Monday, March 12, 2018

Sermon March 11, 2018 (4th Sunday in Lent)

Lent 4 Year B/March 11, 2018                                                                                                        
Pastor Maurice Frontz

When we look at the cross,
we see darkness and death.
But worse than even having to contemplate the act of crucifixion,
we must contemplate who is on the cross.
If it were Hitler, Castro, or Madame Mao,
Jerry Sandusky, Harvey Weinstein, or Bernie Madoff,
we might take some grim satisfaction from the sight:
but this is the One who spoke words of hope, peace, and life.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Way of Discipleship (The Body of Christ) - Sermon Wednesday in 3 Lent

Wednesday in 3 Lent;
Sermon based on Discipleship, chapter Ten
Pastor Maurice Frontz

Though he is alive, we no longer have the body of Jesus with us.
The church confesses that he bodily ascended into heaven
and ‘is seated at the right hand of the Father,’
which means that he has been given all the authority of God.

We also confess that he will come again from heaven
to judge the living and the dead;
his authority, which now we acknowledge by faith,
will be seen by all.
Those who have rejected the rule of God,
who have done evil and loved falsehood,
will continue in that rejection,
and those who have sought God
will find his mercy in the glorious and gentle rule of Christ.

But still, his disciples are called –
and they are called to be in community with Jesus.
How can this happen,
when Jesus’ body is ascended into heaven?
For to be in community means to be in bodily community.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sermon Wednesday in 2 Lent - The Way of Discipleship (Baptism)

Romans 6:3-11
Based on Chapter Nine of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer

Have you ever wondered when the apostles were baptized?
After all, it is not recorded that Jesus baptized Peter, James and John,
or Levi when he was called from the tax booth.
This seems to contradict the doctrine of the church that baptism is necessary.
If it wasn’t necessary for the apostles,
why is it absolutely necessary for us?

But Eberhard Bethge, a student of Bonhoeffer’s who became his best friend,
wrote in his study notes on the call of Levi,
“By being called, Levi has become a ‘baptized disciple.’

The encounter with Jesus is what happens in Levi’s call and in our baptism.
The same Jesus who met Levi at the tax booth
is risen and meets us in Word and Sacrament.
If in his call, the incarnate Jesus ‘baptizes’ Levi,
then in his church’s baptism he calls us.

Baptism is not something we offer to God;
it is something that God offers to us.
Just as none of the disciples could ‘choose’ to become a disciple,
but were called to follow,
so none of us choose baptism,
but are chosen.
Those who are infants are chosen, those who are adults are also chosen,
for it is never a matter of us nominating ourselves,
no matter our age.

[This is why it is problematic for peo[ple to say
that we need to make a ‘decision’ for Christ.
In Baptism Christ decides for us,
he is always the subject of the active verb.

It is also problematic for well-meaning parents to say
that they won’t raise their children in the church
because they want them to ‘decide’ when they’re older.
No one, whether child or adult, can follow Jesus
without the call of Christ,
and children are called just as they are;
there is no age of reason for disciples.
Indeed, children may well be more faithful than parents.

Finally, it is problematic when we teach
that when infants are baptized, it is the parents’ decision,
and that when teenagers are confirmed, it is their decision.
We want to give children a sense of responsibility –
but actually we let both children and their parents off the hook.
We are not glorifying Jesus,
but the decision-making independent self.
Whereas if we had taught rightly,
we would have taught that in baptism,
Christ has called us by his own name,
and we are never independent from him;
our God-given freedom is to be used for him.]

Just as Levi was called from the tax booth,
our baptism into Christ calls us out from the world.
Baptism implies a break between the old life and the new.
It is not a chronological break,
as if before baptism we were one self
and after baptism we are another.
This helps us to understand why an infant is baptized for sin not yet committed,
and why an adult must still struggle with sin even when the new life has begun.

