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Year: 2011

Christmas Sermon 2011 “Our Hope is Christ”

Christmas Sermon 2011 “Our Hope is Christ”

Detail of the Christ Child
PrillyCharmin
The Christ Child

Grace and Peace to you from Our Father in Heaven and Our Lord Jesus Christ whose birth and incarnation we celebrate today. Amen

Our lives are filled with Hope and Expectation. We hope the economy will get better. We hope for Christmas and birthday presents. And we hope for a better future. There are a million things we trust and hope that will happen. As Christians our hope rests on Jesus Christ. On Christmas morning we celebrate with all the saints before us who trusted and hoped in Jesus. Christ is our hope from the dawn of creation and now through his incarnational presence. Christ is the fulfillment of Hope both as his presence on earth in human flesh and through his presence as the church, his body, working in and through us to redeem the world. Christ is the fulfillment of future hope when he will come again to complete his redemption. Hope is in the “Word made flesh and dwelling among us”.

John’s Gospel points us to the very act of creation, and to the God of Creation. “In the beginning” John writes echoing Genesis. He reminds us of how God, by just uttering a word created both light and life. God said “Let there be Light and there was Light.” When God speaks, amazing things happen. God’s Word is Alive and Active. It is through Word that all things come into being. This word was with God and was God. We are reminded in the book of Hebrews how God, in his steadfast love and faithfulness gave hope by speaking and acting through the ancestors and prophets of Israel but that now God gives us hope and speaks directly through the “Word made flesh” in Jesus Christ. This is the hope we find in Christ, that God the “Word made flesh” is here making things happen. Throughout the Gospels, this Child we celebrate every Christmas grew up to the fed the hungry, heal the sick, freed the captives, and restore relationship. He brings light to the darkness and restores life from death.

Jesus of Nazareth did not just appear as a human. He came into this world as Child, as all human beings do. We affirm, remember and celebrate Christ’s humanity. That Christ lived, and died as human, a mortal being. In Jesus, The author of life becomes flesh so that we might see, touch and know hope through his life and light.

John reminds us later in the Gospel the purpose Jesus’ incarnation and his dwelling among us in the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believe in him may not perish but have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus came to save us from death and corruption cause by sin. Jesus’ gift of life and hope comes to us by way his death on the Cross. Christ’s birth receives its significance and meaning in the shadow of the cross. God’s ultimate plan for salvation is made known in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Christ had to die so that he might raised in new life. Christ had to be human to die. So just as Christ shares our human death and in Christ we share his resurrection. We receive Salvation, which is sharing in God’s own life through Jesus Christ. On Christmas we celebrate the hope found in Jesus’ coming into the world as Child, a human Child, who is light in the midst of darkness and life in the midst of death. “God with us” Emmanuel.

How is that we experience this Jesus who was born 2000 years ago? Jesus is “the Word made flesh” who dwells among us and so through the promised Holy Spirit we are made part of his life. Through Jesus’ death on the cross we are made Children Of God. That is our Hope. To be restored with God and share in his life as he intended. As the Church, the body of Christ we live the reality of Jesus dwelling among us everyday. We are the incarnation of God’s salvation in the world. When we live in Christ, his life and light are given to others. When we hear the Gospel read and preached, Christ is incarnate there. When we feed the poor and hungry Christ is there. When people are Baptized, Christ incarnated. When we worship and share a meal, Christ dwells among us. As the Church, we are the incarnation of Christ in a world that longs to know “Where is God in all of the this?” We speak the word that is Christ and fill the darkness with his light.

Jesus the light of the world stepped down into darkness. Jesus our life, lived and died so that we might live in him. Jesus, our hope, fulfills our expectations both now and in the future. Until Jesus comes again and restores all of creation completely. We proclaim in the words of that the Christmas carol “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Indeed Our Hopes and our fears rest in Jesus. Amen!!!

Cross Cultural Trip to Honduras

Cross Cultural Trip to Honduras

poor honduran home
Jeannie Noble
poor honduran home

I have been selected to participate in a christian mission trip to Honduras with Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. We will be working along side the Honduran people, building, community organizing and providing a medical clinic. We will be working with Heifer International. I am hoping to raise around $2000 to help with the team’s expenses. We would appreciate your support and partnering with us. The dates for our trip will be Jan. 16th-26th, 2012. We are hoping to raise all our funds by December 20th, 2011 , so that we can purchase supplies and get ready for our trip. I would love the opportunity to share with you more about what we are doing.

I decided I wanted to be part of this particular mission team because it is an opportunity to travel as well as building relationships with the Honduran people. This more than a tourist trip it is an opportunity to serve. We will be living and working with Honduran people and I expect to learn a lot from them.The mission trip is also part of a class. The trip is led by our Professor of Ethics Dan Bell. Before and after the trip we will have a variety of discussions on what it means to serve the poor as a Christian both in the US and abroad. The trip is designed to help us engage in conversations with the Honduran people on the issue of poverty. I expect to share a lot with you about what it means to live out the Gospel both here and abroad especially related to poverty issues.

