Below is my message for Sunday, December 10 on Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Valley of Dry Bones. Above is a recording of my message from Emmanuel.
As far as you can see, it is brilliant white. Eye blinding white covers the ground. As far you can hear, it is as silent as a closed library. You are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of millions of bones. There is no smell, because the bodies have been dead for a long, long time. The bodies have been picked clean of any shred of the person they once belonged to. The harsh rays of the sun have bleached the bones as white as the few clouds that float overhead.
God brought Ezekiel into a valley filled with dried, human bones. The bones are the bodies of the people of Israel, dead because they had lost faith in their god. The nation of Israel is dead because they did not keep Him first, slain because they did not obey His commands, murdered because they did not love Him with their whole heart. They lost their way, lost God as the focus of their lives, and lost their faith. They died because despite everything God had done for them, they were unfaithful.
Ezekiel is living in Exile. The kingdom of Israel has been defeated and destroyed. Its leaders captured and exiled to Babylon. The Promised Land has been ripped from their hands. The Temple has been destroyed. Their way of life torn has been from their grasp. The Chosen People feel abandoned and isolated; they believe God has rejected them. In fact, it was they who rejected God. They were to be a holy people, set aside to be an example, a light unto to the nations. But, they were unfaithful and ungrateful.
The bones are us, empty of faith, empty of life, empty of love, empty without God. We think that God has rejected us. We believe that God ignores us. We doubt God’s existence.
We live in a time of uncertainty. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. There are rumors and possibilities of wars, civil strife, destruction, human cruelty, greed, abuse and violence that seem to be in a competition to horrify and frighten us.
We live in a time of diminishing returns. We see fewer: fewer people in our activities, fewer activities to be a part of, fewer friends are around, fewer people are in our towns, fewer people are in our churches.
We live in a time of increasing need. We see and hear of more people in trouble: they are hungry and starving, they are poisoned by the earth and our mismanagement, they are telling of abuse and mistreatment, they are persecuted and victimized. Their stories fill our media. Their stories haunt our nights.
And we take it all in. And we feel guilty for not doing more. And we try to resist blaming ourselves, but we want to do better, and we don’t see that we make any difference.
And inside, the light of hope dims, in danger of going out.
In last week’s message, I quoted from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther, and said, “If you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren't fit to live.” That is true because our lives gain value by what we are willing to work for, what we are willing to fight for, and possibly, what we are willing to die for. Along the same lines, our lives lose value when we don’t have something to work, fight or even die for.
The greatest loss however, is the loss of hope. Without hope, our lives lose meaning. Our lives lose their value. Without hope, our lives are simply counting down until our death. Without hope, we are a walking bag of bones. A community without hope is a valley of dry bones.
This is not a prophecy. This is truth. This is history. This is what happened to the people of Israel. And this is what is happening to churches and worshipping communities across this country.
“Mortal, can these bones live?”
Sometimes, the world can seem like the valley of dry bones. Dead. Lifeless. Without hope.
“Mortal, can these bones live?”
God wants Ezekiel to tell the people of Israel about the valley of dry bones, because where God is, hope is. Where God is, life is.
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
The Good News is that we serve a God that brings life where there is no life. The Good News is that we worship a Savior who was dead but now lives. The Good News is that we are empowered by a Spirit that is literally the breath of life.
To the people of Israel, God said I am not through with you yet. I promised you a land, and I will keep my promise even though you have not been faithful.
To the people of God’s church, God says I am not through with you yet. I promised to be with you always, to be with you until the end of the ages, and I will, though you have not been faithful. I have told you to go to all nations and all peoples, teaching them what I have taught, sharing with them God’s love and the Good News.
As God sent the Breath, the ruach, the Spirit into the dry bones and they lived, as God sent the Breath, the ruach, the Spirit into the people of Israel and they returned to the land promised to them, God is sending the Breath, the ruach, the Spirit into The Church, this church and into you, reigniting the light of hope in our hearts and calling us to share God’s love and the Good News.
But, the journey is challenging, the opposition is daunting, the need is tremendous and the way is fraught with peril.
“Mortal, can these bones live?”
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Mortal, can these bones live?”
With hope in our hearts, and with faith in a God who raises the dead, nothing is impossible. AMEN.
Below is a draft of my sermon for December 3, the First Sunday of Advent, on the lesson from Daniel 3 in the Narrative Lectionary. The lesson is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
As I mention in my message, the inspiration and most of the message that I gave came from a sermon that the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. gave at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on November 5, 1967. A transcript of that powerful message was done by Austin Smith and is here. A recording of Rev. Dr. King's sermon is on YouTube and is embedded below.
Two of my attempts, which pale next to the message of Rev. Dr. King, are at the bottom of this post.
This lesson is a Sunday School classic. It has repetitions, strange and fun to say names, and comes to a conclusion with a moral.
But there is so much more to this, especially right in the middle of this story.
The leaders and prominent people from Jerusalem had been taken into exile in Babylon, and put to work in the Babylonian Empire. Among those are the three stars of this story: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar built a statue that everyone in Babylon was to worship when they heard the music play. Rivals reported to the king that these Israelites were refusing the bow and kneel to the king’s golden statue. When Nebuchadnezzar confronted them, they admitted to their crime, and were willing to pay the penalty.
When I started looking at this lesson and materials about it, I found a sermon delivered by the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King in 1967. That sermon helped to shape my understanding of this lesson, and of what I have taken from it. I am going to read from part of that sermon now, and at other points in my message.