The old life is the life of self-interest that clings to us throughout our lives,
and the new life is the life in Christ which we are given by grace,
in which we may love God and neighbor.
In the old life we relate to other human beings, money, time, talent,
nation and community on our own,
but in the new life Christ always is involved in the relationship.
It is never just my life, but my life in Christ.
The old life and the new life are always at odds,
but Christ is constantly at work in us to drown the old and to bring forth the new.
Baptism is death for the old self and life for the new.

Just as Jesus’ call required a public act of following in front of everyone,
so in our baptism we are called to follow publicly.
Our faith is personal but never private.
Baptized people become visible in the community of the church.
In the service of baptism, the parents are instructed
to bring the children into the community of the church.
In the service of affirmation of baptism,
the first thing we are asked if we will ‘continue to live among God’s faithful people.’
The life of baptism is neither merely an assent to certain truths
nor is it simply a vague commitment to doing good deeds.
Rather, it is to associate with Jesus,
and that means to be a visible participant in the Church of Jesus Christ.

In some places in the world, that visibility can lead to physical death.
But the break with the world in baptism requires and causes our death,
whether or not we are given the grace of martyrdom.
Bonhoeffer writes, ‘Every call of Christ leads to death.’
It means that in baptism we live under God’s word,
seeking his will and dying to our own,
and we are commanded to bear the cross,
that is, to deal with and bear others.
If they wish to maintain community with Christ,
Christians cannot wall themselves away from others,
whether they are secure in their posh resorts
or living in whatever fantasy they can afford,
but must encounter the other
who makes claims on their time, energy, and resources.
That too is death of the old self.
But this death is a gift of grace,
it is not a punishment.
It is a gift because we are with Jesus,
who is the way, the truth and the life,
and if we are with him now, we are with him for time to come.

If, in Jesus’ call of the disciples, they were baptized,
then in the baptism of the Church, we are called.
This baptism is God’s grace which we receive.
Baptism liberates us from serving the world
or making the world serve us,
and calls us to serve Christ in the world
Baptism requires public identification with
and participation in the Church.
And baptism puts to death the old self-seeking person
and brings to life the one who seeks God alone.

‘Having taken their life from them,
[Jesus] now sought to give them a life that was full and complete.
And so he gave them his cross.
That was the gift of baptism to the first disciples.’
And, may I add, his gift to us as well.


Evening Prayer Feb. 28

Image result for candle church

Put some peace and quiet in your Wednesday night.

Lenten Evening Prayer begins at 7:00 p.m.

The sermon series in Lent is 'The Way of Discipleship.'

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sermon Wednesday in 1st Lent - The Way of Discipleship

Mark 1:14-20 

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ 
 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Title: Calling Disciples
[Click for larger image view]

Calling Disciples, Dr. He Qui, 2001

Sermon based on Discipleship, chapter eight

Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it starkly –
‘To his first disciples Jesus was bodily present,
speaking his word directly to them.
But this Jesus died and is risen.
How, then, does his call to discipleship reach us today?
He no longer walks past me in bodily form and calls, ‘Follow me.’
And this leads us to seemingly unending questions.’

I can imagine that some questions might be,
Where should I listen for the call of Jesus?
Should I listen for a voice inside my heart?
Or open the Bible to a random page and do what it says?
How can I tell which call is for me?
Can I say that I should leave everything and go like the first disciples?
What about those who were not called to leave everything and follow?
What should I do?
Where can I hear Christ, where can I encounter him?
Bonhoeffer says,
‘What for the first disciples was so entirely unambiguous
is for me a decision that is highly problematic and fraught with uncertainty.’

But, he says, we need to remember and take seriously
that ‘Jesus Christ is not dead but alive and still speaking to us through the word of Scripture.’
‘If we want to hear his call to discipleship,
we need to hear it where Christ himself is present.
‘The preaching and sacrament of the church is where Jesus Christ is present.
Listen to the Gospel of the crucified and risen Lord!
Here he is, the whole Christ,
the very same who encountered the disciples.
Indeed, here he is already present
as the glorified, the victorious, the living Christ.’
‘Christ can only be recognized in faith.
That was true in the same way for the first disciples as it is for us.
They saw the rabbi and the miracle worker,
and believed in Christ.
We hear the word and believe in Christ.’

