This is my written text for my sermon on February 14th. The text is Mark 10:17-31. I have included my Small Talk (Children's Message) which is done before the lesson is read because it feeds into my message. - Pbc
In the lesson we are going to read, Jesus talks about how hard it is to get into heaven. He says It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.
Look at what I have here.
OK, it’s not a camel. It’s a Beanie Baby horse, and here is a needle with thread. Now, my horse isn’t quite as big as a camel, but do you think it can get through the eye of the needle?
Jesus talked about someone who was rich. In his time, they thought anyone who was rich or wealthy or who had a lot of money or other stuff, that person must be blessed by God. They believed that having a lot of things meant God really loved you.
The people Jesus was talking to were confused because if someone who they thought was blessed by God wouldn’t be able to get into heaven, then no one could.
They said, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them & said, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."
That is the point of the lesson we are going to hear. Everything is possible for God, and we should trust God for everything.
Let me say that again in case some of them weren’t listening: The whole point of this lesson is to trust God for everything.
This week, think of ways that you can trust God, especially in things you are scared about.
Before we go back to our places, let’s bow our heads in prayer.
Since I told you in my small talk what is the point of this lesson, it all makes sense, right?
The man who ran up to Jesus, asking what he had to do to inherit eternal life was told to sell everything he had (and he had many things) and give everything to the poor. But he couldn’t do that and put his trust in God, so he went home, sad.
The disciples were upset because they didn’t realize that they had done what Jesus was telling the young man to do. When Jesus told them, “Follow me,” they did. Peter and Andrew, James and John left their fishing boats and their nets when Jesus called. Levi left the tax collectors booth when Jesus called, and followed him. They left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news.
Because the common wisdom of the time was that those who were wealthy were blessed by God, when Jesus said a camel could more easily get into heaven than someone who is rich, they thought they had no chance. They hadn’t earned God’s favor. But they had. They put their trust in God.
The young man didn’t realize he answered his own question, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
To inherit something, someone must die. Someone must give up their lives. For us to inherit eternal life, (to quote from John’s Gospel) 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. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
But Christ calls upon those who would follow him to follow in his footsteps, laying down their current life to go and serve others. Don’t worry about what is to come, but to trust in God.
Mark’s Gospel is the shortest, most condensed Gospel. Many scholars believe it was written so it could be read aloud in one setting. That way, you would recall something you heard a few minutes ago, and it would shape what you are hearing.
For us, what it means to be the Messiah, and what it means to be a follower of that Messiah has been being laid out for us in the lessons we’ve heard since Christmas.
Come when you are called. Follow and leave everything behind.
Some things grow, some things don’t, and the tiny bush can be great. Trust that God will work it all out; just be ready to go to work.
Trust that God will provide. (That’s why the Apostles went out without bags, food or money.)
Nothing is impossible for God. (Jesus raised the girl from the dead.)
Those who would follow the Messiah must take up their own cross, and the burdens that come with it.
Those who want to be the greatest must be the servants of all.
He is God’s Beloved Son. Listen to him.
The Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is that he did not come to Earth to be worshiped. We worship Him because as the Son of God, he is indeed worthy of worship and praise. Jesus came to Earth to create followers; people who would do what he did, and help those whom helped. He came looking for people who were willing to live out the words of the hymn we will sing in a minute.
Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee. Take my moments and my days; let them flow in endless praise. Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of thy love. Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for thee. Take my love; my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store. Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for thee.
Let the Lord take your life. Amen.
The hymn "Take My Life" was written by Frances Havergal.
I am always encouraging people to spend more time reading the Bible. Now, I am going to suggest a way to engage the Bible, and spend LESS time doing it!
#30SecondBible is a project by Jim Kast-Keat, a pastor and theologian from New York. The series is described as:
The #30SecondBible series features dozens of voices reflecting on the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, you will hear summaries of each book and reflections on the good news they contain. Follow along each day to hear progressive and liberal voices claiming the Bible as book that they know and love. This is the Bible for busy people, thirty seconds at a time.
Each book of the Bible is covered in at least two videos, one summarizing the book and the other addressing the Good News in that book. It is being uploaded daily during Lent of 2016, and as of February 12, covers Genesis through Ruth.
I am proud, and a bit intimidated having heard the ones already available, to be a part of this project. I will be providing my insights on 2John in the next few weeks.
I really encourage you to check out #30SecondBible. It may just inspire you to read that book of the Bible, and then go on to read others!
This is the written text of my message for our Service of the Ashes services.
Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is a day when we remember how truly lost we would be without Jesus Christ. I have a phrase for you to ponder.
You are dust, and to dust you shall return.
This is my least favorite action as a pastor. I have to individually tell people whom I have come to know and care about that you are going to die. We know that we will all eventually die. We just don’t talk about it.
Except on this day, I tell you, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And in case that was too subtle for you, I take ashes and mark your foreheads with a cross. It’s not just that you will die, but you are going to decompose as well.
But Ash Wednesday is also one of my favorite days to preach on.
Because I want to take that depressing proclamation, You are dust, and to dust you shall return,” and show you how this is a good thing because it all comes from God.
