
The women went to the tomb to do for Jesus as was their custom, to anoint his body, and to grieve his death. They were following an order of service that honors the dead. But Jesus wasn’t dead. He was alive just as he told them he would be. Yet, that would be beyond their power to believe just yet. So they went to the grave, the last place they saw his lifeless body --- their hearts heavy and on the edge of fear -- hopeless in the face of such a death. And then, suddenly, from that strange presence, those 2 men in dazzling white asking them “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
On this Easter morning we have come to hear the story of our living Lord who overcame death and the grave. We come, not because we have solved the mystery of bodily resurrection and have all the answers in hand. We come because we believe -- or we want to believe -- in the Easter promise that because Jesus has risen from the dead , we too can have new life breathed into us. Not hopeless and fearful, bound up by our own guilt or shame, no longer driven by our need to prove our worth or earn our way into the kingdom, we are set free to live an Easter life. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, hope has been restored. For Christ is risen... Christ is risen indeed!
Yet, how quickly we can move away from Easter, forget its life-giving gift, and return to the empty tombs where we try to create our own hope. Tombs that enshrine the very things that sap strength and life from us -- greed and the need to possess more; Power and the need to control: Complacency and its attempt to escape reality. In the days ahead it will be tempting to return to those empty tombs of our own making and seek the living among the dead.
But soon the weight of expectations unfulfilled will rob us of our hope. Soon those empty promises of more and better and easier will not be enough. Then the question will come to us once again “Why look for our living God among those dead ambitions?”
Because of Easter the answer to that challenging question can be lived out differently. Because Christ is risen... Christ is risen indeed... And we are sent to find the living God among the living. Where hope and love overcome despair and violence... Where generosity and forgiveness lead to reconciliation... Where the hungry are fed and the poor are embraced... Where the outcasts are welcomed and the powerless are heard that is where we find the living body of Christ, holding and healing our broken world.
In then end, it’s really a great question for us all, for it takes us right to the heart of Easter. It breaks open the tomb of our own disappointment and disbelief and brings the promise home -- into our hearts and our lives. It turns us away form the empty grave and points us in the direction of the rising son as the power of the resurrection slowly begins to dawn on our lives. Hope is alive! Christ is risen... And he goes before us... just as he has promised.
Thanks be to God, and
SERMON - MAUNDY THURSDAY
St. Anne’s Lutheran Church
March 28, 2013
Pastor Susan Peterson
It is strange how quickly the words “I’m sorry” slip out -- almost automatically -- in the midst of our daily encounters with one another.
Caught in the act with hands in the cookie jar, a child immediately tries to recover with an “I’m sorry” to make it all better. We use those same words to cover our inadvertent bad manners or just an occasional apology for stepping out of line or getting in the way. Frequently these rather haphazard “I’m sorries” are the casual beginnings of what we hope will be another assumed leap into forgiveness... most especially our own.
Too often, “I’m sorry” becomes just a catch phrase -- a filler in an empty, uncomfortable moment that we hope will get us beyond the obvious infraction and onto the next thing. It is used so often and so casually that it loses any real meaning of the word sorry and even less recognition of the feeling of contrition that is actually claimed by owning it, as in “I am sorry”. All that is to say “I’m sorry isn’t worth much these days in many circumstances... because it doesn’t really mean very much.
If you were to do a word study on the word sorry, it might surprise you to discover how seriously that word is defined in the dictionary. The 1st definition reads: “sorry -- as in full of sorrow, pity, sympathy or regret.” And yet another definition reads: “sorry; meaning wretched, miserable, or even pitiful” . So you see, according to the dictionary, to describe one’s self as “sorry” could be far more humbling and soul-searching than our more often casual tip to an uncomfortable moment. Just try substituting one of those definitions next time you are tempted to automatically say “I’m sorry” and see how weighty it could feel with an “I’m wretched”, instead of the usual...sorry.
The fact of the matter is, at its heart, I’m sorry is really meant to be confessional, revealing the state of mind and heart of the one who is confessing. It isn’t meant to just fill empty space or to be an easily overlooked nod to courtesy...
But it is hard to be confessional with one another. Although psychologists and their self-help books have suggested for years that owning up to our bad behavior or inadequacies is therapeutic and healthy, we often avoid the raw material of confession. We bypass the humility of truly being sorry by simply saying the words without meaning them. Therefore, no need for a response.
But confession that is genuine begs a response. I am sorry invites the possibility of a forgiveness that reaches deep into the wounds we carry and makes room for healing. And, frankly, that is what tonight is all about: Tonight, the Lenten journey has come to an end. The 40 days of reflection and penitence, the I am sorries of our confessions meet up with Jesus‘ great commandment to love so much that we make room for his forgiveness... of ourselves and one another. Tonight we bring all of our brokenness, and all of our dashed hopes and lost chances and we lay them at the feet of a Savior, one who rescues us from the emptiness of no response to all of our I am sorries. And we hear those marvelous words, “I forgive you all your sins”. Without that forgiveness, all of our confessions, or sorrow for things done and things left undone would simply be unfinished business.
Thank God, we don’t have to concern ourselves with that. For that is the whole purpose of Jesus‘ sacrificial act. Because of his death on the cross, he has taken our sins -- our brokenness -- upon himself and we are washed clean by his blood. By his stripes we are healed. That is God’s response. Our I am sorries are met and overcome by Jesus‘ act of supreme sacrifice that says you and I -- we are forgiven.
It’s called reconciliation -- this meeting up of confessor and forgiver. When an “I am sorry” meets up with the response “you are forgiven”, the ground between the 2 becomes holy. There, a kind of humble intimacy begins to take root, seeding a relationship that can grow deep and get to the heart of what really matters. Unfortunately our thoughtless, casual I am sorries hardly invite such a response and so, the opportunity to even say “you are forgiven” passes us by. But when an “I am sorry” is deeply felt, truly meant, it is hard to remain mute in response.
