Archive for February 2016
Memorial Service for a Biker in 2016
with a Biker’s Song
Text Mark 12:18-27
Believing in another life after we die is very difficult for some people, but not so much for others. One old pastor told me, “It will just be turning a page in a book and coming to a new chapter.”
In the Bible times when Jesus ministered, there were two parties, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. They were somewhat like our Republicans and Democrats, but they held different religious beliefs, our parties are political.
The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection and life after death, while the Pharisees did. As children in Sunday School, we learned: the Pharisees believed in the resurrection, but the Sadducees did not – that’s why they were so sad-you-see.
Really it all depends on our belief in God. If we believe that God created us, called us into existence, then God can call us into existence again. We say, “Dust to dust and ashes to ashes,” but God made us from the dust; we are made out of stardust, and he was as well – and like the objection of the Sadducees in our text, he didn’t have seven wives. And to whom we are married in that life is no trouble at all, because marriage is no more. After we die we become like the angels of heaven, Jesus says.
Now Jesus is special and when he says there is an afterlife, then he should know, because he came down to us from heaven. He left the house of heaven with its many mansions to be with us. (Here “house” stands for the whole kingdom.) In our text he says, when God spoke with Moses from the burning bush, God said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And he is not a God of the dead, but of the living.” Today we would say, “The God of Abraham and Sarah, the God of Isaac and Rebekah, and the God of Jacob and Leah and Rachel.” And Jesus says that they are alive in God.
So make God your God, so that Jesus can talk about the God of Joe and Liz, the God of Jane and Bob, the God of Barbara, Shawn, the God of Billy, because it is not only a matter of life after death, but also a wonderful life lived in the light of God right now, from this day on.
We thank God that he was baptized into Jesus Christ in God’s name! So he also lived his life in the promises of God. That is why he could be such a loving father and why he is loved by so many friends.
Don’t let the strange stories in the Bible put you off. They can be hard to understand. Like Jesus walking on water? We can ask, “What is that all about?” Well, water stands for chaos and if you have seen the damage a flood makes, you’ll understand how water, the sea, the ocean stands for chaos.
But Jesus walked on that chaos and brought peace and comfort. Jesus overcomes the chaos in our lives.
Whenever I tried to overcome my sins myself, I’ve never been able to. But Jesus can do it. Jesus can overcome our addictions, our failures, the trouble we bring on ourselves or get into. Everybody has got to be trouble for somebody. When we are trouble for Jesus, we don’t have to despair, because Jesus knows how to get us out of trouble.
When I was at the end of my rope and I cried to God, “Where are all the promises you made to me? I don’t see any of them coming true.” And I listed all my failures. Nothing in my life was coming out right. I remembered what a counselor said to me, “The resurrection is our business.”
Well, I got up out of bed and it was not by my own strength, because I realized that when I had come to my end, I could live out of the strength of God. So when life has pushed us as far as we can go and we can’t take another step, then because all of our strength is gone, we have to live out of God’s strength, who is the strength of our strength.
Sometimes we have to cry out to God, “Where are all the promises you made to me?” crying out in prayer from the anguish of our hearts, to hold God to them. That way God keeps them to us. And God keeps his promises even though we are sinners. For God must have loved sinners; he made so many of us.
But when we start praying to God, trusting God, and realizing that God loves us, is rooting for us and searching for us, if we are lost, then you just watch how things change for you and how wonderful things start happening for you.
So among all you Harley Davidson bikers, it’s wonderful that we celebrate his life. And we trust that he is now alive in God and that we will all meet again someday. Thus let’s grieve, but not like people who have no hope.
“On Christ the solid rock I stand!” “Put you hand in the hand of the Man who stilled the water! Put you hand in the hand of the Man from Galilee.” And Jesus will lift you up and you will be so glad that he lifted you and me! God is unimaginably greater than we are and the way God made us out of dust, God can take his dust and ashes and raise him up again on the other side of the Jordan – on that beautiful shore. Amen.
