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LCH Sermons—Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany 2008/09

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Last Epiphany: Transfiguration Sunday—February 22, 2009

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: 2 Kings 2:1–12; Psalm 50:1–6; 2 Corinthians 4:3–6; Mark 9:2–9
Summary: I do not understand the mechanics or magic of Transfiguration, but in Mark it is very much a transition from the early days of Jesus’ ministry to the journey towards Jerusalem. This transition was difficult for the disciples, but Jesus reminds them that they must be going. As with Elijah and Elisha, the mantle must be passed. In the same way, it passes to us. This is a difficult world, and we face budget difficulties. We must start with God’s promise to be with us, take up the mantle of discipleship, and fulfill our mission.

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Epiphany VI—February 15, 2009

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: 2 Kings 5:1–14; Psalm 30; 1 Corinthians 9:24–27; Mark 1:40–45
Summary: Today’s Gospel about the healing of the man with leprosy is an amazing story. In those days a leper was considered ritually unclean, but Jesus set that and his own feelings aside to heal him. In contrast to Naaman in 2 Kings, who first tried to bribe God, the leper came with humility and faith. Finally, Jesus orders the man not to tell anyone, but of course, he does. (Maybe I should try that tactic.) God chooses to heal us so we may become healers of the world.

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Epiphany V—February 8, 2009

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Isaiah 40:21–31; Psalm 147:1–12, 21c; 1 Corinthians 9:16–23; Mark 1:29–39
Summary: In today’s Gospel, the people crowd around Jesus to be healed. He heals some, goes off to pray, and then takes the disciples to the other villages. This is so different from the Hallmark Jesus who heals every ill and meets every need. It calls us to spiritual maturity. The story makes it clear that Jesus did not come as our personal valet but to bring transformation and hope. Every day we hear about more hurt and loss in the world. The Gospel tells us the world will be healed. At the same time, we know that Jesus goes on to the next village. What is our next village?

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Epiphany IV—February 1, 2009

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Deuteronomy 18:15–20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1–13; Mark 1:21–28
Summary: We see the world changing around us—the economy, how people communicate, how they form relationships—but the church continues as if nothing has changed. The church loves religion—how we do things—but we are called to something beyond that. In today’s gospel, Jesus preached with authority and the people were amazed. Imagine a radical church where God is at the center and we could stop worrying about what we do at church and move out into the world. By putting God at the center, we can stop being a religious group and become the body of Christ.

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Epiphany III/RIC Sunday—January 25, 2009

Preacher: Bob Zimmer
Lessons: Genesis 32:9–15, 33:4–11 Psalm 133; II Corinthians 5:14–6:3; Mark 1:14–20
Summary: This is Reconciling in Christ Sunday, when we highlight LCH’s welcome to all people, and especially gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. This emphasis is reflected in our mission statement: “Welcoming to all....” Today’s Psalm talks about how good and pleasant it is when kindred dwell together in unity. Each of us is part of the whole, and our differing identities bring us together. We need to graciously embody Christ for all and bring wholeness of life to all.

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Epiphany II—January 18, 2009

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: I Samuel 3: 1–20; Psalm 139: 1–5, 12–17; I Corinthians 6:12–20; John 1:43–51
Summary: The story of Samuel in the temple is about his personal call to do a difficult task, but even more, it is about how all people are called. Samuel had no idea where his call would take him, Nathanael had no idea where Philip’s call to meet Jesus would take him, and our parents had no idea where our calls in baptism would lead. If we expect our calls to lead to perfection, happiness, or riches, we will be disappointed. If we expect to see God’s people in relationship—and all that involves—we have come to the right place.

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Baptism of Jesus—January 11, 2009

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Genesis 1:1–5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1–7; Mark 1:4–11
Summary: Most of us cannot remember the date of our baptism, but we remember how God claimed us as his own forever. The story begins with John baptizing at the Jordan. The heavens are torn open, and we hear the same voice that spoke at creation. This is the same baptism we receive; God unequivocally says, “I love you and I call you as my own forever.” We receive this gift at baptism, but it remains to be discovered and uncovered. The key question is this: How is my baptism making use of me?

