On our own we are lost and bewildered and can wander off track far too easily. Is it not great that we have this wonderful good shepherd to guide us along the way? 

lease listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

April 24, 2016 - Fifth Sunday in Easter

"By Our Love".  Text is from John 13:31-35

Click here for sermon audio





Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God.

In just a few short verses, Jesus is providing us with a wealth of information about his nature and his future. Given the context of this statement, he speaks of the Father being glorified in him and him being glorified in the father. He foretells his departure and he gives the disciples one more, important command, that they love each other as he has loved them. 

So even as we are proceeding forward from the cross and the great resurrection, we are, at this point late in the Easter season, being drawn toward the Ascension and finally the Pentecost. This saying of Jesus, drawn as it is from Chapter 13, takes place after the Last Supper. Jesus has washed the feet of his disciples. He has given Judas the piece of bread, pointing him out to the beloved disciple as the one who would betray him. And we begin with "After he had left", meaning Judas. 

Even on our best days, we can find things that cause us anxiety or stress, and none of us are immune to the pain that life brings. But God brings us hope of freedom from stress and pain. 

 This is an unrehearsed homily, so there is no accompanying text!  

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Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

April 20, 2016 - Fourth Wednesday in Easter

"Fourth Wednesday in Easter".  Text is from Revelation 21:1-6

On our own we are lost and bewildered and can wander off track far too easily. Is it not great that we have this wonderful good shepherd to guide us along the way? 

lease listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

April 17, 2016 - Fourth Sunday in Easter

"Not In It Alone".  Text is from John 10:22-30

Click here for sermon audio





Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God.

Jesus is speaking to Judeans who have preconceived notions of what the Messiah is supposed to be, what they've heard about Jesus what their own interpretation is of the promises that Jesus is to fulfill. We can empathize with them at least for a little bit because indeed, they've been waiting for a Messiah and they've heard some good things about this Jesus of Nazareth but he is not exactly acting and speaking what their version of the Messiah is like. And so they're impatient and they want to call him out, to "speak plainly" and tell them whether he is or not this Messiah, this Christ that they are ready for. 

And Jesus answers plainly. They just have to hear what he's been telling people all over the place, that the information is already there.  That they would already know if they just believe. That if they were members of his flock, they would already believe, and then this question should not be coming up at all. And we find some variation on this next line, that the sheep know his voice, and they follow him automatically, with no questions asked. 

How important is it to Love Jesus when Jesus tells us to love him, and are we able to love him in thee way he wants us to love him? 

lease listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

April 10, 2016 - Third Sunday in Easter

"Do You Love Me?".  Text is from John 21:1-19

Click here for sermon audio





Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God.

There is so much happening right here today's texts, a richness of information and dialogue, from the Acts reading to Revelation all the way into this particular Gospel text. There is an immense amount of glory to be found in today's scriptures.  

The act of believing happens generally through a process. While faith is a gift, rarely does it occur without evidence for we skeptical human beings. 

Please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

April 3, 2016 - Second Sunday in Easter

"Coming to Believe".  Text is from John 20:19-31

Click here for sermon audio






Jesus tells us, "blessed are those who believe without seeing." But who is he referring to? It is certainly nice to think that he may be referring to us, here in the 21st century, because we know for certain it was meant in contrast to how Thomas came to believe that Jesus has risen.


The first disciples to proclaim the good news were women. And of course none of the men believed. But we who see Jesus in each other today, how can we not believe! 

 This is an unrehearsed homily, so there is no accompanying text!  

The Holy Women at the Sepulchre by Peter Paul Rubens

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

March 30, 2016 - First Wednesday in Easter

"First Wednesday in Easter".  Text is from Luke 24:1-12

What does it mean to see Jesus in our day and age?

lease listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

March 27, 2016 - Sunday of the Resurrection / Easter Sunday

"Have you seen Jesus?".  Text is from John 20:1-18

Click here for sermon audio






Have you seen Christ?

This is the beginning spiral of Christian evangelization and it all starts out with Mary Magdalene, who we find shockingly as a lone unmarried woman walking around in a graveyard in the very early hours of the morning before the sun had come up. She is mourning, distraught, obsessed. She has yet to process the loss of this wonderful man who rescued her from a demonic possession, whom she has been following for the last few years and whom, some say, especially if you go by depictions in modern motion pictures, she has been in love with.  And she approaches this dark tomb, its stone being unexpectedly rolled away, she sees no body inside and goes into shock. Is it any wonder she is frightened? Is it any wonder she ran off in search of some trusted friends? Particularly those who were closest to Jesus, Simon Peter and the unnamed disciple who Jesus loved. 

And, like typical men, their first impulse is rather than ask poor Mary Magdalene how she is, they must go see for themselves what has befallen the body of their Lord.  We hear that the unnamed disciple was a fast runner, and surpassed Peter, for what reason, we do not know, but that he arrived there first and noticed first the burial shroud. And Peter arrived, braver than the other, and went into the tomb confounded, while the other one, now emboldened, set foot inside and finally believed.

