One dichotomy worth noting that when this video says we’re called to “end religion,” its not talking about closing all our denominations or stopping worship. Instead, we’re called not just to a set of beliefs or rituals or morals, things that people often associate with religion, but an entire new life shaped by the resurrection of Jesus. This includes things like certain beliefs and regular worship in our churches and an ethical outlook on life, but the resurrection of Jesus should not just shape our religion. It should shape the entirety of our lives.
Read Luke 10:29–37 This is the story of the Good Samaritan. When we read this story and listen to Jesus say that a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, we need to know that this is not just figuratively, or language Jesus is using. Jerusalem was thought by Jews, in Jesus day, to be the highest point in the world, it actually was higher than Jericho.
Let us pray. O loving God, to turn away from you is to fall, to turn toward you is to rise, and to stand before you is to abide forever. Grant us, dear God, in all our duties your help; in all our uncertainties your guidance; in all our dangers your protection; and in all our sorrows your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Desmond Tutu said “there is nothing we can do to make God love us more because God already loves us perfectly. [And] there is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us less” (from a sermon at St. Paul’s Chapel, Manhattan, Feb. 26, 2005). This is Grace!
As Lutherans, we claim a Christian identity. Maybe the easiest way to say it is this: all Lutherans are Christian, but not all Christians are Lutheran.
O God, illuminate our hearts with light, our eyes with light and our ears with light; and let there be light on our right and light on our left. Let there be light above us and light below us; let there be light in front of us and light behind us. O God, make us a light.
– The Prophet’s Prayer – Traditional Islamic Prayer
“How is it possible that you are not called? You have always been in some state or situation; you have always been a husband or wife, or boy, or girl, or servant. Picture before you the humblest estate…Yea, if you had five heads and ten hands, even then you would be too weak for your tasks, so that you would never dare think of making a pilgrimage or doing any saintly work.”
Luther had an ongoing argument with some other pastors who he believed were being dishonest about God. In Luther’s words, they “call evil good and good evil” and that their kind of knowledge was “completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.” What was this Epic Rap Battle all about? Basically, these people only saw God in things we think of as normally good. Only saw God with the rich and the powerful, with the healthy and the intelligent.
Across the centuries, God’s people have practiced countless form of corporate prayer (prayer in groups) and individual prayer (prayer by yourself). Below are 10 options for prayer adapted from a book entitled, “A Praying Congregation” by Jane Vennard. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a starting point to give you an idea of some of the options that are available to you when you decide to pray. Each option provides a different way that you might be able to talk to and listen to God.
In Matthew 18, we read, “Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?’ Jesus said, ‘Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.‘” Jesus, in other words, believes forgiveness is centrally important in our lives. Why is that?
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Your gifts may be in the area of music or sports, art or mathematics, teaching or building. You may have the gift of time to share or financial resources or patience. Regardless of what your particular gifts may be, as Christians, we believe that those gifts are given by God and that they are to be used in God’s service. Whether you are an athlete, mathematician or builder, when you use your gifts you have an opportunity to both help people see God and to build up the whole community. Individually we may be able to accomplish a great deal, but when we used our gifts in concert with others, we truly begin to discover what it means to be a part of the body of Christ and what an impact that can make in our lives and in the world.
This is one of the reasons why Confession and Forgiveness are central actions in the Lutheran style of worship. There’s a powerful honesty for us to say that we’re broken, that we’ve failed, that we need God’s help because we can’t save ourselves. At the same time, the forgiveness that Jesus speaks through the pastor or through the congregation reminds us that we’re not defined by those shortcomings or destined for failure. Instead, these words place a claim on our lives, one that begin in creation, that was sealed in our baptism, and continually supported in communion: we’re citizens of God’s kingdom, bearers of God’s image, the very daughters and sons of God. Our words matter, and the words of our liturgy remind us that the world we live in views our faith and our God through the words that we use.