Welcome to Grace Lutheran Church

The Weekly Word for July 24, 2016


Gospel: Luke 11:1-13

1 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” 5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

Sermon: “Let’s talk, God.”

 

This morning’s sermon is dedicated to Leslie Miller.

Because this morning I want to talk about prayer. (more…)

The Weekly Word for July 17, 2016


Luke 10:38-42

 

Sermon: “Calling All Super-Heroes!”

 

Today, we are gathered around Water and Word  to celebrate the baptism of Max Long.

And I am honored to be the one to preside at Max’s baptism,

Just as I was for big sister Nora a few years ago.

 

This morning’s Gospel lesson on the surface may not look like it’s a good fit for a baptism.

But actually it fits very well with what we are about to do.

“How so, Pastor?”

I’m glad you asked, Michael!

 

Our Gospel comes from Luke Chapter 10.

Chapter 10 has been filled with a lot of stories.

We have:

Jesus sending out 70 of his followers to preach the Good News and deliver peace to all who hear it.

Then we have those 70 coming back to Jesus all excited that even demons submit to them!

(Kind of like gaining a super power)

After that Jesus calls Satan a loser

(ok, he doesn’t actually use the word “loser” but when Jesus says he saw Satan fall from heaven, that to me sounds like someone who has lost the battle)

Following that, Jesus tells the Good Samaritan story (which is my favorite story in the whole bible).

Now there are a lot of themes flowing through these stories, but one that seems to me to be the biggest thread is “Peace.”

The 70 go out to bring peace to the people.

There is peace after Satan loses.

There is peace offered by the Good Samaritan to the wounded victim.

And now we have the story of Mary and Martha which I call “The Visit”

And in The Visit, peace once again becomes a theme.

And I believe peace plays a giant part when it comes to what we are doing today with Max’s baptism.

 

Jesus and his followers are invited by a woman named Martha to come to her home.

And a party is thrown, most likely in honor of Jesus.

And this is where it gets interesting.

Or I should say awkward.

Martha is playing the host while her sister, Mary, sits at the feet of Jesus.

Now why would this be awkward?

Back in ancient times, hospitality was a major responsibility.

In fact, one’s reputation in society hinged on how hospitable you were to guests.

Think of when you use Google or Yelp to check out a new restaurant and you want to see how many stars it has.

Well, back then people would “rate” the host of a party.

If the host did his or her duty, all was good. 4 or 5 stars.

If he or she failed, hello “1 star” or the dreaded “Half-star”

There was a lot riding on this party.

And Martha is working very hard to make sure there was plenty of food and drink for the guests (especially for Jesus).

But Martha is growing frustrated because she is doing all the work while Mary is sitting and listening to Jesus.

Now I can understand Martha’s frustration.

I know what it’s like to be part of a team, working on a project, but then realize that I am doing a lot of the work while the other team members don’t do their part.

How many of us know what that’s like?

That can be SO infuriating.

And it bothers Martha so much that she can’t take it anymore.

And she goes to Jesus.

And things get even more awkward.

Because Martha, who is angry at Mary, vents and rants at Jesus!

She accuses Jesus of not caring that Mary isn’t doing her part.

She says, “Do you not care?!”

I can imagine the other guests, especially the disciples, watching in horror: “Oh no! I wouldn’t go there if I were you, Martha!”

Oh but she did!

And then Martha takes it up a notch and commands Jesus to tell Mary to help her.

Now, think about what’s wrong with that picture.

Martha commands Jesus “her Lord” to do what SHE wants.

But the amazing thing is Jesus lets her vent.

He lets her rant.

He lets her get it out of her system.

Because he knows from where her frustration is coming.

How do I know?

Because when he addresses her he starts with, “Martha Martha”

That is very important because the repetition of Martha’s name is an example of a conduplicatio,

(Man! I wish my mom the English teacher was here because she would be SO impressed by me!)

(Okay, I admit I sent her the semon last night just so she would be impressed. And she was! So score one for me!)

Any way a “conduplicatio”  is a rhetorical device used to indicate compassion or pity.

So Jesus is being compassionate to Martha.

He is letting her calm down.

He is giving her peace.

 

Because the issue is not Martha’s attitude toward Jesus.