Rev. Dr. King said, “I want you to notice first, here, that these young men practiced civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is the refusal to abide by an order of the government or of the state or even of the court that your conscience tells you is unjust. Civil disobedience is based on a commitment to conscience. In other words, one who practices civil disobedience is obedient to what he considers a higher law. And there comes a time when a moral man can not obey a law which his conscience tells him is unjust. And I tell you this morning, my friends, that history has moved on, and great moments have often come forth because there were those individuals, in every age and in every generation, who were willing to say ‘I will be obedient to a higher law.’”
We lift up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as examples of people who literally stand up for the First Commandment. They will NOT worship another god. They refused to fall down. They refused to lie down. They refused to kneel.
Civil disobedience is a reaction to when you find the rules or laws or norms of society to be unacceptable. It is protesting and saying that I won’t do what you want me to. But realizing that rebellion comes with a cost. It may be taking an unpopular position and losing friends. It may separate or isolate you from your family. It may cost you job or livelihood. It may inflict physical violence against you. It may have you face criminal charges and jail time. It may cost you your very life.
It is a decision that people don’t enter into lightly. But it is one that when it is made, you don’t back down from. It is a statement of “Here I stand.”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to die, being burned to death in a fiery furnace rather than worshipping Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. Yes, they were saved. But they were willing to die.
Rev. Dr. King said, “These men never doubted God and his power. As they did what they did, they made it very clear that they knew that God had the power to spare them; they said that to the king: ‘Now we know that the God that we worship is able to deliver us.’ And that grew out of their experience. They had known God, … And then they had seen God, I'm sure, in their personal lives. They never doubted God's power to deliver them.”
We say we trust God, but are we willing to bet our lives on God protecting us? Would you be willing to suffer a painful, agonizing death rather than falling to the ground at the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had faith. But they had something else.
Rev. Dr. King said, ”But let me move now to the basic point of the message. Know this morning, if we forget everything I've said, I hope you won't forget this. It came to the point after saying ‘If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.’
‘But if not’ -- do you get that? That these men were saying that ‘Our faith is so deep and that we've found something so dear and so precious that nothing can turn us away from it. Our God is able to deliver us, but if not...’ This simply means, my friends, that the ultimate test of one's faith is his ability to say ‘But if not.’ You see there is what you may call an 'if' faith, and there is a 'though' faith. And the permanent faith, the lasting, the powerful faith is the 'though' faith. Now the 'if' faith says, "If all goes well; if life is … prosperous …; if I don't have to go to jail; if I don't have to face the agonies and burdens of life; if I'm not ever called bad names because of taking a stand that I feel that I must take; if none of these things happen, then I'll have faith in God, then I'll be alright." That's the 'if' faith. …
There is a 'though' faith, though. And the 'though' faith says ‘Though things go wrong; though evil is temporarily triumphant; though sickness comes and the cross looms, neverthless! I'm gonna believe anyway and I'm gonna have faith anyway.’ …
Think of friendship, think of love, and think of marriage. These things are not based on 'if,' they're based on 'though.' These great experiences are not based on a bargaining relationship, not an 'if' faith, but a 'though' faith.
Somewhere along the way you should discover something that's so dear, so precious to you, that is so eternally worthwhile, that you will never give it up. You ought to discover some principle, you ought to have some great faith that grips you so much that you will never give it up. Somehow you go on and say ‘I know that the God that I worship is able to deliver me, but if not, I'm going on anyhow, I'm going to stand up for it anyway.’
What does this mean? … If you're doing right merely to keep from going to … hell then you aren't doing right. If you do right merely to go to … heaven, you aren't doing right. … Ultimately you must do right because it's right to do right. And you got to say "But if not."
You must love ultimately because it's lovely to love. You must be just because it's right to be just. You must be honest because it's right to be honest. This is what this text is saying more than anything else.
And finally, you must do it because it has gripped you so much that you are willing to die for it if necessary. And I say to you this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren't fit to live.
You may be 38 years old as I happen to be, and one day some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause--and you refuse to do it because you are afraid; you refuse to do it because you want to live longer; you're afraid that you will lose your job, or you're afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity or you're afraid that somebody will stab you or shoot at you or bomb your house, and so you refuse to take the stand. Well you may go on and live until you are 90, but you're just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90! … You died when you refused to stand up for right, you died when you refused to stand up for truth, you died when you refused to stand up for justice. …
Because they had faith enough to say "But if not," God was with them as an eternal companion. …
Somebody looked in there and said ‘We put three in here, but now we see four.’ Don't ever think you're by yourself. Go on to jail if necessary but you'll never go alone. Take a stand for that which is right, and the world may misunderstand you and criticize you, but you never go alone. …
The world will look at you and they won't understand you, for your fiery furnace will be around you, but you'll go on anyhow. But if not, I will not bow, and God grant that we will never bow before the gods of evil.”
The worlds of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King exactly five months before he was murdered for his stands are as true now as they were then. What cause, what wrong, what issue, what stand are you willing to fight on behalf of? Where will your faith take you where you are willing to say, "But if not"?
What greater good calls you to trust a greater God, willingly saying, "But if not"? For what will you take up your cross as did Our Lord, Jesus Christ? For what are you willing to lay down your life as did Our Lord, Jesus Christ?
May God give you the strength of your faith. AMEN.
This is my sermon from November 26 on the Reign of Christ Sunday, and the lesson is Jeremiah 29:1,4-14.
Above is a recording of the sermon from Emmanuel.
It is hard to be the bearer of bad news.
It is painful to have to tell a person or people what they don’t want to hear. Just talking about it, I fell that sinking feeling in my stomach, that heaviness in my heart. I’ve had to tell people they have lost their jobs. I‘ve had to tell people a loved one has died. I’ve told people a loved one is in a dire situation and may not live.
I’ve been in the room when people have been told they are probably going to die soon. I’ve been in the room when people have been told they don’t have a job.
When delivering bad news, it is human nature to try to find a positive. You want to leave the person with some hope, with something to hold onto while their world in crumbling.
