SERMONS AND WORSHIP SERVICES
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April 25, 2021 – 4th Sunday of Easter
Sunday’s Sermon – The Reverend Diane Kruger, Deacon
The Good Shepherd
Trinity Episcopal Church, El Dorado, Kansas
In the name of the One Living, Loving and Redeeming God, Amen.
Our Gospel reading for today is an old, tried and true reading, that I’m sure most of us have heard sermons on dozens of times. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who willingly lays down his life for his sheep, because they are so familiar with one another, they are almost like family to one another… we all know it. We love it. It brings us nice warm feelings, makes us feel good…. so, I’m not going to talk about it today.
I feel that one of my jobs is to try to help you, as believers, to grow, to think of things a bit differently, and to help you discern and become more of what God wants you (AND ME) to be. I want to continue to grow in my knowledge and understanding of Christ, and to “push myself” a little bit occasionally, outside my comfort zone. Outside my nice, perfectly fitted box that I live in and have my world in… where I only have people in my life who are kind, and they like me, they laugh at my stupid jokes, tell me what a great cook I am, and they don’t call me out when I’m being arrogant, or grumpy, dismissive, or maybe even unrealistic in my expectations…. we all have that box, don’t we?? Where we have a nice level of homeostasis, we can float along on calm waters, and Life is Good…., right??
We live in a very broken world. I know this, you know this.
Racial disparity is very real. Both in our criminal justice system, and in maternal and infant mortality rates…yes, black women and children die during and immediately after childbirth at a higher rate than white women and their infants.
Gun Violence killed more than 19,000 people in 2020.
Suicide by Guns killed nearly 24,000 people in 2020. Access to guns increase the incidence of suicide by gun – which is a very effective way to commit suicide, by the way.
The war in Afghanistan began in 2001. We have lost 2300 military troops in that time. Afghanistan has lost between 35-40,000 civilians in the conflict.
Our climate is changing, and how we live must change in response.
Young girls are missing out on an education in many countries based solely on the fact that they menstruate, and miss school during the days of their cycles because their families can’t afford pads.
The Mental health system in the USA is sorely lacking in adequate services. I won’t even begin to talk about the global state of dealing with mental health.
Food insecurity is real. Many families go hungry on a regular basis. Even right here in our own town…
I know – you’re all sitting there wondering what this has to do with anything… we all know there are many problems in the world, and we can’t do anything about them, right??
Well, here I am. Standing in front of you, asking you to be BOLD. To speak up!! To do something!!
Let’s take a closer look at our reading from the Acts of the Apostles we heard this morning… Peter and John find themselves in custody for healing a lame man the day before, and teaching the crowds that there is resurrection of the dead in Jesus… the Council they are being brought in front of consisted rulers, elders, scribes, as well as several high priests… basically, they are IN TROUBLE…. all the authorities have been assembled, and they are wanting answers….this is definitely not a comfortable position to be in…
Peter is very bold in his response… “Let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved”
The entire incident recalls earlier words of Jesus, from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 12:“When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say”.
Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit. He speaks out boldly to the authorities… This is the first of many instances in Acts where Jesus’ witnesses proclaim with a “boldness” that stems from the power of the Spirit. Under this particular investigation, the Spirit’s “bold” empowerment first manifests itself, and at just the right time.
Peter validates the message of Jesus before a hostile audience and world. In the end Peter and John are set free.
Now….Most of us will never encounter such a situation in a lifetime. Thank God!!
However, can we leave our tender little places in our comfortable boxes, and speak out about some of the real issues in our world? Can we speak to friends and neighbors about God? Can we invite a friend to church?
I believe that if we love God the way we claim to, or feel in our hearts that we do, we will be able to speak up boldly. Speak up about the terrible things that are happening in our communities, our country, and our world. Speaking out can lead to opportunities to make a difference.
I also believe that our friends and neighbors just might want to talk with us about Jesus, as well. Maybe they need for us to be bold enough to bring it up…
So, Go. Be brave. Be filled with the spirit. Be BOLD.
March 28, 2021 – Palm Sunday
Sunday’s Sermon – The Reverend Diane Kruger, Deacon
Returning The Colt – Mark 11:1-11
Trinity Episcopal Church, El Dorado, Kansas
Today’s liturgy places Jesus’ passion front and center. It’s a long reading. It’s hard to listen to; the betrayal, the pain, the death. The hosannas of the triumphal entry now seem but an echo in our memory- but that’s where I want us to go. I want us to go back to that first gospel reading, Mark 11:1-11, to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and I want us to think about this question: Why did Jesus leave the temple and go to Bethany?
That question sounds a lot like one of those why did the chicken cross the road kind of jokes. But my question isn’t a joke. I think the answer to that question and the implications of that answer hold the key to our Holy Week this year.