The issue is Martha has become “distracted.”

That’s the word we can focus on this morning.

Here’s a “did you know” that will impress your friends:

The word “Distracted” is used only once in the entire New Testament.

And it’s in this story.

To be “distracted” is:

To be pulled away from a reference point, be pulled/dragged away

To have one’s attention directed from one thing to another, become or be distracted, quite busy, overburdened

Martha is overburdened.

She is being pulled away from what matters most.

And what matters most is not the party, it is the guest of honor: Jesus.

Jesus is not being critical of Martha.

He is being compassionate.

And he is leading Martha back to WHO matters the most, not WHAT.

 

Now, let’s get to why this story is important to what we are doing today.

Michael and Marie, as Max is baptized, you are making some very serious promises.

And not just you but I am making them, this crowd of family, friends, and church members, also are making promises.

The promises are:

To help Max (and Nora) to grow in the Christian faith and life.

To help support and pray for Max, Nora, Michael, and Marie

And these are very serious promises we are making.

Because we are making them to God but also to one another, especially to young Max and Nora,

And we are making these promises to all the children we baptize:

Mine and yours

We promise to:

Live with our children among God’s faithful people

To bring the children to hear the word of God and to eat at the holy supper

To teach our children the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments

To teach them the bible, the true story of Jesus

To care for others and work for justice and peace.

 

But there is a problem.

Too often we as parents, family, and friends get “distracted.”

We are dragged away from those promises.

Our attention is directed from one thing to another,

We become busy,

We become overburdened,

We are pulled away from our reference point: God.

And there are many reasons for the distractions,

Working on the weekend

Transportation

Health

Family obligations

 

But then there are OTHER reasons such as:

Laziness

And the one that disturbs me the most:

We never meant the promises in the first place.

 

They were just said so we can get the baptisms over with and get back to our regular lives.

 

Now, I can’t think of one person who would actually say that, but their actions,actually their Inactions say it for them.

 

But…

God is talking to us through his interaction with Martha,

“Child. Child.

I get it. Life is busy.

And yes, you can be lazy, too.

But my love for you is not going away.”

You see we are not the only ones making promises today.

God makes them as well.

In the pouring of the water,

The Seal on Max’s forehead,

The bread that we eat

The wine we share

The Scriptures we hear

And the Cross that we see

We are surrounded by God’s promises

 

The promises of love and grace.

 

We are surrounded by the promises God has kept and will keep.

 

And because God is the ultimate promise-keeper, He gives us another chance to mean what we say today.

 

Michael and Marie:

What you are doing here, what you are promising, is not ceremonial.

I don’t want this to be something you are doing just to get it out of the way.

I want you to be here because you want Max and Nora to learn about God.

To learn about the faith

I want you to teach them to have:

Faith

Which at their age is

A sense of wonder

A sense of mystery

A sense of comfort

A sense of magic

And a sense of peace

 

And on the surface, it can be overwhelming, these promises that WE all make.

 

But let me give you some encouragement.

 

Now for the congregation, just go with me on this, but Michael, Marie, and I share one passion.

Super-Heroes

 

And one such super-hero comes to my mind this morning

The Amazing Spider-Man

Now aside from the awesome costume and powers, the one thing I like about Spider-Man is his sense of duty.

His mantra is with great power comes great responsibility.

There is actually biblical truth to that

In Luke 12:48, Jesus says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

 

I want you to think of your baptismal promises as a duty.

But one you do with a passion.

And I know you will because you love your children SO much!

 

Start reading bible stories to them

Start praying with them

Make a little prayer list, think of people or places or animals that you can pray for on a daily basis

Pray before your meals, and when you put the kids to sleep.

I urge you to find a church family close to your home, but we would love to see you here even though it’s a trek from Winston.

 

But here is also where you can be a hero:

When you watch a super-hero movie with your children,

Or you read a comic,

Or you read a book,

Talk to them about why the characters are called heroes.

Talk to them about why they want to help others.

And when they have questions, be honest with them.

If you don’t know the answer, that is where your parents, your friends, this church, and me can come in and help you.

Because remember, folks, we ALL are part of Max and Nora’s faith journey.

We ALL can and should be ready to answer the call when Michael and Marie need us.

 

Marie and Michael, I know you will do a great job.

