Karios Time

Marcie Pic FaceMessage for January 17, 2021 on Mark 1:14-20 for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

This week we had to put our wonderful, and very old dog, Marcie to sleep and send her across the rainbow bridge. If you have ever had to do this, you know how difficult it is and how much we have all been crying. Over the past few months, Dan and I have wondered how much time Marcie had left as she has been in decline. But when the time came a couple of nights ago, the decision itself was easy. Marcie gave me a look that said, “it’s time.” As I looked at her face, I realized that she was conveying a truth. It was less a physical assessment, and more a spiritual knowing. Enough was enough. She had suffered enough and she given us everything she could. Even though I did not want it, I knew in that look, in that moment, it was the right time. The pain of sorrow did not change the conviction.

We had a shift in our sense of time—from “what’s next,” which in Greek is chronos (or chronological time, to “what is being revealed,” which in Greek is kairos time. The Gospel of Mark reveals such a shift in spiritual time at the onset of Jesus’ ministry. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
The first words of Jesus’ ministry are, “The time is fulfilled…” In other words, “the kairos, the moment is here, enough is enough. There has been enough suffering, evil has had its way for too long, now is the moment, this is the time, now is the right place, the moment has come; I see it, I feel it, I know it, God’s time is upon us.”

Kairos time—the shift has happened—God’s moment has broken into our chronos time in the person Jesus. He has been filled to overflowing with God’s Holy Spirit at his Baptism, battled the power of Satan in the wilderness, and witnessed God’s great messenger, John the Baptist arrested by the empire. Filled with a sense of urgency about enacting the power of God’s reign over against the powers of evil NOW, Jesus emerges publicly in Galilee and he announces, “the time is fulfilled” – “enough is enough!” It is time to end the power of evil and enact God’s reign of justice, healing and love. Kairos. Now is the moment. Things must be different. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” Jesus is ready to go from conviction to action, from knowing to living, from kairos to kingdom.

We hear Jesus’ call to action—now is the moment to demonstrate God’s power and presence in the lives of real people—to start a new chapter of God’s work against the powers of death and the devil with exorcism, healing, transformation, and a totally new way of living life. “Repent,” says Jesus—"change your perspective and your life—it’s time to have your world upended by the power of love and hope. Enough is enough with the old ways of death, despair, and fear. God’s love and power and might are here for feeding, healing, loving, forgiving, changing, and giving all of us a new direction. God’s Kairos time is upon us.

Propelled by a fierce urgency that God’s time is unfolding in the world, Jesus moves along the Sea of Galilee to enlist followers who will also respond with an urgency that matches his own—with the radical NOW of God’s desire to bring a new freedom to life, and a new power to God’s people.

Peter and Andrew, James and John probably know who Jesus is, they know stories of his preaching or have heard him speak themselves. Galilee is not that big. Perhaps they heard the story of the carpenter’s son who survived 40 days in the wilderness after being baptized by John, the priest’s son, who is also a wilderness-dweller. A renewal movement is afoot, and everyone is hoping to end the reign of terror by Rome--someone has to do something now that John has been arrested.

No doubt they hear the urgency in Jesus’ voice, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” There is something so compelling, so magnetic about him, about his being, his personality, and his message that they share his sense of kairos time, dropping everything in their chronos time to join Jesus’ mission to love and save and do God’s work.
The disciples experience that moment of spiritual truth, that this is the time, this is the moment. The difficulty of leaving family, and the pain of sorrow does not change the conviction of this time: “the moment has come; I see it, I feel it, I know it, God’s time is upon us. I must follow Jesus…”

As followers of Jesus who live in chronos time, we are called to continually pay attention to the inbreaking of God’s kairos time, to follow Jesus Christ with urgency and conviction. We may feel that enough is enough—we have had enough of pandemics and death, loss, disruption, upheaval and change, crises, and battles with evil. God has always had enough of our fear. It feels like this is God’s time—a new year, a vaccine being distributed even if slowly, we have been spiritually preparing for this moment—for God to do something new. It is time to pay close attention.