We often put leaders on pedestals. But pedestals are only good for statues. And falling over. 

lease listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

March 20, 2016 - Palm Sunday

"Pedestals".  Text is from John 12:12-16


We have been traveling together throughout this Lenten season, carried along the way in our journey experiencing predictions, conflict, parables and miraculous events. Now we have come to a wonderful point along that path, that nearness of Christ, where aw arrive at Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Jesus sits atop a young donkey, and crowds greet him with cries of Hosanna, Hosanna! waving palm fronds, and spreading palms, their cloaks, flowers and what have you along his pathway, in order to celebrate the arrival of this wondrous man. 

And even as Jesus has cautioned the disciples, has warned those healed by his touch and their faith to tell no one what they have seen, the message nevertheless gets spread, first through the region known as Galilee, then all across the Levant. There is a change in the world that is coming, the Messiah that they have foretold is finally here, and the entire city has come out to greet this Jesus of Nazareth, son of Galilee, scion of the House of David. 


Faithlessness becomes faithfulness by virtue of Jesus' gift. The light that overcomes the darkness is here, so treasure it. And God's commandment is what? Eternal life!  That's incredible! 

 This is an unrehearsed homily, so there is no accompanying text!  

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Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

March 16, 2016 - Sixth Wednesday in Lent

"Sixth Wednesday in Lent".  Text is from John 12:34-50

Here is the homily I delivered at the funeral for Charles Ralph Pagter, Jr. on Tuesday, March 16, 2016.  I have included the text as well as the link to the delivered sermon audio, which has some differences. 

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

March 15, 2016 - Charles Ralph Pagter Funeral

Text is from Luke 24:1-9


Are you here looking for the living among the dead?  That question, so poignant and yet so confusing at first, particularly to the first listeners who heard it from the two shining men standing in the tomb.

These listeners, three women coming to deal with the body of a loved one in the customary manner among their people, are shocked and surprised, having found out that the body of the man who they sought, Lord Jesus Christ, was nowhere to be found? Who took it? Where did it go? What monster would do such a thing as making our loved one vanish in such a manner?

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These wonderful witnesses to the resurrection, three ordinary women who followed Jesus in his life and loved him and were so devoted to him so as to be there for him to see to the respectful disposition of his remains, while it must have been a fright for them to encounter these two people in the tomb, people in shining glorious raiment, and yet it was quite a blessing indeed for them to have been there at that moment, the first of many who would witness as to the majesty and glory of the risen Christ.

Luke does not call these men they encounter angels, we may expect that is who they are, although it may also bring to mind Moses and Elijah who were in a similar condition at Christ's transfiguration, these two men offer such a poignant, yet important question to the women, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" Why do you seek the battered body of Jesus here, when he has risen as he told you?

 This sole question says so much. It reminds the women of the promise that Jesus gave them, that he would be handed over to sinners, that he would be executed in the most humiliating manner of the time, and that he would rise again, that Jesus Christ was, in fact, not counted among the dead but raised up to heaven to be seated with God, and that his glorious resurrection came about in order that they also may be saved from the bondage of death at the end of their days. 

Why do we seek the living among the dead? We have come together to say goodbye to our friend, father, brother and uncle, Charles Ralph Pagter Jr., and have come to remember his life, and indelibly scribe his image in our minds. This man, who we at LCC knew as Charles or even Charlie, who I knew in my short time here as someone who made it Sunday worship as often as he could, taking the bus from his home.  Charles who always joined us at coffee hour afterwards, who reliably provided the youngsters with coloring books and other toys. 

And yet Charles who also went by his middle name Ralph had, in his 89 years quite a bit of history, having left home at 18 to join the Army, after having some struggles in his home life, understood the struggles that many youth face today, and always had an open heart for the underprivileged, the ones who were rejected from society, who needed to know that they were cared for and appreciated and on someone's mind, and Charles Ralph was someone who felt that with an open heart.  And Charles Ralph was someone who lived for others.

And even as he just missed participating in World War 2, he left the army and pursued a degree in engineering, and wound up with the United States Postal Service for a long and illustrious career, during which time he met and married, Alice Mae Dahl, right here in this building when it was Bethany Lutheran Church, and they had their beloved son who was brought up and baptized here. And for his family, Charles Ralph lived.

Charles very much loved his home of Albany and Berkeley, so much that he spent the rest of his life here once he settled here right after his Army service, and was involved in both the church community as well as the other organizations he loved like the postal unions and the local VFW and was a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party. And for his country and the issues that he loved, Charles Ralph lived.

Why do we come looking for the living among the dead? Charles Ralph's life was evidence that he lived for life, and that he truly loved life. Even as we have come together to say goodbye to Charles Ralph, I cannot help but to acknowledge that even as he lives in our memories and our hearts, he is also very much alive in the arms of God in heaven. We hold our memory of his conversations with us, whether we knew him by his family, whether by his work, whether at either of his two congregations, Shepherd of the Hills or Lutheran Church of the Cross. He lived for all these things and yet he lives again in Christ. 

There is a real truth in the resurrection that we find a tragedy of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ which becomes transformed into the victory of the reign of God at the resurrection. That wondrous, glorious itself is a promise to each and every one of us that God's victory saves each of us from the shackles of death and the grave, and that even as Charles Ralph is reunited with his beloved wife Alice Mae, once more, that all of us who loved him will also encounter Charles Ralph again. Why do we seek the living among the dead? We know because of the boundless love of our God who has mercy on each of us, that when we finally seek Charles again, we will find him, alive, in good health, and basking in the richness of God almighty. 

Amen.


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