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Sermon: Reformation Sunday – October 26, 2014

The Rev. Dr. William Heisley

Lessons: Jeremiah 31:31-40; Psalm 46; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36

People are tired.  Tired of the struggle.  Tired of the waiting.  Tired of the arguments that have filled Church life for, well, nearly 2,000 years.  We hear about it in the news, as Pope Francis is both applauded and vilified, and we learn today that there is, indeed, nothing new under the sun.

The Lord is talking to ancient Jeremiah.  Jeremiah, who probably lived and wrote sometime in the 7th century before the birth of Jesus. Jeremiah warns the people Israel in a series of laments.  In every one of them he lets them know that he is in the midst of a great spiritual struggle with God.  Everything from being hauled in before officials for his prophecy, to the opposition that he faced even as his life was ending.  Everything is a struggle for Jeremiah. (more…)

Sermon: St. Luke (transferred) – October 19, 2014

The Rev. Dr. William Heisley

Lessons: Isaiah 43:8-19; Psalm 124; 2 Timothy 4:5-11; Luke 1:1–4; 24:44–53

Poor divided Luke.

We pay lots of attention to St. Luke’s gospel.  We spend every third year with it.  We think of him fondly as we name parishes after him and see his symbol, the ox, displayed prominently in church iconography.  He’s even right here on this magnificent pulpit.  Luke the ox.  We think of him as a writer of scripture.  We think of him as a teacher.  We think of him as a follower.  We think of him as a physician.  We think of him as a writer of icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We think of him in so many ways that I am prone these days to simply think of him as poor divided Luke.  Maybe we have too many bits and pieces of information about him.  Too many to make him look singular in focus, but too few to paint him as a whole person. (more…)

Sermon: Pentecost 18a – October 12, 2014

The Rev. Dr. William Heisley

Lessons: Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14

I’ll call her Patsy.  I visited her in a nursing home outside of Philadelphia a few years ago.  I’d known Patsy for nearly 29 years. She was in her 90’s now.  In fact, she served on the committee that recommended I be called to my first congregation.  And she was secretary of the congregation for years, a powerful woman.

Her husband was the treasurer.  I’ll call him Duane.  They never had children.  They just had money.   Duane doted on Patsy.  New precious gems every year, furs, travel, Cadillacs.  They lived well. And they shared their lives.  They became something like parents to me.  Back in my first parish I needed parenting.

Duane died some years ago in the room they shared in that austere nursing home. Their money was gone.  He had doted on her because she was his frail, precious flower.  He died.  She lived.  I always thought she was stronger than the rest of us combined.  She was. (more…)

The Formative Power of Liturgy

The Formative Power of Liturgy

“Faith formation.”  A phrase heard in the church from time to time and often a goal of various evangelism and education committees in parishes. We hear it in homilies, in reference to catechetical classes, and in mission statements. The church has always been concerned with matters of faith formation, but one area of the church’s life that rarely receives the attention that it deserves in its role of faith formation is the most central and accessible practice of the church: worship.

We are blessed with a beautiful liturgy at Holy Trinity, usually executed with grace, thought, and care. I would imagine that the importance placed on liturgy and music resonates with those of us who call Holy Trinity “home” otherwise we’d be in search of a different worship experience. But how many of us fully understand the deep symbolism and historical development of why we do what we do? How many of us have wondered why the mass is structured the way it is or even simply what any of it means?  Why do the Presider and other liturgical ministers wear what they wear? Why do some people bow or make the sign of the cross or hold their hands up in the air at various points throughout the mass? How many of us recognize that the liturgy seems to have a rhythm but we can’t quite articulate what that rhythm is?

We as Christians, and particularly Lutherans, have a liturgy that is full of profound symbols and meanings, a strong heritage of congregational song and rich ritual.  For many of us, liturgical rites accompany almost every major life passage.  Baptism, confirmation, marriage, and funerals, in addition to our weekly worship life, are all centered on the acts of proclaiming God’s word through speech, song, and sacraments.  The liturgy of the church is around us and with us throughout our entire life, yet, worship can often be taken for granted, or in some cases, modified into something completely different.

Perhaps, in an age where the nurturing of “self” far outweighs the nurturing of community, the discipline of re-ordering one’s self from the ways of the world to the ways of the cross expressed through communal action, word, and song is so foreign to us that we’ve forgotten (or have never learned) how to distinguish the expectations of secular verses sacred.  The church at worship shows us a different picture of the world than what we usually see. The power of the church’s liturgy shows us God’s reign on earth, not our broken human orders.  It is at the very heart of why liturgy and music are so important to the faith formation of all people that we have a responsibility to get it right.

Why are liturgy and music effective means of faith formation?  The answer is simple; the words we hear and say, the actions we express, and the songs we sing are all proclamations of the gospel. In worship we are reminded again and again that we are a holy people advocating for peace, justice, and healing for the whole world.  When we repeat these ancient rituals week after week the ritual begins to shape our very identity; we daily recall our baptismal promises and Gather ourselves in Christ, we live out God’s Word of love and compassion for our neighbor, we give thanks for the Meal of food, clothing, family and home, and are Sent by the power of the Spirit into the world to bear God’s love.

And what about those questions in the second paragraph? The Worship Committee is currently working on a Worship Guide that will address these very questions. A handbook of sorts, you’ll be able to take this resource home and read it as you like or use it during the Mass as a “play by play” narrative that explains what’s happening and why as you experience it.  Look for the Worship Guide later in the fall!

–Donald Meineke, Director of Music, October 2014

Sermon: Pentecost 17a – October 5, 2014

The Rev. Dr. William A. Heisley

Lessons:  Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:7-15; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46

I don’t know what the man who owned the vineyard expected. After all, when you have a valuable property, you don’t just turn your back on it. You don’t just go away and expect everything to be OK. The landowner had invested lots of time and money in the vineyard. He bought the land and built a fence – had to be out of stone; that’s all they had – he bought the land and had an elaborate stone fence built and paid workers to dig a wine press, paid lots of money to get the really dirty work done. He paid and paid and paid and then he thought, “Well my work here is done. I’ve put good people in place and I can go to my lake house now. My investments are secure.”

But he was wrong. There was no security. Instead there was intrigue and insubordination and greed. There was a vineyard full of human passions and conniving and desires. The tenants, of course, thought that the profits, the wine they made that year, should be theirs. After all, they did all the hard work. Their feet were the purple ones, not the landowner’s His feet were probably propped up on the side of his fishing boat in some far off vacation locale. (more…)