St. Luke’s knows what it is to pay attention to God’s Kairos time in the midst of chronos time. Sixty-four years ago, the first members of St. Luke’s experienced God’s time bursting forth into their daily live and they knew it was time to found this congregation. Throughout the years, this congregation has continued to trust God’s time as you have called new pastors, and expanded the physical building. In the past three years, we have committed ourselves to paying attention to God’s Kairos time in starting an Endowment and ensuring the mission of the Gospel into the future. We responded to God’s moment of spiritual truth in welcoming the whole rainbow of God’s people including LGBTQ people into full membership and participation of this congregation. We have responded to God’s Kairos time in starting the free breakfast as hunger has increased in our community. Living in kairos time is never easy, but in every moment, we have experienced God’s hand in our decision to worship on-line and outside, and we trust God’s timing for when that decision should change.

With Peter, Andrew, James and John, Jesus calls us to keep living in God’s time. “Repent,” says Jesus—"change your perspective—it’s time to have your world upended by the power of love and hope. God’s power and might are here for feeding, healing, loving, forgiving, changing and giving all of us a new direction. God’s Kairos time is upon us."
To what mission will God call us with a fierce urgency in 2021? Who is it that calls us to be as followers of Jesus who are ready to see that God’s kingdom is near? This week you will receive your congregational Annual Report in the mail and the question that consumes us in this moment is not “what happened last year?” but “what is God’s revealing in this moment?” How is God calling us to move from conviction to action, from knowing to living, from kairos to kingdom?

When we order our lives by God’s Kairos time, we joyfully participate in God’s kingdom with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. This is what I experience every time I join with many of you at the free Community Breakfast. Regardless of how many guests show up for a serving of burritos and love, I always experience that ministry as kingdom work—sharing love and food and building relationships to let people know God’s presence is alive with an urgent message of grace and hope.

In this new year, we will continue to read scripture together, worship together, pray together, learn and serve together so we will hear God’s urgent call to let our neighbors know that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” For Jesus wants everyone to know of the loving, forgiving, abundant God because they encountered this God here at the right time, when they urgently needed good news.

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Confessing Jesus Christ as Lord in the Midst of Political Turmoil

ddp YhIti8JUfkg unsplashPastor's Word of the Week emailed to the congregation today in our weekly newsletter. St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

As I listen to St. Luke’s members, read the news, and spend time in prayer in the aftermath of the violence at the Capitol last week, one thing is abundantly clear: everyone is filled with fear. Regardless of which party you align with, we are all afraid: we fear for the future of our country, the democratic process, the integrity of our elections, the safety of our leaders at all levels, the transfer of power, our standing on the global stage, and our vulnerability to enemies who seek to undermine our nation.

In addition, I believe that all Christians should be deeply troubled over the idolatrous abuse of Christian symbols and language that we saw on display last Wednesday. Some who committed violent insurrection held up crosses and clutched Bibles, making Jesus Christ the mascot for such insidious sins:

• Anti-Semitism and bigotry, depicted in clothes that read “Camp Auschwitz” and “6MWE”—6 Million Was not Enough;
• Racism and white supremacy depicted by a Confederate flag, a symbol of slavery and secessionist tyranny, carried into our nation’s Capitol;
• White Christian Nationalism depicted by Proud Boys kneeling and praying before breaching the Capitol; others with “Jesus Saves” banners and caps, as if Jesus’ “agenda” merged with their political ideology of racial purity and God’s preference for the success and wealth of America enforced by violence and retribution.

This idolatrous use of our Christian faith demands that we reclaim what it means to follow Jesus Christ as Lord of our life. Regardless of our political persuasion, we at St. Luke’s can and must come together and affirm the central tenets of our faith that are above any and all of our political beliefs and partisan leanings. We Lutherans affirm that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us all from the sin that separates us from God, the world, and all people God made. To confess Christ as Savior is to put him above all else—even above family, politics, fear, power, race, ideology, and election results. Faith in Jesus Christ, who out of pure sacrificial love, conquered the very power of death and the fear it engenders, is not and cannot be made into a champion who promotes any sin, including anti-Semitism, bigotry, racism, white supremacy, Christian Nationalism, nor any other ideology of human origin.