Our team will consist of about 12 people. It is made of up of mostly seminary students but there will be a doctor, pharmacist and nurse accompanying us as well as some local guides and translators. We will travel to Honduras which is the 2nd poorest country in Central America. The country is mostly mountainous and much of the population is rural. We will be working with Heifer International who has identified several rural villages that we will partner with to help on building projects and provide a medical clinical. We will be working with men, women and children in various capacities. Part of  our mission will be joining the Honduran people in worship throughout the project. The villages where we are sent to, are some of the poorest and remote places. They have asked for assistance and we are there to provide for their needs. Your support will help us obtain a variety of supplies including medicines, building supplies and gifts for the Honduran people.

This project is only possible with your support. If you would like to me to speak to you more about our project or visit please let me know. We can use any support you are willing to give, especially prayer. If you would like to help financially please write a Check to Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS) and Write: Honduras Project on the memo line. Then mail to this address
Mark Molter 4201 Main Street #243 Columbia, SC 29203
If you would like to help with a donation of supplies you can contact me via email molterma@ltss.edu and I will give you a list of our needs.
Thank you for your consideration and please keep our team in prayer.

Oct. 7th We Remember Henry Melchior Muhlenberg

Oct. 7th We Remember Henry Melchior Muhlenberg

Image from page 131 of "History of the Alleghany Evangelical Lutheran synod of Pennsylvania, together with a topical handbook of the Evangelical Lutheran church, its ancestry, origin and development" (1918)

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg was a German Lutheran missionary during the colonial period. He is often considered the patriarch of the American Lutheran Church. He was known for his preaching in Pennsylvania all the way down to Georgia. His is a story of devotion and dedication to sharing the Gospel.

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg was born in 1711 in Germany. He was ordained in 1739 and in 1742 was sent by a request from German Lutherans in America who were in need of a pastor. He arrived first in Charleston, South Carolina on Sept 22. In his journals he writes a funny anecdote about trying to make his way to Philadelphia where he was called to pastor. He wanted a ship but was told the it was too dangerous. In response he wrote that “God was well able to preserve me on a little ship and, even if I were to swim there on a plank, his hand would not be shortened. Then I went back home again, considered that I was called, not to Charleston or Georgia but to Pennsylvania.”1 Muhlenberg did make it to Pennsylvania where he eventually helped found The Ministerium of Pennsylvania in 1748. It became the first permanent Lutheran synod in the Americas. Throughout his 45 years of ministry Muhlenberg worked with other Christian traditions and even preach to Dutch, Swedish and English congregations in their natives tongues. He died in 1787. His son Peter was a general during the Revolutionary War and become a US congressman. His son Frederick become the first Speaker of the House in the US Congress. And his son Henry jr. became a pastor.

The Reverend Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, was a true man of God. He helped found the American Lutheran church and preached the Gospel to all who would hear. We commemorate Henry Melchior Muhlenberg on Oct 7th.

Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your Servant Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock; and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life, we my by your grace grow into the stature of the fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Oct. 4th Commemoration of Saint Francis of Assisi

Oct. 4th Commemoration of Saint Francis of Assisi

st-francis-of-assisi-1
St Francis

St. Francis of Assisi is a popular Saint. He commonly was known as the patron saint of animals and the founder of the Franciscan Order of monks. I would like to offer a broader scope to his witness for Christ that we might learn from his example. St. Francis was born in 1181 in Italy. He was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. He was known for wild living and his love of French culture. The name Francis comes from his nickname Francesco or “little Frenchman” in Italian. He spent time as a soldier and was even imprisoned. On a pilgrimage to Rome, he becomes so concerned with the plight of the poor that he took a vow of poverty. It was during this time that he become known for his love of animals, simplistic lifestyle and advocacy for the poor. He founded the Franciscan Order of monks as a result of many people who began to follow his example of poverty and service in Christ’s name. Later, legend says during the crusades he risked his own life to preach the Gospel to the Muslims. He even appeared before a Muslim ruler who although not converted respected Francis and offered him safe passage. 1 Later in life Francis received the stigmata or the wounds of Christ. Many saw this as God declaring Francis holy and being literally transformed into the image of Christ. He died in 1226.

Saint Francis is an example of living a life foolishly for Christ. He lived in poverty, service, and was unafraid to preach the Gospel through word and deed. He is a true example of what it means to be transformed into Christ’s Image. We commemorate Saint Francis on October 4th.

The following prayer is often attributed to Saint Francis,

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

A Sermon on Reaching out to Thomas

A Sermon on Reaching out to Thomas

Florence Verrocchio's Doubting Thomas
Ed Petrick
Florence Verrocchio’s Doubting Thomas

Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed! Amen!

We’ve all heard or seen things that we didn’t quite believe. The call of a loved one’s unexpected death, hearing that your mother has breast cancer, seeing the aftermath of the plane hitting a building where people you know work. The day I heard my grandfather died, the day my mother told me she had cancer and the day in 2011 seeing the aftermath of the plane hitting the Pentagon, the events were very vivid for me. My initial response to all these events was shock and disbelief. I wanted to hide and escape from their reality. There were moments when nothing could break through the fear and doubt.

