Monthly Archives: May 2014

“WWGSABATK” 05.18.2014 Sermon

John 14:1-14 • May 18, 2014

Click here to view a video of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and risen Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

I want to lift up a couple of random thoughts I’ve had about today’s gospel reading from Saint John.

Even though we are in the season of Easter, take note that this text comes before the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

And the first six verses of this gospel reading are among the most beloved words in the history of the Christian church. At Good Shepherd, we hear these verses most often during funerals.

Slide4And finally, this conversation between Jesus, Thomas and Philip actually begins because of a question that Simon Peter asks Jesus just a few verses before today’s reading. In chapter 13:36, Simon Peter asks, “Lord, where are you going?” What we hear in chapter 14 is not only Jesus answer to Thomas and Philip’s questions, but also the continuation of his answer to Simon Peter’s question from chapter 13.

John’s gospel is unique in many ways, especially when we compare it to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. There is no Sermon on the Mount or parables or even a nativity story. Professor Karoline Lewis offered a brief theological summary of the gospel of John this week that I thought might be helpful for our time together today. She writes, “Jesus’ farewell words to his disciples in this discourse anticipate and assume the events that lie ahead: the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension. Each one of these realities is the result of the primary theological event in the Gospel of John, the incarnation.”

Jesus – the incarnation – God’s son coming into the world. I don’t know about you, but the incarnation is one of the most comforting parts of my journey of faith and at the same time one of the hardest things for me to fully understand. I don’t think the disciples in today’s gospel are any different. They seem to be having a hard time understanding what Jesus is trying to say to them, not only about what is to come, but also about what has already come, and who already is standing before them as the incarnation.

Now I have to be honest with you. You all look like a pretty intelligent and hip bunch of folks.

I mean, if you see this in an email or text message, LOL, you know what it means right? “Laugh out loud.”Slide2

How about this one…. IDK. Of course you know that that means, “I don’t know.”

Or, here’s a little tougher one…AFAIK. It means “As far as I know.”

Wendy and I were recently at the annual gathering of Senior Pastors from Large ELCA Churches. One afternoon Wendy struck up a texting conversation with one of our daughters back in North Dakota.

Being the creative, hip, modern parents that we are, of at least think we are, Wendy’s text message conversation was about one of our dogs needing a bath while we were away. She sent this text message “WWGSABATK.” You all know what that says, right? No. Believe it or not, even our teenage daughters didn’t understand it.

Slide8WWGSABATK says, “We will give Sadie (one of our dog’s names) a bath after the kennel.” Of course it says that. How could anyone miss that?

If you’ve ever tried to have a complete conversation via text messaging, especially with a teenager, you can relate. It’s almost like Jesus is trying to have conversation with the disciples via text message. His closest friends, who really should be getting it by now, still don’t seem to get it. Still don’t understand who Jesus is and why he is here. Somewhere along the line the text message got too complicated for the disciples to understand.

In an effort to finally understand what Jesus is saying, Philip blurts out and says, “Lord, just show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” In a text message, it may have looked like this – “LJSUTFAWWBS.”

Philip and the other disciples, and in many ways you and me today, don’t get the fact that the Father is already with them and they have seen the Father through Jesus.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s really important to hear Jesus’ words. They are a whole lot less about a place that we hope to go to when we die and a whole lot more about relationship: our relationship with each other, our relationship with Jesus, and our relationship with God the Father through Jesus.

One last text message.


This past February while I was in El Salvador with a mission team from Good Shepherd, I had the great joy of meeting and working alongside one of the newest members of Good Shepherd team – Pastor Dell Sanderson from southwest Minnesota. Pastor Dell and I were sharing stories about the congregations we serve and how exciting it is to see God at work in the midst of Jesus disciples in our congregations. We talked about moments in our congregations that literally take our breathe away. Moments that drop us to our knees in prayer. Moments that bring overwhelming joy to every part of our being. Moments that stretch our faith to the point that we struggle to even believe God exists. Pastor Dell and I believe that all of those moments – the good and the bad – are sacred. They are holy times with God and God’s children in ways that we simply will not be able to fully understand in this world.

Pastor Dell called these moments in time being “Blindsided by God’s Grace.”Slide10

I think that’s one of the things happening to the disciples in this section of John’s gospel. They are blindsided by God’s grace. They may not see it or understand it, and they will continue to cry out for proof in order to be satisfied, but it’s there. God’s grace is always there.

And I believe that that happens to you and me every day in our life in Christ too. So when you are blindsided by God’s grace this week, don’t try to understand it or explain it or rationalize it or tuck it away in a dark closet. Don’t be afraid to be Blindside by God’s Grace. Just receive it. And be blessed by it.  Amen.