You remember what happened, right? Jesus is in a parade. He’s riding a borrowed colt. It’s a march, a movement. We call it the ‘triumphal entry’. People are in front of and behind Jesus. They are shouting their hosannas. They are throwing down palms and their cloaks for him to ride on. They are rolling out the red carpet. There’s excitement and anticipation. This Jesus thing is really going somewhere. Something big is happening.
Jesus rides into Jerusalem.
He enters the temple.
He looks around at everything.
And he leaves.
He does nothing. He says nothing. He just leaves. He goes to Bethany. It’s a strange and anticlimactic ending to the triumphal entry. It sounds like Jesus is retreating, getting out of town. What’s that all about?
Did Jesus have somewhere else he needed to be? I wonder if he was scared. Holy Week is a scary week… We just heard everything that’s going to happen. I wonder if he was wavering a bit, not as sure as when he started this ride… Maybe he was having some doubts, some questions, and just wanted to get away. Perhaps he needed to regroup, make another start. We’ve all done that, right? Haven’t you had to face really difficult conversations or situations? They are painful and scary. We make a start but don’t finish. We back up and try again. Could that be what his leaving the temple is about?
This is such a strange and anticlimactic ending to the triumphal entry that it makes me think there has to be something significant here. And it’s unique. Mark’s is the only one of the four gospels to describe this.
Mark is the only gospel that says Jesus entered the temple, looked around, and left. So why did Jesus leave the temple and go to Bethany? The gospel tells us why. Jesus left the temple “as it was already late”… So that got me to wondering…
What if this is about something more than just the time of day? What if Jesus is late getting somewhere or doing something?
What might Jesus be late for? I have an idea about that but I need to you hang with me for a minute. I would like to think that Jesus was late getting the colt back to its owner… Here’s why I say that. There’s another unique aspect about Mark’s account of the triumphal entry. He is the only one to say that Jesus promised to return the colt to its owner. They all agree that the colt was either borrowed from its owner or found. But only Mark speaks about Jesus returning the colt.
Jesus sent two disciples to borrow this colt and told them if anyone asked why they were taking the colt they were to say, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately”. And that’s what they did.
So what if that’s why Jesus left the temple? Maybe he left so he could keep his promise and follow through on what he said he would do… Maybe this is about Jesus being true to himself and keeping his word… What if this is about Jesus staying centered within himself despite what the week holds for him?
What if returning the colt is a metaphor for us as we enter into and walk though this Holy Week?
What might returning the colt mean for us throughout this week? It’s an image or metaphor to ponder and it raises a couple of questions… First, what do you need to return this week? What do you need to release or let go of? We all have stuff that we’ve carried around with us for far too long. Stuff that no longer able to take us anywhere or give us life. It’s just baggage we carry that continues to weigh us down… It impoverishes life… It corrupts our heart.
What do you need to let go of, release, and return this week? Is it a grudge or resentment? Anger? Fear? Disappointment and regret? Guilt? Envy? Maybe you need to return being in control, having to be right, a need for approval, perfectionism. I don’t know what it is for you but I am convinced that we all have our ”stuff”. Maybe Holy Week is the time to return and release it all to God, trusting that God can do something with this ”stuff” when we were never able to.
And what if returning and releasing this stuff is also about returning to ourselves? What if it’s about returning to our center? What if it’s about reclaiming our truest self? That means we could then move forward, not from the same old place, but from the newly recovered centered… That’s what Jesus did. He stayed true to himself through this week, and so must we.
So maybe returning the colt is ultimately about returning to our original self, that self of beauty and goodness, that God created in and has loved from the beginning?
What if those are the two movements throughout this week? Returning, releasing, and letting go. And returning to and reclaiming those parts of ourselves that have been lost, ignored, forgotten, or denied… Even as we carry around that stuff that needs to be returned, so also there are parts of ourselves and our life to which we need to return.
What if this week we returned to ourselves? And here’s my second question. What do you need to return to? What if we returned to joy, hope, beauty, truth and honesty?
What if we came back to justice, mercy, forgiveness? What if we reclaimed the dignity and holiness of each human life? What if we recenter ourselves in peace and courage? What if we returned to love of neighbor, self, and enemy? Coming back to ourselves would be like a new life, wouldn’t it?
So we begin this week by returning the colt. What do you need to return and to what do you need to return? Those are the two questions. To answer them we must look around at everything. That’s what Jesus did. It’s not so much just looking around at everything outside us but looking around at everything within us… Look at what’s there. Look at what’s missing. Look at what you need, what you feel, who you truly are, and who you want to be. And then return the colt.
Take that image of returning the colt with you this week. Take it wherever you go. Bring it to whatever you do. Hold it as you pray the liturgies of this week. Let it be present as you live your life and as you engage people in relationships whether in your family, at work, at school, at the grocery store.
