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.
Below is my outline for my sermon on October 1 using the Call of Moses pericope from Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-15; 4:10-17. Above are recordings from 2 services; there was some variations.
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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