Sermon 8 Epiphany Yr A

You can read my sermon for 8 Epiphany by clicking this link: 8 Epiphany Yr A

Advertisements

Sermon 4 Epiphany Yr A

You can read my sermon for January 30, 2011 by clicking this link: 4 Epiphany Yr A

Sermon 2 Epiphany Yr A

You can read my sermon for January 16, 2011 by clicking this link: 2 Epiphany Yr A

Sermon 4 Epiphany Yr C

4 Epiphany Yr C, 31/1/2010

I Cor 13:1-13

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

 “There’s no I in team or love”

The story is told of a hockey coach. The new season had just begun. He was trying to get his players to play as a team. “There is no I in team!” the coach yelled out. “We work together as one team; we all rely on each other if we’re going to win any games. None of this I’m the best stuff.”

The coach was determining who would play on defence, left and right wing, and centre ice. He asked the team members: “Who wants to play centre ice?” The coach was surprised when every team member, except the goalie put up their hands. “What did I just tell you?” the coach asked, with a tone of frustration in his voice. No one dared to say anything. So the coach asked a second time: “Who wants to play centre ice?” Again, every single player put their hand up. Now the coach was really upset. So he gave his lecture all over again about there being no I in team, and the need to work together as equals if they were going to get anywhere as a team.

He went on to say: “How can the team member on centre ice score any goals if the puck is not passed to them by other team members on defence or left and right wing? Without the other team members, the centre ice player could not score. So, I ask you again, who is willing to play defence or left and right wing?” There was a silence, no one put up there hands. The coach asked for a third time: “Who is going to play centre ice?” For the third time, all the players put up their hands. The coach was unable to convince his team that there is no I in team.

In today’s second lesson, the apostle Paul is saying a very similar thing to that coach in the story. He’s telling the church at Corinth and us today that: “There’s no I in team.” Or, put differently: “There’s no I in love.” Chapter thirteen of first Corinthians has been a very popular chapter, often read at church weddings to describe the love between a husband and wife in a Christian marriage. Now don’t get me wrong, what Paul is writing here certainly is applicable to husbands and wives in their marriage relationship. However, if we want to understand this passage in a more complete way, we need to look at the situation that Paul was addressing at the church in Corinth.

Here’s what was happening in the Corinthian church when Paul wrote this letter. The Corinthians, you see, were a rather divided congregation; they were not working and living together in unity as a time. Some members thought they were better than the other members. The congregation had developed into cliques—the wealthy folk thought that they were too good for the poorer folk and could not share the Lord’s Supper with them. Some in the Corinthian church thought that because they were intellectuals, wise and knowledgeable persons; that made them superior to the rest of the congregation’s members. Others believed that because they had gifts like speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues and the gift of prophecy that they were more spiritual than the other members of the congregation. On and on it went.

In this situation, the apostle Paul tells the Corinthian church and us that: “There’s no I in team. There’s no I in love.” Rather, Paul in today’s passage says that the greatest gift of all is love. Love, says Paul does not count one’s self as greater or superior or more spiritual than others. No, love, says Paul, counts others first and oneself last. All the other spiritual gifts can be rather impressive, yet, says Paul, they don’t amount to a row of beans if they lack love. Love is the motor, if you like, that drives the whole car to its destination. Without the motor, the car would not get very far; and without love we do not get very far.

Paul says there’s no I in team and no I in love because: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Did you notice that in Paul’s description of love here that there is no room for “spiritual superstars” who want to be regarded as superior and of more worth than others? Paul emphasises that true Christian love always counts others first above oneself. In Christ’s church there’s no I in team or I in love. Going back to my first story today, and making it more familiar to our situation here at South Ridge Village; if all of the staff here were managers, would we be able to meet all of the needs of you our residents? No! of course not. Or if all of the staff were chaplains, if they were all pastors like me, would all of your needs be looked after? Again no, of course not! Or if all of the staff were maintenance persons, would you as residents have all of your needs met? No way! What if all the staff were working in housekeeping, would all of your needs be served? I doubt it.

Paul, in this Corinthian letter, emphasises that if the church is to accomplish God’s purposes as a unified team, then we as members all need to work together sharing our different gifts for the common good. We do this sharing out of love for one another, placing others’ needs above ours. The amazing thing we discover is that in counting others more than ourselves and placing their needs above ours; we too shall be served and have our needs met. Why? Because each member of the team; each Christian will be doing the same thing—counting others first ahead of themselves and serving the needs of others first. When we work together and share all of our different gifts as Christians with each other; we become a unified team; we live together in love; and that love continues to grow and grow and grow. The possibilities are endless. Why? Because love is the greatest gift, as Paul says, love is eternal—outlasting all of the other gifts.

The greatest example of Christian love is, of course, Christ himself. He showed us perfectly how to live in love. He always placed the needs of others ahead of his own. He taught that the first shall be last and the last shall be first—that is the true beauty of love. Most of all, he showed us his perfect love in giving up his life by dying on the cross. Although as sinners we deserve to be punished for our sin; Jesus took our place. He accepted our punishment. Instead of getting the punishment that we deserve; Jesus takes our punishment and gives us what we don’t deserve—his love and grace, his forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. Now that’s worth celebrating today and every day of the year!

