Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sermon for 10/27/2013: One Word, BAPTISM!

Sermon for 10/27/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson At Christ the king Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.
Gospel: John 8:31–36
31Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples;  32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."  33They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, 'You will be made free'?"
             34Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever.  36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,

This morning we hear in our gospel text, “The truth will make you free”. As we read this, did you hear this statement, and think, hmm, so that’s where that saying comes from, Jesus said it. In my life, I have heard this statement used in varying contexts, someone trying to argue this or that point, or even trying to sell something, yet rarely, has the light bulb flashed and reminded me that Jesus said this first.

And, now that we have been reminded of the origin of this statement, some advice; if anyone says “the truth will set you free” and adds to it, “for the low, low price only $9.99” do not buy whatever they are selling.

So, what is the truth that sets us free? First, what is the truth? We could simply say Jesus, which would be right, but that doesn’t tell us a lot.
And then there’s freedom, the idea of being free, an idea that is one of the most used, and least articulated concepts in our society.
So how about this for a description of this statement in one word. Baptism. It is the gift of Baptism that gives us the best, the only articulation of what Jesus is saying to us in this statement. And you can get baptized here at Christ the King Lutheran church for the low low price of only $9.99.

Baptism both clearly speaks the truth to us, and guides us into the way of freedom.

The truth of Baptism, the truth that is professed in this great gift is that God loves each and every one of us, indeed, each and every human being that has ever been created, more than we can fathom. This truth of this love, is of course shown to us in the death of Jesus for all of creation, and, the truth of this love for us is an indelible mark given to us when we are marked with this cross in our Baptism.

And the freedom this truth gives is a freedom that our world, enslaved to sin, cannot give. For example, think of a person who has been “set free” from their incarceration. They are not really freed from it, but marked by it throughout their lives; be it in job applications or future relationships, the mark of ex-con will make a person a little less free than those who haven’t served time.

From another perspective, think of the “freedom” that comes when we turn 18, or leave our parent’s house. When we grow up, we may be able to live a little more by our own rules, but we aren’t free from the person our environments like home, school, and peer groups have formed us to be. We hopefully carry many marks of love and joy from our early years, we probably carry some marks of expectations that push us in certain directions, and we all carry marks of hurt and pain that have been inflicted upon us, and the painful marks that we have left upon others.

And what is freedom from the perspective of people who are residing in the Land of the Free? Here in this country, we have our own history of slavery to deal with, and today,  we most certainly still wrestle with a society marked by the scourge of slavery, that has varying levels of freedom now built into our collective DNA.

Regardless of who we are, or where we live; whether we are the oppressors or the oppressed, we cannot make ourselves free. We are all slaves to sin, and there is no law, no edict, no technology, or medication that can free us from it. Ultimately, we are slaves to hurting each other, hurting ourselves, and hurting the creation that has been given to us.

But we are Baptized. We are loved even though we are in bondage to sin, and not because of anything we have done, but simply out of God’s grace. In our baptism, this love sets us free, not to do whatever we want, but to love each other. In our baptism, we are freed to set others free. In our baptism we are able to see the person who has served time as just another person to love. In our baptism we are freed to create a loving refuge for the child who doesn’t find love at home. In our baptism, we are freed to break the racist laws that lie and tell us not all people are created equally by our creator, knowing the truth that the loving waters of baptism tell us. And in our baptism, we are even free to love the person who made those laws too. And, lest we forget, the poor wretch looking at us in the mirror, the one that we are so quick to criticize, and denigrate, as the water runs into the sink, we are free to remember that Jesus thought that this person was so valuable that he died for them too.

We are baptized. We are freed by the truth of God’s unending love given to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are freed by the Holy Spirit sharing that life through the lives of generations of disciples, with us today. We are freed to be those disciples, those followers of Christ, who are called to share this truth, this life of freedom, this life of unending grace, peace, justice, and love, this baptized life, with all of creation.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sermon for 10/13/2013: Eucharistic Lepers

Sermon for 10/13/2013 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.

Gospel: Luke 17:11–19
11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.  12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance,  13they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"  14When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean.  15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.  16He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.  17Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?  18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"  19Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
Do you ever wonder why we gather each week, and experience the same thing, like almost the exact same thing, in our meal of Holy Communion? Why do we have to hear those same words of institution, do this for the remembrance of me, again, and again? Why is it that the same food is given and shed for each of us every single time? Couldn’t there be something new on the menu? 

Why? Well, the obvious reason we celebrate this meal week after week, is to help us remember what Jesus has done, and also to remember that Jesus is hear in the midst of us. Loving us, calling us to love one another, and sending us back into the world to do the same. This, is the OBVIOUS answer to why we do something again, and again, and again.

