Saturday, August 28, 2010


1. A confusing and difficult problem or question.
2. A question asked for amusement, typically one with a pun in its answer; a riddle.

Caught in a conundrum, a sticky wicket, a wicked problem. I'm preaching this week about hospitality and humility; specifically the text is Luke 14: 1, 7-14:
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
Specifically the condrum hit me this morning when I was composing my children's sermon. I suppose the word was blithely composing my children's sermon. It's titled "Were You Invited to the Party." I'm riffing off of Sermons4Kids -- the one for this week is "Left Out." It's going to be about how one feels when they get left off of a party list. It's a little more than that: I'm going to have a fake invitation for "Big Important People" to a party and ask the kids if they got one too. When they say no, I'm going to ask them how they feel.

Almost immediately after I solidified this (along with the fake invitation), the loving husband calls me and asks if we got invited to XYZ's party on Labor day. It seems it's the talk of our group of friends. All were asked but us. Gee! All of a sudden this theoretical question I was posing for the children's sermon got a Real World Twist and I felt myself get twisted up inside.

As an adult, I know there are a million reasons why we might not have been invited: they might be inviting boys only, there might be just a limited number of spots, they might not be happy with us for some reason. But all I know is that it stings.

In the past, I've had to talk to the kids about "not being invited" to parties. For the most part my answers have been unsatisfactory for both them and myself. I know I've hurt other people's feeling by "leaving them out" (specifically I am thinking of a person I *know* we invited to my post-gradation party, but somehow the invitation got lost. That relationship is now broken.)

I think today's gospel is talking directly to ME. How many groups of people are represented here? 1) The Pharisees (the hosts) 2) The "interesting" guests 3) the ones being left out.

My revelation is that Jesus UN-invites the "interesting people." 'Don't invite them,' he says. I suppose the thought is that they have enough. Not much solace, there. Maybe we need to take away a lesson from the first part of this gospel: For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Dern. Why does this "moving onto perfection" and "working through your salvation with fear and trembling" have to be so dang hard?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Martin Luther's Morning Prayer

I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Evening Prayer from Martin Luther

I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen. --Martin Luther

Monday, August 23, 2010

Evening Prayer From the BCP

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I spend a lot of my life thinking about sermons. It takes me a long time (most of the time) to build a sermon. A lot of it is subconscious -- perking in my brain, dreaming, thinking, meditating. It just can't be rushed.

This week the text is Luke 13:10-17:
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day." But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?" When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

This text comes around every three years; hundreds of thousands of sermons have been written about it. I have spent time reading the text, taking it apart, reading it in different translations, looking for a preaching "handle", doing word studies of the Greek. I try to understand the text before I crack open any commentaries, steeping myself into the text and seeing where it might connect to myself and my congregation. Only after I've done that do I open up any commentaries (that is, if I open up ANY commentaries.)

Then I look to see where the themes intersect today's society. This week I came up with a tagline that I want to use as the title of the sermon: "Bent Out of Shape." The woman is bent out of her shape physically and the powers that be are bent out of shape that Jesus healed on the sabbath. I thought it was a brilliant title. Then I googled the phrase and the word "sermon." Well, there must be a couple of dozen sermons on this text with that title.


I thought I was bringing something fresh and new to the text, but no. Then I realized that my three points: Bent Over, Bent Out of Shape and Bent to Our Own Purpose (how we twist the Law to suit ourselves) are the SAME three points several others have used (if not in those words.)


Is it conceit that I believe I can bring something fresh and new? I suppose it's horribly arrogant to think that for the first time in two thousand years *I* would have this brilliant flash of insight and bring something new into the world.

May the Lord save me from conceit and arrogance. Lord, have mercy.

Sidebar: I suppose what I am afraid of now is being accused of plagiarism. With many of the discussions on facebook, blogs and in the magazines about plagiarism, I guess I'm just scared. I use the Psalm of the week for my call to worship; I use phrases from the texts in my pastoral prayer. I suppose all I can do is just be true to my method and if I come up with a "common" title or structure, I just can't worry about it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thinking about Radio Spots

My current appointment comes with an added benefit -- our service is transmitted on the local AM Radio Station, WKUN, 1490 AM. The owner of the radio station goes to our church. I've asked if I can do a few radio spots. This is my first attempt at writing what is basically a sermon in a minute.

This week’s text in Luke 13 concerns a woman who has been suffering with a crippling spirit for 18 years. With the touch of Jesus’ hand, she is healed. This is not the first time we hear of Jesus healing people with long term sufferings – he healed a woman with a 12 year hemorrhage in Luke 8. And again, by the pool of Siloam, he heals a man with 38 years of suffering. Are you suffering from physical illnesses? Spiritual malaise? It is never too late to turn to Jesus for healing and wholeness. Although he might not heal us in the body, healing of the spirit is available with just a single prayer. Are you weary? Are you heavy laden? Tell it to Jesus.
Is it long enough? Too long? Bad theology? Good theology? I feel that it's just the beginning of a conversation about the topic.


Wow! I got a mention in the Circuit Rider!

I'm honored to be on the same short list as Bishop Willimon and Bishop Schnase. Wow!