Pastor Jim’s Blog

Rev. James E. Boline
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Barbara Hoffman
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St. Paul's Lutheran Church
958 Lincoln Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 451-1346
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Lutherans Concerned

Pastor Jim's Blog


20th Sunday After Pentecost

September 28th, 2008

Sisters and brothers, grace to you & peace from the God of all grace, the Christ of all compassion, and the Spirit of all life. Amen.

Well, how timely. It’s … a debate! And, one party — the one currently in power — is questioning the other party’s — the relatively-new guy’s — qualifications and credentials.

Sounds familiar!

But this morning, it’s not our sparring presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.

This morning, it’s Jesus Vs. the religious establishment, it’s Jesus Vs. the professionally religious, it’s Jesus Vs. institutional religion.

If we back up to the beginning of ch. 21 in Matthew’s gospel, we see why the chief priests and the spiritual elders in Jerusalem were nervous about Jesus and why they became so confrontational with him, questioning his qualifications.

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19th Sunday After Pentecost

September 21st, 2008

Sisters & brothers, grace to you and peace from our overly-generous God, the counter-intuitive Christ, and the ever-surprising Spirit. Amen.

“Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” This is the question the vineyard landowner asks the workers who had been hired at daybreak for the usual daily wage. They are miffed, they are ticked, they are … well … you know what they are.

What kind of a business owner is this? Doesn’t he know the basics of incentive and reward? Time plus effort equals production, and production equals pay! The hardest workers who were hired first and who have been hanging around all day deserve to be paid first and most.

The workers hired at daybreak had expectations. They felt entitled to more than those who joined them at 5 PM and only worked one hour. So the owner of the vineyard names their “stuff,” and calls them on their complaining.

Yes, everyone gets paid the same. Everyone gets paid the usual daily wage for work in the vineyard. But “am I now allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

And we know what the answer is: Yes, we are envious. Yes, we are ticked off. Yes, we think we have more coming to us.

I think we get what Jesus is trying to teach us in this morning’s little story about how it is with God, how life IS in the reign of God, and we don’t like it one bit.

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17th Sunday After Pentecost

September 7th, 2008

Sisters & brothers, grace to you and peace from the God of love, the Christ of compassion, and the Spirit of light and life. Amen.

Jesus is talking about tough love in this morning’s Gospel text. This isn’t easy listening; this isn’t light fare; this isn’t Candyland for Christian living. Rather, this is hardcore, honest, cut-the-bull-and-go-straight-to-the-source authentic “community relations.” This is Jesus’ policy position on conflict in the church. In St. Matthew’s Gospel, the word “church” only appears in two texts: the first was a few weeks ago as we hear the account of Peter’s confession of Jesus to be “the Messiah, the son of the living God.” Jesus was so impressed that Peter had gotten it right that he said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Upon that bedrock confession of Jesus as “Messiah” and “son of the living God,” Jesus promises Peter he will build his church. This is the very first mention of church, EKKLESIA in the Greek, literally, “ones who are called out,” called out from the world to be the body of Christ in the world.

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16th Sunday After Pentecost

August 31st, 2008

Sisters & brothers, grace to you & peace from God who knows, Christ who saves, and the Spirit who tests the heart.

Amen

Poor Peter. He was doing so well last week, confessing Jesus to be the Messiah, the son of the living God, and all that. So well, in fact, that Jesus told him that upon the rock of that bold confession the whole church would be built and against which the very gates of Hades could not and would not prevail. Well, not so fast, not so fast.

Today’s Gospel, which follows immediately after the verses from last Sunday’s, paints a picture of eager Peter which looks an awful lot like the same guy who, in the Gospel text a few weeks ago, started walking on water toward Jesus and then, realizing what he was doing, started to sink. It’s sort of like watching a beginning water-skier from the perspective of the speedboat: “Yepp, yepp, he’s up, he’s up! Oh. No, no. He’s not. He’s down. Pull back around.”

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22nd Sunday After Pentecost

October 12th, 2008

Sisters & brothers, grace to you & peace from the God who invites, the Christ who calls, and the Spirit who lures. Amen.