If sedition were the goal of Jesus’ ministry on earth, he would have joined the movement of zealots to overthrow the Roman Empire; he did not. Instead, he invited Simon, the zealot to become his disciple (Luke 6:15) as Jesus broke all boundaries of race, class, and culture to include everyone in God’s plan of healing, forgiveness, transformation, and salvation. I shudder at the similarities between the crowds who shouted, “crucify him!” (Mark 15:13-14) and the one last week, that carried crosses, gallows and yelled, “hang Mike Pence.” We hear Jesus’ words from the cross ever more hauntingly, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:24). As a community in Christ, we are called to know what we are doing, which is to put Christ first in our hearts, lives, and Christian community, which determines how we speak and behave as individuals and as a church in the public square.

How do we move forward together as a community with people of varying political viewpoints? We begin by reminding ourselves that sin is an equal opportunity employer infecting all of us, and all leaders on both sides of the political divide. There is no escaping this truth. I know people of good faith who promote the platforms of both political parties and we can find endless examples of sin on both sides of the political aisle. To support one party platform or the other does not mean one agrees with every behavior, idea, public statement, or leader in that party, and this holds true for the events of last week. As a Christian community, God calls us to step out of “cancel culture” into real vulnerable, open conversations about the motivations and fears that shape our views. We commit to suspending judgment and really listening to one another’s heart and viewpoints. As we make this commitment over the long haul of our life together, the Holy Spirit will deepen the bonds of fellowship and love as we seek to be church.

In my prayer time this week, I heard Jesus clearly say, “I did not defeat death for people to be this afraid.” Rooted in our Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, we trust that Christ is Lord of heaven and earth. Empowered by grace to speak against heresy and to stand together for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we believe that Christ reigns supreme in our hearts, at St. Luke’s, and in the world he came to redeem.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess” that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Photo by DDP on Unsplash


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Where Spirit’s Come Alive!

Kitchen MesaMessage on Mark 1:1-8 given on December 6, 2020 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas. Written for Advent, this still seems fitting as we begin a new year.

We have had a John the Baptist year—a year of wilderness, of re-examination, and in many ways, of forced repentance. We did not come streaming out to the edges of society voluntarily to find this experience, as the crowds from the whole Judean countryside and all of Jerusalem do when they first hear John the Baptist. This year, the wilderness found us, and gave us no choice but to repent—which literally means “to turn around”—to change directions, to re-orient our life and focus and energy. Yes, the wilderness found us with a repentance that turned us in place; a pandemic became the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, forcing us to assess ourselves, our lives, what is most important, who is most important, what activities we value most and will take a risk to do, and how our faith holds up when it feels like the only things on the menu are locusts and wild honey.

Yes, it has been a John the Baptist year. It has been de-stabilizing and dis-orienting because the center of our life has shifted from us being in charge to having an external force determine the parameters of our lives. Is this not the disruption that John the Baptist is calling for? His call to join him in the wilderness for self-examination and re-orientation of life is the beginning of this very disruption—to re-center people from their own limited view of life to receive the Messiah as the controlling center of their lives.

Such a disruption, such a re-ordering of heart and spirit rarely takes place in the seats of power—in the Temple, in the city, in the royal palace, even in the normal routines that we control in life. Rather, people move away from the centers of control and go out to John on the edge of wilderness where no one is in charge. The wilderness is the place where we must trust God and God alone for provision. That is our true repentance: a turning of trust from ourselves to God.

