This is my manuscript of my June 26, 2016 sermon. The lessons were 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21, Galatians 5:1, 13-25, and Luke 9:51-62. My actual remarks varied slightly at each church from this text.
If the Gospel of Luke was made into a movie, this would be the turning point.
It would start with a wide shot of Jesus standing on top of a hill, his hair blowing in the wind. As the camera zooms in on him, the music begins to build, until just as the camera comes close to him, he turns to face the camera with a determined look on his face.
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
That is a very heavily loaded sentence, with some phrases that could be translated better, and with meanings that we may miss.
First, this is happening shortly after he was transfigured on top of a mountain. Peter, James, and John saw Jesus shine brightly, and he spoke with Moses and Elijah. Rather than when the days drew near, the text can be read as when the days were filled, as in when things had been fulfilled. At this point in his ministry, Jesus had taught and preached. He has healed and cast out. He has fed thousands and raised the dead. All of these things point to that he is the Anointed One, the one promised to save God’s people. He has fulfilled what has been promised.
Now that the days have come where things are fulfilled, the days drew near for him to be taken up. This points to what is going to happen when Jesus gets to Jerusalem. For Luke, who wrote not only his Gospel, but also the book of the Acts of the Apostles, the Passion, or suffering, of Christ isn’t just his arrest, crucifixion, death and resurrection. It continues for 40 days after the resurrection on Easter Sunday until Jesus is taken up, and ascends into heaven, returning to God the Creator.
All of this awaits Jesus in Jerusalem. He knows it. He has told his disciples what will happen when he goes to Jerusalem. Now that he has fulfilled what had been told about the Messiah, now that he knows what will happen when he gets there, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. Setting one’s face towards a destination is what one does when you are on a mission. This phrase is used to describe prophets in the Old Testament when they began their journey to where God was sending them. Now it is used to describe Jesus and his journey to Jerusalem and the cross and the empty tomb.
Jesus sets his mind on what is to come. The events behind him have served to show those willing to see who he is. His focus in on the future. He is leaving the past behind. That is the connective thread with the rest of the lesson from the Gospel, as well as the other two lessons. Focus on the future, leave the past behind.
There is a connection between Elijah calling Elisha to succeed him as prophet in our lesson from 1Kings and the two people Jesus invites to follow him in the Gospel lesson. All of them ask to be given time to take care of things first. One of those whom Jesus calls asks to be given the chance to bury his father. The other, like Elisha, asks for the opportunity to say goodbye to his family.
Elijah gives Elisha the opportunity to say goodbye, but what Elisha does when he returns shows his commitment. He kills the 12 oxen he was using to plow a field, boiled them, and gave the meat away. He has destroyed what he used to make a living. There is no going back now for Elisha. He shows his dedication to his call.
Jesus doesn’t do that. Jesus has set his face towards Jerusalem, towards the cross. He is not looking back. He is not slowing down.
And he doesn’t want his followers to do so either. He wants us focused on the future, looking at what is ahead, and not being slowed down or weighed down by the past.
This actually works well for understanding the importance of forgiving others. If we are future focused, we won’t worry or hang onto to sins or slights or wrongs done against us. On the other hand, if we are constantly looking back, we will see the errors, faults and failures of ourselves and others. Our past is loaded with sins and transgressions. Our future is unblemished.
This is what Paul is trying to tell the Galatians. For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.
Because Christ set his face for Jerusalem and the cross, the empty tomb and the ascension to the Creator, our future remains unblemished. We have been freed from sin by Christ’s death and resurrection. We are freed to be free to share God’s love with others. We were not freed from sin to take advantage of it and worry only about ourselves. Rather we were freed from sin to become servants of one another, to share God’s grace and love with those less fortunate than ourselves.
This is as far as I got when I was working on this early this week. I had some notes about fleshing out forgiveness and trying to dig deeper into the rest of Paul’s letter. But when I got home on Thursday night from VBS, I wanted to see the election results from the Brexit.
If you haven’t learned that word, Brexit is the term for the referendum held in Great Britain on whether they should remain a part of the European Union (EU). It was held expecting it to fail, but as a way for those who had a gripe about the give and take of that economic, political and cultural union to have their say.
In a surprise to even those who supported leaving the EU, it passed.
That is why the stock market dropped dramatically on Friday, why the English pound is at record lows, and why Scotland is beginning discussions about leaving the United Kingdom. Despite all of the Troubles between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, dating back since there were Catholics and Protestants, the two countries are talking about becoming one so they can stay in the EU>
Because of worries about how Great Britain leaving the EU will affect business and commerce, stock and commodity prices dropped $2 TRILLION dollars in one day. Please never think that your vote does not matter.
On Friday morning, I was reading some of the coverage and one of my churchy online friends posted a graphic from the post-election coverage. It was a breakdown of the vote, yes or no, but strictly by age.
For those 18-24, they voted 75% to 25% to stay a part of the EU. Part of being a part of the EU means that you are considered a citizen of all EU countries, and so you could go to university anywhere, work anywhere. These young adults had begun to plan their lives with that possibility.
