It IS for YOU!
When we distribute the Sacrament of Holy Communion in Lutheran churches we often hear the words, "the body of Christ given for you. The blood of Christ shed for you."
Most may not realize that whenever those words are said we are actually making a very profound theological statement. Dr. Timothy Wengert points out that in the 16th century there was much controversy and debate surrounding the Sacrament of Holy Communion, what it was and who it was for.
Wengert asserts that when Lutherans say in the distribution "The Body of Christ...The Blood of Christ" it was a proclamation not just to the recipient, but also to Christians who didn't believe that it is our Lord's body and blood. Furthermore, when we say the words, "...given for you and...shed for you" it was a statement to the recipient, but also to Rome that tended to have people watch the worship service and not receive the sacrament or have one element (the wine) withheld from the people.
So in our liturgy we seek to be clear that this is the body and blood of Christ and it is for you!
This of course speaks to the Evangelical (Good News) character of the Lutheran church because at the Lord's table we are announcing that in this Sacrament Jesus is here for you!
Pastor Adam Sornchai
Matthew 8:14-17When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed by demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.’
Though his wife's mother had apparently been at home lying ill and sick of a fever, Peter did not press him to come to his house but waited first for his teaching to be finished and for many others to be healed. Only then did he seek him out. This suggests that from the beginning the disciples were careful not to put their private concerns above the common good...Jesus entered of his own accord to Peter's house to offer grace to his disciple. Think of what sort of houses these fisherman must have lived in. He did not hesitate to enter these tiny quarters, thereby teaching us all to trample pride underfoot. - St. John Chrysostom The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 27.1
2 Thessalonians 2:7-12
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.
Now just as it is said that the task of the Word is to judge with justice, so also the Word's task is to fight with justice, so also the Word's task is to fight with justice, that by thus fighting the soul's enemies with reason and justice, he may dwell in the soul, justifying it when the irrational elements and injustices are destroyed. He casts out the hostile elements from that soul which, if I may speak in this way, has been taken captive by Christ for salvation. The war that the Word wages is seen even more clearly when we compare it to the war waged by he who pretends to be the Word. this one proclaims himself the truth when he is not the truth but a lie, declaring that he is the truth. For then the Word, having fully armed himself against the lie, 'destroys it by the appearance of his presence.' - Origen 185 - 254 A.D.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient.
I remember being at a conference a few years ago and New Testament Scholar Dr. Wally Taylor pointed out that Paul or the Pauline epistles in the New Testament don't use the word disciple. The word disciple is found in the gospels while the word imitator is found in the Pauline letters. Lutheran tradition is very much influenced by Pauline theology, so this might shed some light on how we may come to an understanding of discipleship, or lack thereof.
If you are at a loss to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, find a disciple and imitate that person.
A few years ago I was at Panera Bread and I saw that the way they trained to employees was to have them virtually at the hip of their trainer as they learned how to be an effective employee. In fact, I was told it is literally called "hip to hip training."
We often like to tell our children, "Do as I say, and not as I do." However, we know that in reality our actions speak much louder than our words.
If being a Christian is just about going to church once a week and getting the Sacraments "done" then your children and others are going to see that. Is that what you want others to imitate as a follower of Jesus?
Often times we feel that if we just lecture people to how it is supposed to be then the pews will be full on Sunday. That really isn't how Christianity works or the reason it has flourished throughout history. Our actions as imitators of the divine love we know in Jesus Christ gives witness to the new life we have received in Jesus. This is what people see and respond to. If we live like our faith in Jesus Christ matters then those who observe, follow and imitate us will likely follow suit.
Being in community and relationship is the key here. I need a mentor in Christ, someone to imitate, someone to disciple me, and I need to be disciplining someone else at the same time. When we do this we are asking people to do as we do, and according to the letter to the Ephesians we are going to be living different lives than how the rest of the world operates.
May others do as we do, as we live and love as Christ loves us.
Pastor Adam Sornchai
Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, ‘Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.’But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’
The Anointing at Bethany is a revelation to both who Jesus is and what he is destined for. Jesus is the Messiah which means anointed one, and hes destined to die. This woman on one hand is anointing a King, but on the other hand she is anointing his body as if he were dead.
Where the disciples go wrong is that they see that their mission and ministry is about them and what they are doing. What this woman at Bethany seems to get that they don't is that the mission and ministry of disciples of Jesus Christ is going to be first and foremost about Jesus Christ.