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Second Sunday after Christmas—January 4, 2009

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Jeremiah 31:7–14; Psalm 147:12–20; Ephesians 1:3–14; John 1:1–18
Summary: This is a time when we feel let down. After the celebrations of Christmas, it can seem dark, and with everything happening in the world, all we seem to see is darkness. However, in the midst of this darkness comes a promise that the word of God is coming as the light of the world. John tells us that the world cannot overcome this light. This light—this energy—began in the manger, but energy needs something to move out from its source. Our work is to proclaim the light.

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German Vespers for New Year’s Day—January 1, 2009

Preacher: Pastor Fritz Fritschel
Lessons: Isaiah 62:1–5, 10–12; Philippians 2:9–13
Summary: J.S. Bach lived in a contained, ordered world unlike the diverse world we live in. He did not know about the religious pluralism we understand, but there are similarities between the way today’s Cantata 171 invokes the name of Jesus and Shinran’s invocation of the name of Amida Buddha. The idea of panentheism—that God is in all things and all things are in God—is similar to the opening chorus of the cantata. The world of the cantata is different from ours, but there is a common human quest for meaning and community.

Read the English translation of this sermon.

Holy Innocents—December 28, 2008

Lessons and Carols—No sermon.

Christmas Eve—December 24, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Isaiah 9:2–7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11–14; Luke 2:1–20
Summary: This is the night we have been waiting for. Tonight Christ is born. This is the only reason we are here. A light has come into the world and illuminated the darkness. In the midst of all the darkness of our lives—recession, fear, hopelessness, anxiety—God poured God’s self out for you. Luther said that it was enough that God came to save the world, but there is more. This child is born for you. This is why we are here.

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Advent IV—December 21, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: 2 Samuel 7:1–11, 16; Psalm 89:1–4, 19–26; Romans 16:25–27; Luke 1:26–38
Summary: Every year we hear the story in today’s Gospel of God speaking to Mary. The angel tells her not to be afraid because she has found favor with God and will have a son. She must have been terrified. It is an incredible story, but the most incredible part is her answer, “Let it be according to your word.” The real miracle in this story is her faith response. Mary didn’t have a choice about being pregnant, but she did choose to embrace it with faith. Each of us is also called to bear Christ to the world. As we come closer to Christ’s coming at Christmas, our call becomes clear. What will our response be?

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Advent III—December 14, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Isaiah 61:1–4, 8–11; Psalm 126; I Thessalonians 5:16–24; John 1:6–8, 19–28
Summary: In today’s Gospel, the people ask John the Baptist who he is, and he clearly tells them who he is not and what he is, the voice crying in the wilderness and pointing to God. Our job as the church is not so much to be Jesus in the world (although that is part of what we are) but to point to the one who has already come. The world has been getting ready for Christmas for weeks, but they do not point to Jesus. Paul tells us not to quench the Spirit. We are called to point with gusto and say that God is alive. God has let the spirit loose in the world. When the last Advent candle is lit, how will we point?

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Advent II—December 7, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Isaiah 40:1–11; Psalm 85:1–2, 8–13; 2 Peter 3:8–15a; Mark 1:1–8
Summary: Isaiah’s and John’s calls to prepare the way were spoken to people in pain, and the people heard this a a voice of change for the good. In our current situation of financial crisis, we can hear it in the same way. What will the way of the Lord be like? It is not about building great churches or scoring points for morality. First, we hear the voice of the angels saying “Be not afraid,” and then we take the love that God has first for us and pour it out in the world. Our proper work is to prepare the way, not for the future but for the present. We are called to lay the foundation for Christ who is already present. The way of the Lord is smoothed out in song and poem, and in hearts transformed by love. Christ’s advent is now—in this country, in this world, in you.

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Advent I—November 30, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Isaiah 64:1–9; Psalm 80:1–7, 17–19; I Corinthians 1:3–9; Mark 13:24–37
Summary: Advent (meaning “coming”) is an active word. The season looks both forward to Jesus’ second coming and to Jesus’ coming now. Jesus says to be alert because we don’t know when he will come. However, in the church we often fall asleep when we concentrate on the distant future and are not ready in the present. Jesus comes in bread and wine, in song and procession, in flesh and blood and breath of his body present now. As we wait for that coming, we will not always get it right, but we will remain in the presence of God because Advent begins and ends in grace.

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