Those 25-50 voted 55% to 45% to stay. They are working and living in these diverse conditions. They have become accustomed to being able to travel and work throughout Europe.
Those 51-65 voted to leave by 55-45, and those over 65 voted to leave 60% to 40%. They were afraid of the changes that living in the EU were causing to the UK.
The graph linked to an article where young people in England are complaining that their parents, but especially their grandparents, have stolen their future. The plans and opportunities they wanted to have are probably no longer going to exist. It will depend upon what can be negotiated in a highly charged political environment.
After posting the graph, my friend asked, “What do these numbers say to us in the church?”
I thought about what the congregations I would see this Sunday would look like. Like most churches, the majority of the people in worship or involved in the church are in the 65 or over group. The numbers in each group go down each step. That isn’t always the case, and may not be the case here. But if not, it is pretty close. It is either true, or very close to being true for each of the church councils.
The young adults of the UK are complaining that it isn’t fair that they are going to be forced to live in a situation they don’t want, forced into it by people who won’t have to suffer long under these changes. But that is the nature of a democracy; one person, one vote.
Our church is not a democracy. But decisions are made by those who show up, and changes have long term impact.
If we want the church to have a future, if we want to be future and forward focused as Christ commands, what decisions do we have to make? What things may we have to do that some may not like, but are for the greater and long-term good?
How can we use our past as a firm foundation, a mighty fortress, to build off of and upon?
What are the things we need to do to make sure there is a church for our younger people?
What are the things we need to do to attract our younger people to church?
If you're waiting for me to unveil a list, I'm sorry to disappoint you. I have some ideas, but like the ideas for the Brexit, they are not totally thought through. I ask you to thoughtfully and prayerfully think about how this generation can best hand over the church to succeeding generations.
Does it mean doing things against what we prefer to make things more acceptable and important for others? Does it mean making sacrifices? Does it mean going to new places? Does it mean the church should die so it can be raised again as Christ was?
I don't know, but I'm not ready to say anything should be taken off of the table.
I don’t have answers. I have some ideas. But this your church. If we are to set our sights on the future, we must have a goal in mind. Christ set his face toward Jerusalem and the cross.
Where are we setting our face?
This is my manuscript for my sermon on June 19, 2016.
The lessons that I choose were Galatians 3:23-29 and Luke 6:27-38a, 46, and are below. The Gospel lesson was read responsively.
Two of my three churches did not have services today, and were a part of a community worship service.
Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.
But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Luke 6:27-38a, 46
P (Jesus said,) “I say to you that listen,
C Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.
Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you.
P If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also;
and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
Give to everyone who begs from you;
and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.
C Do to others as you would have them do to you.
P If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them.
If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?
Even sinners do the same.
If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
C But love your enemies, do good,
and lend, expecting nothing in return.
P Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High;
for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
C Do not judge, and you will not be judged.
Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Give, and it will be given to you.
P Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?”
I begin today by apologizing to you. And I will apologize to the congregations of Nazareth and Emmanuel.
Normally on Sunday mornings while I’m home having coffee and breakfast, I check my online newsfeeds, Facebook, and Twitter. Last week was busy, and I hit the snooze a couple of extra times, and so I skimmed through what happened overnight. I remember seeing a mention of a shooting at a nightclub in Florida, but moved on.
When I got home after worship services and a council meeting, I discovered what I glossed over. An armed man went into a gay nightclub in Orlando and executed 49 people and wounded another 53.
This was an act of hate, and it must be met with love.
This was an act of violence, and it must be met with peace.
This was an act of intolerance, and it must be met with forgiveness.
This was an act of injustice, and it must be met with justice. To do anything else is to reject the Gospel of Christ.
I changed the Gospel lesson for today from the lesson about the man possessed by a legion of demons that escape into a herd of pigs. While that preaches a message of inclusion, I don’t want to beat around the bush.
Today is the 171st day of the year. So far this year, there have been 185 mass shootings in the United States, which have left 290 people dead and 686 have been wounded. By the way, for this purpose, a mass shooting is defined as a single outburst of violence where 4 or more people are shot.
I’m not going to preach on gun control – today.
The Gospel lesson I selected is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. He has just spoken the Beatitudes, the blessings for those who follow him, even though those blessings may appear in the form of suffering. Now he tells his disciples and those who have come to hear him how they are to act. You read the most memorable lines, which also happen to be the lines we tend to ignore.
Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you.
This is the antithesis of the venomous rhetoric we hear from our leaders and those who want to be leaders. They say we need to wipe our enemies off of the face of the earth. They say we need to hunt them down. They say we need to torture them. They say we need to kill their families. They say we need to put the fear of God into them.
The Son of God says we need to love them, do good for them, bless them and pray for them.
Jesus says loving only those who love you is not enough. Anyone can do that. We must love those who don’t love us. This is not just because Christ commands us to do so, but because doing anything else leads to death and destruction.
Returning hate for hate and hurt for hurt, only creates more hate and more hurt.
The cycle of hate and violence must be broken, and Our Savior commands us to break the cycle. Love your enemies.