Have you ever said “I forgive you” to one whose real sorrow begs such a response from you? It is a humbling moment to claim forgiveness as a gift you can give. True, I forgive you means I have some kind of power in me to do that forgiving, and it could lead to arrogance I suppose, claiming superiority over another. But that’s not the way forgiveness works! Instead, true forgiveness grows out of humility and love, not arrogance or indifference. True forgiveness requires that we meet one another where confession is made. It asks us to put aside our pride and self-centeredness, to hear the pain of someone else and to accept that confession as a genuine desire to be right with one another. It is a rare gift in the midst of relationships that are so easily smattered with competition and contradictions, cover-ups and carelessness. Frankly, it is far easier to just ignore the “I’m sorries” or casually respond with the usual “it’s all right... But when we choose to ignore the moment, we also choose to ignore the gift that we have in us. It is Christ’s forgiving love that washed over us in our baptism that still inhabits the deep places in our hearts. We carry that forgiving love in us. We bear responsibility for reconciliation.
Frankly, any confession, whether casual or contrite, really deserves a response. Even a quick, unrisky “I’m sorry” can be given significance by responding, “I forgive you”. And the penitent will find it difficult to ignore the very thing they desire most... For down deep we all want to be forgiven for something. It is a generous and humbling thing to make that gift available to another.
Tonight, the example of our loving Lord leads us. Stooping down to wash the feet of his disciples, Jesus humbles himself as he prepares for his final days with them. Ahead of them lies the rugged journey to the cross where fear and betrayal will litter the way. And sorrow -- deep, deep sorrow will inhabit the hearts of them all. And oh, how some of them will long to be forgiven. So Jesus does this simple thing, he lays down his robe and takes on the role of servant washing the road-weary feet of his friends. And in that single act, the work of forgiveness becomes flesh, humbly translating his love into a humble act of serving.
There, in the spaces between them, a love that will one day heal the hurt of their own doubts and fears makes room for forgiveness to grow. There in the lowly posture of a servant, Jesus gives them the gift they will need to go beyond their own weaknesses and vulnerabilities that will all too soon soon show up... There, before they say their own I am sorries, Jesus says, I forgive you... You are so loved.
On this day as we remember such a love and hear the words “I forgive you all your sins” God calls us to that servant role, to find that humble place in ourselves where love gives us the power to forgive ourselves and one another -- even as we have been forgiven.
March 24, 2013
Pastor Susan Peterson
It was a strange parade you have to admit... And everyone seemed to be in such a good mood. Palm branches lined the streets... folks stood along the road gawking and waving their branches -- all for this lone character riding into town on a donkey. You’d think he was some kind of royalty the way they carried on... him and his little band of followers. It didn’t last very long. Suddenly, it was just over -- the crowd disappeared as fast as they gathered and left the usual mess after a parade. You have to wonder what that was all about...
I’m sure there was a lot of wondering on that day in Jerusalem. A crowd gathers as a little parade moves its way through town. Enthusiastic followers waving their palms in the air get so carried away they throw their clothing on the ground to make a carpet for the one they kept calling to, saying “Hosanna... and blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Little did they know that this was just the beginning, though much of the world, at that time would see it only as the ending.
What do you do after the parade goes by? Usually those events leave us in high spirits -- ready to go on and celebrate... But, in this case, celebrate what?
The Gospel according to St. John doesn’t record anything about a parade, just the story of what happened after that strange entry into Jerusalem. Power struggles, betrayal, fear overtaking faith -- oh, it got pretty messy among those who were thought to be his followers -- his disciples... not to mention the ruling authorities. Jesus caused quite a disturbance. The whole city seemed unsettled by his presence.
This is a strange day for many of us -- hopefully it even causes some to wonder, “What is all this fuss about?” A Donkey in the streets of London, palm branches waving about at every churchyard -- followers not knowing whether to be happy or sad... It can be unsettling this Palm Passion Sunday.
But what lies ahead is what is most important now -- just as it was then. And what might seem merely historical remembrance is really present-day truth. For if you look into the heart of this story you will find it is meant for you -- and me --- This story of Jesus’ passion is an intimate and personal invitation into a love so strong that it promises new life even in the midst of the dying embers of our own brokenness? So what do we do in the face of such a promise? Do we turn to face it, to embrace its fullness, its passion for life and its power to fill the centuries with hope? Do we stick around, tease the words out of the beautiful music we are hearing tonight and go for its deeper meaning? Ot do we leave this parade, this Palm Sunday parade with all the debris of our lives still clinging to us, ignoring that this love, this gift of unfathomable forgiveness and grace belongs to every one of us?
This is a story that needs to take its place in the human heart before it can become truth for our lives. Tonight the passion with which this story was lived out then seeks its place in you and me now. Take heed, dear friends. For ahead of us lie the the trials and temptations that could deter us from living out what we can really dare to believe. That a power greater than ourselves has rescued us from the death of unbelief and empty promises. That a sacrifice has been made on our behalf and a life has been given up so that we might be set free from whatever keeps us bound. And a love has been freely and extravagantly given -- handed over to us without conditions -- ours --
So... What will we do after the parade?
SERMON - LENT 4c
St. Anne’s Lutheran Church
March 10, 2013
In the last 2 month since arriving in London, Jim and I have visited some wonderful museums. Victoria and Albert, the Queen’s Galleries, the National Gallery and the Portrait Gallery, and our neighbor, the Museum of London. They have all provided a wonderful timeline of the history of this country as well as insights into some pretty fabulous events. We have seen marvelous works of art, and read the history of the people whose portraits hang on the walls. It’s exhausting business this museum hopping! But I have to admit that if asked I would be hard to name one piece of art that has most affected me. Much of it simply has provided a wonderful backdrop for our time here.
