Fourth Sunday in Lent
April 3, 2011
Text: John 9:1-7, 13-17, 34-39

In Pittsburgh, PA there is a wonderful mission agency called the Pittsburgh Lutheran Center for the Blind.  They do a wonderful job of providing Christians resources for people with all degrees of sight impairment.  The Sunday School at the congregation that I served at the time decided to make the Pittsburgh Lutheran Center for the Blind their mission project one year.  This meant that a portion of the offerings the children brought to Sunday School were earmarked for this mission agency.  We decided to try to raise awareness of this need one time by putting on a special Sunday School sponsored potluck dinner.

One of the things we did was encourage people to wear blindfolds while they ate, so that they could get a sense for what it’s like.  We had the director of the agency come and talk to us, who is himself blind, and he brought his service dog, Max.  One of our own members, who was significantly vision impaired also spoke and demonstrated some of the nifty gadgets that are available today to help blind people, like talking clocks and stencils for writing checks. 

We intentionally planned our blind ministry awareness dinner on a Saturday evening when the Gospel reading for the next morning would be this very text that we read today from John chapter 9, Jesus healing the blind man.  While the disciples were engaged in abstract speculations about who sinned for this man to be afflicted this way, Jesus rolls up His sleeves and gets His hands dirty.  While the disciples are analyzing, Jesus is doing.  While they are theorizing, He is healing.

Lent Midweek 4
March 30, 2011
Topic: Confession & Absolution

In 1953, Alfred Hitchcock directed one of his lesser-known films called I Confess, starring Montgomery Clift and one of my all-time favorite character actors, Karl Malden.  Clift plays a Roman Catholic priest in Canada and Karl Malden plays a police inspector.  In short, to summarize the plot, the priest hears the confession of one of his parishioners, a handyman who works for the parish, in which the man confesses to attempting a home burglary in which he wound up killing the owner.  The murderer tells this to his priest because he wants to unburden his conscience and be assured of God’s forgiveness.  And of course, the priest is bound by his ordination vows not to divulge this information to anyone, including the police.

Now this is a Hitchcock film so the plot becomes more complicated than that.  It also happens that there were two girls who witnessed someone leaving the crime scene on the night of the murder and they report that the mystery person resembled the priest.  This is because the real murderer wore one of the priest’s robes as a disguise, naturally.  So the detectives, headed by Karl Malden, immediately begin to suspect poor Montgomery Clift of the crime.  As the investigation continues, the police further discover that the murder victim had a connection to Clift from the time before he became a priest, the kind of connection that appears to be a classic motive for a murder.

So you can see the dilemma the priest is in.  Not only is he not the murderer but he knows the identity of the killer and cannot tell anyone, not even to exonerate himself.  I won’t tell you how it ends in case you might wish to rent it, but let me just say that it has a real white-knuckle ending, at least for a movie made in 1953.

Lenten Midweek 3
March 23, 2011
Topic: Fasting

Have you ever heard of a fast food restaurant called The Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, Arizona?  They have a unique marketing plan.  All of their waitresses are dressed in nurses’ outfits and they take your order on a prescription pad.  The hamburgers are named the double, triple and quadruple bypass.  Their largest burger meal checks in at 8,000 calories.  Their motto is: “Food so bad for you it’s shocking!”

Gluttony, as you know, is one of the famous Seven Deadly Sins.  We generally associate gluttony with food, but it can really apply to anything which you consume in excess.  And all of us have this desire to consume more than we require.  And while that can relate to food, it can relate to other things as well. 

Here is one to think about.  What about shopping?  Obviously, we all need things.  We need clothes and shoes and certain material goods.  But I think we can also all agree that it is possible to go too far and slide into the sin of materialism, the belief that material goods will make you happy.  And if we’re not careful, we can easily fall into consumer debt, as we have been talking about in our Financial Peace class on Sunday evenings.

Think about environmental resources.  God has provided us with the trees and water and animals, land and air.  And He wants us to develop these and use them for the common good.  But how often do we misuse these gifts or waste them?  That kind of over-consumption is a form of gluttony too.

Second Sunday in Lent
March 20, 2011
Text: John 3:1-17

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Today’s message is based upon the Gospel reading from John chapter 3.

I want to do something a little different today for the sermon.  I know it’s early in the morning and for some of us, the brain cells are not all firing quite yet, this early in the day.  Today’s message is going to be more along the style of a brief Bible class than a regular sermon.  The Bible talks about two different activities: preaching and teaching.  Obviously, those two functions overlap a lot.  But usually, my approach is to preach as proclamation and do my teaching in different settings, like a Bible class or small groups.  But today’s sermon is going to be more didactic, more of a teaching moment, if you will.  So I’d ask you to look inside your bulletin today for a half-sheet of paper with some Bible passages and notes on it.  These are some of the relevant passages to help me explain the meaning of today’s Gospel lesson and I will be referring to it.

I am going to begin by asking you a question and I want you to really think hard about how you would answer it.

Have you been born again?  Have you ever been asked that question by someone?  What goes through your mind? 

In the 1970s, Charles Colson worked for the Nixon administration and was put into prison for his involvement with the Watergate scandal.  While he was in prison, Colson had a religious conversion.  He heard and understood the gospel of Jesus Christ and had a profound spiritual experience.  He described this experience in a book he called simply “Born Again.” 

First Sunday in Lent
March 13, 2011
Text:  Matthew 4:1-11

I want you to know today that I have a confession to make.  There I was, standing in the room full of people.  Everyone was talking.  No one was looking at me.  On the tables next to me were at least 2 or 3 hundred tons of cookies, cupcakes, home-made candies, and F-U-D-G-E.   There was fruit too, but who needs fruit.  On one table I even saw a fountain gushing liquid chocolate.  It was a wedding reception and I was struggling with temptation.  One of my all-time biggest weaknesses is chocolate fudge.  I’m a fool for the stuff.  I’ll embarrass myself publicly for the sake of chocolate.

So how’d I do?  Was I good boy?  No.  Sneakily.  Stealthily.  I picked up one small bite-sized piece of the delectable delight and popped it into my mouth.  Then I chatted for a while with one of the guests.  And when he finally turned around, I grabbed another piece and “pop,” down it went.  Because you know that once you do it one time and get away with it, it becomes easier to do the next time.  One more quick look around the room.  No one noticed.  Talked to another guest.  This one took longer to get rid of.  Pop, down went another piece.   

How nice it would be if only our biggest temptations in life were just about fudge. 

Redeemer Mission

Proclaiming to our community in word and deed the empowering love of God as demonstrated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Redeemer Lutheran Church

Connect with Us: