Spiritual Experience

  • Experiencing our Trinitarian God

    HolyTrinityMessage for Holy Trinity Sunday on 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 on June 4, 2023 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

    The Apostle Paul ends his 2nd letter to the Corinthian church with these words, which we hear almost every Sunday in worship; but do we ever stop and consider what they really mean for us?

    Every time we celebrate the wonderful joy of Baptism, we do so using beautiful words we also repeat often in worship—blessing and baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…but how often do we really pause to deeply reflect on how One God showing up in three different ways has an impact at all in our daily existence?

    Today, I would like to do something a little different, which is to invite you to reflect on some of your own experiences. You can jot a few notes on your bulletin insertas we move along.

    We will begin by remembering a time when you had a meaningful experience in nature—it could have been on vacation or at a camp or in your own backyard. Where were you? Who were you with? What did you see? How did you feel—peace, awe, humility, wonder—? Once you have captured that moment, pick any circle on your insert and jot down a few words about the experience and how you felt. Dale is going to play some background music for a minute to give you time to ponder (Morning has Broken)

    Now I encourage you to think about a time when you were down and out, struggling in some way, needing help, and someone showed up for you. It could have been soup when you were sick, words of support that came at just the right time, or even financial help. What did you need and who showed up to help bring you through to a better day? Pick another circle and jot down a few notes, and how you felt receiving what you needed—maybe you felt seen, heard, loved, or a sense of relief. (Background music, What A Friend we Have in Jesus).

    Before we do our last circle, I want to say that if you have a circle where you cannot remember an experience right now, that’s ok—one might occur to you later. It just means you did not use this language to describe your experience. This are designed for you to continue to reflect on how when throughout the day we notice these moments.

    In the last circle, I invite you to think about time when you experienced an Aha moment—a time of insight, clarity, when the pieces suddenly all fit together. It could have been a new idea, an inspiration or relationship giving you a surge of energy, new life, hobby, or a new love. What was happening in one of these inspired moments and how did you feel?—perhaps passionate, excited, renewed. (Background music, Spirit of the Living God).

    It is easy to forget that all of us every day are experiencing God—we just have not been taught to name our daily experiences as sacred. In the circle with your experience of nature, write Creator—God the Creator is in all your experiences of nature—the creation itself is God’s first Incarnation. One of my spiritual mentors in St. Louis, Darlene, who is now in the company of saints, used to say to me, God is creating you moment by moment, breath by breath. Every breath is God with you, choosing to recreate you momently, as God is doing in all things.

    In the circle where someone showed up when you need help, support, or encouragement—write Jesus who is God with skin on. God is always showing up for us in the hands, the feet, and the faces of other people.

    That leaves the third circle of inspiration, energy, clarity, imagination, where you can write, Holy Spirit. Jesus promises in Matthew that he is with us always to the end of age—he does this through the Spirit living inside each of us and binding us together in community.

    It is not just in these bigger moments, which are easier to identity, but God is with us in these same ways in every moment— watching the cardinal outside our window, bedtime stories, a conversation with a friend, deciding to let it go after a disagreement.

    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ through other people, the love of God which surrounds us in Creation, the Communion of the Holy Spirit who is in constant communion within our own heart and soul and binds us together as a community is with you all, now and always. God as three persons is not so much a doctrine as it is our human experience.

    Today, dedicate our new playground—

    • it is a gift of being blessed by God in creation
    • a gift of playing with friends and family who are Jesus to us, and we are Jesus to them
    • and it is a gift where the Holy Spirit moves to build community, energy, imagination, and joy in life together. 

    I invite you, not just this week, but this summer, as schedules open up, and trips are planned, to pay closer attention to these God moments—

    • How do you experience the Creator in your backyard, in your garden,walking your dog in the neighborhood, on your vacation?
    • How do you see Jesus in your family members, the people you meet on your trips, and in your friends, children, or grandchildren?
    • When do you notice inspiration, energy, peace, community, and newness of life?

    Then share what you notice—with each other, with your family members or spiritual friends, so we can also see and experience God how you do. In fact you can try it today at our potluck and share with each other one moment on your insert if want to—I personally would love to hear about every single circle you have! 

    Sharing our faith stories builds everybody’s faith that our Trinitarian God is alive and active everywhere, in all of our lives. And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.


  • How to AMAZE Jesus

    blogpic boywithfishA Sermon preached on May 29, 2016

    Have you ever wondered what it takes to AMAZE Jesus? It’s a funny question because Jesus is always the one who amazes us. But in Luke 7, Jesus is the one who is amazed—he is amazed at the centurion’s faith. There is only one other time in the Gospels that Jesus is amazed and that’s in Mark 6:6 when he is rejected in Nazareth and he is amazed at their unbelief. The centurion, whose story also appears in Matthew, is the only person who AMAZES Jesus with his faith. I would much rather amaze Jesus with my faith, than with my unbelief, wouldn’t you?

    So who was this centurion who amazed Jesus with his faith? He is the most unlikely person in Scripture to have an amazing faith.
    1. For starters, he’s a foreigner, a Gentile and not a Jew— He most likely is a practicing pagan—which in Jesus’ time meant believing in many gods—a god of fertility, a god of war, another for weather and harvest and so on.
    2. He’s a military man, and as such, he’s part of the oppressive Roman military that occupied Palestine during Jesus’ life. A centurion is a captain of 100 foot soldiers in a Roman Legion, whose job it was to subject the Jews to the Emperor’s rule. He was a man of war who achieved his rank by distinguishing himself above others in battle and in the Roman martial arts.
    3. This centurion has no intellectual understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures, the story of the Israelites exodus from Egypt and why the Messiah, arriving in the person of Jesus matters so much.