This is a Biker song that I first heard sung by the Sun Mountain Fiddler, Dick Solberg and it was written by Rogie Ray. These words are the censured version in the way I changed them, figuring this must be the way the censored version would go:
“Ride Hard for the Sun” by Rogie Ray of Nashville
My Daddy was a jockey-shifting biker
My Momma was the leader of the train.
I grew up with my right hand on the throttle
And my left hand full of pipe-dreams JID.
But I never in my life went looking for trouble,
but trouble had a way of finding me.
But when I ride, I ride hard for the sun. (Yea!)
And when I die, I’ll die hard by the law of the gun.
And you know
It makes no difference to me,
no difference to me.
Bury me with my brothers, (Yea!) bury me with my colors
in this old Harley D. (Repeat)
So I pierced my ears and tattooed my arms
And wrote, “Back off” up under my lip.
Now you might think that’s crazy and you might think I’m hip.
But if you think it’s tough that’s your tough luck;
If you don’t, get out of the way,
Because the school I went to
Didn’t teach us how to play.
I really have nothing to lose,
but the scars, my dues, and the rules
I choose to die by or just live one more day. Refrain.
 I have no idea what “JID” means or if I misheard the words. Can someone help? I heard this song from Dick Solberg, the Sun Mountain Fiddler Bootleg Tape, “No Holds Barred.” peterkrey
Second Sunday in Lent, February 21st 2016 Christ Lutheran Church
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 Psalm 27 Phil. 3:17-4:1 Luke 13:31-35
Believing God’s Promises for Us
There are some churches where they refuse to speak about the cross. They only want to be upbeat. Some believers in St. Paul’s day were enemies of the cross of Christ. I believe it was those who wanted the followers of Christ to be circumcised and follow the whole Jewish law. We call them the Judaizers. I believe they thought they would then avoid Roman persecution and the shaky alliance that the Jews had with Caesar and the Roman Empire. They did not want that shaky agreement to be undone so they could still flourish. The Jews had a niche, but now the Christians also refused to worship the emperor and that would open Roman hostility afresh. Paul weeps over them – they were choosing material values over allowing God to really rule them. They had their minds set on earthly things and wanted to forget their citizenship in the kingdom of heaven. They had to ignore that citizenship if they were going to get along and play the game required by this world.
In rejecting the cross, they were no longer setting their hearts on our Savior and the long journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. They refused be bodies of humiliation, but to follow Christ we have to experience that humiliation in order that Christ can glorify our bodies. Look at how Abraham was humiliated and now he is gloried as the father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The context of our reading this morning is that the herders of Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his own herders began to fight. Abraham said the Lot, “We’re kindred, so let’s not fight, but separate. If you take the land on the left, I’ll take that on the right. If you choose the land on the right, I’ll go to the left.” Now the land on the left was fertile and very desirable, while it was a baron, desert on the right. Lot chose the fertile land and Abraham was left with the sorry choice.
Then in our lesson, God says to Abram: “Don’t worry. Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abram, as he is still called here, believed God but protested, “Sarah and I don’t even have a child. How can that be?” But Abram trusted God, who had ruled his life since he had called him out of Ur in Chaldea to become a stranger in a strange land. With Lot, he got the short end of the stick, but with God he got the promise, leading to the Son of Promise, who was not really Isaac, but Jesus Christ.
When Abram went into his sorry portion, the first thing he did was build an altar by the Oaks of Mamre. Now we get a description about how the old covenant was cut. The story takes us way back deep into ancient history when there were no electric lights, before there were oil lanterns, before there were candles, when people used torches to light up their caves and to see in the darkness. And cutting a covenant in those days was done by cutting a sacrificial animal in half. And Abram cut a heifer, a female goat, and a ram in half, but not the birds. And driving the vultures away all day, Abram finally got dead tired and fell asleep. In his vision a terrifying darkness covers him and he sees God like a smoking fire pot and a torch passing between the halves of the sacrificed animals. The fire was inside the pot. It must have been used to light the torches and may have been a symbol of sustainability. In this primordial time, humans were just beginning to control this energy better. Think of the Greek myth of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods. And in that fire through Abraham, God made the old covenant with believers and assured them the Promised Land, where God would be their God and they would be God’s people.