But, there is some recent scientific work that has been done dealing with the phenomenon that is our human memory, which, in a way validates this practice. This work, makes it seem like Jesus actually knew what he was doing when it came to giving us this meal, and telling us to “do this.” Imagine that.

You see, according to the study, when we retrieve our memories, whatever they may be, simply in the act of retrieving them, we change them a little bit each time. As it was described on the radio program I was listening to, we can imagine our retrieval of memories, as getting a ball of play-doh out of its container, again and again. Each time, that little ball, would change just a little bit, just from our touch. Sometimes, that touch could cause a big change, and at other times, maybe a change that we can’t even perceive with our own eye, yet a little change would happen. The overarching message of the study, is that our memories are not fixed, and as we grow older, we will remember things from our past in different ways, probably, in the way we want to remember them.

So, in light of this study, it seems that Jesus really knew what he was doing, in giving us specific instructions, and specific actions to remember him by. Imagine if we didn’t have the clear means of this Holy Meal, to remember that God loves us, imagine how much could go wrong with the Church, and our faith, from the ways that memories of Jesus could change in people and how these could get then passed down through the collective memory of many people, each remembering something a little different, from generation to generation. Imagine the bickering, fighting, and downright tragedy that could happen across our human history by people perverting the name and life of our God for their own gain….ok, so maybe we don’t have to imagine that happening, maybe it has.

So, with all that has gone wrong, even with the clear instructions given to us for how to remember Jesus, even with this seemingly simple idea of experiencing grace, peace, and love, through a meal of bread and wine; it is pretty clear that without this meal, we’d really be lost. In fact, we’d have a pretty tough time experiencing the same living Christ who is with us today, and who was also with the lepers in our Gospel reading from Luke.

Yet, we’d know what it would be like, each of us, to be like these poor lepers. Maybe not suffering in the same manner, but ultimately, in the same isolation. Because of our own human sin, sin that does things like convince us into thinking our memory is infallible, we would most certainly let boundaries keep us from loving each other, just like the quarantine kept these lepers from the rest of society, metaphorically speaking.

But just as Jesus healed those 10 lepers, and released them from the captivity their disease had created, Jesus has healed us. Jesus has freed us from the sin which captivates us. The sin which loves nothing better than building boundaries and walls between all of us. Jesus, has time and time again freed us from these boundaries, and brought people together, all people, declaring that nothing can withstand the power of love.

And Jesus has shown us that the breaking down of these boundaries is not done by being “right”, but is done through compassion. Jesus didn’t just stand there and say, “I know everything”. Instead, Jesus has declared very publically, through the waters of Baptism, that I, Mark Thomas Peterson, am God’s favorite, and, each of you are also, God’s favorite, and even the people who haven’t been baptized are God’s favorite too; no matter what. I mean he even cured the Samaritan leper, showing God’s favor with him. By today’s standards this would be like someone at Fenway this evening buying a drink for the person who came to the Red Sox game in a Yankees jersey. That is how God, through Jesus, breaks down boundaries, and restores us all so that we may love each other again.

So, we’ve got Jesus, who breaks down these boundaries, we’ve got imperfect memories, and we have sin and the devil tricking us time and time again. In this light, Jesus certainly knew what he was doing when he gave us this meal to do in the remembrance of him.

Jesus gave us this meal not only to tell us that God loves us, but to remind us again when we forget. Jesus gave us this meal to remind us what God is doing through this love, when we forget, and let worry and stress over every little problem in our lives and even faith communities. Or when we forget that everyone is God’s favorite and start letting people’s stupid Tweets or Facebook post make us wish something ill upon them. Jesus gave us this meal, so that the taste of compassion, peace, and love may linger in our mouths and saturate our words with their sweet aroma, in every moment of our lives.

This meal is what Jesus has given us to remember all these things, not with our own warped sense of memory, but with the memory of Christ. The unchanging, eternal, living memory, which is not dependent on our moods, which doesn’t succumb to our illnesses, which does not waver as we persecute it, which even creates life as we crucify it on a cross.

This morning, with the whole Church, with the Saints who have died and with the saints who have not yet been born, it is to this meal, to this God, who we once again return to, together; not in a spirit of self-pity or of obligation, but in the spirit of the Samaritan leper. We will by God’s grace return in the Spirit of the Eucharist, the spirit of Thanksgiving, rejoicing that our Savior has come, the boundaries between us have been broken down, and praising God that we have been freed to love each other and all of God’s creation.

Thanks be to God!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,