This is what the prophet Jeremiah tries to do.
The Southern Kingdom of Judah has been conquered by the Babylonian Empire under King Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonians have taken the leaders of Jerusalem into exile in Babylon. They have taken the priests, and the prophet; the king, the queen mother, the palace officials, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the artisans, and the smiths and have put them into the society of the city of Babylon. When they Babylonians captured Jerusalem, the destroyed the Temple, plundered the capital, and then took the leaders of the city and nation with them.
Jeremiah has been a prophet in Jerusalem for years. He has been warning the King, the Priests and the people that they are living outside of God’s laws and, if they continue to do so, they will find themselves outside of God’s love. Now, what Jeremiah had warned against has come to pass, and even more so than what anyone could anticipate.
Despite this trauma, the people in exile were expecting to be delivered. They thought that God would forgive them, overthrow the Babylonians, and they would soon be back in their homes and beds.
Jeremiah has to tell them that is not going to happen. Those taken to Babylon will not be coming back to Jerusalem. Their children probably won’t be coming back either.
There were those in both Babylon and in Jerusalem who were saying God will have them come right back. God, through Jeremiah, says no. You will be there for about 70 years, you will be there for generations. The leaders won’t return. Maybe their children will, but more likely it will be their grandchildren. You will be in Babylon, so get comfortable. That will be your home.
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
God reminds the people that although God has allowed them to be conquered, God has never abandoned them. While they abandoned and ignored God and God’s will, God will be with them. God isn’t finished with them.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
You will have a future with hope, even though the right now is pretty bad. When you pray, I hear you. When you look for me, you will find me. I will restore you and bring you back.
But until then, make a home where you are. Work for the welfare of where you are.
This is the lesson we need to take from this story of God and God’s people. Work for the welfare of where you are.
While we haven’t been exiled from our homeland like the leaders of Jerusalem, we do not always find ourselves where we want to be. Our circumstances are not always what we desire. The world is not how we would have it.
And into our world of worry and woe, God tells us to work for the welfare of where you are.
Don’t focus on what you don’t have. Don’t fixate on where you aren’t. Don’t stress over that things aren’t the way you want them. Work for the welfare of where you are.
We long for the good old days of full pews and multiple Sunday School classes. We miss the days of the church choirs (multiple) and active groups and ministries within the church.
We worry about the future. Will the church survive? Will the church stay open? Will my family stay faithful?
While these are legitimate memories and concerns, God, through Jeremiah, told those in exile in Babylon and those in exile in a country where the church is become less important, the same message. For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
But until then, until we can convince people that they need to know how much God loves them, until we teach others, and ourselves, that God doesn’t want to make good people, but God wants to make the dead alive. Until then, work for the welfare of where you are.
Take care of our neighbor, whether we know them or not, whether we like them or not. Show the same sacrificial love to others that Christ has shown to us.
In the midst of the bad news and exile we feel, God has never left us. God wants great things for us and from us. God is with us. God will restore … and gather us together. But until the Reign of Christ is restored, work for the welfare of where you are. AMEN.
This is my article from the December 2017 - January 2018 Newsletter.
A Few Things That Are Going On …
We have several things going on in December and January. Please take time to go through the articles and calendar to see what you may want to take advantage of participating in.
One of the things that I want to note is that I will be going to Houston at the end of January. I will be attending the ELCA Youth Extravaganza in Houston. This is a conference for youth and family ministries. It is a conference I attended three years ago in Detroit. It is held in the host city of the Youth Gathering in those years, and will give me an opportunity to scout the sites in Houston. It also has some sessions I am looking forward to attending.
The downside is that I will not be able to be at the annual meetings for Nazareth and Our Savior’s. I plan to have everything prepared for these meetings before I leave.
In preparation, Kay and I will be preparing annual reports and for the annual meetings as soon as we get back at the beginning of the New Year. We have 3 meetings to prepare, and 4 annual reports. If you have items to submit, please get them in by the date requested. It is also very helpful if you can submit them electronically, preferably as a Word or Excel document. If you have any questions, please let me know.
Also, as we get into December and all of the Christmas related services, I want to thank everyone who is going to help with the services that are coming up. I appreciate all of the work that our Sunday School teachers do on a weekly basis, but also for everything they do to make our Youth Christmas Program a success. I also want to thank my C+LIFFE students and Luther League members who are helping out with this program as well.
I also want to thank our musicians who provide so much to our regular Sunday services, but have even more work to do around these services. Thanks also go to those who will share of their musical talents for the Christmas services.
God’s Blessings Be With You All,
This is my sermon from Sunday, November 19. The lesson was Isaiah 9:1-7. A recording of the sermon from Emmanuel is above.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.
Darkness is a horrible place to be. It doesn’t matter what the darkness is, or where the darkness comes from. Darkness is a horrible place to be. It doesn’t matter if the darkness comes from violence, economic struggles, personal struggles, emotional battles, or deep depression. Darkness is a horrible place to be.
It isn’t just a lack of light. It is a weight that slows you down. It is a chill that you can’t warm up from. It is a barrier between people. It is a lack of hope and a loss of desire. Darkness calls you to hide and withdrawal. Darkness isolates and separates. Darkness divides and destroys. Darkness takes away light. Darkness takes away warmth. Darkness takes away relationships. Darkness takes away confidence. Darkness takes away faith. Darkness wants you alone, thinking and believing there is no one out there for you.
The darkness that Isaiah describes is that the southern kingdom of Judah was surrounded. The northern kingdom of Israel has been destroyed, conquered by the Assyrians. The lands mentioned in the first line of the reading were part of the former kingdom of Israel. Now the capital city of Judah is being threatened by the neighboring nations of the Edomites and Philistines, the prophet Isaiah urges him to trust in God for the survival of the kingdom. But King Ahaz makes a deal with the Assyrians to become a puppet state and assure Judah’s survival. Judah was independent in name only.
God’s chosen people have seen their nation split in half, one half conquered and it’s people dispersed, and the other half have come under the rule of that conqueror. They are living in darkness. Their leaders have encouraged them to worship other gods and to not listen to, to not obey the LORD their God.
But the darkness of judgment and rebellion would not cover them forever.
One of the verses from Scripture that I turn to when I feel darkness coming and building in my life is from Psalm 30, verse 5. God’s anger is but for a moment; God’s favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
When we sin, when we know that we have done wrong, we feel that we cannot undo the wrong we have done. And we can’t. The bell cannot be unrung. We must live with our choices and actions.
But that does not mean we are not forgiven. God’s anger is but for a moment; God’s favor is for a lifetime.
We believe that in the Old Testament, God is a god of anger and wrath and vengeance. There are passages that lead to that conclusion. But if you read the Old Testament, actually work and fight through the stories, you will see a God of patience and forgiveness. You will encounter a God who is rejected and ignored, one who is thrown aside and cast off, but one who continues to listen and to love. Sometimes that love is tough. Sometimes, painful lessons are learned. Sometimes, many times, bad things happen.
Any parent knows that the painful lessons that their child learns are the most painful to them. There is a parenting expression, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” It doesn’t make sense until you have to watch someone deal with the consequences of their actions. And it hurts to watch someone go through it.
Why do we think that God doesn’t feel that type of pain, that type of hurt?
God’s anger is but for a moment; God’s favor is for a lifetime.
When we encounter darkness, we assume things will always be dark. The darkness continues. The darkness only gets darker. We only get more isolated and alone, but usually of our own choosing. We are angry and upset with ourselves, and cannot love ourselves. Therefore, we think, we cannot be loved. The darkness only gets darker.
Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
The sun comes up in the morning. While the nights are getting longer, in about a month, always around Christmas, the days begin to get longer. While the darkness grows for a while, the light will come and the light will shine.
As Jesus said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.
The people of Judah thought God had abandoned them. In reality, they had abandoned God. They turned from God and God’s commands. They did what they wanted to do, and ignored and rejected God’s will. God’s anger is but for a moment; God’s favor is for a lifetime. They felt guilty. They felt alone. They felt the darkness. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
And for the people of Judah, the prophet Isaiah promised, The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.
Isaiah goes onto talk about what the Light, who the Light, will be. This part of the text, giving the names by which the Light will be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace are often read during Advent or during our Christmas worship. They tell of what the Light will do.
But for the people who first heard and read this, the fact that light was coming was good news.
In the times and days of darkness that we all endure, remember that there is light. Some of us are more prone, more likely to dwell in the darkness; that is how we live. But we need to remember, we need to be reminded that God’s favor is for a lifetime. Joy comes with the morning. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.
Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Christ came into the world He created, being the Light that the darkness cannot over come, calling and beckoning to all who would believe in His name. He died so that no darkness, not that of sin, not that of death, not that of human failures and frailties, can separate us from Him, His love and His light.
An immigrant worker comes from the south to its richer, northern neighbor. He looks around at the opulence of their homes and their places of worship. The people have winter and summer homes, both of which are extravagantly adorned. They are fitted with the finest fabrics and inset in imported ivory. They dine on the best foods, having turned their fields of sustenance crops like grains into vineyards and orchards for exotic fruits.
Amos, a migrant worker from the southern kingdom of Judea, was sent to the rich neighborhood in the northern kingdom of Israel to tell the people there that God has seen through their lives of luxury, and knows that their lives are all substance and no heart.
The northern kingdom benefited from the development and establishment of trade routes. Merchants were able to amass small fortunes, but the benefits were not seen and shared by everyone. The wealthy became really wealthy, while the poor stayed poor. The wealthy demanded the best of everything, and the economy changed to meet their demands. Farmers changed from planting the crops that fed all of the people, and planted the luxury, privileged crops that the wealthy wanted. This meant even the basic sustenance crops had to be imported, at a higher cost. This also meant that there were no edges of farms left for the poor and marginalized to glean.
The rich in Israel lived in luxury, and they worshiped that way as well. They built exquisite temples. They imported the finest wood, had them hand carved and varnished. Then they covered the wood in gold or silver or both.
They have strayed and ignored what God has called on them to do. They have phony worship service where they just go through the motions. They focus on themselves and what they have and have ignored the poor and suffering. They would worship God in festivals and solemn assemblies, and then go back to their lives of ignoring God’s will and commands.
Into this world of living in luxury and poverty, in worshiping with one’s lips, but not one’s heart, comes Amos. Amos was a poor worker from the southern kingdom, who came to call the wealthy and powerful to repent.
What was it that God wanted of them? Seek good and not evil. Hate evil and love good. God wants them to act in right and proper ways. God wants them to look out for each other and to take care of one another. God wants them to help the less fortunate.
Establish justice in the gate. Business was done at the gates to the city, so this command is to be fair to one another. Don’t lie, cheat or steal. Basically, do what God has commanded the people of Israel to do: Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Help the poor. Feed the hungry. Care for the least, last, lost, little and those who are alone.
These are the things Christ commanded his followers to do. The things Christ commanded us to do.
God doesn’t want them to worship with their lips and then live lives contrary to God’s will. I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
Nor does God want us to do those things, or act in this way. God wants to hear us proclaim our faith, but more so wants us to live out the commands and values of that faith. It is not enough to come to church; we need to be the church, be the Body of Christ in our community and in the daily lives of those in need. We are called to do these things in response to the gift of grace given by God from the cross, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It isn’t a worship service that God wants; it is us doing the right thing. It is us being in service to those in need.
