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Reformation At 500

Written by Pastor Dan Wilfrid on Sunday, 29 October 2017 14:23.

Reformation Sunday        John 8:31-36

Thanks to Jill Zitzewitz, we heard another powerful story this morning of Generosity Practiced Here, of how in this place, in this congregation called “Immanuel,” being followers of Jesus tends to get expressed most clearly and consistently in acts of generosity, to one another and to the world around us. Whether it’s people being generous with their time, with their skills and abilities, with their friendship and concern and emotional support, or with their money, we have in this place abundant examples of people practicing and growing in generosity, learning the joy of giving and encouraging others to do the same.

And on this Reformation Sunday, this 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it’s worth noting that whatever generosity we practice here and in the other arenas of our lives, has its source and root and vitality in the generous God that Martin Luther discovered between the covers of his Bible. At its spiritual heart, the Protestant Reformation, begun 500 years ago this Tuesday, was about the rediscovery of the biblical message that human persons are saved by God and not by themselves, made right with God, put into a right relationship with God by God’s free and unmerited grace, God’s generous and abundant forgiveness in Christ Jesus, the unfolding fulfillment of God’s vision first given voice by the prophet Jeremiah: God’s dream of a world in which God’s law would be so embedded in human hearts that we wouldn’t need to badger our children to learn it, or cajole one another to remember it, or threaten horrible punishment on those who fail to keep it.

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Generosity Practiced Here - Part 2

Written by Pastor Dan Wilfrid on Sunday, 22 October 2017 21:18.

Pentecost 20 A  Matthew 22:15-22

You can consider today’s sermon to be “Part 2” of my “Generosity Practiced Here” series, in preparation for our Commitment Sunday on November 12, when we are called again to our annual practice of financial generosity by completing and presenting in our worship an Estimate of Giving or Pledge card for 2018. Last week, on CROP Hunger Walk Sunday, I focused on the practice of financial generosity in and through this congregation, a practice that over time has become a notable and consistent habit: namely the habit of accepting challenges, especially for specific and pressing needs, and then exceeding their goals with our gifts.

We’ve done it to replace roofs on our sanctuary and then again on our gym, to help fund major improvements at Camp Calumet, to send our teens to national youth gatherings, to send young adults on global mission experiences, to host a refugee family from Somalia, and most recently to reduce the student debt of Pastor Aaron Decker and to help fund seminary education for others, along with a bunch of other things I haven’t mentioned, all while (this year at least) fully funding our routine budgeted ministries and covering all of our upkeep and maintenance staffing costs. We practice generosity here, and as with most other life skills, because we practice it regularly, we naturally get better at it.

But in “Part 2” today, with the help of our assigned readings, I want to move beyond generosity practiced in church and talk about generosity as an overall attitude toward life, even and including when it comes to (of all things) paying taxes.

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Generosity Practiced Here

Written by Pastor Dan Wilfrid on Sunday, 15 October 2017 13:13.

Pentecost 19 A    Matthew 22:1-14

Today is CROP Walk Sunday, when congregations in communities all across the country come together to bear witness to a special kind of unity. We may be of differing faith traditions, denominations and doctrines, but we all share a conviction that the God we worship calls us to not only pray for the poor, but also to do our best to see that every child of this earth has enough food to eat. We hear Bible readings like those we’ve heard today that describe God’s kingdom as a great feast of rich food for all peoples, and we each know in our own way that being generous in feeding others is an obvious way to practice our faith.

Here in Holden, today’s will be the 39th annual CROP Hunger Walk, and after 38 years of walkers walking and others pledging, the Holden CROP Walks have raised over a quarter of a million dollars: $278,398.04 according to Kathy Mills. And speaking of Kathy Mills, who has for over 20 years now led Holden’s town-wide CROP effort, and took that job from other Immanuel leaders going back to the walk’s earliest years, it’s worth noting that this congregation has provided not only the organizational and planning leadership  for the event throughout it’s 39 year history, but has also consistently raised more than twice, sometime three times more than any of the other participating congregations.

Last year’s walk involved 8 congregations and raised $17,000. Immanuel’s walkers raised 41% of that total, or $7,000. The next highest total from a congregation was 15% or $2,500. Now, we are not, by any means, twice as big as other participating congregations, nor are our members likely to be twice as wealthy either. We’re bigger than some and smaller than others. We send more walkers than some and fewer than others. But at the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, we are consistently more generous. And that’s not only when it comes to CROP Walks.

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What Must God Think?

Written by Pastor Dan Wilfrid on Sunday, 08 October 2017 13:39.

Pentecost 18 A    Matthew 21:33-46

What must God think of such a world as this one in which we find ourselves living today? That’s what I found myself asking when I awoke (as you surely did) to the horrible news out of Las Vegas last Monday.

What must God think of a world in which a man, privileged and prosperous in most of the ways we measure such things, decides that he should amass a huge arsenal of weapons and then perch himself above a large crowd just so that he can kill and injure as many people as possible before taking his own life? What must God think of a culture in which those 59 deaths are barely two-thirds of the number of people killed by guns each and every day?

What must God think of a world in which millions are driven from their homes and homelands: some by hunger and poverty but far more by bigotry, warfare and violence, only to find the rest of the world fearful of them and reluctant to welcome them. What must God think when Yaziti people are slaughtered in Iraq just because they’re Christians in a Muslim country, and Rohinga people are purged from Myanmar just because they’re Muslim people in a Bhuddist country, and when people march in our supposedly Christian country chanting “Jews will not replace us?” What must God think of such a world as this one in which we find ourselves living?

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Intentions and Actions

Written by M on Sunday, 01 October 2017 08:42.

Pentecost 17 A      Matthew 21:23-32

Preached by Martha Bayliss White, Our October First Sunday Guest, Synod Consultant to Immanuel

Grace to you and peace from the Lord, Our Father, Jesus Christ.

I’m happy to be here with you this morning, and want to provide this information by way of warning.  I’m not a preacher.  I  do work for the synod, but I am not a pastor or preacher, nor have I been trained in writing, or delivering sermons.  So perhaps we can just call this a message.

Jesus talks in this morning’s gospel about two brothers – neither of whom respond very graciously to their father’s request to get to work.   One grumbles “no way”, but rethinks that response later and heads to the vineyard to work.  The other says “sure thing” – with no apparent intention of following through on his response.  I’ve heard and seen similar responses from my two teenage kids. Jesus then asks – who is the better son?  Their initial responses don’t match their intentions in either case.  Neither cheerful disobedience or grumpy compliance are ideal responses.

I remember hearing my mother say, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”, typically said in response to hearing one of her five daughters say, “I meant to do that...” I wasn’t sure where the phrase came from, and I’m pretty sure it’s not strict Lutheran theology, but it’s the first thing that popped into my head when I read the gospel lesson for today and thought about the intentions of those two characters.