Now Israel might have been a possession of Rome, but Jesus came to declare that the kingdom of heaven was near at hand. It was really a possession of God. But Jesus loved the Romans, Samaritans, and foreigners, as well as the Jews. And he traveled through Galilee and Judea driving out demons and curing the sick, and on the third day, even though he would be crucified, he would rise up from the dead. Because he set his face to Jerusalem and proclaimed that Jerusalem belonged to God. So Herod, that fox, was not going to thwart the work of God and God’s plan of salvation. Herod might have been the king enthroned by Rome, but he was a fox in the chicken coop.
Jesus compares God to a mother hen spreading her wings so all her chicks can be warmed, sheltered, and protected by her body under the feathers of the mother hen.
We had chickens at home and just about the sweetest thing was to see the little heads of the chicks pop out through her feathers because they were curious to see what was going on.
But like St. Paul weeps over those who won’t stand their ground with Christ, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he exclaims, the city that kills the prophets and those who are sent to it! God will leave it to you, because you refuse to let God rule over you and gather you in. Jesus spread his arms wide, to do so, but they nailed them to the cross. We nailed him to the cross.
So we also invite the new Abraham, Jesus Christ, who is greater than Abraham and who came before him, because he said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” He is the Savior sent to us from the realm of heaven, to make the new covenant with us, because he wrote it with his blood. And we may be a humble body here, but our bodies will be conformed to his for we are the glorious body of Christ. Because we open our hearts, deny ourselves, and follow after declaring, “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord” – which we do in each Sunday morning service.
Because we have this new covenant made by Jesus Christ, we receive God’s promises for our lives. And God keeps these promises, because Jesus as a man of his word can be trusted. It is through him that the Father in heaven keeps all the divine promises made to us. We become God’s joy, God’s crown. It may not look that way. Look at old father Abraham. He got to be 100 and was as good as dead, but still believed that Sarah, who was beyond child-bearing would yet and still bear the child of promise. So you and I have only to believe. Appearances deceive us. Conditions may be completely opposite and adverse, but we believe in God’s Word.
These appearances and conditions place us in the utter darkness that Abraham experienced. Even the realities we are in can speak against the promises of God. But God will overcome those realities that we are up against, with his promised new realities for us. So we keep on keeping on, because the way Abraham was so intimate with God and the way Jesus called God Abba Daddy or papa, so we too are God’s beloved, God’s children, on the rise in glorious bodies as we await the fulfillment of God’s promises to us. A few years ago I wrote a song about these lessons. I wanted to translate a German children’s song, Weisst Du Viefiel Sternlein Stehen an dem Blauen Himmelzelt? But it came out a completely different. It turned out Dixieland with a driving beat. Mark and I will sing it and then perhaps you can try it.
You Can’t Count the Stars
Genesis 15:5 Philippians 4:1 Judges 5:31
You can’t count the stars and
You can’t count the blessings.
God has in store for you
and God’s promises are true.
You have not heard
God’s holy Word,
if you don’t believe God loves you.
Longs for you his crown!
Love for you made him come down.
The cross is the direction
Of Christ’s holy resurrection.
Don’t be its enemy.
Let Jesus set you free.
You can’t count the stars and
You can’t count the blessings.
God has in store for you
and God’s promises are true.
God’s friends become
Just like the Son,
Rising in all its splendor.
Rise and shine!
It’s wake-up time.
Trust God and surrender!
The love of God, so rich and pure.
It’s the only thing, of which we’re sure.
I long for you, my joy my crown,
To raise you up, is why Christ came down.
For Ruth, Bob, and Alice O. March 8, 1998 from my Worship Song Book of December 29th 2010 with 12 songs: To order this song book write email@example.com
St. Valentine’s Day February 14th 2016 Christ Lutheran Church
Deut. 26:1-11 Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 Romans 10:8b-13 Luke 4:1-13
Children’s Time: When any of us at home would go on a trip, my brother-in-law, Bill would always say the verse from our Psalm for today: “For God will give the angels charge over you to protect you in all your ways.” (91:11) Then to make believe they were angels, my sisters would wave their arms like wings, so we would keep thinking about our guardian angels watching over us when we drove off.