Let us pray: Thank you Jesus for your perfect example of love. Love that counts others ahead of ourselves and serves the needs of others first. Love that gives without placing conditions on the giving. Love that values and treasures each person and treats them as equals in the family of God. Love the works together in unity and harmony for the common good as a team so that everyone’s needs are served. Amen.

 

 

Sermon 3 Epiphany Yr B

3 Epiphany Yr B, 25/01/2008

Ps 62:5-12

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

 

“Silent waiting for God”

 

In a “Dennis The Menace” comic strip a few years ago, Dennis is with his dog, Ruff, beside him. They are also walking with Margaret. Dennis is happily pulling a red wagon, while Margaret, clinging to her doll, is chattering to the wind.

   In the second panel, Dennis gives Ruff a quick, side view glance while Margaret’s yakking goes on and on. However, she is now speaking right in Dennis’ ear.

   In scene three, Margaret is wildly pelting Dennis with her doll, raising her voice and saying, “Dennis, you’re not listening to me when I’m speaking to you.”

   The final panel has Dennis turning towards Margaret and answering, “Margaret, I’m listening to you, it’s just that I’m not paying any attention!”

   Silence. We too struggle with silence. I think this is a very real issue for many people today in our advanced world. We, like Dennis have probably had similar experiences, wherein we were not speaking, we may have listened to someone talking, however we failed to pay attention. Why? Because our minds were preoccupied with other things, they were in another world, another place. We may have been present in body, while our minds were somewhere else. We failed miserably, like Dennis in our listening, even though we may have been silent.

   We also most likely have felt like Margaret in the cartoon. We are speaking with someone else, sharing our thoughts with them. However, we can see from their body language, particularly their face, that far-away look, as if they were transported to another world. We know that our words are not really being heard. It’s as if we were talking to a wall rather than a human being. Even though the person we’re addressing is silent, they, like Dennis in the cartoon are not paying attention.

   This can be a most frustrating thing for us, because all of us need to be heard. Sometimes, we feel like Margaret that we’re not being taken seriously, or people don’t really care, because they don’t really listen with care to what we say. Or, as we also have likely experienced, they were not paying attention to what we said, so they misunderstood the intention of our words. Communication can be and often is a challenge isn’t it?!

   As I said earlier, I think it is especially difficult for most of us in our day and age to be silent, to wait, to watch, to pay attention, to engage in careful, deep listening. That is a challenge for us. Why? Well, because our world today is so full of noise and activities. Science and technology speeds up our lives to such a fast pace that it has become normal to fill our lives with impatience and noise. In fact, some people struggle so much with stillness and silence that it is next to impossible for them to be still or silent for long. Even when people are alone, they often have the T.V. or radio or stereo blaring away to fill up their space. Complete silence for them is anathema, or an oxymoron. Silence is just too threatening; they don’t know what to do, or how to handle it.

   Even if people do appreciate silence and try to listen with care, it is still more of a challenge today, I think, than it was centuries ago. Why? Because if one lives in a large city, which most people in the world do, then there is the constant struggle with noise pollution. Airplanes fly overhead. Cars and trucks speed along the major roadways with horns beeping and engines roaring. Even people chattering in buildings or on public transportation systems or in shopping malls fill our lives with noise.

   Over against all of the noise and fast pace of life today, Psalm sixty-two gives us a different, refreshing view of life. King David writes: “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is in him.” Silence. Silent waiting. Silent waiting for God. The psalmist is able to wait for God alone in silence because God is the Source of his hope. He is confident in God. He trusts in God. He relies in and depends on God for life and everything in life.

   Waiting for God in silence reassures the psalmist of who God is and what he does. God, the psalmist discovers in silence is: “my rock, my salvation, my fortress, my refuge. In other words, God is the psalmist’s Source of strength, safety and protection. God is the psalmist’s true security. God is the psalmist’s Source of health and offers him an inviting spacious place in which to live. All of these images of God bring the psalmist a deep sense of comfort and confidence. It is thanks to God that King David was delivered from his enemies. Thanks to God, he was given honour among his people as Israel’s ideal king. Honour here in the biblical sense is a combination of being blessed by God with wisdom, wealth, property and valour. When one is honoured one is valued and respected in the community. All of this is a gift from God.

   In the history of Israel and the Church, countless people of faith have also found God to be their rock, salvation, fortress and refuge too, just like King David. When they waited on God alone in silence, they too learned more clearly who God truly is and what he does.

   Think, for example, of the prophet Elijah. Remember that he ran away for a time in the wilderness to hide for fear of his life. Then, to his surprise, God revealed himself in the sound of sheer silence. It was in the sound of sheer silence that God encouraged Elijah and gifted him with the grace and every blessing that he needed to go back to his people and serve God as a prophet. In the sound of sheer silence, Elijah re-discovered the confidence and security that he needed to fulfill his calling as a prophet.

