The Terror of a Moment of Reckoning
Sermon for November 18-19, 2017
The Last Judgment as Hope and Terror
Near the end of his earthly ministry, the disciples asked Jesus to tell them when the end of the age would come, and what signs they might observe that would alert them that end was coming. Jesus told them that no one knows the day or the hour when the end will come, and he alerted them to signs that have been observed and noted in every generation since: wars, violence, hatred, divisiveness and oppression.
We note those signs even today, and we wonder if this might be the end, the great unraveling of creation. Deep down, we long for an end to war and violence; oppression and suffering; hunger and thirst and mourning and loss, and we cry out for justice and the start of a new day. And so, we have to recognize that something deep in us longs for the end to come and that longing is a cry for release from the powers that bring pain and suffering and death. We wait and watch for the end.
This is My Story; This is My Song
Psalm 70 and Luke 10:25-37
In St Augustine’s teaching on the spiritual meaning of this parable, we hear how the man who is robbed and beaten and left half dead is the human being. We are that person. In every spiritual sense we have been robbed by sin and left to die apart from God, and religious functionaries of every kind are powerless to help us. Only Christ can save us by taking on our human nature and healing our wounds and dying for our sins. Only Christ by his death and resurrection can give us eternal life. And that is what he gives us. He comes and rescues us. That is the good news of the Gospel.
Can you hear in this parable how we may start to tell our story, but end up telling God’s story of mercy and love for us in Jesus Christ? Our stories have converged in Christ. And in the church ... where we have been placed by Christ for rest and rehabilitation ... to learn again to trust God and love God above all things and to understand that loving our neighbor means getting out of ourselves and being neighbor to all in our lives.
My Story: Kristen Luettchau
This means “Good Health” in Slovak, and I remember my grandpa saying it all the time when I was growing up. It’s probably the only Slovak phrase I learned from him, but it’s a good one. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 99. I remember growing up and going to Zion Lutheran Church with him and my mom every Sunday. His father, my great-grandfather, was one of the founders of that church. Why am I telling you all of this information about my grandfather when the topic for this week is “My Story”?
At the Limits of Our Love
Pastor Krombholz's Sermon. Saturday, October 30, 2017
Leviticus 19:1-4, 9-18, 33-37
In his explanation to the First Article of the Creed, Martin Luther confesses, “I believe that God created me together with all creatures.” In his book, Martin Luther's Theology, A Contemporary Interpretation, Luther scholar and theological Oswald Bayer notices that this confession of faith is both personal … God created me … and at the same time communal and relational … together with all creatures. From the beginning, God’s gift of life is a gift that is sustained by within a family and a community. Is it any wonder then, that the Ten Commandments begin with faith in God and work out in love toward neighbor.
Love Your Neighbor, Generously
By Jane Brady
Wayne and I recently heard a presentation by Ryan Cumming of the ELCA regarding the book, The Forgotten Luther, Reclaiming the Social-Economic Dimension of the Reformation. During that presentation, Mr. Cumming mentioned that Martin Luther said a church should have two pieces of furniture: the altar and the community chest. Here at St. Paul’s, we certainly have the altar but we also have the community chest. This community chest was to have funds within to provide help to those in need in the community in Luther’s way of seeing economic justice.
by Tony Gruenewald
Whenever we're in the community at an event like the Metuchen Country Fair it's always heartening to see people's reaction to these shirts that say, "God's Work...Our Hands." At the Country Fair we were selling rubber ducks for a buck to send to the ELCA's God's Global Barnyard program. Of course, most people wanted to add to their duck collection. Who knew, well Billy Orcutt knew, how many people collected rubber ducks? But some people just gave money and said, "Thank you for what you're doing!" Like I was God's ambassador in the world or something. And then I realized, "Oh yeah, I AM God's ambassador in the world." How humbling is that...that God shows so much grace that he allows a sinner like me to be God's ambassador in the world?
It's like in the parable Jesus tells about the Good Samaritan. These days we think of Samaritans as good. But it's lost to us now that to the people first hearing it, the idea that a Samaritan could be held up as an ambassador of God's mercy must have been totally shocking. To the Jews of Jesus' time Samaritans were heretics, the lowest of the low-a despised people to be avoided at all cost. But while others who considered themselves righteous avoided helping a stranger, the Samaritan came to his aid and did God's work with his hands. Jesus' original audience must have thought, "If even a Samaritan can show God's mercy, why can't I?"
These days it's called paying it forward: Repaying unexpected kindness by being kind to someone else, by doing something even as small as buying the stranger behind you a cup of coffee at McDonalds. Or, as Jesus put it, loving your neighbor as you love yourself.
Now we've ALL been gifted by God's grace. How do we respond to that greatest gift of all? How can we at St. Paul's pay God's grace forward? How can we at St. Paul's love our neighbors as we love ourselves? How can we at St. Paul's be like that Good Samaritan that Jesus uses as an example of showing mercy?
Over the past few weeks we've donated over $1,300 to Lutheran Disaster Relief to help our neighbors in need in Texas, and Florida, and Puerto Rico, and all the other places devastated by this year's hurricanes. One hundred percent of your donations have gone and will continue to go to buy and distribute things like food and water, blankets, and generators, to provide clean-up help, and to operate temporary shelters.
