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Mountaintop Metamorphosis

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For February 27, 2022:

Chris KeatingMountaintop Metamorphosis
by Chris Keating
Luke 9:28-36, (37-43)

Up on the mountain, Peter, James, and John see something they’ll never forget. It seems God has pulled out all the stops — dazzling brilliance, sudden appearances, terrifying clouds. They are overshadowed by the glory of God.

But the glory is fleeting. The brightness of the moment is overshadowed by the cloud of God’s presence. And as they descend from the mountain, the disciples encounter a distraught father whose son is seized by a spirit the followers of Christ could not excise. Their inability to heal the boy tests Jesus’ patience, and is a reminder that suffering is never far from our most sacred encounters.

Jesus’ mountaintop metamorphosis changes him, but it seems the disciples still lack the power to demonstrate God’s power over suffering. They love the light show but are afraid of the voice. Indeed, many of us will understand the feeling of being caught between fleeting moments of glory and harrowing experiences of trauma and pain.

News of falling Covid-19 rates may cause some to repeal masking mandates, but the flipside is that we have been here before. The overall case rate is still dangerously high. “It’s not like you get to the top of Everest, have a small party, and then start your ascent and take off your oxygen mask,” said Craig Spencer, an expert in global health and emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

Truth be told, Covid is just one of the struggles of human suffering. The global uncertainty of a Russian invasion of Ukraine is ever-present, along with struggles over inflation, climate change, poverty and a gaggle of other pressing humanitarian crises. “As if 2020 and 2021 weren’t unpredictable and challenging enough, there is no doubt that 2022 will be another year of tests,” writes Kaysie Brown, Vice President for Policy and Strategic Initiatives at the UN Foundation.

We may prefer to remain on the mountain with Jesus, but just outside our church doors there are plenty of persons who echo the cries of the desperate father in this week’s text. That includes the families of more than 100,000 persons who died from opioid overdoses in 2021. Heroin and fentanyl are back in the headlines. It’s not just another grim statistic; it’s an enormous and growing number of persons crying to Jesus, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, my daughter, my only child.”

In the News
Last year, 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses — the largest surge in history, and more than the number of persons killed by car accidents and gun violence combined. It was a 30% increase from 2020-21. It’s a number that has continued to rise since 1999, claiming a the lives of nearly 1 million people.

If such staggering numbers seem hard to comprehend, imagine the impact of losing an entire city the size of South Bend, Indiana (population 102,000), or Boulder, Colorado (106,000), or a good chunk of Dayton, Ohio (140,000).

Then imagine that happening again this year. This past week, those statistics became more than numbers for me — and perhaps for your church, too.

About a week ago, I stood on a frozen driveway looking up an icy slope toward a house in an isolated neighborhood of my county. I saw flashlights moving around inside the house, and camera flashes as police combed the house. I looked at the house, wondering how I was going to find a way up the improvised steps without creating a second emergency.

Recently, I volunteered to serve as a police chaplain. Among our responsibilities is responding to crisis text messages. We provide support to victims and to the officers. Sometimes that means simply showing up. That night the text message read “suspicious death.” Most of the time that translates into “overdose.”

Family of the deceased person showed up and guided me up steep concrete blocks set into the hillside. I stood with the family in the cold night, listening as they recounted their loved one’s decades-long struggle with drugs. They were frustrated, sad, angry, confused. It would take a medical examiner to officially certify the death, but all signs pointed to an overdose.

A few days later, I received another call. This time it was a much younger person, found by their mother. On a table in the living room was the young person’s 2019 high school diploma, a reminder of a much happier day. But as the person was graduating from school, they were also graduating to drugs such as fentanyl and heroin. They had stopped for a while, but a final text message suggested they had been using the day before.

Those are just two stories among thousands of others. Out of respect, I’ve masked identities and locations. But these persons could have died anywhere recently. Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show overdose deaths continue to rise.

Experts believe that effects of Covid-19 has certainly accelerated patterns, but that reversing the numbers will take more than ending the pandemic. More than 40 states recorded increases in opioid-related deaths in the pandemic’s early months. Isolation provided a lethal mix for those struggling with addiction: the opportunity to use more often, and the opportunity to use alone.

"If and when Covid restrictions ease, you won't see a reversal in the same way you saw the acceleration because these drug distribution networks and addiction become embedded in the community. And it's not like they turn off overnight," said Katherine Keyes, an associate professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Experts note that the increased deaths are mostly caused by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which is more than 100 times more powerful as morphine. Fentanyl is often mixed with other illegal drugs to make the substances more potent — and more lethal. Many people are dying without knowing what is in the drugs they’ve taken.

There will be more stories to tell. Earlier this month, there were seven overdose deaths from the same two block neighborhood in the city of St. Louis. Two other persons overdosed but survived. Beleaguered paramedics echo the frustration of the father of the boy afflicted by a spirit in Luke 9:37.

"It's everywhere. It's not one particular status that have succumb to this," said paramedic Lisa Cassidy with the Saint Charles County Ambulance District. "There will be days where all of a sudden I'll see ... Boom: one, two, three, four, five overdoses, and that's the first thing I think of, there must be a bad batch out there."

In the Scripture
Luke 9 begins with the commissioning of the twelve and ends with Jesus setting his face toward Jerusalem. Throughout the chapter, there are glimpses of the demands of discipleship, and of the disciple’s inconsistent ability to faithfully attend to those demands. Jesus’ face may be set to Jerusalem, but who knows where the disciples are headed.

Notably, they do not seem to understand the power God is revealing. Jesus instructs the disciples to feed the crowds that have gathered (vv. 12-17), yet the disciples are focused only on what they do not have. While Peter affirms Jesus’ identity as the Messiah (v. 17), Jesus is aware that not all understand. Some will stand ashamed of Jesus’ words, while others “will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus’ words serve as a powerful prologue to the events on the mountain. When Jesus and the faithful trio of Peter, James, and John arrive on the summit, the disciples realize that they may be the ones of whom Jesus was speaking earlier. There are no words, says Donald Luther, adequate to the task of describing what happens next: epiphany? Theophany? Divine Revelation? (See Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Year C, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.) It’s power is shrouded in mystery, both pointing to the crucifixion but also the resurrection, just as Jesus indicated in verses 21-22.

Jesus, as is his custom in Luke, was praying, when suddenly he undergoes an astonishing transfiguration. Suddenly, the normal course of events is set aside and God’s power intrudes into human existence similar to Moses’ encounter with the burning bush. But things are just getting started: not only is Jesus transfigured, but he is soon joined by Moses and Elijah. Claudio Carvalhaes of The Working Preacher helpfully notes the communal and social dimensions of their appearance. Wrapped in glory, the three strengthen each other, Carvalhaes writes, giving meaning to the past and future events. He observes that one of the great lessons of this text is that “the glory of God is only possible if lived together, in community. Nobody, even Jesus, could shine alone.”

No wonder Peter wants to start a building program — every pastor knows that moments of glory are fleeting! What better way to capture the glory of that moment than by building a new sanctuary! But the mood shifts again as Moses and Elijah disappear. A thick cloud fills the summit, overshadowing them and filling them with terror as God’s voice thunders, “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him!”

After the fireworks end, Jesus leads them down the mountain. The disciples are shaken into silence. Unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke does not order them to be mum about what they have seen and heard. Having seen the glory of God, they seem unable to say a word.

On the ground, both a crowd and the other disciples are waiting. Luke inserts the story of a father pleading with Jesus to heal his son. The boy, seized by demons, has not responded to the disciples’ healing attempts. Even though the disciples have been given “power and authority,” and commissioned to cure diseases and proclaim the kingdom, and even though they have witnessed the glory of God passing over, they are unable to act.

To put it mildly, Jesus is unhappy. He rebukes the demon — and the disciples — and reminds them to listen carefully. Luke adds, “they did not understand this saying.”

In the Sermon
In the mountains, the air is cool and crisp, and the views are endless. Mountains, both in scripture and in our lives, serve as portals where the holiness of God is revealed, faith is strengthened, and lives renewed. We ascend to these places and experience the radiance of God’s presence shining upon us.

