Stewardship Resource

Be Little Christ's

Sermon  Sermon
  • Author: Rev. Craig E. Johnson is the Bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
  • Updated: 07/09/2008
  • Copyright: Rev. Craig E. Johnson, Email: c.johnson@mpls-synod.org

The following sermon was preached on October 14, 2004 at the gathering of the rostered persons of the Minneapolis Area Synod.

The focus of the gathering was for the rostered persons to dialogue about issues confronting the church regarding ordination and same sex orientation.


October 14, 2004

I know that we have quite a year ahead. There is, in our church, a lot of anxiety about this year and the decisions it will bring.

That is why we are coming together today to talk about these issues and our fears.

I am more and more confident that if any church can find its way through a most difficult issue like ordination and same sex orientation - it is our church. Here's why.

We have a solid grasp of the center of our theology - justification by grace through faith. We have a clear focus of the center of our faith,  Jesus Christ and him crucified.  We have an unusual common understanding of interpretation of scripture utilizing law and gospel themes. We are called to and we can work together. We care about each other and when we care deeply about how our faith and the culture intersect and we wrestle with how our beliefs about moral and ethical issues are shaped. 

One of the reasons we find ourselves in this place is that we have felt it is a good thing to be working in the world inviting all persons to be a welcomed part of our church. They are baptized and now the step of full citizenship is desired.  This progression is a natural one, but it is one that has brought to the forefront some significant differences of belief among us. We see in a mirror dimly.

Should we be surprised?  No,

This summer I experienced a mini miraculous event I want to tell you about.

I spent 5 days as a volunteer staff person at Lutheran Social Service Camp Knutson for about 35 mentally handicapped young people. How many people in this room have done youth ministry in your life? Me too!

Well, on this occasion I experienced 5 days of life with these kids and I did not hear one negative comment, no whining, no "I don't want to it", no put downs towards another person for 5 days. In fact, all I heard was encouragement from one to another even for the smallest accomplishment.

I went to the archery range. Not one arrow hit a target and all that was said was - "Good shot! Wow!" "Oh! You came close, you almost got it!"

This was 5 days of jubilee from anything negative. I do think of the cross when I think of these 5 days. For the world would see these young people as weak, unlovely - vessels of clay. But I saw the power of the spirit of God in their interaction with each other and a kindness and innocence that was absolutely startling to this old cranky Bishop - perhaps Christ like.

Once again I was grateful for the privilege of being in this church, this body of Christ. For 31 ݢ  years I have been privileged as a pastor of this church to preach the Gospel - Christ crucified and risen- to lift Christ up before our people and point away from our non-righteousness to the righteousness of God that carries us through this life.

I am especially grateful for this cross by which we are forever marked. Our theological center is: We are saved by God's grace (sola gratia) and in humility we stand before God and each other knowing that we are part of this great church only because of the righteousness of God shown to us in Christ. God became small for us in Christ so that our hearts might be won over

I love this church for through it God has filled my Life; I count it as a privilege to serve with you. At the same time, I am well aware that we do not - and will not - find ourselves in agreement about all things at all times.

And it is in such times of uncertainty -even anxiety - that the cross has deeper meaning for us.  When we bear the cross of Christ we also suffer with Christ. We will be living this cruciform existence for a time. This coming year may be our year of the cross. For this cross which marks us each forever is the sign by which we live. It is the reality, through which we are fed at this holy table,

It is the gift of God to each of us. And this transformational power - the power of this cross - permits us to love and encourage one another even in times of distress or uncertainty, especially anxiety

So I ask you - no, I urge you --- to undertake a year of jubilee - a year of great encouragement and sense of brother and sisterhood so that we can stand together proclaiming the center of our faith Jesus Christ, crucified and marked with the cross of this Christ forever.

We live life at times in a mirror dimly and don't know the fullness of all questions and dilemmas.  So we are called to live by faith and we need to gather together in humility during this time.

What I didn't tell you is that in my 5 days of jubilee half of this camp were typical kids - each had experienced other camps and all that goes on. But here the spirit of Christ overwhelmed all and made even the non disabled more human.

My prayer is this year, which may be our year of the cross, we can take a little lesson from the least of these and stand together, knowing we serve in different places and stand in different places and somehow encouraging each other when we fall and become discouraged, supporting each other in their context.

Let us be little Christ's to each other.

Amen

Bishop Craig E. Johnson

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