But perhaps we think, still the first disciples have an advantage over us,
because they were told exactly what to do.
They heard it from his lips,
they did not have choices laid before them.
And perhaps this is why the church has such trouble with obeying Christ,
with discipleship.
If only Christ himself would clearly speak to us,
and tell us what to do, or how much to give, or what to feel and think,
or maybe even for whom to vote,
we would be glad to do it!
or at least we would know that like the rich man, we cannot follow.
But we are seemingly left on our own;
without a clear command from the Lord.

Again, Bonhoeffer bids us put our faithless questions aside.
Jesus’ clear command to each of us always has the same purpose;
‘it demands faith from an undivided heart,
and love of God and neighbor with all our heart and soul.’

This indeed is unambiguous!
Faith and love!
‘He has told you, O man, what is good,
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God?’

Jesus calls the disciples,
and they recognize him as the one who speaks to their lives,
the one who indeed has authority over them,
who speaks with God’s authority
When we come to hear his word,
we recognize in that word
the one who speaks to our lives
and has authority over us,
who speaks with God’s authority,
calling to faith and love.

So it is not a matter of taking on the same identity
as the disciples or other people in the New Testament:
to wonder whether we really should have been wandering evangelists
or to stay at home like the man cleansed of demons
and tell all one’s neighbors of God’s goodness.
Indeed, should we choose a particular course of action,
to leave behind everything
or to give away all our possessions
or to stay and have them,
without faith in Christ and love of God and neighbor.
it would be nothing.
‘If I speak in the tongues of men and angels,
but have not love…’

But do we really have no clear command from the Lord?
Do we not when we come,
hear Christ’s clear commands,
giving direction for our discipleship?
But it starts with faith that he is the one
who not only calls us but equips us for discipleship,
who not only commands us to follow
but shows us how, in and by his Word.

And so, concludes Brother Dietrich,
‘when we ask the question
of where we can hear Jesus’ call to discipleship today,
there is no other answer than this:
listen to the word that is preached,
and receive the Sacrament.
In both of these listen to Christ himself.
Then you will hear his call!’


He, Qi. Calling Disciples, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved February 22, 2018]. Original source:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lenten Evening Prayer

Image result for candle church

Put some peace and quiet in your Wednesday night.

Lenten Evening Prayer begins at 7:00 p.m.

The sermon series in Lent is 'The Way of Discipleship.'

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday services

Our Ash Wednesday services are today, 12:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., with the Holy Communion and Imposition of Ashes at both services.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Sermon January 28, 2018

1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.
Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Mark 1:21-28
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

From our childhoods,
we Americans are taught that liberty is our greatest possession.
We have it as a gift from God.
Men and women have died for our liberty.
Patrick Henry is said to have proclaimed,
‘Give me liberty or give me death!’
Interestingly enough,
Patrick Henry did get his liberty from Britain,
but died believing that he was not free.
He was vehemently against the United States Constitution of 1787
because he believed it infringed too much upon liberty.
It’s also a great American tradition to argue about what liberty means
and be convinced that the system we live under now is not real liberty.

As we have heard the past few weeks,
the Corinthians were also very interested in liberty.
Not political liberty, but spiritual liberty.
Our section of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians today
Paul admonishes them about behavior regarding food.
This section of Paul’s letter makes little sense to us today,
but with a good study Bible we can begin to understand.

Very simply, the problem was this.
Many of the Corinthians would be invited by their pagan friends
to a convivial meal,
at which some food was offered in sacrifice to a pagan god
and the rest of it used for supper.
The Corinthian Christians knew that the idols were not real,
and so they reasoned that they were free to go to these meals
because they knew they were not really sacrificing to any god.
If they believed the gods had power,
then it would be wrong.
But since the gods weren’t real,
they could keep this knowledge to themselves
and in the meantime stay in good with their pagan friends.
Their knowledge of the truth
made them free to do what they wanted.
It seemed to make sense,
but Paul had a different view.
Paul wanted to make the point
that they were indeed free,
but they were to use their freedom in love,
specifically, love for their Christian brothers and sisters
who had until recently believed in the pagan gods.
Paul was concerned that if these people,
just coming into the church,
would see the already established believers
participating in these rituals,
it would perhaps bring them back into the world of sacrifice to idols.
Perhaps they would then believe that the God of Jesus was one among many,
instead of the only God.

