Jun 2014 - "Life in the Spirit" sermon series

Life in the Spirit sermon series
Four sermons, four weeks, three sites.

Notes: Dan will interview Rich Sheridan about his book and how Rich’s Christian faith plays itself out in the work place. We want to do this at all three sites. The Rich and Dan interview will be about living out your Christian faith not only in your work place but through your vocation.

June is also Pentecost month, and Justin has a Pentecost sermon he can take on the road (and may be preaching it at the Wiki Conference in September—don’t tell!)

Justin worked with David Maier to put together the sermon and worship for the theological conference. Since we have that Salt and Light sermon (and service) put together already, and David is preaching on June 1 at the Chapel, it should be easy enough to pass on notes and even a manuscript to use that same theme for the two other guest preachers

Filled Up and Overflowing is a Pentecost sermon about the Holy Spirit being poured out on us, about being oriented toward the pouring so it doesn’t just spill all over the ground, and the difference between living always running back to the tap and having a  spring f living water that allows you to be full even when you are filling others.

Salt and Light is about our relationship to our culture and the tension in living a Christian life in a secular world and FOR a secular word.

Gifts and Fruit will be a sermon on the Christian walk, keeping in step with the Spirit, and the way both gifts and fruit show up in our live (what’s the difference and why does it matter?


May 04 - On the Road Again

On the Road Again
Text: Luke 24:13-36
Goal: That the hearers share the story of Jesus as they return to places of doubt
Date: Sunday, May 4, 2014

[Introduction—set up theme of story and how story ties people together]

Do you have a “family story”?  You know what I’m talking about—one of those tales that has become just a punch line because everyone has heard the joke a million times.  They are humorous short cuts, stories told again and again over the years, jokes that bind people together across generations.

So do you have a “family story” you could recount, an anecdote that gets told every major holiday and family get-together?  You probably have a few.  And you know when you’ve finally become a part of a team or a community or a family when you can laugh with the rest when someone, once again, brings up the time Bill made potato soup with powder sugar instead of flour, or the time two dogs ran up the center aisle in the middle of one of Grandpa’s sermons.

[Do what you are talking about: share a story that is part of the standard fare for your family or small group or team. This one’s mine: get your own.]

One of the many family stories around our house comes from my second or third Easter.  We were doing the traditional Rossow Easter Egg Hunt at Grandma and Grandpa’s farmhouse.  I was walking and talking, very excitable and as gullible as only young children can be.

Enter my Uncle David.  Dave hid one of the colorful Easter Eggs for little Justin in a bucket in the broom closet.  The bucket “somehow” got filled with cold water as well.

So there I was, in my little Easter knickers running around the house, bouncing off the walls.  The big people were all making a big fuss over the eggs and I was beside myself with youthful joy.  That’s when I was encouraged and cheered on to opening the closet door . . .

And then I saw it.  The still water acted like a magnifying glass, so my tender young eyes beheld the largest Easter Egg they had ever seen.  The crowd cheered.  I leapt forward.  With a lunge from the waist, I reached down into the bucket for the mother of all eggs . . .

The splash soaked my little dress shirt.  It soaked my clip-on tie.  It soaked my matching knickers.  It drenched my little hopes and shocked me to tears.

My Uncle contends to this day that he never meant to make me cry and he felt very guilty about it at the time.  But he can’t tell the story without smiling—and he WILL tell the story. Every year.

That’s one of our family stories.  By tradition, it must be alluded to whenever the topic of Easter egg hunts comes up.  Being a part of the Rossow clan means knowing that story.

[Even better if you can show someone using the story in a way that makes them an insider.]

I remember, early in our marriage, Miriam proved she had become part of the family.  We were doing an egg hunt with Grandma and Grandpa Rossow, and the notorious Uncle Dave and Aunt Nancy and their family.  When Dave found an egg in the bottom of an empty flower vase, Miriam turned to him with a wry smile and said rather dryly, “Too bad there wasn’t any water in it.”  The ensuing snorts and giggles at the inside joke again proved Miriam was an insider: she had truly become a part of our family.

[Turn toward the Text]

Stories have a special was of binding people together.  Good or bad, by relating our own personal history and experience, we find meaning and a way of sharing our lives with other people.

Just look at what the two disciples were doing on the road from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus:  “They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.”  They were telling and retelling their story.

In this time of disappointment, despair and disbelief, these two disciples were trying to make sense of it all.  Our text says they were discussing the events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth.
Listen again to their account of the story: 

 “Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?"  [19] And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,  [20] and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.  [21] But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.  [22] Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning,  [23] and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.  [24] Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."”