Yet the Transfiguration is not meant as a private experience of illumination. Jesus is changed by the encounter, and so are the disciples. But is it enough? Even though they have heard the voice of God speaking through the shadowy fog of the cloud, they still seem unaware of what they are called to do.

This year, the story of the Transfiguration comes to us amidst swirling clouds of doubt, fear, and worry. Our folks are done – done with a capital D – with Covid, even though most realize that continued vigilance is important. We are done with the politics of division, and filled with uncertainty of war, and inflation. These are the clouds from which God’s voice speaks to us this Sunday. And it might be tempting to let a sermon stay there up on the mountain, basking in the mysterious, yet somehow comforting grace of the spectacle we have witnessed.

Yet the story moves down off the mountain, and so should the sermon. Move it away from the stirring spectacle of the Transfiguration, and straight into the discomforting needs around us. Move the story away from the splendor of the holy sanctuary into the confusing crowded spaces where demons seize people, and parents cry out on behalf of their children. We need to hear both the voice of God thundering on the mountain, and the exasperated pleas of the father this Sunday. And we also need to sense the growing impatience of Jesus who senses the church is always more comfortable resting in prayer than engaging demons.

We move and live in a world where addiction seizes people, crushing hopes and destroying dreams. Too often, the church remains distanced for their cries, isolated and cut off. Like the disciples we may be saying to ourselves, “What can we do?”

We who have walked down the mountain with Jesus can open our doors to recovery groups. We can purchase drug disposal kits and pass them out to our members. We can get naloxone, an overdose reversal drug available from many public health departments and learn how it is administered. We can speak words of grace to addicts instead of shunning them with our silence.

The disciples will learn, and perhaps we will as well, that the meaning of Jesus’ transfiguration is not entirely clear until they continue proclaiming the good news of a God who cries out to a world filled with pain.

Down the street from one of the overdoses I was called to was an old church. Its sign proclaimed the hope of the Transfiguration: “Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”


Quantisha Mason-DollSECOND THOUGHTS
I Have Seen the True Face of God
by Quantisha Mason-Doll
Luke 9:28-36 (37-43)

Every so often I would be asked a question that would stump me, leaving me at a loss for words. On this particular occasion, I was a 23-year-old Young Adult Volunteer living in Daejeon, South Korea, and our site coordinator asked, “When did you see the face of God?” I struggled with answering that question. I struggled because I did not understand what was being asked. I got defensive because I thought there was no way to see the true and living face of God. Reflecting on this question, and with almost a decade of life experience between then and now, I think I have a better understanding of what was being asked when posed the question, “When did you see the face of God?”

As of writing, this article the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics has long since ended.

The United States finished fourth in overall medaling. This was also the year of many firsts for the US Olympic team. At this moment one might be asking what does the Olympic games have to do with the transfiguration of the Lord? Before we answer that question we must come to an understanding of what the transfiguration of the Lord means for us here in the present. I understand the transfiguration to be a semi-private miracle that transpired between the human Jesus and the Divine. This was a miracle meant for Jesus to embody not only his full self but also his full potential as the Messiah. Peter, John, and James had the chance of their lifetime to watch someone embrace their full potential, becoming something so much more than themselves, and they almost slept through it. It was because of their indifference that they almost missed this momentous milestone in the life of the Jesus. Peter, John, and James almost missed the shining face of the Lord present with them because they were so focused on themselves and their own needs.

This brings us back to the Olympic games and how moments of transfiguration allowed those of us watching to see the face of our living God. When we speak about the Olympic games there are often talks of spirit, comradery and friendship. Transfiguration moments from the Olympics include Erin Jackson being the first Black woman to win a speed skating medal at the Olympics.

What is so special about this moment is the fact that Erin Jackson should have never skated that event. If it were not for her teammate Brittany Bowe, who qualified for three other events, giving up her spot in the event after Jackson failed to qualify after a stumble, Jackson would have never made history. Bowe giving up her spot so that Jackson could race in her stead was not out of guilt or coercion. Bowe knew that Jackson would win gold, she was her friend, and it was for the best.