When they waved their arms it looked funny – but we then knew just what they meant. Can you wave your arms like they were wings while I read the verse? “For God will give the angels charge over you to protect you in all your ways.”
The Psalm begins with our “dwelling in the shelter of the Most High and our abiding in the shadow of the Almighty,” because God is up there watching over us and sending angels, God’s messengers to guard and protect us. God does this without our asking, but God likes to be asked in prayer, so that we are mindful of the angels. Thus, whenever we left the house we had to say a verse from the Bible or read a passage from it. And when we were children we then had to say a prayer in German: Wie fröhlich bin ich aufgewacht/ wie hab ich geschlafen so sanft die Nacht/ hab dank den Vater im Himmel mein/ dass Du uns wollens bei mir sein/ Bleib mit mir auch diesen Tag / dass mir kein Leid geschehen mag. Amen.
How happily I woke up this morning
How soundly I slept all night
Thank you, dear Father in Heaven mine
that you were with me the whole time
and please watch over me today
so no harm can come my way. Amen.
Can we pray that together? Amen.
We Flourish by Giving
Sermon: With such clear texts in the Bible, I do not know how Christians can be anti-immigrants and refugees. We were all immigrants or refugees coming into the new world, except for Native Americans or Africans that we imported shackled to salve ships to buy and sell on auction blocks. That’s the story of African American history. So the children of Israel were told to recite this truth so that we would remember, we were all immigrants; just like they should remember: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor,” who remained a stranger in a strange land. And going down into the empire of Egypt, as descendants of Abraham, they were oppressed by slavery. God heard their cries and they received the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey. We received these spacious skies filled with amber fields of grain, from the Red Woods of California to the Long Island shores. We received this mighty continent, which we really stole from the Native Americans – but we live by forgiveness and we need to reach out to those we hurt so much.
Now the Bible also tells us to offer our first fruits, the way they did in a basket…notice how we often still collect the offering in baskets and our offerings allow us to prosper. That is because it requires self-denial to think of God first and remember the church, the immigrants, the refugees, and the poor among us, celebrating the bounty with which the Lord has blessed us.
[Now there is a place for self-affirmation, if someone has always been denied a say-so in one’s own life. And there is a place for raising capital if you start a business to meet the needs of others. But it’s Lent. Let’s consider self-denial.]
Christians flourish in self-acceptance via God’s acceptance by self-giving. The question is, “Why do we prosper when we give?” The answer, It’s because we slam the brakes on our insatiable desires that can really turn into greed. We can’t make ourselves first. God has to be first. We have to care for the widows and orphans, so that the common good becomes our concern. Our egos are a problem, because we could have a billion dollars and still be unsatisfied. Now I’ll give a dollar to a beggar and then see another beggar and I’ll feel: “Oh, no he is going to hit me again! I just gave the last one a dollar.” Then I’ll turn around and spend $50 at a restaurant with my wife. That’s 25 times more that I spent on me than I gave my neighbor. So giving money away, reduces my ego and makes me be able to deny myself. Keeping all my money makes what I have not nearly enough, giving way the tithe, the ten percent, that offering to the Lord, makes me have more than enough and even have something for beggars to spare. I speak from experience.
It is like pruning. I love roses. (Putting roses in my sermon is as close as I’ll get to Valentine’s Day.) We had a gardener who asked if she could prune my rose bushes. I said, “All right.” Then she cut whole stems away! Snip, snip, snip! She was brutal. My heart was bleeding! How could she cut off all those good branches? A short time afterwards, the roses burst out blooming as never before: over 50 blossoms, where there had only been 10 or 20 before, which the deer would eat. They came down the creek into our yard.