While the farmlands of Israel were able to support both sustenance and luxury crops, having enough water was always a concern. Constant and reliable sources of water were always needed. So God speaks through Amos about what God wants of God’s chosen people. Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
When water is always a worry, imagine what a rolling river or an ever-flowing stream would be. It would be a relief, a blessing. That is what justice is like for those who are ignored and left out.
God want us to Seek good and not evil. Hate evil and love good. God wants us to share God’s love, and help those who need our help. God wants us to turn our worship services into serving those in our neighborhoods and communities.
Below is my manuscript of my sermon for Reformation Sunday, October 29, 2017. The lessons for today were Ephesians 4:1-6 and John 6:27-35, This is the fourth in our Reformation 500 series, today focusing on vocation. Above are two audio files with the message from Nazareth and Our Savior's. The audio quality is not what I hope for.
If you are interested in prayer resources, look here and here.
If you would like more information on the Seven Daily Faith Practices, contact Pastor Brian.
I want to share the connection between these two lessons.
In our Gospel lesson, Jesus was followed by some of the 5,000 people who he fed with a few fish and loaves of bread. They ask what must they do to perform the works of God.
This is at the heart of this passage from the letter to Ephesians. In a series this Summer when we focused on Ephesians, I said that this verse was the focus of the whole letter. The author spent the previous chapters describing all the good things God has done for us; forgiveness of sins and the promise of life after death. Here, he explains what that means. “I therefore beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” We do that by doing the works of God. We do not need to do these works, they don’t earn our forgiveness. We’ve already been forgiven. We need only to trust in God. As Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
We need to do the work of God, sharing the love of God with our neighbor, not for our sake, but for the sake of our neighbor. This is what we are called to do. It is at the heart of our vocation. Luther wrote his Small Catechism to be used by families to model and teach their children about what we believe and how to act. We use the Small Catechism as the centerpiece of our confirmation ministry. Several of you have said that for your confirmation you had to memorize it.
In addition to the Small Catechism, I want to teach these young people habits and practices they can rely upon and make their own. Several years ago, in conjunction with one of the Youth Gatherings, the ELCA developed a curriculum called the “Seven Daily Faith Practices of A Disciple.” A summary of these practices are on the red/pink sheet in your bulletin.
Here they are: Pray, Study, Worship, Invite, Encourage, Serve and Give. I think these are all pretty basic things. I don’t think there is anything revolutionary about them. We should be able to do these as part of our lives. We should be able to Pray, Study, Worship, Invite, Encourage, Serve and Give.
But we don’t. I don’t mean to offend or embarrass anyone, but we don’t do these seven simple things. And it is at the heart of why attendance and participation in churches are declining.
Look at the first discipline: Pray. Pretty basic right? I think everyone can agree that we should pray at least daily. Right?
For my C+LIFFE students, I do an exit interview. We meet after they’ve finished two years of classes to talk about what they learned. I can use that information to adjust what I teach and cover.
Over the past three years, about half say they pray daily.
I’m kicking myself on what I can do to better to teach them the value of prayer. But they’ve only spent about 75 hours with me over two years. What is being modeled at home? Is a prayer being said before a meal? Is prayer encouraged before bed? When waking up? When getting in the car or on the bus?
It is an absolute given in public education that student success is connected to support and reinforcement at home. If education is valued and reinforced at home, students do better than students in homes where it isn’t. It is the same in Christian education. Students can be taught all kinds of wonderful things in confirmation, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and other ministries and programs, but if nothing happens at home, their faith practices become unwatered flowers.
Do you want this church and The Church to grow? Do you want your family to value being part of the larger Body of Christ? Pray, Study, Worship, Invite, Encourage, Serve and Give.
Pray for yourself. Pray for those you love. Pray for those you worry about. Pray for the good things you have. Pray for the relief you long for.
Study the Scriptures. Find your Bible at home, or download an app. Open the Bible. Doesn’t matter where. Begin in the beginning in Genesis. Start with a Gospel. We’re going to focus on John’s Gospel after Christmas, get a head start. The letter to the Ephesians is awesome. If you struggle with prayer, read the Psalms.
Worship. Give thanks to God that you got up this morning. I know people are busy, and Sunday is a day of rest. So sleep in at join me at Emmanuel at 11 am. Sunday mornings won’t work? Let me know what day and what time will, and I WILL start a weekday service.
Invite others. OK, I’ll admit this one is a tough one. But have you ever shared a recipe? Bragged about a fishing hole? Told someone where gas is on sale? If you can invite someone to experience something you felt was that worthwhile, why can’t to invite them to experience God’s love?
Encourage someone. Don’t tear them down. Tell them they can do better. Tell them you believe in them.
Serve those in need. This one you all do well. Each church in the past month has done a project, a dinner or made food, and people pitched in. People came and did a variety of tasks. They saw a need and took care of it. At each of the dinners, I was told that this is the only time some people come to church. I regret that I didn’t follow up with those people to find out why. But you know WHY they showed up? They were invited. They were invited to the dinner. What if they were invited to come to worship?
Give of the blessings God has given you. I know times and finances are tight. But can you give of the good things God has given you? What do you have an abundance of? Do you have extra clothes? Extra food? Extra time? When you give, you can give of what you have or what you do. Can you spare some time to help teach Sunday School? And saying that you’ve already done that is a shameful excuse.
These seven simple faith practices can be done by anyone and everyone each and every day. Pray, Study, Worship, Invite, Encourage, Serve and Give.
If you are willing to do them, they will change your life. You will see what the world could be, and you won’t settle for anything else.
I, a prisoner for Christ, therefore beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. AMEN.