Finland’s Iivo Niskanen, who won gold in the cross-country skiing event, waited almost twenty minutes for Carlos Andres Quintana of Colombia to cross the finish line. Quintana finished 95th out of 95 competitors. It might seem like a hollow gesture to some, yet to others, Niskanen waiting for the event to be complete so that he could congratulate his fellow competitor who struggled as hard as he did, speaks to the miracle of embracing one’s true self and the potential of others.

To answer the question, “When did you see the face of God?” I saw God in those who are living into their potential. I saw God in the face of those who acknowledge the struggle and fight others put into being their whole selves.



ILLUSTRATIONS

Mary AustinFrom team member Mary Austin:

Luke 9:28-36 (37-43a)
Waiting for the Light

After an exhausting overseas trip, Tracy Cochran reached into her bag to find that her wallet had been stolen at the airport. Wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed, instead she spent the night making phone calls to alert credit card companies and banks.

She recalls, “I lost the wallet during the darkest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, days before the Winter Solstice, the day when the North Pole is tilted farthest from the sun. Our ancient ancestors noted that darkest day, watching the stars and noticing the shortening days, patiently abiding until one day, they noticed a shift: the darkest day was followed by a little more light.”

Then came a modern moment of light. “Lying in bed in the dark, watching my iPhone light up, it dawned on me that the meaning of life, the real purpose of our presence here, is being attentive, being willing to go on seeing and keeping our hearts open — not just for our sake but for the sake of others. We make ourselves available to life, opening our hearts to the passing flow of it, knowing we will blunder and get it wrong but sometimes right. We do this even knowing that those hearts will inevitably break because life is uncertainty and change and loss. But sometimes when we are open, light floods the darkest chamber.”

God keeps sending us the light, in so many different ways.

* * *

Luke 9:28-36 (37-43a)
Lighting the Way

Writer Susan Cheever, who wrote a biography of Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, recalls that Bill W.’s sobriety began with a dramatic experience of light. As she tells it, “There’s no question that in his story he was a man desperate to stay away from a drink. And over this period of about 10 or 15 years he put together, one piece at a time, trial and error — mostly error — the things that helped him stay away from a drink. So he would get, for instance, that if he spoke to another alcoholic he had a better chance of not drinking. And then he would think, “Oh, now I have it,” and then he’d drink again, right?”

Then an experience sealed him in his path to recovery.

During his fourth hospital stay, he had “a direct, extremely dramatic experience of God, where… feeling helpless and hopeless, [he] fell to his knees and cried out, “God help me.” And…the room was suffused with light, a divine light. And he said, “So this is the God of the preachers.” I mean, for him, there’s no question that he had, like St. Paul on the road to Damascus, that he had a religious epiphany and that after that experience he never drank again.”

And just like with the disciples, for whatever reason, Bill W. “understood that that wasn’t going to happen to everybody.”

* * *

Luke 9:28-36 (37-43a)
Illumination at the Chapel

In her book No Cure for Being Human: (And Other Truths I Need to Hear), Kate Bowler tells about getting a break between the grueling treatments for her cancer. She and her family decide to go to the Grand Canyon, and on the way she had a moment of illumination.

“Just off Route 66, I found a tiny chapel surrounded by ponderosa pine. No towns for miles. Curious, I tried the door and, finding it unlocked, tentatively walked inside. The room was a miniature sanctuary, unheated and inelegant. The floor was loose gravel, and someone had nailed together some benches to face a chunk of stone serving as an altar. But the light of the setting sun — an incandescent orange — poured through the windows and lit up the walls, which were covered with graffiti both fresh and faded. I ran my fingers along the black ink covering the altar and the pen marks gouging the soft wooden walls. Almost every inch of it was covered with words. I miss you every day. Please let my daughter be the way she was before.”

She looked up to see hundreds of papers stuffed into the cracks in the walls, and the rafters. Her husband came in to see where she had gone, and he, too, looked up at the ceiling. He tipped his head up, looking at the wealth of prayers, neither of them speaking. “I used to think we were the only ones,” he finally said.

Kate Bowler decided to add her own prayer. Taking out a pen and a scrap of paper, she wrote down a phrase, and stuffed the slip of paper in the wall. “What did you decide?” her husband asked, when she got back to the truck.