I have faith you will.

Because your children already look at you as their Super-Heroes.

The two people who will do everything in your powers to give them life, love, comfort, and hope.

 

But watch out for distractions.

Watch out for the things that turn us away from God and our promises.

 

Let us work at getting rid of the distractions.

Together, let us be the heroes we promise we will be.

And let us turn our attention back to God.

The Weekly Word for July 10, 2016


Luke 10:25-37
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[a] “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Today’s Gospel lesson features my favorite Bible story of all time.
The Good Samaritan
If there was one passage from the Bible that I would say defines my faith it would be this one. (more…)

The Weekly Word for July 3, 2016


Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” 17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

 

Today’s sermon is called GPS.

Now, normally GPS stands for Global Positioning System.

And GPS has become a regular part of our lives.

 

But this morning, GPS will stand for something different. (more…)

The Grace July 2016 Newsletter Is Here!


Please check out our latest newsletter! July 2016 Newsletter

The Weekly Word for June 26, 2016


Luke 9:51-62

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village. 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

 

Sermon: “Give up, people!”

 

 

 

 

As my family and I return from our road trip,

 

it’s great timing that we as a congregation begin a new road trip together.

 

And our tour guide is Jesus Christ.
(more…)

Weekly Word for June 12, 2016


Luke 7:36-8:3

7:36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

 

Sermon: “Do You See What God Sees?”

Let me start off this morning by talking about my dad.

My dad loved people.

In all my life, I never heard him say anything bad about anyone.

Except one person.

 

In the early 80’s the Braves had an announcer named John Sterling.

Sterling now works for the New York Yankees, but back then he was part of the Braves Radio and Television team.

 

And my dad could not STAND him!

 

“This guy is lousy.”

“This guy is horrible.”

“This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

And this was still during the pre-game!

 

Well one night, my dad was on an extra long Sterling tirade when I finally spoke up and said, “But, Dad. At least he’s trying!”

 

After that, my dad never said a bad word about John Sterling.

He may have THOUGHT of it, but he never said it.

 

Since then, on more than one occasion my dad told me how much those words helped him SEE John Sterling in a different light.

My dad no longer saw an announcer.

He saw a human being.

 

You know, we base a lot of our opinions on people on first sight.

 

If they LOOK dangerous, they ARE dangerous.

If they LOOK crazy, they ARE crazy.

If the LOOK evil, they ARE evil.

 

This morning in my opinion, our Gospel is addressing how we see people.

And how God sees people.

 

This week we are invited to a dinner party.

A very interesting dinner party.

 

The guest of honor is Jesus.

Over the past two Sundays Jesus has been on a roll.

He healed a Roman Soldier’s slave.

He brought back to life a widow’s only son.

He has preached, taught, and shown the people in different towns what it looks like to be a disciple of God.

 

So now Jesus is invited to a dinner party by of all people, a Pharisee named Simon.

 

I have always found this dinner strange because when we read of the relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees, it’s not a real good one.

 

The Pharisees are Jesus’ harshest critics.

They don’t understand what Jesus does.

Or WHY he does them.

 

They can’t believe the number of Jewish laws Jesus breaks.

They just don’t get this guy!

 

And clearly Simon doesn’t as well.

Now I don’t really know if Simon was a friend or a foe of Jesus.

I don’t know if Simon genuinely wanted to hear more of Jesus’ teaching, or if he wanted to trick Jesus.

 

But one thing I do know about Simon.

He could be a jerk when it came to other people.

 

The way he talks about the woman and Jesus shows says to me that Simon had trouble seeing others as actual people.

 

Now, if Simon were here to defend himself, he would point out the reasons why he was talking down to the woman.

First off, she was a party crasher.

She was not invited to this dinner.

 

Then the woman pours oil over the feet of Jesus, unbinds her hair, and uses her hair to wipe his feet that are now saturated with oil and her tears.

 

She weeps and kisses the feet of Jesus.

 

The whole time, the woman does not give us any indication of why she is doing this.

 

Whether or not this woman was a sinner, her actions were considered scandalous.

 

Aside from the fact that she crashed the party, a woman would never have uncovered her hair before strangers. Nor would she have touched a stranger’s feet.