• The wilderness is where Hagar, cast out with Ishmael, receives promise and provision from God
• The wilderness is where Jacob receives a dream of angels ascending and descending from heaven assuring him that God is with him
• The wilderness is where the Israelites receive the 10 commandments, along with manna, quail, and water from a rock to sustain them
• The wilderness is where the prophet Elijah is fed with bread from the ravens

It is in the wilderness, where our own strategies and routines fail us and thus, we are open to God and able to see God at work more clearly. It is in the wilderness that Jesus himself comes, responding to John the Baptist’s movement of spiritual renewal and repentance from self and schedules, and from the seats of power. For Jesus to be the Savior we need, he comes out to the edge, away from the middle of power, normalcy, and routine schedules. Jesus knows that the true power of his mission not only needs to begin, but to continue and to thrive on the edge, with the people, with the poor, with the foreigners, the mourners, the sick, and the widows, and the rejected—where God is completely the center, the focus of his life, and that of his followers.

But the wilderness is hard to embrace because we do not like let go of our comforts and control. As much as I love being in creation, hiking, and walking through nature preserves, I am not a big fan of camping for this very reason. I loved it as a kid, but at this stage of life, I hate being cold, and I do not need to walk past three campsites to find dirty, spider-infested bathroom at 4 in the morning. I have a friend who says her idea of camping is “slow room service” and I quite agree. But, Dan really wanted to try camping at Ghost Ranch, the camp and conference center in New Mexico we went to most summers when the kids were growing up. Early on, when we did not have a lot of money, we stayed in the cheap cabins with sleeping bags on the bunk beds, which always meant hiking to the bathroom, but now it was just the two of us and he wanted to camp.

The things we do for love. I think what we did is really called, “glamping” (glamour camping) since we had a big tent, a queen mattress on a frame, and a luggable loo. (That’s what he did for love—making sure I was warm and comfortable, and not traipsing across the campsite at all hours to find a bathroom!). We made this adventure two summers ago, just after I started as the pastor at St. Luke’s. Now, I will admit, it was amazing to wake up surrounded by the high red rock formations and blue sky, drinking a hot cup of coffee that Dan made with his French press. It was on one of those mornings, sitting at the picnic table drinking coffee in the middle of wilderness—out of my routine, off-center, and out of control—that I heard the urging of God about St. Luke’s new tagline to match the logo Chris Sherrod was designing: “where Spirits come alive.”

The wilderness, even when we go reluctantly, or when it is thrust upon us, is always the place where God shows up. That is where Jesus first shows up when John started a spiritual renewal movement for people to become alive in God. We see and hear God more readily in the wilderness because we are not blinded by our own routines and control – in the wilderness, even camping, our spirits come alive.

Because Jesus locates his life and ministry outside the normal, he meets us in this current wilderness year, to be our normal, to be our light and our salvation, to help us be alive to him in new ways. Because wilderness is where God does some of his best work—this year is not just a place of pain, but of promise, not just an experience of hindrances, but of hope, not just a time of struggle, but of Spirit, not just of period of repentance but of renewal, not just a season of losses but of overflowing love.

In our wilderness of this year, we have discovered what is really important; we have deepened relationships; we have developed new resources and skills; we have let go of the small stuff that does not matter after all; we have found new ways to serve and help our neighbor; we have tried new ways to pray and worship; we have learned to live more simply—doing less, spending less, traveling less, making a smaller carbon footprint. We have created an altar at our kitchen table. We have embraced technology as yet another way the Holy Spirit binds us together. Our spirits have come alive!

What “aliveness” have you gained in the wilderness of this John the Baptist year that God calls you to keep, to nurture, to maintain as we begin to anticipate being back together once a vaccine is widely distributed? It will be tempting to jump back into “normal” but in this season of Advent preparation—I want us to pause and pay attention to the aliveness of Christ at the center of our lives today. Now is the time to prepare for how we claim our wilderness faith as the center of our lives into the future. How are you now alive in Christ and not going back, but living a new normal as someone who’s center has shifted? John calls us to the wilderness and Jesus meets us here. Their presence and blessing in and through the wilderness leads us not to go back to normal, but to stay spiritually on the edge with them, where through the Spirit, we can live with more aliveness, more wakefulness, more spiritual awareness, and greater service.

Claiming our wilderness, on the edge, off-center, out-of-schedule faith, we will continue to be the church and the people where “spirits come alive!