The disciples in the upper room where no different. They had witnessed Jesus die. The had seen Christ crucified and buried. And now they were overcome with grief. They had heard the story of the empty tomb, of Mary Magdalene, Peter and the other disciple seeing the risen Christ. But for the disciples in that room fear and grief prevented them from believing. Which is understandable, when you see somebody die you don’t expect them to just be resurrected as if nothing happened, Do you? They had locked themselves in that upper room not just physically but also emotionally and spiritually. At that point, the disciples were more concerned about themselves than whatever else might be happening. They were grieving for their beloved teacher. They were fearful of what others might think, what might happen to them. They could be mocked, beaten or killed.

In the midst of this fear and grief, Jesus enters among them. Despite locked doors, He enters and shows them his hands and his side. They see Jesus their beloved teacher, who had died, Alive with them! What Joyous news! Jesus enters that room and says “Peace be with you.”

Peace in Hebrew is Shalom. However, it means more than the stereotypical end of violence, hippy peace. The kind we often casually say I hope for Peace on Earth. It means more, It means reconciliation, restoration, and completeness. Christ’s peace for me came in the witness of my mother. The shock of hearing the word Cancer from my mother was frightening. You expect the worst when you hear that word, Cancer. Despite my shock, my mother was calm. How could she be so calm? It was Cancer, that thing other people got not my own mother. It was puzzling to me. I asked if she was afraid and she responded, “Of course I’m afraid, but Christ is with me.” There in the midst of her pain and fear she was able to see Christ’s presence. To experience Shalom. Hearing her witness I began to see Christ’s presence as well. I began to believe.

Fear and Doubt are real. You may feel like you can’t have faith if they are present but Jesus enters despite our fears and doubts. Jesus comes past the barriers, the locked doors, and the tough questions. Out of fear and doubt, Jesus gives us a faith that becomes even more real.

Jesus offers his peace and he also gives us a task to share that peace with others. Breathing on the disciples, Jesus offers his presence through the Holy Spirit. Jesus then gives his disciples a command. “As the father sent me, I send you” He sends the disciples and us with his peace and his presence to others, for the forgiveness of sins. He says, “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Jesus desires that his peace be made complete. He offers forgiveness that makes us complete with God but also with others. He offers himself.

The disciples were so excited. Jesus was alive after all, The one who was crucified and buried had conquered death and was with them. The first person they tell is Thomas. Thomas, the disciple who was missing. The friend that was missing. In this excitement Thomas responds to the news that Jesus is alive with “unless I touch and see the holes in his hand and his side I will not believe.” Why couldn’t he just believe? We all know someone like Thomas. The person who questions what people say and is a skeptic. The person who doesn’t quite know what to do with all this religious stuff. They are all around us. It is the homeless person who walks by the church but doesn’t enter, It is the friend that doesn’t understand the whole church thing, it maybe, even yourself. Despite Thomas’ doubts, his unbelief and his conditions for belief, the disciples welcome him among them. That next week, they are in the upper room and Jesus enters again. Jesus again says “Peace be with you” Before Thomas can ask anything. Jesus offers for Thomas to touch and see. Jesus is the only one who can offer Thomas what he needs. The other disciples can’t. Thomas sees Jesus and believes saying “My Lord, My God.” The one who doubted believes when he encounters the risen Christ. In the midst of doubt and unbelief, Jesus comes and offers Thomas the Gift of Faith. In midst of questions, Jesus offers answers. In Thomas’ unbelief, Jesus offers him what he needs so that he can be a witness with those other disciples. When I first talked to my mother about her cancer, I couldn’t help but have some doubts. I couldn’t help but wonder what might happen. Faith could only get you so far I thought. But her perseverance proved otherwise. My mother’s faith was a gift in the midst of my own doubts and fears. It got me through doubt as my mother went through treatment. It drew me closer to God and to my mother. Through her witness, I became a witness to the risen Christ.

The gift of faith Jesus offers is meant to be shared. It was through my Mother’s witness I saw Christ. Christ sends us to welcome the Thomases in our lives, to the bring them to witness the risen Jesus. Christ asks us to include those around us. Those Thomases in our lives. Christ encourages us to live beyond our fears and doubts to include others, those right outside our comfort zones, so they might witness and believe in Christ. We can include them in a hope that Jesus will show up. We can give them a place to ask questions and to share our experience of Christ with one another so that all may believe and have new Life in Christ. We can’t make Christ appear like a magic trick, but we can believe Christ will show up. We can come to together in this place to share Christ’s promises, to remember his Life, Death and Resurrection in our own lives through Baptism, to share his presence at the table in bread and wine and through worship. Christ is here among us. Let us open our doors and our hearts like the stone is rolled away from the tomb so that those who want to see the risen lord may see him.