So I’m going to tell you a secret about us preachers today, but don’t get your hopes up, it’s nothing very juicy. Whenever we open up the lessons and find out that we have to preach about demons, it is, as we used to say in the 60s, a “bummer.” It’s very hard to talk about demons today, for the simple reason that we don’t experience demons in the same way as they apparently did in ancient times. We don’t have a contemporary point of reference. All we see is what we remember from the film, THE EXORCIST: Linda Blair’s head spinning around and the projectile vomit and the priest throwing himself out of the window … it’s all movies and magic and superstition. Now audiences are obsessed with zombies; I understand that THE WALKING DEAD is one of the most popular shows in the history of television. It’s fantasy, entertainment; literally, a horror show. Get the popcorn. So it’s very hard to talk seriously about stories like our gospel lesson today: Jesus’ encounter with a man known as the Gerascene Demoniac.
When Paul wrote the following admonition to Timothy the Jewish people were under Roman rule. Rome allowed the Jews to pray for the Emperor’s health without praying and sacrificing to him.
I have recently come across a Christian blog post entitled, “Killing the Church with Sunday School”. “Oh no!”, I thought. How can Sunday School be bad for church? What could we be doing wrong? I had to read.
Luckily, the point of the post is not that Sunday School is hurtful, but that when attendance in Sunday School takes children out of the main corporate worship, it can result in a lack engagement with the church body as a whole. Continue reading “Kids in Church?”
Devotional for April 2016
By Pastor Noel ILAGAN
It was a late winter morning and I was riding on the 6-line subway train from the Bronx to Manhattan in New York. The passengers on the train were doing their own thing – either trying to get a quick nap, or working on their cell phones, or reading a book.
I guess I love Christmas as much as anybody (with the possible exception of Edith Klose, who has more Christmas decorations than God). My love of Christmas is very resilient: it has survived not only my own massively dysfunctional family, but also the professional necessity of leading public celebrations of it. In case you don’t know, that can involve hard, slogging work. Ask any teacher.
I love Christmas enough to care about what it’s about. Jesus did not come so that we could enjoy 2000 years of sentimentality about his birthday. Jesus came in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: Unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given … and his name shall be called wonderful … the prince of peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
I like the month of October. I like the crispness of leaves turning color and the smell of Apfel Kuchen baking in the oven. It also includes one of my favorite holidays – not Halloween, but Reformation. As a child, I was treated to an action-packed film on Martin Luther in Sunday School and in church we were sure to sing a lusty rendition of “A Mighty Fortress”. So what is this really all about?
As we considered a rather discouraging Treasurer’s Report last week, I told the Church Council very firmly that I am not going to preach about money. I don’t like to do it because I am personally not very interested in money, and also because I don’t think people want to hear about it money when they come to church. Nor will I fall into the trap that has captured so many, and promote to the “prosperity gospel”, the bizarre and dangerous idea that God wants us all to be rich. God never promises any such thing. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, Jesus says, and I’m with him on that one.
This month I was given a course at my workplace called “Inclusive Leadership”. The general theme was to show how our biases towards people determine whether they are included or excluded. Among the “students” were several seasoned managers, myself included, who started the morning with a bit of a smug attitude. We thought we already had a pretty good handle on the diversity and inclusion issue.
We were wrong.
As you certainly know by now, the fine pipe organ from Ascension was donated as a Gift of Legacy to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (ELCA), Fairfield, Connecticut. After some renovations to the sanctuary, the organ was installed there by its builder, Mr. Jeremy Cooper. The Dedication Service is planned for Sunday, October 26th, at 4:00 in the afternoon. The people at Our Savior’s plan to honor the members of Ascension at the service. We will take the church bus to this event.
It was a beautiful summer this year in New York: mild temperatures, low humidity, moderate rainfall, plenty of sunshine. People older than I am have been saying it was the most beautiful summer they can remember. As one who grew up in the withering heat of Texas, I can “second that emotion.”
This summer set a record in another way, though. The news has been horrible: the number worldwide of refugees and people displaced by war reached 50 million, unspeakable cruelty and murder by ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the systematic rape and torture of 1400 young girls in England, horrible, incurable disease in West Africa, shameless, illegal land-grabs by Russia and Israel…it is as if a wave of Texas heat has fried the sensibilities of people all over the world. Yes, in our local communities we can live in a bubble of normalcy, threatened only by the occasional proposal for housing homeless people among us. But not so far away, much of the world is on fire. So much for our beautiful summer.