Keeping each other safe during COVID
Please visit our homepage and specific ministry pages to see how we are adapting our shared ministry to this challenge.
Right now, we’re livestreaming worship on Sundays at 8:30 am on our youtube channel. Links to previous sermon texts are here on this page. You can hear the latest sermon preached when you join us on Sunday mornings for the livestream at 8:30 or watch the service after 8:30. Links to our past worship videos – with sermons – are here. If we don’t yet have a direct link for a service, you can always go to our youtube channel to look for it.
“Death is all around us: it is in COVID and mass shootings and hate crimes. It is cancer and divorces and drug addiction and heart disease and accidents. It is in a thousand paper cuts of hurtful words and unkept promises and broken hearts. We, too, are dead. And everything good comes from that. So, beloved, repent and believe in this Good News. The Good News that it is exactly where you are broken, exactly where it hurts, exactly where we’ve wounded each other, exactly where and when we are dead that the Good News begins.”
The cross, then, isn’t payment to an unforgiving God who keeps score, offers no exceptions, never looks the other way, who demands perfection. But it is the opposite. On the cross is a God who is known best in suffering. On the cross is a God who knows the terror of the human experience: what it is to panic, to struggle to breath, to mourn, to loose, to die. On the cross is a God whose expression of love is solidarity: a profound statement that there is no cross Christ will not bear, no tomb he will not enter, no death he will not destroy. This is what Emmanuel is: God-with-us, everywhere. God-with-those-who-suffer. Everywhere. God-who-gives-God’s-own-life-for-the-sake-of-the-world. Everywhere. A true meditation on the cross is a call to take up a cross-shaped life: to be a people who give our lives away.
To seek forgiveness is to confess your sins and wrongdoings. Frederick Buechner once wrote, “To confess your sins to God is not to tell God anything God doesn’t already know. Until you confess them, however, they are the abyss between you. When you confess them, they become the Golden Gate Bridge.” Admitting your flaws and weaknesses, your tendency to rage at other drivers. Admitting the dumb things you say in the office that, just maybe, might be making people uncomfortable. Admitting that you’ve spoken to your family in ways you regret. Admitting the hate you’ve harbored in your heart, your jealousy. Admitting these will not drive you from God, but rather, confessing your sins, seeking forgiveness is how God loves us all the more. Forgiveness is a bridge.
… broken covenants occur because we seek after other gods. We seek safety, power, control, success, popularity, the best of everything – and we want it all cheap! We are not seeking God, we are seeking something else and we treat our neighbors accordingly. Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary, writes that we live in a world where “scores are kept, books are balanced, and nothing is ever forgotten. It is a world of despair, because we are locked in forever to old behavior.” But, Brueggemann says, “New possibility, however, can happen in that world only when there is forgiveness, when in an act of inexplicable generosity the vicious cycles of resentment and revenge are broken.”
… every day, we are invited into this cycle of death and new life again. In the Small Catechism, Luther writes, “Baptism signifies that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily sorrow for sin and through repentance, and on the other hand that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”
I do not understand why it is that we find ourselves caught up in the messiness of life. I do not understand why the floor sometimes collapses under us. I do not understand why we love and lose, why we are pressed to endure both pain in our bodies and suffering in our minds. I do not understand why we can inflict such harm on one another while urging each other to rise for yet another blow. I do know that it is through this pain that God gives the path to life. Look to God, beloved, and live.
It isn’t about what we are not to do, but about our responsibility to love God and love our neighbor. It isn’t just that we not bear false witness, essentially, that we do not commit perjury, but that we protect our neighbor’s good name. It is not just that we do not murder, but that we preserve our neighbor’s life. Not just that we are not jealous of what our neighbor has, but that we help them keep what is theirs. The Commandments offer us the opportunity to always choose the loving thing, even if it is at disadvantage to ourselves. Because the bottom line is this, we could live our lives from rule to rule, making them and breaking them, always in service…of what? Where do the rules leave us? We could live our lives from rule to rule or we could live our lives in love as it expands like the universe touching and changing everything.
How do we determine what is right? We ask, does it set my neighbor free? Does it bring them from death to life? This isn’t the only lens we use or can use, but it is a start. It clearly lays some things aside. Christianity isn’t about accumulating wealth or power. It isn’t about assuring our place in society. This lens also serves to complicate issues, especially when person is pitted against person. Though, if death of Jesus is about release, about liberation, then it clear that we should take the side of the side of powerless over the powerful. But this lens also clearly instructs us: we cannot look away. When our neighbor is a slave to sin, is brought low by her choices or the choices of someone else, we have a responsibility to untangle these knots—to unbind her, as Jesus will say of the no-longer-dead Lazarus in a few weeks—to unbind her and let her go.
Your life is not valued by perfection, nor is it devalued by mistakes. Your value comes from one thing alone: being a child of God. This call enables us to act with integrity, to take risks, to welcome the mess, to work with God to right-side-up the world. Because this is where God does God’s best work.