This is my sermon for October 22nd. This is the third week of our Reformation 500 series, focusing on Holy Communion. The lessons were 1Corinthians 11:18, 21-29 and Matthew 26.26-29. Above are a recording of my message and the Small Talk (Children's Message) from Emmanuel.
I got to spend yesterday morning talking to some really smart and fun kids about Holy Communion. They are going to receive this sacrament for the first time today. So we spent time talking about what this meal means. We talked about how this meal means so many things. It is:
The lesson from 1st Corinthians is about not sharing. The entire passage alludes to people totally misunderstanding what is shared in Holy Communion. The early house churches celebrated an agape meal, a love feast, on Sundays. Their worship services took place in the homes of the wealthiest, most powerful church members at the end of the workday. Remember, that in the early years of the church, Sunday was a workday; it wasn’t a day off.
The agape meal would be like a potluck, people sharing of what they had. But those who were well off could get to the house where they gathered early. They would goes ahead with your own supper. The well off, the powerful would start to eat and drink before everyone arrived. One goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?
The people didn’t share. The people didn’t care for one another. They shared a meal in name only. They took care of themselves, and shared nothing with others. It is no surprise that Paul takes them to task.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.
Paul condemns their selfishness. Paul condemns their lack of care and concern for others in their community.
Unfortunately, some take this last part of the lesson, and separate it from the story it comes from, and use it to exclude people from coming to the Lord’s Table. These verses, verses 27-29, are the ones that some Christian traditions will not share communion with those who belong to other traditions. They feel the other traditions have not properly discerned the Body, and eat and drink in an unworthy manner. So, for the protection of your own immortal soul, they will not share the meal with those outside of their tradition.
If you are here as a guest, and have another church that you call home, welcome and thanks for joining us today. If you want to partake in this meal, you are welcome to do so. If your church suggests or tells you not to receive this meal at other churches, we understand; but know that you are welcome.
From the beginning, the very nature of this meal is a gathering of unlikely people. At his last supper, when he broke the bread and shared the wine, he was surrounded by his twelve disciples. Yes, all twelve were there. Judas received the bread and wine. Peter received the bread and wine. They all received the bread and wine. Christ dined with, and Christ served the one who would betray him, and the one who would deny him, and the ten who ran and hid while he suffered and died. As he always did at any table, all are welcome.
While some who exclude others share the name of Luther in their tradition, Martin Luther believed there was only one discernment that needed to be made to be worthy to receive this Holy Meal.
In the Small Catechism, Luther writes about Who, then, receives this sacrament worthily? Fasting and bodily preparation are in fact a fine external discipline, but a person who has faith in these words, "given for you" and "shed for you for the forgiveness of sin," is really worthy and well prepared. However, a person who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, because the words "for you" require truly believing hearts.
What is needed when we examine ourselves as Paul writes is to ask if we believe that Christ’s body and blood are given for us?
I remember the first time that I ever helped to distribute Holy Communion. It was at my home church, St. John Lutheran back in Saginaw, Michigan. I had recently come back to the church, and had volunteered to help in the worship service. I was assigned to be a communion assistant for an upcoming service. That meant I would have a tray with pre-filled glasses of wine, and as people took a glass, I would tell them that this was, “The blood of Christ, shed for you.”
Somewhere about halfway through the tray, I realized what I was saying. This little bit of wine is the blood of the Son of God, shed when he went willingly to the Cross, to suffer so our sins would be forgiven, and to die so that he could be raised and death would be defeated. And he did all of that for you, for each person who took a cup. Which meant that he did that for me as well.
That’s when it hit me. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Word made Flesh, cares about me. He loves me, and gave his body and shed his blood for me. And I began to cry. Because it all became real. The rest of the people who came to receive Holy Communion that day at St. John were told by a blubbering big guy, “This is the blood of Christ, shed for you.”
What is required of us to be worthy to receive this unmerited gift of grace and love? We only have to believe. We just have to believe that The words "given for you" and "shed for you for the forgiveness of sin" show us that forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation are given to us in the sacrament through these words, because where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation.
We are not worthy to receive any of this. But we are made worthy because Jesus welcomes everyone to His table, saints and sinners alike. Because at the table, all receive God’s grace.
While we believe that, do we live that?
At a conference I recently attended, a question the speaker had has stuck with me. The speaker ask this question of the assembled pastors as a challenge: Does your sermon say what the shared cup proclaims? That has made me reexamine my preaching, and reminds me to proclaim the radical and extreme love the Jesus Christ exhibited.
But I ask a form of that question as a challenge to all of you. Does your life say what the shared cup proclaims? Does your life reflect the radical hospitality shown at the Table?
At Christ’s table, all come as beggars, deserving nothing, but receiving everything. All are invited and welcomed at Christ’s table. All are treated as equals, beloved children of God, made in God’s image. It does not matter who they are: rich, poor; young, old; male, female, non-binary; gay, straight; powerful, homeless; every color; every nationality; every circumstance.
But would all be welcome at your table? Would all be treated as equals in your life? Do our lives proclaim the inclusiveness of the Sacrament of the Table? Would we share a table with those we share THE table? Do we believe that Jesus gave his body & blood for THEM? Do we believe we are equals at the table? Is the gift of grace given in the Eucharist given for all?
If your answer is no, I suggest you take time to examine yourself, and discern what the Body & Blood of Christ, given for you means in your life. Can you live as one forgiven to give of yourself? Can you live as one saved so you can serve?
At the table of Jesus Christ, His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness are shared for all. AMEN.
Below is my manuscript for my sermons on Sunday, October 15. We are in week two of a five week series focusing on themes for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. The lessons were 1 Peter 2.4-6, 9-10 and John 14.1-7. Recordings from the three services are above, each had some audio issues. I've also included my Small Talk (Children's Sermon) from Emmanuel.