It was much the same when we visited St. Petersburg in Russia a number of years ago. The Hermitage, as their enormous museum is called is filled with wonderful works of art. We entered the museum late in the day and knew we had only a short time to enjoy our visit as the closing hour was fast approaching. So we headed for what we knew we wanted to see, Rembrandt’s rendition of “The Prodigal Son”. On the way to that section of the museum we passed countless masterpieces that began to all blend into one another not particularly catching our eyes. Soon we arrived at the gallery where the Rembrandt was hung. You couldn’t miss it. I had no idea it was so large -- fully 8 feet by 6 feet -- a massive work, at first appearing ark and almost foreboding.
That particular year our Lenten study groups at the church where I served had focused on Henri Nouwen’s book, The Prodigal Son to guide our journey to Easter. The conversations around that story and the author’s interpretation revealed a great deal of angst for folks around the subject of forgiveness -- who deserves and who inherits it. So, seeing the painting in its full-blown size and color was like revisiting some of those conversations and seeing first-hand new insights into what it might mean to me.
Perhaps because, like many of you, I know the story so well, perhaps because the Lenten study was still fresh in my mind... Whatever it was, I was captivated by what I saw. Suddenly this enormous painting before me was no longer only a famous masterpiece, another phenomenal rendering of a Biblical story hung on a wall, this was a story about me --- and if about me, then probably about many other believers --- who long for such a homecoming as that prodigal received. For when faith grows dim, when life’s complications encroach on my certainty about God in my life, or when I am just plain certain that I am not worthy... I long to be welcomed home, to be forgiven, to be loved... Don’t you?
It is the deep desire of every human heart, I believe -- to be at home. Errant child and forgiving parent, arms outstretched in welcome... The Prodigal Son is scripture’s beautiful story of forgiveness and reconciliation and celebration all in one. It is a story of love that clearly says, “Dear child, come home.”
The return of the Prodigal might well be a description of the Lenten journey. Begun amidst the complexities of life and the never-ending agendas that distract us and draw us away from the center of our faith, in this season we attempt to make the journey back -- back to heart of who and what we really believe. You see, the 40 days of this season were never meant to be a head trip, but a heart trip. The whole purpose of this 40 day Lenten pilgrimage is to turn our lives around, strip away the excesses and make this journey back to the fire of our baptism where who and whose we are has been forged in us. Only then will we come to know a true homecoming, an Easter joy.
In his painting of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt adds 4 characters never referred to in the story -- They are 2 men and 2 women who seem to lurk in the shadows serving as observers of this homecoming moment. Looking dispassionately at the embrace of father and son, they stand there as if they are completely outside of the event. Although they see with their mind’s eye what has just happened, they appear untouched by the extravagance of the the gift of forgiveness that has just been given. The author of our Lenten book writes about this saying, “As I reflect on my own journey, I become more and more aware of how long I have played the role of the observer. A theologian and a teacher, he goes on... “For years I had instructed students on the different aspects of spiritual life, trying to help them see the importance of living it. But had I, myself, ever really dared to step into the center, kneel down and let myself be held by a loving God?”
In our modern-day world it is often thought of as better to remain in control, to stand apart from strong emotion over spiritual things rather than to be accused of getting caught up in some kind of religious fervor. In fact , we so often work at separating our thinking from our feelings, as though we believe that true wisdom rests solely in the mind. Discounting experience and cutting out the heart of what we feel may produce a strong doctrine of faith but that can set us apart, leave us standing outside the experience of the Spirit that moves in us. We Christians like to say that our faith is at the heart of who we are... Yet too often we live our faith dispassionately like the characters in the Rembrandt painting who watch from a distance, observing, an intellectual exercise rather than living it. IN that context, forgiveness becomes merely something to talk about, to teach, but not to experience with all of its liberating power.
Now I don’t know about you, but for me there is a vast difference between talking about being the forgiven one and really taking the Good News to heart.
How many of us heard the words of forgiveness at the very beginning of this service but think -- or rather feel nothing of it. How many of us walk through life hoping that we will do those things that will earn us our freedom from our sins? How many of us long to be in the same place as that Prodigal SOn caught up in the embrace of forgiveness and held there by our loving God? And how many of us long to hear... “Dear Child, welcome home”
That’s why this story is so important to so many of us. It describes an outrageous moment of truth --- when what we say we believe and what is true in God’s heart come together for one such as ourselves -- a prodigal, a sinner, a Child of God. And the forgiveness that washed over that child and welcomed him home has the power to restore our hope, to heal our broken hearts and to give us a shot at new life.
But standing outside of the event, observing it like viewing a painting hanging on a wall, or trying to analyze it with only our minds in order to make sense of it just won’t work. What we need is to be at the center of that picture ourselves -- there, on bended knee, open to receiving the gift that is offered -- not robes or rings or all things dazzling -- but deep down, you are forgiven forgiveness. We need to get to that place within where we can finally confess that we want to be held just like that young errant son... We need to return, to the place where the deep desire of our hearts meets up with God’s embrace and where a cross describes a love that will not let us go.
And the risk in all of this liberating love is that, indeed, we could be changed. In the thrill of being forgiven we may choose a new way of life where our center is not about what we do or how much we have, but how much we can love and forgive. For, s we say in our liturgies, if we have been forgiven by such a love then sure we can learn to forgive one another.
Think what that could mean. For you and for me... for the people of St. Anne’s who have been dealt some difficult blows. Could it be that in being so loved, so welcomed home we might one day say to another prodigal Dear Child, Welcome home.
SERMON - LENT 3c
ST. ANNE’S LUTHERAN CHURCH
March 3, 2013
Pastor Susan Peterson
It was an innocent enough question. A young woman who lives in our condominium building in Minneapolis stopped me shortly before we left for London and St. Anne’s and said she had noticed that I sometimes wear a clerical collar and if I was clergy she had a question for me... Oh-oh, that could be dangerous. I knew she was an attorney in the city and worked a great deal of the time out of her home. But we live in a large building, lots of people and I really hadn’t had any kind of conversation with her before. Her question was not a new one. I’ve asked it myself along the way. It was, simply, why do some people have to suffer so? Followed by “Have they done something to provoke God”?