Why can all of that money be used for relief? Because St. Paul's and congregations like ours across the state and country decided to pay it forward with mission support. We take the gifts that have been given to us and pay it forward as mission support to the New Jersey Synod who then pays it forward to the ELCA who uses it to make sure:
That mission support we pay forward helps build and maintain the infrastructure that allows the Synod to help our neighbors in need. So, why is that infrastructure so important to build and maintain?
Well, here's been a lot of talk about infrastructure in the news. Roads, bridges, tunnels, airports...all in need of tax dollars for repairs. And what happens when that infrastructure isn't kept up and breaks? We've seen it here recently with New Jersey Transit and Amtrak...tracks and tunnels falling apart and trains derailing leading people getting injured and even killed...and if you tried to travel to and from New York this past summer...you may have experienced some long delays and cancelled trains as long-overdue repairs were made...emergency repairs they were called...that wouldn't have been an emergency if the tracks and tunnels...the infrastructure...had been maintained.
You may be wondering, what does this have to do with God's role in the Good Samaritan parable and our role with our neighbors?
Well, as much as we might want to personally do God's work in Texas or Puerto Rico, most of us can't go there, but by paying it forward through mission support we can make sure that Lutheran Disaster Relief can have people there to do God's Work. And like the Good Samaritan came back to check on the injured man, they'll continue to do God's Work in those places long after the television cameras and first responders have gone home.
So, what is our role in this? We've been given the gift of God's grace and mercy...how do we pay that gift forward? How can make sure God's work gets done for all of our neighbors? If our hands can't personally be there we can send mission support to make sure someone's hands are there is our name doing God's work. That portion of your offering you designate on your envelope to mission support goes a long way to paying it forward to make sure the infrastructure is in place and maintained so it's ready to help around the state...around the country...and around the world...to as Jesus said, "go and do likewise" in paying God's grace forward to help all of our neighbors in their times of need.
I'm humbled to think that God has chosen someone like me to be a Good Samaritan and pay forward his mercy in this world. Hey, I'm more than well acquainted with my own faults to know I'd probably not choose myself as an ambassador to much of anything. But God's given me the grace to pay it forward or as Jesus put it, "go and do likewise." And it's amazing to know that here at St. Paul's I'm surrounded by all of you, who God has also chosen to be Good Samaritans, God's ambassadors to "go and do likewise." Now, just think of all the mercy we can pay forward in this fallen world. Amen
Part 1: This is God’s Story
One day someone asked Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)
That’s a very important question. In some ways that is the question that brings a lot of to worship each week. It literally is a question of death and life.
So what must we do to inherit eternal life? Jesus asks this person to remember what it says in the Bible (Luke 10:26), and he asks him to remember the story of ...
Council approved a tentative plan to better secure the pews to the sanctuary floor. If this new strategy proves successful on several rows of pews, further funding will be approved to secure the remainder of the pews. Thank you to Paul Lubonski and Bob Crupi for leading this project.
Council approved a new PA system that can be shared with the other congregations that use the sanctuary. This new system will include monitors to allow musicians to hear themselves better while playing, an iPad controllable sound mixer, and other items. This will allow us to share PA equipment which will lessen the wear-and-tear on the carpeting and flooring caused by each congregation wheeling its equipment in and out of the sanctuary. It will also lessen the clutter created by each congregation having to store its own equipment in the church. Thank you to Paul and Kelly Lubonski for researching the needs of all the congregations and suggesting equipment that would economically meet those requirements and leave room for expansion.
We are looking for hosts to small "cottage" stewardship meetings in their homes.
Council approved a new church directory to be created by LifeTouch (formerly Olan Mills) free-of-charge to the church. It will be a directory including the other Edison ELCA churches (St. Stephen and Our Savior). LifeTouch photographers will be on-site at St. Paul's on April 13 and 14, 2018. Everyone who schedules and shows up for their photograph session will receive a free directory and photograph. Thank you to Sharon Gadomski for researching this project and leading the committee.
A Reformation 500 celebration will be held at St. Paul's on Sunday, October 29 starting at 1 p.m. It will include a luncheon followed by a worship service. Announcements will go out via social and local media inviting the community. A tent will be rented. Thank you to Kristen Luettchau for leading this committee.
Patience is Faith in Action
Martin Luther famously said: "If I were God, I'd kick the world to pieces." There are days when I whole-heartedly agree with him. I feel that way because of the big injustices in the world -- hunger, poverty, hatred, greed and violence, but also I feel the anger and frustration that comes with daily living ... with ordinary meanness, pettiness, and the run-of-the-mill senseless, stupid suffering. I'm sure, though, that if you were God you'd be much more generous and gracious than I. Although, I also suspect that nothing would make us want to kick the world apart more than the experience of being God ... and I think this for one reason only ... you may disagree, that's OK ... but here's my reason: For anything and everything good in that happens in this world, there's always someone or something that ruins or spoils it.
The latest news, sermons and commentary on our life in mission together.