Monday, April 27, 2015

Sermon for April 26, 2015: Doormats for Christ!

This sermon was preached by Rev. Mark Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran church on Sunday, April 26, 2015.

Second Reading: 1 John 3:16–24
16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us — and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.  17How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
             18Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.  19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him  20whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  21Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God;  22and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
             23And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.  24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
Ok, it’s word association time.
I’m going to say a word, and I want you to pay attention to what image comes into your mind when I say.

The word, is skittles…just kidding.

Now, let’s refocus, and take our minds off of those little balls of artificial flavored deliciousness. The actual word I want you to pay attention to, is love. What image comes to mind?

As you think about this, I’ll tell you about my image. It’s an image that came to me as I read and prayed about our reading from 1 John today, and verse 16, which says, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us-and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”

So, the image of love that comes to mind for me, is a doormat. Perhaps you thought I was going to say the cross, but no, it’s a doormat.

Doesn’t it seem that a doormat might be the perfect image of the kind of love that Christians are supposed to have? You know, Jesus calls us to love one another, no matter what. To give ourselves to others, to sacrifice for them, to lay down our lives like a doormat that someone can walk all over. People can clean their feet on us, leave their shoes on us, and even put a nice message on us, like welcome!

In all seriousness, being doormats, isn’t our calling as Christians, and yet, I think that when it comes to trying to embody Christian love, it’s what we often become. In fact, this image comes to my mind from a real-life conversation I overheard once. One person was talking about her spouse, and after talking about the way he mistreated her, and she said she put up with it because that was what she was supposed to do as a Christian. The other party, who happened to be a Pastor, and probably a pretty good one, said, being loving and obeying God doesn’t mean that you’re a doormat for Christ.

Laying down our lives for one another does not mean that we allow others, much less welcome them, to walk all over us. Being merciful and forgiving, like Christ was doesn’t mean we say, “that’s ok” when someone mistreats us. Loving someone, sacrificing ourselves for others doesn’t mean that we are really nice to them no matter what, hoping that at some point they’ll see what they are doing and all of a sudden be nice back.

The biggest problem with being a doormat for Christ, is the hope that through their passiveness, the other person will change. But a doormat doesn’t wear down the shoes of others, it gets worn down, and eventually tossed out. It is true that our calling to love can cause us to suffer, it can even cause us to be crucified, but this love, this Christian love, is a love of truth and action that transforms the world, not simply accept it as it is.

But before we get out there and change the world, we remember that love is not just action, it is truth and action. If we leave the truth out of our active love, we may change the world, but it will ultimately be in our, human image of what that change should look like. Without the truth, changing the world by helping our sisters and brothers in need means trying to create a place where one day, the path of upward social mobility will be so great, that no one will ever need anything. In such active good works, we are willing to invest time, money, and energy to create a better, human product, and show some measurable signs of human success. We humans often try to create a better world by appealing to things like people’s universal greed, and like the “doormat for Christ” the goal of our misguided “love” is in trying to change the other person. What we humans aren’t real willing to do, is consider that perhaps the people who need their circumstances changed are not the ones we try to help, but the ones doing the helping.

The love of Christ, the love that has been laid down for us, and the love that we are called to share with each other is full of both truth and action. This love includes the truth that commands us to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, see the worthiness of the poor, the poverty of the rich, and the futility of our own human ambitions and desire for permanence. This is the love that transforms and changes us with the truth of who God is and what God has done.

When we love in truth and action, we love both by saying no the sin of this world, especially our own, and yes to the people, the creatures, and the abundance that God has created it with.

So love, is not about being a doormat and letting people walk all over us. Nor is love simply about trying to raise the ones who our world walks all over from doormat into walker. Love, is Jesus Christ, and the truth that he put into action. Love is having the truth that caring for someone is different than controlling them. Love is having the truth that DNA, ethnicity, and social class do not make us brothers and sisters, but being human does. Love is having the truth that our sisters and brothers are not a cause, but our flesh and blood, who we suffer with, rejoice with, and live with, whether they are near or far.