Have you ever heard yourself asking that same kind of question? Maybe not quite those same words, but as Rabbi Kushner asks in his book, the “ Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? “ kind of question. In the course of our conversation I learned that my young neighbor has set up a law practice on her own and many of the cases she was currently taking on were pro bono, that is, cases for which she charges no fee and, as a result, many of her clients are quite desperate. Obviously, she is trying to gain experience in the legal profession and this is one way to make sure she has clients. On the other hand, this kind of work has also led her to a much deeper appreciation of what some people are actually up against in their efforts to simply survive. The stories she has heard are full of suffering and pain. Stories about deportations, false accusations, embezzlement, drug abuse, losses beyond measure. They have kept her awake at night wondering “Why do they have to suffer so?” What have they done to deserve this?
It was that same kind of wondering that the disciples were filled with when they told Jesus about the Galileans who were ruthlessly killed at Pilate’s hand and the people who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them. Did those things happen because those victims were worse sinners than any others? Was their suffering some kind of punishment for their sins?
No, says Jesus definitively... No, that is not how God works. Despite our propensity to link suffering with the notion that it is brought on by our own sinfulness and is a sign of God’s great displeasure -- no, that is not so says our Lord. Those people who died so tragically are no different than we are and it is not their sins that have caused their suffering and demise but evil and natural causes that have befallen them. Still, like the disciples, we continue to link suffering with a kind of divine retribution...
The interesting thing about this Gospel lesson for today, however, is not so much that Jesus wants to debunk this thinking that suffering is punishment for our sinful ways, and he does that quite clearly with a simple “No!”. But he also wants to use that subject as an occasion for something more important. He wants to talk about repentance. While our sins do not beget our suffering the fact remains that all of us are called to a life of repentance. And Jesus wants his disciples to understand that no one is excluded from the need to examine our lives, come face to face with those broken places in us, and to make room for the forgiving love of Christ to accomplish its work in us.
But repentance is a tough subject to approach for it does not avoid the reality of God’s judgment while at the same time reminding us of the gift of God’s grace that assures us we are loved unconditionally, no matter what. So Jesus chooses to unravel some of this mystery for his disciples by telling us a parable. This time he tells the story of a fig tree that continues to resist bearing fruit. And about the owner who, finding no fruit on the tree once again, tells the gardener he is sick and tired of waiting for it to produce a harvest so “cut it down”! A harsh judgment, to be sure... But, the gardener pleads the case of that tree yet one more time... “let me dig around it, add some manure,” and give it another year.
Now, repentance has a variety of interpretations, some of them will miss the mark as far as Jesus is concerned, but it appears that stirring up the ground and enriching the soil could well be a part of this humble act. For what is repentance, after all, but an attempt at changing the landscape of our lives?
At its root repentance is really about thinking and perception. It refers to a wholesale change in the way a person understands things. It calls for a a turning around, a reconfiguring of our how we see things -- a new look at life, cultivating the very ground of our being. It requires of us digging up around the surface of our lives and going deep... into that territory where we harbor our regrets, our guilt and our shame. It asks us to open up those dark places in us, turn around, and expose them to the light of a love that is stronger than death. Repentance is a chance at a whole renewal of life -- this repentance that Jesus is suggesting for us. It is the beginning of a return to God.
Yet, in the face of such possibilities, like the fig tree we may choose to put off bearing the fruit of our faith, to delay the tough work of growing, stretching, reaching beyond our present selves, in favor of waiting for a more convenient time... a time when it will be less painful to examine our own lives... Lest we get caught up in that kind of procrastination, Jesus provides a warning to us that adds a note of urgency to his message. Yes, mercy indeed... another year, more time, grace upon grace... but even so, there is a limit says our Lord. Give it another year, but if there is no fruit to harvest then, if the tree remains barren, cut it down. Jesus does not shy away from judgment, but faces the reality that one who chooses to miss out on the important work of growing a fruitful life, cultivating a return to God with a humble and penitent heart, and trusting God’s gift of grace... that person will lose his or her life to self indulgence, arrogant righteousness or just plain apathy. And that is as good as a life cut down...
This call to repentance from Jesus is a very personal inward journey, for it asks us to plumb the very depths of our hearts -- to examine our priorities, to scrutinize our behavior toward God and toward one another. It can tear open some pretty painful places in us, long left untouched. But it is there, in those dark places where we have sinned and fallen short of God’s will for us, that we discover a longing for the light. It is there in the emptiness of our guilt and our shame that we come face to face with our longing for a word of forgiveness. And in that longing we are drawn back to God whose death-defying love rescues us yet one more time. You see, Jesus knows that repentance is a necessary act in the life of faith for in it we come to know the life-saving gift of God’s grace and in that gift of grace we grow.
No it is not sin that begets the suffering in this world. The last blow to that erroneous thinking was dealt at Golgotha when the One who had no sin bore our sins on a cross. And that is the life-giving Word that always and forever accompanies a penitential life, daily saving us -- not from suffering -- but from being cut off from God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. This is the freedom won for us on that Easter morn. This is the joy recaptured for our lives. This is the hope that grows out of God’s mercy. And this is the promise of a bountiful harvest -- even in you and me!
Thanks be to God, and Amen!
Pr Susan Peterson
16th December 2012 - Swahili Carols
Bishop Emerita Jana Jeruma-Grinberga at St Anne's Lutheran Church in London
Neema iwe kwenu na amani zitokazo kwa Mungu Baba yetu na kwa Bwana Yesu Kristo.