Remember Jesus isn't just some great moral teacher. The anointing at Bethany is a reminder that this Messiah is one that will be crucified. It is his sacrifice on the cross that makes all the difference in this world as opposed to anything we could ever muster up.
This passage doesn't give us permission to neglect the poor since they will always be with us. We are certainly called to love and serve the poor as Christians. The woman at Bethany proclaims to disciples of Jesus Christ that everything we do is grounded in our "wasteful" devotion to Jesus. In our postmodern age there are many Christians and congregations that unfortunately believe deep down that Jesus isn't enough. Some see worship and bible study as a waste of time, and Holy Communion every Sunday might take too long. Devotions before every meeting in a congregation need to be very quick so "we can get to business!"
The woman at Bethany is a witness to how we should be "wasteful" in our love and devotion to Jesus which includes our time, talent and our treasure. This kind of holy wastefulness is liberating because it keeps our attention first and foremost on Jesus the anointed one, crucified for the sake of the world.
When we dive into this holy wastefulness towards our Lord and Savior we will follow him and waste our time, gifts, energy and resources in the places where he leads us. Like being with the poor, the marginalized, those mourning, the sick, and those in prison, just to name a few.
It is worth noting that other than Jesus this woman is the only other person in the entire New Testament that we are told to remember when the Good News is proclaimed. That sounds like a very powerful and important witness that we should take note of and follow.
I suppose an important question to consider both individually and communally is that if we aren't wasting our time, gifts, energy and resources in love and devotion to Jesus and the people and places he calls us to serve, than what are we wasting it all on?
Pastor Adam Sornchai
O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!
‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counsellor?’
‘Or who has given a gift to him,
to receive a gift in return?’
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.
St. Paul reminds us in these verses of praise that even though God is beyond our control and understanding by faith and obedience we can trust and count on God.
Romans 11:36 might sound somewhat familiar to someone who attends a liturgical church.
In the Lutheran liturgy one may often hear these words or something similar at the conclusion of the Thanksgiving at the Table for Holy Communion, "Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, now and forever."
For Christians, a God who transcends human understanding does not lead us to despair because God makes himself known to us in this world. God is constantly reaching out to us.
We see this most clearly in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. After the consecration of the bread and wine to then hear the words, "Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours almighty Father, now and forever" ought to be a very sobering experience because it proclaims to us that the God of the universe, the God who has been revealed to us is present, our God is with us.
This is also a proclamation and reminder of our salvation, comfort in knowing who we belong to.
Through Christ. With Christ. In Christ.
Jesus brings us to the father, with Christ we receive the inheritance, and in Christ we receive new life. The beauty of the Sacrament of Holy Communion is that Christ is also in us.
Yes we worship a God beyond human understanding and control, but by faith we are a people of hope not despair. The Good News is that our God is a God we can trust and Jesus promises to be present whenever we gather around Word and the sacred meal known as Holy Communion.
Pastor Adam Sornchai
Romans 2: 1 - 11 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God?Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
Human beings make judgments all the time. Sometimes in our society we want to simplistically say, "don't judge" or "who am I to judge". Yet in a culture that is devoured by individualism and relativism I don't believe that Paul wants us to never make judgments or to say anything and everything is permissible because it "isn't right to judge." That would be one extreme that we encounter at times.
The other extreme is an extreme Christians often get labeled with and that is being judgmental. We might tend to be overly concerned and outright condemning of someone's conduct. That end of the spectrum doesn't seem very Christian either.
Judgement is okay. Judgement keeps us alive at times, and it might help keep or put others on the right path.
When our judgement becomes sinful is when we put ourselves on the side of God's judgment.
In our sinfulness and brokenness when we judge we put ourselves on a higher platform than those who we are judging. This is why Paul humbles us in Romans 2. The Jew and the Greek, each and every one of us stand on the same ground. No one is higher or lower. In many ways none of us have a leg to stand on, particularly if each of us have to give an account of our own deeds.
Romans 2 reminds us that no matter how good, moral and faithful we are in the end we still need Jesus and we rely on God's grace and mercy to save us.
So when we do make our judgments let us look in the mirror first. Let us ponder God's grace bestowed upon us and see how that transforms our judgement, interaction, and compassion towards our neighbor.
