Sunday is coming! “Jesus brings the fire” Luke 12:49-56

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.” (Luke 12:49)

How often do we describe the work we do (whatever it is) as “putting out fires?”  It seems we often have misapplied our calling as we feebly try to either “keep the peace” or “to make people happy.”

Jesus seems to be saying the opposite.

Jesus is not a consensus builder nor is he an arbitrator of disputes. The message he brings is not one of ongoing compromise or accommodation; it is one of repentance and change. Jesus and his message take on different accents as it is lived and expressed in every culture and time period. Both the challenges and opportunities each time and place draw out of the gospel brings new understandings – yet death and resurrection stand at the center of who Jesus is, what he does, and how he keeps changing the world.

What might it look like to follow Jesus in a post-Christian, digital, secular age in North America that is full of rife and division?  We continue to both struggle with and discover new realities together…

In this passage he declares that “he came to bring fire” (Luke 12:49); not to put fires out.

Jesus asks, “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth?” (Luke 12:51a).

Does this sound like a nice Jesus who just wants everyone to get along?

“No, I tell you, but rather division!” (Luke 12:51b).

Jesus is not setting people against each other – but what he seems to be identifying is the reality that if we start loving people the way he is on fire for us; there will be some people who do not like it (or us) very much.

Jesus is the great wall destroyer, “For he is our peace, in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is the hostility between us” (Ephesians 2:14); but what is the cost of the “peace” he brings?

The peace of Jesus comes as a cross; under suffering; death and sacrifice to mend our broken humanity. It is the fire of unconditional; all consuming love. The powers of the world keep peace through violence. Jesus brings peace by handing over his life. Renewal and resurrection only come out of the ashes of what came before it. We cannot have Easter without Good Friday first.

Jesus calls us to give our lives for one another, and for the sake of the other, just as he gives his life to us.  We often claim the centrality of Jesus’ teaching to “love your neighbor as yourself” as one of the most universal part of the biblical message.

That is…until we get specific.

Then “loving your neighbor” becomes “too political” or “too controversial” or “too difficult” to do. We fear people fighting with one another or simply just checking out.  Yet doesn’t a fire warrant engagement? Perhaps a fire that draws us into a common purpose and mission is what Jesus is driving at – one cannot take up the cross of Jesus part way.

We seek something easier. Something nice. Something everyone can agree with and get along.

Those aspirations are impossible. To break down the barriers that separate us (See Ephesians 2) means tearing down the distinctions we make around worthiness, heritage, gender, economics, who is in and who is out, etc. as Jesus builds us into a new community. Expect resistance when we are church together. The way to break down barriers and share one’s life with others is not by politeness; but with fire. God’s word is that fire (Jeremiah 23:29). Baptism is that fire (Luke 3:16). The Holy Spirit is that fire (Acts 2). Faith is tested by a refining fire like silver (Zechariah 13:9; Psalm 66:10; 1 Peter 1:7). We are called to live aflame with love of God and our neighbors.

Following Jesus brings controversy and division. Friends and family may turn on you. Neighbors might betray you. Institutions may disappoint you. Expect it. Pray and kindle the fire of faith like the faithful of every generation (Hebrews 11-12). When trials come (and they will) keep going; looking to Jesus who is true life and peace.

What controversies burden you?

How do those controversies keep the community from mission?

Where is Jesus pointing you to be on fire for others?

PGS

2baldpastors.com

 

Posted in 2 Bald Pastors, Sunday is Coming! | Leave a comment

“Fear, Faith and Props” Luke 12:32-40 and Hebrews 11:1-16

8/11/2019

Sermon on Luke 12:32-40
and Hebrews 11:1-16

“Fear, Faith and Props”

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Old Saybrook, CT
Pastor Geoff Sinibaldo

Posted in on Gospel of Luke, on Letter to the Hebrews, Sermons | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“When it all feels like a puff of smoke” a sermon on Luke 12:31-21 and a primer on Ecclesiastes

8/04/2019

A sermon on Luke 12:13-21
and a primer on Ecclesiastes

When it all feels like a puff of smoke”

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Old Saybrook, CT
Pastor Geoff Sinibaldo

Posted in Discovery, Faith Everyday, on Gospel of Luke, on the Old Testament, Sermons, What We Seek | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday is coming! ELCA Churchwide Assembly 2019: Highlights so far…

Normally I write a little blurb on the coming gospel reading to get ready for Sunday morning. This week I want to do something a little different.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is meeting for Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee, WI (August 5-10) and the decisions being made thus far have been notable.

The ELCA is committed to being a public church. We continue to live into that vocation in a variety of ways and it is not always an easy process.

These are some of the actions of the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly thus far:

Rev. Elizabeth Eaton was elected on the first ballot to serve a second six year term as Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. She was elected Presiding Bishop in 2013 at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh, PA. I had the privilege of serving as a voting member from the New England Synod that year, and voting for her. 🙂 I have also had the honor of meeting her in person a few times, including as our first interview on the 2 Bald Pastors Podcast with Pastor Joe McGarry and with our young people at the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston, TX.

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and ELCA Church Council Members presented to the African Descent Lutheran Association a Declaration of the ELCA to people of African Descent. Rev. Lamont Wells, President of the African Descent Lutheran Association offered a response.

The Assembly voted and adopted the ELCA Social Statement: Faith Sexism and Justice: A Lutheran Call to Action.

The Assembly voted and declared the ELCA to be a Sanctuary Church Body, and members marched to an ICE detention center in Milwaukee.

The Assembly voted and adopted the World Council of Churches “Thursdays in Black” campaign against gender based violence.

The Assembly voted and adopted “A Declaration on Inter-Religious Commitment: A Policy Statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” with close to forty leaders from ecumenical and inter-religious partner communities on stage.