“Taking Time to Look as We Walk Along the Road” 05.04.2014 Sermon

Luke 24:13-35

Click here to view a video of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and risen Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Happy Easter! I hope that greeting doesn’t sound too strange. After all, it is still Easter, right? Even though the sales on Easter candy and Easter bunny decorations are long gone from store shelves, we are actually in the heart of the Easter season now. Easter is in fact not the days that lead up to Easter Sunday. For followers of Jesus, the season of Easter is the days that come after Easter Sunday. It’s the same way with Christmas. Christmas is not the time before December 25th, but the 12 days after December 25th. We are confronted by a culture that wants us to see the focus of these holidays around consumerism. As followers of the risen savior Jesus we see it differently. Actually, we are invited to see everything differently. That’s part of what it means to be a Christian. So often, I’m afraid we miss seeing that gift.

The two who are walking along the road in today’s gospel reading encounter much the same. They are talking about Jesus. The even talked to Jesus as he walked with them for miles. They were too focused on the culture’s understanding of the coming messiah. And they thought that human death had the final say in everything. They didn’t take time to look at who was with them all along. They weren’t able to see that maybe God had a different plan.

Dan Clendenin, who contributes to a wonderful blog called “Journey with Jesus”, reflected that today’s gospel story “is a disturbing reminder of how we remain oblivious to God’s presence even when he’s right beside us.” Dan goes on to say that, “The Emmaus disciples were blinded by their mistaken expectations about what God was doing in Jesus. The relentless and powerful lies of culture blind us to God’s presence.”

And by this point you might be saying, “That’s fine Pastor Craig, but I’ve never had Jesus magically show up in my office at work or living room at home. The Emmaus road is just a story in the Bible, it’s not something that actually happens to me.”

So rather than just talking about Jesus or even talking to Jesus in our worship today, I think we should take time in worship to see Jesus. It’s an opportunity that is given to us ever time we gather. ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was speaking in Bismarck recently, she said that, “at the center of what we do is worship. And at the center of our worship as Lutheran Christians is the crucified and risen Christ.”

The central part of our life together as brothers and sisters in Christ, as the church – the embodiment of the crucified and risen Christ – is worship. Worship. If this is true, and I believe strongly that it is, why do we think we can’t see Jesus in our worship and the world today? Regularly I hear people say, “worship is boring. Or worship is not relevant. I’ll get there if I can, but I probably won’t like it and I am sure not going to sing.” How is it possible for those of us who claim to believe in the resurrection and the risen savior Jesus the Christ, that the most significant part of our life together along the road of faith, worship, has become boring or is longer relevant?

Maybe we have become so complacent as we walk along that we no longer believe that Jesus did rise from the dead or that God is inviting us to fully participate in this life of faith. To see Jesus.

Do you know what our gathering in this place is called? When you and I gather to worship? It’s called Liturgy. It’s a word that means “the work of the people.” It forms the shape of our worship and our entire life together as the body of Christ. Believe it or not, our worship each week is not just a collection of favorite scripture readings and music from the pastors. Our worship is a faithful and ancient pattern that embraces who we are as the church walking together along the road of faith. And our worship at Good Shepherd each week involves the work of hundreds of children of God who prayerfully plan, serve, or simply show up hoping to see Jesus. If you think about it, it’s actually a lot like what happened on the Emmaus road on that first Easter day.


In our worship today, you and I GATHER. As children of God the Holy Spirit calls us together as the people of God. And in that gathering, we see Jesus. On a road long ago between Jerusalem and Emmaus, two people who knew Jesus and had witnessed his death are once again gathered together by Jesus. They saw Jesus.

In our worship today, you and I receive God’s WORD. God speaks to us in scripture reading, preaching, and song. As we receive God’s word, we see Jesus. On a road long ago between Jerusalem and Emmaus, scripture was opened to two people as it had never been opened before. They saw Jesus.


In our worship today, you and I are invited to a MEAL. A meal at the Lord’s Table where God feeds us with the presence of Jesus the Christ. As we receive Christ’s body and blood in this meal, we see Jesus. On a road long ago between Jerusalem and Emmaus, the identity and presence of the risen Christ was revealed as a meal was shared. They saw Jesus.

In our worship today, you and I are SENT. God blesses us and sends us in mission to the world. As we bless and serve our neighbors, we see Jesus. On a road long ago, between Jerusalem and Emmaus, two people were sent to share their experience after seeing the risen One – to tell others what had happened as they walked along the road. They saw Jesus.

Bishop, author, pastor, Will Willimon uses Twitter frequently. This past Thursday he tweeted, “We believe that Jesus was not only raised from the dead but also, in an amazing act of love, reaches out and takes us along for the ride.” Along this road of life and faith, Jesus is reaching out. Brothers and sisters in Christ, take time to look around and see. The savior of the world is a lot closer to you than you probably think. And he’s been there all along.

Happy Easter!