Pastor Adam Sornchai
The following is a article I wrote for our church newsletter for August of 2016:
Some may have figured out by now that I like to talk about religion and politics. The fact that I have any friends at all is a miracle that is underreported. So naturally my ears perk up, and I put on my theological lens whenever faith and politics become intertwined, for better or for worse.
Before I go any further, rest assured I am not going to make any political endorsements via our church newsletter or in using my pastoral office. My commentary is purely a theological one. However, my pastoral office does give me the responsibility and authority to preach and teach.
When following the Republican National Convention on the first day I was struck by what turned out to be a controversial prayer offered by Pastor Mark Burns. I won’t go into detail about his prayer; both the media and social media have seemed to have covered it quite a bit. Needless to say, I found his prayer troubling to say the least. You can look up his prayer, and decide if he broke the second commandment or any of Jesus’ teachings for yourself.
What I want to focus on is a prayer that was offered in the evening on the first day of the convention. I found this prayer by Monsignor Kieran Harrington to be 180 degrees different from Pastor Burns, and also a clear articulation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in an extremely polarized society.
Monsignor Kieran Harrington:
Heavenly Father, we ask that you bless and inspire these delegates, that their deliberations over these next four days might be earnest and fruitful. Our forefathers recognized in your divine plan the freedom you intended for all men and women. We stand before you, contrite for those times in our history when we failed to be the shining city on a hill for which you destined our great land. We humbly give you thanks, most especially for those who bravely wear the uniform, here at home and abroad. Truly, there is no greater love than to lay one’s life for a friend. Bless those who endured torture or sacrificed themselves for the freedom of our fellow countrymen, and those in far flung places around the world. Inspire us to build a more noble society, that reflects your divine image to a world that is broken and brought low by sin.
You have endowed our many peoples and nations with the gift of charity. May we be mindful of those who suffer here and abroad. Father, we know that our true citizenship is in your kingdom. You remind us that to inherit eternal life, we must love the Lord the God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. And to love you neighbor as yourself. Your son instructs us with the parable of the Good Samaritan as to who is our neighbor. May we defend life when most vulnerable in the womb or in old age. And let us not forget our obligations to the poor and the sick, the prisoner, and the alien in our midst.
We make this prayer in your holy name. Amen.
I wasn’t surprised to see that secular media and those, like myself, who are interested in religion and politics would be fixated on what was perceived as the controversial prayer offered by Pastor Burns.
When doing a simple google news search on Pastor Mark Burns I got 19,100 results. When doing a google news search on Msgr. Kieran Harrington I received 160 results. It is worth noting that Msgr. Harrington is the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY, so most of that 160 are in connection with his job in communications! There are a few Roman Catholic publications that made mention of Msgr. Harrington praying at the RNC, other than that it has virtually gone unnoticed.
It made me realize that the Good News of Jesus Christ really goes unnoticed, and THE Good News isn’t something that our news media is really interested in. Especially in an age of ratings, clicks, likes, and retweets.
I have been very concerned by the divisiveness in our country and the dials haven’t even been turned all the way up yet in this election cycle.
Living in a democratic republic our votes are important and it is important that we participate in the process, but let us remember that our hope and faith are in God first and foremost. To quote Psalm 146:3-4 : “Do not put your trust in rulers, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.”
The psalmist goes onto say in verse five, “Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God...”
Msgr. Harrington’s prayer reminds all of us that as Christians, whose“citizenship is in heaven”, we have a call from God to be a light in this nation that could also be a light to other nations. The world will ignore the Gospel when it is proclaimed and lived. Like Msgr. Harrington’s prayer it will go virtually unnoticed.
But the light that shines in the darkness cannot be ignored for long. We know when reading John’s gospel that the “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Let us embody our calling from God and be the light that cannot be ignored for long.
Let us not be paralyzed by fear, but rejoice in what makes us free.
Let us not be vicious to one another, but love our neighbors, our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
Msgr. Harrington’s prayer is a prayer that has virtually gone unnoticed. Yet I firmly believe that when we embody the Christian principles and practices in caring for our neighbor and shaping our society, the light that he proclaims, that I hope we continue to pray and embody, will be light that is scattered in the darkness and will shine even brighter.
People of faith, do not be afraid. Let your light shine!
Pastor Adam Sornchai