The Emmaus disciples were walking away from a confusing situation, a time of crisis and grief.  Life had thrown them a curveball and they couldn’t see how God could possibly be working in this situation.  

They are going back to Emmaus, but I imagine them troubled and preoccupied.  Things weren’t working out the way they thought.  Their future was suddenly insecure.  The road had taken a sudden and frightening turn.  Their life was not progressing the way they had planned.  They were headed to Emmaus, but they were going nowhere.

Does that sound at all familiar?  What kind of situation did you walk away from to come to worship this week?  These disciples left a troubled Jerusalem.  Did you come from a troubled work place?  Do you have stress in your family relationships?  Are you coming from a hospital or a nursing home?  Has your road taken a sudden turn you didn’t expect?  Do you feel like you don’t know where you are headed?  Are you having trouble making sense out of your life?  Is it hard to understand how God could possibly be working right now?

Then listen to what happens to your fellow travelers, these men on the road to Emmaus:
“While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.”

“Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” 

“He went in to stay with them.  [30] When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  [31] And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”

In their hour of confusion and doubt, Jesus Himself meets them on the road. Jesus journeys with them, He incorporates them into the Easter story, to help them understand, to strengthen their faith, to give them Himself.

And how does Jesus bring these two travelers into His story?  He opens the Scriptures to them.  Then he breaks bread with them.  That’s when their eyes are opened.

And then something really amazing happens.  Even though they had just finished the journey, even though it was dark outside and they didn’t have streetlights or taxicabs, even though they had just come from Jerusalem, these two disciples get back on the road.  

They went back to their place of confusion and despair because they had been changed.  Jesus had opened the Scriptures to them.  Jesus had broken bread with them.  Their story had been swallowed up in Jesus’ story.  

Their hearts burned within them and they had to get back, back to the confusion, back to the stress, back to the loneliness and the despair—back to where people needed to hear that Jesus is alive!

But it doesn’t stop there!  Then comes the best part of the story!  The Emmaus disciples get back to Jerusalem, they share the Story of Jesus, the Story that has now become their own story, and Jesus Himself shows up!

“Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, "Peace to you!"”

The Emmaus disciples left a place of stress and confusion and despair.  Jesus came to them in Word and Sacrament and changed their story into His Story.  The disciples took that story back to the same exact place of confusion and despair, and Jesus shows up!  
As they told their story, as they shared His story, Jesus himself came and said, “Peace be with you.”

[I have another family story that has to do with my Dad’s first day as a teacher at St. Paul in Flint. It serves to reinforce the family story idea and emphasizes the calling for each of us in our lives to point people to Jesus. I am not even going to write this one out for you; you might steal it …]

“Show them Jesus!”  family story.

You have come to worship from a wide range of homes and work places.  You are each facing your own problems, stresses, sins, pains, confusions, doubts, fears.  But you have come where the story of Jesus interests with your life.  Jesus is here in His Word.  Jesus is here in the breaking of the bread.  He is here to forgive your sins and strengthen your faith.  His story changes your story.

But you don’t leave Jesus behind when you exit the sanctuary. Like the Emmaus disciples, Jesus find you on the road. Jesus journeys with into your week. Jesus walks with you down that road and listens, and opens scripture, and swallows your story up in His.

So you can go back to that stressful situation at home, you can go back to those problems at work, you can go back to the uncertainty of the hospital or nursing home because Christ is Risen!  

His story changes your story.  And as you take His story with you back to those exact same places of confusion and despair, He promises to be there with you, too.  Jesus shows up to say, “Peace be with you.”  



May 2014

May 4, Road to Emmaus
May 11, SL confirmation, Good Shepherd Sunday at other two sites
May 18, LW confirmation, Good Shepherd Sunday at SL

May 25, stand alone service at the three sites as a transition to the Pentecost service


Apr 27 "Season of the Cross" - Celtic Cross [Easter 2]

Celtic Cross: different theories behind origins, but focus on circles as rising sun and symbol of eternity.
Jesus resurrection is related to both.

(Luke 1:67-79, Zechariah’s song points to the rising of the sun and the completion of God’s promises. Christmas/Easter connection.)

John 20:19-31


Apr 20 "Season of the Cross" - Lily Cross [Easter]

Series Title: The Season of the Cross
Text: John 20:1-18
Sermon Title: the Lily Cross
Date: April 20, 2014

Focus Paragraph (Normally from abstract): 
Victory, new life, reasons behind using the Lily as an Easter flower

Main Point
The resurrection is like a seed sown. It dies in the ground and then bursts forth with the resurrection. The lily reflects that life blooming. It is a spring flower, white in purity, calling forth life. All people and all cultures are changed by this resurrection.