Returning the colt is how Holy Week begins.
Returning to God and ourselves is the promise of how this week will end.
Look around at everything and then go return the colt.
January 16, 2021, Sunday’s Sermon – The Reverend Diane Kruger, Deacon
Story of Samuel and Eli
Trinity Episcopal Church, El Dorado, Kansas
Our Old Testament reading today we hear the familiar story of Samuel and Eli. The boy Samuel is bedded down in the temple with the ark of the covenant while Eli slept in another room. The boy hears a voice calling and three times arises and goes to Samuel to ask what he wants. Meanwhile, we know that it is God calling the boy, but he does not.
I believe it is easy to miss God’s call in our lives, and most often, we need the help of someone else to help us discern the call of God, just as Samuel did not understand, until Eli realized it was God calling and told Samuel to speak to the Lord. We too, need a helping hand to realize our own callings and, quite often, give us a gentle “shove” in the right direction to listen to the call of God…
Let’s look closer at the Gospel reading for today… Nathaniel clearly has some strong opinions, even assumptions about Nazareth… “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Have you ever made any assumptions? I know I have. “I’ve seen his type before; he’ll never change.” “She’s always so negative; I know what she will say.” “He won’t understand; he never does.” “It’s always been like that; it will never get any better.” “Nothing good can come of that situation.”
People of faith, people like Nathanael, people like you and me, make these and all sorts of other assumptions every day. Sometimes our assumptions are about other people; how they will behave, what they will say, what we can expect, what they think or believe.
Other times we look at situations, our marriage, the state of the middle east, the state of our own government, the church, a teenager struggling to grow up, and we declare it hopeless.
We are sure nothing good can come out of that situation. Then there are those times we look at ourselves or a part of our life; maybe it is a secret we have carried for years, the illness we face each day, the addiction we hide, the hurts we have caused others, the loneliness and lostness of grief, and we say it will never get any better.
How can anything good come out of this? We may or may not speak our assumptions out loud, but they rattle through our heads and influence what we do.
You know what happens we when we assume, right? The old saying has some truth to it but I am thinking of something else.
The assumptions we make destroy our relationships, our love, and our life.
We think we know more than we really do. Assumptions truly act as limitations to us. They narrow our vision. They close off the possibility of change and growth… Our assumptions deny the possibility of reconciliation, healing, a different way of being, or a new life.
Ultimately, they deplete our faith and declare that there is no room for God to show up and act.
We all have our Nazareth’s. We think they are all about other people, particular circumstances, or even small pieces of our lives. Mostly, though, our assumptions are about us, our fears, our prejudices, our guilt, our losses, our wounds. We take our past experiences, real or imagined, and project them onto another person or situation.
Assumptions keep our lives shallow and superficial. If we assume, then we do not have to risk a deeper knowing of others and being known to others.
At the deepest level, our very own Nazareth’s are about our understanding of God. We just cannot see how anything good can come out of Nazareth.
We cannot believe that God could be present, active, and revealed in Nazareth whether it be another person, a relationship or situation, or our own life…
It is so hard to see life amid death, hope in places of despair, and the good and beautiful in what looks like the bad and ugly. It’s sometimes easier to assume the worst… For us Nazareth is a blind spot… For God, however, Nazareth is the place of God’s manifestation and self-revelation.
It just seems so unGod-like to show up in Nazareth… maybe it is the town, a person, or a situation, Nazareth is too common and ordinary, even mundane, and boring.
Shouldn’t the person or place of God’s coming be more deserving, special, acceptable, holy, better behaved, likable, more regular at church, someone who prays more, or is better dressed?
The Nathanael in us feels there should be a particular set of conditions or prerequisites that must be met before God will appear and act. That says more about us than it does about God.
God does not allow himself to be limited by our assumptions. For every Nazareth there is an invitation to “come and see.”
For every assumption we make there is a deeper truth to be discovered, a new relationship to be experienced, and a new life to be lived… Our Nazareth’s become the place of God’s epiphany.
The last place we would have thought that possible is the first place God chooses. Come and see. Our salvation and healing happen where we thought nothing good could happen.
Reconciliation and love are revealed in relationships we were certain nothing good could come from. The seemingly hopeless situations of life begin to bear fruit. Words of forgiveness and compassion are spoken by people we were sure could never say such things. God puts lives back together in Nazareth.
Let us this week consider our assumptions, our own Nazareth’s and consider God’s call to us… we will have a new President inaugurated. Let us look forward with hope, listening for opportunities to hear God’s call to release our assumptions, answer His call in our lives, and work toward a unified country, filled with love and good will…
There is more happening in Nazareth than we ever thought possible. You see, not just “anything good” comes out of Nazareth. The One who is Good comes out of Nazareth.