Christmas is coming! Only a week to go! Is all the shopping done? All the presents wrapped? All the family parties planned? Of course we say this every year, but almost always it seems that all the busyness, the presents, the food, the parties fill out the time we have. The true message of Christmas is lost somewhere among the wrapping paper and the fairy lights.
Today we heard this Gospel reading, the marvellous prayer by Mary – my soul magnifies the Lord! my soul praises God!
Moyo wangu wamwadhimisha Bwana, nayo roho yangu inamfurahia Mungu Mwokozi wangu, - just this outburst of joy, of faith overflowing in Mary’s heart, of awe and the sense of the reality of God’s presence. This text reminds of the true meaning of Christmas – a message that is even more important than Christmas cards, even more explosive than Christmas crackers, even more valuable than the presents we will get this year.
1. How marvellous it is that God should live among us! what an amazing thing, that God should be made man, should be borne in a woman’s womb, and share our lives here, with all the joys and the tragedies, the daily life and the great moments. We hear this Gospel year after year, and it is easy to get used to the idea, so that it no longer feels like something special. But it is, it is. Let us pray: Dear God, help us this year to feel the excitement, the glory, the awe and the faith of Mary. Let us praise and magnify you with all our hearts and souls.
2. How marvellous it is that all this starts in small things. Micah 5:2 says -
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
The ruler of Israel, the Saviour of the world, the one who was before the world began is born in the tiny village of Bethlehem, in one of the little tribes of Judah. This great project of salvation begins in a tiny backwater, with a young pregnant girl, and two cousins, Mary and Elizabeth, meeting share their happiness about the babies they are expecting.
3. How marvellous it is that the kingdom of God starts with blessings, with holiness, with mercy – not with displays of power and violence!
Now the magnificat, Mary’s song, can sometimes sound a bit ironic and strange.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
We all watch TV, and we all read the news. We know perfectly well that the proud and the thoughts of their hearts are pretty intact and safe. Look round you at the City of London and the bankers! The powerful still sit on their thrones – whether in Syria or Russia, Zimbabwe or China. The rich are still rich, and even here in England the poor are getting poorer, with families all over London sleeping in B&Bs. Sometimes it feels as though nothing has changed with the Gospel message, and that God’s Kingdom has made little difference to the way our world works.
But God helps us according to the promise that he makes to us, his servants. And alongside all the bad news stories, the wars and the violence, it is in the small things, with the little people that we see the promise fulfilled and God’s mercy shining out into the darkness.
- Christmas dinner at Wesley’s: not the church staff serving the needy and homeless, but the church sitting down to eat and share with them
- Jacintha Saldanha’s daughter yesterday asking her mother to watch over them from heaven
- the most powerful man in the world, Barack Obama, weeping with the parents who lost their children in the tragedy in Connecticut
- children here today laughing with joy and happiness
- food banks organised by churches all over the country to help those who are struggling in these difficult times
So many other small, but powerful things. The Kingdom of God starts with small things. We can help – in our own small ways. We can’t bring peace to Syria, or comfort to grieving families in Connecticut. We cannot resolve growing tensions between Christians and Muslims, even in Tanzania. But we can still do loving and gracious actsPerhaps a Christmas message to someone we have lost contact with, a small gift for someone we know is lonely, a donation to our own church or to a charity for those who have nowhere to stay this Christmas: the Kingdom of God starts with small things.
Sunday 26th August 2012, Bishop Jana Jeruma-Grinberga at St Anne's Lutheran Church
Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?, say the disciples – and these are not just the 12 apostles here – Jesus is teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum to a wider audience of people who are following him.
They’re right! The teaching is difficult. Jesus is talking about people eating his flesh and drinking his blood; he is talking about those who do that being able to live; he is saying that this strange bread is superior to the manna from heaven that Moses prayed for, and God, Yahweh, gave them in the desert; and he’s even offering them the possibility of living for ever. Eating Jesus? giving people life? exalting himself above Moses? granting the right to live for ever? No wonder his listeners were offended, as this version has it. Actually, the original Greek here puts things rather more strongly. Rather than complaining, the word used here is the same as the Israelites grumbling at Moses in the desert; and rather than offended, Jesus asks them if they are scandalised!
And then, instead of backpedalling, Jesus goes on to pile offence upon scandal, by alluding to an image of himself ascending on high, claiming that his words are spirit and life. No wonder that ‘many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him’.
Looking back at the Old Testament reading, we find here the tribes of Israel renewing their covenant with their Lord and God. But the reading for today actually misses out some very important verses, as it jumps from verse 2 to verse 14. In those missing verses, Joshua reminds the assembled ‘elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel’ of the great things that God has done for them from the time of Abraham, through the exodus from Egypt to the capture of Jericho. In these verses, God is very active; there are a lot of verbs (doing words) which show how God is closely and intimately involved in the life of his people Israel. And Joshua says – now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and faithfulness. Because God has been good to you, therefore you should respond by worshipping and loving God. Again: this is where the reading ends. But obviously this, too, was a difficult teaching; for despite the fact that the assembly, the ecclesia, of the Israelites says “Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’” we know perfectly well that the history of the Old Testament is of the people of God straying from their faith, being unfaithful, worshipping idols, being warned that disaster looms, disaster overtaking them, and repeated returns to God in repentance and penitence. In fact, if we had gone on reading from this chapter of Joshua, we would have heard Joshua saying: If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm.”
The life of faith is not always easy. In fact it almost never is easy. For the disciples following Jesus it would have been much easier to go back to Galilee, or wherever else they came from, and return to fishing, or collecting taxes or whatever, and lead a quiet, respectable life. Instead, they find themselves dealing with crowds, facing the opposition of the Jewish authorities, thinking about difficult teachings. And the people of Israel also dealt with endless battles, nations trying to destroy them, the temptation to abandon the strange teachings of their God and just go along with the flow, worshipping the baals and ashtartes and other local gods.
