March 2016 Archives

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.


Mary of Bethany and Judas Iscariot are sharply contrasted in this account. One is the emblem of faith. One is the epitome of faithlessness, which eventually becomes betrayal. But we can be either at times.  

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. 

March 13, 2016 - Fifth Sunday in Lent

"Faith and faithlessness".  Text is from John 12:1-9


Jesus is once again visiting his good friends, and brought along with him the twelve for this visit, so we have quite a few characters we can relate to in this passage.  Lazarus, who, after having risen from the dead, is seated at the table among the men as would be his expected place. And we have no doubt there are people outside the home trying to get a good peek in to see this amazing man who had been dead for four days and was doing fine and healthy now. 

We can put ourselves in the position of his sister Martha, who, true to form is being the perfect hostess, serving the men, and in particular Jesus. In fact, the very word used to describe Martha's activity that translates from Greek to English as "serve" is the root word for what we know as deacon. A lay individual who serves Christ and serves the church all at the same time.

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God provides and makes miracles happen. But God always tells us to be a part of making the miracle happen as well.

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

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

March 10, 2016 - Fifth Wednesday in Lent

"Fifth Wednesday in Lent".  Text is from Kings 4:1-7 and Luke 9:10-17

Two sons. One father. Much bad behavior. Lots of love. 

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. 

March 6, 2016 - Fourth Sunday in Lent

"The Two Sons".  Text is from Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32


The parable of the Prodigal Son is perhaps one of the best known and beloved parables in all of the Gospels, so well known that its very name: "prodigal son" has become quite a cliché in modern culture. We see an old friend who hasn't shown up at a meeting for a while and might say, "look, the prodigal one is back!" And yet, I have a feeling that the words get used so much that not everyone that uses them is actually familiar with the famous parable and the underlying meaning of it. 

In fact, one might also call it the parable of the Faithful or Stubborn Son or even the parable of the Happy or Foolish Father, because while most of the parable speaks about the Prodigal Son, the central themes of it do not necessarily center around what he has done but rather the reaction of his father upon his return and the subsequent response and resentment of his brother upon seeing the celebration. There is so much to read and look at in this parable precisely because it is so long and so rich in content. 


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