Reflection Questions


  • How has this year called you to repentance—a turning around, going in a new direction, evaluating what is at the center of your life?
  • What have you let go of and what have you added or put more at the center of your life this year?

Jesus’ Ministry

  •  What do you think drew Jesus out to hear John and be baptized by him?
  • How is Jesus’ ministry to those at the edges and margins of society a continuation of John’s movement of spiritual renewal and message of repentance?

God in the Wilderness 

  • What spiritual experiences have you had in the wilderness (physical, spiritual, or emotional wilderness)? How has God shown up unexpectedly in hard places?
  • Can such transformation of heart and life come from the Temple, a religious institution, a denomination, synod, or congregation?
  • If such change happens away from the centers of life, such as the wilderness, how do we as a congregation (and religious institution), engage and encourage people in spiritual transformation?

 Spirit’s Alive

  •  What “aliveness” have you gained in the wilderness of this John the Baptist year that God calls you to keep, to nurture, to maintain as we begin to anticipate being back together once a vaccine is widely distributed?
  • What does it mean for your “spirit to come alive” or what would you like it to mean?
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Disrupted Plans & God’s Plan

Latino Nativity 2Christmas Eve Message on Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-20 given on December 24, 2020 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

Nothing is going according to plan this year. This Christmas Eve we have no choir, no packed sanctuary, no real candles at the Outdoor service. We have had no Christmas pageant, or cookie exchanges, no Christmas caroling or live concerts. Everything is disrupted and we are re-inventing how to do this holiday like we have had to re-invent everything else sonce March.

This year, we find so many similarities with the Holy Family. At every turn in the Christmas story nothing went according to plan. Instead, everyone had to find ways to adjust to a new, jarring reality that had inserted itself.

Mary was engaged, but being pregnant by the Holy Spirit before the wedding, risking her future with Joseph, and even her life? Completely not part of the plan. Joseph was going to dismiss Mary quietly but instead, he is told in a dream to stay with her and raise this child as his own. That was not part of the pre-nuptial agreement nor any plan he ever imagined. Then at nine months pregnant, they had to travel on a donkey for 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem because the oppressive Roman Governor called for a census—that is part of no one’s birth plan, ever. 

Of course, Joseph and Mary were the slowest travelers on the road, so they are the last ones into town; all of the guest rooms in their relative’s homes had already filled up. The only free space was in the common area toward the front of the house where the animals stayed at night. Mary and Joseph squeezed onto the edge of the raised platform where the animal’s feedboxes hung off the front of the living room floor. No one plans to give birth at the stable-end of a crowded home with distant relatives you had not seen in ages—or ever. That was totally not part of the plan. Joseph no doubt had a beautiful cradle already built and ready to go back home—but they could not carry that on a donkey. Putting their newborn son in the feedbox for animals was for a carpenter, certainly not according to plan. Even the shepherds—leaving their flocks at night—angels or not—risked losing their job. They could have lost sheep to wild animals. Abandoning your flock to witness a birth—even a miraculous one—is never part of the plan.

If you feel that absolutely nothing is going according to plan this Christmas, then I daresay, you can find good company with each character and at every turn in the Christmas story.

Perhaps like Mary, you feel that your life this year has taken a new direction. You did not seek it, but God found you in these changes. Now your life is on a new path—you do not know where it will lead or how it will all work out. You have a myriad of questions, but somehow you are still able to say, “yes.” Like Mary, you are willing to lean into the disruptions, to let it be, and find a way to accept these changes and see what comes. Instead of fighting it, you are becoming pregnant with possibilities. This Christmas, you are taking this disruption of your plans as time to wonder what God is up to, and to ponder all these things in your heart.

Or maybe you identify more with Joseph. You have so many responsibilities and commitments—you want to do the right thing and make sure everyone is ok, and everything is taken care of. You are not a person of many words—who has time for that when there is so much to be done? You look at your upside-down plans and see so much that must be made right, the people you love to keep safe, and obligations to fulfill. Your heart is disappointed at all the things you had hoped for that cannot happen—but it takes all you have to keep providing, to keep up with the changes, and to care for what matters, that you are content to stay in the background. You committed to God to care for your family and you will, adapting as you go. You keep taking care of the next step. Each night you pray that God will give you the nudge for the next right thing to do tomorrow.