The Assembly voted and adopted a resolution to mark June 17 as a date to commemorate the Emanuel Nine – the nine people killed at Mother Emanuel Methodist Church June 17th, 2015 in Charlotte, SC.  I signed the petition in support prior to the vote.

Here were a few of my reasons for supporting this action:

1. I want to participate in healing deep wounds in our churches and communities. There are many wounds among us.
2. The ELCA has direct connections with both the shooter at Mother Emanuel in Charleston (who grew up in an ELCA congregation) and the victims who are not only fellow human beings but some of them also happened to be ELCA students and ministry partners.
3. The more I hear “pastor, we don’t need to do something like this” the more I think, “Yep, we really do.” The ELCA is 90+% white and that is a huge problem – both practically and theologically. We have to own the hard truth of how insular we are if things are ever going to change or improve in an age where most people look at churches with suspicion, cynicism and even disdain.
4. We can’t and won’t truly be able to speak hope to the culture until we go inward and start working on our own stuff – and we have a lot of stuff to work on around race, gun violence, mental illness, social justice, the politics of division and blame alongside how we engage challenging issues within the ELCA as a whole and in our congregations in particular.
5. At least in my mind, heart and soul – this commemoration day feels like the right thing to do.

Will having a day set aside to repent and remember fix it all?  Of course not. But simply plodding on doesn’t seem to be working either – the violence of the past week around the country makes that clear.

There is of course much much more to do than this – but we can at least start with the Emanuel Nine.

If you’re an ELCA person, I invite you to join me in signing this petition. We can do a lot better. This is but one small step among many more steps we can all take together to be church.” – Geoff Sinibaldo, Facebook, August 8, 2019

More to come.

I invite you to continue to pray for the ELCA Chirchwide Assembly in Milwaukee, WI and for our voting members from the New England Synod.

Sunday is indeed coming.

PGS

Posted in 2 Bald Pastors, 2BP PODCAST, Church & Mission, Church by Perception, Discovery, Faith Everyday, Martin Luther & those strange Lutherans, Sunday is Coming!, Thinking About Church Differently | 1 Comment

Sunday is Coming! “Bigger Barns” Luke 12:13-21o

“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.” (Luke 12:15a)

What if this parable is not really about storage?

 

The challenge in this parable about the rich man and his barns presents itself as an attack against planning, saving, and investing in the future. It is shocking and surprising. Shouldn’t we take steps now to get ready for the future? It seems more ‘foolish’ to us not to be prepared than to be proactive like he is doing.

We have many things to plan for in our lives: uncertainty in the global economy,  school, housing, retirement, etc.  This man seems to be not only successful in his business, but is also someone who has assessed his assets carefully and managed his risks accordingly. Shouldn’t he be commended? Aren’t these things we aspire to ourselves? Why do you think Jesus is giving him such a hard time?

The problem is not our barns. The problem is not our things. The problem is greed.

Jesus says, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). Greed is like a consuming fire. The more it burns, the more oxygen it takes form the air and the more fuel it burns. Greed suffocates relationships and destroys communities. Greed believes in scarcity, thrives on fear and turns people against one another.

Reading verses 17-19 carefully, the rich man uses the words ‘I’ and ‘my’ a total of ten times. He is neither grateful nor generous but consumed by his greed. He thinks about enjoying his life in the future at the expense of isolating himself now by his need for more. His wealth has become his identity ‘a rich man’ (notice – he has no other name), and it has led to being cut off from everyone else. In this story, the man has no relationships.

Jesus asks, “What good is all of this stuff if you were to die tonight?” (my paraphrase of Luke 12:20). Jesus could take a good look at us, and ask the same.

A parable like this asks us to reflect upon several questions:

(A new self-storage facility being built)
  1. What is our relationship with our stuff? To what extent do we possess our things and how much do things possess us?     How much is too much?
  2. How much have we made our lives about ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’ rather than others?
  3. What things are you storing? Why? No really…Why? What are you saving it for?
  4. What could it mean to be ‘rich toward God’ (Luke 12:21)?
  5. How might the rich man – find redemption in this parable? How might we?

Remember – Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). For him (and his followers who are slow to catch-on) this is a one way journey. Jesus is going to the cross. He has been inviting people to join his selfless movement of restoration, love, hope and mercy who are willing to say goodbye to their attachments and responsibilities (Luke 9:57-62). He has been sending those who are willing to go out into the community to rely on the hospitality of others and face rejection (Luke 10:1-24). He has been expanding the people’s understanding of ‘neighbor’ to include both any person in need and anyone willing to help (Luke 10:25-37). He has opened himself to those who are willing to receive and follow him (Luke 10:38-42). On a one way journey to the cross Jesus has no need for more storage. Neither do his followers. His life is being demanded of him – right now. Their lives might be demanded of them soon too. With that reality in mind – what might this parable mean to we who are a lot more settled twenty centuries later?

Perhaps we are not as settled as we think we are.

PGS

2baldpastors.com

Posted in 2 Bald Pastors, Uncategorized

“The Lord’s Prayer as Spiritual Resilience (and our New Haven Mission Trip)” Sermon on Luke 11:1-4

7/28/2019

Sermon on Luke 11:1-4 and Ruth 4:7-22
“The Lord’s Prayer as Spiritual Resilience (and our New Haven Mission Trip)”

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Old Saybrook, CT

Posted in Lord's Prayer, on Gospel of Luke, Praying, Sermons, Thoughts on Prayer

“Learning with Jesus” a sermon on Luke 10:38-42 by Mia Sinibaldo

7/21/2019

Sermon and service project
Luke 10:38-42
“Learning with Jesus”

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Old Saybrook, CT
Mia Sinibaldo

 

Posted in on Gospel of Luke, Sermons