Sitting at a wedding banquet in the Courtyard Marriott last evening, I looked around the room to see all the guests of Julie and Craig. There were all the usual suspects at a wedding banquet. There was the wedding party bedecked in their festive garb: bride beautiful Julie (beloved soprano in our choir, she’s not here this morning), Craig the groom whose buttons were busting with pride in his bride, the beaming attendants, the loving parents of the couple, Julie’s father — a retired Lutheran pastor — now confined to a wheelchair but able at long last to accompany his buoyant and elegant daughter down this aisle earlier in the evening. There were coworkers and childhood friends. The entire St. Paul’s Choir was there, having kissed these rafters with their prayerful anthem during the marriage liturgy. There was the DJ who seemed to swallow his microphone and sounded more like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Guests galore. Some dancing, twisting and shouting, out on the dance floor. This morning it feels like I might have twisted the wrong way.

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All Saints Sunday

November 2nd, 2008

Sisters and brothers, grace to you and peace from the God of all peoples, the Christ of every tribe, and the Spirit of all the nations. Amen.

Today we gather to remember, to rejoice, and to imagine. It is All Saints Sunday, and on this holy day it is these three primary actions that we do together, in community, that matter. To remember, to rejoice, and to imagine.

The element of remembering is crucial. The psalmist sums it up this morning, “I will bless the Lord at all times, the praise of God shall ever be in my mouth.” Remembering God in times of pain and sorrow, in times of struggle and doubt, as well as in times of joy and celebration: this is the challenge of this day as we call to mind the loved ones from among us who have departed this life and with whom we have been separated. We remember them, and we remember what — and Who — keeps us connected with them.

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26th Sunday After Pentecost

November 9th, 2008

Sisters & brothers, grace to you & peace from the God of hope, the Christ of grace, and the Spirit of life. Amen.

When asked what he would do if he discovered Christ would return and the world as we know it would end tomorrow, Martin Luther is quoted as replying, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

That may tell you something of the “green” Luther as well as something of the “left behind” Luther. His response reveals both his high regard for care of creation, and also his disregard of any fear, dread, or speculation when it came to contemplating the return of Christ on the last day.

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

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27th Sunday After Pentecost

November 11th, 2008

Sisters & brothers, grace to you and peace from our generous God, the coming Christ, and the gift-giving Spirit. Amen.

At first glance, a well-meaning and genuinely-enthusiastic preacher might very well see a text like this morning’s Gospel as the perfectly-opportune moment to preach a barn-burner of a stewardship sermon, especially if it happens to be (ahem) Commitment Sunday in the parish where she (or he!) is serving.

Licking her (or his) homiletical chops, the preacher could absolutely wax eloquent on the parable of the talents and finally make the finish line of a successful stewardship campaign by asking, “And what, my sisters and brothers, are you doing with the talents God has given you? Why here, I just happen to have this handy dandy ‘Time AND TALENT form’ for you to complete. Well, and here just happens to also be a PLEDGE form as well.”

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Reign of Christ

November 23rd, 2008

Sisters & brothers, grace to you and peace from God our most merciful Judge, Christ our Gentle Shepherd, and the Spirit our strength and comfort. Amen.

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

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4th Sunday in Advent

December 14th, 2008

Sisters & brothers, grace to you and peace from the One who was, and who is, and who is to come, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Have you noticed that the closer we get to Christmas, the more annoying the interruptions of life become? As our time becomes more and more crunched, with “to-do” lists guiding our daily schedules, with holiday activities and obligations piling up on our calendars, and with pending tasks that must be completed driving our days, anything “unexpected” has a way of just ticking-you-off times-ten! That car that pulls out in front of you in a classic L.A. “me first!” move becomes a gross personal violation, the knock on the door or the phone call which comes right in the middle of your very important task becomes a major offense, and even the rain and cold of the past week become great personal sources of vexation and affliction.

As a beloved seminary professor used to gently advise us who were preparing for parish ministry on these matters, “Don’t view such events as interruptions, view them as ‘ministry opportunities’ ” — which sounded really great in the classroom, but really gets under your skin in real time and real life.

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