Other readings (For the day and/or for study):
Hosea 14:4-8 (particularly vs.5)
I Corinthians 15:35-44
We deny the power of the resurrection and live in the short term, in the immediate moment. Result is that we ignore that eternal hope until we hit a crisis.  We are forced out of our immediate satisfaction to see that we don’t have all the answers.

Jesus dies, as with any seed, is placed into the ground. Out of the seed comes life beyond anything we would expect. We are given the eternal gift of a blossoming pure life. The life of the Easter lily.

Text Notes:
My focus is on the gospel. Please look at the other readings. Hosea shares a good word on the lily, “I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily.” First Corinthians 15 takes the idea of sown giving examples and ultimately Paul writes, “it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”  First Corinthians has much that could be integrated into our understanding of resurrection today.

John 20:1, “First day of the week” Very early on Sunday, as the sun began to rise. We’re told Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. We know from the synoptics that other women went as well. Mary likely went first. She found the stone removed and the body gone.
Vs. 2, she ran to Peter and “the one Jesus loved” (this is understood to be John) “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb….” 
Vs. 3-7, they ran to the tomb. Note there is a lot of running. Mary runs, Peter and the other guy run. The young guy beat the old guy and then paused looking in.  Bodies were wrapped up in strips of linen with spices sprinkled between the linens. The wrappings were gone. The old guy, Peter, ran up and he entered the tomb. We are given very specific information. The strips of linen, the burial cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus, and the cloth around Jesus’ head was folded up. John is clear that that it was separate from the linen.
Vs. 8-9, the young guy enters the tomb and sees and he knows. “He saw and believed.” Neither quite understood what was happening. This would come.
Vs. 10-11a, in the chronology, Mary M. followed Peter and John. They left but Mary stayed. There is something to say for her persistence and love for Jesus.  
Vs. 11b-13, Mary has a conversation with an angel. There are two present. The funny thing is that she talks with them. I think I would be a bit more unnerved. She believes someone stole the body.
Vs. 14-16, Jesus appears to her. Thinking him a gardner and thinking he may have taken the body, asks Him what he did with it. Most important, he looked at her and spoke her name, “Mary” and then she knew and cries out, “Teacher.”
Vs. 17, She grabs onto him, clings to him. This is a really moving moment and should be developed. Her holding on to him speaks to a bodily resurrection and not just a “spirit” form of resurrection. He commands her to go to the disciples with a message.
Vs. 18, “I have seen the Lord!” She gives report of the resurrection.

Theological Notes:
Jesus speaks to a woman. Even in the resurrection he chooses to approach the lowly woman. Women had little position in the first century and certainly a poor woman had no influence. Jesus reaches out to a woman. Certainly a testimony to us. We are called no matter our station or position of influence.

The story is described in every day language. There is nothing elevated about people walking to a tomb, than running to the tomb. What they see is extraordinary. In the midst of the ordinary God works something beyond belief, a resurrection. The responses are typical, questioning, doubt, confusion. Very human emotions.

John gives us very specific details. He is clear that this is a historical fact and not to be doubted. 

Preaching Notes:
  1. Take a lily from the display. Hold it up. Talk about spring and the planting of seeds. A seed is planted and we get a beautiful flower that opens up with a wonderful aroma.
  2. Look at 1st Corinthians. A seed sown produces the unnatural. This is the story of the resurrection.  
  3. Spend time painting the resurrection story from John. His emphasis is on Mary Magdalene. The surprise of life beyond the grave. Our hope.
  4. We live in the short term, the immediate, and we lose focus on the eternal.  In fact, we by nature want to live with our satisfaction. When we don’t get the answers we want in the way we want them, we disregard the Easter promise that Christ is with us.
  5. In the midst of the selfishness God speaks words of hope. Resurrection means we do not lose hope.
  6. Show Bono video
  7. Irish believer but we have believers from all over the world (at LW we’ll do the gospel in different languages)
  8. God calls us no matter where we are, no matter our circumstances. As Paul writes in 1st Corinthians we are sown perishable but we are raised imperishable – Byron, Ron Z., Tom Randall – we are given this promise.
  9. I’m closing with a lily story. I planted an Easter lily in our front garden with the flag post. Every summer that lily blooms in the midst of all the shrubs. I see the white tucked in the midst of all the green that covers it up. The flower rises in all its purity and celebrates life.