In our own day we hear of Christians being persecuted in Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, China and other places. We come across opposition to faith ourselves all the time, even in the UK, whether through militant atheists in the media, through people who make fun of our faith or even the minor irritations – like work schedules, school planning or whatever, which take no notice of the fact that some people wish to attend church on Sundays. Opposition has always faced the church and its members, and it always will: why otherwise would Paul have written to the young church in Ephesus about the need to be vigilant and prepared for the onslaughts of ‘the wiles of the devil’? Paul’s inspiring words remind us that we are, ultimately, engaged in a battle which is much greater than any separate small event might be; it is nothing other than the struggle of good and evil, of light and darkness, of faith and emptiness.
Faith is not meant to be a comfort blanket; neither does it ever present us with solutions neatly phrased and ready for use. In order for the disciples to really begin to understand what Jesus is saying to them, they had to witness the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. The teaching of the Bible often is difficult; it is never trivial or superficial. Instead it is profound, challenging and engaging. The reward comes in persevering and struggling with what the Word of God is saying to us and to the world, sinking ourselves into the word and allowing the sword of the Spirit to cut away all pretensions and obstacles to understanding and belief.
Ultimately, today’s readings are immensely encouraging. We know that despite the faithlessness of the people of Israel – whether through cowardice, laziness or arrogance – the story of faith goes on. We know that despite the persecutions of the early church, the weakness of the first disciples, and all the many wars and killings of Christians that have happened over the years, the story of faith goes on. God has not left us helpless in the face of these battles, either. We have the
belt of truth
breastplate of righteousness.
gospel of peace.
shield of faith
helmet of salvation
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, the spirit of life
Ultimately too, as Christians the choice we make is the one that Peter also made when offered to chance to leave Jesus and return to his fishing business on Lake Galilee. It is the same as the choice the Israelites made at Shechem.
‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.
There is nowhere else to go, because here we find the words of eternal life; here, we find God.
Easter Sunday - 8th April 2012, Bishop Jana Jeruma-Grinberga at St Anne's Lutheran Church
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The long days of waiting are over; the Lenten journey, the fasting and the prayer are behind us for another year. Today, with real joy in our hearts, we can say Christ is arisen! He is risen, indeed. Yesu amefufuka! Amefufuka kweli kweli.
Year by year, season by season, we see the stories of Jesus’ life unfold before us. Through our lives, we hear the Gospels of Holy Week, telling us about Jesus’ last week of life, Good Friday, with the shocking, painful, story of His crucifixion and death; and lastly the Easter Sunday Gospel, full of life and light, hope and excitement. We read and hear these Bible texts again and again. Those of us who are preachers preach about them again and again.
The stories form the basis on which we worship, the way we structure our lives, when we have holy-days, how we live and how we think. And the astonishing thing is that each time, every single time we read or hear them, the stories have something to teach us; every time we are transformed, changed a little by hearing the words that so many Christians have read over the last 2000 years. Just think – how many millions of times have people everywhere in the world heard the Easter Gospel? And each time that Word that we hear changes each person that hears it in their heart.
In the reading from Isaiah that we heard earlier, Isaiah says, after prophesying about the days of the Kingdom to come, when all pain will be wiped away: 9 It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Psalm 118 said the same thing: 1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever! Both the writers of Isaiah, and the psalmist know well that there are good times and bad; that death and exile are realities, but that the goodness of the Lord endures beyond the times of hardship and pain.
In the reading from Acts, we hear Peter telling a group of people in Caesarea – both Jews and Gentiles together – how the Good News spread from Galilee, became a message not just for Jews, but for those “in every nation who fear him and do what is right”, for they are all acceptable to him.
We only have to look around us today to see that Christ is a Saviour for all; that the Gospel is a message for everyone; that the Good News has spread far beyond Galilee or Judea. Could Peter ever have imagined that his words could be heard, 2000 years later, by a congregation in London, with people from Finland, and Africa, Latvia, Australia and the United States? He probably had never heard either of your country or of mine, although he might have heard about Britain (and he would have thought that it was an island inhabited by savages, incidentally).
Christ died for our sins: he climbed the hill of Golgatha, and poured himself out to save humankind from sin and death. He was beaten; he bled; he was thirsty and he was in agony. He, the Word who was present at the creation of all things, the Lord of the Universe and the Breath of Life, died, humiliated, in public, in the heat of a dark day in Jerusalem. He was buried in a stone tomb; even that was done without dignity, as the day was ending, and the Sabbath was starting, so there was no time even to surround him with herbs and balms. He did this for all humankind, for all time, in all places; we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, as Hebrews 10:10 says. It is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
And then he rose again, the first fruits of a new Kingdom, in the dawn of a new day; bringing hope, light, joy and new life to the world, starting with that garden in Jerusalem, not far from Golgotha. And that new life, again, is for everyone – Jews and Gentiles, men and women, adults and children, black and white, rich and poor, in AD 33 and in AD 2011.
But it starts, this wave of light and hope rolling over the darkened world, with one moment, and one person. Mary is weeping over the last humiliation of the empty tomb because she imagines that grave robbers have been there, and taken away even the body of her Lord. The last 3 days have been unimaginably traumatic; one shock after another, the sight of Jesus’ broken body on the Cross, the utter helplessness they must have felt; the grief and sheer incomprehension. What was happening? Why? How could it be that their beloved Friend and Lord could have been so tortured and broken before their eyes? And now, not even a body to wash and to anoint, not even a last moment alone with Jesus before the stone rolled before the tomb for ever. Mary must have been absolutely heartbroken in her pain and grief.
John tells us: “Mary turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,* ‘Rabbouni!’