    The centurion did, however, have some good points: He ruled not by force and terror, but through compassion and empathy. He built a Temple for the Jews to worship and cared for their well-being; he even cared about his slaves. And because he cared for the people’s well-being, the people cared for his well-being so they appeal to Jesus to heal is slave.

    So what was it that amazed Jesus about this centurion? Was it just because he was a nice guy, unlike most of the Roman military?

    No, it was more than that. The centurion amazed Jesus because through his own experience, he recognized Jesus’ power, his authority and his mission. The centurion used his own experience to see God at work in Jesus. He had heard the stories of Jesus healing people with a simple word, a simple command. He could understand this kind of power because he had experienced it himself: For I am also a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go” and he goes, and to another, “Come” and he comes, and to my slave, Do this” and the slave does it.

    The centurion couldn’t use his authority to heal his slave, but through this window of experience, he recognized that Jesus’ words also did what he said. Jesus marvels in amazement that through his own experience, the centurion completely trusts in Jesus’ power.

    Today, the centurion invites us into his story and asks us to reflect on our own experience, and how some of our experiences help us trust in Jesus’ power, recognize his mission and embrace his authority and presence in our lives.

    I think sometimes as Lutherans, we can get too caught up in our intellectual understanding and reason, in correct behavior, in rote memorization and repetitive liturgy, forgetting that our experience is also a crucial part of our faith life! I’m not saying the Bible study, moral behavior and liturgy aren’t important—of course they are—and I embrace and practice all of them.

    But our experience is also a wonderful gift of our faith that’s easy to avoid because we don’t want to be too touchy-feely, or overly emotional, or too spiritually far out and “oogie”. Well, the centurion uses his experience to embrace the mission of Jesus, and he isn’t too touchy-feely, emotional or gives us the oogies. Paul in Galatiansaffirms that the Gospel he preaches came not from humans, not from teaching, but from his experience of Jesus Christ. We also have to remember that Martin Luther himself embraced the grace-filled love of God in Jesus Christ because of his experience that he couldn’t achieve salvation through works, and that experience became the bedrock of the Reformation.

    You may feel like the centurion, that you are the most unlikely person to amaze Jesus with your faith. But I would offer, that is not true. I want you to reflect for a minute about your own experiences and how they inform your faith. What experiences have helped you embrace, feel or understand the work of God in the world? We call this our spirituality in everyday life.
    • Maybe you’ve served in the military or are a supervisor and you, like the centurion, have a window into seeing how Jesus’ words do what he says.
    • Maybe you’re a teacher, you understand why Jesus teaches in parables because your experience gives you a window into the transformative power of stories.
    • Maybe you work in the medical field, and every day, you get why Jesus went to the lepers, the sick, and the outcast, because you have a window into how isolating illness can be.
    • Maybe you’re a mom on a tight budget and with a grateful heart, you can make one chicken give your family 4 dinners and your experience give you a window into how the loaves and fishes multiplied.
    • Maybe you’re a coach and you encourage kids to try something they’re afraid they can’t do, and your experience gives you a window into why Jesus invited Peter out of the boat to walk on water,
    • Maybe you’re a dad who lost one of your kids a 6 flags and your experience gives you a window into the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin and you understand that desperate search in your guts.
    • Maybe you’re a gardener and have insight into the created order of the universe from your own backyard.
    • Maybe you’re a parent and you have sacrificed something for your kids to have what you didn’t and this begins to give you a window into the kind of love that motivated Jesus to die for us.
    • Maybe you’ve suffered physical illness and your experience opened a window of compassion for Jesus’ suffering.

    The good news is that Jesus is no longer a person bound by history--he rose victorious from the grave so that his resurrected Spirit is everywhere at the same time, and he dwells inside each one of us every second of every day!

    Because of the in-dwelling presence of his Spirit, your daily life is full of experiences of God when Jesus makes himself known to us. And in order for us to receive the spiritual benefit from these experiences, it’s important that we identify them and share them. I had a seminary professor say, “we don’t learn from experience; we only learn from experience that is reflected upon and shared.” So I encourage you to share with your pewmates, your friends, your family today, one experience of your faith that came to mind. Make it a daily habit to share “God-sightings” and these experiences that inform your faith, your understanding of Jesus’ power and mission, and of God blessing you.

    I had an experience that opened a window to a deeper understanding of what Holy Communion is all about: Our oldest son, Daniel was not quite 4 and we were at the community pool for swimming lessons. When his lesson was over, he said, “I want fish for dinner.” I said, “Okay, but why fish?” His response: “It will make me swim better.” When we got home, I asked my husband, Dan if we had any fish sticks in the freezer because Daniel wanted fish for dinner. Daniel piped up and said, “No! I want REAL fish—only REAL fish will help me swim better.” We went to the store and got some REAL fish!

    It’s why we trust in the REAL presence of Jesus in, with and under the bread and wine in Holy Communion—only the REAL Jesus can help us live more faithfully. So, come to the table! Come to the table with all of your experiences and all of your faith, and the REAL Jesus will be amazed and fill you again.