At that time in biblical history I don’t know whether they paid tithes and taxes or only tithes. But taxes, when they enhance the common good, also function the same way. Ugh! This hurts, but I have to hear this part too. Taxes can also function like pruning so that we prosper. We don’t seem to remember, but huge tax cuts preceded our great recession. There was so much money on Wall Street, that they were using crazy financial devices and making ever more risky bets to make more and more money. And consider this: If corporations have to give their first fruits, they will be blessed and they will flourish. It’s really counter-intuitive. But it helps them when they are mindful of the common good and do not get all absorbed in their private profits. Filling the needs for the public good is the purpose that makes them flourish.
By knocking money out of the first place in our lives also helps us remember that there are values that money just can’t buy. Check out our second lesson. It is pure Gospel and in the epistle! God bends over backwards to find a way to save us. Having the confession of Jesus Christ on our lips and having the Savior in our hearts, raises us up from the dead. When we believe in Jesus in our hearts, we become pleasing to God; we live our lives in God’s favor, and we become filled and fulfilled by God’s blessings.
When we have not pruned our egos, when we haven’t practiced self-denial, then we can really go out of bounds. Money does not need to be in first place. For some it is sexual pleasure. Think of those priests, who sexually abused children. They fall into the abyss of shame. But when God is in the first place, requiring self-denial, then whoever trusts in him will never be put to shame.
Money has to be knocked out of the first place in our lives. God has to be number 1. And loving our neighbors as ourselves goes along with loving God. Luther said, what your heart clings to and you really rely and depend on is your God. So when we have Jesus on our lips, let’s not have our hearts set on money. Let’s set our hearts on Christ rising from the dead, so that we rise up to live the wonderful life.
With Christ in our hearts with the strength of Christ we can overcome the temptations of money, alcohol, drugs, sex, what have you. They can’t give us the promised life that God provides us. We can get high on the Holy Spirit and there is no hang-over. We get high on the Spirit of love, compassion, and forgiveness. Then with all sinners and saints we can exclaim: it’s so great to be alive! Because the life in Christ is better that the life of Riley, whoever he was! But for that life we have to remember our humble origins, put God into first place. God’s grace provides us the strength to practice the necessary self-denial. Amen.
Love Means to Empty Ourselves of Ourselves to Make Room for Others: Fourth Sunday after Epiphany January 31, 2016
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany January 31, 2016
Jeremiah 1:4-10 Psalm 71:1-6 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Luke 4:21-30
Love Means to Empty Ourselves of Ourselves to Make Room for Others
The lessons for today are filled with sermons and I pray God in the words of Last week’s Psalm: that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart might be acceptable in God’s sight, dear Lord God, our rock, our strength, and our Redeemer. Amen. There’s the call of the boy Jeremiah; there’s the Love Poem of St. Paul; and there’s the story of Jesus’ hometown Nazareth and the trouble he has with his own folks.
It is also Reconciled in Christ Sunday today and we thank God that our congregation and our synod are R.I.C. How wonderful that we can affirm love even for a same-sex marriage and strengthen our acceptance of transgender folks and the LGBT community. It has been a long and arduous journey for me and many Christians are not there yet and we pray that their love expand their acceptance of others as well. Life is complex and we thank God that we love each other with a true and genuine internal bond, so that we can celebrate and even rejoice in our differences. True unity differentiates, because such unity is made out of love and trust and frees us to be as different as we actually are. Uniformity is an external thing that traps us into having to be the same and act the same. That saps our creativity. I believe a thankful response to the Good News is not only good works but also creativity. Good faith fuels our love. I remember a lawyer, who told me that when it came to the point of suing someone, the code words were: “You are no longer dealing with me in good faith.” So good faith fuels love and good faith is trust in God. It’s also important to trust each other and, of course, when we do, we often get hurt. So we have to be trustworthy – and we receive the power to trust and to be trustworthy from above, because we don’t live out of our own strength, but by the strength that comes down from above.
Now the folks in Jesus hometown, Nazareth, were amazed by the gracious words that came out of Jesus’ mouth. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son and don’t we know Mary his mother, and James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon, his brothers; and aren’t his sisters here with us?” Now he has to do for us what he did for Capernaum. Heal our sick, take care of us, perform the miracles among us that he did in those places. Galilee was the Galilee of the nations, meaning that Greeks, Syro-phonecians, and Romans were all living there and it was hard to be a Jew. “Jesus should drive all these foreigners out and give us a good Jewish revival.” They must have thought.