I’m going to die and decompose and that’s a GOOD THING? Thanks a lot, Pastor Brian. Yes it is.
Jesus was trying to get his disciples to understand this in his teaching about what it meant to be the Messiah. It meant that He would be betrayed, killed and then he would be raised. Death would be defeated.
But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
Instead, they argued over who was the greatest among them. When Jesus asked what they were discussing, they were to embarrassed and ashamed to say.
I think there are times that the attitude of his disciples reflects our attitude toward God, especially in prayer. We don’t understand what God wants of us, and we are afraid to ask. We are embarrassed by what we want and what we’ve done, and are ashamed to ask for forgiveness.
We are afraid to speak up, to open our hearts to God, to say and express what is truly on our minds and in our hearts. We are embarrassed by what we have done or left undone. We are in awe of all that God has done, and think that we are too insignificant to draw God’s attention to our lives.
We think we are dust. We are sure that to dust we shall return.
But God knows all about us. God knows the good we do and the good we miss out on doing. God knows the bad things we do, and the bad things we avoid doing. Despite knowing all of our faults and failures, God deeply and totally loves us.
We are dust. BUT, we are moving, walking, talking dust because of the creative efforts of God. God showed God’s love and power by taking dust, the dirt of the Earth and forming the first people from that dust and dirt. We are dust, breathed into by God and created in God’s image.
We are dust that God has breathed into. God has given us life. We are dust that God gave the ability to think, act, do and to talk to God. We are dust that God wants to have a relationship with. Not just collectively – all of humanity, each of us as individuals.
We are dust blessed by God to be a blessing to others. We are dust entrusted with authority over God’s creation. We are dust that God gave Jesus Christ over to us as a sign of how much we are loved.
We are dust that will return to dust when we die, but we will not stay as dust. We are dust that the Son of God suffered for. We are dust that Son of God died for. We are dust that will be raised from the dead because the Son of God was raised from the dead. We are dust that God wants to spend eternity with. We are dust that will be called from our resting places and resurrected as God raised Jesus, and we will be raised to be with God for all eternity.
You are dust, and to dust you shall return. But you won’t stay as dust. That is the Good News of Jesus Christ.
While the imposition of ashes is my least favorite pastoral duty, my favorite is coming up in a few minutes. I get to tell each of you that the body and blood of Christ is given for YOU. He gave his life for each of us, so that each clump of dust would have forgiveness and eternal life.
So knowing all of that, do not be afraid to share your thoughts and concerns, your worries and your wishes, your sins and your celebrations, your tears and your fears, your highs and your lows, your shouts and your whispers with God. God wants to hear them. Because God loves you and cares about you.
You are dust, and to dust you shall return. But because of Jesus Christ, because of his life, because of his death on the cross and because the tomb is empty, you will not remain dust.
During the season of Lent, ponder how much God loves you. Ponder how you can share that love with others. Ponder how you can better communicate with God. AMEN.
This is my article for the February 2016 newsletters.
One of the biggest news stories of the new year in Lutheran circles is that two ELCA seminaries, the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg have announced that over the next 18 months, they will work to close both schools and open a “new school of theology” for the beginning of the 2017 academic year.
Discussions between Gettysburg and Philadelphia about cooperating have been ongoing for years. The structure of theological training for pastors isn’t working as it once did. Of the eight ELCA seminaries, three have merged with Lutheran universities to make their operations more efficient.
Enrollment is down across seminaries of all traditions because people struggle with balancing their call to serve God and the Church with the reality that they will spend four years pursuing their Master’s degree, and accumulating a conservative estimate of $40,000 of student debt.
As I have been following what is going on at my old school, I wonder how this idea of one school with two campuses will work. Will professors commute? Will classes be held online, with a professor at one campus teaching in two classrooms? Will the professors even be on campus? How do you collaborate with other students? How can you study with someone? Will a student community and camaraderie develop?
The last is the biggest question I have, because that is one of the most valuable things I took from my time on the Ridge of Gettysburg, the love and support of classmates and friends. When I got back to Gettysburg for the Winter semester after my dad died, I came back to a ready-made support group of classmates who had also recently lost a parent. When I had to leave just before graduation because my mom was ill, I got constant texts, calls and messages to check in on me. On my office chair at Our Savior’s is a prayer quilt with notes of love and support that was waiting for me when I got back for graduation. The care of the community got me through those times when I wondered if I was truly called by God, or was having the worst mid-life crisis ever.
So I worry about this New School. But I know most of the people involved in planning and creating it. I trust them, and pray for them – I ask you to pray for them as well.
If I hadn’t been attentive to your concerns and worries about our new arrangement, and what that will mean, I am more attuned to your anxieties.
But we are not creating a New Church. We are restructuring a support for each church. We are beginning by taking one resource, me, and sharing me through three churches, and spreading my expenses three ways as well.
These are changing and anxious times across the Church. I pray for calm, wisdom, courage, compassion and peace for all involved.
Articles about the LTSG-LTSP combination.
Information about the New School + The New School Proposal
Questions about the New School + An article from one of staff at Gettysburg
An article about the union
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.
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