Other ideas (illustrations): 
  • Bono video on his faith and the resurrection 
  • Play a portion of “Beautiful Day” by U2. I’m thinking of a recording as a transition. Victor had a thought about this that I thought was good. 
  • Have the gospel read with different languages, their dominant language (Chinese, Spanish, etc.), the resurrection crosses all lines. 
  • After Mao kicked the westerners out of China there was fear that the Christian church would be dead. When they returned in the 90s, it was discovered that there were 60 million believers. People told people the story of the resurrection. (I know this could be a Pentecost illustration as well.There is overlap)


Apr 18 - Good Friday

These same scenes are to be used on Good Friday for the Tenebrae service. The characters on the right are the perspectives I would focus on for Good Friday.

Here are the readings:

Good Friday Tenebrae

The Arrest           
John 18:1-14 (Temple Guard)

Peter’s Denial   
John 18:15-27 (Servant Girl)

Before Pilate     
John 18:28-40 (Barabbas)

The Verdict         
John 19:1-16 (Pilate)

King on a Cross  
John 19:17-27 (Mary)

It is Finished       
John 19:28-37 (Roman Soldier)

John 19:38-42 (Nicodemus) 


Apr 17 - "Season of the Cross" - Servant Cross [Maundy Thursday]

Series Title: The Season of the Cross
Text: John 13:1-17
Sermon Title: The Servant Cross
Date: April 17, 2014

Focus Paragraph (Normally from abstract): 
Humility, servanthood, greater love has no one than this: to lay down his life for his friends.

Main Point: 
To serve rather than to be served is unnatural. Our instinct is always to be served and resist serving.

Other readings (For the day and/or for study):
Exodus 12:1-11, Establishment of Passover
Philippians 2:5-11, confession of Jesus becoming a servant, “empty himself.” Look at vs. 7.
Humility and servanthood are not natural. We are naturally self-centered. In fact, to be a servant is unnatural and we resist it.

Christ chooses to do the unnatural and serves, sacrifices himself for us. The washing of feet is a profound example of humility for the sake of the disciples.

Text Notes:  John 13:1-17
Vs. 1, this verse is loaded with information. Jesus knew it was time to leave this world, having loved his own (I like this phrase a lot. That’s a sermon), he showed them the full extent of his love.
Vs. 2, Judas is there during the meal. John is clear of the devil’s involvement. Judas was already the Betrayer.
Vs. 3, John makes it clear that Jesus is divine and had “all things under his power” and was now getting ready to return to God.
Vs. 4, John sets the position of Jesus as God and then in this verse we see God humble Himself for us. He takes off his outer robe, put a towel around his waist…he became a slave.  Humility.
Vs. 5, Then he does the act of a slave. Remember Judas’ feet were washed as well.
Vs. 6-9, Peter sees what Jesus is doing. The one who is to be honored chooses to honor. One commentator says about Peter that he has the “most profound and beautiful astonishment.” What Jesus was done was beyond Peter’s comprehension. Picture the conversation of Jesus on His knees looking up at Peter. In a state of humility Jesus calls Peter to a different understanding of his teacher. Coming soon Peter will know what Jesus intended by this moment.
Vs. 10-11, Jesus gives a word on faithfulness and points to the betrayer. 
Vs. 12, Jesus now enters into a teachable moment. 
Vs. 13-17, Read these words carefully.  Jesus is pointed that His followers are to do what He does. Die, be a servant, be a slave. Be like the Teacher. Jesus came with a new message. What does it mean to be a follower? Jesus establishes a standard. And to do them “you will be blessed.” Look at Mark 10:45. 

Theological Notes:
The whole act of serving culminated in the death of Jesus. This was certainly beyond the comprehension of the disciples. The act of washing certainly points to a faithful cleansing to come. Jesus turns the act of authority upside down. The leader serves the student.

Preaching Notes: 
  1. Give an explanation of the context. Jesus and the disciples have started the Passover meal. The washing of feet was always done by the slave. Jesus interrupts the meal to do the act of washing.
  2. Peter does what we would do. He honors the authority of Jesus but Jesus points him to a different calling.
  3. Ultimately Jesus gives a teaching of servanthood. He gives the calling of being a slave. “No servant is greater than the master.”
  4. Where do you struggle with serving? How do you struggle with the expectation of serving? Think of an example where you wrestle with serving or expect to be served,  “You know, the customer is always right.”
  5. Close with Jesus gives them a glimpse of a servant that night. Little did they realize that within a day Jesus would be dead, the greatest act of servanthood.

Other ideas (illustrations)

  • Have a basin of water and a towel as a symbol on the altar.
  • Think of where we have a difficult time serving. We don’t typically wash feet today so what is our act of serving.