Doubtless you will quote the proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself.” Do here in your hometown the things we have heard you did in Capernaum.
The problem is that small towns like Nazareth and sometimes small churches can become like pools of stagnant water, with no refreshing stream flowing in and waterway flowing back out.
Then minds go to sleep. Hearts tend to grow narrow. Prejudices proliferate. Once I heard it said: the thinking starts stinking.
One definition of sin is to be turned in upon oneself and it is as easy as it is treacherous for love for a community or a church to get that way.
Jesus is called the man for others. Love is involved in forgetting oneself and being there for someone in need. We cannot love when we are full of ourselves. We have to empty ourselves of ourselves so that we make room for others. St. Francis says that it is in dying that we live. It is in dying to ourselves that we start living for others and the by-product becomes our own abundant life. But that abundant life requires giving ours away in love. Again to quote St. Francis: “It’s in giving that we receive.”
Let me give you an example from my own life. You know that I’ve been a pastor of Black and Puerto Rican congregations in Oakland and Coney Island. Back in New York we ran huge Vacation Church Schools and Day Camps and we rented out public schools. So to rent one public school I visited the custodian who had authority over the building. His wife and workers were also there and they were German. I spoke German with them…they loved me and welcomed our school. When my school arrived – it was Black and Puerto Rican! They could have killed me. I think I know just how Jesus felt when I walked through them in their office, when he walked through their midst and they couldn’t touch him, even though they were enraged and were going to throw him off that cliff.
Meanwhile, we left that school cleaner and more picked-up than we found it. An all-White Vacation Day Camp in a neighboring school that received all the city funding, while we received none – tore up their school. The kids ripped the fire-extinguishers off the walls and left the place in chaos. That was no crime. Being Black and Puerto Rican was. Can you see why prejudice is a crime? Our thinking can really start stinking.
Look at the incredible injustice of our War on Drugs! How many poor people of color are languishing in jails! Now when the White mainstream America, our quarterbacks and cheerleaders, have an epidemic of addictions and overdosing that is spiking in many states, we say, “We have to understand. It’s really a disease. They need our help. You don’t punish people for being sick!
If instead of racism and prejudice our hearts and souls would have been one with Black people and the poor in our cities, then we would have had twenty-five to thirty years to learn how to help the addicted and we would not be seeing all these young people dying of OD’s in New Hampshire, Nevada, and Mid-west America. And you know, it is not only drug dealers in the streets, it’s the drug sales of the huge pharmaceuticals and the doctors pushing pain-pills. Many athletes got hooked on pain medications.
I asked my doctor what to do with all my left-over oxycodone – pain medication I had to take for my hip replacement. I tried to get off it quickly to be able to work with a clear mind. He said, “Flush it down the toilet. Fish don’t like to feel pain either.” He was joking.
A lot of people are in pain. Kitamori, a Japanese theologian wrote a Theology of the Pain of God. Love sends us to bear some of the pain others are feeling. I know I myself can’t take much. There is physical pain and emotional pain. I know that one time I got beat up very badly in a mugging. Believe it or not, the physical pain was a relief from the emotional pain.
Just imagine, our Lord and Savior nailed onto the cruel rails of the cross, nailed like he was a block of wood. The most loving and sensitive person who ever lived on earth and we treated him like a piece of wood. And how insensitive we can be to others when it is “us and them” when we don’t feel their pain.
Let’s pray to God to help us get out of our self-concern and champion others who are in need: Native Americans, experiencing disaster in their lives on the reservations; people of color, whom we use to cushion us from the pain; immigrants, whom we deport breaking up their families; the homeless and poor. Think of the mass incarceration created by the War on Drugs, the two million languishing in our prisons and in the prisons inside our prisons. Imagine the fellows who spend 26 years in solitary confinement! Talk about pain!
Oh Lord, help us deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
 Cf. Psalm 19:14.
 Matthew 13:55-56.
 “Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace.”