While Paul grants the Corinthians their liberty,
he urges them to temper their liberty with love.
Indeed, love should guide liberty.
Liberty, freedom, is only good in Paul’s view
insofar as it can be used for God.
The great gift of freedom in Christ
is that Paul could freely give up his advantages
for the sake of God and others.

This is a very different view than many people have.
For them, liberty and freedom
means primarily self-assertion against others.
When I read books about the great wars of the twentieth century,
I am more and more grateful
for the political liberty we enjoy,
including the relative freedom from government.
However, I am also mindful that being free in a political sense
can be injurious to my spiritual health,
if I forget that true freedom is found in submission,
not submission to the power of others,
but submission to God’s power.

Paul would say that we are not truly free
until we are obedient to God,
acting out of love for our neighbors,
and Martin Luther would say the same thing.
He stated this paradox:
A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none;
a Christian is a perfectly dutiful slave of all, subject to all.
A truly free person in Christ
is able to freely renounce advantage and self-assertion
in order to do God’s will in whatever situation.

And yet it is not in our power to make ourselves free.
We say that whenever we make our confession.
We say, ‘we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.’
It is the unclean spirit of self-assertion and self-preservation
which keeps us in bondage,
the unclean spirit who would dominate our wills
and keep us curved in upon ourselves.

We need liberation from the outside,
and this is what we see in our Gospel lesson.
We see Jesus beginning his work of liberation among the people.
It is a work of authority and power.
He comes into the synagogue on the Sabbath Day
like a whirlwind,
like a superhero,
teaching what is right and true,
and with a word silencing the unclean spirit.
He frees the afflicted one to stand before him,
to be able to praise God,
which he could not do when the unclean spirit possessed him.
Instead of being possessed by the spirit,
he is possessed by Jesus.
And this possession makes him truly free.

Our political freedom gives us certain rights against others,
but our spiritual freedom in Christ gives us the right to be with Christ.
Can we assert our freedom from others
and at the same time be free in Jesus Christ?
Paul says no.
In fact, when we use our freedom against others,
we sin against Christ,
for Christ died for others.

All of us will be able to easily identify
how others offend against this principle,
how others misuse their freedom.
However, we do not hear today’s lessons
primarily to use them against others.
We must hear it upon ourselves
before we can identify it in others.
Jesus says in another place,
‘Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye
and not see the log in your own eye?’
Perhaps it was this very teaching with which Jesus
held the congregation in that synagogue spellbound,
that very spellbinding which liberated.
This teaching is a teaching of authority and power.
It exorcises the unclean spirit of judgment and contempt
which would dominate our hearts.

It is in hearing the word of Jesus that we know true liberty.
And this liberty can never be taken away,
for there is no condition in which we can exist
that we cannot freely serve the other.
It is this liberty that Christ gives us,
for the same Christ who died for others
also died for us,

that we might be free indeed.  

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sermon January 14, 2018

Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
6:12 "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are beneficial. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be dominated by anything. 6:13 "Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food," and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 6:14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 6:16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, "The two shall be one flesh." 6:17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
6:18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 6:20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

‘Love God, and do what you want.’
This was a saying of St Augustine, who lived from the year 354 to 430.
But the church in Corinth,
brought into existence 300 years before Augustine,
might have liked this statement a lot too.

Paul founded the church in Corinth,
and he had some problems with it.
Corinth was a Roman colony far out in the backwaters of Greece.
It was a former military colony.
It had, if you will, a reputation.
Sin City.
It was like the Las Vegas of the ancient world.