“It was something Mr. Boothe used to say,” she replied, recalling “I love thinking about him at the chalkboard, goading us into advanced math problems as he publicly suffered from the disease infecting all good teachers — too much faith in humanity. Dum spiro spero, he would say, shaking his head. While I breathe, I hope." Illumination keeps coming.


* * * * * *

Katy StentaFrom team member Katy Stenta:

Exodus 34:29-35
Stardust
These days many congregations who are LGBTQIA accepting are adding sparkle to their Ash Wednesday ashes, reminding us that not only are we made of dust, but we are stardust. The same materials that make up stars are the things that make up the human body. We are, as Carl Sagan put it, “made of star stuff” — the raw materials that constitute our physical bodies were forged in the bellies of distant and long-exitinguished stars. We shine with the sparkle of God’s light within us. Plus, there’s the Abrahamic Promise given to us. Is it so surprising that when we see God, God’s radiance shines through? Of stardust we were forged, and so sometimes, our faces shine!

* * *

Luke 9:28-36
Time Travel
There is a theology that when Moses went up the mountain and when Elijah went up the mountain and when Jesus went up the mountain they were all witnessing the exact same event, just in our own human timezones. This is because God is the same yesterday, today and forever, but only Jesus can withstand the glory of the event that is happening at the time. Every human is transfigured, but only Jesus is transfigured from glory into glory. In essence, time is not traveled, God is just witnessed, in all of God’s magnitude, and Jesus is the one who can take it all in, and the reflection of God’s glory — in Jesus’ human form. The reflection of God’s glory in Jesus is what the disciples are, almost, able to handle.

* * *

Luke 9:28:-36
Tranmorgification
Calvin & Hobbes have a truly wonderful set of comics where Calvin has a transmorgifyer where he is changed from a little boy into a tiger — the thing is, he is exactly himself as a tiger. Becoming a tiger just changes him from himself, into a more real version of himself. This is how Jesus is transfigured, or transmogrified on the mountain.


* * * * * *

George ReedWORSHIP
by George Reed

Call to Worship
One: God is Sovereign; let the peoples tremble!
All: God sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
One: God is exalted over all the peoples.
All: Let us praise God’s great and awesome name.
One: Mighty Sovereign, lover of justice, you have established equity.
All: You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.

OR

One: God comes in glory to dwell among us.
All: We are in awe of God’s glory and grandeur.
One: God comes to bring out our own glory as God’s children.
All: Sometimes it is hard to believe in our own glory.
One: Everyone created in God’s image in filled with glory.
All: We will allow that glory to show and to look for it in others.

Hymns and Songs
Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies
UMH: 173
H82: 6/7
PH: 462/463
LBW: 265
ELW: 553
W&P: 91

O Wondrous Sight! O Vision Fair
UMH: 258
H82: 136/137
PH: 75
NCH: 184
LBW: 80
ELW: 316

Holy God, We Praise Thy Name
UMH: 79
H82: 366
PH: 460
NNBH: 13
NCH: 276
LBW: 535
ELW: 414
W&P: 138

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
UMH: 127
H82: 690
PH: 281
AAHH: 138/139/140
NNBH: 232
NCH: 18/19
CH: 622
LBW: 343
ELW: 618
W&P: 501
AMEC: 52/53/65

I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light
UMH: 206
H82: 490
ELW: 815
W&P: 248
Renew: 152

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
UMH: 400
H82: 686
PH: 356
AAHH: 175
NNBH: 166
NCH: 459
CH: 16
LBW: 499
ELW: 807
W&P: 68
AMEC: 77
STLT: 126

Breathe on Me, Breath of God
UMH: 420
H82: 508
PH: 316
AAHH: 317
NNBH: 126
NCH: 292
CH: 254
LBW: 488
W&P: 461
AMEC: 192

Be Thou My Vision
UMH: 451
H82: 488
PH: 339
NCH: 451
CH: 595
ELW: 793
W&P: 502
AMEC: 281
STLT: 20
Renew: 151