I'm not happy with the finished message. If you compare any of the audio versions to the manuscript, you will see I strayed and went into materials I read but hadn't committed to paper. I still have two more tries at this as I will be leading services at two assisted living facilities.
EDITED 10/15/17 at 255pm: I forgot to include a link to the Living Lutheran article.
Have you ever wondered what the difference between a pastor and a priest is?
It is at the center of one of the issues added early in the Reformation.
A priest is an intercessor, someone who intercedes on someone’s behalf. As a priest intercedes, they speak on behalf of those for whom they are advocating. They get between that person and the one in authority.
This practice changed along the way for the God’s chosen people. Early in Genesis, God spoke and interacted with Adam and Eve, Noah, and Abraham and Sarah. God wrestled with Jacob. But when the Israelites were being brought out of slavery in Egypt, things changed. God spoke to Moses, and only to Moses. Interacting with God was dangerous. Moses had his face shine after talking to God. People died when coming in contact with sacred things, such as the Ark of the Covenant.
So within the people of Israel, a priesthood was established. The tribe of Levi was set aside to be priests. They prayed on behalf of the people and spoke directly to God. Once a year, the Chief Priest would go into the Holy of Holies, the part of the Temple in Jerusalem to offer up prayers of forgiveness in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant. This was a special honor, and terrifying one, as well. Just in case God was displeased, or if the priest did something wrong, a rope was tied around his ankle. Should he not come out in a reasonable time, they would use the rope to pull his dead body out of the area.
Priests were people set aside for this responsibility. Priests could intercede on your behalf. Other holy people, such as saints, and Mary, the mother of Christ, could intercede on your behalf, and so people would pray to them, asking them to pray to God on their behalf.
And Martin Luther disagreed.
Luther said we have only one mediator between ourselves and God and that is Jesus Christ who lived, died and was raised so that the intercession on our behalf has been done already. Christ is the only intercessor we need. Why should we pray to the saints to ask God for what we can ask of God directly?
Luther instead argued that we are all part of a royal priesthood, that we all have access to God, and we should use it rather than casting our burdens solely on the priests.
Luther didn’t believe that each of us should individually be a priest, but that collectively, as the Body of Christ; we do this priestly work together.
In his letter, Peter writes that God has chosen them, called them to be the church. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”
By the grace and glory of God, we have been called out of the darkness of this world, out of the darkness of our sin in order to be a light for ourselves and others, reflecting the light of Christ Jesus. We are to be a beacon of another way to live, to shine by sharing what has been given to us by God.
Our priestly duties are to intercede for one another, both with God and within this world.
One of the things that I am learning the more I read of Luther’s works is how radical and extreme is his call to care for the neighbor. If you remember from the Small Catechism, he extends the Eighth Commandment’s prohibition of baring false witness to not just telling the truth, but to “Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.”
He extended this to taking care of the neighbor as well. Luther’s objections to the sale of indulgences that I talked about last week went beyond the theological to the economic. The money spent on indulgences was better spent to take care and provide for your family. Or, if their needs were provided for, you could use that extra cash to provide for another family whose needs were unmet.
There is an article in a recent issue of Living Lutheran magazine that I describes what I’m getting at. In the first five years of the Reformation, Luther and others established a Community Chest of funds that could be used for “financial support for orphans and poor children, dowry support for poor women, interest-free loans, refinancing for high-interest loans, education or vocational training for poor children, and vocational retraining for adults. Health care was added later, as the Common Chest funded the services of a town physician and paid the cost of hospital care and other treatments.”
Luther said our good works are not needed for our salvation, but through them others may be saved. This neighbor-love is central to what he saw in the Bible. Over and over and over, we are told to care for one another. But when we choose to turn away, we are denying the world the gift that we are.
It isn’t just our gifts that our reluctance can deny the world. If we do not help those in need, we deny the world the gifts of those who cannot give of themselves because they have a full-time job just surviving to the next day. But if we help and share and give, the world becomes more blessed by the blessings coming from others.
In the Large Catechism, Luther also expanded the Fifth Commandment, you shall not murder. He argued that it is not just prohibiting taking a life, but it is a call to preserve life. “If you see anyone who is suffering from hunger and do not feed her, you have let her starve.”
Being a royal priesthood means that we intercede for each other, not just with prayers, but with ourselves, with our gifts, talents and abilities, with our hearts, minds, souls and bodies. That we live out the command Christ gave during his Last Supper, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Shortly after giving that command comes the passage we heard as our Gospel lesson. Even after all they have seen, heard and experienced, the disciples still don’t understand. They want to know God. Even knowing what dangers have befallen those who have dared to enter God’s presence, they want to know God.
And Jesus tells them that they do. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also.” Being in the presence of God can be terrifying. But being in the presence of God is also being in the presence of pure love.
Being a part of this priesthood means we have to share in both. We are in the middle, between God and a grieving, hurting world, and move between the two. We take the love from God, and give it to those who need to know they are loved. We take their pain, worry and concerns and give them to God, trusting in God’s mercy.
Being a part of the priesthood of all believers is an extension of understanding that we, the Church; we, all believers, are the Body of Christ here on Earth, and we are responsible for continuing the work and being the example that he was. That we are to lead lives of generosity, care, compassion and radical love, not just to ourselves, but also to others, to those who love us, like us, don’t know us and despise us.
As followers of Jesus Christ, as those claimed by God in our baptism, as those made in the image of God, our royal priesthood is to do the work Christ modeled. We are to live a life worthy of this gift. We are blessed to be a blessing to others. We are saved to serve. We are forgiven to give of ourselves.
We are called to stand in the middle. What an amazing place to be. AMEN.