   In the New Testament, we think of Jesus himself as our perfect example of what it means to wait for God alone in silence. The gospels tell us that Jesus would often get up early in the morning to go to a quiet place so that he could spend time with his heavenly Father in silent prayer and meditation. These silent times of retreat for Jesus strengthened him for his public ministry.

   In recent times, here is what Mother Teresa once said about the importance for us today to wait on God alone in silence: “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature–trees, flowers, grass–grow in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. Is not our mission to give God to others through the Word? Not a dead God, but a living, loving God. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. We need silence to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. All our words will be useless unless they come from within–words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.”1

   To Mother Teresa’s words of wisdom I say “AMEN!” And, I encourage each one of you to take some time each day to turn to God alone and wait, pray, listen in silence. I am confident that he will speak to you through the silence if you are truly listening with care, just as he has done and continues to do so for countless people throughout the ages, and right up to the present day. Find a quiet place. If you have noisy surroundings, try using ear plugs to shut out the noise. The key too is to find the time when you are most alert–for some that will be the morning, for others it will be afternoon or evening. When you are most alert, you shall likely be the most receptive in concentrating on listening with care. The other bit of advice I offer you is to be in a comfortable position, sit on the most comfortable chair so that you can relax your body as you pray and meditate in silence. All of these things have proven helpful for many people. I hope they will be for you too.  

   Silence can be as the old saying goes, “golden.” It can reveal to us many treasures from our LORD of priceless worth. Most importantly, silence can strengthen our relationship and draw us ever closer to Jesus who is and wants to be our closest Friend and Brother as well as our God and Saviour. Amen.

 

1 Unfortunately, I’ve lost the source of this quotation attributed to Mother Teresa.          

 

 

Sermon 2 Epiphany Yr B

2 Epiphany Yr B, 18/01/2009

Ps 139:1-6, 13-18

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

 

“The wonder of being known by God”

 

God knows all things. In theological language, this refers to God’s omniscience. Think of how great God’s knowledge is, especially in light of human knowledge. For example, in most fields of knowledge today, the information is mind-boggling, and even experts struggle to keep up with the newest knowledge. Yet God knows all things in every single field of knowledge. Unlike we humans, God knows things in totality, whereas even the best human minds know imperfectly, and in part. How great God is!

In verses thirteen to eighteen of Psalm 139, the psalmist worships God with reverential wonder, awe, amazement, astonishment, by meditating on the miracle of his own creation, birth and life. The all-knowing God determined the psalmist’s personality and his life’s destiny even before he was born into the world. The psalmist, overwhelmed with God’s creative power, knowledge and love, says: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Even though he didn’t live with a scientific worldview of human beings; he worships God in awe and wonder of it all. With our scientific information of the human being, I think we can actually perhaps even be in greater awe and wonder at the gift of life, and how God creates each of us. Consider for a moment, the following scientific information as described by Dr. John Medina, a genetic engineer at the University of Washington, then ask yourself: Did this all happen by accident? Can human existence be totally explained scientifically? Or is God the true Creator of human beings? Listen to the words of Dr. Medina:

The average human heart pumps over one thousand gallons a day, over 55 million gallons in a lifetime. This is enough to fill 13 upper tankers. It never sleeps, beating 2.5 billion times in a lifetime.

The lungs contain one thousand miles of capillaries. The process of exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide is so complicated that “it is more difficult to exchange O2, for CO2 than for a man shot out of a cannon to carve the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin as he passes by.”

DNA contains about two thousand genes per chromosome—1.8 meters of DNA are folded into each cell nucleus. A nucleus is six microns long. This is like putting 30 miles of fishing line into a cherry pit. And it isn’t simply stuffed in. It is folded in. If folded one way, the cell becomes a skin cell. If another way, a liver cell, and so forth. To write out the information in one cell would take three hundred volumes, each volume five hundred pages thick. The human body contains enough DNA that if it were stretched out, it would circle the sun 260 times.

The body uses energy efficiently. If an average adult rides a bike for one hour at ten miles per hour, it uses the amount of energy contained in three ounces of carbohydrate. If a car were this efficient with gasoline, it would get nine hundred miles to the gallon.1

I don’t know about you, but I find those scientific details about the human body an affirmation of God’s knowledge, creativity and love towards us. I cannot see or believe how these details all happened into existence by pure chance or accident. This is the handiwork of God the Creator of heaven and earth, and you and me. This scientific knowledge does not lead me away from God and his ability to create. Rather, it draws me closer to God and makes me more in awe of it all. I, like the psalmist am amazed, astounded, astonished at how great this Creator-God of ours is. If God went into such scientific detail to weave together my body, then I, like the psalmist, cannot help but bow in wonder and worship God with reverential awe, and say: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” We are truly blessed by God from the beginning of our existence on. Amen.

1 Cited from: Craig Brian Larson & Drew Zahn, Editors, Perfect Illustrations For Every Topic And Occasion (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2002), pp. 135-136.