Jesus doesn’t ask us to seek out a cross, but to take it up. Your cross – your suffering and your death – is not far from you. It is the pain you hold and which you often, in ways you regret, transmit to others. It is the way the worst things that were said to you you now say to your kids. It is the way you loose your temper at work. It is the way you, deep down, believe yourself unlovable and so never really make connections anymore. It is the pain of being passed up for promotion so you work harder and harder but never quite feel fulfilled. It is that quiet grief you never tell anyone about. It is the fear, not the faith, that guides your life. But there is another way: transformation.
I will not explain away the messiness of human life. I only know this, when our prayers to God about this mess—this mess that we cannot explain—are answered, and when we lean into what God, the heart of our being, is telling us, then the blessing will come. The blessing will come when we comfort one another. The blessing will come when we help each other. The blessing will come when we enact laws that protect our neighbors. The blessing will come when we refuse to speak what should not be said, and the blessing will come when we refuse to be silent when we must speak out. The blessing will come when we mirror God’s loving actions and lay down our bow and refuse to do further harm.
… if you’ve spent any time in wild areas, you know that God is already there. In the book of Job, God speaks from the whirlwind about what happens far from human eyes that God knows and loves: lions and raven hunt prey for their children, mountain goats and deer give birth, the wild ass wanders, and unbelievable creatures make their home. To suggest that the wilderness is somehow devoid of God is to suggest that God’s only relationship with creation is through humanity. That God only delights in what delights us. That God’s understanding of the world mirrors our own.
Having no regrets means we either care very little for others or we never take any risks in relationships to others and our community. We can dig our heels in, shouting “no regrets” with our fingers in our ears, or we can confess our shortcomings, our failures, our neglect, and accept forgiveness. Confession gives us another way.
I think there is a very complicated form to this gospel. In Mark’s story, Jesus shows his disciples an image of resurrected life, right smack-dab in the very middle of the book. Everything in the gospel is written to serve this end. The transfiguration is a peek at what is to come and a direct answer to all the doubts and denials the disciples have lobbed at Jesus. Not resignation, not retaliation, not whatever Peter had planned. Jesus will settle for nothing less than transformation, complete change. Something new.
There was plenty of work to be done in Capernaum. He could have stayed. He could have taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath and healed on the other days. He could have been famous. But would people have heard his message? The work was good, but, for Jesus, it was the work and the word.
“Jesus confronts the unclean spirit directly. He doesn’t avert his eyes. He doesn’t leave. He doesn’t demand separation or attempt to quietly enforce it with tasteful, face-saving measures. He confronts the spirit, and, in casting it out, restores the person to wholeness.”
“… gospel-rooted transformation tells the truth about our lives, it holds us accountable, and it is oriented around the kin-dom of God.” Rev. Adrianne MeierJanuary 24, 2021, Third Sunday after EpiphanySt. Thomas Lutheran Church, Bloomington, Indiana Click here for a printable copy of this sermon. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 Brothers and sisters, the appointed time has
“…our identity and true calling as Christians is as beloved Children of God.” Rev. Amanda GhaffarianJanuary 17, 2021, Second Sunday of Christmas, Year B St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Bloomington, Indiana Click here for a printable version of this sermon. Samuel’s Call 1 Samuel 3:1-20 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word
“… what if God creating light isn’t a proclamation against darkness? What if it was a celebration of the canvas on which God created the cosmos?” Rev. Adrianne Meier January 10, 2021, Baptism of Our Lord, Year B St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Bloomington, Indiana Click here for a printable version of this sermon. The Wonders
“In the face of this news of violence and insurrection at the United State Capitol, when we have to determine what to do next, do the next loving thing.” Rev. Adrianne Meier January 6, 2021, Epiphany, Year B St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Bloomington, Indiana The Most Loving Thing Click here for a printable version of
“The mystery of the silence from which the Word comes is the deep and abiding relationship of the Trinity. It is of love for humanity, for the universe that God made room to create.” Rev. Adrianne Meier January 3, 2021, Second Sunday of Christmas, Year B St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Bloomington, Indiana Click here for a
“God doesn’t settle for better, especially when better is a means to comfort the comfortable. God draws close in order to change the world.” Rev. Adrianne Meier December 27, 2020, First Sunday of Christmas, Year B St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Bloomington, Indiana Click here for a printable copy of this sermon. Undercover God Luke 2:22-40
“… as the angels told the shepherds of a sign, be the sign to others: in warmth, in bread, in friendship, in compassion, in justice.” Rev. Adrianne Meier December 24, 2020, Christmas Eve, Year B St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Bloomington, Indiana Wherever God Is Needed the Most Click here for a printable version of this
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.” Rev. Adrianne Meier 2020 Advent Midweeks, 4 St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Bloomington, Indiana A Song of Hope For What Is Yet to Come, Luke 2:13-14 Click here for a printable copy of this sermon. Luke 2:13-14 And suddenly there
“Compassion is knowing that my future is tied to yours.” Rev. Adrianne Meier December 20, 2020, 4th Sunday in Advent, Year B St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Bloomington, Indiana Click here for a printable version of this sermon. Make Room Luke 1:26-38, NRSV, emended In the sixth month (of Elizabeth’s pregnancy) the angel Gabriel was sent
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