Open My Eyes, That I May See
UMH: 454
PH: 324
NNBH: 218
CH: 586
W&P: 480
AMEC: 285

God of Grace and God of Glory
UMH: 577
H82: 594/595
PH: 420
NCH: 436
CH: 464
LBW: 415
ELW: 705
W&P: 569
AMEC: 62
STLT: 115
Renew: 301

Change My Heart, O God
CCB: 56
Renew: 143

God, You Are My God
CCB: 60  

Music Resources Key
UMH: United Methodist Hymnal
H82: The Hymnal 1982
PH: Presbyterian Hymnal
AAHH: African American Heritage Hymnal
NNBH: The New National Baptist Hymnal
NCH: The New Century Hymnal
CH: Chalice Hymnal
LBW: Lutheran Book of Worship
ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship
W&P: Worship & Praise
AMEC: African Methodist Episcopal Church Hymnal
STLT: Singing the Living Tradition
CCB: Cokesbury Chorus Book
Renew: Renew! Songs & Hymns for Blended Worship

Prayer for the Day/Collect
O God who shines with the glory of eternal love:
Grant us the grace to behold your glory in you,
in ourselves and in all your children;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

OR

We praise you, O God, because you are the glory of eternal love. You shine with a brightness that never dims. Help us to allow your glory to shine through us and to see your glory in others. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
One: Let us confess to God and before one another our sins and especially our failure to see God’s glory in ourselves and in others. 

All: We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We have become blind to your glory that is imbedded in all creation. We see nature as something to use up and dispose of instead of seeing it as your gracious gift for us to honor. We fail to see your glory in others because we fail to see it in ourselves. Open our eyes and help us to see you all around us. Help us to honor your presence in ourselves and in others. Amen.


One: God’s glory is all around us and within us. Receive God’s grace to allow that glory to shine and allow you to see it in others.

Prayers of the People
Praise to you, O God of glory. The whole creation is full of your glory.

(The following paragraph may be used if a separate prayer of confession has not been used.)

We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We have become blind to your glory that is imbedded in all creation. We see nature as something to use up and dispose of instead of seeing it as your gracious gift for us to honor. We fail to see your glory in others because we fail to see it in ourselves. Open our eyes and help us to see you all around us. Help us to honor your presence in ourselves and in others.

We give you thanks for the wonders of your creation and the ways in which your glory radiates from it. We thank you for those who allow your glory to shine in and through themselves so that we may catch a glimpse of you at work among us. We thank you for those who have the faith to see your glory in us and who call that glory to the surface.

(Other thanksgivings may be offered.)

We pray for all who are in need this day. We pray for those who find it difficult to see your glory because of poverty or violence or sickness. We pray for those who cannot believe your glory resides in them. We pray that we may be part of your glorious presence for those in need around us.

(Other intercessions may be offered.)

All these things we ask in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together saying:

Our Father....Amen.

(Or if the Our Father is not used at this point in the service.)


All this we ask in the name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity. Amen.




* * * * * *

Dean FeldmeyerCHILDREN'S SERMON
Pretzel Sunday
by Dean Feldmeyer

YOU WILL NEED: A bag of traditional, heart-shaped pretzels. Enough to give one to every child.


When the children have gathered with you, hold up one pretzel and say:


Today is Pretzel Sunday.

At least, it is for us. Pretzel Sunday, which we believe started in the part of Germany called Bavaria, is celebrated on different days, in different ways, for different reasons all over the world.

In the country of Luxemburg, and some parts of Germany, they celebrate Pretzel Sunday on the Fourth Sunday in Lent. That would be March 27. On that day, the tradition is that a boy will give a pretzel that looks like this (show heart shaped pretzel) to a girl that he has romantic feelings for. If she has romantic feelings for him, she will give him a chocolate egg. If she just likes him as a friend, she will give him a pretzel in return.

In other parts of Germany, they celebrate Pretzel Sunday on the Fourth Sunday in Lent but they do it by baking and eating all different kinds and shapes of pretzels.

In other places, though, Pretzel Sunday is the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins, and that would be today.