Or perhaps, you are more like the relatives who live in Bethlehem. A census or a crisis of any kind means you are going to be in demand—people in need will be crowding in from everywhere. There will be hungry mouths, tired feet, sick people, mothers about to give birth, children needing attention, germs that will spread through the crowds. You adapt your plans to serve others, you do extra cooking, or sewing, you take extra work shifts, or do more childcare, you help your neighbors and family members in need. You have never seen a census crowd like this before, but you have been around the block enough to know that we all must step up and care for each other. You would like a family Christmas, but life has intervened—need is knocking on the door and you find a way to adapt and serve.

And what about you shepherds? It is not every night that your work is interrupted, and an unexpected event disrupts your plans, causing you to abandon your post and leading you toward a new vision of what God is up to. Perhaps this year is calling you to change directions, make a different choice, respond to the heavenly announcements, and decide to follow the testimony of a miracle. Surely some of them went back to the fields—as different shepherds—because they saw God in new way, and what deeply mattered to them had changed. And maybe some of them allowed the disruption of their plans to lead them in a new direction—maybe they decided to go back to school, or try a new job, or listen to God more closely before they did anything at all. Maybe like the shepherds, your work has been disrupted or completely changed, and now is the time to listen to God, to move toward Jesus, and to look and see what God has in store for you now.

There is no one perfect way to respond to the complete disruption of our life and plans—there are many ways to move forward with Christ as we journey with the Holy Family this Christmas. Because amidst all this disruption, there is one plan that holds steady and will not be derailed—and that is God’s plan of love to save and redeem us and the whole world through Jesus Christ. There is no power, no evil, no disease, no death, no devil—there is nothing that can disrupt God’s plan of salvation for the whole world begun in a manger, and there is nothing in all of creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That is the plan that God wants us to cling to–not to schedules and events, traditions and rituals—as meaningful and joyful as they may be. God’s plan is in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world and his salvation—there is no disruption in bringing that plan to reality. Regardless of the up-ended plans and even through the disruptions to Mary, Joseph, their extended family, and the shepherds, Jesus, our Savior is born. Birth does not wait, God does not wait, and neither does new life in Christ—it is available to us here and now, however we celebrate—together or alone, in person or on Zoom, with gifts or none at all. Jesus Christ is the only gift we need, and the truth of God’s love and power in our life can never be disrupted or destroyed.

That is our joy and our hope—we cling to Christ and God’s plan of salvation for the whole world. Christ our Savior is born! No matter how our plans have been disrupted or our life has changed this year, we all are included in God’s plan of life and grace forever in Christ Jesus our Lord. So rejoice, Christ our Savior is born! 

Christmas Prayer
Let us pray: Holy God, we rejoice in your gifts in this sacred night—for your great love in Jesus Christ, that nothing can disrupt, deter or destroy. Help us to cling to Christ and rejoice that our Savior is born. However we respond to changing plans—whether we lean in with Mary, hang in the background and take care of everything with Joseph, start serving with the relatives or change course with the shepherds, help us to know that we are all part of your plan of salvation for the whole world. Bring healing to those who are suffering, especially those close to our hearts..... Bring comfort to those who are grieving, especially to us as a nation with the extreme number of deaths from the coronavirus. Make something star-lit out of the places of sorrow, pain, and struggle in our lives. Help us to trust that no matter what, you choose to work through us to bring your hope, peace, and joy to others and to this world. Make us faithful bearers of Christ-like love so that we might participate in your plan of salvation for the whole earth. We pray in the life-giving name of Immanuel, God with us, Jesus, Our Savior and Lord, Amen.

Image: Latino Nativity, http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/2aa/2aa181.htm



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Quotation of the Week

The church does not have a mission in the world, God's mission has a church in the world.