 

I can only imagine what was going through Simon’s mind when this woman enters his life.

 

And yes he is appalled.

But he’s appalled not only by the actions of the woman, But by the INACTION of Jesus!

 

“How can this man call himself a prophet and let THAT kind of woman touch him?!”

 

Simon says this to himself, not out loud, but Jesus being Jesus addresses Simon’s complaints.

 

 

Jesus asks a very simple yet DEEP question that we all need to ponder:

“Simon, do you see this woman?”

 

Now Simon is probably expecting Jesus to go to town on this woman.

 

After all, Jesus is a Rabbi. He knows the law.

 

But Jesus doesn’t talk about the woman’s sins or her offenses.

 

Jesus talks about SIMON’S offenses.

 

The proverbial shoe is on the other foot.

 

Jesus says:

 

“The woman gave me water.

Did YOU give me water?

She gave me a kiss.

Did YOU give me a kiss?

She anointed my head with oil.

Did YOU anoint my head with oil?”

 

These three acts were normally performed by the host of the dinner party.

The woman did what Simon was supposed to do!

 

She acted more like a host than SIMON did!

And it’s SIMON’S house!

 

I wonder how many times Simon saw a woman, or a person, like this in his life.

I wonder how many times Simon saw a sinner and then ignored that sinner.

 

I wonder how many times a sinner WANTED Simon to see them, to help them,

To forgive them.

And yet Simon never did.

 

But Jesus did.

Jesus saw this woman.

And he saw more than a sinner.

He saw a forgiven sinner.

Someone is living out a forgiven life.

Someone who showed great love.

 

While Simon only saw PART of the picture, Jesus saw the WHOLE.

Which is what makes him Jesus our Savior.

He can see us for all we are.

And all we can be.

 

And for us today, I want us to work on the times we act like Simon.

The times we see and judge without knowing the full story of the person or people we judge.

 

I want us to listen and hear when others help tell us the full story.

 

Others like my wife, Kristen, who helped tell a better story years ago.

The two of us were out shopping one night, and I happen to see someone park in a handicap parking space.

Now, this person had a handicap tag.

But then he got out of his car and walked into the store.

And I got mad.

 

Growing up with a parent who had polio, a man who had to work at every step he took with the help of crutches and then a scooter, I know how precious those spots are.

And here was someone who looked healthy in that spot.

 

I said to Kristen “How dare that person park there?!”

 

But thanks be to the Good Lord Kristen rebuked me.

 

In a very loving way.

 

She said, “Just because that person can walk doesn’t mean he isn’t sick. He could be undergoing rehab or maybe chemo. You don’t know.”

 

She was right.

She was absolutely right.

 

I SAW someone who looked healthy.

And I SAW someone who looked like he didn’t deserve that tag.

 

But Kristen saw that person in a different light.

And then so did I.

 

I had a chance to share that story with my dad and I could tell he was thinking back to the night I stood up to John Sterling.

And he was smiling at me saying, “Aha! NOW you know how I felt!”

 

Since that rebuke of love, I have seen and met a lot of people who have tags that can walk and move, but they are in pain, they are battling other illnesses.

 

I got to hear their stories.

 

It doesn’t take long before we sound a LOT like Simon.

 

And sometimes…well a LOT of times…we need to hear some Jesus.

 

We need to hear some correction.

We need to SEE who Jesus sees.

 

And today I invite all of us to look at people the same way God looks at them.

Not as sinners but as people.

People with stories.

Stories filled with hurts

hopes

dreams

 

Let us learn these stories.

 

Let us learn to see again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

VBS 2016 “All God’s Creatures” is coming July 16th


VBS 2016 is coming July 16th. The theme for this year is “All God’s Creatures.” VBS is open to all children from toddlers through having completed 5th grade.

Fill out a registration form and join us today!2016 VBS Registration Form

Weekly Word for June 5, 2016


Luke 7:11-17

 

11 Soon afterwards[a] he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12 As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus[b]gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” 17 This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

 

Sermon: “The God Who Cares…Even When We Don’t”

 

 

This morning our Gospel lesson is another story that can only be found in Luke.

 

It is another story where Jesus heals someone. (more…)

The Grace June 2016 Newsletter Is Here!


Check out our newsletter! June 2016