Paul founded the church in Corinth,
and then left to found other churches in other cities.
But the Corinthians were problem children.
He had to keep writing letters back,
telling them to get their act together.

The Corinthians really missed the boat on some things.
They had some what we would consider interesting opinions.
One of these was that because they were spiritual,
because they had been given the Holy Spirit
and could do all sorts of interesting things like speaking in tongues,
that the things of the body didn’t really matter.
Maybe they were misled by the teaching
that the food laws that the Jewish people had lived with for years
didn’t apply to those who were in Christ.
They had all sorts of statements such as ‘All things are lawful for me,’
and ‘Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food,
and God will destroy both one and the other.’
And so they believed that they also might satisfy other hungers as well,
even to the point of patronizing the temple prostitutes
that the other Corinthians patronized.
After all, if they were free in spirit,
what did it matter what they did with the body?

This was not a body-affirming spirituality,
it was a body-denying spirituality,
which manifested itself in body-affirming behavior.
Did you get that?
The body and the things of the body were not important,
they didn’t really matter,
it’s what was inside that counted.
We’ve heard that statement, right?
And it’s true, but sometimes true statements can lead us astray.

Christianity has often been misunderstood as a body-denying spirituality,
especially by some Christians.
But this is not true at all.
Christianity has a body-affirming spirituality.
This means that the spirit is not divorced from the body,
and everything the body does counts,
the body has everything to do with the spirit.

This is true because of the incarnation.
For God himself loved the world so much
that he himself took flesh.
He himself adopted the bodies we wear.
The Son served the Father in the body,
and gave his body on the cross for our sakes.

Again, true statements can sometimes lead us astray.
We know that our bodies belong to us.
‘It’s my body.’
And this is true.
It’s true because our bodies
should be free from violence, from coercion,
from control by other human beings.
And this is most clearly seen today in sexual matters.
Indeed, the #me too movement has come about
because too many people have used other people’s bodies
as objects for gratification, to show their power,
and our bodies should be free from that, because it affects the spirit.
Well we might think
that St. Paul himself would have understood us,
that in focusing on the Corinthians’ sexual lives
he was not being prudish or prurient,
but articulating a truth,
that what people do in the body has much to do with their spirits?
And that God does not desire people to do violence to another,
or to coerce another, or to control another?

But as I have stated,
in another way our bodies are not our own
to do with as we please,
but instead they belong to God,
and we are to freely do as he pleases.
God does not coerce or control us,
instead he calls us to glorify him in our bodies,
as St. Paul says.

In baptism we have been made members of his body,
that is, our bodies are extensions of his body.
We are to freely do what he did.
And through our bodies he does what he does today.
He serves, he forgives, he encourages and blesses,
he feeds others, he himself prays, he himself gives bodily comfort and sustenance.
Martin Luther says,
‘Creatures are only the hands, channels and means
through which God bestows all things.’
This is how we are to be with our bodies.
To do no violence, to avoid coercing another with word or deed,
to not control another,
but instead to use our bodies to bless others.

The negative, what we are not to do,
needs to be balanced and perhaps overbalanced by the positive.
If I were to have you take away something from the sermon,
it would be what St. Paul says,
‘Glorify God in your body.’
We are to glorify God by what we do –
in how we eat: we do not live to eat but we eat to live.
in how we speak: to build up and not tear down others.
in how we behave: not to control others but to bless and comfort them,
never denying them their selfhood.
We are to glorify God with where our feet take us, what our hands are set to,
what our eyes look at and our ears hear,
with how we use our time and money.

It may well sound hokey,
but when we ask ourselves,
Does this glorify God?
our actions might be different.
If you disbelieve this,
think of those who are manifestly evil in the world,
and then ask yourself whether things would be different
if they honestly asked themselves the same question.
If the answer is yes,
then perhaps we should ask,
If it’s true for them, why isn’t it true for us?

Augustine said, ‘Love God, and do what you want.’
This is what that means -
When we love God, we desire to glorify him.
Then our freedom becomes not a freedom from,
but a freedom for,
freedom to glorify God, freedom to serve others.