It is the moment when Jesus calls her by name, in a way she must have heard many times over the previous 3 years or so. With that moment comes recognition; Mary realises he is alive – he is risen! Her feelings at that point – joy, relief, confusion, surprise? – are probably beyond words. But the point is this: that this mission to the world, this message which is for everyone and for always, starts with the individual. God calls us each, by name, as individuals, as beloved children; the universal Christian church is made up, one by one, of people who are known and loved by God. Jesus did not live, suffer, die and rise again for an anonymous, huge mass of people, but for Mary, and Peter, for each single one of us.
This is the Gospel of love for all people, for all time and for all places
This is the Gospel of salvation for each woman, man and child
This is the Gospel of hope for every country, town and village
This is the Gospel of grace for every single moment and heartbeat.
Lay minister Sarah Farrow at St Anne's Lutheran Church in London
‘If you want it done right, do it yourself.’ How often have we either said or heard these words? Said when someone else muddles up what we see as a perfectly straightforward task that we could accomplish far quicker and with less fuss. If we had control of the situation things would have gone smoothly without problems. ‘If you want it done right, do it yourself.’ We often moan and complain when things are not going our way and we can’t change the situation ourselves, often complaining that ‘if I ran this company, this or that wouldn’t happen, and I’d straighten that out’ and so on and so on. ‘If you want it done right, do it yourself.’ Well, guess what? We come here every week to hear that we can’t ‘do it ourselves’ – that our salvation is not a ‘do-it-yourself.’ It is the complete opposite of ‘if you want it done right, do it yourself’. It is an acknowledgement that if we want it done right we better not do it ourselves or we’d never get there!
Jesus uses the example of Moses and the bronze serpent, which was also the first reading today. In this passage, the Israelites are told that they need only look upon the serpent raised on the pole and they will live. That they need only look to the promise from God and they will live. They need to trust only in God and they will live. For the Israelites, it was not about trying to push away the serpents coming to bite them, being distracted by the possible threats to them, but turning their heads up and focusing on the serpent, focus on that promise from God and they will live.
And Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son of Man will ‘be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.’ And this is the promise given to us, to look upon Christ on the cross as our salvation, to look to this promise from God that we may be saved through Christ, to trust only in God that we may have eternal life. And it is not the gold-encrusted bejewelled cross that we look upon for this, it is the crucifix with Jesus Christ nailed upon it, his body broken, his bowed head. This is the cross upon which we meditate. This is the cross where our salvation is found. This is the cross we look upon to receive the Gospel with open, trusting hearts: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’
But we are so easily tempted to doubt this promise and return to that poor thinking of, ‘If you want it done right, do it yourself’, that nagging feeling that we have to ‘stay in control’. I recently heard a story that may serve as an analogy to this feeling we often have of ‘staying in control’. Many years ago, a world famous performer planned to walk across a tightrope over Niagara Falls in the United States. He shouted to the crowd of spectators ‘Do you think I can walk to the other side of these falls on this tightrope?’ And everyone responded with a ‘yes, of course!’. Then he brought out a wheelbarrow and asked, ‘Do you think I can walk to the other side of these falls on this tightrope pushing this wheelbarrow?’ and the crowd again responded with a ‘yes, of course!’. Then he asked, ‘Do you think I can walk across these falls on this tightrope with this wheelbarrow filled with a 150 pounds?’ and the crowd said, ‘yes, of course!’. He next asked, ‘So, who will get in this wheelbarrow?’ And, of course, there was silence.
This is a mere anecdote and should be seen as no more, but it may help us look at how we understand not being in control and believing in something outside ourselves. How do we, going back to example used by our Lord, stop looking down and trying to bat away the serpents on our own and instead look up believing in God’s promise? How do we really believe in Christ? How do we let go of everything and allow God full control of our lives? Someone once said, ‘There’s God and there’s yourself; and you are settling down on one or the other.’ How do we put our lives in God’s hands and acknowledge that we do not have complete control, that we cannot maintain, pretend or assume complete control over our lives or, more to the point, over our salvation? Believing in Christ – a personal trust. Forf we see no hope in this promise, if we do not see truth in this statement that whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life, ‘then our judgement comes from ourselves, not from God.’ This is not a matter of questioning each other, ‘how much do you believe?’, or ‘how strong is your faith?’, this is – do we confess Jesus Christ as God and Saviour? Do we confess that Christ on the cross is our salvation not just with our lips, but with our hearts? Knowing, as Paul writes, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.’
But we are not facing this personal conflict, this temptation to doubt, alone. With the Lord on our side, by our side, we are strengthened through the knowledge of God’s constant love for us. The knowledge that God’s love is there. And I use the word ‘constant’ in all its meanings: God love for us is constant in that it is steady - it does not fluctuate, but is always overwhelming. God’s love for us is constant in that it is continuous – it is endless. God’s love for us is constant in that it is persistent – even though we may turn away, when we are turned back to God, His love is there. And God’s love for us is constant in that it is faithful – God’s promise is a sign of His devotion to us, His creation.
Both the Gospel and the Epistle remind us of God’s awesome love for the world. And let us not dismiss our Lord’s persistent use of the words ‘the world’. God’s love is universal. Christ came to take away the sin of the world. ‘…in order that the world may be saved through him.’ ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.’ There is no discrimination in this. There is no exclusion from this gift of salvation; all who believe – whatever age, race, class, nationality, gender – are saved through him. Yet, one of the amazing things about God’s love is that while it is universal, it is strictly personal. God’s love for you. When we receive communion, we hear the words, ‘The Body of Christ, given/broken for you. The Blood of Christ, shed for you.’ For each and every one of you, of us, individually. For God knows you, He knows me, in our hearts, and speaks to each one of us accordingly. So let us open our hearts to the Gospel – to the Good News. To hear and know that ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’
1st Sunday in Lent, 26th February 2012
Right Rev'd Jana Jeruma-Grinberga at St Anne's Lutheran Church
1 Peter 3:18-22
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Once again we have a text from Mark’s Gospel that challenges us with its immediacy, and the sheer pace of the story. If we look at the equivalent passage from Luke’s Gospel, there are 347 words contained in 17 verses; the passage in Mark has 6 brief verses, and only 134 words to cover the whole story from Jesus arriving from Galilee, being baptised by John and affirmed by God’s voice, driven into the wilderness, tempted by Satan, John being arrested and Jesus beginning his public ministry. It’s breathless stuff: and it’s a lesson to us all in not using 15 words when one will do!