We don’t know exactly why but some people think that in certain places it was forbidden to bake bread during Lent so people would bake all the bread they were going to need for the next six weeks on the last Sunday afternoon before Lent. Only the bread wouldn’t keep that long. It would go stale and moldy.

So, they salted their bread and baked it until it became dry and crunchy and they would store it in bags and eat it for the six weeks of Lent.

The shape of the pretzel was intended to represent how people, in those days, would cross their arms across their chest, like this, (cross arms over chest) when they prayed and this would remind people, whenever they ate a pretzel, to say prayers of thanks to God during the season of Lent as we approach Easter Sunday.

So, today, we’re all going to take a pretzel and, as we eat it, we remember to give thanks to God for God’s son, Jesus Christ. (Hand out the pretzels, one to a child.)

End with a prayer thanking God for Jesus who gave his life for us.


* * * * * * * * * * * * *


The Immediate Word, February 27, 2022 issue.

Copyright 2022 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to The Immediate Word service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons and in worship and classroom settings only. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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Emphasis Preaching Journal

David Coffin
“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgement” Psalm 82:1. At first, this psalm suggests there is more than one God. Monotheism as it is written and taught in scripture did take time develop. Polytheism existed at the writing of Psalm 82, but the writer still stakes a claim that the one only God can fill our deepest yearnings, concerns and walk alongside us in life’s ambiguities. Twenty first century public media platforms point to many sorts of idols, false gods and other remedies for lack of meaning and inner emptiness.
Mark Ellingsen
Bill Thomas
Frank Ramirez
Amos 7:7-17
We are reminded in this lesson, that Christian faith and politics always stand in tension. This point was so well made by the great social ethicist of the last century Reinhold Niebuhr. He once wrote:

According to the Christian faith, life is and always will be fragmentary, frustrating, and incomplete... There are no simple congruities in life or history. (Reinhold Niebuhr: Theologian of Public Life, p.131)

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
Call to Worship:
Jesus told a story about someone who was unexpectedly full of kindness and compassion. In our worship today, let us ask ourselves whether we are Good Samaritans to those who really need our help.

Invitation to Confession:
Jesus, sometimes we fail to notice those who are outside our own social sphere.
Lord, have mercy.
Jesus, sometimes we are so disgusted by poverty that we turn away.
Christ, have mercy.
Jesus, sometimes we too walk by on the other side.
Lord, have mercy.

StoryShare

Rick McCracken-Bennett
David E. Leininger
Contents
What's Up This Week
"Where Have All the Good Samaritans Gone?" by Rick McCracken-Bennett
"Where Are the Good Samaritans When You Really Need One?" by Rick McCracken-Bennett
"A Church's Reputation" by David E. Leininger


What's Up This Week

SermonStudio

Merle G. Franke
Minneapolis is a cool city to live in. In more than one sense is it cool. More accurately, in winter it is cold! But in the other three seasons of the year it is comfortable and pleasant. The city is blessed with numerous sparkling lakes within the city limits, plus a generous sprinkling of parks and playgrounds. And churches — particularly Lutheran churches.
Stephen P. McCutchan
I am no prophet, nor a prophet's son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees....
-- Amos 7:14b

John E. Sumwalt
In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. (v. 15)

Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness' sake, O Lord! (v. 7)

In anger and bitterness, and with a stubborn tenacity to cling to what once had been in my life but was no more, at age fourteen I became a church "dropout." For six years I wandered in the wilderness, with God being rejected and pushed out of my life.
Schuyler Rhodes
God is taking stock of the way the gods, and note the small "g" here, are handling things. "How long," they are asked, "will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?" Good question. In a nation where 40% of the people have no health care worth mentioning, and in a time when the promises of pensions can evaporate with the bang of a judge's gavel, it is a good question, indeed. Injustice spreads like an infectious disease as more and more prisons are built in the shadows of crumbling schools and declining quality of education.
Billy D. Strayhorn
Growing up, many kids love baseball. They love everything about it. They love playing it. The neighborhood kids divide up the big kids and little kids, so the teams are even, and then play inning after inning of baseball or softball either in a front yard or a back yard.
Erskine White
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed,
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
(Stuart K. Hine)

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