Below is my manuscript for my sermons on Sunday, October 8. We are beginning a five week series focusing on themes for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. The lessons were Ephesians 2.3-10 and John 3.16-21. Recordings from the three services are above, each had some audio issues.
What happens to us when we die?
Believe it or not, that was at the center of what started the movement we know as the Reformation. The Catholic understanding, which was the only understanding that mattered at the time, was that souls spent time in purgatory. Purgatory is like a waiting room, where your soul spends time to get rid of residual sins; you must be purified, if you can, before you enter heaven.
This became important to a German monk and theologian named Martin Luther. Near the town where he served as pastor and professor, representatives of the Pope were selling indulgences. Indulgences were certificates that assured you, by the power of the Pope to forgive sins, that you could purchase a cancellation of certain amounts of time for someone in Purgatory.
In other words, you make a donation to the Church, and you reduce a time that a loved one’s soul spends in Purgatory. The sales pitch was, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul out of purgatory springs.”
So, how much do you love your mother, or father, or grandparents. Will you buy yourself a sweater to fight the chill of the upcoming winter, or will you deliver someone from hundreds of years of torment? People flocked to buy indulgences, even at the expense of providing food and heat for their families. How good was the indulgence selling business? It paid for St. Michael’s Basillica in Rome.
Luther objected to the sales of indulgences, and thought that this was a case of people abusing the trust put into them by the Pope. He thought that if he brought this to the attention of the Pope, the sales would stop. So he wanted the matter to be brought to light and discussed. He wrote his arguments, his Ninety-Five Thesis, and posted them on the doors of the church in Wittenburg on the day before the most highly attended worship service of the year, All Saint’s Day. All Saint’s Day is November 1st. Luther tacked his thesis to the door the day before, October 31, 1517. From that day, we mark the beginning of the Reformation, and celebrate it’s 500th year now.
What started as a complaint about a fellow employee spun far beyond the control of either Luther or the Catholic Church. Each side became entrenched in its positions, not only unwilling to concede an inch of theological ground to the other, but constantly brought other matters into the fight. Like any good family fight, eventually all of the dirty laundry was going to be aired. Additional issues, the role of clergy, the authority of scripture versus tradition, the nature of Holy Communion and others have come to divide our two traditions in the past 500 years.
In the past 50 years, there has been more communication and cooperation between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran traditions than in the previous 400. We focus on where we agree, and even on how close we are on the things where we will not agree. But it all started over what happens when we die.
The focal point of Luther’s arguments against the sale of indulgences is in Thesis 82, “Why does not the Pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there?” If the Pope can free people from damnation, why not just do it?
Luther lived most of his early life in fear of being condemned to Hell for his sins. Becoming a priest did nothing to lessen this fear, if anything, it made it worse. He would daily confess the smallest potential sin, the tiniest temptation because he did not want to have an unconfessed and unforgiven sin hanging on him. It was not until he studied the letter to the Romans that he understood that the gift of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness came not from what we do, but from what God has already done through the life, death, and resurrection of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ.
While Luther leaned on Romans, I believe the two passages we heard earlier spell out how God deals with our disobedience and sin.
Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, the Pharisee who has come to him to understand who Jesus is, in our passage from John’s Gospel. The first line of the Gospel text, John 3:16, is probably the most well known verse from the Bible, “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.” But I believe that the next verse, John 3:17, is just as important for us to understand. “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Luther, and many others, including many people today, believe that God wants to punish us for our sins and disobedience. They choose to focus on condemnation and punishment, rather than love.
God loved, and loves, the world so much that God sent God’s son into the world, knowing he would be rejected. But Jesus came into the world so it could be saved through him, not condemned by him.
The last part of verse 17 also points out what is written in greater detail in the letter to the Ephesians. Jesus became a living, breathing man so “that the world might be saved through him.” His mission was, and is, to save the world. The world is saved through him, through what he did. Our individual salvation, the determination of our fate is much to important for God to leave it up to us.
In the letter to the Ephesian church, we hear, “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him.” Out of love, God ignored and our sins and trespasses, erasing them from existence. These faults and failures should leave us dead, without hope of salvation or life after our death. But because God is rich in mercy, we are joined with Christ, seen as sinless and without fault, and are saved and raised up, just as Jesus was.
It is clear that we, and the world, are saved through the works Jesus has done. Our works, both good and bad, do not save us, nor do they condemn us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
By grace, the grace of God, we are saved. We are saved, forgiven, found faultless because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, going to the cross to suffer and die. He did this out of love, to show us we cannot do anything to lose God’s love. Not even killing the Son of God.
Our forgiveness has nothing to do with us, but has everything to do with God, and God’s love for us. It is a gift. I think too often we miss what that word means. You don’t earn a gift. A gift isn’t, or shouldn’t be given out of obligation. A gift is an expression of love. It means, ‘I love you, and to try to show you how much I love you, I have this for you.’ God loves the world so much God gave God’s son to us, and forgives us for all of the times we failed and fell short of responding to that love.
The good that we do, the ways we share God’s love with others comes not to earn God’s love or mercy, but in response to that gift of grace. “We are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” We are made in the image of God to do God’s work in the world with our hands. We have been blessed to be a blessing to others. We are forgiven so we can give of ourselves to those in need. We have been saved so we can serve a hurting world.
So, what happens to us when we die?
We have been promised to be “seated … with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” To be there, we do not have to purchase forgiveness. It has been purchased for us already.
This is an understanding, that even after 500 years of division, both Lutherans and Catholics can agree to. God loves the world and sent Jesus, through whom the world is saved, by the grace of God.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
ONE in Christ
on Social Media
Our Savior's Facebook
Our Savior's / Emmanuel: 715-267-6142
Nazareth's Office: 715-229-2051
is at 8:00 a.m.
is at 9:30 a.m.
is at 11:00 a.m.