But at the same time, there is a great deal of significance in the words that Mark uses, and the message that he proclaims to us, and to Christians everywhere.
1. Jesus simply arrives in the story. Mark’s Gospel starts with the words: the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Then Mark tells us about John’s baptism of repentance, and his proclamation, and even that he was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. But Jesus is introduced simply with the first words of today’s Gospel: In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. No explanation of Jesus’ birth; no conversation between John and Jesus about the reason for Jesus, the sinless one, to be baptised, no explanation of the relationship between Jesus and John. It seems as though Mark is confident that simply telling the story of Jesus’ ministry is enough; that he doesn’t need the ‘back story’, as it were, to back up what Jesus is and what he does.
2. The voice of God is heard here speaking to Jesus for the first time. God is heard speaking only three times: once here, at Jesus’ baptism; once, as we heard a couple of weeks ago, on the mountain at the Transfiguration; and once, in John’s Gospel, just before the events of Maundy Thursday and Jesus’ Passion. God affirms Jesus as his Beloved and speaks to him at focal (or fulcrum) points in Jesus’ ministry: when he first arrives from Nazareth and steps into the public arena; when he is about to turn his face towards Jerusalem and the fulfilment of his mission of salvation for all. So this is one of the three most important and crucial markers in Jesus’ ministry. He steps forward, out of the shadows of his life as a carpenter in the quiet obscurity of Nazareth, and accepts both his complete humanity by being baptised by John in Jordan, and his complete divinity by the affirmation of the voice of God. From this moment his path towards death on Golgatha in the heat of the day, and resurrection in the garden in the cool of dawn, becomes inexorable.
3. From the waters of Jordan, Jesus heads straight into the wilderness, the desert, where his companions will be wild animals and demonic forces, but where angels will minister to him. Again, this affirms his nature as both man and God; temptation is part of the daily round of human existence, and we know, as the author of the letter to Hebrews tells us, we have a high priest who is able to sympathise with our weaknesses, and who was tested in every respect just as we are. But – he is God, and remained without sin; just part of the long, eternal struggle between the forces of good and evil; but a sign for us that in the strength of Christ evil cannot, and in the long term, will not prevail. As Pastor Tumaini said on Wednesday night at the Ash Wednesday service, by ourselves we cannot. With Jesus we can.
4. And once the wilderness time is over, Jesus heads back to Galilee, to do what Mark said he will: he proclaimed the good news, calling people to repentance, to return to God and simply believe. Again: no complex words, no illustrations or argumentation: repent and believe.
5. And yet, despite the simplicity and brevity of these verses, the language that Mark uses is vivid and very physical. Jesus comes out of the water – perhaps better rises out of the water; this is not a polite baptism with a sprinkle of water! This is Jesus stepping right into the river, and getting properly wet. The heavens are torn open – ripped apart by the voice of God. The spirit drives him into the wilderness; he is tempted by Satan and lives with wild beasts – what would they have been? Hyenas, probably, desert lions, snakes, : did they come and kneel before him, as at the manger in Bethlehem, or was it distant howling in the night? The images this use of language conjure up are vivid and clear – with primary colours and primary emotions to the fore.
As we move forward in Lent, we will have our own struggles with temptation, and our own desert moments, perhaps wild beasts howling around the edges of our consciousness. Whatever Lent Discipline we have undertaken, we are aiming to strip away some of the business and pre-occupation of daily life to give an opportunity for us to hear what God is saying to us, and allowing us to draw nearer to God. Again, as Pastor Tumaini said, we need to lose some of our spiritual weight to improve our spiritual health. And at times like that, the temptations also tend to grow greater and to trouble us more. But we know that Jesus was tempted like us, and that the Baptism which he sanctified by his own divine presence in the Jordan, is a place that we can return to each day to strengthen us in our journey towards the new joy of Easter. As Luther says in the Small Catechism, the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever; baptism now saves us, as the reading from Peter says, as we live and grow in faith and love.
4th Sunday after Epiphany, 29th January 2012
Lay Minister Sarah Farrow at St Anne's Lutheran Church in London
Deuteronomy 18:15-2 29
Walking to St Anne's
Second Sunday after Epiphany, 15th January 2012
Rev’d Wendy Sherer at St Anne’s Lutheran Church in London
Have you ever thought: “If they really knew me, they wouldn’t like me.” How much of ourselves do we conceal from one another, how often do we hold things back, for fear of judgment, criticism, or rejection? Why do we often feel that if we were truly ourselves, we wouldn’t be accepted? There can be a number of reasons for believing this: a past painful experience of having shared yourself only to have that person disappoint or reject you. It could be that you were once teased for standing out or being different, and you don’t ever want to risk a repeat of that feeling.
Fear of rejection can be a powerful thing. It’s often what keeps us from being genuine with one another. It can prevent us from opening ourselves to relationship, or from sharing authentically when we are in a relationship. And it can distort the way we see ourselves—perhaps we are the ones who really can’t accept who we are, versus who we think we should be.
New Year’s Eve Service at St Anne's Lutheran Church
Meditations on the past, present and future
Meditation on Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 -Lay Minister Moses Shonga
Meditation on Psalm 8 - The Rev'd Wendy Sherer
Meditation on Revelation 21:1-6a - Lay Minister Sarah Farrow
Extract from a sermon given Sunday 18th December 2011 at St Anne's Lutheran Church
by Jean-Marc Heimerdinger.