The lesson from Paul’s letter to the Galatians shows that Christians have always struggled with even loving our own. Paul writes since Christ has fulfilled the Law, we do not need to use it to discipline ourselves or others, but to instead to be united by Christ. In our baptism, we put on the clothes of one who follows what Jesus Christ said, did and commanded. Being a follower of Christ is our only identity. No longer are we identified by ethnicity - Jew or Greek. No longer are we identified by wealth or status - slave or free. No longer are we identified by gender - male or female. We are all the same –all of you are one in Christ Jesus, heirs according to the promise.
Paul tells us we are all equal within the Body of Christ.
Christ commands us to love those inside and outside of that body in the same way.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you.
Jesus calls us to forgive those who have done wrong to us. He has forgiven the sins we have done against him. That is why he suffered and died on the cross; to show us even THAT cannot separate us from His love.
He taught us to pray that our sins are forgiven AS WE forgive those who have sinned against us. We ask God to forgive us just as we have forgiven others. The problem is, what if we haven’t forgiven others? What if we hold onto their sins? Does God hold onto ours? Jesus wants the sign of the Kingdom, the mark of all believers to be love for everyone.
We can not do that if we exclude, reject, rebuke and deny others because they don’t meet our criteria. People have used parts of Holy Scripture to justify all kinds of oppression and atrocities.
The only people Jesus rebukes are leaders who hold strong and fast to the letter of THEIR interpretations of the Law. Instead, Jesus lifts up those who these leaders denigrate and deny, siding with them, loving them and giving them forgiveness and restoration.
In his First letter to the Corinthian church, Paul writes, When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
It took a war to end slavery in this country. The pursuit of equality for women, people of different races and ethnicities and members of the LGBTQ spectrum are ongoing. They all face systemic repression, oppression, minimization and violence. It is time to put away the childish ways of trying to use God’s laws to oppress. It is time to grow up and live out the Gospel command to love one another.
You may say, or feel, that you haven’t done anything to any of those people. That may be true, but have you stood up when someone has?
Have you picked or rejected on someone because they are different? Have you made sure they knew they weren’t welcome? Was it because of their skin color? Or their accent? Or how they acted? Or how they dressed? Or who they were with? If you didn’t, did you stop or say something to those who did?
Even if you haven’t, this type of discrimination and bigotry is ingrained in our society. Don’t believe me?
Recognize your own intolerance. You may not want to admit it. It is there. Recognize that there are advantages in being white. Recognize that there are advantages in being male. Recognize that there are advantages in being economically well off. Recognize that there are advantages in being straight. Realize your privilege.
Stop how you’ve been acting. Stop what your judging and condemnation. Release what you haven’t let go of.
After telling his followers how they were to act, Jesus asked, Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Think of how you would feel if you weren’t welcomed, accepted or tolerated. Think of how you would feel if you were constantly viewed with suspicion, rejection, derision, disgust or dismissed. If we want God to accept us, forgive us and love us, Just As I Am, why do we demand change and conformity from others?
If I have offended you, or if you feel I have strayed into the world of politics; I do not apologize. I am proclaiming the Gospel, using the words of Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul as recorded in Scripture.
Now, for not doing this sooner, and with more passion, I do apologize.
Our hymn of the day is Just As I Am.
This is my Pastor’s Ponderings article for the June-Early July OS/Em Newsletter.
Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning. – Exodus 16:23
We are made to rest from time to time, by commandment, at least one day per week. Sometimes, you need to get away to rest.
That’s what I did a few weeks ago when I went back to Gettysburg. I went for their Spring Academy, a week-long set of workshops for pastors and others. But most of all, I wanted to go where I could find a place of peace.
One of the things I have loved about Gettysburg since my first visit is that it is a place where I can find peace and reflect upon what God is calling me to do. I was able to remember the spiritual disciplines I had while I was at the seminary.
There are times that I struggle with nurturing my own soul with prayer, meditation and reading God’s word. When things get busy with my church duties, especially preparing sermons, materials for classes, etc., sometimes sitting down to read the Bible for devotional content feels too much like work.
I was reminded on how I made time while still doing all of the reading and other work while taking classes. So I’m trying to do some of those things. I’m working through a reading plan, and am taking quiet time to listen for what the Word is saying.
We all have those times when it is hard to make time to hear from God. We need to work through those times, to stay in touch with God and hear what God is calling us to do.
Time Away and Getting In Touch
One of the things that I have learned, sometimes the hard way, in the six months of our partnership with Nazareth, is the need for having a Sabbath. I have found that on weeks when I haven’t taken time away for myself, I feel like a cellphone that hasn’t been put on the charger.
I’ve tried taking different days during the week, and haven’t found anything that has worked consistently for me. During this Summer, I will plan on taking Fridays for myself, and trying to have a weekend.
However, when things come up that need to be addressed, I will be available, and I will find other times to get away and have quality bulldogge time.
As always, if you need to get in touch with me, call me on my cell phone 715-773-2004. In addition to spending time at offices at both Our Savior’s and Nazareth, I am looking at changing some things at the parsonage, and may get rid of the land line there.
One of the ways that I will recharge this Summer is by going back home to Saginaw in mid-August to visit family and friends.
May God’s peace be with you always, Pastor Brian
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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