Love is Jesus Christ, who has been risen from the dead not so that we can walk all over him all over again, but so that he can pour out his life for us. Love is Jesus Christ, coming to us, in human form, on this earthly planet, to live with us, to abide with us here at Christ the King, and be our loving brother in all things. Love is Jesus Christ, making a home in this world, abiding in it, so that we may receive his truth, join in his action, live in his Holy Spirit, and lay down our lives for our human family and the home God has created for us, for no other reason that we love them.

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


Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Sunday Sermon, April 5, 2015: An Easter Horror Story.

This sermon was preached by Rev. Mark Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran church on Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015.

Gospel: Mark 16:1–8
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.  2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  3They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?"  4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.  5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.  6But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.  7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you."  8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
Jason, Freddy, Michael…On this Easter morning, do these names invoke any associations with you? What if I specify a little and say, Voorhees, Krueger, and Meyers? Ringing any bells for you?

Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Meyers, these are the terrifying characters of the horror films Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween respectively. Even if you haven’t seen these movies, you are probably wondering why on earth I would be bringing them up on Easter Sunday.

This morning, I invoke these terrifying characters, because Easter, is a pretty terrifying occasion. At least it was for Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Solome. Let’s hear from our Gospel reading again, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” This statement, giving details of the Easter morning, is how Mark’s Gospel ends. With some women fleeing an empty tomb amazed and terrified.

Not really the image that comes to mind when we think about Easter, is it?

But it’s pretty natural, these women had seen Jesus die, a horrible death, and now they were being told by some guy in a white robe that Jesus has been raised.
Now, going back to our horror films, they always ended with Jason, Freddy, and Michael being killed, and then there would be another installment of the film where they would be raised from the dead, so that their story would continue, so that they could continue striking terror and fear in people.
So, we have terrified people and someone being raised from the dead….there are a few similarities here.

In the horror stories, nothing, not even death, can defeat these monsters. In God’s story, not even death, can defeat Jesus.

Yet, this morning, as we hear this news, that Jesus Christ has been resurrected, raised from the dead; I don’t envision a swarm of people fleeing from this place in terror. Rather, I’m hopeful that there will be a joyful attitude among us as we leave. And that’s because, despite the initial terror, the story of Jesus’ resurrection is not a horror story, but a Gospel Story, a Good News Story, the story of God’s salvation.

In this resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s story of salvation continues.

If you can imagine for a moment, those monsters in the horror films continually stalk their victims, never tiring or stopping until they finally get them.

Our God, in the person of Jesus doesn’t stop either. He keeps coming after us, to give us his love and give us his life, no matter where we flee to. Jesus comes after us when we flee from love to despair and isolation and the hiding places of bitterness, fear, hatred, and even the self-destruction that are found there. Jesus comes after us when we flee from love in order to fulfill our own selfish desires, and the ways that we hurt each other and God’s creation does not slow his pursuit of us. Jesus comes after us when stand breathless, in the face of real life tragedy and death, when all seems lost, when we can’t go any further, when it is time to give up.

Jesus comes after us, no matter of where we are, what we do, or what we will continue to do, he comes. And when Jesus finds us, and he does find us, he pours his life out for us, just as he did upon the cross. When he finds us he gives us his mercy, peace, and love, and in our lives, however broken they may be. When finds us, he gives us the hope of his resurrection, and he continues the story, the amazing, story of God’s saving work in us humans.

This morning, though we hear about some terrified women, we don’t hear a horror story, but we also don’t hear a conclusion, certainly not one that says, “and they lived happily ever after” either. Instead, we hear that the story, the story of Jesus, goes on and on. Indeed, Jesus is risen, he has found us and is here with us, giving us his life, and calling us to follow him to the place where God’s salvation has been and continues to be won, the cross. May we go from this place singing Hallelujah, and through our lives of mercy, of justice, of peace, and of love, through our lives that bear the life of Jesus, may we share the Good News that Christ is Risen!

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